Exclusive Interview: 5 minutes with Steve Rachmad

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Steve Rachmad, aka Sterac is a dutch electronic music producer and DJ currently based in Amsterdam. Since the early ‘90s, Rachmad has been making his mark in the international techno scene releasing music under various aliases with an extensive and on-going back catalogue behind him. He has worked on remixes and collaborations for artists such as Heiko Laux, M.A.N.D.Y, The Advent, Ben Sims, Mauro Picotto and many many more. With a career spanning over two decades, Rachmad has also had the opportunity to work with labels such as Soma Recordings, Drumcode and Life and Death, to name but a few.

Mainly drawing inspiration from house and techno, Steve Rachmad also releases music under the moniker Sterac Electronics, taking inspiration from ’80s pop and disco. Rachmad is constantly exploring new territory ahead of his already impressive background. Performing all over Europe with the intent of someday covering even more ground, Sterac, or Steve Rachmad – whichever persona he’s currently filling – will never fail to impress.

We caught up with Steve Rachmad to chat about his recording process, and all the tech that goes along with it:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Arts color life. Without them, it would all be black, white and gray.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

I have had some collaborations in my career, but there were not many. I like to go into studio with artists who think in a way that complements with my way of thinking and producing. I have made music with The Advent, Joel Mull, Heiko Laux, Ricardo Villalobos, Petar Dundov over the years… Studio teamwork cannot be about competition for me, it’s about mutual respect and friendly vibes.

What’s on your current playlist?

Many things of course! Gary Martin: Well (Robert Hood remix), Jasper Wolff & Maarten Mittendorf – Stellar Cult, Frank de Wulf – Moral Soundbase, In Sync – Storm, Mr. G – 28 (Zombie Version)

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I am by nature an introvert and I can often be locked in my creative bubble when on stage. I am not your typical guy with hands in the air. But of course I try to feel the public, challenge them, take them on a journey. I also have a mind of my own sometimes, and I like to push beyond the comfort zone. Sometimes people get confused, and sometimes they are very open minded and take it all. In the end, it remains a conversation, like any other relationship.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I guess my way of tweaking the mixer and how I create and filter the sounds make my sound. The way I hear a mix and how I shape it is very personal. I try to put as much feeling as I can in a mix. While a lot of people just listen with their ears I try to put more heart in a mix.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

My day in the studio can easily be a night too. Very often I cannot sleep, and then I dive into my computer and a small setup in the living room, in pajamas, or just in a hotel while on the road. When the idea is worked out, I go into my studio to perfect the track and do the mixing. I reference in the meantime on different speakers to get the sound I am happy about. Sometimes I pull out an old 80’s record that I know that sounds great, and then reference again till I’m happy with the outcome. Mastering of my tracks hence doesn’t require much work usually, I make sure to get it right in the mixing process.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I got mesmerized by music at a very early age.  At the age of 12, I bought my first record, and soon started with simple editing, cut-and-pasting with a tape recorder. Music simply took such an important place in my life already at that stage – so unfortunately school started suffering big time. You can imagine that my dad was not so happy about it. I was busy with music in my attic room every single day, sometimes not even coming down to eat or shower. It’s sort of weird, as if I was possessed. At the age of 15 I had my first gig in one Amsterdam club. That time is colored by 80s disco, dance and electro. Soon after, all of this started bringing some concrete results: DJ and producing-wise. Music has at that point become a number one thing in my life, and it has pretty much not left my head ever since. Over time you grow and learn, your reality gets some new colors. But music is an everlasting thread that in big part defines who I am… Over the years also my dad learned to accept what I’m doing. People at work would ask him if he’s related to THE Steve Rachmad. I guess then he realized that this was very serious for me, not just a hobby…

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Water and a handkerchief to wipe my face.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

MOOR

What gets your creative juices flowing?

This comes very often natural to me, but I can also get inspired by an 80s records, or a vocal track that I wish to edit. I can sometimes also come out of a club and when I lie in bed, before falling asleep, I can have a certain track idea setup in my head.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

My studio consists of lots of synths, drum-machines, effects, etc. Here comes a list of some things that I use in producing; the list is not complete:

Keyboards:
Mini Moog
Nord Lead 2
Roland: Juno 106, JX8P, U20

Modules:
Roland: MKS 50 (2x) + programmer, D550 + programmer, JV 1080, MC 202
Yamaha: TX 81Z, FB01, DX 200
Elektron: Sidstation, Monomachine
Waldorf Pulse
Dave Smith Evolver
MFB: Synthlite, Synth II
Oberheim Matrix 1000 + programmer
Kawai K4-R

Drums:
Roland: TR 606, TR 808, TR 909, R8M
Oberheim: DMX, DX, DX-stretch
Seqential Circuits: Drumtracks
Linn: LM1, Linndrum 2
Elektron: Machinedrum

Filters:
Peavey Analogue Filter
Sherman Filterbank
Waldorf 4-pole
Electrix Filter Factory

Others:
EMU E64 sampler
Roland RE-501 Chorus Echo (tape echo)
Moog Mooger Fooger analogue delay
Alecto AE-500 Analogue Echo
Notron stepsequencer version 2
Akai ME 20A arpeggiator

Recording:
Tascam: DA 20 MK II, DA 302, CD RW 700
Speakers: Yamaha NS 10M, Genelec 1032 A
Mixer: Soundcraft ghost 32-8
Computer: Mac Book Pro

Any side projects you’re working on?

I am constantly in the music production process. Exciting new collaboration is with The Advent, we have dived into studio for two weeks so far and few more sessions will for sure still come.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

My sound keeps evolving, and I keep doing many different things. I started off with 80s disco and went into techno, but I still do keep disco, electro in my production alive. My roots still play an essential role, but my way of approaching production has been constantly developing. One of the biggest turns that happened to me in the recent years was when I came across the music by Floating Points. This guy is a genius! Because of him I started thinking more out of the box and less according to the strict production rules I followed before.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

My two tracks as Sterac are coming out on Ben Klock’s Klockworks anniversary compilation, and my remixes as Steve Rachmad and Sterac Electronics on Suara follow. Straight after that, my remix of Kerri Chandler on Watergate is coming out. In the pipeline is also my Sterac remix of Jasper Wolff and Maarten Mittendorf on Indigo Aera. Besides all of this, I am working on my Sterac album, I have quite some tracks ready but I need to finish off a few more in between the crazy DJ schedule. The tour schedule brings me the coming months to Dream Nation festival in Paris, Berlin a few times (Watergate and HYTE as Steve Rachmad and Berghain as Sterac), The Playground in London, closing of Circoloco at DC10 Ibiza, several more shows through Spain, France, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, Paraguay…

(Photo by Noam Ofir)

Catch Sterac performing live on September 30th, at The Playground’s 10 Years / 10 Acts / 10 Hours Event, at The Steelyard, 13-16 Allhallows Lane, London.

For more information visit Steve Rachmad’s website, or follow Steve Rachmad / Sterac on Facebook.