The Belgian house duo talk us through the creation of ‘It’s You’ – one of the most highly sought-after vinyl releases of last year – and explain their decision to re-release the track digitally after seeing second-hand asking prices reach stratospheric levels and big-name DJs openly requesting pirated copies.
As limited-edition vinyl releases have enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, a grey market driven by re-sellers attempting to cash in on high demand and limited supply of popular releases is perhaps an inevitable side-effect. Rarely has this phenomenon been so dramatic as it was in the case of FCL’s ‘It’s You’ – a bare-bones DJ tool based on ESP’s 1986 Chicago house classic of the same name.
The Belgian duo of We Play House label boss Bart Van Neste (aka Red D) and Nicolas Geysens (aka San Soda) pressed just 150 copies of ‘It’s You’ on single-sided clear vinyl, but as the track became a cult underground favourite, demand for the record drove the re-selling market into overdrive. Discogs resellers listed the record at prices as high as $1,000; owners offered rips of the vinyl for 30 euros a time; bootleggers released highly dubious ‘edits’; big-name DJs took to Twitter to request rips of the track from their followers.
Van Neste announced via the We Play House website earlier this month that ‘It’s You’ would be released digitally in February through Defected Records. We caught up with the duo for an in-depth chat about the origins of the track, their thoughts on re-selling vinyl and why Red D is clear that requesting a rip of the track is tantamount to piracy.
Attack: Let’s start by talking about how ‘It’s You’ started out. The track’s obviously a remake of the ESP original, but how did your version come about?
Red D: It started almost ten years ago, to be honest, when the original ‘It’s You’ by ESP was part of the six or seven tracks I started playing live with Lady Linn, a Belgian jazz singer. The project is me DJing with Linn doing live vocals of existing tracks, mash-ups, improvisation, etc. The more I played it with her, the more I thought about doing a remake, because while the original is perfect I do feel Linn is a better singer. Flash forward eight years later and we were in the studio recording vocals for ‘Used To Be’, which was the follow-up to our Vocals For Everyone EP, and on the spot I asked Linn to do some vocals for a possible ‘It’s You’ remake.
One day later we had the singer Gustaph in the studio – he’s now part of Hercules & Love Affair – and we asked him to do some ad-libs and harmonies. When he was gone we listened to the vocals they did and decided on the spot that we could make a cool DJ tool just with the vocals and some percussive elements, but with no beat, because the vocals were so strong. A couple weeks later we played at Panorama Bar and San Soda dropped what we had in mind from minute one as our tool, and the place went kinda mad. So then and there – quite drunk – I told Nicolas it would be cool to do 150 copies of this, to hand out to our DJ friends and to be sold via our website and Ghent’s Music Mania record shop, our official vinyl home and a shop for which I help out as a house buyer.
It took another while before we had a playable version, but when we did and we started playing it, the potential of this one soon became obvious. But we stuck to the 150 copies idea, just because I’ve always stuck to gut ideas, it’s the only way I run the label that works for me.
San Soda: The actual arrangement was done the week and the evening before our gig so I was literally just picturing how it would sound there and how it would work best in between other tracks I was planning to play that morning. The idea was to mix it in for a long time and then build up the tension until the bass line drops. It’s really how it should be played. Having no kick drum on a dancefloor for over five minutes has proven to be very efficient. It gets very intense, especially when you choose the right track to mix it into at the end and the right moment to do so. To me it’s definitely not a tool, it’s a song.
The name ‘San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version’ suggests this isn’t the only mix you made. Were there other unreleased versions?
Red D: There’s no other version of this one from us. We intended to make a full remake, but after a while it became pointless and a full remake would eventually have been just copying what is essentially a perfect record. At WPH we’ve always had a thing for long and often very much inspired-by-the-moment track names, and seeing as Nicolas first played our vocal tool idea at Panorama Bar it was named like that.
To me it's definitely not a tool, it's a song.
So you only pressed 150 copies?
Red D: That’s correct, I had 150 copies pressed up. Some 20 of those were handed out to vinyl DJs we like, the rest got sold first at Music Mania in Ghent and then via our website, where the remaining 90 copies or so got sold in half an hour.
Worst idea I ever had, to be honest, because I was sending emails and making packages for days after…
Did you not anticipate the level of demand?
San Soda: In the beginning we had no clue the demand would be so high, I just thought it was a fun gift to people that had been supporting us for a long time. Fans in Belgium, promoters, favourite DJs, my mom… Only after people started emailing us so often to ask for the track we realised maybe we should have pressed more.
Part of your reason for licensing the track to Defected was presumably the ‘Discogs effect’. People were listing the vinyl for €500 – although it’s worth pointing out that nobody actually paid more than £60 for a copy. How does it make you feel to see that happening?
Red D: It simply can’t be helped. Even when pressing 1,500 copies when you are called Levon Vincent or Moodymann there are people buying them up to flog them off on Discogs later. The only way to limit that is selling them at one copy per head, but even then some people are tempted to make a few quick bucks. I just ignore it and do what I feel I need to do, and in this case that was pressing up just 150 copies for our closest friends and fans.
San Soda: I’m angry with those people trying to sell it for big bucks. I mean, Bart sent every record to their home address – we know who they are… That piece of music was a present for our close followers so it hurts to see they don’t care about the record but they’d rather see a 50 euro bill.