Double Adapter: Earthdance, electro, Europe by Evan Milton
Double Adapter are the subject of South Africa's first documentary on electro music, they co-headline next weekend's Earthdance festival and then leave on a second European tour - meet the brothers Tim and Dan Apter.
Tim Apter answers the telephone at his office and then has to step out onto the balcony to continue our conversation. Not because he has to shield the music scene call from the boss but because the view out over Greenside is a nice way to take a break from creating music and doing post-production work. The office represents a slice of that eternal dream of combining one's passions and the income-generating day-job, courtesy the film production company he started, Mustard Post Production. "We do anything that's audio and video related, and have done a lot of work with (DSTV music channel) MK," he says, "Plus I've got the sound studio in the office, so we do Double Adapter from her and it all works pretty well."
The dual focus of the office is more than a happy coincidence - fusing sound and visuals is the very centre from which Double Adapter was born, and it's what makes their shows so refreshing and exciting. While Tim Apter pumps out dancefloor decimating electro tracks and remixes, his brother Dan twists references from the music onto giant screens around the pair. The show blurs the boundaries between the traditional dance DJ and a live band - and even more so when they include other musicians. It was this innovation that saw them picked up by forward thinking management agency Griet (home of DJs Haezer and Sassquatch, producers Yesterday's Pupil and Mr Sakitumi and the band Kidofdoom, amongst others).
"Dan is five years younger than me, and he started DJing with a little duo so he could get into clubs when he was only 16," explains Apter. "Then he stopped. A few years after that, I was playing in bands and stuff and he was getting into VJing with visuals, and someone asked him to play a set and he asked me to DJ with him. We started Double Adapter, and it existed for about two years, with us having zero expectations for it but, at the beginning of this year, we got the call from Griet, and then the European tour."
The tour led to the documentary, which led to wider national recognition, which led to more gigs and, in turn, has led to invitations back for a second European tour - and a pending exploratory visit by Tim to the USA. "'Adapt Or Die', the documentary, was also something that just happened," says Apter. "We did our first European tour in April with Griet and we had all the dates mapped out in Italy, Holland, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Then one of our friends who works at Mustard, Matthew Stonier - we call him Stones - said 'I'd like to come with you to make a documentary'. It was a pie-in-the-sky idea, but we pitched it to MK and they loved it, the idea of an 'on the road' doccie. In fact, it's gone on to spawn a doccie section on the MK channel because it was so well received."
"Adapt Or Die" was screened as six one-minute video inserts and two 24-minute specials described as a "raw but cinematic look at electro music in a way that more and more South Africans are starting to see it - it is passion combined with art, it is the sound of youth, and it is an expression of what it feels like to let go". And is the documentary a real reflection of what the tour was like, or was it all staged for the camera? "That was all real, like the little tantrum that Dan throws - totally real!" says Apter "Me doing the 'tour guide' of Prague was intentionally being stupid, so we hammed that up, but, in fact, a lot of it we don't really remember being filmed."
It leads to an obvious question - what is it like working with one's brother all day in a production studio, then all night on the DJ and VJ decks - and then taking your international working holidays together. "We have a really amazing relationship," says Tim. "We fight all the time, but it never affects anything related to Double Adapter - you can;t really have an argument that goes all out, because you know you have to see each other and work together."
Double Adapter are billed as "an audio-visual explosion; a combination of video, lights and electronic beats; a combination of retro and current pop, classics and rarities remixed into one hard electro soundtrack" and hailed as "electro so dirty it makes you wanna party even though you have work tomorrow". Invitations back to many of the clubs they played in April are testament to the success of their ground-breaking shows, as was the rave reception they received for their recent Oppikoppi set, and with ongoing invitations to club nights like Cape Town's "Discotheque" at The Assembly. What's the secret - and does the integration of pre-planned visuals with the music create restrictions for playing a live set?
"It all comes from the sound," says Tim. "I'll do a lot of remix work and work on new mixed tapes and Dan will come into the studio and source visuals. Which, basically, means that he surfs the 'net and drinks beer while I'm working. We include a lot of pop and rock in our sets, so Dan does a lot of paper cut-out animation. Like if I use a Lady Gaga sample, or a slice from Nirvana, then he tries to tell the story of the sound with images of Gaga or Kurt Cobain or whatever. Dan's also got a really big library of generic Double Adapter stuff, so if I go off on a tangent, or if we want to play a new song on the fly one night, then he's got visuals for that, plus he's often entering his own text into the visuals. Basically, that era of 'the DJ is god' is over, thankfully, and we're just trying to put a bit of performance into a DJ set - and it seems to be working pretty well."
Double Adapter play the Music Box stage at the annual global Earthdance
festival alongside over 80 acts including Sibot, Fletcher, Audiophile021, 7ft Soundsystem, Monique Pascal, Mr Sakitumi and more. Also on the bill, over the six stages and areas, are trance stars Loud (Israel), Commercial Hippies, Dave Mac, Regan, Eitan Reiter (Iboga) and a solar-power driven stage with Gary Thomas, Toby2Shoes, Ma'original and more (23 to 25 September at Nekkies, outside Worcester; tickets R150 (Sunday only) to R350 (full weekend) at gate, or from R260 at outlets - see www.EarthDanceCapeTown.com and WebTickets.co.za). On Friday 30 September, Double Adapter plays "Friday Night Sideshow" at The Fez and, on 6 and 7 November, they support Cape Town band Lark on the Gauteng leg of their comeback tour. The full "Adapt Or Die" documentary is available on youtube.com
Read our Q&A with Double Adapter here
First appeared in the Cape Argus "Good Weekend" of 2011/ 09/18
Music journalist, Digital marketing strategist, SA Music Awards judge and radio DJ for Fine Music Radio.