Artist Profile: Ivan Smagghe

by | Dec 5, 2023 | Artist Profile, Blog

Emerging from Paris’s vibrant vinyl culture, the journey of Ivan Smagghe is a vivid narrative of innovation, diversity, and artistic integrity. Smagghe’s career, characterized by its genre-defying and defining nature, epitomizes diversity in production and the worlds of art and culture at large. As France’s most coveted radio host and selector, he navigates the intersection of chic sophistication and authentic musical artistry with unparalleled skill. On Saturday, December 9, Ivan Smagghe and Manfredas join forces to bring their DRESDEN concept to Control Club.

Ivan Smagghe’s early days at Rough Trade, the iconic record shop that garnered his early Ivan Rough Trade moniker, shaped his musical identity. Initially gaining acclaim with Black Strobe, a project co-founded with Arnaud Rebotini in 1997, he forged a pioneering path in the electroclash genre. Black Strobe’s sound, described as a “frozen balearic gay biker house,” was pivotal in shaping the genre, particularly with Smagghe’s Death Disco (Eskimo Recordings, 2004) compilation emerging as a seminal release. This era saw him become a beacon of innovation, reshaping the contours of electronic music and receiving praise from fellow tastemakers Andre Weatherall, James Murphy, Ata, and Optimo, to name a few.

Beyond his work with Black Strobe, Smagghe has been involved in numerous collaborative projects. His collaborations with Roman Flugel, RMVN, and Tim Paris, It’s A Fine Line, further exemplify Smagghe’s commitment to consistently breaking musical confines, from electro rockabilly to Italo rickety disco. The latter duo’s remixes, including for artists like Superpitcher and The XX, as well their original productions, are testimonies to their dynamic and unorthodox approach to music-making. Furthermore, his collaboration with Matthew Herbert in the Smagghe & Cross project has led to tracks like In The Morning and LPs like the phantasmagoric 1819 and on Vladimir Ivkovic’s Offen Music imprint.

Smagghe’s overall discography clearly showcases his ability to curate compelling musical narratives. His compilation albums such as How To Kill The DJ (Part One) (Tigersushi Records, 2003) and Bugged Out! Presents Suck My Deck (React, 2004) are testament to his keen ear for music curation. Fabric 23 (Fabric London, 2005), Kill The DJ Introducing The Dysfunctional Family – A Mixed Up Compilation By Chloé Et Ivan Smagghe (Kill The DJ Records, 2006), and Idmemo – A Future of Nostalgia (Compiled by Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smagghe) further highlight his prowess as a DJ.

As a Producer, Smagghe is equally as prolific. His recent releases of note, characterized by a blend of electro house and minimal electro continue to demonstrate his eclectic and forward-thinking approach. Recent releases and remixes include The Contrarians (2022), Don’t Be Mad (Smagghe & Cross Edit, 2016), Civil Defense (Ivan Smagghe 2016 Edit), and Moments In Between (Ivan Smagghe Crossed Mix and Dub, 2015).

As an A&R for the decade-old label Kill The DJ and his own labelLes Disques De La Mort, Smagghe championed a ‘the style of no style’ philosophy, showcases an eclectic array of artists and sounds, from the Italian duo Margot to Paranoid London’s Mutado Pintado, to Cosmo Vitelli, C.A.R, Golden Bug, and more.

But Smagghe’s influence is not just in the production and A&R realms but also in radio and blogging. Furthering his influence, Smagghe ventured into radio and blogging with a few things from Ivan Smagghe, leading to a compilation series for the chic Parisian uber-store Colette. 

Smagghe’s latest endeavor, Amor Fati, co-created with Niv Arzi from Red Axes, is a counterintuitive blog offering free edits to the public. This project also comes in the guises of Customs & Faces and Axes & Smagghe, each representing their own respective identities of the musical duo.

The Dresden project, a DJ duo and party concept shared with Lithuanian legend Manfredas, further embodies Smagghe’s ethos. Evolving from local residencies in London’s Corsica Studios and Vilnius’ Opium Club to international acclaim, Dresden exemplifies the free-spirited and rule-defying nature of Smagghe’s approach to music. The project’s all-nighters, appearances at Glastonbury and Houghton Festival, t-shirt collaborations with Magic Castles, and unique take on club music have gained widespread recognition.

Across the globe, from clubs in Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris, and Los Angeles to festivals like Love International in Croatia, Smagghe’s presence is a testament to innate ability to captivate audiences. His sets, characterized by a raw connection with the audience and an eclectic selection of records, continue redefining electronic music’s boundaries, while interjecting unabashed personality throughout. Notable performances in 2023 have seen appearances at Faith In Strangers (UK), NUI (Ibiza), Festival Résonance (France), and Kappa Futurfestival (Italy).

Ivan Smagghe’s career is a genre-defying mosaic of groundbreaking projects, influential collaborations, and innovative contributions to the electronic music scene. His journey, marked by an unyielding passion for music and an unorthodox approach to production and DJing, firmly places him as a pivotal figure in the narrative of modern electronic music culture.

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