Little White Earbuds Hook up your ears Tue, 09 Sep 2014 05:01:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Little White Earbuds Presents Rrose Tue, 09 Sep 2014 05:01:46 +0000 Inter-Rrose-1
Photo by Robert Causari

Two events, seven months apart: Rrose is first introduced to the world via Sandwell District, and the label proclaims its demise. In the intervening months, the seemingly new producer releases three gargantuan 12″s and a double pack of variations on American artist Bob Ostertag’s Buchla 200E recordings. Though it eventually becomes clear that Rrose is the new project of a veteran producer, information remains scarce, which seems to be half the point: removing the stage presence and identity of the performer, creating an immersive atmosphere, and questioning techno’s gender norms all seem to be crucial parts of the Rrose story. Setting up her own label, Eaux, Rrose has continued to prove himself a remarkable producer, melding interests in 20th century music with impeccable sound design. This weekend, Rrose will headline the inaugural edition of Sustain-Release in upstate New York: the festival’s psychedelic bent and mountainous location fitting perfectly with the artist’s surrealist, tripping techno. We caught up with Rrose for a brief chat about gender and presence, and she sent us a sterling mix of mind-bending techno.

Despite your anonymity, many are aware of your techno past, even if few know the exact details. What is it that you wanted to do with the Rrose project that differs from your past work?

Rrose: It’s mainly about focus. Now I set strict parameters, whereas before it was sort of anything goes. This project is a narrowing in and refining of one aspect of what I did before. There’s more emphasis on tuning, using frequency rather than pitch, and more thinking about the physical properties of sound.

You have talked about your dressing up on stage as part of the larger “performance” of Rrose. Do you find it allows you to feel more free on stage?

Not really. I generally like to keep the stage as dark as possible. I want people to feel my presence, but only as an anchor to the sound.

Many have taken Rrose’s gender to be female, but is that your intention? Is Rrose meant to be androgynous? Or is it meant to be a comment on techno’s often glaring gender divides?

All of the above. I’m not trying to make one specific, grand statement. Gender is (or at least it should be) a pretty fluid concept, so I think it’s good to get people thinking and talking about it.

Much of your music seems inspired by avant-garde 20th century music, both explicitly in your versions of Bob Ostertag’s work, as well as through the use of repeating, minimalist phrases and Reichian phasing (“Kneeling”). Has this interest always been with you, or is this an area of music you’ve discovered more recently?

It’s always been there to an extent, but more recently I took the time to study it, which makes me a little more disciplined in how I apply my influences. I should mention that I’m also inspired by non-Western traditional musics, early industrial, and all kinds of “non-musical” noise. But I’m still making techno at the end of the day, so the music has to be functional and make the body move.

Your DJ sets are often done on the computer, both live and as studio mixes. Do you have a background in traditional vinyl DJing? What does the computer allow you to express as a DJ that turntables wont?

I started DJing vinyl in the early ’90s and I still love the sound and feel of it, but the computer allows me to concentrate on layering, filtering, and mixing without worrying about beat-matching.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve made?

This one is fairly representative of recent DJ sets, possibly a little more driving than past mixes. As always, I try to choose tracks that really speak to each other and lend themselves to long mixes. There’s some brand new stuff, a few classics, and some unreleased material in there as well.

What’s coming up next for you?

There’s a related project coming out on Seattle’s Further Records (two live recordings of James Tenney’s “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion” for solo gong), a track on the Stroboscopic Artefacts five year anniversary compilation, and a remix of Teste’s classic “The Wipe” for Edit-Select. There will be a new release on Eaux before year-end as well, and some exciting projects are in store for next year.

Download: LWE Presents Rrose (66:13)


01. Rrose, “Untitled” [*]
02. Regis, “Reclaimed 4″ [Downwards]
03. Svaag, “Sage” [Semantica]
04. BMG + Derek Plaslaiko, “Your Mind is Mine”
[Interdimensional Transmissions]
05. Brendan Moeller, “Passage to Obscurity” [Atrophic Society]
06. Iori, “Inject” [Field]
07. Plastikman, “Elektrostatik” [Plus8]
08. Mike Dearborn, “Destruction” [Djax]
09. Broken English Club, “Untitled” [*]
10. G-Man, “Kushti” [swim]
11. French Fries, “Change the Past” [ClekClekBoom]
12. L.A.W., “Isola” [Black Nation]
13. Bronze Teeth, “Albion Pressure” [Diagonal]
14. Rrose, “Untitled” [*]
15. Kwartz, “Form and Void” (Reeko Remix) [PoleGroup]
16. Gunnar Haslam, “Ataxia No Logos” [Delsin]
17. Rebekah, “Diable” [Cult Figures]
18. Peter Van Hoesen, “Chroma 3″ [Time To Express]
19. Denise Rabe, “The Drama”
20. Antonio Vasquez, “Hidden Consequences From a Diffuse Reality”
[Exhibition Design]
21. Damaskin, “Kaona II” [Concrete]
22. Ben Vida, “pin ans sweek” [PAN]
* denotes tracks which, at the time of publishing, are unreleased

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Little White Earbuds Interviews Marcus Mixx Wed, 03 Sep 2014 05:01:21 +0000 marcus-1

Many times what divided the early Chicago house producers who became household names from those who remain underground heroes was not their musical abilities but their label’s business acumen. Marcus Shannon, best known as Marcus Mixx, is one of the better examples of this. Concerned that rapacious record labels would screw him and and his production partners Gitano Camero (aka L.I.A.M.) and China, Marcus opted to self-release nearly all of their productions. In a time where Chicago house records were selling thousands upon thousands of copies, such classics as “I Wanna House” and “Is This Dream For Real?” were limited to a few hundred each — and not out of a desire to create artificial scarcity. Many never made it to vinyl at all, at least not with Marcus’s permission in the case of Le Melange’ Inc.’s “Tortured Journey.” As this extensive interview below reveals, making music was truly more important to Marcus than widely disseminating it. And while he proved an adept label manager and club promoter in the early ’90s, there’s a good chance Marcus would have remained one of Chicago house’s forgotten greats if not for crucial reissues by Let’s Pet Puppies in 2006 and newer material on Unknown To The Unknown in 2011-12. I recently met with him at a Dunkin Donuts on Chicago’s near south side to discuss the origins of his productions, his short stint managing Trax Records, and where he’s at today.

Did you grow up in a musical household?

Marcus Shannon: Yeah, I grew up what is known as South Side Irish in the Beverly area of Chicago. I moved over there when I was 6, and that was in ’72. It was about 75 percent Irish and very heavily Catholic; so when I went to grammar school I grew up with [Led] Zeppelin, the Doors, and disco, soul, jazz, and blues. So I had a whole assortment of music that I grew up on. That’s where I get my ideas and thoughts from when it comes to producing or writing or whatever. I’m all over the highway.

When did you start making music?

I actually started recording in ’86. I’d just turned 20 and I had a great job at this grocery store, still in Chicago, called Jewel Foods. So I had the money to finance my own project, and that’s when vinyl still ruled. I did my first song called “I Wanna House.” My buddy hooked me up with this studio that was only $10 per hour. I’d never been inside of a studio, it was a little eight-track. That’s the guy Gitano Camero who eventually became one of my best friends ever. He didn’t even know what house music was.

So you introduced him to house music?

Yeah. We met through a mutual friend who was into everything. And when I went to the studio, the first thing I wanted was a simple [makes 4x4 kick drum noise]. He was like, “OK,” and he had a drum machine and was like, “Dude we don’t really mess with this drum machine, we have drum kits.” I was like, “Nah, I wanna do this,” and was really introducing him at the same time to my first project. I said, “Can you make it thicker and louder?” And the levels started pumping up higher and higher. He was like, “Man, what are you doing?” So I say, “This is what house music is.” So, “I Wanna House,” he didn’t have any syncs — you couldn’t sync the stuff up on his stuff, so I did it all by hand — the bass line, all the music — and I did my own vocals. The total project cost $300 ‘cuz he didn’t charge me. The following weekend when I went back to finish that song he was like, “Man, me and my girlfriend, China, we’ve been checking this out. We love house music. Would you help us do a song?” And we were best friends.

You worked with them on the project Le Melange’ Inc. How did that record come about? Just because you were all hanging out?

It was just us hanging out. We weren’t even looking at the studio aspect my second and third visits over there. It was the fact that they had the equipment; we’d be over there at 2, 3 in the morning listening to WBMX, the original Hot Mix 5, or some tapes I would bring by, because they were just getting introduced and stuff. They’d be like, “Hey man, I’ve got this great idea!” And we might still be over here doing whatever, and I might go in there and start playing around, or Gitano or whoever in this small little group we had including China and Krazy K maybe. “Wait, hold on, do that again,” and he would record it and loop it. Eventually we started moving up and we started getting more business-minded and was like, “Wow, we can really do something with this.”

Referring back to “I Wanna House” for one second, that first gap between when I got my first test pressing, we must have recorded four-five different songs waiting on “I Wanna House.” They were more excited than I was, because we actually built something from a seed and watched it grow like a tree or something. We got the first test pressing, it was like a young kid getting a birthday present. It was so exciting. I only ordered 300 copies, and I started to learn how to move product that way. I went to the original Imports Etc. on Plymouth Court, JR’s Records — I don’t want to leave anybody out, but the ones that were there back then — and I was like, “Will you please check that record out.” We didn’t have any radio play because we’d just started — I say we because they were helping me — and wow, we must have sold them instantly, because they wondered, “What is Missing Records?”

Why was it that you ended up putting it out yourself instead of trying to shop it around to other record labels?

Because of all the alleged rumors that you’d hear, in any form of music even until today. When you want to put something out, you’d hear that record labels are all just scum and all that, you need an agent, a manager. And in a lot of case you do, but like I said, I grew up in rock and that I’d talk to my buddies in bands and they were making money and they were still independent. They would sell their tapes at their gigs and some of them didn’t even have vinyl yet. So I took it from this level. Other DJs back then weren’t using cassettes as much, they wanted vinyl, so I said, “Well, I guess I gotta do vinyl.” It was my money, I didn’t go to my parents, because like I said, I had that nice gig as a kid at Jewel Foods.

But the problem, I’m looking back on it, we’d only pressed up like 700 copies. We did the initial order and a reorder. And then we did “Is This Dream For Real?” and other stuff, but we never really focused on it. Even when we had opportunities with Trax Records and D.J. International, and Ray Barney’s Barney’s Records, just locally, we didn’t really pursue it. It was fun, and yeah, “We made a clump of money, and let’s party with it.” We had no management of any sorts. It was like a hobby slash, like, “OK, we don’t have enough beer for this weekend, let’s sell 50 more copies to Imports.” It was good, but looking back, we coulda woulda shoulda, and everybody goes through that.

Because you did end up having one record on Saber Records [a Trax sub-label], and there was one on Streetfire, which was the sub-label of Saber. How did those come about, since you were mostly focusing on putting out the music yourself?

Oh yeah. The best thing about being on Saber, Streetfire, and even Trax Records was, and I have to give Steve Poindexter all the credit on this one, because one day out-of-the-blue he called me up and said he was leaving Trax as their A&R and asked me did I want the gig. And he actually hired me. Larry Sherman, the original owner, along with Rachael Cain — Screamin’ Rachael, she wasn’t as big a factor then, when Larry was still there. So Steve was like, “If you want the job, Marcus, you can have it.” I’m like, “Well, I haven’t really run a record company.” He said, “But you know how to promote stuff. It’s not that hard and we’re in the house music capital, third largest media market in America — it ain’t that hard.”

So I took the gig and Larry Sherman, after the first couple of days, gave me carte blanche. He said, “Make sure we sell the obvious stuff” — the stuff that sells redundantly to this day, “Move Your Body,” “The Jungle,” the Trax classics — “and put your stuff out if you think it can sell. Even if it doesn’t sell, we can recycle it.” Because he had that pressing plant. I said, “I wanna form Saber into this sound, Streetfire into more of a deeper sound.” There was a label called Dangerous which I was trying to make an acid house sound, and then you have the original Trax.

But the thing is, Larry Sherman had a very crappy reputation with distributors and stores, and even artists. I saw his Rolodex on his desk one day and I just went through the Rolodex day by day, all around the world, phone numbers and faxes. There was no email. And I let people know, “I’m running the label now — all of them — and [you] don’t have pay an extra $3-4 per unit. Come to Marcus Mixx and get your stuff done. And the numbers went up like 300% per week for sales, and that’s when I said, I’m going to put my stuff out, because at least if my stuff doesn’t blow up like that, there’s other things. He gave me access to his Cadillacs, which I wasn’t really into. He gave me the keys to the warehouse, I could party there if I wanted to. But I got a lot of work done, and I learned a lot from Ray Barney and Rocky Jones, and even Larry, just like the marketing and… It’s all redundant. It doesn’t matter if it’s house or hip-hop or rock, even country — I’ve been around that aspect. It all funnels up to, even if you’ve got great owners and stuff, the bottom line is: sell it.

How long were you in that position?

I was there probably six to nine months. Because it was more of a handshake deal — nothing was ever written down as far as doing stuff with Larry Sherman. That’s the problem why some artists, including myself, may get like $300 and that’s it. No points ever, even if your stuff appears in movies. But the reason I left was ‘cuz, he wouldn’t even give me gas money, let alone my salary, for like three weeks. I would literally take cash and money orders and all these certified checks that were coming to me directly now, because people were dealing with me instead of him. So, here’s five grand, and they would wire it to me. I’d say to Larry, “Hey I’m bringing the money to one of your houses.” He had like three at the time in the Chicagoland area. I would get in one of his Cadillacs he let me use, and I would take bundles of money like it was a Swiss bank, and invoices and everything. He would be so happy, and I would say, “Larry, I need like $50 to put in the Caddy.” “We didn’t do that well today, Marcus. Maybe tomorrow.” He was never yelling. I would have to beg him for $20 after I’m bringing him all this money.

Gitano was like, “Man, you’re getting screwed!” I went three weeks without getting any gas money. Family started coming out on me saying, “You can’t work for somebody who’s not paying you.” So one night, Gitano and I were hanging out and he was like, “You should bust him out for his bootlegging.” Now Larry Sherman had was rumored– I knew he was bootlegging, but I didn’t have anything to do with it. So I said, “If he doesn’t pay me in a couple of days, we’re gonna go to Channel Two News” here in Chicago. And there’s this lady Pam Zekman, and I invited her to the warehouse and showed her the bootlegging aspect as revenge for not being paid. [Larry] would thank me but I had to borrow money from ex-girlfriends and stuff just to work, not even to hang out or whatever.

That’s why I quit. That’s the only reason I quit. It was probably the toughest decision I made in my young years. I was in my mid-to-late 20s. Perfect job, because Larry was hardly ever there. I had my own desk. I would fly to work, whether I was staying the night at a girlfriend’s house or Madison or Milwaukee, because I would love to see how many faxes were piled up for all the orders. There was no fax catcher so they would be spread across the back room. I was getting orders in all languages from around the world. Istanbul, Turkey, I was getting… just imagine if the Internet was out then! I was meeting people mentally and only orally, and they were into Trax again and just starting to get into Saber. I would be like, “Why don’t you take 100 Dangerous’s and I’ll sell it to you for like $2, and I’ll give you — shhh — 50 of whatever Trax you want. Just put these on your shelves.” Now that’s basically common sense to anybody, but when you see it, any aspect of business or marketing, it’s like introducing a new cheeseburger.

Did you end up having any other jobs in the music industry after that?

Not necessarily as far as A&Ring or one specific label. That’s when I got more into the promotional aspect of just doing parties. What I would do is go into clubs and bars that would have very slow nights, and I would go to the owner and say, “Give me that night for a month, give me 50 percent of the door and I’ll get people in here. Very diverse, won’t be any gangs or anything, no matter what neighborhood in the Chicagoland area and ‘burbs, and you keep the bar.” And they had nothing to lose. I was still DJing at the time as Marcus Mixx and Marcus the Mixxer. I would get people like Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and Farley, and Hurley, and anybody. Just legends.

Were you friends with those guys?

Not really friends, because I’m like 10+ years younger, depending — it was like I was still a kid in high school when they were getting to the very tops worldwide. What I would do, and you would hear this story from a lot of guys who were in house music back then, I’d be very fortunate to carry their records into the club. I was lucky, at 16 I was driving a ’78 Cutlass, beautiful car, I was getting to the club an hour early, so when Farley pulls up, “Hey Farley, how you doing? Can I carry your crate in?” “Ah, OK, don’t break my records.” I didn’t know if he was joking — he was joking — but I’m like, “Oh my god, I hope I don’t scratch one record!” They would be all sealed and everything, but that’s how nervous I was. They’d ask, “OK, what do you want to do now?” “Can I just stand here and watch?” So I’d just be way in the corner as he’s doing his thing. And then more and more, I was just watching how they did stuff.

Is that partially how you learned how to DJ as well?

Oh yeah, as far as commercially really blossoming and making money out of it. I would do it for a hobby at home. But as a matter of fact, Frankie and Ronnie sometimes, but mainly Farley, would ask me to open for them. ‘Cuz there would be some gigs that would start at 7, and they’re the headliner so there would be a gap. So I’m messing around while they’re testing the sound, and Farley ain’t even got there yet. He’d be like, “Hey Marcus you want to open for me, go 7-9pm?” I knew nobody really gonna be in there, but it’s like, “I’m opening for Farley!” Getting out those cell phones that are like 50 feet high, you need a van or helicopter just to hold them to talk, “I’m opening for Farley!” “You’re crazy!” they’d say. “Come up there.” I’m sure other people have stories that are similar when it comes to basketball or whatever, carrying Jordan’s sneakers or Pippen’s.

What was the reaction to your music like back in those days? I know you were able to press 700 copies of some of your records, but what was the reaction like in the club and from other DJs?

The best thing about Chicago — and I earned most from DJ in general when I was doing it was, I guess the word is respect. Because most of them were putting out stuff, too. Even though their commercial stuff maybe number one on the dance charts, they always have other artists they’re experimenting with and they wouldn’t get the radio play other than themselves or their buddies. So it’d be like a trade off in that sense, too. They would also be honest, not necessarily in how you mixed or why did you choose this bass line, they’d be like, “You know how you get your stuff on the radio? Don’t make every mix like 8 minutes long. Do a shorter version.” I would mentally jot this down and maybe do a 5 minute version of what’s originally a 9 minute track for the club. When we first started hearing our stuff on college radio, WKKC and WNUR here in Chicago, it really started to make sense. I started getting more into the marketing thing. Now as far as selling these 700 records, we never really reordered. That was on us. We could have either re-licensed it or gone to Trax back then, way before I was working there, when I was like 20 at the time. D.J. International or Ray Barney here locally said, “We want to do something with that,” but we were just moving on and playing around.

I was thinking about how a lot of the subject matter of your music and the tone really reminds of stuff that would have come out on Dance Mania or Cajual or Relief Records. Did you ever try to work with those labels?

I think I started coming into contact with them. I never really traveled, and this was way before the Internet, but I had made contacts with them or been introduced to this A&R or this artist or manager or something. But the one thing we did down at Head Studios, we sort of made this underlying or invisible trust like thing. We wouldn’t go anywhere else. If Gitano does something separate, we still have to come along and be a part of it. So if he gets this great offer, we have to roundtable it. Mentally, really. We wouldn’t hold each other back or anything, but we never really pursued it. It was a great feeling having people say, “Wow, we coulda woulda shoulda.” But yeah, there were some other opportunities but, like I said, my life for maybe about five years consisted of going to my part-time job, just looking forward to the weekends. I would hang out with whatever girlfriend I was with, I’d have buddies come through, and we would break out the guitars and there would be Zeppelin styles. We would just experiment. It wasn’t like, “OK, you’d better be here by 10.” It was more, “Oh dude, we just saw this movie, I got this great idea.” We were all over the highway, and there’s still stuff that, God willing, it will be released. It’s in that T.A.P. and psycho-house mode. There’s some stuff recorded pre-1990 that’s on those DAT tapes.

So what happened to all those DAT tapes?

Hopefully they’re still with Gitano, or they’re somewhere. But I talk to him almost every other day on Facebook and emails, he says they’re protected so that temperature and time won’t mess them up. He says, and I believe him, that he burned them on a couple of CDs for back up. I hope that somebody gets their hands– it’s not really a matter of a lot of money, but once again… There’s some stuff that we did let some DJs play, Farley and Frankie and them, when they were still using cassette mixers, they would play them inside the clubs and I would play them inside the clubs, and there would be other DJs there like, “What is that?” You play guaranteed hits like “Move Your Body” or Larry Heard’s “Can You Feel It?” and then fade into one of our tracks and the crowd would still be up and they’d be like, “What is this?” “Oh, this is my track.” “What are you gonna do with it?” “Well…” And we weren’t being snotty, it’s just like, “Um, we don’t know if we’re gonna put it out next week or next month.” But a lot of them never came out.

For a period of time you were self-releasing a bunch of CDRs of your music called the “Legal Volume”s. First off, why were they called that?

I put that out when I was still staying in the house I grew up in in Beverly, the very diverse community I grew up in. I called them the “Legal Volumes” because a lot of our stuff had been bootlegged. So it was an indirect slap at the people who– since we only put out 700 original copies of “I Wanna House” and “Is This Dream For Real?” and stuff, people started bootlegging it. So I just started putting out the “Legal Volumes” for the few people like yourself who would notice it. But it was Marcus Mixxed Up Records; I did them all on an Acer — those huge computers — and I finally got Mac and did some stuff on that. Every single note I did. Some of them got out to, like Unknown To The Unknown and stuff like that. I didn’t really shop them as much, because I was taking care of my dad who had dementia. So I just dropped off the scene for about scene for about three years — recently, I mean. This is going back to about 2009 and ’10-11 or whatever. That was just stuff I would play around with.

The one thing I will say is, I’ve talked with Rachael Cain, the predominate owner of Trax now, I’ve already agreed… some people don’t want me to say this, but I’m very proud of this. She has a show called Trax TV based out of Chicago on cable 25. She said I can edit and help co-produce it.

That’s fantastic.

So hopefully there’s no blockade or anything comes up by anybody. But I’d love to be back with Trax. I’ve made up with Larry Sherman. And there was some other stuff in the gap I really don’t have to get into, but there’s no hatred or vengeance. It was stupid on both parts, we agreed to that a couple years ago. There were some other offers he had offered me. I didn’t even do ‘em, I was doing just mainly video editing at the time. But everything has been a nice, full circle ride. It’s good to know — the Internet, there’s some people even in the newer generation that like the stuff, even from the past.

That’s a good point. Do you still have the original master tapes of stuff like “Is This Dream For Real?” Because I bet if you were to do a legit re-issue you could sell thousands of copies if you wanted to. I don’t know if you do want to.

Oh, absolutely. It’s just a matter of legal stuff that I’ve never really been involved in.

Who has a claim on it besides you and Gitano?

It’s really all over the highway, because, like I said, a lot of that stuff we did, we may have a couple of our buddies over and they may have contributed to the one loop every 16 measures and people go “Wow!” and then get back into the song, and then there’s a build up. But they may have never received any credit. So I would say, a couple people are like, “Hey, I want my piece here,” which I’m for, but then somebody over here may go, “Well, their name is not on there.” I’m like, “Look, we have some fun just doing this and that, it’s better than nothing.” Plus it’s more pump– I’m looking at it from a marketing perspective. So there is some slight legal crap that may be involved, but I’ve never been involved in that.

Changing subjects, I’m curious when you got involved with filming and editing? Is that a long time interest of yours?

That was actually something that got started through Gitano as well. When we were becoming more and more buddies, about a month after our friendship and recording “I Wanna House” and they’re just starting to get into house music period, he was like, “I’ve got this great idea for this show.” He was more of the video guy, and he took classes down at Cable 19 here in Chicago, CAN-TV. He said, “Man, you’re not going to believe what I’ve been learning,” like one form of video editing, Chroma key, the weatherman effect. We out to the studio and there was this blue screen and he said, “Stand in front of the screen.” I’m just standing there and he put an image behind me and I’m like, “Wow. Hey man, get my head doing this!” [swerves his head around] His show was called Booom TV, like an explosion. Have you ever seen any of the old stuff?

I’ve seen a little bit of the stuff on your YouTube channel.

Yeah, there’s a couple of clips on there, but we still have all the tapes. So I go like this [moves his head again] for like 20 seconds and then I scream into the mic, the words “Booom TV” appear and then my head explodes. And the show was a house version of “Soul Train.” We may have 20 people in the studio, three cameras, and images in the background. And then there was a mix. We got mixes from Gene Hunt and Chip-E and Poindexter, and I did my own mixes. Every week were on, then we started going live on the air. So we would be on from like 11pm to midnight, and then we’re telling people to come meet us up at Club AKA or Coconuts or whatever we were doing. That’s how you promote: go live on the air. [laughs] I’d get people in for free, and then the following Monday people would be talking, “Man, Marcus Mixx did this party that was outstanding! You won’t believe! It was great, it was different.”

As far as the editing, I started branching off on my own and then eventually bought a couple of cameras. I’m not the most technical guy in the world. I like using the easy software that they call “grandma software” because even grandma can use it and it usually comes with the computer you get. I started building up. Currently what I’ve been doing the last couple of years is “Cheap But Not Cheap” videos where people literally send me the footage and images that they do on their own along with some clean audio and I’ll make a video for them.

The reason they’re cheap is because there’s a zillion bands out there. It’s not like I’m a saint or anything, they don’t have any other means, but nobody will do them for like $30 or $50. I do ‘em in like four hours, I don’t just crap ‘em out, but I actually get into it. So if it’s just a band playing in their basement, I’ll suggest to them as well, “Why don’t you go into your backyard and just jam? You don’t have to have the music on, just do Nirvana-type stuff and just rip-and-run and throw snowballs at each other, and send me the footage. Let me play with it and make a video, add some special effects, some worms, whatever, girls in bikinis, and turn it into a “real video.” So I’ve been doing that for a while.

And are you still making music?

Yeah. The gap now as we record this… by partying too much, by drinking too much beer, I physically have to go into rehab. The doctors gave me a choice. They’re like… and it was a spiritual thing, too. It was like, “You came this close to possibly dying because you just like…” So literally, for about the past two months now, I was in rehab first, then I went to Salvation Army, which is like a rehab/help people get their stuff together in a lot of ways. And now I’m at Pacific Garden, and this, God willing, is the last step. Financially, I have the money to go on my own, but I’m in a tumble with my family now. They think if I get access to my money all I’m going to do is drink it up. And I see where they’re coming from, but at the same time it’s like, God only knows how long I’m going to be here. I don’t know, you don’t know. We just have to see. They know that once I start editing and making music again for whomever, yeah, there’s going to be some money there. Not millionaire money.

How did you end up meeting Thomos from Let’s Pet Puppies?

I believe I met him at Head Studios. I don’t know who was doing… it may have been China. I don’t know if they worked together. When hears this, he may get angry because I don’t remember. It had to be at least 20 years ago, because it was in the ’90s. I just remember he was a big fan of some of our stuff, and he helped us get more distribution. We were on the cusp of starting to do something with Underdog Records and Missing Dog was the label that was really about to do something. He made great suggestions and started getting our stuff in different markets on a bigger level. Gitano and China and us, we never really thought of focusing mainly on the business side of it. There was no pressure from Thomos, but after Gitano and China broke up, we were still recording but it was this-and-that. We were doing the TV show and I was starting to do videos and promotions at the time. But his label, Let’s Pet Puppies, has some great artists like Jody Finch and some other guys.

[I asked Thomos myself via email. This was his answer:]

Thomos: In the early 2000s, I was heavy into record digging and obsessed with the Missing and Missing Dog material. Adding to the mystique, someone I bought records from insisted that Marcus was legitimately crazy, and could be found wearing a cape at Beverly bus stops. I’d later find out this was BS, as the party in question spread those rumors only after stealing most of Marcus’s record collection. True or not, it added to the mystery and fueled my obsession. Marcus would run Booom TV on Channel 21, Chicago’s public access station. The intro is this crazy rotating head (his), a jagged loop without any audio at all. Indescribably weird. Marcus is not crazy, but he’s eccentric to say the least, and Booom was always an outlet for his more avant-garde side. During the show he would basically beg people to call him, flashing his number up on the screen. One day I did.

The night I went down to Beverly to meet him there was an intense thunderstorm, making things that much more surreal for me. Marcus was living in the house he grew up in (pictured on LPP005), up on top of the only hill for miles. It was falling apart, and had animals living in some areas — he’d bang on the door to “clear” a room before entering. He showed me his damaged teeth from his unfortunate police incident. It became apparent that he had been completely detached from the music scene for years, a time capsule of sorts. He seemed amped to have gotten a response from Booom other than racist calls, which were relentless (and to which he seemed totally accustomed). He had been hiding in plain sight, begging people to call him.

Everything you put out on Let’s Pet Puppies was older stuff, right?

Marcus: Yeah, those are all older. He, Gitano, and I have all discussed some of the older stuff we discussed 20 minutes ago. I just don’t know the scheduling for it. It would do good because of the responses I receive from DJs. They’re like, “When are you going to put out this again?” A lot of these guys are doing it out of respect, they don’t want bootlegs and they still like vinyl. Thomos is the one I’m sticking with. He has other businesses that he does as well, but I’ve also talked to some other artists that I can’t name right now. They’re original house music stars who would love to appear on Let’s Pet Puppies. God, I swear, he knows this. That would pump up the label; I just don’t know when that’s going to occur. But there are some mega names from the beginning of house to now to, God willing, the future, that could be on Let’s Pet Puppies as soon as the go button is pressed.

When was the last time you DJed?

That was probably 20-25 years ago.

What contributed to you not DJing any more?

Oh, the promotional aspect. Do you remember those posters? I was just into all promotions and sponsorships. It wasn’t like I was saying, “Well, I’m a promoter now, DJs are here, get away from me,” but I wanted to make sure stuff got done. I learned that a lot of businesses, when I was focusing on house music at the time, if you tell a sponsor, like a major beer company or cola or chips or whatever, you’re gonna have this done, it has to get done. You can’t depend on friends and buddies. Even if they do put in their hard effort and it’s like half a crowd, because I’m going to take the hit for it, and rightly so. So I wasn’t really thinking about DJing at the time.

Have you considered it again in more recent times?

I have in the last couple of years, but, once again, my family — and they don’t rule me or anything, it’s just like, a mental thing — they’re like, “If you do that, you’re going to get back into the women and drinking and all that,” especially with more travels. I’ve had some offers to do some stuff opening for people like Farley and some other people, playing stadiums like Wembley. I can only imagine; I’ve seen it online. Even if I open, if 5,000 people are there and they don’t even listen to my stuff, but the time Farley gets there there’s 100,000 people, in a stadium for house music. It’s August 19th, 2014 now. God willing, next four to six weeks I’m going to make a decision of where I go. Is it going to be a nice, comfortable apartment or just something small where I’m not going to be inviting people over and tempted when the 12-packs come through and stuff. DJing would be great, though, even on a part-time basis.

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Time Division, Memory of Shape Mon, 01 Sep 2014 05:01:32 +0000 DTM_work_03

[Short Black Records]

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Based on Short Black’s first release, you could be forgiven for assuming a strictly-local ethos. For starters, the Melbourne-based label is named in honor of the city’s fanatical coffee culture, and its first signing was Matt Kennedy, a young local. But record number two, Time Division’s Memory of Shape, blasts that conception out of the Arabica-infused water. It’s a truly global thing, signed by a Swede — Short Black owner Johan Elgstrom — produced by two Frenchmen, and twice remixed by Americans.

Accordingly, it’s not a record which feels tied to any particular place. “Shape One” and “Shape Two” are sparse bits of rolling tech house which would feel at home in many an after-hours DJ set, if only for their lack of bold features. Groove is the key here, with swirling, dubby textures almost an afterthought. Both recall Daniel Stefanik’s later work, particularly for labels such as Kann, albeit with a smaller room feel. “Shape One” drags itself down somewhat by throwing Detroit-referencing vocals into the mix, a move that feels more contrived than anything.

Amir Alexander’s remix doesn’t do away with the vocals all together, but it does get more creative with them, shorting out the sample among flares of jaunty synth and distracted drumming. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Udacha, the Russian label that so perfectly blends jazz and house tropes with an improvised feel. Like Amir Alexander’s effort, Dakini9′s remix of “Shape Two” feels more sophisticated than the flat-footed original it draws from. Here, the original’s insistent groove is submerged into a line of swaying drums and moody chords. But in doing so, there’s also a sense that Dakini9′s pursuit of subtlety caused her to lose sight of the overall picture. At times, it’s hard to appreciate the track advancing anywhere, pleasant as its blanketing textures are. For certain dance floors — and home listeners — this feel, which dominates Memory of Shape, will be a boon. For the most part, though, it seems like Amir Alexander’s remix is the only cut that’ll truly get hearts fluttering.

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Little White Earbuds Presents MMM Wed, 30 Jul 2014 05:01:04 +0000 MMM-Interview-1

Erik Wiegand and Michael Fiedler have released on average less than one MMM record every two years since their 1996 debut, but despite this torturously slow rate of return for their fans, they have attained a highly respected position within their field. This too in the face of the fact that their music often sounds so simplistic that you wonder if they are not playing some kind of slick sonic joke on their listeners. But there is no denying the efficacy of their tracks to move you on a dance floor, mete out severe cranial damage and just generally mess with your synapses. LWE recently put some questions to the duo and found out more about their approach to making music, Erik’s involvement in creating soft synths for Native Instruments, and what each of the producers have in store for us with their solo projects and as MMM. They also gave us an advance preview of their forthcoming treats with an exclusive mix of their own work and that of some of their favored peers.

First of all, how did the two of you meet and what were you each doing musically already at that point?

MMM: A common DJ friend called Niplz introduced us in 1994. Erik had made music since his teenage days, but hadn’t released anything yet. After moving to Berlin in ’91 he built a small home studio and started to produce dance tracks. Fiedel was DJing and organizing parties, and he was a regular at Subversiv, an underground gay club in a squat. His musical focus at this time was mainly Detroit techno and electro stuff.

What was the common musical thread that made you decide to work with each other?

We liked what the other was doing music wise. So we tried to make music together. We had a jam approach where we used the studio as our instrument. We turned knobs of analogue synthesizers, switched patterns, we mixed on the fly, recorded the jam on DAT and cut it on the PC. It worked out very well to jam with four hands instead of two.

You had two great releases before you took a break from making music together. What was MMM to you at this stage? Had you planned out the project at all or was it just the result of two friends making music?

MMM was our platform to release our music, whenever we had something to release. We avoided the pressure of release schedules. That’s why we preferred to release it on our own via Hard Wax. The pause wasn’t planned. It just happened. Our circumstances changed.

What brought about the two of you working together as MMM more often again?

We had time and inspiration to turn the knobs together again. The first results were the Anniversary EP with Soundhack and a live set, triggered by an invitation to play at a Numbers party in Glasgow.

Has anything changed for you in how you make MMM tracks now as opposed to the earlier days?

Back in the days we mainly used analogue gear. Now we work with a computer for almost everything, using a lot of Erik’s Reaktor instruments. But the jam approach is still valid.

Is music your main occupation for both of you?

Yes, we both produce music, perform live, and DJ. Erik develops synthesizers. Fiedel also is also part of Wax Treatment, organizing events and taking care of the mighty Killasan Soundsystem.

MMM releases have a stark, almost crude simplicity to the melodies used. Would it be fair to say you focus more on sound design rather than creating complex rhythmic structures? What is the driving force behind the MMM sound?

We like to modulate sounds over time in an expressive way. That is what keeps the track running; it gives the structure of the track. Such modulations can create complexity too. But yes, we like to keep tracks as simple as possible. To us that’s the definition of a good club track. Simple but enough in it to make it work. There should be something special to it too, a certain twist, an idea that draws one’s attention.

Michael, you have started releasing your own solo work in the past few years. Had you always been making music on your own before or only in collaboration with Erik?

First I used to make music only in collaboration with Erik. But there were my own ideas that I wanted to develop and therefore I started with my own label Fiedelone.

The second release on your own label was from Your Silent Face. Will there be any other artists on MMM or is that strictly for the two of you?

As a release platform for collaboration projects I set up Fiedeltwo. Fiedelone is just for my own solo productions. On MMM there will be only our own material.

Did doing the “Meets Tshetsha Boys” release turn you on to more ethnic influences? I hear strains of that coming through on tracks like “Que Barbaro” and Fiedel’s “Trinidad.”

Must be coincidence. We listen to different styles of music. That’s where we get our influences from. We work with elements which are inspiring to us or might fit to what we already have. There is no real plan.

Erik you were behind the Razor plug-in for Native Instruments. What has been your history in synths and software and how did the Razor come about?

I constantly develop synthesizers with Reaktor that I use for music productions. For some years I worked at Native Instruments doing Reaktor related stuff, and later I contributed instruments to the library of Reaktor. Since a few years Native can also sell instruments made with Reaktor as a separate product. I had this idea for an additive synth and convinced them that we should release it this way. Then I developed Razor in partnership with them.

I was listening to your recent Boiler Room mix the other day, Erik, and it hinted that you might have a couple of new Errorsmith releases coming. Is that true?

Yes I am working on it. There must be a new Errorsmith release this year. I swore it to myself. It’s looking good. It’s been 10 years now without a release. An awkward anniversary. :-)

And you guys just released your Jack 7 12″. Is there more to come from MMM this year too?

We are busy working on an album and we are hoping for a single release from that this year.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?

We did the mix back to back playing tracks that we currently like including the new MMM and upcoming releases from us. Big up to all the artists for their great music!

Download: LWE Presents MMM (60:21)


01. Mike Huckaby, “Bassline 89″ [SYNTH]
02. Arttu, “UFO Funkin’” [Clone Royal Oak]
03. Redshape, “Dogz” [Running Back]
04. MMM, “Syncro” [MMM]
05. Matrixxman, “Simulation” (Creepy Autograph Translation) [Ultramajic]
06. Tom Trago & Bok Bok, “Silent G Safari” [Night Voyage]
07. Alden Tyrell, “Wurk It” [Clone Jack For Daze]
08. Errorsmith, “Joker” [unreleased]
09. Ratchett Traxx, “B1″ [Ratchett Traxx]
10. French Fries, “Bug Noticed” [ClekClekBoom]
11. DJ Deeon, “House-O-Matic” [Dance Mania]
12. KW, “Swift Day” [self-released]
13. Martyn, “Vancouver” (Head High Remix) [3024]
14. Pev & Asusu, “Surge” (MMM Remix) [Livity Sound]
15. Tallmen. 785, “Down” (Fiedel Remix) [unreleased]
16. MMM, “Jack7″ [MMM]
17. Fiedel, “Step Aside” [unreleased]
18. R1 Ryders, “Speedbump” [Current]
19. L-Vis 1990, “Not Mad “(Helix Bootleg) [Night Slugs]

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MRSK, Gunwar Tue, 22 Jul 2014 05:01:52 +0000 joseph ford 3[3]
Artwork by Joseph Ford

[Crime City Disco]

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Every artist uses aliases for different reasons. Martin Skogehall, though, has explicitly used his for the same thing many people do: to give voice to a particular sound inside him: really intense techno, in the case of MRSK. Which is weird, because Skogehall is far too creative (or perhaps just restless) to hammer away at the same old sound for years, the way some producers do. Only this reason — and a good dash of Swedish loyalty, of course — can explain him reigning in the frenzied MRSK sound just enough to fit onto Crime City Disco, a label dedicated to “deep, slow and disco influenced” house. Along the way, he connects the improbable dots between house, techno, disco, and rave. Which would be an admirable, if only he’d managed to do it in classier fashion.

All soaring strings and loose guitar-bass, “Gunwar” is heavily indebted to disco, but it sports a tough percussive foundation which hints at Skogehall’s usual predilections. Mostly though, these traces are masked by the track’s jaunty, honkytonking piano, which is loads of fun if a tad forgettable. It sports a similar percussive substrate, but “Amblin’s Roar” shows just how different things can be with a new overlay. Unfortunately, this one leans more towards the shrill, loopy side of rave via an orchestra of bleeps and wails. A string-heavy breakdown does manage to connect the aforementioned dots again, albeit briefly, but its thrills are far too fleeting to balance out the rest of the duration. As usual, Skogehall’s refusal to stay in one box is admirable, but on this occasion, it feels like he might have done better sticking to a more well-oiled gun.

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Win 2 tickets for the Argot label showcase @ Cameo Gallery, NYC Tue, 15 Jul 2014 05:01:18 +0000 0719ARGOT

Argot is hosting its first label showcase at Cameo Gallery this Saturday, July 19th. The night features the talents of Gunnar Haslam, Octo Octa (live), Policy, and LWE’s own Steve Mizek, and we want to give you a chance to be there for free. Just click this link and follow the instructions for your chance to win two tickets and a free copy for Eamon Harkin’s Back Down. Seems like a sweet deal to us, so get clicking.

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DJ Debriefing with John Osborn (Includes Exclusive Mix) Wed, 09 Jul 2014 05:01:16 +0000 DJ-Debrief-Osborn-1

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 forth interview subject is the UK-born, Berlin based John Osborn. Literally a DJ first and foremost, Osborn has been behind the decks since 1992 and developed a sizable following for his deep, dubby, hypnotic style. More recently he and DJ October founded the labels TANSTAAFL (There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) and TANSTAAFL Planets, which host music from both founders (Osborn having gotten into the production game as well) and talents as varied as John Daly, Bill Youngman, KEL, and Tallmen. 785. John reached out with an exclusive mix (found at the bottom of the article) recorded at a secret location in Tokyo, so LWE decided to catch up with this sought after selector who was just today announced as joining the line-up of the 2014 Labyrinth festival in Japan.

Let’s pretend we’re starting at the beginning of a DJ set. What would you say is one of your favorite opening tracks, something you’re able to start with no matter when you’re playing in the evening?

John Osborn: I have quite a few of these tracks that change over time. There is never a single track, but one track of many that I guess all do a similar service and that is to reset the dance floor and to mellow it out. I really enjoy building up my own vibe and putting my own stamp on the duration of the night. I quite liked the old UK dubstep/jungle DJ ideology of actually stopping the music between DJs as we are different people — albeit having been booked for having similarities in sound but, at least hopefully, we have different styles that suit and compliment each other.

The first few records are something I obsessively contemplate, so over the years I have built up a mental crate of quite a few good tracks that I like to open with. Currently I enjoy using “A Hymn To Him” by The Persuader, or more recent is a new track from Scuba called “Aphids.” Neither have a kick drum and have a very dramatic feel. Its quite enjoyable to see how long I will actually let the track play for before I mix out of it. If I am feeling in the mood I will go one step further and choose a track like Roger 23′s “No Movement In A Cycle,” or even something darker like Raime’s “Retread” and then build up from here. Or if I do feel like I want to keep the beat rolling but just drop the vibe then a lot of Fred P’s music does this job well. I could go on forever.

Do you enjoy playing your own tracks in your sets?

I play them when they are still unreleased so I get the opportunity to “test drive” them and hear them on a big sound system, see what needs changing and what kind of reaction they get. But pretty much once they are out I rarely play them. I think this is a personality issue I still need to deal with as it makes me feel kind of awkward.

Earlier this year you released a collaboration with Tallmen785. Tell me how that came together and maybe a little bit about your collab partner, as he’s a new name to me.

Tallmen785 is Brian Mitchell. It was around 2008 and he was fresh in Berlin from the U.S. He was into my sound and came to nearly all the TANSTAAFL parties, this is how we initially met. I kind of shared a studio space with him and he has been helping me learn the deeper music theory side of electronic music production over the past year. He is a really amazing jazz guitarist with an ear that most producers would envy, I know I do. Tom Diccico got in touch with me just as I was moving gear into the studio and I thought why not break the “studio partnership” in by doing this release together. Tom kindly agreed to this, as he was a fan of the Tallmen track on TANSPLAN, and it turned out to be a very fruitful working relationship and we are currently working on more stuff together now for RunOutRun.

The summer is just getting going, but I wonder if there is any track in particular you’d consider your “summer jam”?

I don’t think I have ever thought of a record to be a summer jam, although I am aware that certain music will work better in sunny locations. I feel that seasonal music is something that is more for mainstream “pop” than for real house music. A killer house track works all year round.

What are a couple of the records you can always reach for if you notice the crowd isn’t feeling what you’re playing?

Falko Brocksieper, “Outride A Crisis.” An aptly named track for such a situation don’t you think? Haha, but yeah, this always motivates the floor to listen and dance with intent. Or October’s “Singularity Jump” on TANSTAAFL. Straight up killer.

Are there any other tracks that when you first heard them you didn’t think that they would work in a club context, but then you actually tried it, it worked better than you expected?

Actually I would have to say October again, and that is his “Homo Sapiens” track — the first release on Caravan from 2008. I always thought it was way to deep and heady for a dance floor track — more an after-hours number– but I dropped it once with intent of slowing the pace down and got and incredible response as the bass washed in.

What would you say are some of your favorite or go-to tool tracks?

Stuff by Delano Smith, Fred P, DJ ESP, Mike Huckaby, Mr G, Norman Tally, Steven Brown and some early Radio Slave always keep things chugging along nicely.

I know you recently played in Ibiza. I wonder if you can share your thoughts on playing there and maybe why you feel like many DJs consider it an essential place to play?

It was definitely interesting. The people are there to have a whole year’s worth of savings of fun all in one big explosion, so they are not really up for faffing about with deep wandering story telling sets. They want a bang and they want it instantly, so you need to be aware of this, and also to be sympathetic to it. I certainly found myself mixing much quicker than I normally do, to inject more energy and finding out how I can make this type of dance floor work within my musical palette. I think it is considered so important to play there purely based on the fact that for more than two decades people have been going to this stunning island just to hear house and techno and to party. This has built up self perpetuating scene over the years meaning that the people want to hear the best, and if you’re playing there it means you have made it some way up the ladder of DJ success. Bottom line is, I am looking forward to going back that’s for sure.

Have you had the opportunity to play at any music festivals? When playing those sets, what do you do differently to make sure your set goes over well with that kind of crowd?

In general it is really hard to read a festival crowd because your more than often put on a high up stage so that your immediate “vibe” connection is lost. You have to concentrate more on the sweet spot of the crowd and try your best to reinstate that connection and certainly not worry about the people on the peripheral edges — they are only half listening anyway. If you build a good connection with the sweet spot of the crowd, that sweet spot will grow, dragging in the peripheral half-listeners and turn them into full on hands-in-the-air ravers if you drop the right tunes at the right time. Having said all that, I do play club music that is meant for night clubs. They are two different worlds and I am definitely more about the club. There is one festival I am looking forward to playing this year which manages to cement to two (ether)real environments together — Labyrinth in Japan. Really looking forward to that one.

What is your favorite time of day to play? And perhaps a favorite length of time?

I like the twilight hours, which in Berlin can be at several points in the 48 hour marathons clubs stay open for. I enjoy being able to go a bit weird and deep but still keeping things chugging up to a climax and I really need at least four hours to do proper damage. I will take three, but anything under two is just pointless.

What would you say is the oldest record that’s still in your DJ bag? What about the newest?

Well, the oldest that is pretty much always with me is Dionne, “Come And Get My Loving,” which was released in 1988. Such a tune. The newest, well, that was the promo I decided to download today, haha! It’s taken from a forthcoming album on Ninja Tune, Moiré’s Shelter and the track is called “Stars.” But he newest track I actually played recently in a club was a Spencer Parker remix of a track called “Vostok” by Rekord 61, or even a new ESS003 that I closed the set in Ibiza with and I don’t think this has even made the promo rounds yet.

In addition to TANSTAAFL, you also run the sub-label TANSTAAFL Planets. What brought about this sub-label and what differentiates it from the parent label?

The sub-label is for other artists that we like, and the parent label is currently for mine and October’s output. This may change. Nothing is set in stone, I have learnt that over the past years. Keep changing, keep evolving and things stay fresh and interesting.

Now for some gear-oriented questions: What kind of headphones do you use, what kind of needles do you use, and what is your favorite record bag?

Sennheiser HD-25s. I no longer have a record bag as I recently switched over to playing vinyl via digital medium which means all I carry is a little leather pack of SD cards and my MacBook. I am still playing vinyl though, via a high quality ripping set up that includes a Nagaoka MP-500 cartridge. This means my vinyl recordings actually sound better in the club than if I played the vinyl. Even if the decks were perfect and the needles were brand new, they can’t beat the sound I get via my ripping station. So for all the diehard vinyl only heads out there, sorry guys, but in this case. Through this process, sound quality wise, my digital files piss all over real wax in a club, unless you want to DJ on Thorens turntables with Nag carts (no back spins, cues and no pitch controller!). This is even something I would like to take up with Tony Andrews from Funktion One.

What’s your preferred mixer? More realistically perhaps, what kind of mixers are on your technical rider?

After two years of being a resident at a club with a Urei 1620 with EQ expansion I can say I do NOT like rotary mixers. I appreciate the sound, and the gorgeous, musical sweep on the pots themselves but long slow blends, no drama or action is not what I do as a DJ, it’s just not my style. So an Allen & Heath Xone:92, or actually, and controversially, I would prefer the Pioneer DJM900 Nexus mixer. Personally I like the cleaner, less EQ-ed sound it has to the A&H and I definitely prefer the DJM900 layout. A few current trend bomb shells there I guess, no records and no rotaries! Haha.

I used to be super trendy by default, labeled a vinyl-only, deep dubby house DJ, but the truth is I just never learned how to use CD players because I started DJing and buying vinyl in 1992 and saw no need to use CDs. Now I have made the effort to learn more about modern DJing technology mainly because I was motivated by the concept of having better sounding vinyl via a high end ripping station recording 24-bit aiffs. This has meant I have moved away from current dance music trends within my scene. I get a lot of shit for this by my “vinyl-only” contemporaries, but all I care about is sound quality and this takes a lot of my time up: cleaning, recording; and metadata labeling my tracks. At the end of the day its what ever works best for you, what excites you the most and what your tastes are. On my rider is the DJM 900 Nexus and/or the Allen & Heath Xone:92.

What’s coming up from you and your labels during the second half of 2014?

There is a collaboration from myself and October to come on TANSTAAFL, and there is also the second collaboration with Tallmen.785 on RunOutRun at end of this year. For the beginning of next year I have a solo EP on Hotflush Records lined up. Also we have plenty of great releases lined up for TANSTAAFL PLANETS, from the likes of Lerosa, XDB, Joey Anderson and some new debut artists. Plenty happening that’s for sure!

Download: John Osborn, LWE Presents Live In Tokyo (61:07)

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LWE Reviews Riverwest Fest 2014 Tue, 08 Jul 2014 05:01:01 +0000 dixontop
Dixon, accompanied by gaudy visuals of a woman’s ass in motion

Riverwest Festival, which took place July 4th-6th in Chicago, had a lot going for it even before the gates opened. Like a lot of major American cities, Chicago is finally hungry enough for dance music that a whole festival of it seems feasible. And with Wavefront Fest canceled this year, Riverwest stood poised to attract all the beat-hungry people not satiated by the EDM-focused Spring Awakening, the Chosen Few Reunion Picnic, or a few smaller street festivals featuring DJs. Riverwest’s line-up was broad enough to attract the above ground masses (acts like Deep Dish, Excision, and Guy Gerber), underground heads (with DJ Koze and Marcel Fengler), and all those in-between. Even better, the festival was centrally located across from Goose Island. Many of its organizers are veterans of Chicago’s club scene and several were involved with Wavefront in previous years, so it was an experience crew at the helm.

In some ways, Riverwest lived up to this potential. Being a relatively small festival, it was easy to get around, buy food or drink, access the toilets, and even the most sought after acts were never overcrowded. The weather behaved for most of the weekend except for a light drizzle on Saturday night, otherwise staying warm and mostly sunny. And most importantly, the artists delivered the goods almost universally.

Unfortunately there were some significant organizational flaws that kept Riverwest from being a full-on success story. The most glaring was the Belvedere Terrace Stage, located on the rooftop deck of the bar/restaurant Estate, which for all intents and purposes was its own separate event. Fest ticket-holders were not guaranteed access to the roof because of capacity issues, which Estate security staff told me topped out at 250 people. The only way to get up there was waiting in two long lines that moved only when someone else left the terrace — unless you wanted to buy a bottle service table for $1,500. And if you were one of the all-ages ticketholders, you weren’t getting into the 21+ Estate at all. On Friday, I spent all of Marcel Fengler’s set queuing, barely able to hear the music piped inside over the din of the crowded bar. Upon ascending to the terrace an hour later I found it was nowhere near 250 people full, looking more like 125-150 spread out across the roof’s two levels, with only 75 or so near the booth. And since it was one-in-one-out, you couldn’t leave to explore other stages or get food unless you didn’t mind missing other acts.

DJ Koze

The other downsides were smaller but still noteworthy. In addition to a lack of printed schedules anywhere (fest-goers were encouraged to visit the online schedule instead), none of the stages were labeled by their respective alcohol sponsor (Belvedere, 312 [Goose Island], and Veuve), so guess work and word-of-mouth was required to figure out where you needed to be at what time. Security was exceptionally tight and particularly aggressive in policing the festival grounds, the work of Premier Tactical Solutions Corp, a militia-for-hire whose staff wore fatigues and bulletproof vests like they were ready for a riot. While I’m sure that rooted out a lot of illegal drugs, it didn’t make me feel anymore safe or comfortable. The large stages were positioned no more than a few hundred feet apart, which meant there were significant sound bleed issues at almost all times. Perhaps most annoying was some of the stage management, which left more than one exasperated DJ watching their set time melt away while techs scrambled to set up gear between sets instead of during other sets. It seemed like the logistics of keeping a dance music festival running smoothly — like having booths large enough for two sets of gear — hadn’t been fully considered by those charged with doing so. This added up to a sense that Riverwest Fest was thrown together somewhat haphazardly.


Upon getting acclimated with the festival grounds and catching the tail-end of local DJ Mantas Steles’ opening up the Veuve Stage, I began the long process of getting on Estate’s roof. When I arrived Matador was playing a live set of what I can only describe as MOR party tech-house whose asethetic at times suggested the last six or seven years of dance music never happened. Another sad reminder of how far M_nus has fallen. A distressed looking DJ Koze started nearly 15 minutes late while the crew belatedly set up CDJs, but proceeded to work his magic from the first beat. His beautiful chosen melodic house tracks, all warped by extensive and expressive uses of effects, fit the late afternoon sunshine to a tee. It felt like a rare treat to be among the 150 or so people soaking up his chunky, psychaedelic selections, although I felt sad for the many waiting downstairs.

Henrik Schwarz

As Henrik Schwarz set up, I noted that the 312 Stage in the distance behind him was still as lightly attended as it had been all day. It felt especially unfair to see a full-on stage woefully empty while at least 100+ people waited in vain for rooftop access. Schwarz’s live set proved to be more frenetic and free than I had expected, rifling through his catalog of soulful house music. It started, of course, with “Chicago,” and despite stage monitors that couldn’t keep up with his need for volume, Schwarz gave engaging performances of “I Exist Because Of You,” his remix of Emmanuel Jal’s “Kuar,” and his remix of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World” interspersed with snare rolls and dynamic EQing. After that, hunger and a lack of interest in Visionquest’s lengthy set led me home for a while. I skipped all the various official Riverwest Fest afterparties in favor of Derrick Carter doing (mostly) disco all night long at Smart Bar, which was fantastic. If you ever get the chance to see him playing disco, don’t miss your chance.


Unlike Friday, most of the acts I most wanted to see on Saturday were playing the 312 Stage rather than Estate. Enjoying pleasantly overcast skies, the first set I caught was by Heidi. While Canadian by birth and raised in the spirit of Detroit, it’s clear that what’s in her heart is jacking house influenced by Chicago. No matter what she played, jacking percussion was at the core and nicely suited for afternoon ass-shaking. Matt Tolfrey offered his own house sound on the Veuve stage, albeit one cut with a techno edge. While not quite my style, it was better than the lowest common denominator festival house of Steve Lawler who followed him. Lawler did attempt to finish on a high note, playing “House Nation” by The House Master Boyz until he was abruptly cut off so techs could switchover the set-ups. Watching one the festival organizers apologize on-stage to the understandably miffed Lawler was uncomfortable but reassuring. I also caught parts of DJ Tennis, who started out strong with some melodically complex modern disco-house, but quickly retreated to safer, straight ahead festival house cuts that led me to wander.

Marcel Dettmann, who played the 312 Stage as night began to fall, is rightly included in the upper eschelons of darker techno DJs, but he doesn’t get enough credit for the musical breadth of his sets. It was great fun hearing him work out of his banging techno wheelhouse into more melodic territory, then slice into stirring house cuts like Fingers Inc.’s “Music Take Me Up.” It was easily the most dynamic set I’ve seen him play, which more than made up for the smaller crowd he drew compared to Lee Foss and then Deep Dish. I watched the reunited prog veterans for a little while and found they were playing music much more closely aligned with their respective solo aliases (Dubfire and Sharam), although a few goofy prog moments made it in, as well.

Dixon closed out the 312 Stage with a set very much in line with his appearance at Movement Festival a little more than a month ago. What’s interesting about Dixon is that while he’s musically rather close with his more middle-brow peers, his selections and pacing is superior. He played several of the weekend’s big tunes — I was able to pick out Moderat’s “Bad Kingdom” remixed by DJ Koze and Ame’s unreleased remix of “From Nowhere” by Dan Croll (who sounds alarmingly like Big Bird). It does make me yearn for the days when he was still playing deep house, but for what he does, he’s certifiably the best in the business. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to keep the crowd moving, leading Heidi to jump on the mic and exhort Chicago to put more energy into their response. But, in all honesty, the crowd proved lackluster at dancing all weekend, not just for Dixon.

I decided to skip the Sunday portion of the festival, as even its most appetizing names (Apollonia, Benoit & Sergio) were not enough to justify a third day in the sun. And no one needs me complaining about DJs I knew were not going to keep me entertained.

Early on I was told by festival staff that Riverwest Fest was already scheduled to return in 2015. While I welcome the opportunity to attend another dance music festival with sought after artists, Riverwest will need to greatly improve upon its organization and layout (perhaps looking to Movement for guidance) to win back disgruntled fest-goers. Otherwise it will be all too easy to simply attend afterparties and leave the festival itself to the naive masses.

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LWE Reviews EM15 Thu, 03 Jul 2014 05:01:28 +0000 EM15_Miguel-Legault__31mai-2014_21h51m31s_0148
Photo by Miguel Legault

For their 15th anniversaries, the Mutek and Elektra festivals combined into EM15, pushing past musical, visual, artistic, technological, and spatial boundaries for six days of electronic arts showcases, panels, workshops, and installations. Mutek continued to honor its traditions of well-rounded and sophisticated musical programming, booking a variety of avant-garde audio-visual showcases from both veteran and up-and-coming artists while still offering plenty of floor-friendly options throughout the week. The new festival headquarters were located inside the beautiful Musée d’art Contemporain (MAC). And, while many lamented the loss of the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) as a performance venue, the museum spaces and centralized location within the Place des Artes complex yielded some inspiring performances and ample opportunities to engage in interactive experiences both indoors and outdoors. This year’s attendance was higher than in years’ past and the festival’s scale was larger than ever, prompting organizers to add a couple of repeat showcases to accommodate more guests due to sold-out performances.

The experience of attending this festival, however, still means being an interactive consumer of forward-thinking electronic and digital arts, with plenty of showcases offering opportunities to get up-close and personal with performers and create an individualized experience throughout the week. Even the downstairs hall of the MAC provided an acoustically pristine and visually-engrossing space to consume the experimental works in the PLAY series, where those taking a break from the main events could enjoy great thought-provoking music and visual give-and-take from the likes of many local standouts including Fake_Electronics, Chat Noir, and Woulg, among others.

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Sigrid Vandenbogaerde. Photo by Diego Cupolo

Mutek has a tradition of slotting several big-name artists in the first two days of the festival and, since we arrived on Thursday, we missed much-anticipated and well-reviewed performances from Shackleton and Kangding Ray among others. When we arrived in the Impérial Theater (another new venue choice) on Thursday evening for the A/Visions showcase, Todor Toderoff was providing beats while Sigrid Vandenbogaerde’s chilling vocals crescendoed as she smacked her cello between vigorous bowing. The first half of the stirring set of Re: ECM material from Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer was ambient and ethereal, slowly incorporating more pulse-driven material delivered through the combined setup of a laptop and a modular system. The visuals for this night were subdued, letting the music take center stage. A quick look around the seats in the dark theater and we saw a good number of audience members taking catnaps, an accepted and not uncommon practice for the A/Visions showcases.

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Ben Frost. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

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TM404. Photo by Jeanseb Roux

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Matthew Hawtin. Photo by Jeanseb Roux

Thursday’s Nocturne showcase at the MAC was headlined by a commanding, rib-rattling performance from perennial Mutek favorite Ben Frost, a welcome respite from the relentlessly challenging experiments in noisy oddities coming from Rashad Becker. Up the street, Richie Hawtin brought his ENTER party to Métropolis, which had a decidedly younger and more intoxicated crowd than any other event of the week. A fantastic live PA full of trippy acid tracks from TM404 opened the main room, slowly building from in tempo from sub-110 BPMs to a full-on techno onslaught. Meanwhile, a well-appointed ambient showcase headlined by Matthew Hawtin was enjoyed by a small crowd in the Savoy room upstairs. As the night went on, the music in the main room felt far too monotonous to warrant sticking around.

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JTC. Photo by Diego Cupolo

Though Mutek ticket prices continue to climb, the free Expérience events are still offered and well-attended. On Friday, Austrian techno jam band Elektro Guzzi was the perfect danceable afternoon soundtrack for the even more perfect weather, especially after a delicious coffee and snack from one of the gourmet food trucks stationed right outside the MAC. Expérience 3 on Saturday hosted an outstanding DJ set from James T. Cotton that blended deep house sounds of the Detroit and Chicago persuasions and a surprise appearance from Space Dimension Controller closed out the showcase.

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Audion. Photo by Diego Cupolo

On Friday night, the opening act on the Métropolis main stage was, once again, the highlight of the evening. Voices From The Lake had everyone transfixed with the immensity of their chugging, percussive techno, which was — despite its loop-driven format and lack of melodic presence — as emotive as it was stoic. Matthew Dear certainly had a hard act to follow with his Subverticul live set as Audion. Even barely visible inside a giant led-lit floating spherical structure, Dear didn’t lack stage presence. He gave a far less-polished musical performance than usual, however, resulting in some sequencing issues. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, going wild with each bass drop, buzz, and squelch. All said, the visual spectacle was a bit too distracting.

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SWACK. Photo by Jeanseb Roux

Upstairs in the Savoy room, crowds were grooving to a deep and sensual set of original tracks with vocals from Stefny Winter and Claire Kenway performing as SWACK. Alicia Hush, whose energy was simply infectious and matched the danceable, funky techno being delivered to the hot and steamy room, closed out the night. While we did not make it to the MAC in time to hear the jazzy techno offerings of Archie Pelago, Heatsick was heating up the crowd with raw house completely programmed in real time on a primitive, Casio-like keyboard. Like some of Mutek’s live performances over the years, the product sometimes gets sacrificed at the expense of the process. To our ears, the simplistic chord-based synth sounds and limited selection of percussion samples resulted in an extremely repetitive set that dragged on for far too long, but the dance floor absolutely ate it up.

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Robert Henke. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

The most innovative and ambitious audio-visual projects are often presented during the last two A/Visions showcases and this year was no exception. On Friday, Robert Henke’s “Lumière,” an absolutely staggering presentation of sonic delights and laser-induced euphoria, was beyond impressive and rather difficult to capture with words. Following a polite request that everyone keep their mobile devices off until the encore portion of the set, Henke controlled the everything from a desk in the middle of the theater’s seats. The constant motion of two high-powered lasers and moving mirrors were mapped to every parameter used to create the highly-textural and intricate music, which ranged from ambient to industrial-like soundscapes using an amazing array of different frequencies. The lasers drew shapes and figures “presenting the archaic sign language of an alien culture communicating via emerging and disappearing traces of extremely bright light,” according to Henke’s web site. The stimulus of the audio-visual interplay was almost overwhelming, resulting in a truly breathtaking and transcendent experience.

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Herman Kolgen. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

On Saturday night, the final A/Visions showcase culminated with the convergence of experimental film and music. Herman Kolgen’s “Seismik” was a forceful sonic and optical juggernaut. Thematically-driven by earthquake vibrations, Kolgen used advanced instruments to capture seismic data in real-time creating visual output containing drawings of magnetic fields layered over high-definition landscapes. The performance was, at times, dripping with tension, only to be broken up by startling distorted sounds of crashing airplanes and screeching high-pitched beeps. Intercity-Express & Synichi Yamamoto, who followed, also utilized landscapes, alternating between earthly images and more abstract and geometric offerings. The music was atmospheric and buoyant, providing some much needed release following the intensity of Kolgen’s performance.

Magic Mountain High. Photo by Miguel Legault

Late Saturday evening involved a lot of running between venues for stacked lineups. Over at Métropolis, the analogue-heavy trio of Magic Mountain High (Move D and Juju & Jordash), drifted between dubby atmospheric grooves and deep acid lines that got the room moving. The tracks towards the end of the set featured a lot of guitar strumming that didn’t add much to the overall compositions, but other elements of improvisation throughout created some unique song structures. At the museum, Pinch gave a tour de force performance, mixing ominous subterranean deep bass tracks into and out of techno and slow-burning electronica. The room was dripping with sweat, which set up the crowd for Lee Bannon’s mixture of jungle and ragga-infused drum and bass. We ran back to Métropolis in time to catch most of Ricardo Villalobos’s extended early-morning DJ set that hearkened back to a decade ago, when he played a percussive mixture of many different techno and house flavors at a rapid pace.

Ricardo Villalobos. Photo by Miguel Legault

This year’s Mutek edition of Piknic Electronik drew an absolutely enormous crowd compared to any other year prior and, sadly, the overall atmosphere of the event suffered. The attendance spike produced insufferably long lines for food, drinks, and toilets that caused much frustration. In previous years, this event had a relaxed vibe with a wide age range among patrons, including many families with small children. As day turned into night, the crowd was dominated by non-Mutek participants, especially very young partiers who seemed more interested in getting intoxicated or hooking up than the music.

Ricardo Villalobos. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

Pinch. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

In terms of musical offerings, however, this year’s lineup far surpassed those of the last several years. The smaller stage featured two surprise guests: Villalobos opened, playing a mixture of delightfully weird minimal house, while Pinch followed, curating an excellent series of quirky dubstep tracks that made it impossible not to wiggle. On the main stage, Move D threw down a superb set of classic house and disco tunes that transfixed the crowd and slapped looks of unadulterated joy on everyone’s faces, while Dozzy ushered in the night with a flawless set of pounding, yet danceable techno. With an early flight mere hours away, we opted for sleep and missed the final Nocturne event. The showcase featured distinct performances and a cohesive jazzy jam session between Canadian artists The Mole, Mike Shannon, and Guillaume & The Coutu-Dumonts, as well as the polarizing 5-hour “from scratch” improvisational set from Nicolas Jaar and a cast of performers and video artists.

Move D. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

Donato Dozzy. Photo by Caroline Hayeur

Mutek has always strived to be more than just a festival experience and, after 15 years, it continues to succeed in nearly every aspect from the superior sound systems, to the cutting-edge lighting and production designs, to the wide-reaching musical curation, to the selection of spaces, to its unparalleled dedication to fostering connections between artists and attendees. Experimentation and innovation are still valued and, while a few performances invariably fall flat, they are nothing if not thought-provoking and challenging. What sets Mutek apart from other festivals is that you don’t simply leave entertained, you’re left feeling inspired, enriched, and educated.

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LWE’s Guide to Riverwest Festival 2014 Tue, 01 Jul 2014 05:01:26 +0000 Riverwest

Being the birth city of house music, there is a surprising dearth of dance music festivals here in Chicago. Spring Awakening (aka the EDM Bowl in Soldiers Field) and the Chosen Few Picnic (truly closer to a huge family reunion) aside, the only dance festival of recent times has been Wavefront, located on Montrose Beach. The city shut that down to in response to a bevy of noise complaints last year, and Riverwest Festival has quickly taken its place this weekend from July 4th-6th. In kind, LWE has prepared this quick guide to the festival with our picks highlighted. More info is available at the Riverwest Festival website.

Friday, July 4th

Henrik Schwarz

Adrian Lux
Bob Moses
Matthew Dekay
DJ Koze
Marcus Fengler
Fil Sonik
Phil Groves
Inphinity & Kalendr
Max Jacobsen
J Worra
Kid Delicious
The Martinez Brothers
RJ Pickens
Henrik Schwarz
Special E.D.
Mantas Steles
Ten Walls

Saturday, July 5th

Marcel Dettmann

Nikola Baytala
Lee Burridge
Deep Dish
Marcel Dettmann
Ari Frank
DJ Three
Jimmy Edgar vs Danny Daze
Lee Foss & Anabel Englund
Garrett B & Dabura
Michael Gracioppo
Steve Lawler
Jason Patrick
Robots On the Run
Sean Strange
Mia Wallace
Marcus Worgoll

Sunday, July 6th

DJ Tennis

Art Department
Nick Bassett
Benoit & Sergio
Black & Yellow
DJ Tennis
Steve Gerard
Guy Gerber
Hot Since 82
Johnny R
Jamie Jones
Lauren Lane
Damian Lazarus
Mind Against
Morgan Page
Paul Ritch
Dustin Sheridan
Eric Volta

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