Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Highgrade regularly play at Panoramabar. What is your favourite venue in Berlin to play at?
In Berlin you have a few venues which are really cool. But at the end I´ve two favourite clubs here in Berlin, the Panorama Bar and Watergate. Both venues are really different but they bring a good vibe. These are places where Techno / House music becomes reality. There you have the best sound on one hand and a really cool audience on the other. So, it´s a perfect mixture.
You are a born and bred Berlin DJ, something that is less and less
common in the city. How do you feel about the influx of nationalities
that have come to Berlin to live and work here? Do you feel Berlin as
a city has retained its ethos regardless?
First of all it is the best thing for Berlin that so many people comes to join the vibe of the city. Now the city is full of different people who want to express them selves. And that´s good. I mean, if you go maybe 10 year´s in the past - Berlin was a small village. If you came back from London at these times the streets and subways
and so on were empty. And now Berlin is loud, fast and fresh, compared to other big cities. And at the end it was good for the music-scene as well. I think people forget the past if they rail against the tourists!
You've released on Mothership. How did your relationship with Claude VonStroke come about?
It was really simple. He was asking me for a remix. Then he wanted to listen to more stuff and he was asking me if I can send him some tracks. I think I was sending the stuff while he was at an airport and he was listening to the stuff on the flight later. After he landed he gave me the feedback and told me that he wanted to do a record with me. He is really one of the coolest guys in this business.
I like him and his work really much.
You play live and as a DJ. Which of the two do you prefer? Is one better suited to certain environments?
First of all I like both. But at the end I can express myself much more if I play live. It takes much more time to prepare a live show because every show is different but it´s really interesting to see the reactions to my tracks. The moment when I know what comes in next is great for me. Only I know what will happen. But it has to be
Aside from house and techno, what were your earliest musical influences?
My earliest musical influences I found in Techno. In the early 90s. This was the first moment I tried to listen and understand music. It was stuff from Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance. All this Detroit stuff. Many artists say that jazz and funk are their earliest influences. But not for me. Later, then I started to explore more experimental stuff. And now I love Herbie Hancock and so on. I love all this funk and jazz stuff. There you can learn allot about rhythm and moods.
What is your take on the MP3 vs Vinyl debate?
I love the sound and handling of vinyl. With Highgrade we already do vinyl but I play digital. The possibilities of playing digital are incredible. I mean you can play your stuff you made the night before. This is amazing. On the other hand it´s also important for me to hold something in my hand. A result of your work. Therefore many artists only want to release on vinyl or CD. But the biggest problem we have to see is the the kids don´t by CD´s or Vinyl anymore. The art of how to play music has changed. They use iPods and so on. So maybe cd´s are coming back? I don´t know.
What's next for you in terms of releases?
There are some projects on Highgrade beside the label-work. First there are two compilations. The second part of "Our Thing" is out now and at the beginning of November "Highgrade vs. Freak n´Chic" will come out. Between then, I will release my Album. It will be out at 26th of October as two maxi´s, CD.
What do you think the future holds for you, and for electronic
music here in Berlin?
I think the network between all the artists and labels will be closer, and I will do my best.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Here is my latest RA review.
In many ways, 2009 has been Underground Quality's year. DJ Jus-Ed's charmingly homespun label has been the launching pad for a string of releases from the likes of Nina Kraviz, DJ Qu, Fred P, AKA Black Jazz Consortium, Jus-Ed himself and perhaps the release of the year so far (from perhaps the producer of the year), Levon Vincent's "Games Dub." Yet with UQ, you get the sense it's not just about the music they release, but also how they go about it — rants against illegal uploaders, special promotional CDs for one-off gigs with plenty of unreleased material, appearances with the roster of artists all wearing personalised UQ shirts — so far removed from the icy cynicism of some of the larger house and techno outfits. It is this joy in the process of house, in the community and inter-relatedness of the music, that made the recent Underground Quality night at Tape an absolute must-see.
For the first time in the label's history, six of the label's roster were brought together to play under one roof, a Cold War détente that saw the Russian contingent of Anton Zap and Nina Kraviz playing alongside their American comrades. Given the hodgepodge nature of the night, the first few hours were characterised by a free-for-all behind the decks with each act taking turns to get the crowd going. From the proud MCing of Jus-Ed, the perfect counterpart to his capriciously funkadelic cuts, to the wild hip-shaking of Kraviz, it was an opportunity to see how each act would put their stamp on the evening before the sets proper kicked off.
The relaxed opening was useful in giving an overall impression of the UQ sound, but somehow lacked the homogeneity that characterises the label. As such, it was the individual sets that best managed to combine the individual flair of the artists with the all-embracing appeal of the collective, and Nina Kraviz kicked off proceedings before handing over to Anton Zap. The Russian take on this quintessentially US sound is an interesting one, and these two offered vastly different approaches to it—Zap studiously unlocking the beat, with Kraviz allowing her soulful ruinations to take her and the room over.
Handing over to Fred P proved a turning point in the evening, as the beats became more thugged out, yet no less prone to set feet a-stomping. His new material provided some excited smiles in the crowd, but it was Levon Vincent who really showed why he is hailed by artists as disparate as Marcel Dettmann and House of House. At times coy and understated, at times flirting with melancholia, his clanging beats never let up, and when he dropped the B-side from his upcoming Novel Sound release, he brought the house down to its knees. Following on from a set of such epic proportions was a tough task, but one that DJ Qu set about with relish, and not without a little aggressive tomfoolery of his own, all growling low-ends and staccato midranges.
Aside from the hard work put in by Jus-Ed and his crew, Tape should be praised for allowing such a special night to take place, and for providing a hub in Berlin for this sort of music to flourish. Underground and quality.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Here is an interview I did with the brilliant Onra.
For Chinoiseries, you sampled a lot of ethnic Vietnamese music. I was wondering if you might ever be interested in working with any Oriental hip hop groups, or if there is even a scene for the sort of music you make in the East?
Hip-Hop is still very new in Asia, and most of the people only know what they see on MTV or those kind of medias. I haven't met no vietnamese band, but in China, I met a couple people who were rapping in Chinese over 90's Hip-Hop influenced beats. I've never thought of collaborating with asian groups, except Japanese, that could be an idea, but it's not something I'm really looking forward to.
Given the success of Chinoiseries, is looking for inspiration in world music something you are interested in pursuing? Perhaps taking samples from Latin or African music? Like a hip hop Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon?
Chinoiseries is just a concept that happened because I went to Asia and I managed to find some records. It wasn't planned. I'm looking for good samples, no matter the country, the time, the artist, the genre of music. I like to make albums with themes though. The Tribute one only has Soul samples, 1.0.8 is made with Bollywood samples, and Chinoiseries is Chinese/Vietnamese. My next project is only made with 80's Funk samples. After the second volume of Chinoiseries, I don't think I'll do another theme album, though it's very important for me that each project has its own particular concept. I want to move on from making beats to making songs and collaborate with vocal artists.
1.0.8 features a very different sound to Chinoiseries, lots of surf guitar and gothic soul, is that a sound that you have always been drawn to?
1.0.8 is strictly made with Bollywood soundtracks, it happened that Indian music and Chinese music have some similarities, especially in the type of instruments and percussions they used, but still I find them different.
I've seen that you consider yourself a 'beatmaker'. In a way, that is a lot like being a producer. Are you interested in working with MCs ever?
Yeah beatmaker, producer, that's almost the same thing basically. I've worked with MC's already, but nothing has ever came out, it was just demos that we did for fun. Of course in the near future, you will hear more vocal artists over my beats, hopefully around the end of next year.
If so, who would you like to work with?
I'd like to work with people that really inspired me, legends and unknown underground talents. I can't really give you any names cause I have to figure out if those collaborations are possible (budgetwise), or if it's only something I can dream about.
Do you have any plans for any collaborations at all?
I have to keep it for myself cause nothing is confirmed so far. I don't want to announce something that's not gonna happen, I did this in the past, and I don't like this feeling of unachievement.
As a hip hop fan, I'm interested to know what you think of the state of US hip hop nowadays? Things have changed quite a lot since the early days, and the power balance seems to have shifted southwards (ATL/New Orleans/Houston/Bay Area). What are your feelings of where US hip hop is at right now?
It's a very difficult situation to analyze. First, you can't really talk about US Hip-Hop in general. What you mean I guess, is the kind of Hip-Hop that is played on mass medias like MTV and mainstream radio channels. This is music for the kids and for the club. All they talk about is party and bullshit and I don't really see this changing and going back to the essence of Hip-Hop. But I have a feeling that it's gonna get better anyway, music is like a cycle, maybe Hip-Hop needs to die for real before resurrecting into something new, and more relevant.
Though, I agree this type of music is usually wack, I think some mainstream artists are really innovative. And sometimes, when I don't understand how people can appreciate this garbage, I'm thinking that I'm too old already to understand.
To finish, I'd say that real Hip-Hop is more than alive, and there's bunch of people who keep doing it right and making it evolve. People must dig deeper than what the medias are giving them,
I know that you are very passionate about hip hop, but are there any other genres of music that are drawing your attention at the moment? A lot of the forward-thinking dubstep is getting a lot of hype, is that of interest to you?
I like a lot of different styles of music. I can't name everything cause there's so many genres and sub-genres that I would need to be too precise and it would be boring. I'm passionate about Hip-Hop, but I'm passionate about Music first.
As for the new kind of music, there are some really good things. I personally don't like Dubstep, there are some good songs that are always gonna work in a club, but I'm just not into it. Though I have to admit, some elements of it are interesting and can be inspiring.
Growing up in France were you surrounded by hip hop from a young age, or did you come to it later in life?
Let me tell you that France is (or was) the second Hip-Hop nation behind the U.S. So It's pretty big here. I discovered about Hip-Hop in 91 cause my older step-brother gave me some tapes and he was watching this TV show called "Rapline" on french TV. Although, at that age (10), I couldn't really make a difference between Kriss Kross, MC Hammer, N.W.A or A Tribe Called Quest. To me, as long as I heard someone rapping, it was good.
I know you are about to start work on your next album. What can we expect? A whole new change of direction?
The next project is gonna be released in January 2010, on irish label All City. You can expect some trakcs in the veign of "My Comet", it's gonna be all inspired by 80's Funk. It will be follow by the second volume of Chinoiseries on french label Favourite Recordings, later the same year.
What does 2010 have in store for you?
Besides those two albums, I'm looking forward to travel more and do more shows. I want to come up with a new live set, so it's gonna be a lot of work, and I'll be working on my first real solo album with vocal guests.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
I'm quite a big Piemont fan. Thanks to Herr Trott, I got into them about 9 months ago, and ever since, they have featured pretty heavily for me (although sadly I missed them play Berghain which would have been nice). Their new EP, Shipyard, delivers on every front. Is this the funkiest techno outfit in the world? Oh and speaking of "funky", the new Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts' is quite tasty too. D'you wanna get funky?
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Have you seen 'Lucia y el Sexo'? It's Medem's second best film after 'La Ardilla Roja', and this whimsical little ditty is omnipresent throughout. At first I was certain it was this beautiful Gabriel Yared piece from 'The English Patient', but it was not until it appeared on the last episode of Mad Men that it became clear. But what can honestly compete with Bernard Herrmann's masterpiece, the 'Taxi Driver' soundtrack, the last movie he scored before his death.
It's all change round these parts. New directions, new jobs, new perspectives. Highlight of the week was undoubtedly the UQ night at Tape of which more to follow. Having heard the next two Novel Sound releases, trust me, Levon Vincent is set to EXPLODE. They seem to get better every time which is no mean fucking feat. Other exciting projects ahead as well including a very exciting and much-feted collab with Gringo, and more interviews. Is the above not better than 'Blood On My Hands'? Thanks to Terry Church for finally clarifying something I had been wondering about for a while and which I thought, erroneously I had already cleared up.
Friday, 18 September 2009
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
As promised, here is an interview I did with the exceedingly talented Patrice Scott.
I don't know if this is entirely subjective, and it has arguably always been the case, but I feel there is a really positive momentum in much of the electronic music coming out of America at the moment, particularly house. Detroit feels musically, amongst the doom and gloom of the economy, to be producing powerful and exciting stuff by yourself and Omar S, Theo Parrish, Moodyman, and New York has Wolf+Lamb, Underground Quality also releasing interesting material. Do you feel that this is the case at all?
I have always had the opinion that the best electronic music comes from America. We can go back to the beginning and the roots of where this music all started in the early eighties. The Chicago legends, the Detroit legends, etc... The music has always been good. Artists from all over the world have some type of American influence in their music today and that is because American artist have always produced quality music.
Detroit has obviosuly been hit quite badly by the financial crisis, do you feel any of that has filtered down into the music that comes out of the city?
I don't feel that Detroit's economic crisis has had any effect whatsoever on the music coming out of the city. Before the economic crisis occurred good music was coming out of Detroit and it is still happening at the moment from the guys who did it in the past as well as up and coming producers.
You split your time between Berlin and Detroit, is that for work reasons or because you enjoy living and working there?
Although I enjoy being in Berlin when I am there, the primary focus is work.
You played in London last weekend, how was it? Where do you enjoy playing most?
London was great, as always. I can't say that I have a place that I enjoy more than others but most recently I visited Manchester & that was a great experience. The crowd seem to really enjoy and understand the music. They also were very open when it came to being educated on the music.
I went to a talk here in Berlin given by American artists discussing how the future of the arts in America will be affected by Barack Obama becoming President. The mood was overwhelmingly positive. I was wondering if you feel as an artist, a change in atmosphere or mood since his inauguration?
As an American citizen I do feel that there has been a change in mood since the inauguration of Barack Obama. People now have a sense of overall hope that things can go in a positive direction. The overall situation had gotten so bad in America that things could only get better. Once you hit rock bottom you can only go to the top. It will take some time but if Obama is given the opportunity people will see a positive change.
I've heard that you don't play much in the US. Do you think that is a different training ground to some of the European DJs who are playing out all the time?
I don't play much in the U.S. because their is not much of a scene in the U.S. So therefore, yes, the training ground for European DJs is different. They have more opportunity to play than American DJs. The scene is flourishing in Europe and in the U.S. it has gone in the opposite direction.
I know you have lots of friends in the music community in Detroit, but between people in Chicago, New York, San Francisco - how much of a community is there amidst the house and techno community within America as a whole?
America as a whole does not have a house community. There is really no scene in America. This is where it all started but if you do not continue to educate or people are not willing to be educated then it will not grow and this has what has happened to the scene in America.
Your music has very high levels of production. It works just as well out as it does for home listening. Is that something that is important to you, that it be deeply layered?
I really don't consider my music to be at high levels of production. I consider it to be basic and I feel that I could and will get alot better. But I do try to put my all into it and I try to give it from the heart. I do enjoy having musical elements in my tracks. It is important to me to provide feeling in my music.
Is the deep sound you have always been drawn to? What would the primary influences on that deep sound be?
I have always loved the deep sound. Larry Heard has been a big influence on me for a long time as well as many others.
What's next for you and for Sistrum?
The next release on Sistrum will come from me. I do not have any names or titles yet but it will be out before the year ends.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Back in Berlin from Rome and Tuscany. Silence is golden or so they say, and my silence is certainly attributable to having had a gilded weekend away. Happened upon the Magick Bar closing party whilst in Rome which saw all the great and the good assembled on the banks of the Tiber for a right royal knees up. Modeled shamelessly on Bar 25, including Americana of all sorts (think beaten up second hand furniture, moose skulls, and quaint little paintings), Magick Bar was by all accounts the fixture of the Roman summer for those "in the know". DJ Giancarlino provided the soundtrack which was pretty much as you would expect - a Latinate version of the funky techno paradigm championed by everyone's favourite bar by the Spree. What was interesting however, was seeing how the Romans filtered Berlin hedonism to meet their own needs. Bar 25 has always borrowed from the British festival template of purposeful wackiness - dressing up, bizarre tombolas, insect Olympics, that sort of shit - but then made it work for Berlin (ie. not closing for 5 days). The Italians' take on this formula was pretty much as you would imagine: everyone dressed up to the nines, waving UV glowsticks, and losing their shit in the only way Italians know how to - in style. It was fun, but not as fun as gorging on Vongole for 5 days. But what is?
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Levon's mix on this CD is UNREAL. He kicks it off with the tune Jus-Ed boogies to in this amusing promotional clip for the CD and the upcoming night at Tape. If that track is Vincent's next release, it may even surpass 'Games Dub' as his best to date. Must find out name. Any information appreciated. WOW
For my money, the best dubstep EP release of the year. As someone pointed out, it is kind of Four Tet does dubstep, but this sounds completely different to 'Wolf Cub' or 'Moth'. It reminds me more of the Sheffield dreamscape electronica of I Monster.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
I knew nothing about DJ AM prior to his passing, and by that I mean nothing, nichts, rien du tout, niente, nada. Less interested in his myriad celebrity connections (Nicole Ritchie, Scott Caan, Alchemist), I just wanted to know what sort of music he played. According to the NY Times,
"his style on the turntables is what they call “mash up.” He has become as known for excavating obscure songs as he is for seamlessly blending tracks with unlikely partners. Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” with the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las spliced with the rapper Lil Jon’s signature call, “O-kaaay.”
“He’s your favorite D.J.’s favorite D.J.,” said Jus Ske, a party promoter turned D.J. who used to hire DJ AM to play at events in Manhattan. “He’s the man technically, when it comes to scratching, and he’s really raised the bar creatively.”"
Is that just a cracked out Diplo then? I don't know - even Diplo wouldn't drop The Killers.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
As far as this salsero original business goes, Maayan Nidam did it better for my money. I think 'Nightlong' is one of the most important releases of 2009.
I think this is a lot better. I know it's the summer and all, but how many of these Latino stompers are there left to come? Already this year we've had 'Caminando', 'El Baile Aleman', 'La Mezcla', 'Baile', and now these two. Luciano and Ricardo have a lot to answer for if you ask me.
I have already written about this tune here. I still stand by my previous comments. It's booooooring. It goes nowhere, has a stodgy beat, and does little to make me want to dance, nod along, or anything else in fact. I agree with Reynolds entirely, except for his view that it is “undeveloped [and] not fully realised”. It is, and that's the real headfuck about it. In its present state, it couldn't be any better - the raw ingredients are more Lidl than Waitrose - and that's why it makes me sad to see FACT gushing all over it. People may love it at the raves they throw, but seriously who is going to those raves? Trendy bandwagon-jumpers perhaps? I'm no huge fan of funky, but if this is as good as it gets then we're beyond fucked.
In slightly more pleasant news, House of House are set to appear on Tim Sweeney's excellent Beats In Space show tonight. Essential listening. Stream here from 10.30pm - to 1.00am EST.
Throwing a party in Berlin on the Sunday night of Bar 25's umpteenth "closing" was always going to be a tough proposition. But DJ Pete and Scuba's monthly Hard Wax night at Horst has proven to be one for the heads—less all night raving, more round at a friend's house listening to his favourite (dubstep) tunes...through the largest sound system east of the Notting Hill Carnival. For the latest instalment of Wax Treatment, Berlin ex-pat Scuba assembled a motley crew of Hotflush co-conspirators to shake the foundations of Horst.
While the Hard Wax boys and girls are most readily associated with pushing the punishing Berghain sound of Dettman or the Panorama-friendly house of Prosumer, they also lead the field in championing dubstep in Germany, and they do so in a manner befitting such a hallowed institution. As we entered Horst, the first thing that stood out was the Killasan sound system, a monolithic fuck you of a setup that straddled the entire back wall of the club. DJ Pete was doing a magnificent job of pushing the system to its extremes with a bass-heavy set complemented by Koki's hauntingly reverb-ridden MCing. As the crowd slowly began to filter in, snaking their way through the reefer fug and swaying zombies, Jamie Vex'd took over behind the decks.
By this stage the sizeable number of Brits in the crowd were beginning to mingle well with the German dubophiles, and Vex'd decided to indulge the assembled hordes, mixing established favourites such as an "Archangel" re-rub with his own "Angels," a Planet Mu slayer that had everyone zigzagging across the dance floor with each syncopated breakdown. Nonetheless, there was also room for more avant-garde fare with cuts like "Mescaline Cola" also thrown into the mix. Vex'd eventually handed things over to Stamp Release who unfortunately succeeded only in emptying the dance floor with his slow-train-to-nowhere laptop musings. Luckily Scuba stepped up and salvaged the night, playing a stormer of a set that positioned itself in the liminal zone between dubstep and techno.
What with it being Sunday night and all, we didn't get a chance to see Sigha do his thing. A brief sojourn in the garden to sample some of the Caribbean food on offer, followed by a final slug of Tyskie, was it for us. Wax Treatment isn't one to take a first date to, but if you are looking to briefly lose your shit on a Sunday night before the grind of Monday wears you down, this one is definitely worth a visit.