Blog 1411: Beat Retreat

A techno producer, a video artist, an author & radio producer, and a musician & visual artist traveled from Berlin to Amsterdam for a week. Here’s what happened.

The cast of characters: Rick Bull (a.k.a. deepchild), Tom Phillipson (a.k.a. AUTO64), Craig Schüftan (a.k.a. Schuftronic), and me.

Tom booked us an excellent, rustic house on the dijk, an hour’s bus ride (and another 45 min walk) from Amsterdam. We are well and truly off the grid (at least by our standards – i.e. we have no internet access, and we are surprisingly okay with that).

From gray morning until candelit night, we congregate around a narrow wooden table with our various tools and toys, creating and trading beats, words, vocals, puns. In between, we eat, play Cards Against Humanity, and remain surprisingly calm without our beloved internet (perhaps only in such a temporary, parallel world are we able to function without it).

Each of us works on our individual projects in our individual ways. To my left, a duckfaced Rick writes techno bangers, bouncing in his seat, and wiggling one finger in the air in time with each breakthrough. Tom, opposite him at the far corner of the table, stoically nods his head while conjuring hip-hop collages from his array of synthesisers and midi interfaces.

To my right, Craig alternates between making beats on his laptop and making notes on his palm cards for the talk he is to give at “The Future Is Not What It Used To Be” at Melkweg, often leaving the communal table to stroll outside along the dijk and bounce his latest ideas off the resident ducks. Whenever I get stuck, for a vocal or a beat idea, I refer to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, an autographed set of which Craig very brilliantly brought along.

And in between, Schüftan becomes Cheftan as, inspired by the house’s inviting kitchen space, he cooks us vegetarian delights (frittatas, brown lentil & tomato pasta, “tofu liver” paté), providing much-needed substance among the constant grazing on Dutch sweet treats (they sure do know how to package their sugar… good lord).

Much has been created on the Beat Retreat – some of it may even make it into my next album, who knows. In the meantime: here’s the view I’ve had from my workstation for the past week…

Beat Retreat, Amsterdam

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