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We met at Wisseloord Studios in 2015, at a special network event for professionals in the dance industry. When Ricky da Dragon’s latest release was played, it gave me goosebumps. Since then Ricky van Breugel aka Ricky da Dragon regularly run into each other, sharing this warm vibe. In 2016 he told me his coming-to-dance-story. "Wow, that must have been 38 years ago."
“My first DJ performance in front of an audience? Wow, that must have been 38 years ago, in 1978 to be exact. I had just turned twelve. That first gig was in a church, of all places.”
“Every year, during the summer holidays, Church De Bron (left on photo below), initiated a day with a bike tour, that was always ended with a dance night. Usually this was done by two guys whose drive-in show existed of a few tape players and some stacked HIFI speakers.”
“One of my friends and I immediately thought: ‘We can do much better’. Diligent as we were, we sawed my baby-dresser in half and turned it into a DJ booth that fitted two turntables. We showed our ‘booth’ to the club leader and he decided that we were allowed to play every Friday during the board-game afternoon.”
“I’m sure you can guess what happened next. People started dancing more often and longer and within a couple of weeks the four-in-a-rows and Ludo’s stayed in the cupboard. In those days it was conventional to connect songs by talking in between them, but I always tried to find music that would somehow connect to the former or next track. I didn’t have a turntable with pitch control yet. Despite that, more and more often I succeeded in getting two tracks in sync, slowing a record down or speeding it up. This way, one track took over from the other as if it were a relay race and I noticed that this way the dancefloor was always full. No-one ever explained to me to how to do this. I had to invent the wheel myself. That dance evening in the church became such a big event that people even came from Pernis. Not to dance, but to disturb the peace.”
“Community center De Kom (right on photo) was situated in the same street as the church. I went there often after school, for example to skimp with wood and some nails, until it was time to go home and have dinner. Every Wednesday they organized a rock evening. Besides all pop and dance music, rock was mainstream in those days, like EDM is today. Soon I got to play every week in a small area of the building, but more and more often my eye fell on the DJ booth in the big area, where every Friday night activities for the local youth were organized. I told the organizers that I was interested to play there and that changed everything. Before, the volunteers of the evening played ‘DJ’ for a few hours and that was it. In no time they gave me the whole evening. They saw that I was up to the task and noticed that my evening had a positive influence on the atmosphere and the number of visitors.”
“As for me, I was merely interested in the Lenco turntables with pitch control (see photos). They possessed an endless amount of pitch possibilities. More than the Technics SL1200 turntables that later became the standard. The pitch range went stepless from 16 to 78 rpm instead of 33 +/-8 and 45+/-8. This meant that you we able to mix with every speed. The hard thing was that, as they are today, records weren’t recorded with a drum computer, but with a real drummer. This made it so much more difficult to beat match in those days then later in the 90s and now. It made beatmatching almost like acrobatics.”
“There was another problem that I figured out all by myself. My mother’s turntable was covered with an antistatic mat to keep away the dust. By chance, I found out that you could use this mat to cue the record. I mean: the turntable turns around while you can stop the track with one hand to mix the next one in perfectly timed. It was standard in those days to find a thick rubber mat on every turntable. Then I suddenly saw the light! I took one of the white inner sleeve of a record and put a vinyl on top of it. Then I drew the contours of the vinyl on a white inside cover and cut this as if it were a mat. Just poke a hole in and I had great slipmats that I hadn’t seen anywhere of ever heard of. The cueing went that well, that I could scratch as well.” (laughs)
“I mostly played Top 40 music on those Fridays in De Kom. I made it a habit to get the whole room to sing along with Bob Marley’s live albums. I also played new wave, think U2 and Simple Minds. It felt a bit mandatory, because I preferred more soulful music like disco, funk and R&B. Soon they decided that on Sunday afternoon there had to be another dance event. During those afternoons I could successfully play all the music I liked, for example Chaka Khan.”
“Every day after school you could find me in that same DJ booth, remixing. I used a tape recorder that I brought from home. A small ten-second-effect often took an hour of cutting and pasting with this thing. I certainly never played to become popular with the girls. Girls saw my Friday night and Sunday afternoon probably more as some kind of competition. I was fourteen by then and while my peers went out with their girlfriends, went to the cinema and discovered each other, I preferred to play somewhere during the weekend.”
“I never had a mentor or any lessons from anyone. I did get a Farfisa organ from my uncle to learn how to play. It was one of the first folding organs. He taught me chords and scales. This came in quite handy when later I was the keyboard player of several bands and after that in my career as producer.”
“Of course, I had heroes, for example Ed Smit and Peter Slaghuis. I even ran a record label with Ed Smit, Zadkine Records. I once signed my first contract with the label where Peter Slaghuis also started, Stealth Records. I still play at festivals and parties and every once in a while, I release a new track. These days, I have my own label called Portofrotterdamrecords.com. This means that I don’t have to make any concessions.”
This interview was originally published on June 30th 2016 on DJMag.nl.