DJ Debriefing with DJ Sprinkles

Welcome to DJ Debriefing, a series of LWE features where we ask DJs about the music they’re actually playing, both old and new. Our third interview subject is the multi-talented Terre Thaemlitz, whose DJ Sprinkles moniker is a reminder that the American-born, Japan-based producer got her start as a DJ in New York before unleashing ambitious, concept-driven electro-acoustic/ambient works, and much more besides. As this interview shows, there’s a lot more to consider than favorite DJ tools or gear when thinking what makes an event great, stuff that many DJs would prefer to sweep under the rug. Always outspoken about her experiences and processes, Thaemlitz spoke with LWE via Skype in advance of a tour for Francis Harris’ album release, and more immediately before her gig at Oval Space on October 25th.

Where do you like to start in an evening, with your track selection?

Terre Thaemlitz: You know, it really depends on the type of set I’m doing. Like back when I was doing the Deeperama residency here in Tokyo — that was pretty much the same pattern that I had when I was back at Sally’s, because it was a six-hour set, or at least six hours. So I’d do disco and 70s stuff before midnight, and then from midnight onward, get more into house. But I haven’t really been doing that so much lately. I’m playing later in the evening and even when I kind of start full-on, for me, it’s still definitely bringing the house down. Because usually the DJs who I’m playing after are clocking in at a lot higher BPMs. So I’m pretty much crashing down the mood of any party even when I start full on. I do try not to totally crash everything, because I have cleared dance floors before in ways — I mean it was OK for me, but the promoters were punished and stuff.

Let’s just say you’re at a more typical touring gig, as opposed to something more at home, is there anything that you pull out with any regularity, or are you pretty random from show to show?

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of sets that focus on my own tracks or remixes that I’ve done and stuff like that. So I guess the Comatonse catalogue would come into play there, as well. Not just the more recent stuff, but also the older Comatonse stuff. But other sets, I’ll deliberately go away from that, too. Sometimes I’ll focus on a label. Like, I’ll only play Trax records or I’ll only play Strictly Rhythm or I’ll only play, you know, Emotive. I’ll just kind of get into a corner of the collection and focus that way, too. If you’re really fishing for a direct response to your question, I think I kind of think more about what tracks to end with than what tracks to start with because I consider starts, beginnings to always be awkward anyway. So I like working toward some tracks.

Yeah, that makes good sense. Do you play much unreleased stuff?

I do play some unreleased stuff, or some of it that’s scheduled but not yet released, other stuff that’s not for release, and that’s why in the last couple years, I just made it a policy not to allow recording of sets.

That seems like a wise move. So is there something you’ve of yours or someone else’s that when you were conceiving it or when you first were hearing it you thought, “Oh, that’s not going to work in a club,” but then you played it out and found out that it was actually a crowd-pleaser. Anything like that in your CD case or soon-to-be USBs?

Yeah, recently I’m really surprised that the Mole remix that I did — I’m really surprised that it works.

Really? That’s amazing because I feel like that’s one of the bigger and better tracks of the year, if I could be so bold.

I’m totally shocked that anybody likes that track, so I’m really surprised that it works when I play it, too. And when I play it, I’ll add more effects and stupid shit to it, too. But yeah, it just caught me by surprise. I’m not in Europe; I have no idea how much it’s really known, but I definitely thought it was going to be totally off radar, and it seems people seem to kind of like it, so…

I wanted to know if you were really crossfading between things to affect it or if it was just done on the computer.

Yeah, I mean, I’m not that good of a DJ, no. It’s a studio piece, for sure. Yeah.

So even the crossfading, though, is that all just done the same way, on the computer, basically?

I did that remix just after I finished doing the Where Dancefloors Stand Still mix. I do a lot of effects and stuff in my DJ mixing, but when it comes to doing things in the studio, when I was doing the Where Dancefloors Stand Still mix, I was trying to figure out ways to emulate those things in a digital sequencer, you know? So I was kind of experimenting with things like that, and that Mole remix is also part of that, then. So it’s a combination of some stuff that was played in live, in terms of real-time control, and other stuff that’s drawn in.

What I really love about it is you really stayed true to the material, and you just sort of blew it out in a slightly more clubby fashion.

Yeah, it’s such a cheesy track to begin with, you know. So I thought the mixing style has to be totally cheesy, too, you know? It’s just a really over-the-top, New York kind of proto-disco hip-house type thing. [laughs]

Yeah. I definitely dug that, and I really enjoyed your Where Dancefloors Stand Still mix, as well. I wondered, how did you record that?

Well, some of the tracks themselves I mean really started with me recording the vinyl. That’s why the CD starts with a little sound of vinyl dropping, you know? Because some of those tracks, nobody had masters for them, and I was just working off the vinyl. And then combining that also with digital tracks. And that’s really how my DJ sets are these days — with the combination of working with digital masters and also with digitized vinyl from my collection. And so, in a way, even if the exact process wasn’t exactly the same always, but in terms of what types of materials were used and how and stuff, it’s really close to how I mix in a live situation.

So to kind of jump back into favorites and things like that — since you picked something that I thought was a big jam and you’re still kind of surprised about it — this year when you were touring, did you have something that you would consider a summer jam?

I don’t really think seasonally. To be honest, I just kind of keep twirling around the toilet bowl of my record collection. It’s just not going down the pipe, that’s all. So it’s really always kind of rotating around the same things. I definitely make additions and take things out. I showed you my little CD folder, but I have some bigger binders that sometimes I’ll just rearrange and go through and swap things out that way. I guess I think more in terms of trying to maintain a mood throughout the set rather than thinking of how individual tracks perform. I guess maybe my mixing style is about not really allowing tracks to shine out too much, because maybe it’s part of my own paranoia about my own mixing abilities or something. But if you kind of get things worked up too much, then when you want to step back. People’s reactions– especially in Europe, reactions can get so aggressive with everybody wanting everything faster and shit.

Yeah, I’ve noticed that. Do you ever get asked to play slots like that, and you’re just like — I don’t even know how you would respond.

Well, I play whatever I get invited to. So I don’t really study up on what the events are, and I don’t really — because for me it’s work, you know? It’s my way of trying to pay rent and cover bills and facilitate time to work on my own projects. So generally the scenes that I’m getting hired into are not necessarily the scenes that I even identify this kind of music with.

Really?

When you start out at a place like Sally’s, which is Latino and African-American, transgender vogue scene and ball scene, and then you go from that to 20-year-old, straight white kids in Europe, it’s clearly a very different environment.

Given that a lot of times it seems like you’re probably thrown into situations that you don’t have a ton of control over in the end, I wondered if you have a favorite length of time to play a DJ set, and a favorite time of the night — or during the event, I guess I should say, to play a DJ set.

Well, I really don’t like anything under two hours. I think anything under two hours is a waste, basically. And I also feel like I’m not working enough for the money. Even though I’m raised Catholic, the Protestant work ethic somehow fit in there, and you’ve got to give people their money’s worth. Not the crowd, but the organizers. I really play different durations. I’d say three hours is the average set. And I can do more. I can do less if necessary, but I usually tell people I wouldn’t want to do under two hours. There’s been very few instances where I had to do under two hours. But sometimes at these bigger festivals, they really just rotate everybody super quick. So it’s been a while, but sometimes you start doing a one-hour DJ set, and for me that’s five tracks or something, you know? Maybe sometimes four. I mean it’s super easy, but it’s too easy.

Right, yeah. What about if you were to be playing at night? Is there a favorite time of the night to be playing? And maybe even to think of your own sort of nights.

I really don’t mind any time, you know? I think kind of really early or really late are nice times to play. If I’m here on my home turf, then the way the Japanese subway system works, the train stops, you’re stuck somewhere all night. So you’re there all night, so in that case, maybe being towards the end is nicer because you’re not just sitting around bored waiting for the trains to start up. You’re doing something; you’re working or something. But when it’s in Europe and I have jetlag and stuff like that, I don’t know. It could really just depend on where my jetlag has me at that time.

Speaking of travel, there are a number of countries where a DJ’s sexuality and gender identity perceived — or in reality — can sort of imperil their safety, and I wondered if you would ever dare to play one of these places, like Russia?

Well, I’ve dared to play Moscow, and indeed, that event was raided by machine-gun, facemasked, black-body-armor cops. I mean, not specifically because of me, but it was a quite stressful experience because that was actually the same day that the anti-gender and sexuality education laws first went into effect in Saint Petersburg. This was before it went into a federal law. It was back in March — March of 2012. So it was the day that the laws went into effect in Saint Petersburg, and there was a kind of tension in Moscow, as well, in terms of how it could affect things. I was presenting Soulnessless, which is a project that’s filled with blasphemy and transgenderism and all these things that would have made it really illegal to perform and present in Saint Petersburg. So the fact that the cops stormed the party ten minutes into my show really was perfect timing, you know? I think it was just random because the club owners didn’t pay tribute to a politician properly, or something — typical Russian bullshit. But yeah, that was probably the most tense thing.

When I get invitations from countries that really have laws against transgenderism and sodomy or sexual deviation and stuff, that’s not always just limited to the homosexual paradigm, right? There are places where sexuality isn’t always codified around the hetero/homo paradigm, but for those places, I’ll refuse to go. And I’ll explain to the people why. But about your question, though, the way that it’s like, “Would you dare to go?” Some people think, “Oh yeah, fuck it. Just go for the money,” you know? A lot of times if you have white skin and if you remain within the foreigner world and you just kind of keep to yourself enough, you can go in, take the money, and run.

First of all, that’s the opposite of solidarity, on a political level with people who are suffering there. Second, you don’t know what risks you’re putting those organizers in that country into and what consequences they may face after you go back. And then thirdly, if it’s really just going for this kind of adventure shit, or else for the money, I mean how is that not just a form of colonialism or imperialism? It’s really something that I think is politically not to be valorized. That’s something I would really specifically avoid, that kind of adventuring and DJing in that way. I think some people, they really come from a Western climate where their gender and sexuality has never been an issue, you know? I have a lot of experience with being harassed, and so, for me, I have fear that is rooted in experience that also just makes me not want to trivialize that shit.

Absolutely. Do you feel that there’s any effectiveness in boycotts against gigs where such discrimination takes place?

I think that boycott is a fair response. You know, boycott isn’t always the one-sided thing that it’s represented as. Like the Russian situation, although mostly what you hear about are concerns about boycott around sporting events or whatever fuck-bullshit, some say it’s not being fair for the young people, or whatever. But I think people really have to think about safety in different ways, and the alternative to boycott oftentimes ends up being Westerners being really fucking arrogant. Like, “Well, hey, we’re going to go and we’re going to help those people out.” And it’s going someplace where you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what risks you’re putting people into, and I think, that’s a kind of mistake to make, like, “OK, it’s either if I don’t go, that’s some kind of boycott, and if I do go, I’m going to be liberating people.” That’s just super naïve. So I think when you speak of boycott, that’s really different than simply not going, you know what I mean?

Right. That’s a good point. I guess I’m surprised — there was a lot of noise in the last month or so, and a series of events around the world that were sort of in solidarity with the people who are oppressed, specifically in Russia. But I haven’t heard a lot of people being like, “Nope, not going there.” Especially among like hetero DJs. I haven’t seen a whole lot of anyone necessarily saying, “Well, I’m not going to go there on account of my friends.”

Well, I mean you’re talking to one now. You know, I’ve offically declined requests to go back to Russia and specified that as the reason. I was actually planning on going to Russia again; it was kind of starting to be in the works, and then I found out that that law went federal and then I immediately canceled.

Makes sense.

The standard thing because of Russian bureaucracy is that — and this isn’t only the music industry; this is most every kind of foreigners going to Russia for work — is that you go on a tourist visa. And that’s just the way it is; that’s just the way it’s done, and it’s not the DJ world being lazy. That’s how people travel to Russia. If you put yourself in a situation where you could get in trouble with the authorities and you immediately hand them a legal reason to be able to retain you, such as entry to the country on false terms, that’s also another big reason to think twice before you go there. One of my terms for going back there again was that they have to sort out all of the visa stuff. When I was there, there were some people who came in through some really vicarious train route through Europe, and they didn’t even have the tourist visas and stuff. People are really exposing themselves to risk situations, for what? For a couple hundred euros, or something, you know what I mean? It’s really, really risky, and I think this kind of aspect of how the music industry and a lot of the arts work as a kind of illegal migrant community. That’s something that is really difficult and delicate. It’s a really delicate subject.

Right. Not to trivialize that at all, because that was an excellent answer, but I wondered if we could sort of get back just for a second to some DJ questions. Specifically, let’s talk about risk. Let’s say you —

Fuck the real risk! Let’s talk about dropping the needle in the wrong way. Let’s talk about real risk now, bitches. [laughs] Sorry, go ahead.

[laughs] It sounds like you’ve sort of gotten yourself into jams before with playing whatever you were going to play. Do you have any favorite sure shots that you use to sort of light a fire under the dance floor again and sort of regain control, if you can?

I am a real idiot DJ when it comes to that sort of thing. I really don’t know how to take control of a dance floor, and I don’t know how to regain it when things go awry. So I just kind of hold back the tears and keep going, you know? And hope things kind of sort out. Because there’s kind of two [crowd] reactions you can get. The one reaction, which is the more reasonable one, but therefore not the one likely to be made by people who are drunk or high or stuff, you go and sit a song out, you know what I mean? You just go and sit down for a little bit and see what happens. The other reaction is that you all come up around the DJ booth and start screaming and yelling and making the, you know, “faster,” fingers pointing in the air and frowny faces. And all that does is just really stress the fuck out of people and make them fuck up even more.

Right. Do you ever fuck with the crowd?

I have one — actually, I can send you a link if you don’t mind. This is a transcript of a lecture I gave at a transgender symposium in London, and then if you go to the bottom of it there’s kind of a postscript where I talk about how at this party that was the afterparty for a transgender and queer event, there was this blonde, straight woman who… This’ll sound really horrible, but clubs are kind of a social sphere where blonde, white, heterosexual women are typically empowered, and they don’t like to be denied. They don’t like to hear the word “no.” In Europe I have to say, it’s straight, blonde women who really are the fiercest complainers about music and really just make things miserable when you don’t play their requests.

So this was a situation where this woman, in the end, started calling me a faggot and this sort of stuff. “What are you, a faggot?” So I just turned off the music, and I started screaming at the top of my lungs about, “Fuck yeah, I’m a faggot, and this is a faggot party. Where the fuck do you think you are?” When it gets to a certain point, sometimes you just really have to yell back at the people who are yelling at you, you know? It’s not pleasant, but that’s definitely part of the experience these days as well. In a way it’s kind of like a relief. It means there are still people who have no fucking idea who I am, what I play. They just aren’t having it, and in a way that’s really still like being back in the very beginning, and I like that side of it, in a weird way. I don’t like the idea of that moment, but I mean as a phenomenon, I think it’s good and humbling, and also kind of part of my whole attempt to focus on the off-center and underground side of things. Basically, if people are being pissed off, then something’s going right, probably.

You’re certainly provoking a reaction in one way or another.

Yeah. [laughs] Because in a way, at least these people are sincere. Like, if I’m playing a 120-BPM, kind of slow-tempo-ed set — compared to a lot of house sets — and people are really screaming, like, “Yeah, woo!” It just smacks of insincerity. That was happening at a party I just played here in Tokyo, and it was a really small venue, and there was this one guy. He was just trying to make his own party, regardless of whatever was playing. It was so out of place and out of context. So in a way, at least people when they’re really aggressive and complaining, they smack of sincerity.

Fair enough. It’s interesting, I’m sort of reflecting on your catalogue as we’re talking a little bit, and I’ve noticed that the K-S.H.E. stuff you’ve done is some of your most clubby stuff. Especially, I’m thinking like, “B2B” being a personal favorite. Do you see yourself making more stuff like that in the near future or ever again?

Yeah, I mean the K-S.H.E. project is still kind of active. It’s not retired or anything. And I also have a new project that I’m not yet ready to announce because — I’m pretty sure I know what the name will be, but I don’t want to announce it and change it later and stuff, but — it will also be a little more on the straightforward side. A little less ambient and moody than something like the Midtown 120 Blues album with DJ Sprinkles. But even the DJ Sprinkles moniker, I’ve used that for the old Bassline.89 EP and things like that that were kind of pumpin’, I guess you could say.

Oh yeah, certainly. Which isn’t to say that this is the only forum for that sound, but–

No, but you’re right, though. The K-S.H.E. project, it allows the rhythm to be a little more aggressive, and it’s also of course using a lot more kind of acoustic sounds and things.

Right. You talked about names for second there. You have some great names throughout your discography. You know, like Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion is a favorite.

Actually Skylax is going to be reissuing the DJ Sprinkles remix of Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion’s “A Crippled Left Wing Soars with the Right.” And there’ll be a previously unreleased edit of that remix as well. So that will be a vinyl-only coming out of Skylax. Just because you mentioned Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion.

Sure. I wondered how, though, you came up with your names. Like, if it’s something that you think a lot about or something that is an afterthought.

To be honest, they’re just kind of quips, I think. Some are more thought out as a project name itself. Others, for example, like the Social Material project: the project name, Social Material, and the A-side is “Class” and the B-side is “Consciousness.” So it’s like “class consciousness,” “social material.” That EP was originally made for Joe Clausell’s Spiritual Life label. Because I’m not living a spiritual life — I’m a social materialist, so I wanted that to be part of the humor of the piece. And so even though it ended up coming out on Comatonse — actually there are a lot of things I did for Joe that he smiled and was like, “Yeah,” and then said he wasn’t sure, so then I put it out on my own label. We owe Joe Claussell’s fine sense of taste for most of my own label’s catalogue. [laughs]

But yeah, the album cover on that also, it’s all images of things that kind of have weird combinations of materialist and kind of spiritual or superstitious things. On the front is a kind of Chinese good-luck charm that has Mao Tse-tung’s portrait inside of it. So it’s kind of like a good-luck spiritualization of Mao, and then the back is a Russian watch I have that has hammer and sickle hour and minute hands. But then the actual hours themselves are the zodiac signs. So it’s like these objects were kind of embodiments of this weird space between Joe and my relationship as people who come from very different perspectives. And the record itself and the music itself was supposed to be part of that. So some things, it’s really playing on that level, you know? Other things, like Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion was just kind of a joke of like, what is this sound that’s maybe somewhere between Pat Metheny and just going house? And in English, “wuss” is a weakling or pussy or whatever, but in German, if you say “neu wuss,” it sounds like, in English like “nervous.” So “Terre’s Nervous Fusion,” or these sorts of things. Just kind of stupid word games, basically.

It’s funny because some producers seem to really agonize over the process of naming things, and others pick something random. So I’m always curious.

Sure, it would be nice, the “close your eyes open the dictionary, and plunk down your finger” strategy. But you know who’s the best with names — not that he always ends up using the best ones — but Mark Fell is a naming genius. He’s always thinking about it. So in the middle of any conversation, he’ll just be like, “Oh, that’s a good project name. That’s a good track name.” And he’s usually right, you know?

Speaking of Mark Fell, how did that project came together in the first place?

Mark and I have been friends for years. Both him and Mat [Steel] from SND. We were former label mates on Mille Plateaux, and we’ve just known each other forever. And sometimes I would stay at his house. So there was an idea that if I came out for a week we would work on house EP. Actually I’m staying with him again for a few days in this upcoming trip. I’m doing a show in Amsterdam and then I have things in Sheffield, London, and then Sheffield again. And I’ll be staying with him at his home near Sheffield.

We were supposed to try and do a project then — a kind of follow-up — which answers this other question you were going to get to — but it doesn’t look like we’re going to find the time this time. We hope to continue doing that. But it’s always kind of brutal because he really has extremely personal and high standards for everything, and I think Mat does as well. It was struggle to get that EP out. There was actually an EP I did with both Mat and Mark and our project name was called You Speak What I Feel. They did a remix that came out on the Comatonse 10-year anniversary Below Code compilation. And that was them totally making it into an SND track. And it was an SND remix of our thing because they didn’t like what we did together. So between the SND guys and Joe Claussell, it’s the story of my life, you know?

Do you enjoy collaboration?

It really depends. I don’t do it too much because I’m not a musician in terms of, I have my own way of producing things as someone who’s self-taught, and I’m very slow about these sorts of things. So to find people I can work with is kind of hard. But I actually enjoy working with Mark and with Mat. And I really enjoyed my collaboration with Haco many years ago, the Yesterday’s Heroes project. That was probably the best collaboration, and so it really depends. It’s hard to collaborate, just because of production strategies, and also because I’m really interested in theme and most people aren’t, really. So that can lead to conflicts.

Yeah. I have to imagine that Mark seems to be someone who’s maybe somewhat conceptually driven. Would you agree with that?

The funny thing is, Mark and I really share a lot of similar views about how audio production and the marketplace function and stuff, but we just end up coming out with a different kind of thing. Like his whole thing is that he really hates art speak and wants to get away from it. He talks, but his pieces themselves kind of function on a strictly formalist level, even though everything behind them has a very thought out and usually very sarcastic kind of purpose. But he doesn’t like to advertise it. And I’m like the exact opposite way, where every single thing I do, I don’t give it a minute’s silence. I instantly start writing and putting other words up and making sure I don’t allow anything to go to poetic vagary on it’s own, right? And so we kind of have these two very different approaches toward similar themes sometimes. But that gap also creates a kind of tension that is more interesting than harmful. But yeah, he’s a really interesting guy to talk with, I have to say.

I can believe that. You brought up something interesting, that you can’t let a piece go without spending a lot of time making sure there’s nothing left to poetic vagaries, as you put it. Do you feel like you are also concerned about being misunderstood in your art?

Well, it’s a precondition that everything’s going to be switched around in the interpretive process. In the listening process, and especially with dance music and house, people kind of talk about it as if my house things are really explicit or direct. But to be honest, they’re not. They’re incredibly poetic, I would say. And I try to play with poetics and the language of poetry around house music in the same way I play with academic speak around my electro-acoustic and ambient projects. It’s not that with that ambient stuff when I’m writing these big essays, that’s my real voice coming out. It’s as fake and contrived and constructed as the poetic stuff, and that’s kind of my point: to then speak about these processes of representation, right? That’s what I’m interested in.

I’m less interested in the music itself. And I don’t believe music speaks for itself. I believe people speak things. Of course if I have content that I want to convey, I’ll try to help people understand what the intent was. Knowing, of course, there’s never any telepathic, one-to-one communication on anything, right? And the more I do — and things like Soulnessless or something, the more I do write, the more I do expound, the more problems arise, as well. You can say a lot and still end up with the problems of communication you have with poetic withholding.

Right. To switch gears for a second here, we’re going to hit our wrap-up questions, to talk gear–

[doorbell rings]

Oh, can you hold on a second? Sounds like I have a package. It’s so perfect that you were just about to talk about gear, and I just got a toy.

Alright, well then I believe you’re contractually obligated to tell us what toy you received.

Let me first open it and see if it’s right, because I got it on eBay, so you’ve got to see if it’s really what it is. It’s a Monotribe. You know, the Monotribes are discontinued now.

I did not know that, actually.

Yeah, and they’ve been kind of replaced by the Volca Series. I’m picking up the Volca Series, and then I always wanted to just get a Monotribe to connect in with them.

Right on. To go back to gear, since you’re not really bringing needles around, I wondered what your favorite mixer and your favorite headphones are?

Well, my favorite headphones were an old, single-sided, one-eared Stanton headset. The wire on it broke, and — oh yeah, it’s here. Would you like me to show it to you?

Sure, if you’d like. [Which can be seen briefly in the .gif above]

These are the headphones that I used for most of my DJ career. Since I started, until maybe about a year and a half ago. They’ve been kind of modified over the years. Step one was covering up the Stanton logo with this little bubble thing, and over the years the headphone pad has been worn out and stuff. This one-eared headset is just really brilliant. You always have one ear open to the monitor and one to your two decks. I found these so much nicer than — you know these kind of stick things that they —

Yeah, the lollipop things.

Yeah, I forget the name of those, exactly, but I just liked this so much better. It was just so much more convenient, you didn’t have to always be crouching your head as if you’re holding a telephone with no hands, or something. So that’s definitely my favorite headphones, but the wire on them is broken, and I kind of tried fixing it myself a couple times, and it didn’t really take. So I got some Audio-Technicas that sound good and they’re loud, but I like this old Stanton from 1987 or whatever.

And for mixers, I’ll mix with anything. There are definitely differences in mixers, for sound quality and stuff, but there are also so many other variables, with how the amps are set up, and how they’re tuned, and the speaker system, and if they’re channeling all the bass to mono. In the end, the mixer is not going to make or break a set. So things like a Urei or something like that are really nice. But to be honest, because I use the Pioneer effectors, like I have an RMX-1000 now. I used to use the EFX-500s. They’re so easy to plug into a DJM-800 or DJM-900 series Pioneer mixer, and I always know exactly what’s going to happen. So Pioneer mixers, for me, are just super easy. And they sound OK if you keep them out of the red. If you go into the red, they sound horrible.

And that’s the problem, all these DJs always crank everything up into the red, and then I l follow them — I put things back down into green levels, and so everything goes quiet, the tempos come down, the organizers come up wondering why the fuck I’m not turning the volume up. It’s like, “No, turn your amps up.” And usually the house engineer is like, the amps are up all that we can. So it’s like, “Well, then that’s what we work with. Let our ears adjust, then.” I’m definitely more the type of person who’s for people allowing their ears to adjust to lower levels that sound clearer rather than forcing DJs to always play in the red, especially if they’re on something like a Pioneer mixer that’s just going to sound like shit if it’s in the red.

It’s seems like, in my experience, that in rooms in Europe, it’s a little quieter than it is in America. It seems like Americans just really love pushing it Christmas-tree red. Is that your experience as well?

I don’t DJ in the States much, so I don’t know. But it is my experience that DJs in general always push into the red. And I’ve actually been at places where — actually this was that same event where I got called a faggot. And the DJ before me — I had my effector plugged in and the effector volume was up too loud. It was like the effects unit was in the red, and then the mixer itself went into the red, which is like a sonic disaster. But this really young DJ who was probably 19- or 20-years-old was like, “Oh my god, no, it made it a lot louder. That’s good.” And I was like, “No, sorry. You can’t use my effector to run my effects in the red to distort everything super loud.” But this DJ got really upset. Like, really upset. Like I was totally a fucking asshole to that person. There was nothing I could do or say. It didn’t matter how friendly I was, there was just no understanding to be reached with him. And that’s something that happens. People who play in the red just think it’s all about volume sometimes.

So let’s talk about the next 12 months. What’s coming up from you and your label and other various projects?

Well, I just actually finished the last of some remixes, and I’ve kind of been turning away remix work for the time being because I want to try and focus on some of my own productions again. But yeah, I just did two remixes for the upcoming Francis Harris album. One as DJ Sprinkles, it’s like a house mix. And then one as Terre Thaemlitz, that’s an electroc-acoustic, ambient thing. And then I’ll be doing DJ support for his album release tour. So we’ll be doing Chicago, Miami, New York, Paris, and London. And then after that, I’m taking several months off because this year was too manic. I’m not going anywhere until May of next year. I’m taking work within Japan, but I’m not taking any overseas work outside of Japan until May. And in that interim, I hope to get some different projects together. One would be a kind of electronic uncategorical piece for a tape label run by Will Long from Celer. And one would be hopefully starting the next Terre Thaemlitz project, in the kind of Lovebomb, Soulnessless chain of things. And then also to kind of start this new house project as well.

Excellent. I’m looking forward to all of them, as usual.

Yeah, I’m hoping one or two them might actually happen. [laughs]

ericbenoit  on October 16, 2013 at 8:13 AM

I just adore TT on every level, adore. Thanks, Steve, for conducting and publishing this fantastic interview.

Daan  on October 16, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Terry! <3

soos  on October 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

aaron  on October 17, 2013 at 7:35 AM

A fun and thoughtful interview. Thank you.

propertrax  on October 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

this interview series is above and beyond what we’ve come to expect from DJ interviews. thanks lwe

Fred  on October 17, 2013 at 1:37 PM

great interview, terre is always great to think with. thanks LWE.

Mitch  on October 17, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Another fantastic interview from LWE. Terre is definitely one of the most intriguing figures in dance music.

pablo/beaner  on October 18, 2013 at 7:53 AM

beyond wonderful. thanks steve. thanks terre!

Owen  on October 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Thank you both LWE and Terre. Interesting read

RID  on November 10, 2013 at 9:48 PM

I was at that gig in Moscow Terre’s talking about. Apart from the drug police raid, it was a great night. Particularly his DJ set (Demdike Stare were also good). One of the best sets i’ve ever heard. Sad to hear that he’s decided not to come here anymore.

PS. Boycotts are pointless/useless. They are only really affecting those, who are already in the opposition to vile politicans and their ignorant laws. (and if you have any knowledge about the political system in Russia, you must know that they have no means to change anything). Even worse, boycotts (or any other acts of that kind) help the totalitarian regime, such as the one in Russia, promote/maintain the us vs. them mentality and more importantly ignorance.
For things to change, people need to be exposed to the things they don’t understand, thing they are taught to hate. Only then will they realize that there is nothing to hate or fear.
Exposure, cultural exchange, globalization ftw.

emd  on November 18, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Thank for this excellent interview. I can’t wait for the Chicago show. Additionally, I think boycotts which are actually organized on a larger level than the personal or even personal refusals which are accompanied with a thorough explanation from the artist of their intent are meaningful. Playing in Russia right now or in Israel ever would change how I feel about a DJ. I think the idea that “people need to be exposed to the things they don’t understand, things they are taught to hate” is sort of imperialistic in nature, anyway. Lots of wars are fought with that logic.

casie  on December 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Great, Great Interview!

Trackbacks

LWE’s Top 25 Tracks of 2013 (5–1) – Little White Earbuds  on December 20, 2013 at 1:09 AM

[…] any time in nightclubs this year, you might have shared my shocked reaction when Terre Thaemlitz admitted doubting the potential success for her remix of the Mole’s “Lockdown Party.” No […]

Reblog: DJ Debriefing with DJ Sprinkles | MMMMAVEN  on December 10, 2014 at 5:11 PM

[…] some afternoon reading material? Peep this interview with Terre Thaemlitz (a.k.a. DJ Sprinkles) on Little White Earbuds. Sprinkles gets deep, and the […]

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