Artwork borrowed from a projection by Tony Martin.
CF: how and where was this mix recorded?
This mix was recorded in my flat in Kreuzberg. I’ve been compiling the tracks for weeks and it took 3 or 4 sessions for me to decide on this mix. I recorded it with Traktor running in internal mode. When I play out I never bring a laptop. I’m strictly CD and vinyl, trying to make my way back to almost purely vinyl. I left most of my many records in San Francisco, so it’s a slow process getting there. To each their own, but I like to beat match and mix two records. I like the crackle and hiss of an old record. I like mistakes and the occasional sloppy mix. I like hearing a whole track and not just a loop of the “best part”. That being said, the home listening experience is a lot different than the dance floor experience, and keeping things tight and smooth is important. I don’t use any effects, but I like the looping and pitching tools that allow me to make nice long blends for the listener.
CF: not too long ago you were at the helm of one of the best electronic music nights in North America, but you’ve since relocated to Berlin. how has that transition been for you personally and artistically?
Well for two years I was still handling most of the bookings and doing all the art direction from Berlin. I mean I’ve been here since August 2010 and the party ended this past June, so I didn’t just pick up and ditch the party. It was hard to do things from here, but it still felt so good. Honestly there was no question of whether or not I would work on it from here or not. It was as much a part of my life as anything else. You don’t stop taking care of your child just because you move to another town. I think the hardest part was not being able to play at these parties that I worked so hard for. Seeing these great lineups and imagining how these artists would play for a SF crowd at The Endup… tough! It’s odd not having a residency anymore. I really enjoyed the feeling that people knew we would deliver something special every month, and I had a place to call my musical home. Somewhere I could be comfortable and musically flex as I wanted to, to eager ears and feet.
I’m still looking for something like that here. Although we have no plans to continue [KONTROL], so many people in Europe tell me all the time that I should be making this event happen in Berlin. It’s amazing to know that this little party we started in 2005 at an art gallery with no dance permit has such a great reputation 6000 miles away with so many people. Shocking but inspirational and so rewarding. We put so much heart and so much sweat into that party. So funny to think that in the early days we knew we did well if we left with even 50 cents profit in our pockets. We were never in it for the hype or the fame. It was just something that needed to be done and this music needed to be heard.
CF: you recently founded Bad Animal as an output to release left-of-center music. how was the label born and how do you see it growing in the future?
Honestly I wouldn’t say things have gone the direction of being purely “left of center.” A couple of the tracks have been, of course, but I’d say it’s more just a way to release music that I feel is special. Nothing temporary or generic. Really it’s just unique dance music. House, techno, call it what you will, but there’s some soul and character to everything we are releasing.
I started the label because I was looking for a way to do something good for the music and the world with my friends. I wanted my friends and I to have a comfortable place to release the music we want, be as creative as possible without worrying about shopping demos or making hits, and to just work together in general. I consider the Safeword boys as two of my best friends I’ve made along the way, and while we’re all doing big things otherwise, it’s nice to know we have a little “homey pad” to come home to. When I was younger I had a nice group of best buds, most of whom I’m still very close with (though we’re all scattered around the world now). We would always congregate at my friend Sam’s house. We didn’t have to call, we would just stop by, hang out, smoke, talk about art, music, girls, life and so forth. This was my second home for years and I suppose a huge part of how I turned out to be as a person and friend. So I suppose that in effect I wanted to create a musical home like that for my friends and for myself.
Furthermore there’s the charity side of things. Though I’m still waiting on accounting to come in since we’re just done with our second quarter, the concept is to give profits from the digital sales to charity. We are contributing to the Wildlife Conservation Network, a great organization that has a few select efforts that I really appreciated while doing my initial research. I think I’ll change the organization every new year. Regardless, the world needs some positivity and we’re happy to do our part.
CF: you’re a graphic designer by trade and you were designing all the flyers and artwork for the before-mentioned Kontrol parties, among other things. how important do you think is the visual aspect in music?
As far as I’m concerned it’s an integral part of it. I grew up watching the evolution of rave graphics. There was hardly any presentation of electronic music that didn’t make use of amazing visual art. Once that started to progress and the internet became more of a thing and I was able to learn about the people over seas that were making such an incredible visual side to our music. Büro Destruct, The Designers Republic, Tomato, Me Company… these guys had such a HUGE impact on me that I decided to become a graphic designer. It was really rave graphics that drove me to start designing.
To me it’s invariable. Good music deserves good graphics and vice versa. The fact that some people don’t see the relation or don’t care about their visual representation of the music just blows my mind. Of course good music is good music one way or another, but to me, electronic music has two parts to it: music and visual art. Some would say fashion as well, but I don’t much care for material things so it’s hard for me to grasp that.
CF: what do you normally listen to at home? which are 3 of your favorite albums past or present?
At home I listen to everything from Hip Hop to big band, the latter mostly when I cook. I’ve been listening to a lot of dub and reggae again recently. I took a break from it for a while for some reason. I guess I listen to mostly electronic music as I’m so wrapped up in it and obsessed with it, but it’s really important to listen to everything around you. I am not so impressed with a lot of recent rock, but a while ago I forced myself to find out about cool bands and my buddy Cole in SF got me into a few great ones. The guy’s like a musical encyclopedia and I really appreciate what he shared. But I just picked a few and stuck with them. As far as my three favorite albums… that’s really tough. I’ll do my best.
I guess these are more like the three most influential albums I could think of. I really wanted to include “Music Has The Right To Children” by Boards of Canada and “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd in there but that will have to do. I think I just cheated and gave you five. Sorry!
CF: what is your favorite thing about living in Berlin?
Germany seems to put people first, which is something the States does not. The bottom line here is not the almighty dollar. In regards to Berlin specifically I’d say the nicest thing is being in a city where people are so driven to be themselves and to develop themselves, though I guess that mostly relates to the artistic facets of this city. Because it’s not horribly expensive to live here, people are comfortable being artists and being the artists that they really are, if you get my meaning. But the best part of that is seeing how driven people are and how serious they are about it. It’s not just “my art thing,” it’s “my creative life that I’m working hard on every day.” People really bust their asses here. Sure they party hard and enjoy the city’s nightlife for all it’s worth, but most musicians I know are in their studio or running their label 5 days a week. It’s a wonderful, inspirational affair. I’m a work-a-holic, and I like being around others cut from the same cloth.
Oh and I like The Bird. I think it’s the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my life.
CF: what’s in store for you in the near future? are there any releases or project we should be aware of?
I’m slowly working on an album. My first album was released in 2009 and while four years is a long break in between LPs, longer than most would recommend, it needed to be that way. I’m finally feeling like I’ve really found my sound and I’m developing it properly before unleashing it. I’m doing that thing where I obsess over it and nothing is perfect enough, and I should probably just cap it soon and just go with my gut, but it’s hard. It’s a really personal thing, something you can’t change your mind about after releasing, something that’s broadcast so loudly and so I want it to be just right. But it’s a departure from my norm and a lot more personal, so I guess this is somewhat natural.
Otherwise I have a few EPs and a lot of remixes about to drop, and while I’m still shopping music to labels, I’m trying to focus on my own now. Bad Animal will soon be releasing amazing music from my close friends like Safeword and Kenneth Scott, and from a couple of new artists that I really believe in like Aartekt, Fredrik Stjärne, and Professor Inc.. There’s a lot more in store and I’m very happy with how things are going.