Journals8 min read

In Conversation: Gilles Peterson & Dea Barandana


Kindred spirits, DJs Gilles Peterson and Dea Barandana talk shop and swap tunes at Studio Eksotika.

Gilles Peterson’s first visit to Potato Head Beach Club was a memorable experience for everyone: the crowd—who were psyched to see the widely admired DJ, Worldwide FM founder and Brownswood Recordings boss—and for Gilles himself. It was at his gig in Bali that he heard Indonesian DJ and Studio Eksotika music director Dea Barandana take to the decks for the first time. “It’s well known that I was blown away by him,” Gilles tells, while Dea queues up the next rare record for him to hear. The two are swapping knowledge and sounds during Gilles’ second visit to Potato Head. We wanted to know more.

Here, we capture a snippet of their conversation and some of the tunes they listened to.

Gilles Peterson: So Dea man, how much do you want for that? The first thing when I walked in, they played me a tune. They knew it was the one I wanted—they know my taste so well.

Dea Barandana: He bought it. It’s made in Bali, it’s Bali Records I think. It’s very sought after, in like a psych collection.

Gilles: But it can’t be that rare because there are two versions, two different sleeves. This is a reissue. I mean, obviously this is from back in the day but… was it a popular record then? Did they publish it twice with two sleeves?

Dea: No.

Gilles: What was the other sleeve you showed me on the phone?

Dea: Oh that one was the real sleeve, this one’s just a random sleeve I put on there. The one with the sleeve in mint condition can cost like…

Gilles: I understand, I understand.

Dea: That doesn’t exist really exist in Indonesia, you have to find it in the Netherlands or America.

Dea: Back in the day we were very poor so they didn’t press many records, it’s only on cassette. They pressed records only to play on the radio. Foreigners who had an ear and came here during the ’90s, they picked all of that before we even realised that stuff is good.

Gilles: So a record like this would have been pressed in maybe a few hundred copies? Only for the radio stations?

Dea: Yes.

Gilles: And why would you say Dutch people? Because there were a lot of Dutch?

Dea: There were a lot of Dutch here in the ‘90s. Not just in Bali, everywhere—it was post-colonial. Potato Head: Gilles, are you like Dea with this whole buying online obsession?

Gilles: Actually, to be honest with you, I quite like this type of experience because I’m a bit lazy. I don’t have a lot of time to go online. These guys are on another level, they’ll spend a whole day just going through blogs and this and that. I mean, it’s a real investment of your time. So I do love it but this experience I enjoy the most, probably more than anything else. Going to a good record store where someone’s gonna put out a few records for me, I can kind of enjoy it on another level.

By the way Pete here [Potato Head’s former music manager, Pete Herbert] had a record shop which I think needs to be mentioned in this little piece that we’re doing, which used to be a very, very essential shop [Atlas Records] in the growth of UK music DJ culture because it was a record shop that kind of made the link, if you look at the shops that are Phonica today which is sort of like, based on your concept right and the shops that were there before yours were kind of…

Pete: Techno shops.

Gilles: Yeah there were no shops that were like independent labels and mixing eclectic but curated in a certain way that I think Phonica has certainly taken because there was a certain image to your shop as well, wasn’t there.

I used to do a club around the corner from where his shop was on a Monday night, I had a residency there for 13 years, every Monday for 13 years (don’t talk to me about resident nights). I remember the guys I did the residency with used to get so wasted that they’d go straight through Monday to Tuesday and end up in his record shop in the morning for breakfast, on a Tuesday!

Dea: I used to go on Mondays.

Gilles: You came to my Monday night?

Dea: Yeah in Bar Rumba. And then one night, I hadn’t shown up for more than a year and suddenly I go on a Monday night and it was R’n’B and I was like whoa, where’s Gilles?

“he started playing and it was the most amazing set that night and it made me remember why I do what I do”

Potato Head: Dea, did you ever think when you were at Gilles’ club night that you would be sitting here today playing records with him?

Dea: No.

Gilles: Well it’s well known that I was blown away by him. It’s interesting because in the current world of DJing, there’s always a shift in how the mood changes around the world and somehow you can be in your thing and you kind of miss what’s going on around because you’re just in your bubble and you can kind of miss like the zeitgeist or the shift in how is. A lot of DJs stick to what they’re known to be and for them to start pushing a new atmosphere, new sounds in a club, it takes quite a lot of balls.

So when I came here a few years ago and I heard him… I didn’t have my best night that night myself, and then he came on and he kind of just reminded me of why we do it. Because sometimes you get lost in your ego or, maybe not your ego, but you get lost in what you think people want from you as a DJ. It’s a weird job being a DJ, because you’re not really playing your own music, you’re playing other people’s music and it’s always dependent on the audience and their mood.

Sometimes you can have those moments where you’re like, “I hate this job”—it happens to all of us—and I remember that night I was having that moment like, “I’m shit, the crowd hates me, I’m playing rubbish music.” You know, the last 30 years didn’t mean anything. I went and sat in a corner because I was actually a bit embarrassed, and I had a drink and a cigarette and then he started playing and it was the most amazing set that night and it made me remember why I do what I do. So that was quite significant for me.

Potato Head: Was there a song in particular?

Gilles: No, it was the mood of what he was doing and how he was doing it. I love the way he was playing with music and selecting it and presenting it and it was just totally him: really well researched, understanding music and creating an atmosphere that was incredible. I didn’t know any of the music so at one stage, when I’d built up the confidence to walk back there, I went through his record box. I went through it and I knew nothing. I think I might have known one sleeve out of 15 boxes of records. Half of me was like “fuck, I don’t know any of this, how bad” but on the other hand it was like “amazing, look at all this music!”

Potato Head: Was it just that you didn’t really pay attention to Indonesian music?

Dea: Back then I didn’t really play this stuff.

Gilles: No you played weird European stuff. That’s what made it even more freaky for me because it wasn’t Indonesian, it was like Italian, German, French. It was all sorts of oddball things that you would get for nothing.

Gilles: Is your collection constantly changing?

Dea: It’s impossible to do like when I was in Europe, to buy records like everyday, it’s so expensive here with the tax and the shipping.

Potato Head: When did you get into playing Indonesian tunes?

Dea: I already had some Indonesian stuff but I didn’t think it would fit into my DJ sets. Back in the day in Indonesia people made music that is catchy and could be played in stadiums that the crowd can sing along to. I rarely found instrumental or whatever. But now I understand, it’s nostalgic. It reminds me of my childhood, all that music on the radio my grandma was putting on in the car, and so I kind of started playing it out.

Gilles: What’s your number one expertise, if you had to pick one.

Dea: That’s tough. I like my disco, the one that’s a bit like raw you know, I don’t play much stuff that’s very well produced in the studio. I like the ones from Italy but with a shitty drum machine and I don’t know, that kind of stuff is like maybe low budget unsuccessful disco records.

About Studio Eksotika A sleek gallery-like space with reflective floors and comfy couches, Studio Eksotika is a multi-functional space inside Potato Head Studios packing a library of intellectual page-turners as well as an audiophile setup helmed by Jakarta-born DJ Dea Barandana.

Published on 20/11/2023 by Potato Head