Roland Leesker has been immersed in the electronic music scene, and the industry around it, for over 3 decades now with his recent years having been spent at the helm of the much loved Get Physical label, originally founded by DJ T., Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y. The year 2022 sees the imprint reach it’s 20th anniversary milestone; we caught up with Roland to discuss the label, his life in dance music and the upcoming 20th anniversary compilation album.
WWD: Hey Roland thanks so much for joining us on When We Dip! You’ve been involved in the house music scene for decades as a DJ, producer and label co-owner of the much respected Get Physical Music. What have been some of the highlights of your career?
Thank you for your interest in our work after all these years ! I have to admit that this current phase of the business and my life in general is by far the most beautiful stage. I started working in the electronic music business when I was 17 years old, which is now 33 years ago. Now it feels like all my investment of time, passion and money is starting to pay off. I think that there are at least 10 more years to come where I want to be proactively involved in all the areas you mention, so my personal goals are still to be adjusted, re-formulated and realised.
WWD: Do you remember the moment that you got hooked on music and knew it was the career path for you?
Yes I clearly remember both of these moments! I was literally shown the way to House by God. Due to my mother I had a religious upbringing and served as an altar boy at the Catholic Church in a little suburb of Frankfurt, where I grew up. I must have been around 15 years old as two of the older altar boys asked me if I would like to join them for a party in Frankfurt on a Sunday afternoon, a so called ‘Tea Dance’. I happily joined them as they were really kind and funny and this Tea Dance turned out to be a High Energy gay party. I was a totally pure soul with no knowledge of anything at this age. I totally fell in love with the energy of the music as well as the kindness and attention I received from all partygoers. It felt like Heaven on Earth to me. I felt safe and accepted.
The fact that I made working with music my way of life was simply based on the fact that I needed the money. I started going to the OMEN club in Frankfurt, dancing the nights away, and I could not afford more than a Coca Cola, so I asked the Managing Director if they had a job for me. He told me to come back the next weekend and I was given the job of collecting the empty glasses between all the crazy ravers pushed by Sven Väth´s incomparable DJ energy. I loved it and could not believe that I was being paid for being part of a place that I wanted to be at anyway. I did not care about what kind of job they gave me thereafter, I loved all of them and always gave my best and that’s what I am still doing today.
WWD: The upcoming VA ’20 x Get Physical’ marks the 20th anniversary of Get Physical and is curated, edited, and mixed by yourself. Firstly, congratulations on such a significant milestone! Take us through the idea behind the album and what it means to you.
Thank You so much! We are trying to prepare for the next 10 years, so the idea of this compilation album was to showcase some classics, revive some secret weapons from the catalog and show some of our hopes for the future.
WWD: The release features a selection of some of the label’s most standout moments. Was it difficult to summarize the mind, body and soul of the label in just twenty tracks?
Yes, at the beginning of the process it was very difficult as we have such a huge catalog with thousands of fantastic releases. I started with simply selecting the most successful streaming successes but quickly realized that these were not necessarily my personal favourites. Hence I decided to make the selection a very subjective one, representative of my taste and style as a selector and DJ. Once this decision was made it was easy : I simply had to limit myself to 20 tracks in total and it took me about a year of permanently listening and shorten my playlist for the final selection. This final selection is my very personal definition of the mind, body and soul of Get Physical Music.
WWD: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the artwork?
I always loved the original Get Physical logo inspired by the great Olivia Newton-John, may she Rest In Peace. She had German roots as well but was successful internationally. We still adore her so much. She is the muse of Get Physical and when I got to know the art of Paula Illes from Brazil I knew that she was the perfect artist to make our logo fit for the future, which she did extremly well, showing Olivia in various dancing modes. This updated logo will become the basis for the design for our future classics series, which we will use to re-release highlights from the label´s history with remixes and edits by amazing new future talents.
WWD: Get Physical Music is synonymous with a big roster of heavyweight artists as well as up-and-coming talent. How do you provide a platform for new artists and what is it you look for in the A&R process?
When you look at the careers of many of the artists we released over the last 20 years, such as Blondish, Dixon, Hot Since 82, WhoMadeWho, Modeselektor, andhim and many more, you will find a similar pattern: We have the special gift to release artists shortly before their career goes through the roof. I really like being in that position and would like to expand on it, with a special focus on female artists such as Greta Valeska, Kristina Sheli, Joplyn, PAUZA, Thandi Draai and Yulia Niko!
WWD: How do you balance your time in the studio, DJing, co-running the label on top of your other responsibilities?
I really do love everything I do 100%. I always knew that team work and loyal partners who are more than just business partners, but partners for life, is the way I want to operate. What I had to learn by hard experience though is to be balanced as a human being. I had to digest some very hard low blows before I got to the level I am at now. I am living a totally sober life and try to keep my body, mind and soul pure and in harmony with nature seeing every day as a chance to become a better version of myself.
WWD: What’s next for yourself and the label?
At Get Physical Music GmbH we finally realized my personal goal to make all actively involved workers shareholders as well. This will give us the basis for consistent and organic growth in the fields of releasing and publishing recorded music on a global level. We will also start acquiring and re-activating amazing house and techno music catalogs. We still have an interest in the live side of the industry as well and we want to be able to give our artists the chance to play to a growing audience, once the moment is right. My personal goal is to enable the next generation to be happy and successful, on stage as well as behind the curtains.