Click here to listen to the Carhartt WIP Radio Show featuring Clone Records. 

As the founder of renowned Rotterdam label, record store, and distributor Clone, and with over 30 years of experience behind the decks, Serge Verschuur (better known as Serge) has a nuanced understanding of music’s materiality; of the intricate mind-body dynamic on dancefloors. “The physical process is more important than people think,” he says. “It gives you energy and makes you want to move, makes you want to create. That’s what good dance music does and what still attracts me to it.”

Serge’s love of dance music had humble beginnings in local radio and the smoky haze of 80s nightclubs. From working as a lighting technician and standby DJ, to clearing ashtrays at the end of each shift, Serge immersed himself in all aspects of the club environment, fuelled by the need to listen to and share music. “I was just looking for places where I could play the records I liked,” he says, recalling pilgrimages to Amsterdam’s Roxy Club at the age of 17, where he was first introduced to house and Detroit techno.

Serge eventually became a fixture on the Dutch West Coast in the early 90s, playing a string of illustrious all-night residencies and Acid Planet parties in The Hague. In 1992, he launched the label Clone Records with Coördinated Sounds & Sequences, his debut EP produced under the moniker Orx. Rooted in electro, house, and techno, Clone has since released music from the likes of Aleksi PeräläLegoweltRandomer, and Roman Flügel. And through its reissues of records by DrexciyaThe Other People Place, and Der Zyklus, Clone has since fortified the connection between Detroit and the Rotterdam music scene. Under Clone Records are also a number of imprints including the techno-driven Basement Series, the house-focused Royal Oak, and Clone Jack for Daze, devoted to jacking Chicago house.

Three years later, Serge founded a record store and distribution arm, also under Clone,  specializing in electronic music, original soundtracks, jazz, funk, and Italo disco from a variety of international labels. Today, Serge continues to DJ, while operating all facets of Clone, driven by the same unwavering passion for sharing music.

For this episode of Carhartt WIP Radio, Serge offers an insight into Clone with an energetic mix featuring tracks from its most recent catalog, while also paying tribute to Detroit, the birthplace of techno. As ever, the mix is accompanied by an in-depth interview, where Serge discusses the philosophy behind Clone’s name and the importance of record labels today, while using a compelling analogy of an oak tree to outline the music industry.

When did your love of electronic music begin?

Serge: My love for electronic music started with the radio – hearing tunes that had some magic in them. It started with the Soul Show on Dutch radio, which was on every Thursday evening and would feature a weekly Bond Van Doorstarters mix showcasing tracks I had never heard before, as I was too young to go clubbing. There was Italo disco, freestyle, high-energy disco, electro, and R&B. Tracks by The FlirtsMantronixMan ParrishJonzun CrewBobby OrlandoThe S.O.S. BandFive Star and so on. Then the first house and techno records came around and I began hearing so much mind-blowing music. Many local clubs also started playing all the house and techno imports, and the new beat hits.

In the 90s, being a full-time DJ wasn’t as popular as it is now. How did you get into it?

Serge: I never had the idea that I wanted to become a DJ. I just enjoyed the music and wanted to hear the tunes I liked, and share that with the dancefloor. Buying records was the only way to have good music, so I slowly started collecting. Around 1988, I connected with a DJ from a local club who had a copy of Armando's 100% Disin' You – I always requested him to play that one as I didn’t have it myself. Then I began bringing my own records to the club, asking if he could play some of them, too, which he did. I think at some point, the people behind the club got fed up with me and just said on a quiet Friday night, “You go ahead and play some tunes yourself.” That must have been 1989. From then on, I started hanging around the DJ booth doing the lights. I was also a back-up DJ until I could play on my own during the main DJ’s day off.

The club was based in Renesse, a famous holiday town back then. The town was like the Dutch version of Rimini, with around six or seven clubs, open seven days a week during summer. So that was a great learning place. I guess that was when I became a DJ, but it was a shitty job. I must’ve got paid around 40 Dutch guilders for a full shift (around €18) and it was the worst paid job in the club. I’d also have to clean out all the ashtrays at the end of each night. Through that, I managed to connect with other people and venues around Rotterdam and The Hague. I never considered DJing as a job or a career move. In 1991, I worked in Mallorca and DJed at three hotels during summer. The money I made there I invested in studio gear with a fellow DJ and friend. That added an extra dimension.

You launched Clone Records with your EP "Coördinated Sounds & Sequences". What prompted this release? And how did you produce music before the birth of programs like Ableton?

Serge: Everything was mainly analog and programmed in an Atari computer. I’ve been totally in love with all the new developments in music since the late 80s. Techno was all about new technology, new sounds, going forward into the future, the internet, using new gear that gave an impulse to the music. Style-wise, Chicago and Detroit labels were a huge inspiration for me. And since 1988, techno and acid house started becoming more abstract, so that abstract and modernist style inspired me, too. For example, artists like Armando, Model 500Blake BaxterMr. Fingers/Alleviated RecordsJeff MillsRobert HoodUnderground Resistance, and Richie Hawtin. Also Dutch producers such as Speedy J, Eevolute Records, or labels like Transmat Records, and Planet E. I wanted to produce and experiment with that minimal and abstract approach, making new and original music independently. So that was the start of Clone Records, inspired by all those indie DIY labels.

Did you launch Clone Records with the intention of just releasing your own music? Or did you want to release records from other artists, too?

Serge: The initial idea was a label for my own music and music by my friends. I never approached it as a business and I never thought about releasing other people’s records in the beginning. But at some point, I opened up the record store and met a lot of people who made great, original music. Also, once the store was open and mail orders were going, my time in the studio became very minimal. So that resulted in me releasing music from other people. It was all a natural and organic process.

What is the philosophy behind the label’s name?

Serge: It’s a tribute to all the labels and artists that have inspired me, I did “clone” what they did. That concept of a small DIY, underground label as a counter movement to major record labels. A way of having creative freedom. A label as a creative outlet, enabling us to play the music we want to hear on dancefloors without having to go through all that corporate bullshit. So, it was nothing pretentious, just a passion project like so many others have done. Plus, the name was nice and short, too.

If you could describe the sound of the Clone universe in one sentence, what would you say?

Serge: That’s a tough one! I would say we are rooted in the rich culture of electro, house and techno, where exploration, individuality, and creativity are more important than scoring commercial hits, and where expression and a signature sound are more important than the dogmas from the local scene. Style should be recognized!

Clone Records has a rich catalog of music, featuring releases from artists such as Alden Tyrell, Duplex, Drexciya, Legowelt, Der Zyklus, Dopplereffekt, and Unit Moebius. How did you form these connections over the years?

Serge: It’s a small world. I would run into people while hunting for records, synthesizers, or drum machines. I would meet people at parties, at the store, or through sending each other faxes, while trying to buy records or simply showing appreciation. Of course, now the fax has been replaced by emails and social media.

It’s easy to connect with likeminded people. We can understand each other, despite speaking different languages or coming from different backgrounds. And all these people are the reason why we build our network and spread the music we love. The Clone logo with the four characters is called the ‘family logo’, so each artist is part of our musical family.

Clone also distributes music from other labels. How would you describe your distribution catalog in terms of style?

Serge: Our distribution catalog isn’t easy to pigeonhole, as it’s the total sum of a lot of individuals with different styles. It’s important that an artist or a label in our distribution roster has a unique or personal approach, and some kind of signature sound. That’s more important than having a style book with rules or dogmas. Creative freedom is the most important thing. It’s not the distributor who should act as some sort of gatekeeper. If we commit to a collaboration, it’s up to each partner to follow their own creative path.

The distribution roster goes from Larry Heard's Alleviated Records to DVS1's Hush label, Donato Dozzy's Spazio Disponibile RecordsI-f's Viewlexx RecordsDavid Vunk's Moustache Records, Juan Atkins' MetroplexFJAAK’s Spandau 20 label, Jovonn'Body ’N DeepDetroit In Effect'M.A.P. Records, and Cultivated Electronics’ electro releases.

Do you think that future generations will remember the music of today like we remember the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart?

Serge: That’s a great question. Yes, I do think so but in a different way. The earlier in music history, the more dominant a composer is. But to me, Larry Heard is a musical genius who is up there together with Miles Davis. It’s like a big tree – a royal oak, for example. The further down the trunk of the tree, the more important. There are thousands of leaves at the end of the branches, so all the leaves are replaceable, in a way. The same happens underground: the roots are equally as important as the branches, maybe even more so. So, find your musical equivalents for those at the roots and the trunk of the tree, as well as those who are the replaceable leaves, changing every season.

One could even say that Bach and Beethoven are growing in different trees, and Miles Davis, Larry Heard, Drexciya, Legowelt, Donato Dozzy, and Juan Atkins are part of another tree, who might be more relevant to people as Mozart is.

What is your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?

Serge: I think I also address this in the previous question – how valuable music is these days when the leaves change every season and become replaceable, versus the value of music that isn’t replaceable.

Model 500 and Cybotron will always have a value. People will always be willing to pay for that music, even if it’s just as a relic to hold in your hand, to play from your own turntable, or to put on your shelf. Even if it’s available for free from the internet, it’s human nature to want something tangible, a thing that is sacred.

What is it about dance music that still appeals to you to this day?

Serge: I love the physical connection. A lot of music is experienced above the shoulders, but I love to feel it down from my shoulders. I love to feel and experience music, to connect the body and mind. It gives you energy and makes you want to move, makes you want to create. But if it’s purely physical and the brain doesn’t get triggered by some form of originality or something metaphysical, that’s boring for me. So it needs to trigger the mind and body.

You still actively DJ. How do you keep the passion and energy high after all these years?

Serge: You need to keep the stoke alive! Every time I hear a record that triggers the brain and the body, I get that energy and want to play it out loud in a club.

How do you stay up to date with all the new releases for your sets? Do you still make selections before you play?

Serge: Yes, that’s the core of everything I do. I’m always on the hunt for new and great tunes, or even old tunes. That feeling of finding a track and wanting to share with others, that’s what it’s all about!

What can we expect from Clone and its imprints in 2024? Any new music in the pipeline?

Serge: Always! There’s a new Legowelt album on the way. DJ Sotofett is also releasing a full-length album. The Exaltics have a great new EP ready. Aleksi Perälä will release some of his ambient projects on vinyl. There are many great house releases on Clone Royal Oak coming, too.

Do you believe there is still a need for record labels in today’s music industry?

Serge: Yes, sure there is. Total anarchy sounds idealistic, but it’s about collaborating with artists and producers. A good collaboration gets the best out of the artist and label. It’s like a newspaper – without a good editor a newspaper will be worthless.

And look at Spotify: 100,000 new tracks a day. How many of those tracks are leaves on a tree that will be forgotten as the seasons change? And how do you go about finding great new artists among the millions of Spotify tracks every month? Major labels have their ways of buying visibility for their artists, so we need independent labels with a solid network to bring good music to the people. It’s a stamp of approval when there’s a new record by a label that you like and admire.

How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Radio show?

Serge: I wanted to keep the mix energetic and physical, so I picked a lot of tracks that I’ve been playing in the past year. I also wanted to give it a little twist and selected tracks that have the same roots as Carhartt WIP – tracks from the Detroit Metropolitan area. The homeplace of techno. So, it’s a bit of a tribute as most tracks in the mix are either influenced by music from Detroit or have actually been produced there.

What are you listening to these days?

Serge: I listen to music from all around the world when I'm at home. Music from Java, Bali, Japan, Afghanistan, and Tibet. Some classical music. Of course, most of my time is occupied with new dance music, but I never put that on at home. The sound of silence is often a treat for my ears.

Are you working on any upcoming releases yourself?

Serge: At the moment, I’m just doing some remixes with my buddy Alden Tyrell. There’s a remix coming up for The Exaltics and we just released a remix for Frequency aka Orlando Voorn. We also did a house mix for John Daly, which will be out in the next month.

You are an avid cyclist. Is this passion linked to your love of music in any way?

Serge: It’s the physical thing again! I guess that’s the link with music. I love doing sports and have been doing it for as long as I can remember. I’ve surfed ever since I was a teenager and the same goes for cycling. I love cyclo-cross in the winter and doing some local races in the summer; going out on my mountain bike and riding single tracks, or hitting the road with friends. It clears the mind and it’s fun to do. But it’s also the only sport that I enjoy watching. There are always loads of stories and hours of analysis after the races. It has so many small insider details and team tactics. It’s like playing chess but pushing your body to the max. And of course, Kraftwerk also showed their love for the sport, so that link will always exist.

What are some things that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t managed to yet?

Serge: I still want to go on a road trip in California and travel down the coast with my surfboard. I’ve only visited on short trips and there was no surfing involved, so I need to make that happen sometime soon!

As you are based in Rotterdam, what are some spots or hidden gems you can recommend to someone visiting?

Serge: Do some record digging at Demon Fuzz (and the store, of course). Or pay a visit to the Boijmans Museum, they have a lovely collection. They are currently renovating the museum, but their depot with the artwork storage is also nice. Head to Woei's sneaker store or get a bike, and discover the southside with Katendrecht and the Kop Van Zuid. Then get some dinner or lunch in Chinatown, around the Kruiskade at De Toko. The roti or chicken fried rice there are some favorites of my American friends.

Clone discography