Label of the month: Djax Records

Love Parade ’98 and Djax’s fifth birthday are two of Slegers’ highlights in a career that began playing disco and funk in a small club in Eindhoven, aged 16. “Back then you got 40 guilders for playing all night and then you had to clean up at the end,” she says. “But for me, I didn’t care because it was my dream to work in music.” In the 40 years since she’s become a world-touring DJ and an advocate for acid and harder edged techno. She is one of the pioneers of Dutch underground dance music and her label, Djax-Up-Beats, stands next to Tresor, Peacefrog and R&S as one of the first European platforms for techno.

Djax-Up-Beats was crucial in ferrying the sound of Chicago (and Detroit) to Europe. “Saskia gave hope to the Chicago sound,” says DJ Rush, another Djax stalwart, in the 2009 Djax documentary Underground Nation. In the ’90s Djax gave hope to Holland’s outliers, too. During the height of the Dutch gabber craze, when most attention was drawn to the exploding dance scenes in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Djax shed light on the more experimental dance music brewing in cities like Eindhoven and Utrecht, projecting it onto a world stage. “It put Holland on the map for techno,” says Frank De Groodt from Random XS.

The hard-edged dance sound Miss Djax repped with her DJ sets and label initially found an audience outside of Holland in the early ’90s rave scenes in the UK, Germany and France. “Djax was really in the middle, between house and techno,” says the French rave journalist and author Jean-Yves Leloup. “I think it fit perfectly with the first rave parties in Paris when the tribes were quite united.” Slegers’ other musical passion, hip-hop, had its own division within Djax, and experienced huge success in Holland as the initial champion of Dutch-language hip hop, or Nederhop. The combination made Djax and its founder into stars.

Even though Djax has been winding down since the mid-’00s, Miss Djax hasn’t. She’s still an in-demand DJ with an unwavering devotion to the uncompromising ’90s sound. “I just play old records. I don’t buy any new records. I don’t think I need it, I like what I have,” she says. Miss Djax’s classic sound has earned her a new audience at events like Unpolished in Amsterdam and Bangface Weekender in the UK. And despite considering herself “more a DJ than a producer, and a label owner,” over the last 10 years Djax-Up-Beats has turned into an outlet primarily for Slegers’ own productions, which to date includes three albums and several 12-inches.

2019 has seen a revived interest in Djax’s back catalogue. At the start of the year Dekmantel released part one of its Djax-Re-Up compilation series featuring classics from Djax-Up-Beats mainstays Random XS and Terrace alongside Chicago cuts from Glenn Underground, K-Alexi and Felix Da Housecat. There are also tracks from St Germain, Bjørn Torske and 2000 & One under alter-egos, a nod to the label’s legacy as a playground for artists in the early stages of their careers.

Delsin has also reissued Random XS this year. The outfit’s burbling acid debut “Give Your Body” has been remastered for the first time with its characteristic drop out removed. “I said it was too long, there’s a gap in between, it’s not perfect,” recalls Sander Friedeman about sending the original demo to Slegers. “She said, ‘I don’t care, let’s put it out and we’ll see what happens.'”

These imperfections are an essential part of Djax, and a testament to Slegers’ commitment to her artists and their music. “This is how I received the demo, this is how I am going to release it,” says Slegers, who never mastered anything. “You are not going to say to a painter: there must be more red and more green there,” she remarked in a 1996 interview. “This is how the artist made it, this is how I want it.”

“It’s not always easy to spin a Djax record,” Slegers admits, but that’s part and parcel of Djax. If there’s a “Djax sound” it’s the raw, unpolished, underground quality that defines the vast range of music Slegers has released over the years, from the various strains of dance music on Djax-Up-Beats to rap, metal and hip-hop on Djax Records. She’s even backed breakbeat, trip-hop and breakcore via the shorter lived Djax-X-Beats and Djax-Break-Beatz sub-labels.

To someone in the habit of compartmentalising music, understanding the relationship between Djax Records and Djax-Up-Beats––two seemingly very different labels––might seem difficult. Not to Slegers. “I don’t think in boxes. Djax Records is the mother label and Djax-Up-Beats is a subdivision that I started for the faster beats. I like all sorts of music. That’s me, I am very eclectic. Djax is Djax and what I like I release on my label.”

To mark the 30th anniversary of Djax, we asked Miss Djax to select some of her key Djax tracks to accompany this primer to one of Holland’s most influential record labels.

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