Amsterdam DJ/producer Steven van Hulle AKA Awanto 3 returned to Dekmantel earlier this month for his second full-length effort, Gargamel. The nine-track LP spans a multitude of sounds, cementing the MPC maestro’s status as a master of styles. From the tripped-out lo-fi ambience of ‘Happy Bird’ to the bumping electro of the Dexter co-produced ‘Thick’, Gargamel is an engrossing and ever evolving listen.
In light of the recent release, Awanto 3 now shares then tracks that shaped the sound of this album. It offers an insightful peek behind the music and a clearer understanding of what catalysed the creative direction of his latest project.
1. Stephanie Mills – You Can’t Run From My Love
Kicking off the top 10 list inspiration tracks must be done with this banger I found on vinyl in A1 Records when I was in New York for the first time. A few nights after my return to Holland, I sampled a few loops and gave it a slap with my MPC and it turned into a single, and eventually got released on the Dekmantel imprint. That set the tone for the first episode of the musical journey of my alter ego ghost brother Awanto 3. When Casper Tielrooij (Dekmantel head / A&R) asked me to make a full album like ‘Pregnant’ (Dekmantel) / The girl is Hot (Voyage Direct) disco-ish raw MPC stuff, I promised him to do my best keeping that vibe alive. But knowing myself, I always find it hard to repeat something so it turned out different than expected. Still the ingredients are there. This is one of the tracks which inspired me during the making of my Gargamel album.
2. Charms – Givin’ it up
Following up Stephanie with this one is kind of logical I guess because the production and vibe go hand in hand, winking to the early 80s that were the most important years of my life, musically. This record was produced by my very own uncle and his two buddies from Brussels, my origin. I was totally hypnotised by electric boogie and graffiti when I was about 8/9 years old and every time I visited my grand mom and dad there were a lot of things going on in the house I remember. Lots of human beings with lots of stories, jokes, food and music. A few of my uncles had this drive-in show and when ‘Givin’ It’ came out on 45″ the whole family, included myself, were proud as fuck and danced the roof down on it. It was the first time I had been very proud of something, it almost felt like I made that song. I chose this record because it has taken me on a strong force that keeps me loving that boogie sexy vibe. Not givin’ that up, never.
3. Steve Arrington – You Meet My Approval
Staying in the same area and years, we head over to this boss of smoothness. As soon as I heard this tune I became a wild piece of meat with eyes trying to get out of the holes in my face called sockets. The way Steve’s funk bounces. This amazing work was an unavoidable call to make another club version that could make me dance for a few more minutes on his bassline. Together with master key player Stefan Schmid and percussion wizard Jos de Haas I turned it into a housey vibe. My buddy Tom Trago released this remake on his Voyage Direct label. Then again, this was one of the reasons Dekmantel wanted me to produce an album in the light of my remake of Steve Arrington’s original killer.
4. Blowfly – Convoy
When I was producing the Gargamel album in the Gargamel house, I brought a bunch of records to sample. One of those records was this freaked out album from the nasty pimp-ass Blowfly called ‘Rappin Dancing Lauging’. Three life elements which keep us young and flexible. I played this tune almost every night in the time I was working on my tracks for the Gargamel album. I kept on listening to his mantra beats and synths that appear constantly over the p-funked bassline. The snares are dangerously loud and fresh while the synthetic chords fool our state of mind by keeping it short and offbeat. His lyrics are kind of naughty, but that gives the whole atmosphere a positive boost I think and both ingredients make me laugh out loud enjoying life to the fullest.
5. Darling – 80 Axes
Gargamel would never have existed without this heavyweight producer and lovely friend I have had in my life for a few years, lucky as I am. Right from the moment we met, we had this magical click and had the idea to collaborate. The Amsterdam-based metal speedcore guitarist comes from a special family who were amazing sound engineers. From grandfather to father to brother to himself, the analogue synths attacked the world many times and raised up Anton to where he is now. His productions blasted me away and so it did on the dancefloors as well. Producing Azrael and mixing the album together was a golden week that marked Gargamel heavily. Also, his side project ‘Museum’ has inspired me to go deeper into the techno vibe I injected few times in Gargamel’s ass. This man will kick in soon, watch out.
6. Sleezy D – Trust
This track was also one of the records of my collection I took to use for inspiration in Gargamel’s tunnel of rawness. The voice over the drum machines inspires me to talk about my MPC that left me alone with an error during my production on ‘Don’t You’ and later on ‘The Dragon’. ‘Trust me’ is a fragile pronunciation that many of us would like to promise in friendship and relationships. Using this words over a deadly rhythm is, for me, the reason I cannot stop listening to this.
7. Sambalanco Trio – Sam Blues
As a huge jazz lover, I always took records to the club that could fire up the dancefloor with Brazilian roots. Starting my career as a jazz, hip-hop/techno DJ it was the Latin, samba and batucada madness that made my nights. This tune has always inspired me to create another next level situation in drums and synths. One of the tracks of the Gargamel album ‘Hooli Goose’ is born out of my love for the Brazilian rolls. Keeping in mind that the album needed some simple hypnotic and super tight jams from my old friend Jos de Haas on his snare drum. He did a magical job on this one, ‘When We Met’ on Bataa’s and ‘Positive Negative’ on his timbales. Frontman of the percussion island of New Cool Collective, the legendary big band from Amsterdam I used to work with in my early Babylon DJ career during the mid-90s, he’s still steady as a deathless cactus in the dry fields of the now almost dried Dutch jazz scene. Short tune but hey, do we need more?
8. Justin Timberlake – Rock Your Body
The laws of Fibonacci are in the game of this unsurpassed song I think. Maybe it sounds really stupid but I am so happy this track exists. The feel good vibes are ruling the room every time and, like Fibonacci, stands for balance in life to create more and more. I believe in this feeling – a challenge I always have while producing my tracks for the dancefloor. Until now, it never worked like it did here though, but that doesn’t matter.
9. Dexter – I don’t Care
Dexter a.k.a Remy Verheyen is an old friend who had a big influence on my life back in the days of puberty. He always took me to higher levels with his hip-hop based techno and electro. When I moved to Amsterdam I promised myself to bring his tapes with me and show them to the world of possible platforms over there. Together with Steffi, I started Klakson Records and so his music found some freedom instead of being hidden in the north of Holland where we both used to live for a while. Steffi took over Klakson while I focused on Rednose Distrikt together with Kid Sublime and Aardvarck and made this collaboration an institute of very strong releases during the last few years. The track on Gargamel called ‘Thick’ is something I really do see as a nostalgic get together and universal friendship that will probably never end. Our minds connect faster than light while producing together and so we will definitely continue this story.
10. JamesZoo – Fool
The Gargamel house near my village Bergen has often invited JamesZoo as he is a really special brother for me on good and bad days, even while I do not see him too often. His strong support gave me a lot of courage during times that I did not believe in free thinking anymore. His productions always let me see that silence and patience are the boss of our attempts to fill in the scores. Mitchell is a tower of strength, musically and based on friendship. Pure gold and I am very proud to have him alongside me in this country. Check his amazing album ‘Fool’ that gave me power a lot during my nightly sessions at Gargamel’s at the Voert in Bergen, my hometown.
Gargamel is out now on Dekmantel. Grab it here.