Marriage, victory, and lest we forget, record label anniversaries are always high times of celebration. Time isn’t always an easy motherfucker to swallow. She’s ongoing, pays no mind to whether you can keep up or not, and acts as the ultimate authority. Yet she carries you from day to day stitching together past and present, never leaves your side, and proves to us that if we can stand her test, we’ll only be stronger.

Throughout its 15 year history that first ignited in the New York house scene, Ibadan Records has done just that - grown, evolved, and stayed a mighty beacon of light in all areas of electronic music. It’s no easy feat for a label to thrive and innovate, as Ibadan has; over a decade and a half and counting, its artists continuously produce sounds that are impervious to seasonal change and capricious frivolities. Classics are born and re-born, that like a sturdy oak tree, only strengthen their roots over time.

Jerome Sydenham is at the helm of this label, challenging himself as well as new artists to break from their conceptions of what fits the mold. He stands atop a solid foundation that he’s fortified over time, one that simultaneously allows him to reach new heights in the music he makes and relates.  “I go out, listen to new music, meet with people, soak in the atmosphere. I'll never get so caught up in my own world, which would be pretentious, only trusting in my knowledge of the past. I very much like to know what’s going on - to experience things as they happen.”

So you’ve got mad work these days, right?

Well, this year has been very interesting for me as a producer because I’ve been doing as lot more techno stuff and that wasn’t the case a couple of years ago but it’s sort of intensified as of this year. Initially it started with the evolution of a new division of Ibadan, called Apotek Records and that involved me doing original productions and putting them out on the label and and one or two records by other people but mainly my stuff to sort of give me a platform into that new world of techno. And now that’s evolved into me doing a lot of remixes for other people so in the last couple of months. I’m going to do an EP with Function for James Ruskin... we just did a Luke Slater remix, things like that. So, it’s been very exciting.

Apotek. Kind of like Apotheke. Do you frequent it often?

No, not really. Only for Ibuprofen (laughs).

I had my wisdom teeth taken out last year and was really hoping for some of those. I heard stories from all my friends who went through it and came out like drugged up chipmunks but, no such luck for me in Germany. The dentist instead prescribed me 600 mg Ibuprofen. I threw a slight fit in his office.

No they don’t do that stuff here. Unless you go to a special doctor and you know... he pulls something out of his personal drawer... he didn’t actually give me a prescription...

Ibadan was around long before Apotek.

Yeah, that’s been around now for 15 years. And we recently celebrated the 100th release. And we’ll sort of do several releases over the next few months from various artists to celebrate the 15 years. So, that should carry on all the way through to next spring. Almost like a year of commemorations because it’s 15 years and the 100th. So now we’re at like 104 which is nice, a good sort of milestone. It’s all happened at the same time.

Exciting times.

Yes. What else is exciting at the moment? I’ve developed a new collaborative partnership with Function from the Soundwall District Crew and that’s been working out great. We’ve been doing original music and remixes for other people together and it will probably lead to an album at some point next year. Yeah, it looks that way. As the label sort of evolved from a New York house style to pseudo techno, the DJ sets have also evolved in the last few years so it’s like a fusion of house and techno or just techno. Depending on what city of the world or what club.

What do you think kind of influenced that segue?

I guess it started a few years ago when I.... was in Tokyo and I heard a couple of different people play. One good friend of mine, who I hadn’t heard play in a while... Laurent Garnier... he was playing at a big super club called Ageha... he was playing all these great records that I actually didn’t know. So when I got back to New York I complained to my local record shop as to why they didn’t carry all this stuff. How come I’ve been missing all of this great new techno sound? And um, I just found another shop round the corner called 10th Street Vinyl and just started buying there instead. Then I started discovering things that I had missed and... because New York is so much more of a house city, you unless when you’re on tour you happen to catch some other djs or you’re reading stuff in magazines and really searching for it you miss stuff. And then as I researched, I discovered a whole plethora of great things. And that was kind of the beginning. And then it slowly took over... and it’s definitely running my life now for sure.

Was all that music being produced in Tokyo?

No, it was mainly from the djs I heard. Normally, when I go to Tokyo I spend a week and there’s a lot of traffic there and... as opposed to New York there’s less of a techno scene. Or if I went to London I’d only be there for a day then off to Paris or Stockholm and I wouldn’t really hear anyone else play. Whereas in Tokyo there’d be two guys from Berlin, one from France and I’d have many days off so I’d go and listen to other friends of mine, other colleagues play and that’s how I kind of got into it. Then I started to buy the music myself and it started to affect how I djed and how I made music, slowly but surely.

What’s the crowd like there?

Great. And the clubs are amazing.

I’ve heard of Womb. Is that the best one?

Not necessarily. Womb is... very popular. There’s another one called Club 11, and I guess the main super club is called Ageha. Then there’s another one that’s not too big called Air - which I like a lot. Ageha has the best sound system, Club 11, then Air and then Womb - the sound system is just okay but Cocoon does their parties there so they get the big hype German nights at Womb.

And how long have you been in Berlin?

3 years in October. Let’s see, how did that happen? I left New York and I wanted to live in Europe for a while. I tried Stockholm first and couldn’t really find a nice place to live -but it was good. It was nice to live there but I needed a place to move the office to and the studio, etc. and I couldn’t find a nice enough, big enough, or soundproof enough place. The all of the above or nothing. Then I moved onto Copenhagen but lost that apartment - the landlady wanted to move back in and then I kind of got a furnished apartment in Berlin and tried it out and ended up staying on and on and on and then decided to look for a permanent place and here we are. And it’s an old bank. The walls are really solid. No one complains about noise or anything so it’s great - all night things can go on.

A friend and I were just talking about how a lot of people come here on a whim and end up staying a long time. We were wondering why so many people do that despite the winters and unemployment, etc. Somehow we started talking about the HAARP Project. And, don’t quote me on this, but it’s operated by the government and involves weird waves being transmitted from Tempelhof Airport that affect cloud cover and create a sort of magnetic field in the city. I think it makes people really hedonistic and/or insane, even sad. Though you may know nothing of this, could there be some truth to that? Is there a strange energy force that runs this place?

I don’t know; I feel fine (laughs). That’s interesting though, I’ll have to look into that. It never really has... like ever. Not been a place of refuge...

For all of us freaks!

(Everyone laughing).

Living like this just isn’t possible in London. There are too many obstacles.

Yeah. I think the layout of the city is interesting, the lack of congestion. And, I guess it’s a very gay city as well. You have to think about that. And it always has been. So, that lends itself to a sort of more liberal tone, for lack of a better word. And that, I guess, leads to a bit more hedonistic behaviour, etc.

Would you say that your relationship to the city has changed since you arrived?

I guess somewhat, yes. I feel more comfortable than I did, but I guess that would happen anywhere. I like it as much as I did before. I don’t think I like it any more or any less; I always liked it. I like to get to know where I live. I like to find my way around, find new pockets and new things and discover stuff. Find a new bar in an odd neighbourhood. But not too far away because you never know where you may end up. You know there are some Neo-Nazis lurking here and there. Um, I don’t really go to the west so much. I definitely stick to the east. But you know, you can go west for a little high-end meal every now and again, drink a bottle of champagne. But, you can do that in the east now too so... well no reason to go there! And I enjoy riding my bicycle. You can do that in a lot of other cities but there’s just no traffic here. I step out onto my street most day and there’s no one around! Well, there’s a lot of dark, crazy shit going on behind closed doors but...

How does the whole naming process go for you? Tracks, albums...

Very randomly. Usually I’ll pick up a newspaper and read it and I’ll find something and it’ll trigger something else but I’ll just look around the room at items. I never have a title first and then try to work around that with sound. It’s always the other way around. I’ll have a track and no title for it. So, not very imaginative. I’ve kind of abandoned the album at the moment; I’m kind of stuck. I don’t know what direction to finish it in. Halfway, but then... stuck. So it’ll take at least til the end of the year I think. Either put more music out or just don’t put anything out for a while and just accumulate a lot of music and then pick 12 things and have it come out in the Spring maybe, we’ll see. We’ll see.

Ibadan celebrates its 15th anniversary at Berghain this weekend.

Text: Yasmin Martinelli | Film + Photography: Anastasia Loginova


NAN GOLDIN - Berlin Work 1984 - 2009

CORY ARCANGEL - Here Comes Everybody

STEPHEN SHORE - Uncommon Places


Graham Caldwell



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