Andy Van has been creating and mixing music for the better part of two decades, practically having played at every major club and music festival in Australia.
Overseas, he’s a hit behind the decks, too, having spun for crowds at such luminary festivals as Creamfields and Ministry of Sound, Manumission and Space.
Van was also the brainchild behind Madison Avenue, a club music outfit featuring Cheyne Coates on vocals, and enjoying huge hits with the songs Who The Hell Are You, Don’t Call Me Baby and their cover of the Little River Band classic, Reminiscing.
This month sees the release of a batch of very good remixes of Who The Hell Are You.
Cream chats with Andy about club culture then, club culture now, and the computer has been pivotal in making club music great.
Interview by Antonino Tati
Were you always musical as a kid; did you play any instruments?
My instrument has always been the computer, and using the computer to develop and produce music. I’ve always been into computers, even before Apple started to happen, back when the Atari was the popular computer for producing music.
What sort of music did you listen to growing up?
My cousin in Holland was a big DJ and used to send me cassette tapes of the latest dance music happening in Europe, so this really influenced me into a career in music and DJ-ing.
How did you eventually break into the industry?
In the early days of my DJ-ing career, in the mid-’90s, I started Vicious Recordings with John Course. We actually called the label Vicious Vinyl as vinyl was the popular choice of that time. So, having the label, I was able to release and promote the dance music I produced.
As a DJ and record producer, what skills would you say are needed to be able to crossover in those areas of musical delivery?
Determination and a good ear. Firstly, determination because it’s very hard to break through as an artist or producer, especially today. And having a good ear enables you to know how to produce and what to create to stand out.
Madison Avenue had some huge hits, kicking off, of course, with ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’. Would you say the gist of that song was about post-feminism?
Absolutely, and the message of Don’t Call Me Baby is just as important now as it was in 2000. Cheyne’s lyrics were clear, that she wanted to put out a powerful message for young girls that they were smart and could stand strong and didn’t need or want to be called ‘Baby’ by men.
You’ve just released ‘Who The Hell Are You’ in various new guises. What new mixes of the track would you say are your favourites?
The Dom Dolla Remix is really great; it has put the track into a very current 2017 house vibe, and the Modern Citizen’s remix is also good; it has a really cool deep house vibe.
How would you compare the music in the charts today, compared to that of the 1990s?
Funnily enough, cool house music and funky disco house are back again, so I would say the music is quite similar. Which is why we remixed and re-released Don’t Call Me Baby and Who The Hell Are You over the last three years. Especially with current releases from artists such as The Weekend, Calvin Harris, Duke Dumont and Disclosure.
Would you say there is a strong link to club audiences tastes in music and the substances they may be taking? For example, the early Nineties music a la Manchester was very laidback while a lot of clubbers were taking Ecstasy; today things are a little harder and more relentless while the drugs are a bit harder, too.
I’ve never be ‘into’ or connected with drugs and music. My approach has always been that I was there for the music and the scene. I obviously was aware of the drug part of club culture, but I stayed well clear.
I want to play a little word association with you now. I’ll say a word, phrase or name and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind…
Club culture in the ’90s.
Really exciting, especially UK music like Inner City and Soul II Soul.
Club culture today.
Still really good, but more ‘pop’-based.
TV fluff, but somewhat entertaining.
Ginormous waste of space and super-scary that people were dumb enough to vote for him.
Along for the embarrassing ride.
Great pop artist.
The same-sex marriage debate.
A waste of money and caused a lot of people grief – but the greatest result came of it.
The Australian government.
Lack of leadership.
Finally, Andy, if you weren’t making music or DJ-ing today, what would you be doing in this life?
I’d either be doing something with computers, or I’d be a carpenter, renovating houses.
‘Who The Hell Are You (2017)’ is out now through Vicious Recordings.