Roland Leesker lives for and has loved electronic music since 1989. Back then, like many DJs, by day you could find him working in a local vinyl shop, Delirium Records, serving up tastemakers like Sven Väth, DJ T. and Laurent Garnier. On an evening you could catch him spin those same records in clubs like Wild Pitch, XS and Dorian Gray.
After moving to New York he ended up playing with and producing artists that are legends today. Slaving away with Ricardo Villalobos in his living room. Creating loops with John Selway at New York ́s Satellite basement and working as a Light Jockey for Marc Spoon.
Now the creative director of the world-renowned, Get Physical label he makes a welcome artistic return with a new release featuring tracks from the ACID LOVE Vol. 2 album. Roland Leesker has only put out a few releases over the last 15 years—both solo and as DJ Carrera and R&R with none other than Ricardo Villalobos—but has a fully-formed sound.
Ahead of the release, we managed to pin him down to dissect his industrious career and what the future holds.
Early in your career you were a resident at the legendary Dorian Gray whilst working at Delirium Records. At this time Frankfurt was the epicentre of the global dance music movement with clubs like Omen and later Cocoon Club. What was it like to grow up in that scene & how have these experiences and encounters shaped your career?
Full of energy! In any dimension. I was working within the music, literally day & night, always very near to a set of turntables and a mixer with thousands of vinyl around us. Of course, there were beautiful girls too, but my first love was music. I did every kind of job I could get to get closer to the circle of those “who knew”.
Frankfurt was also a highly competitive place where only a very few got access to the hottest records, and even less got more than one chance to perform as a DJ at one of our clubs, which were mainly the OMEN, Dorian Gray, XS and a little later the Wild Pitch Club.
This fierce competition within a relatively small scene was perhaps one of the main reasons that had me searching for more, so I left the city pretty early, aged 21, to move to New York.
In 1995 you left Frankfurt & moved to New York. Can you tell us a bit more about this period in your career?
I was a House/Hip Hop/Soul Music fan from the very beginning. Maybe it´s interesting to know that even Sven Väth did mixed music nights, playing through all different kinds of genres before he went fully Techno, and I was one of the lucky kids who were part of these nights before it all went “Techno all night long”. I loved that dark energy of Techno too, particularly the stuff coming from Detroit, as it always had that Soul inside. But then, when I was on the dancefloor at Sound Factory Bar in New York for my very first time, with Little Louie Vega on the decks. surrounded by the best dancers from all over the world, I knew: THIS IS MY SOUND and Techno lost me.
So what I was basically doing in New York was, setting up our a record store and all surrounding businesses during the daytime, being a city host for all my German friends using our apartment, and going dancing at Sound Factory Bar with the Underground Network around Louie Vega on Wednesdays, Sound Factory Bar on Thursday nights with Tony Humphries and of course again every Friday night, to listen to the beautiful music selection of Frankie Knuckles. On Saturdays, I would sometimes jump into Sound Factory at The Tunnel to listen to Junior Vasquez, and when they let me in, the young white kid that I was, I went to see one of my absolute favourite DJs of all times: Funkmaster Flex!
Would you say this is when you saw your career as an artist accelerate?
Actually the opposite was the case in the short run. When I returned to Germany to play a few gigs about a year later, the local music scene had turned even harder. Very fast hard sorts of Techno. You have to remember there was no internet in these days. As a result, the local taste really differed a lot from place to place.
At the time I was into Vocal and Gospel House. Man, they almost killed me at one of my shows back then. My music selection was obviously not connecting with the crowd’s mindset or whatever was inside of their bodies those days. However, looking at it now, this is absolutely true as it was only in New York I started to realise that I was absolutely no one. I came to the realisation that I had to learn a lot more and work a lot harder to stay relevant for a lifetime career in the music business.
Dance music is a constantly evolving beast built on the legacies of institutions, DJs & dancers that have gone before. Do you think it is important for the next generation of artists and promoters to acknowledge the past whilst pushing new concepts?
Well, yes and no. I think it’s great to act totally free of mind, and in a positive way to be naive when creating music or any other form of Art. On the other hand, everything ‘new’ is only remodelling what has already been. So I think if you aim to become a real master of your art and profession you must know the past as well as the present in order to create a new (and better) future.
Let’s talk about your work with, ‘Get Physical‘. The label has been one of dance music’s most forward-thinking imprints since its inception in 2002. Why do you think the label has managed to remain so relevant in an extremely competitive market place?
We really LOVE what we do. And we really work for our label´s music and artist´s success. Everyday. Every night. 24/7/365/All life long. We also do invest a lot of our own money, every month into the quality of our team in order to permanently improve the quality of our work. And over the years we never really treated anybody badly (at least not intentionally). As a result, we made a lot of friends and fans, and we love them all.
You have only put out a handful of releases over the years compared to most other artists. Why is that and what does the future hold?
First of all, I am not as good as I wish to be. Secondly, I think a great track only comes out when the time is right. Finally, there are so many producers which are a lot better than me, that’s why I consider myself as a DJ & record selector. My upcoming ACID LOVE VOL II album will be a good example of my thinking, it will not leave a dry eye in the house!
Over the years House & Techno (with its various sub-genres) has become less underground and more mainstream. Why do you think this has happened & do you think it is a positive or negative change?
Dance Music is a universal language. It knows no boundaries, no racism, or inequality. Once we are listening and dancing to a drumbeat together, we all become better men. We move a little closer to universal peace and wisdom. Our music also reflects mankind’s technological development very well. And that’s why I, of course, am absolutely happy about seeing it grow and develop further.
Finally, if you could make a record with any producer past or present who would it be and why?
Derrick May, because he is the coolest cat on Earth!