WHAT IS DRUMCODE?
Drumcode Records is a Swedish techno label managed by Adam Beyer. The label was founded in 1996 and has enjoyed a streak of success in its releases, talent scouting, radio efforts, and general international label camaraderie ever since. Its roots are in its native Scandinavia, originally only housing Swedish producers, but in the label's history it has since branched out to working with those whose sound fit the profile, rather than whose nationality aligns best.
Adam Beyer on Drumcode (interview for Dancing Astronaut)
Adam Beyer sinks into his chair as he pours himself a cup of afternoon tea. It’s 4:30pm, and he’s sitting at a small, wooden table in a room just off to the side of the Waldorf Astoria’s opulent Peacock Alley. Today marks the second day of Amsterdam Dance Event, and less than six hours stand between him and his annual Drumcode showcase at the city’s treasured live music venue, Gashouder.
For the last six years – beginning with Drumcode’s 15th anniversary – Adam has
regularly brought his world-class imprint to Gashouder to give electronic music fans a taste of proper techno. In 2016, the label and radio show have never been bigger or received more attention, with more than 17 million fans from over 53 countries tuning in each week to hear the latest Drumcode Radio Live. And that’s an achievement worth celebrating.
Music played a significant role in your life, at what point did you know you wanted to take your career to the next level?
When I decided to make music, I already decided on the path of becoming a DJ. I started playing drums, but I was so young so that later translated into DJ’ing where I realized that was my thing. And I was only 11 when I started DJ’ing so my first record I had out was when I was 17. I started producing at 16. So yeah, I knew. I already had an idea of a career. I never imagined that the electronic scene would take off as it did because 1993 was different. It was all very new and exciting but there wasn’t much money or business in it. It was just, you know, you’re a kid, you identify with music and you just wanna do it regardless of, you know. I didn’t have any business aspirations back then. It was just my passion.
When would you say music truly took off for you?
When it really started to take off was in ‘96 when I started my label, Drumcode. I did maybe 20 other records before that, under other names, you know – pseudonyms and experimenting. I don’t think I knew exactly who I was as an artist. It took me a while to find exactly what I wanted to do. But once I knew I started a label, I knew it was going to be techno, I had a blueprint for what was me. And as soon as I started a label and had a couple releases out, I mean I was already playing a lot around Scandinavia and Sweden but that’s when it really started to take off. That was sort of my business card for record stores and buyers.
Techno used to be much faster – around 140 BPMs or more – and now it’s slowed down significantly. Can you speak to the trajectory of techno?
When I started, in the early ’90s, the BPMs were about the same as they are now. Most of the records I bought back then were 126 or 128. Or, it was like, people were experimenting with Gabber and all these different kind of things, but that came slightly later. People want to test the waters and get more and more extreme. But it got to the point where it was all super fast and hard and relentless and I just felt like there was no where to go really after that.
And also, some of the parties I was playing back then, I can feel like aggressive elements. Like some places in Europe, you can feel that was not really the type of crowd I wanted to play for, you know? I’m more of a kind of – I love the house, the everybody under one roof –black, white, gay, straight. The more mix, the better. So as soon as I could see those elements, that’s when I decided myself, personally, to take a different route and go back to my origins and where I started.
I think that tempo, since the pulse of a human being is about 65 or 70, it’s kind of double beat and so that 128, 130, 126, really strikes a chord in humans on a more subconscious level and primate level. So I think that’s the BPM that you can dance for longer.
What other trends do you see in techno, and where do you see it going in the next 10 years?
I think the interesting thing now is that it used to be trance, like you say. It used to be one thing, and then the next thing took over. Minimal trance took over ten years ago, then tech house came, that became really big. And all these subgenres that used to be small back in the day all had their peaks at different points but now, I kind of feel this, since it’s gotten so big and diverse, I see a lot of different trends going parallel.
So I don’t think there’s going to be one, specific trend. I think there’s more room for a lot of different subgenres and styles to coexist if you like. And I think that’s a good thing. That’s the way it has to go. It just keeps growing and people are getting more and more educated and more and more they find their own sound that they love and their own DJs. In terms of production, it keeps getting better. It’s hard to predict what will come and what will happen. For me anyway.
I always love looking at the future and I think that’s one of the secrets with Drumcode. Although, there’s a theme to the label from start until now. We never really get sentimental, we don’t look back too much. We always try to find new things and move on. Take influences on what’s going on.