Armand Van Helden - NY Odyssey Hits Sydney
Monday, 26 November 2007
Armand Van Helden projects the image of a flamboyant house playa. But he’s shunned thestreet hustler’s favourite accessory aside from bling. 3D’s Cyclone tells us what that is.
Van Helden doesn’t have a ride.What’s more, he’s never driven. The NewYorker doesn’t even hunger for a flashy car. “Even if I got one, it’s a pureluxury, ’cause it’d just be sitting around and I’d look at it,” he says. “I’dbe like, ‘I got a car.’”A minor detail, but it illustrates what amaverick Van Helden is.He may be the last bona-fide superstar DJ,yet he’s not analytical or precious about his ‘craft’. Nor does he express thePLUR clichés of the unabashed party fiend.For all his nonchalance, dry wit andeccentricities, the subway-travelling Van Helden cares about the planet. “I’mquite proud of the fact that I haven’t driven my whole life,” he states. “Ihaven’t contributed to any greenhouse gases. I’m good with that.” Possibly it’sbecause he has a teenage son, Armani.Van Helden is returning to these shoresfollowing a whirlwind visit earlier this year that saw him headline theSmirnoff Experience in Sydney. How was it- Cool, he says.“I’m very comfortable doing sponsored gigs– I know what they are. It’s not like I’m playing to the quality undergroundscene but, to me, it’s still as important as anything.” Occasionally, hecontinues, corporate dos are more “carnivalesque” than club events. Thosepresent are there to party, not to trainspot.Van Helden has forged a niche as aserendipitous innovator. The airforce brat spent his childhood in Europe.Obsessed with hip hop, he started DJing on the bases. Heeventually settled in his birthplace, Boston, to attend college. Workingin mutual funds, he was distracted by the emerging house movement. Armandpromoted parties as well as produced music. With Boston far from being aclubbing epicentre, he inevitably gravitated to the Big Apple, now home.His family were unusually supportive.Indeed, Van Helden tells how his sister, comparatively directionless, enviedhis focus. “She said, ‘You always knewwhat you wanted to do, whether you knew it or not.’ There was a drivingpassion, a kind of force, there.”He broke out with theanthem Witchdoktor. He disseminatedinfluential remixes (Sneaker Pimps’ SpinSpin Sugar), foreshadowing the UK’s speed garage explosion.However, Van Helden’s debut album, Sampleslayer... Enter The Meatmarket,was straight-up hip hop – and, boy, did it piss off the housers. He’d later winback purists with the crossover garage UDon’t Know Me.After time in the wilderness, Van Heldenrecently staged a commercial comeback. He signed to Fatboy Slim’s SouthernFried. The “gangsta rock” Nympho,encompassing the ubiquitous My My My, was his biggest album since 1999’s 2Future4U. This year theDJ reinforced that success with Ghettoblaster, referencing ’80s NY – RNB, freestyle and garage – again on Southern Fried.Fatboy Slim has voiced his boredom withcontemporary electronica, decrying the paucity of fresh influences. Armand issympathetic. But, for him, the art of rehashing underpins dance music.“It’s rare people come along and change thesound in a futuristic way. That doesn’t happen often. Everybody else is alwaysstealing from the past, or another time frame. It’s how it is.”WHO:Armand Van Helden
WHAT: Ghettoblaster through Liberator/ Plays Ministry of Sound All Night Warehouse Party at Hordern Pavilion &The Dome
WHEN: Out now / Saturday 1 December