Q+A: 2 Unlimited
Their songs were club mainstays in the early 90s. Now 2 Unlimited are back in the UK, as rapper Ray Slijngaard explains to Rudy Bolly…
Dutch rapper Ray Slijngaard was one half of one of the biggest European dance acts of the 1990s. Between 1991 to 1996, 2 Unlimited scored 13 Top 40 hits, including Get Ready For This, Twilight Zone and the irresistible 1993 earworm No Limit. Now 2 Unlimited are returning to the UK for a massive We Love The 90s arena tour this December alongside Whigfield, Snap!, Haddaway, Vengaboys and many more. Classic Pop caught up with Ray to discuss nostalgia, groupies and whether there ever were any limits to their popularity.
This is a big tour, it feels like there’s now more love for the 90s than ever.
We did a couple of one-offs in the UK and it started to get bigger. We have worked on these shows for almost 20 years and done them in France and Germany where we were playing in 15,000-capacity venues.
How do you feel about being called a nostalgia act?
It’s nice. We started in ‘91, stopped in ‘96, then came back in 2001. Now we do 100 shows a year. I was 19 when I started and the music is still happening, people are longing to go back to the 90s. I’m seeing even younger kids at our shows now because that sound is coming back.
You tour with Haddaway, Dr Albarn and others. Is it friendly now?
They are all old friends, of course. There was a bit of rivalry but now we see each other every weekend and it’s a blessing. Back in the day we used to party all the time, now it’s about sleeping and training. Sometimes we end up in the hotel bar, but there’s no more raving and most of us don’t drink. I have three kids and my eldest is already 22 and doing music.
Take us back to the start of your group – how did it all kick off?
I was learning to be a cook and working in Amsterdam. I used to do the electric boogie breakdance moves and helped a hip-hop producer on tour sometimes. We did a show in Malta and the next day it was my picture that was in the paper. He was pissed off because I was just the dancer, but his management company liked it and told me about a production team [Jean-Paul De Coster and Phil Wilde]. The producers also owned a record shop so I went through the vinyl and, it’s like God told me to do this, but out of all the records that were there I picked up Get Ready For This. I said, “If you need a rap for it let me know because I write lyrics, too” – I was lying, I just was trying to be forward. Within a week, I had a TDK tape and started writing but there was something missing, it needed a chorus but also a girl’s voice. I knew [former 2 Unlimited singer] Anita [Doth] from the city because I had a bit of a crush on her and thought this might be my moment to get to her. So we went to the studio in Amsterdam and they loved it. We signed a contract and within a month it was No.2 in the UK charts. It was crazy. But I still had my job in the kitchen and tried to get the weekend off to play shows in Scotland. They refused, so I quit and threw my cook’s hat on the floor. My mum was so pissed off, but before I knew it I was on Top Of The Pops.
So did you and Anita get it on?
We dated, straight away that weekend. I had a girlfriend and she had a boyfriend but we had so much chemistry. Then things went mad. On tour, girls were throwing their underwear at me and saying, “Can I come to your hotel?” I was like, “I want to be single to enjoy this”, so our relationship didn’t last long. We ended up more as friends or family.
Anita isn’t part of the tour any more is she?
It was a decision she made. We were offered an Australian tour but she didn’t want to go far away and only wanted to do 40 shows a year. But I wanted more, give me three shows a night I don’t care, let’s go. So I found a new singer, she’s younger, her name is Kim [Vergouwen) but when you see her you would think she’s Anita – some people can’t tell the difference.
For a while you couldn’t use the 2 Unlimited name, though?
We had a long court case about unpaid royalties. It went on for 13 years and all my money went into it. Then we started to perform again as Ray & Anita – we couldn’t use the name – and did two nights in Belgium in front of 42,000 people.
The low countries (Belgium and Holland) have always loved dance music, and you were at the genesis of that cultural wave…
Yeah, maybe 70 per cent of the DJs are from Belgium or Amsterdam it seems – house is strong and still is. I used to know David Guetta back in the day; he loved our music before he started producing his own. Without 2 Unlimited, people like Armin van Buuren wouldn’t have started so I’m trying to get these guys to help us make a new record for 2021.
So 2021 will be 2 Unlimited’s second coming?
Next year we tour the US and Asia. 2021 is our 30th anniversary and we’re going to do a tour with a live band. I want to make some special projects, like a 90s documentary about all the artists because I wrote a book about that era in Dutch two years ago. Now I want to turn it into a film featuring all the many stories about meeting Michael Jackson, making money, losing money, groupies… We are talking with directors in the States about turning it into something; maybe like a Netflix series.
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