“Being from a multicultural background influences the way I think, the way I live, the way I am. I’m so thankful that I grew up with different cultures, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. That’s why it makes me so happy and so proud that my crowd is like that too. I have Jews and Muslims dancing back to back and having a good time. Black people, white people, everything; we need that more than ever right now.”

 

 

 

Raised in Düsseldorf by Tunisian parents, Loco Dice spent his early years obsessed with hip hop and Latino cultures, later coming to house and techno through figures like DJ Sneak and Armand Van Helden. These were the characters who created a bridge between the fierce energy of rap and the busy beats of the raw Chicago and New York house scenes of the ‘90s. It’s this cultural and musical mix that’s made him a producer, a performer and a person of many parts.

 

 

Across his albums he’s worked with artists as various as Neneh Cherry and Giggs, while also keeping his techno credentials razor sharp with remixes of Carl Cox and Kevin Saunderson. Although he’s now best known for delivering muscular house music, as a DJ he’s a zigzagging presence, often layering his tracks with samples and vocals from his beloved rap records. Whatever you do though, just don’t say he plays hip house.

 

 

“People always misunderstand me when I say hip hop, ‘so you like the Jungle Brothers?’ No, no, no, no! We like it hard! We like those Armand Van Helden, or those bouncy DJ Sneak beats, which only a house head understands. Give me something crazy but with a gritty house beat under, with a hard snare, hard kick. That’s why a lot of hip hop guys love techno, because they’ve got a shared root in those stomping beats. In my music, everything is always with the groove, with the beat.”

 

 

 

“For me, this is the point of electronic music – freedom. That’s why I moved from hip hop back in the day. When I moved I looked for somewhere I could be an artist; dressing, dancing, behaviour, producing. In electronic music everything’s allowed as long as you’re having a good time. I’m still always searching for that.”

 

 

When he talks animatedly about the connections between house and other genres, you can tell that he’s been devoted to this for a long time. “That’s just me. But that was also me back in the day when I played more minimalistic tracks. I always put vocals on top and played with the originals. Even though I might take a hip hop sample, it has to be intelligent and work when I do it live.” Like the pioneers of booty house, from whom he drew many of these hyphy techniques, it’s not just trickery but part of a direct effort to push the scene. “I just want to bring it to a new level, to say, ‘look, I’ve got this new generation who are more than just techno and house people’. My fans are open minded, so I try to translate that into my set.”

 

 

Like his musical selections, Dice’s career so far is a testament to diversity. It comes, he says, from his early life: “Being from a multicultural background influences the way I think, the way I live, the way I am. I’m so thankful that I grew up with different cultures, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. I’m so happy and so proud of my crowd that it’s like that. I have Jews and Muslims dancing back to back and having a good time. Black people, white people, everything, and we need this more than ever right now.” When he thinks about it, the transition to dance music was always on the cards. “For me, this is the point of electronic music – freedom. That’s why I moved from hip hop back in the day. When I moved I looked for somewhere I could be an artist; dressing, dancing, behaviour, producing. In electronic music everything’s allowed as long as you’re having a good time. I’m still always searching for that.”

 

“You can never transform what I’m doing live into the living room. When you play live, especially at festivals, you play a lot with the energy, with the vibe, which mostly is the tracks: you cut them short, you play, you use a lot of effects. You try to push it to a level which only exists between you and the people who are there.”

 

 

 

 

In 2018, he made his biggest push to juxtapose these ideas by releasing a new compilation album, Serán Bendecidos (“will be blessed”), which was based on the family of artists, resident DJs, locals and long-time friends that he’d drawn together from parties thrown around the world. “With the album we tried to connect the dots worldwide. I always find as a DJ it’s too easy to go, play and then go. I always take something from the country and then contribute back by celebrating local cultures. That was the thinking with Serán Bendecidos.”

 

 

As a DJ famed for touring, partying and embedding himself with the cultures and the people he visits, the choices for inclusion made themselves. “I didn’t cast them by who they are, by faces, it just happened. One day I looked around and was like, ‘fuck man, we are Serán Bendecidos’. If you talk to any of them, they’ll tell you exactly the same. It’s about gathering together, having a good time, whether it’s in Colombia, South Africa or Ireland, we’re all the same, we’re all there to have fun, to respect each other and have a good time.”

 

 

If 2018 was a year when Dice pushed a new globally-inspired musical template, it was also the moment when he propelled himself and his performances into another new world too. In an age when all things are accessible, it’s been surprising just how little live footage and audio there is of him online. Until now. “Lately, I decided to let myself be recorded and it’s booming all over the internet, over one million viewers.” With a history of singular performers and friends like Sven Väth inspiring him though, he remains committed to the live element. “You can never transform what I’m doing live into the living room. When you play live, especially at festivals, you play a lot with the energy, with the vibe, which mostly is the tracks: you cut them short, you play, you use a lot of effects. You try to push it to a level which only exists between you and the people who are there.”

 

People expect too much but in the end we’re just DJs who play other people’s records. We try to create an amazing vibe by the selection, but just go there, and, most importantly, have a bunch of cool people around you and be in the mood to party. That’s what I always say, ‘let me do my thing, don’t worry, I’ll get you hot’. But you got to be willing to get hot, take your jacket off.”

 

 

 

 

For those lucky enough to be there for Loco Dice’s Saturday night set for Sonus, this all points to an artist revelling in anticipation for Junction 2. He admits, “I heard a lot about it, but I was never able to play it. I’m excited man, really excited that it’s happening this year.” When asked about what he’ll bring to his appearance at The Stretch, he’s conscious of how much simply lives in the moment. “It’s different to a club because it always depends on the vibe. At festivals every DJ is doing his set and nobody says ‘I’m going to go down a little bit so you can go up again’, like in the club. Everybody gives 100% and that’s their showcase. So you rely on a lot of things, mostly the energy of the people, and for me that’s the most important thing, that’s what drives me to the limit.” And what is that limit? “I go loco in the DJ booth, 100%. That’s me. I need the crowd to go crazy, and they give me 100% always.”

 

 

In a way that’s congruent with his personality, ultimately he remains humble about the role of the individual performer, focused instead on the community dynamics which govern the art of having a good time. When asked about what people can expect, he says, “I don’t know man, just come open minded and looking for a good time. People expect too much but in the end we’re just DJs who play other people’s records. We try to create an amazing vibe by the selection, but just go there, and, most importantly, have a bunch of cool people around you and be in the mood to party. That’s what I always say, ‘let me do my thing, don’t worry, I’ll get you hot’. But you got to be willing to get hot, take your jacket off.”

 

He laughs when he adds, “Thank God, British people don’t give a fuck about temperatures and rain.”

 

Loco Dice closes The Stretch hosted by Sonus on Saturday 8th June.

 

Words: Stephen Connolly