Calvin Harris took a short break yesterday from cranking out number No. 1 records and posing for Armani underwear spreads to engage in a slew of Twitter exchanges with fans on the state of his music and “EDM” at large.
The Scottish “Feel So Close” producer answered music and non-music-related inquiries alike with a bit of comedy and a great deal of candor. A glaring takeaway from the repartee is Harris’s delineating his current chosen production style with the now-ubiquitous umbrella term, “EDM.”
Upon a fan asking whether or not he’d be “going back to EDM at some point,” Harris replied,
“EDM has been sad, slow songs for years now. Doesn’t have anything in common with the music I love to make. 2010-2014 edm was more house influenced to me. Anyway now I’m out the bubble and making big records with amazing singers that sound like house music to me…”
Additionally, Harris took the opportunity to suggest he’ll be diving back into the festival circuit soon–now that many of his large-scale projects (namely Funk Wav) are in the books. He also announced an indefinite retirement from his former live performance setup, having purportedly exhausted the format at this point in his career. However, make no mistake: at 34, Harris continues to flex his adventurousness in the studio. Just this month, he offered one of his rare vocal demonstrations on his new house single with Benny Blanco, “I Found You.”
EDM has been sad, slow songs for years now. Doesn’t have anything in common with the music I love to make. 2010-2014 edm was more house influenced to me. Anyway now I’m out the bubble and making big records with amazing singers that sound like house music to me… https://t.co/D3UQc8vWFx
I learned from listening to a lot of it. Music theory always feels (to me) like trying to explain something magical that often happened by accident after the fact and takes the soul away from it. I’m also a bit stupid so it’s probably a bit of that too https://t.co/jau37ANAvI
Out of France comes a blossoming new talent specializing in left-field bass and electronica. CloZee has quickly made her mark on the low end of dance music for her keen ear for sound design and for her moody, eclectic sound since her start in 2011, catching attention of other stalwarts like Emancipator, The Glitch Mob, and more. Having released her debut LP in 2012, the complex and instrumental OckeFilms Soundtrack, the arrival of her sophomore Evasion had been highly anticipated and comes with even higher expectations. Luckily, CloZee isn’t one to disappoint; Evasion serves as not only a fitting follow-up to OckeFilms Soundtrack, but also as a marker of her artistic progress thus far. She continues her play at different textures and free-flowing bass arrangement, telling a transcendent tale across ten tracks that feels even more put together than its compilation-focused predecessor. It’s the mark of an artist who spent a good while poring over her craft to put out the best product she could.
CloZee has been following quite the busy schedule as of late, touring in support of her album across the globe. Right before she set off on her leg around the states, we nabbed the forward-thinking musicmaker to talk about the inspiration behind Evasion, her identity, and beyond.
How does this album compare to your previous work?
My past projects (‘Harmony’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Inner Peace’ etc) were all EPs, so quite shorter, including different tunes I made without thinking of the project as a whole. There were more like « compilations » of tunes I made thorough the year of the release, whenever I had time to work in the studio between all my different tours.
For ‘EVASION’, I took the time to sit in the studio for a few months to compose all the tracks during that period, thinking of the story I wanted to tell, inspired by all my past adventures and experiences while touring, traveling, meeting new people and discovering new landscapes.
How does your extensive travel influence your music-making?
What inspires me the most when I’m travelling is to discover new landscapes, different type of nature, and all the memories that come with those moments. It could be a sunset in Malta, a hike in Hawaii, swimming in a beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica, walking by night in an empty street in Tokyo etc. Those memories and experiences are what brings me inspiration when I’m back in the studio.
What sort of emotions/atmosphere are you trying to evoke with this new record?
All my tracks have different stories, inspiration, but the main idea I’m trying to communicate with my music is always positive, motivating. ‘Evasion’ in French means « escaping reality » when it’s music related. I want the listeners to be transported into their own secret places, feel in peace with themselves, and feel like they can overcome any challenges in their life.
Can you elaborate on your live show experience?
For this tour, I wanted to increase the visual experience, instead of common DJ setup. For the first time, we bring production (lights, lasers) and we’re pretty much playing the same live show and story every night. When they enter the venue, I want the people to forget all their problems: I want them to get lost in the music, lights and lasers. I want them to be happier and recharged at the end of the show.
How has your artistic identity in general evolved over the years?
I feel like with this album I came back to my beginnings, my original feelings when I compose music. When I started to make electronic music (when I was like 18) I didn’t give a damn about trying to produce music for the dance floor. I just made the music I wanted, depending on my mood and emotions. This is exactly how I feel now again, but it didn’t used to be like that.
When I started to play shows when I was 21, my music switched a bit on the heavier side, because this is what promoters would book me for. They don’t want to book someone who’s gonna play Trip-Hop or Downtempo (at least not from an unknown artist). I was more categorized in the ‘Glitch-Hop’ and ‘Bass Music’ scene, and was more DJing to try to give what people want (to dance to). I liked that period, but it was more to put my name out there, and get to tour in clubs. At some point, I missed the more melodic and ‘storytelling’ side of my sets and songs.
Since 2 years ago, I felt like I reached a point where I could do more experimental music, propose something deeper and more intimate. In my sets, I started to play more and more my own tunes, and produce tracks that are all a part of me.
What sort of legacy do you hope to leave behind in the music world?
I didn’t think about that actually, I’m just doing my own thing, doing what I love and trying to make people happy. If my music leaves anything particular behind, then I’d be very satisfied, but it wouldn’t be on purpose.
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Los Angeles’ vibrant underground dance sphere wouldn’t be where it is today without figures like Jeniluv leading the charge behind-the-scenes. The tenured DJ, producer, and music lover has been a prime fixture of both the San Francisco and LA scenes for a combined 20 years, moving back to LA permanently in 2007 to cultivate her Making Shapes events brand into the stalwart it is today.
Jeniluv is a respected figure for good reason; she’s never once compromised her passions, and continues to spend her time helping others up, either through booking, collaborations, or in showcasing the finest below-surface house, acid, and techno records one can dig for. It’s because of her deep understanding of and integration into the LA scene, and her proven history of successful event production, that Insomniac tapped her talents for their debut Secret Project Festival. The festival represents a whole new foray for the brand, pairing up with David Chang’s majordōmo to create an exclusive menu, and Apotheke for a cutting-edge array of cocktails. It’s an event for the more mature dance fans in their base, which is sealed into place with headliners like Carl Cox, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Dixon, Peggy Gou, and more. Meanwhile, Jeniluv and other LA crews have been brought on to not only bring a sense of authenticity, but also to show off just how thriving the city’s music culture is — if one looks deep enough.
We sat down with Jeniluv to quiz her a bit about her musical upbringing, her inspirations, playing Secret Project, and more ahead of the show. Last-minute tickets can begrabbed here.
Let’s get started with the basics: what was your path into the LA underground in the 90s? Did it happen by chance, or did you fall in love with the music and seek it out?
I was 15 years old and went to school in Long Beach, California. I collected classic rock records mostly; we listened to local emo or backyard bands like Sublime. We skated half pipe to punk rock and listened to Dj Drez hip-hop cassette tapes. I had never heard of House music, or dance music beats besides maybe 80s for example, or Everything but The Girl. One day, a latina girl I had a crush on walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to go to LA that weekend and hear some house music. I was like ‘Whats that??”
I jumped into her older brother’s car Saturday night and we headed to Echo Park to pick up a few of their friends. We stopped at a few places so they could spray some graffiti, before ending up on the east side at a warehouse on the railroad tracks. The music was not on yet, but people were arriving. I saw a crew of kids carrying several crates of records into the entrance, following someone. I remember feeling mesmerized by all the movement and the warehouse environment.
We were at an “Unlock The House” party, and once inside, the music started. Doc Martin was the DJ and his record crates lined the wall behind him, about 10 crates total. There were four turntables and a massive sound system pumping out bass like I’d never heard, sounds and rhythms both acid and tribal. “DEEP HOUSE,” they called it — and house music roots are deep in Los Angeles. The crowd was mostly chicano and local to Los Angeles. I was the loco white girl dancing on my first ecstasy that night and no one seemed to mind at all! I fell in love with house music and went “raving” every weekend. I am still good friends with those kids today, 25 years later we share dancefloors.
On that note, what drew you to electronica early on, and what is it about house/techno that has kept the fire alive for you for so long?
I found freedom. The music changed me as a person, the people embrace me as I am, the places I have traveled because of the music — and my global dance music family.
Can you spill a couple crazy rave stories from your time in the scene?
I need time to integrate my experiences but i just keep pushing on into more — it’s all a blur. Good times, bad times — this is a harsh and beautiful lifestyle. Most memories that come to mind are illicit, about death or too amazing to put into words.
You’ve made it on your own successfully as an underground artist for so long. The beauty is that you’ve done this while still keeping your integrity and humility. Do you have any words of wisdom to impart on younger artists about success/what it means, and what they can do to find this in their own careers?
If you love it, it will take everything you have to remain a part of it. To have it be what you do with your life, you will need to carve your own way into a rock. Don’t listen to anyone not worth listening to. Just do you — people respect that. Remain open to all kinds of music and your collection will build in many directions. Develop your own sound and style — people will catch on.
Who have been some of your biggest figures of inspiration throughout the years?
Doc Martin, Solar, Justin Martin, Jennifer Cardini, Juan Atkins, Move D, and DJ Harvey — to name a few for a variety of reasons… along with my current role model underground DJs and best friends in music, Heidi Lawden and Masha.
What is the current LA scene needing now (if anything), and what can we as fans do to help?
Its mayhem here, every weekend there are several parties with big line ups. We are one of the leading weekender hubs for dance music in the world, now. But what we need is a weekday scene.
Let’s pivot now into Secret Project territory – first off, have you ever played any events in Chinatown before? How has this area changed in your eyes over the years?
I have played at local Chinatown bar’s General Lee’s and Grand Star Jazz Club back when heavy disco laden nights like Sunny Side up and Full Frontal Disco frequented them. There used to be this big party in the alley next to the area where Harvey and Guy Gerber do their party — an alley take over as opposed to a block party, I forget who did that. It has a fun history, and promoters are taking more advantage of the unique daytime space now.
How did you get involved with Secret Project?
My partner in Making Shapes, SONNS, called me up and said we were playing together. I think initially we were going to do a back to back set, but now we have individual set times.
Aside from yourself (your set’s going to be awesome), who else should Secret Project fans be looking forward to most on the lineup that aren’t the main headliners, and why?
Octa Octa — live? Peggy Gou — good time! SONNS — LA prodigy and party boy.
What kind of set do you have planned for Secret Project? Are you going to douse us in acid, lay down some hard techno, some grooving house, a mix?
Depends on my set time, I have been buying, downloading, and throwing music in a folder waiting to dissect it closer to date. Probably early day stuff that’s interesting to both listen and dance to, beckoning you to the dancefloor.
What other aspects of the festival excite you most?
A two day line up in Los Angeles that is stacked with these artists just has not happened here before.
Do feel Secret Project has the potential to set a precedent for other large organizers to support local talent scenes?
Finally, what else is coming up for Jeniluv in the near future?
Asia tour in February with Solar and DJ Nobu, also some snow boarding together! My new project ‘Psychicbody’ is a casual label, mix series and after hours event in Los Angeles. Also, The Dusk Festival, Southern California — tba
Arizona’s general interest in dance music had been on the rise for quite some time, but it seemed to have needed a true place it could call home within the state — outside a number of select venues and events. Enter institutional brand Relentless Beats with their newest Goldrush endeavor. The shiny new Western-themed gathering, which, despite its short tenure on the circuit, has risen as a hub for mining the shiniest artistic nuggets that the industry has to offer. Goldrush carved out a niche in the Arizona sphere with ease for its inaugural 2017 edition, bringing a multitude of dance acts across the spectrum spanning from Migos, to Nicole Moudaber, to Barclay Crenshaw.
A festival of this nature would not be successful had it not been for the tenured organizers behind-the-scenes who perpetually have their ears to the ground, and a vision of success. Relentless Beats in particular has risen as the voice of dance music in the region, having created some of Arizona’s most sought-after events to date — like the New Year’s celebration Decadence, for example, or a number of club nights that bring in talent from across the country and world. Goldrush, however, is shaping up to be their largest venture yet, despite being in just its second year of production. Curious as to the mechanics behind throwing a festival that’s a guaranteed success among a saturated market in general, we sat down with one of the prime leaders of Goldrush and Relentless beats, Thomas Turner, to pick his brain on putting a gargantuan event together, hurdles they’ve faced, new additions to the festival, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in event promotion/organization?
I started producing underground electronic events in the 90s, after being influenced by European house music. Specifically progressive house.
How did the idea for Gold Rush come about, and what kicked its formation into action for you?
The western town we produce Goldrush in was a tourist destination North of Scottsdale, when i was growing up. When i saw it in its setting at Wild Horse Pass, many years after being relocated, i salivated at the idea of producing a western themed music event- it was just many years to soon and we needed to pick the right time for something so niche. I had a lot of time to think about the name and it finally felt right in 2017.
We’ve read your goal is to curate cutting-edge lineups. What is your methodology for finding acts that you feel haven’t been booked for an event of this nature before?
For us the process is long and detailed when it comes to breaking and sustaining an act’s brand in the market. We want the fans to get a great show as well as the act.
How was the process of getting Gold Rush off the ground last year? Any kinks you encountered while throwing its first edition that you’ve ironed out for this year?
Certainly the first year always encounters some hurdles and we are constantly looking to fine tune the experience, but the thing I like most is us getting our arms around hosting the best event in the space. And while it years to see our ultimate vision, we have made major strides this year.
What kinds of expansions or cool things can we expect for year 2 of Gold Rush, now that the festival is hitting its stride?
For one the mainstage is now on a new patch of grass called The Riverwalk, which we are very excited about. In addition, we have moved from 16+ to 18+ with later hours to better serve our core fan base.
What can you say about the AZ dance scene and how it’s grown over the years?
The Arizona dance scene is tremendous and i really can’t say enough good things about how strong the electronic music culture is here. We rival major markets in overall ticket volume, yet are a fraction of their size.
Who are you most excited about on the bill this year?
I’m personally most excited to see Vince Staples, Chris Lake, Loud Luxury, & of course my boy illenium
Any final words for Gold Rush attendees?
I can’t wait to see all the costumes & outfits and spend two amazing nights with everyone. Let’s ride AZ!
In recent years, a new type of artist has been developing in Germany, one as unique as he is talented. This artist is called Monolink, and his music is a blend of his own voice, his guitar, and craftily arranged, satisfying electronica. His music has been so well received, in fact, that some are pointing to him as one of the most innovative new artists on the scene. After several years developing his project and building out his repertoire, he released his highly anticipated debut album, Amniotic, on the boutique German imprint, Embassy One Records. We caught up with Monolink to see about getting a better understanding of who he is, and from where his music comes.
Amniotic is an interesting title for your debut album. Tell us about what that word means to you in this context, and why you chose it.
The title came to me when I was writing the lyrics for the opening track, which is also called “Amniotic.” Amniotic fluid is the liquid that an unborn baby lives in, and for the first months of our lives, it is the only reality we know, where we only float in our subconscious. The song is about being born, or maybe the moments right before, and I felt like it suited the whole idea of the album very well, since it’s my first full body of work.
You have such a unique sound. Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I always felt very much inspired by Nicolas Jaar and his approach to electronic music. For a long time, it was mostly based on sampling and editing old songs with new sound elements. To me, that sounded like the future, and a dystopian one, due to the quality of the old samples. When I heard Darkside’s (one of his side projects) first EP, it was unlike anything I had listened to before, and I knew this was something I’d want to do as well.
I was also always really interested in stories and lyrics. During the time I was playing as a singer-songwriter, my main inspirations were Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and all those old masters of words. So the whole idea for this project was to bring those two worlds together.
Tell us about how you got started making this form of live electronic music, coupled with your voice and your guitar. What lead you to start this project?
I guess moving to Berlin in 2009 had a strong impact on me. I was really inspired by the music scene here. The first years, I was playing in bars and on the streets, and I was all about folk music. I was then drawn into the world of electronic music, the clubs, and the whole community around it. It was completely new to me, and unlike anything I had known before—a different way of listening to music. There were still stories being told, not with words, but with energy and repetition. You would listen with your body, and not so much your mind. That fascinated me, so I soon started producing electronic music, taking material from the songs I had written before. I also realized I could play my songs live instead of just sampling them. I still wanted to play concerts and create a live music experience, but I also wanted to add a new layer of sound, letting people feel it and dance to it.
We know you’ve been out touring around the world for quite some time already. What’s one of your best stories from life on the road?
I once got to play for the queen of Thailand! After I finished school, I was traveling in Southeast Asia for some months, and I joined a Thai band in a little town close to Bangkok. We played cover shows in clubs and bars, until one New Year’s Eve, when we were booked to play the queen’s party, at her summer residency. It was a huge, beautiful place, all surrounded by a national park. When the queen arrived, the band had to stop the music, and we all got on our knees to pay respect. The queen, for some reason, was dressed up in a cowboy costume and walked right up to me (I was the only foreigner there). She asked me where I was from, and when I said, “Germany,” she laughed and replied to me in German, telling me that she studied in Switzerland. She then, for the rest of the night, made all her announcements in German, with me being the only one in the room who could understand her. It made me smile. This was long before I started Monolink, but still a story I like to remember.
After releasing a full-length album like Amniotic, what comes next for you?
I’m working on a full concert show with a band at the moment, which is really exciting for me. As much as I love playing at techno events, playing shows in concert venues will open up so many new possibilities: working with lights and visuals, creating a full body experience. We’re going to start touring in fall, and after that I want to start working on my second album.
We’ll close with a fun one. If you could have one artist remix a track from the album, which artist and which song would you choose? Why?
I would love to have David August remix. I can really relate to the music he makes; I feel like we have a very similar view on sound aesthetics. Which song is a difficult one, though. Maybe the opener, “Amniotic?” I don’t always like the way my vocals sound on record, but in that track, I love the way the harmonies work together. I think he would like it, too.
Legends Carl Cox and Eric Powell remain heroes in the house and techno sphere. Despite clocking in three decades each behind the decks, their passion for their craft and drive to continually move forward musically allows them an endurance that has stood the test of time. Paired with this endurance is a profound connection with their dance genres of choice, stemming largely in part from their roots.
Jazz, soul, funk, and disco are as deeply embedded in house and techno as they are in Cox and Powell’s musical backgrounds. Both their parents exposed them at a young age; Carl, for example, recalls a childhood playing classic records at family gatherings. Similarly, Eric’s hunger for jazz and funk led to him sneaking out of school to ravishly consume new albums. Hearing of their pasts greatly clarifies the present — it seems as though curating and purveying these soulful sounds that moved them so much, in one form or another, was a path they were both meant to travel down.
Three decades after earning their stripes on the DJ circuit, it’s time for Powell and Cox to pay respect, and revive the jazz/disco/funk side of them. Their evolution subtly made its introduction a decade ago, when the two began throwing their Mobile Disco (MD) parties across Australia. Throwing events simply wasn’t enough, however; there was a desire for something deeper, more tangible. Thus, both icons converged their talents and creative vision into a brand new project based around the Mobile Disco brand: MD Funk Connection.
The main M.O. of the project aside from its event arm is to gather new and old live artists currently upholding the music that is the backbone of Cox & Powell’s existences, and output music alongside them. Based off the first single, what we have is a refreshing endeavor that elicits an organic, empathetic response in its listeners. They’ve taken Mass Production’s classic “Shante,” and remastered it with a bit more of a modern flair that preserves the original’s integrity. In the future, more original works are expected.
Curious as ever, Dancing Astronaut flagged down MD Funk Connection to spill some details on the project’s inspiration, the profound influence their roots have played in their dance careers, future plans, and more.
Obviously both of you are very familiar with just how much funk, disco, & jazz have influenced/helped the birth of dance music. We’d love to hear you guys give us a history of this influence in your own words!
We both have West Indian heritage – Carl’s parents are from Barbados and Eric’s dad is from St Kitts, Carl grew up in the south of England and Eric grew up in the north of England, listening to soul, bluebeat, reggae, funk and jazz.
In our teens we went to All Dayers – Caister/Blackpool Mecca – great times and great music. Amazing self contained bands – Slave, Mass Production, early Jeff Lorber Fusion, Funkadelic, Parliament, Maze, Brass Construction, Eric says he always thought he was a rebel sneaking off from school to listen to new jazz/funk albums. A ten year old Carl Cox would play records at his dad house parties. Spending your last five pounds on an album, having to walk home because you had spent your bus fare on records. When we old enough to go out, it was at the end of disco for some people, but looking back it was the start of house music, with the benefit of hindsight you can see the musical progression.
What is it about jazz and funk that make them such soulful and timeless genres, in your opinions?
The musicians, the singers – gospel vocals mixed with experimentation of jazz and the locked down groove of funk – the perfect storm allowed the genre to grow and develop.
Who were your favourite musicians growing up that have played the most influence in your sound?
Nile Rodgers, George Clinton, Ronnie Laws, Randy Muller, all grooved based producer musicians and all little bit different – Nile Rodgers and Chic was disco with soul, George Clinton the ultimate funk producer, Ronnie Laws, including his sisters and brother Hubert Laws, Debra Laws, Eloise Laws, Randy Muller and Brass Construction almost rock but never with out his unique brand of funk, probably our favourite producer was Jimmy Douglas – he was so young when he produced “Slave” Eric Powell thinks those albums were his heaviest influence especially “Snap Shot”.
Carl’s favourite “Slave” album is “Just A Touch of Love”
On that note, did you two have any specific songs, artists or eras within funk/jazz/disco in mind to emulate while writing ‘Shante?’
Shante is a version of Mass Productions “Shante”, its a track we had been playing at our Soul and Funk parties, other tracks are “Welcome Aboard” – Webster Lewis, “Lovers Holiday” – Change, P-Funk All Stars – Hydraulic Pump
Who are your favorite acts in jazz and funk at the moment? Dream collaborators for future tracks?
We have a house/disco collaboration with Nile Rodgers that we are working on, we would love to work with Jimmy Douglas, on the U.K. side we are also hoping to do something with the Incognito guys and we are really excited about a revisit of a George Clinton classic – we got access to the original twenty four track tape.
We read that MD Funk Connection arose from your Mobile Disco parties that you’d throw in Australia. Any plans to bring those parties out to an international setting?
We are just about to do a “Mobile Disco” party in Bali, the location is off the hook – Ulu Cliffhouse, absolutely amazing venue, Both of us are looking forward to doing something in Europe and the States in the near future.
Tell us more about the decision to create a whole project around Mobile Disco in general. Why is now the right time to unleash it, and was there a particular moment that made you want to evolve the project past simple parties in your localities?
We have been doing our soul, funk and disco parties for ten years now, after seeing the response to some of those classics and the hard to find tracks we personally thought we were at a stage were we could re-imagine some of the tracks, write some originals, we have got a fantastic producer/engineer in “Joe Roberts” in the U.K. and Chris Coe in Australia plus an amazing array of musicians in both Australia and the U.K. – the timing was just right for us and we think that we could do justice to the soul funk disco genres.
What is your methodology for recording music under the MD Funk Connection project? Do you employ live instrumentation? Do you write through jam sessions and edit on the computer, or are all your sounds synthesised already and you mostly produce as you would a usual track?
So far all the tracks have been live musicians, We have a brain storm, talk to Joe and Chris, work out if we can find the right musicians and vocalists, then off we go – it is really exciting, its a different way of working than when you are solo in front of the computer. We are still into writing tracks in front of the computer but this gives us a slightly different creative outlet.
Which record stores are your favourite for finding jazz & funk records for your collection? What other places do you go to to search for records?
We both have extensive record collections, its more about disappearing sorting through our vinyl, coming up with tracks and artists that we forgot about. A track might come to mind then its scouring online retailers rather than going to record shops, we don’t live that close to any vinyl stores.
When did you two first start building your collection of jazz and funk records? Carl, I believe I read you began during your childhood?
We both started as kids – very young around nine years old could have even been younger, its amazing how similar, both of us would ask for albums for birthdays and Christmas.
If someone wanted to know more about jazz and funk, which tracks would you tell them to start out with?
Expansions by Lonnie Liston Smith, Jazz Carnival – Azymuth.
What other plans and ideas do you have in store for MD Funk connection in the future?
Its pretty organic project – no rush, enjoying ourselves in the studio, working with live musicians – we are finishing of a reggae track at the moment, the next track will be on a latin tip maybe.
Thugfucker were founded on the basis of uplifting peoples’ spirits with ethereal and mystical shades of house and tech. The outfit — now a singular act led by member Greg Oreck — rose through the ranks swiftly, making their mark on the underground world with their dynamic approach to sets and drive to create an ideal atmosphere at all their events. Thugfucker later paired with DJ Tennis to create their prolific Life & Death imprint, which helped break through the likes of Mind Against and Tale Of Us, among others.
Such an aesthetic has made Thugfucker a particularly highly-demanded entity within the transformational festival community. Oreck’s shamanic abilities with melodic manipulation have made him a staple at events like Burning Man and beyond. Come Memorial Day Weekend, he will make his return under his beloved moniker to Elements‘ second edition in Lakewood, Pennsylvannia.
Oreck stopped by the Dancing Astronaut offices ahead of his appearance at the festival to talk Thugfucker’s new beginnings, his sonic ethos, prized Elements memories, and more, in addition to providing us with an enticing mix to boost excitement in returning to Lakewood’s cozy confines.
How would you describe your musical ethos? How did you arrive there over time?
While it’s probably impossible to nail down something so big sounding as a musical ethos it is interesting (for me anyway!) to try and think about how I reached the point where I’m at musically. I was talking with Cosmo D from Nucleus a few years ago and I realized I could specifically draw a line from my friend playing “Jam On It” to me at age 12 to where I’m at now in my relationship to music (and dance music specifically) and it was an amazing moment to be able to talk with him about it directly. We’re all shaped by the various experiences we have throughout our life and I’ve been lucky to have a pretty wide variety of experiences that’s really exposed me to a lot. Too many musical movements and styles to try and make an exhaustive list but my whole life I’ve always found something to love in a wide variety of music and have been absolutely drawn to it so I guess that’s just who I am. One thing seems to always lead to the next but it only really makes sense while looking back at it. I remember calling into the radio DJ’s on the local alternative radio station so regularly when I was 12 years old that they got to know me by name. Who does that at 12? But I can’t imagine having been any other way so perhaps chalk that one up to nature versus nurture.
What draws you to the deeper, dreamier sounds of house and deep tech?
Hmmm, I’m not sure I’d be ready to subscribe to any specific genre labels as those are always moving targets that mean very different things for different people. However I wouldn’t deny that among the wide variety of music I find myself drawn to there is definitely a good sized space for some of the trippier sounds. More than anything I guess I love music that engages your mind and imagination while still making you move your body.. which cuts across a pretty wide swath of music overall and which, at the end of the day, is what dance music is really all about right?
It seems eclecticism is also a big motif of your sets and music. Is this correct? What are your tips for balancing the left field and a crowd who expects the hits?
It really depends on the situation. The crowd, the setting, the time of day, what’s happened before you’ve gotten there, what’s going on around you, what the crowd’s expectations are and what kind of relationship they have to you and each other can all have a big impact on how open people will be. Certain situations you can just walk in and they trust you and they’re really ready to follow you down the rabbit hole — so you can just jump right in and get playful. Other times you really have to work hard to earn that trust. The trust is what’s key.
When you’re throwing your own events you can have a lot of control over those factors and I really love to do that. In other cases I think as much as you can you just try and pick and choose the situations where you play to try to find the kind of environments where it’s possible to give people the best experience possible. Of course sometimes you just walk into a situation that’s a bit more challenging but in the end that’s the job of the DJ, to work with the crowd that’s there and the situation you find yourself in to create something special together. Just because you have an incredibly eclectic music collection put together over millennia or whatever doesn’t ever give you the right to bore people to tears. People come out after a hard week of work or whatever life has thrown at them and they come to dance for a release and an escape from all that. Something to lift them up and give them some proper dancefloor catharsis. They’re not just putting their hard earned money on the table, they’re giving you a big chunk of their time and that’s the most valuable thing any of us have. So you always have to honor that and remember that it’s not just about you, it’s about everyone in that space with you.
You two recently parted ways. What caused the part, and how does this affect the Thugfucker sound?
Really something pretty normal for artists working together so closely in a collaboration for so long. In a partnership there are always going to be certain restrictions because naturally you can only move forward on the things that you both agree on, and these restrictions bring both benefits and limitations. So it’s natural to reach a point where you have stories to tell and things to express outside the bounds of those limitations. Holmar reached that point and expressed his interest to go off and do his own thing and when you reach that point, that’s exactly what you need to do and I support him fully. I know this is going to be a great new adventure for him that’s going to bear some beautiful new fruit.
As far as how it will affect the Thugfucker sound, obviously it will continue to evolve which is something I’m proud to say it has been doing all these years. You always have to remain true to yourself but part of being a DJ comes from a relationship with music that’s always evolving. And I think that goes for all the DJ’s at a certain level, as far as I’ve experienced anyways.
Being out on the road these last few months has been incredibly inspiring and I feel like I’ve found a new flow and a new energy that comes from digging even deeper into music that I might not have had the chance to play before. It’s been super exciting to stretch myself in new ways and it feels like a really growing moment and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Similarly in the studio I’ve been feeling very excited to dig into new ways of working and have been back to working pretty exclusively with hardware lately just because that’s what’s really been inspiring me, not because I think there’s any one right way of doing things. I even started taking some music theory classes recently which I had always very consciously avoided as I felt it would take away some of the spontaneity and intuition from things. I remember hearing that Elvis Costello went back to learn music theory after 20 years on the road and despite some initial misgivings really loved it. For me it’s really been quite the same. I don’t think I could have done it before I already felt comfortable making my own productions as I appreciated having had to learn things my own way and on my own terms. But now it just feels like adding more tools to the toolkit which has been fun and motivating and a nice new challenge. It feels like the right time for it and I’m already very happy with the results!
This isn’t your first Elements festival. What are some fond memories from previous editions?
Last year was my first and it was absolutely stunning. The setting is beautiful and I ran into so many friends there from near and far which already says quite a bit about what they’ve accomplished in terms of the word getting out and people really talking about how special it is and traveling from far and wide to get there. Of course playing in the woods with DJ Three and Doc in the morning last year was amazing just because they’re both just such impeccable DJs and the setting was so beautiful as the sun was starting to shine on everyone through the trees. Talk about an environment where people are really ready and encouraging for you to give your all.. you just can’t help bring your A game in these kind of situations. I’m really looking forward to be back!
What else is coming up next for Thugfucker?
Right now I’m trying to walk the fine line between time on the road and time in the studio. I have some interesting long term plans (1 to 2 years out) which I’m very excited about but not really ready to talk about but in the short term I’ve been more energized to spend time in the studio then I have been in quite a few years so I’m trying to balance my time better so I can spend more time doing that. In addition to new Thugfucker material I’ve also been working on an ambient album with my old friend Eli Janney which has been super fun. Spaced out music for after the after-hours…
I’ve also started raising Alpacas which is a lot more work than I realized… Be sure to follow them on Instagram!
If the name “Adana Twins” doesn’t ring a bell, their music is certain to conjure memories of nights out, or days spent dancing in the open air.
The German duo has caught the house and techno world by storm, crafting up melodically-inclined releases that fulfill cravings for both sentimentality and grittiness. Having spent well over a decade on the underground circuit, many point to the release of their widely-proliferated Diynamic anthem “Uncompromising” as the point where their names became cemented into celebrity.
Their newest release is yet another on the reputable Watergate label, which has become their home base of sorts. Dancing Astronaut has the privilege of premiering its B-Side “Sequence 01,” which sees the pair exploring their darker, groove-driven side. Featured originally on Tale Of Us‘ Fabric 97 mix, “Sequence 01” opens with warm arps strung together with crisp percussion, slowly unfolding into a celestial journey through brooding melodies and hollow vocal accents. It’s one of the Adana Twins’ most shadowy offerings to date, and is built to control the dancefloor.
They also graciously answered a few burning questions we had on their musical development, perseverance, and their go-to labels for finding new music.
You guys have been pretty well-known for quite some time, but it feels like your career has really taken off over the past few years with notable singles like “Etah” and “Uncompromising.” What are some words of advice you have to offer on perseverance, patience, and sticking with something while maintaining faith it will all work out?
Believe in what you are doing! There are ups and downs. But never take the downs to serious and focus on the positive things. When the time is right you will have success. In case you don’t have success, it might be good to have a second thing running. For example, we worked in design & advertising for a long time, but music was always our passion and we spent every free minute in the DJ both and in the studio. However, with our jobs, we always had a backup and we only quit when our music career was full on running.
In your eyes, which songs of your discography capture your ethos as a group the most, and why?
Strange, Flower of Cane, Uncompromising, Sequence 01 and an upcoming one called Ebrietas. All those tunes show our love for melodic or bass driven dark dancefloor tunes.
You guys have been putting out some real hypnotic cuts these days, which the dance world now seems to be labelling as “melodic house & techno.” What draws you to more nuanced, melodic strains of dance music, and what have been the biggest influences over your sound recently?
Maybe it’s because we both are emotional guys with a big heart ;). Straight and cold tunes are nothing for us. We need emotion. The influences may have been some 90s trance anthems, old school techno and everything else that touches us.
What is your process for writing music, and what inspires you most in the studio?
Mostly our gigs inspires us. We are DJs and ravers, and the dancefloor experience helped us a lot to find our style. The process is different from project to project. Sometimes we remix our own tracks and take an already finished project and do something new with it. Other times we just start from scratch. The computer-mouse in the right hand and a good glass of rum in the left.
How did the writing process go for the ‘Jupiter’ EP? How did those records come about?
It was a project we started from scratch and we finished it straight in one day. Some days are better than others.
Which labels and artist are your top “go-tos” when it comes to finding fresh music for sets? Or, do you use a different methodology for hunting down tunes to play out? Afterlife & Innervions are always great. But we don’t focus too much on labels. We focus more on good records stores. Muting the Noise and Hard Wax have a nice selection and we always find some nice stuff there.
You’ve worked primarily with Watergate lately, including for the release of your new ‘Jupiter’ EP. What do you like best about working with this imprint, compared with others?
Watergate became family for us and we are really close to the guys. We definitely had some of our best nights at this magic place. We are super happy to release on this great imprint.
Where have your favourite places in the world been to play and why?
South America is always amazing. Especially Brazil and Argentina. The crowd is always so emotional and totally into the music.
Danny Howells, Dave Seaman, and Darren Emerson are icons in their own right. Each of these three stalwarts has spent well over two decades on the international circuit, pioneering the sounds of house, progressive, and other groove-centered strains of dance music. Their unrelenting standards and passion for what they do drives their continued success.
When these three come together as one, the result can only mean destruction — in the best sense of the term. Much like the nuances within their own respective styles, “3D” thus comes about as a multi-faceted new project that sees Emerson, Howells, and Seaman’s sounds merging into a complementary union. The project has already bred a notable occurrence: Danny Howells’ first release after an extended hiatus. It appears on their eponymous EP, which explores the history of house music with a modern sensibility. Meanwhile, the mixes they’ve assembled thus far as a group points to their excellent chemistry as a team.
Now, 3D are about to set forth on an expansive North American tour which commences March 29 — the first round of dates that will secure their impending domination as the new powerhouse group on the block. We got ahold of Dave and Danny ahead of time to talk about forming 3D, their pipeline, and more.
Hi guys, tell us what led to the creation of 3D. Whose idea was it and what’s your goal with the project? Plus do you see it as something long-term? Danny: We’ve all known each other for years, so when we ended up playing together at Ministry we obviously loved it and wanted to take it further, which is where Dave really came into action in terms of tying it all together.
I think we’ve all done so much during our careers that our goals now are to enjoy what we do, as well as getting into some new areas, both geographically and musically, that we might not have strayed into before.
Dave: I suggested branding the night at the Ministry Of Sound as 3D as a bit of a joke initially. I really didn’t expect it to take on a life all of it’s own and turn into an actual thing. But now it is, I think we’ve all realised that it’s going to be a lot of fun travelling and playing together. Who knows where it will all lead. For the moment, we’re really enjoying it and long may that continue.
3D’s creation lead to Danny Howells’ first original material getting released in years. Can we expect more 3D EPs like the last one on Dave’s label Selador coming soon? Plus will the three of you be creating a track together in the coming future? Danny: I’d taken a massive hiatus from production although I always knew I’d start again when the time was right, and this project gave me the nudge I needed.
Dave: Yeah we were so happy we managed to coerce Dan back into the studio. I think you’ll agree he was ready as his output has already proved, but he just needed a little push. We’re already talking about the next EP and there’s definitely an appetite for us all to do something together at some point. Goodness knows how that will turn out but I look forward to it.
With each of you being a legend in your own right, how difficult was it you adjusting to becoming a team? What does each of you bring to 3D and how you balance everything out? Plus how are you able to read each other if one of you goes off on a tangent? Danny: I don’t think any of us see ourselves as being a legend, so when we get in the box together there’s only two goals – play as well as we can and have a blast doing it! There is a musical adjustment to playing as a threesome instead of solo, but we always pick our sets to pieces afterwards to see what worked and what didn’t, and how we can make it better next time.
I think we’re all capable of going off on tangents, but as we usually wind up doing just two or three tracks each, so we tend to stay in check!
With such a history of success behind you all, what motivates you to continue pushing things forward and searching for new audiences?
Danny: For me it still boils down to the buzz I get from playing the tunes I adore to people who hopefully enjoy them as much as I do.
Darren: I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and never get tired of seeing the reactions big tunes get on the dance floor. I still love discovering new producers and searching for the perfect beat. Guess you could say it’s become a life-long habit.
You’re touring the States soon. Will you be creating a special playlist for the shows? Or just ‘freestyling?’ Danny: We tend look at each gig, room size, set time etc to get a rough idea of what we’ll do, whether we go straight in with the bangers or whether we’ve got time to work through the genres a bit. There’s no planning as such and we tweak things up during the night if we feel it needs it. We’re all very honest with each other and tell each other afterwards exactly what we thought. Our post gig autopsies are pretty epic!
Dave: I think part of the fun is the spontaneity. Not really knowing where each of us might take the narrative keeps us all on our toes. Being slightly out of our comfort zones is stimulating and as all of us have been DJing longer than we care to remember. We’re relishing the challenge!
If you each had to choose one track from your repertoire that you had to play at every gig the rest of your lives, which would it be?
Danny: Damn this is a hard one! If I had to choose one of my own songs then I’d maybe go for “Laid Out”, purely because I’ve already played it out so many times and never got bored of it. If it was someone else’s tune then maybe something like “Accadian” by The Mole, or Jimpster’s old remix of Robert Babicz, for the same reason. I’ve absolutely rinsed those.
Dave: One of mine you mean? I’d probably go with ‘Nightfalls’. It’s very easy to get bored of your own productions, especially when you spend so long in the studio making them but I never seem to get bored of that one, largely due to the timeless vocal by Gaelle Adisson if I’m honest.
What are other stuff are you guys doing for the rest of the year? Plus are there any special projects coming up you want to talk about? Danny: We have a load of 3D gigs lined up which I’m really looking forward to, as well as further studio escapades as discussed before. My next release will be out in the next month or so.
Darren: I’ve got some remixes coming out next month plus also some big collabs on the way, including another one with John Digweed and Nick Muir. Our last one ‘Tracer’ got a lot of traction, so we decided it would be good to do it again. As well as playing with 3D, I’m also looking forward to playing some summer dates with Carl Cox and his crew.
Dave: My focus for the next couple of months is on my label, Selador’s 5th Birthday. We’ve got 24 artists making exclusive collaboration tracks together that we’re releasing as 3 separate EPs. We’re launching the whole thing at Watergate in Berlin at the end of April. It’s gonna be a big statement project for us and we’re really proud of it. I’ve also got releases lined up on AFFKT’s Sincopat label and Alex Niggemann’s Soul Fooled, plus remixes for Martin Eyerer & Tim Engelhardt. So it’s going to be a busy year.
From the outset of his highly innovative act, Oscar Davey-Wraight introduced the world to a mind-bending blend of glitch-hop, breakbeat, synth-led funk and bass. What began as a humble bedroom act has evolved into the extremely diverse, immersive live experience that fans have come to know as Opiuo.
Now from the Australia-based artist comes his highly-anticipated seventh EP, Syzygy 01. With the singles “Botrok” and the groove-packed floor filler “Ginger Lizard” released ahead of the full EP, the 5-track production represents an aural embodiment of Opiuo’s zippy tones and cheeky party appeal. “The music [comes] from inspirations like Prince,” says Davey-Wright, “all morphed into Opiuo styles with some real New Orleans horns thrown on top for quality measure.”
From the sinister sounds of the album’s leading track, “Huckaloogee,” to the vibrant, old school funk- and disco-influenced track, “Boogie Latch,” Opiuo’s newest EP is packed with stark contrasts, wild sonic experimentation, and some of the loudest-yet-crisp electronic music productions we’ve heard to date. Syzygy 01‘s most memorable quality is perhaps the album’s outro, “Dalmations,” with its use of deep horns and more emotive, cinematic-tinged sounds — providing a memorable storybook ending to not just the new project but Opiuo’s entire discography up to this point.
Dancing Astronaut spoke with the New Zealand-born artist ahead of his Syzygy 01 EP release to gain a clear sense of Opiuo’s origins and evolution since 2007, how he came into his funkadelic bass music sound stamp, and what to expect from his upcoming headlining US tour which includes a headline show at the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheatre with SunSquabi, Flamingosis, and Anomali.
First off, can you tell us where the name Opiuo originated?
From my mind. Haha. Nothing too crazy to be honest. I used to DJ as a kid, started when I was 14 or so. I was always getting billed at festivals as Oska, or Oskar. I hated it having my real name up on the poster. So one day in graphics class at school I accidentally wrote OPIUO in the computer while working on a project. It looked cool. I love symmetry. I tried it out at the next festival I was playing and it felt good. It stuck I guess. I love that it has no real meaning. To me it allows people to create their own meaning, with whatever or however the music makes them feel.
You seem to have an interesting knack for playing with words. Can you enlighten fans on what exactly “Syzygy” means and how you arrived at this idea for the title of your EP?
Syzygy means: “a conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun. e.g. the planets were aligned in syzygy.” It also means “a pair of connected or corresponding things.” I think what I make is always a connection between myself, the music, and the listener. Once it is heard by anyone, its not only mine anymore, its theirs too. And that in turn influences me. The listener makes this music real. I love that everything we do always relies on multiple factors to give it its energy, its vibe, its feeling. Both opposition & connection push us forward. Especially in music.
Tell us what the EP means to you in just a few words.
Journey filled funkadelic party pie.
So the official EP title is “Syzygy 01” — does this mean the project is the first of more parts to come? If so, can you give us any insider details on any future plans?
Yes indeed. I plan to release more this year. That’s all I’ll say.
Your sound is a highly original and infectious blend of glitch-hop, funk, and bass. How did you come to join these genres into your own unique sound stamp? Any influencers?
Back in the day I used to DJ and make drum n bass & breakbeat. I also grew up going to festivals in the late nineties and early 2000s that had crazy big high energy trance. I love the ridiculous and dirty bass lines of drum n bass, the groove of breaks and hip-hop, and the euphoric nature of trance pads and short sharp stabs. I guess I just tried throwing it all together in 2007 or so. I was terrified to play my early music in amongst my sets, but to my surprise they ended up going off the most. So I just kept going. Always sticking to making what I wanted to, not what I thought I needed to. A few top influences at that time were Noisia, Chris Carter, The Rogue Element, Bassnectar, and Tipper.
You’ve evolved from bedroom producer to full live band in just several years time. How has the live band effected/evolved your overall sound?
The band was always a challenge I wanted to take on. I grew up in a band through my high school years, and I’ve always loved the element of playing shit on the spot, knowing it could go wrong at any moment. It’s something I love to do in my solo sets too as they’re always live, with me playing my bass lines, synth lines, vocal chops, drums, all on the spot on my multiple drum machines. It makes the show so much more fun to do day in and day out, always performed a little different every show. The band is just an extension of that. It allows us to expand sections, creating extra tension and release, layer horn parts on the fly, add vocals to songs that were previously instrumental, shred on guitars and get more power in the drums. In case you didn’t notice I fucking love big drums! haha. Plus touring with friends is always more fun.
Tell your fans what they have to look forward to on your upcoming headlining US tour.
So much new music. You will dance, I 100% guarantee it. It’s a wild funkadelic party of epic proportional matter flying through space aboard a wobble ship, with some extra awesome special things I can’t mention right now… Basically the funnest party in the galaxy night after night. Yup, that’s right!!
Opiuo’s US tour dates are available below:
4/12/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Coda – Tickets
4/13/18 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall – Tickets
4/14/18 – Columbus, OH @ Skully’s – Tickets
4/21/18 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheater – Tickets
4/24/18 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall – Tickets
4/25/18 – Reno, NV @ Bluebird – Tickets
4/27/18 – San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine – Tickets
4/28/18 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room – Tickets
5/3/18 – Portland, OR @ 45 East – Tickets
5/4/18 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos – Tickets
5/5/18 – Vancouver, BC @ Celebrities Nightclub – Tickets
6/7/18 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music Festival – Tickets