(Extended Mix): Ivan Smagghe and Manfredas (Dresden)

‘B2B sets aren’t easy’. Ivan’s not wrong; there are many factors that come into play when you’re sharing the booth with someone else. That said, sometimes it just clicks. For Ivan Smagghe and Manfredas, that’s certainly the case. Unsurprising really when these two come from the same musical school of thought.

Both well established in their own right and in need of little introduction —Ivan’s been at it for years: a master of giving the audience what they need, not what they want, and Manfredas has rightfully earned himself legend status back home in Vilnius for his contributions to the city’s musical landscape — over the last few years the pair have started to sporadically join forces here and there. But now they’re making it official.

Dresden is their new venture — it’s a going back-to-basics approach of sorts. Just the two of them from start to finish, ‘getting in the tunnel’ as Mani puts it. Opium Club is its place of birth but, after a successful first jaunt, they’re planning to make a habit out of London being its home away from home.

Recorded in Corsica Studios Room 1, at the first iteration of the night on UK soil, this seven-hour long mix captures the magic from open to close, and gives a snapshot into what can happen when two remarkable musical minds come together.

First off, how’s lockdown been for both of you? What have been the biggest challenges and more positive outcomes you’ve experienced through extended time at home? 

IS: To be honest, the first lockdown was a blessing. I was tired and a bit pissed off with “the state of the scene”. The latter just meant I needed to switch off Instagram really. Which I did. Knowing what other people did was not right for someone who bragged a bit too much about not caring about what people think. So yeah, reset. It was a lovely summer, restrictions were manageable, I managed to get a tan on my balcony, my hair grew a bit curly, I stayed in the French mountains for three months and read books.

Obviously going on Universal Credit at 49 was not my proudest moment but hey… Winter 2020 got harder, Spring and Summer 2021 got boring. The restart was great, playing again felt good and I did not have time to suss out if it was “illusory good” as the big O hit. All in all, I guess I was lucky to never have considered DJing as my whole life.

M: There were tough moments, sure, but if I was still gigging like I was pre-lockdown, I doubt I would’ve had time for all these things: building Radio Vilnius and discovering so many interesting people right there were I live; closing down a Smala chapter, which was the main thing I did for a decade, not noticing that it started to bite its own tail; starting two new club-nights instead; also reconsidering many other things like the music I wanna write or play. Understanding that enough is plenty was sobering the most.

IS: I think we’re pretty committed to keep it that way too. It will be a struggle but we have good people around us to help us do so.

Thanks for recording an extended mix for us. This is recorded live from the second installment of your Dresden party, where was it recorded and how was the night?

IS: It was recorded in Room 1 at Corsica Studios (which is an even better room than it was). I think the night was good, at least I hope so. Mani and I had fun, it usually translates. When we loosen up or get high, the music we play gets more “interesting” may be to the point of us getting really into our own records.

M: It was nice recognising Corsica as a possible home for Dresden in London. We thought it was gonna be a one-off, but the new layout of the club and crowd that came down all clicked. I’m glad that after 25/30 years of doing this, we can still enjoy the basics of starting a night: getting the artwork done nicely, getting our close friends to come and having an actual party ourselves.

How do you approach your B2B sets? Do you have an idea in mind beforehand? 

IS: B2B sets aren’t easy. I mean apart from this one. I guess we know each other really well. There is a lot of common ground here, records that either of us could play but there is also the joy and acceptance of the other playing something that you would not (or even playing something that you don’t like). It can’t be 100% pulling in opposite directions, that’s too tiring but a few hit and misses are great. We never prepare together. I think we’d get bored if we did so.

M: Dresden is about getting into the tunnel or THE ZONE, whatever you call it, so you count the special moments, the little surprises. In our case it’s almost never pulling out a new banger, but going back to some place forgotten that we both know very well and making it work in present. “Oh shit, how did I forget about that” – thats the zing for me. Also there’s always space to not be serious and play something very borderline.

IS: Let’s face it, we play our own version of ecstasy music, as simple as that.

Could you talk us through a couple standouts from the set?

IS: I think I forgot to play Index’s ‘Give Me A Sign’ or did I play it? It’s already a Dresden classic like Raymond Barry’s ‘TV Nights’ is. Other tracks: Mosca’s ‘All Very Hush Hush’ and Stefano Curti’s ‘Summer Love’. The Tequila bought by Matt was also a stand out, so was Harold the Mascot.

M: We were joking about “deep-tech” tracks before the night so it was actually fun to play some — of course in our own way. I’m not even sure what “deep-tech” officially stands for these days.

IS: Exactly, there are no bad genres, just bad records. Maybe we’ll even drop a drum n’ bass one in 2035.

Where’s been your favourite place to play an all-night set, and why?

IS: I mean Opium in Vilnius is without a doubt the place. That’s where our friendship was born, where Dresden was born (but not conceived actually) so… It’s just the best crowd for me. Educated yet very involved. I remember bringing Caroline, our agent, there and she was chatting with a friend when a 7ft guy tapped her on the shoulder and said “if you want to chit chat, go to the bar”.

M: Playing at home is never disappointing, but I’m also fine to sometimes just squeeze my world into the size of the booth and still enjoy it very much, especially with Ivan.

Who are some of your favourite all-night specialists, and why?

IS: Andrew was one for sure. Craig Richards is another one, Vlad too. I always have issues answering this type of question as it depends so much on my mood. I mean, do I want Harvey when I want Ricardo? No. 

By celebrating DJs with a penchant for all-night sets, the (Extended Mix) series hopes to encourage a more stripped back, carbon-friendly approach to lineup curation. Reducing our footprint as a globalised underground community is a massive challenge as we try to rebuild the scene after Covid-19 lockdown, and we hope progression can be forged through sharing our challenges and experiences. Are there any thoughts you’d like to add to the discussion?

IS: You’re right. I guess you should tell this to big festivals who think they need to book 14 acts on one stage or big DJs that still think they need to do five gigs a weekend, when they make in one what we make in six months. I feel like a proud small-timer but it’s great to be playing locally this year.

Photo credit: Kate Green.

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