DJ, radio host, booker, digger, compiler and divine scene connector: for more than a decade Amsterdam’s Orpheu The Wizard has been a beloved member of the vibrant, music-loving scene of his hometown and beyond. As a DJ he is known for unconventional jams, that unite different styles under one slamming atmosphere that can be fast or slow – depending on daytime and setting.
№ 123 - Oprheu The Wizard - The EDWIN Music Channel
He is a beloved and connecting member of the Amsterdam music scene of the last decade, the Dekmantel family gave him room to perform many special house moments during their events and festivals. If that wasn't enough, Orpheu also functioned as a graphic designer for their label releases until 2018 and more of his design work can be found on artworks for labels like Second Circle and Rush Hour. Today he is the Head of Music/Music Curator at the Amsterdam-based home for contemporary culture HEM, where he presents a live performance series, listening sessions, events with Horst and Sonic Acts, and artist residencies commissioning artists to develop new interdisciplinary projects.
2023 saw him also compiling a vinyl sampler for the Bristol-based label Love International Recordings. It’s called “The Sound Of Love International #005” and features psychedelic Electronic, Ambient-Trance, Breakbeats, New Wave House, Heavy techno, and Digital Dub. Originated by artists like Drawing Future Life from Japan, legendary Mad Professor, Dutch producer Orlando Voorn under his Frequency alias and up-and-coming Tallinn/Amsterdam-based producer Ruutu Poiss.
For The EDWIN Music Channel, Orpheu The Wizard conducted a more ambient mix, that proves again his magic touch for wide-ranging sound witchery. It features music by legends like Two Lone Swordsmen and Ryuichi Sakamoto dancing alongside contemporary tunes by artists like Berlin’s SVN of the SUED label crew and of course Estonian artist Ruutu Poiss.
As ever we spoke to our host to get some insights on his life and vision. Read below what Orpheu the Wizard told us about his musical upbringing, his new label Wake Dream and its future, his love for buying and digging records, and other secrets about his enthusiastic passion for the free-spirited music culture!
Q. Hey Orpheu, what were your first musical influences? What kick-started your passion for music?
A. I guess all the music that reached my ears while growing up has its influence in some way. I was lucky enough to encounter a lot of different music from early teenager to grown up. Being in Amsterdam and experiencing a lot of cultures that caught my interest in the roughly chronological order of Hip-Hop, Hardcore-Punk, Reggae, Jungle, Drum & Bass, Triphop, Dancehall, and House & Techno.
Q. What records from the past, paved the path for your musical taste of today?
A. There are many records that I love, but the same as my musical journey growing up it’s very much a mixed bag. What’s nice is that for two years I have owned a car for the first time in my life and it only has a CD player. Because of this, a lot of my old CDs from the early days are getting a spin and I still think they’re fresh. A few to name would be Wu-Tang Clan's: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), NWA - Straight Outta Compton, Sick Of It All - Scratch The Surface, Eek-A-Mouse - The Mouse And The Man, Daft Punk - Homework, Zion Train - Love Revolutionaries, MF Doom - Operation: Doomsday, Ghostface - The Pretty Toney Album. No obscure ones from that era!
Q. When did you first start to seriously buy records, dig, and try yourself out as a DJ?
A. I first started buying records structurally in the late 90's. A friend from school started DJing and in this same period, I started going to parties and clubs. I wasn’t DJing though and didn’t have much interest to do so. But I did get fascinated by all this music that I was hearing, and especially the crossover between Reggae & Dub and Electronic music made me want to know more. I discovered a small shop in the centre of Amsterdam (that doesn’t exist anymore) that specialized in Reggae, Dub & Dancehall, and that’s where I started buying my first records. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s, towards the end of my studies that I started DJing and from there on seriously buying and digging records.
Q. Can you tell us some memorable moments from your early days behind the decks?
A. Well, I think especially the long sets with friends, and just the fun of hearing each other’s tunes and latest finds. In the end that’s what it’s all about right? I mean, I never really learnt DJing from having a setup at home and practising to ultimately showcase your skills for an audience. I started DJing because I started throwing parties to hear the music my friends and I wanted to hear at that moment and we played ourselves at those parties, learning behind the decks and in front of a crowd!
Q. How did you come up with the alias Orpheu The Wizard?
A. Ha, that’s one of those things that not a lot of thought went in but just stuck. A long time ago when I was doing a lot of radio shows and mixes, I was doing those under a lot of different aliases. I would always pick two random records that appeared in the show or mix & take a name or word of each one and combine them in an alias for it. At some point, I did a show called ''Weirdness With The Wizard'' and because I liked how the mix turned out, I decided to do more under that title from there I started using ''Orpheu The Wizard'' at some point when I would play. But yeah, sometimes the airport pickup does ask what type of magic tricks I do.
Q. Last June you released the compilation “The Sound of Love International 005”. It’s your first one. How long did you work on it, and was it hard to license old, forgotten jams?
A. I loved working on this one, Dave from Love International invited me to do one a while ago, still mid-pandemic, and I’m happy it finally got released last year. I didn’t want to make a compilation just made up of rare tracks for the sake of it, or to focus on one specific genre. Not even sure if I could haha… But I wanted to approach it almost like a mix, or as a soundtrack for being at Love International. It’s across the board in genres and moods and a cross-section of my musical taste. But it does still listen as a whole. I also tried to keep the (vinyl) home listening experience in mind, so just like the whole compilation listens as a whole, each of the four sides makes sense as a section.
Q. In terms of style, how would you describe your way of DJing in one sentence?
A. Naive, wild, emotive, informed, hard to pinpoint!
Q. Are you still digging vinyl records? Or is the World Wide Web your space for finding curiosities now?
A. Oh yes, always buying records and I don’t think that will ever stop. I’m not trying to be a purist because when I DJ, I tend to leave them at home and play my rips and files because of reasons discussed by countless vinyl DJs in many many interviews, but to me, records and record stores are still the primary way I discover and buy music. There’s no week going by that I don’t buy a record in a store, or a package comes in…. I do buy digital too, there is a lot to discover obviously, but digitally I buy almost 100% from Bandcamp.
Q. How did you select the tracks for The EDWIN Music Channel?
A. I don’t like making clubby mixes at home, but I also didn’t want to make an ambient mix, so I selected mostly tunes that all have a lot of movement in them. As always, it’s across genres and eras, some are very new (one yet to be released even) and some are decades old, but they fit nicely together in the atmosphere of the mix.
Q. You are living in Amsterdam. What do you love about the city, what do you dislike?
A. I was born and raised in Amsterdam and as much as I love my hometown, it has also changed a lot over the years and not all for the good. Financial inequality is growing rapidly, it becomes more and more expensive and therefore harder to live in Amsterdam for many who are financially less fortunate. The city suffers from gentrification in a lot of areas, and there’s less and less space for (counter)culture and people feel less free to be extravagant in the streets. But the soul of Amsterdam is still there, I do hold on to that idea, even though it’s sometimes harder to find.
Q. How is the music scene in your hometown? As Amsterdam is an expensive city, is there still room for young, upcoming artists to express themselves?
A. Amsterdam has a very rich cultural history and always had and still has a cultural and musical offering much larger than you would expect from the size of this town of not even 1 million. The fact that there is so much going on and the ease of getting around and seeing all these things and encountering others because of the modest geographical size helps. Having said that, it is a fact that the city is a lot more expensive and harder to crack when you are a young & upcoming artist than twenty or even ten years ago…
Q. What are some of your favourite clubs and festivals? And why?
A. I admire what the Horst Arts & Music Festival does, making this beautiful combination of Music, Visual Arts, Architecture and Night Culture. Dekmantel is like family, they are doing a great job. I think Love International is great too, it’s so warm and fun and in general, I think I should give Bristol a shout-out! Clubs, there are so many great ones, obviously De School was a great one. It closed down just a few days before writing this interview, but I feel it reached its full form eventually.
Q. Can you name us some young, upcoming Dutch (or international) artists, that deserve more attention?
A. Ruutu Poiss! He was the reason I started Wake Dream. We had been in touch for a while already after I played one of his tunes in 2016. He had sent me a collection of tracks he had made and at some point, I fell in love with them. He has such a unique sonic and musical signature, it’s almost like the music you would dream off but then forget when you wake up and you try to re-imagine it. And he is an all-round talented guy, also a great DJ, gifted graphic designer, skateboarder, and sound effects generator.
Q. You work at Amsterdam cultural space Het Hem. What is your position there and what makes your job exciting?
A. I’m Head of Music and Music Curator at Het HEM, a cultural space located in an old bullet factory just outside of Amsterdam. We present art programs such as our annual “Chapters”: a series of large-scale group exhibitions that we develop together with specific cultural visionaries of today for the public to look at the world through their lens via art and music. The music programs we present range from live performance series, to listening sessions in our listening bar, and events with Horst and Sonic Acts to name a few. But also artist residencies commissioning artists/musicians to develop new interdisciplinary projects. To me, it’s very exciting to work in the space between Art & Music, especially because of my background in visual arts, graphic design, and music. At the moment we are renovating but in the coming year, we are still doing events around town and in parts of our building. Alongside that we also developed The Couch last year, our editorial and artistic platform in addition to our physical exhibitions, events and programs.
Q. What are you up to at the moment? What does the future bring?
A. Always keeping busy! Playing around steadily around NL, Europe and further, doing my monthly NTS Show, working on very exciting things at Het HEM & The Couch for the coming year and for 2025. And gearing up for the next Wake Dream release; an insanely good futuristic second album by Ruutu Poiss.
Intro: The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa - Her Eyes Have It
1. Lee Gamble - Xith C Spray
2. Alexander Mezlack - Perfection of The Human Form
3. Shuji Wada - Endless Load
4. Auto Takei - Balabadur
5. Two Lone Swordsmen - The Branch Brothers
6. Mong Tong - Bun
7. Slow Riffs - Peace Arch
8. Dynatron feat. Enrico Demuro - Kosmokraut
9. Ryuichi Sakamoto - Rain Song
10. CD3-E - Internal Content Generator
11. SVN - Dub 1
12. Ruutu Poiss - 40 (to be released)
The top picture of Het HEM is by Nick Chesnaye & Elias Derboven
The portraits of Oprheu The Wizard are by Abel Minnee