Photo: Press (Ripperton)
Ripperton is a staple in the dance music scene. Starting out together with Mirko Loko under the name Lazy Fat People, the former Perspectiv owner started releasing music as a solo artist in 2005 under his last name and a few pseudonyms, soon adding another facet to his work as Headless Ghost. These days, the Tamed Musiq founder however takes it slowly – both musically and as a participant in our scene. In our expansive interview, Ripperton explains why – and delivers a mix for our Groove podcast that nonetheless is full of bouncy grooves.
With a few notable exceptions, your Tamed Musiq label mostly served as a platform for your own music as Ripperton and Headless Ghost. After releasing Iron Curtis’s latest album, you have invited seven artists to contribute a trackto the two-part compilation Zendama. How did you put together the compilation and why did you release it in two discrete parts?
I started Tamed Musiq after closing my second label Perspectiv. I was very disappointed with the lack of interest people had for this label, even though the quality had remained the same since the first day. It’s a pretty exhausting and depressing game at the end as well as financially risky. Each exit may be the last, so I thought that as long as I risked so much money, I might as well do it for myself. But in the end, you hear incredible music and your friends need you to expose theirs to the world. So I started again to release music from the people I know and appreciate. “Zendama” means good things/persons in Japanese and it contains only music from people I find real and unique. The first song I received was from Matt Karmil and it all came naturally afterwards. I had the chance to invite and play with almost all the artists present on the compilation the first guest was DJ Nature. What a legend… I think Zendama is very personal too, because about the music I love and I don’t think anyone else could have done the same thing. The decision to release it on two separate vinyl records came from Clone, my distributor, who thought it was better this way. But it is a single compilation simply split into two parts.
As Headless Ghost, you have released nine records in a decade. What sets this project apart from the work that you are doing as Ripperton?
The Headless Ghost project came to life one evening at my house with my friend Boris (aka Agnès) while we were drinking some Tchang beers. We were listening to jams I had made with my machines and he told me he loved them. I was a little surprised, honestly, because it sounded a little old school, but then I finished one EP that weekend. It was called Backend and it worked very well at the time of its release. The Ghost comes out always a bit by accident, like the time when Sam (aka Deetron) was in the studio and asked me if I had a track for his Essential Mix. I had this demo that was hanging on my desk called “Fire on the Geeman,” which then became “Basik Fire,” released on Clone’s Royal Oak after (Clone founder) Serge heard it on the Essential Mix. It ended up being an anthem in Ibiza the next summer. So here it is, I keep with the spirit of this nickname – something finished quickly and very simple in its arrangement. No head, no headache.
With Contrails and Sight Seeing, you have released two experimental ambient albums on ESP Institute. Quieter sounds and slower paces have always been present on your previous records, however also came with club-oriented music. Speaking both as a music fan and a producer, which relationship do you have with the album format?
Sincerely, the album remains my favorite, it is the format where I feel most free. I love spending an hour in good company, and it’s also the ideal length for attentive listening. I also like to put a vinyl on my turntable, have a green tea and do nothing but listening to the record. This is really one of my favorite things to do. And on a more personal level, I think it’s what’s left after the parties or the EPs which are ultimately very ephemeral. As for my two experimental albums, they came to the fore during a period when I had to escape clubbing weekends. When I finished this first mixtape I had only one label in mind and it was Lovefingers ‘s ESP institute. He said yes immediately. Andrew (Hogge, aka Lovefinger) was so amazing on this project, I think he felt what I wanted to express with it and when I read his press release I could tell that he understood them even better than me.
You are noticeably touring less and recently pointed out on Twitter that your mental and physical has since improved. Elsewhere you also mentioned travelling less in regards to the ongoing climate crisis. What ultimately made you decide to forego international bookings?
If I’m honest for five minutes, I’ll tell you that since the first day there’s been something wrong. It was a feeling of unease, but it took me a long time to put my finger on it. It could be the fact that you are being paid a monthly or even annual average salary in a country where you play records for two hours. Or to be paid by someone who strangely looks like a drug dealer… If you’ve read any Roberto Saviano’s books, you know exactly what that means. But nobody talks about that, of course. Perhaps it was also when I saw the world from a plane window that something began to change within me. I had an impression of gigantism, of uncontrollable expendable humanity… If you fly over Rio and for 20 minutes, you see only slums cities and then when you fly the next day over Washington, you see all these identical residences, swimming pools and parking lots for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers. It’s so depressing that you start to understand that what you see is the reality, that it’s unfair, that it’s completely insane. You really feel it in your gut. It made me sick both physically and mentally. So I decided to produce less club music, knowing very well what would follow: fewer booking requests. I also told my agent that I couldn’t really play a single date in countries outside Europe anymore and that I also favour the train. I refocused on the music that really interests me, and I started playing again in Switzerland and took up a residency in my home town at le Folklor.
How does this affect you economically? For many producers, it’s DJing what pays the bills these days since they do not receive enough money from record sales and royalties to sustain their careers.
It’s a difficult choice, of course. I have two children and I must at the same try to be a model for them but also feed them. That’s a paradox. I’m lucky not to have grown a big ego and to have kept a fairly low standard of living even when things were going very well. I’ve been in the same apartment for 18 years, I don’t pay crazy rent and I divide the expenses with my wife. I don’t have a car, and finally my most important costs are health insurance, food and children’s expenses. My income is divided between the lessons I sometimes give, my albums and remixes royalties, and of course the DJing for a good 70% of the whole budget. From my experience, digital sales have dropped by more than 70% in the last 10 years, so it takes a considerable amount of music to get a minimum of royalties.
Whenever you invite people to join you at the Folklor club, you ask them to stay for longer than just the day on which they play. What was your idea behind that?
I’m just trying to give a human meaning to what I’m doing. I like to invite artists who have a vision. And often it’s the same people who are the best humans in this scene, so why not share a moment together before and after a gig over a cheese fondue and a walk in the forest or by the lake? To have a relationship, a memory or an inspiration in which can be derived from it? I also try to make the promoters and clubs understand that people have to come for their evening, for their concept, not for the names. Put the DJs on eye level with the dancers, in the dark in one corner of the club, and put the visual forward and a sound in quadraphony. Like this, no one will look at the DJ booth. We’re just playing music, that’s all, there’s never been anything interesting to see, I think. It is enough to have seen a single Boiler Room in your life to realise that. (laughs)
Earlier this year, you played a B2B set together with Mirko Loko under your old Lazy Fat People. How did that come about and are you considering to revive the project?
I see you’re doing your homework! Yes, it was very nice to do it again. We hadn’t played together for ten years, but I think we both wanted to. Mirko asked me to come and play with him at his Polaris festival in Verbier and we’ve done it a few times since then. It seems to me that we always have an excellent musical alchemy together so yes, why not, we will see what the future holds for us.
What was the idea behind your contribution to the Groove podcast?
A lot of people think it’s time to tune down the bassdrum in dance music. I’m still divided on the subject!
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans as a producer and label owner?
Now it’s Zendama time, so I’ll enjoy that for now as it took me almost one year and a half to finalise it. Regarding my schedule, I’ll bring some records to that amazing Heideglühen party in Berlin again this month with my dear Zukunft friends and will also play at Polaris in Verbier, then in December at Folklor for my residency To The Blaze, this time with my friend Jimi Jules to finish the year together with the family.
Stream: Ripperton – Groove Podcast 230
01. Iron Curtis – Strategie 98
02. Aardvark – Everything Is Nothing
03. Carl Craig – Wonderful Life (Epic Remix)
04. Robert Fleck – Soft Focus (Gasometric Run Remix)
05. Midland – Tortuga
06. Brainwaltzera – Marzipan Rhombus (Birthday Edit)
07. Joey Beltram – Cure
08. Barker – Hedonic Treadmill
09. Akira Ito – Praying For Mother/Earth 1
10. Low – Ffly (King Britt’s Fhloston Paradigm Remix)
11. Joey Beltram – Step
12. LFO – You Have to Understand
13. Leo Anibali – Universal
14. Mary Yalex – How U Really Feel
15. TCO – Wait For Now (Pépé Bradock’s Dubious Mix)
16. DJ Nature – Signs of the Sun
17. Volt Ctrl – Roasted
18. Foool – School Skipper Unite
19. 214 – Growing Old Together
20. Barker – Wireheading