So when an artist has recently played in Detroit, I always love to start out talking about that experience. And given your notoriety in the Midwest from the shows you played back in the 90’s, it seems particularly interesting in this case. Your status in this area of the country is as a legend of hard techno and acid, but with the exception of a select few artists, Detroit has always been more associated with more melodic, soulful styles of techno. How was your style received by Detroiters back during the 90’s?
Good question. There was a phase where I was playing harder stuff but it didn’t last too long…I think it was indicative of the scene at the time and somewhat of a phase I was going through. Heck, I even played breaks (UK Hardcore) too for a minute. I’ve always had good receptions when I’ve played here from the get go.
How has it seemed to change since then, especially for your two gigs in the past year at The Works?
I’ve definitely settled into my sound since years back and have brought the tempo down. I think people know what to expect from me in this era.
I can’t help but think that the Midwestern crowd (myself included) is largely composed of a different generation of listeners now than it was back in the 90’s. Do you get the sense that when most people in Chicago or Detroit nowadays attends a show with someone like yourself headlining, that they are aware of the musical history of their own cities?
I ponder over this all the time…. Sometimes I get the impression they’re oblivious of the root factor in places even like Detroit and Chicago.
In either case, do you think the history of Midwestern electronic music should matter to the average party-goer? Personally, I feel like learning more about the history of this music (and there’s a lot I still don’t know), only enriches the experience. But a lot of the ideology behind the music is also about what you feel in the moment, so maybe that’s somewhat contradictory. How do you feel about it: should people be reading the Wikipedia articles on Chicago house or Detroit techno before heading to the warehouse?
Our music is not a trendy music, so to understand how the sound has evolved and considering the early pioneers who helped pave the way makes it so much more important. We’re often in a reference period where we’re looking back to eras looking for ways to reinvent our respective genre. I think for any real enthusiast (listener or producer) it would only enhance their experience to understand the driving & creative aspects that influence any DJ/producer.
To my knowledge, you relocated from Chicago to California just before the new millennium, right after you had started up 4 Track Records. In your “RA Exchange” interview with Resident Advisor, you mentioned you had the intent of being a techno evangelist to the West. Nowadays, there are several Californian techno artists that have made a name for themselves – Truncate/Audio Injection, Drumcell, Developer, Silent Servant, Raiz, and more. Can you ever imagine moving back to the Midwest?
My heart will forever be tied and loyal to the Midwest. I love both places. In the near future I will have a studio in Chicago in addition to LA and I will bounce between the two over the years to come. I have so many friends here in in LA (many of the ones you mention above) which are now part of my extended family. Even though I’ve lived here over fifteen years, when you grow up in a city like Chicago there are some things you just can’t replicate and for me I just don’t see myself severing my roots from there and not spending some quantity time there. Rain, Wind, Ice, 100% Humidity, 20 Below….whatever…. it’s home.
Can you picture yourself moving into new territory on another techno-evangelical mission?
This has become more of a reality as of late as I often consider making a move overseas to help solidify and catapult my career again. I can adapt pretty much anywhere, I do have my preferences though.
Shifting gears, 4 Track Records used to be a vinyl label. Now it only releases digitally, and you are also DJ’ing digitally now. Is this the influence of a suffering vinyl market?
I still want to 4 Track to offer vinyl. That conversation isn’t over. I play vinyl on occasion, but digitally much more. I miss the tangible aspects of vinyl and knowing the music better. With the exodus of nearly all the vinyl importers and labels in the US it somewhat forced my hand. I was caught in period where I still wanted to play out but the means to get vinyl during some periods where I just flat out couldn’t afford it. I try not to make a big stink about playing vinyl versus, CDJ’ing, versus using a laptop and controllers. When it comes down to it, you still need to have an ear, know how to read a crowd, understand transitions, and be able to move the crowd. That comes from experience. You can’t buy that shit regardless of your DJ’ing method.
I noticed when you were DJ’ing at The Works that you often had 4 channels playing simultaneously. Although this isn’t impossible to do with vinyl records, it’s definitely a bit harder to do (especially for extended sets). For you, do the technological advances provided by digital DJ’ing outweigh the feel of playing vinyl?
I definitely like the creativity of using 4 channels for it allows me to do a pseudo live/DJ type approach. I feel like a kid in a candy store being able to use all four. Whether I’m playing vinyl or Traktor I try to stay busy. Both styles bring it out of me.
Do you still collect vinyl records to listen to at home?
I still buy records to play. I just bought nearly $300 on a stack of new vinyl. Some of these don’t see the light of digital so it’s exciting to find stuff that is wax only. I have 1200s right here in front of me!
So when the gig at The Works was announced, a lot of my friends mentioned they were really digging the somewhat recent (2012) Len Faki edits of a couple of your late 90’s tracks, which seemed to make an impact on a lot of people. Was it strange having these tracks brought back to the spotlight?
I didn’t find it strange for Wide Open to be remixed but it had been remixed twice before years back, being the original was an anthem in some places in Belgium and Holland in the 90s. From what I see and hear, it sounds like it’s become this cult track that just doesn’t die. RX Tribe was never remixed previously. I was happy he chose that track.
How did the conversation go between you and Faki go that resulted in that release?
It was pretty basic. He said he had been playing edits of a few tracks (Wide Open and RX tribe included) that he was getting crazy responses to and I said shoot em over and let me have a listen. The rest is history.
You’ve also mentioned in other interviews that you really want to avoid being seen as an “oldschool guy.” Now that you are a few years into the second phase of your musical career (after a hiatus during the 2000’s), do you feel like the “oldschool” perception has begun to wear off? Of course, this is kind of an ironic question because I’ve asked so much about history, but I can’t help but feel like there is a difference between “old school” and maybe just something like “long standing” – someone who has been around since the start but is still very relevant and not just a “throw-back.” Do you think the hard work you’ve put in since your return has been effective to this end?
As much as I appreciate the accomplishments of the past I want to be judged also for what I’m doing now. I’m digging in for the long haul so I need to make sure the current masses have something contemporary to reference. It could be just my own perception driving this point but I don’t want to cited as being this OG icon. It’s just too limiting to me.
Alright, and now for the same question I always ask: which up-and-coming artists and labels are you excited for right now?
I’ll start with homegrown LA talent. All the crew you mentioned are music lovers, old DJ’s, producers, and promoters that have either spent countless time in their home studios, organizing parties, and getting stuff out on wax and I’m happy to see their careers unfold. These guys hold their own in the international scheme of things. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t say I’m most excited for myself. It’s not often you get the opportunity to make a second run. It’s more surreal than when I was still in Chicago at the height of my career.
And, of course, can we expect to see you hanging out at the Movement festival this year?
Of course! I’ll be there the whole festival and playing at The Works on Sunday!
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