If house were a nation and LWE its president, Terre Thaemlitz is the first person we would look to when filling our cabinet. It would be difficult to decide where to put her, though, as his abundant talents make him perfect for many roles. As a top notch producer whose roots are tangled in the history of house, she’d make an excellent minister of culture; as a great thinker who elucidates hidden truths in media, gender, sexuality and our interactions with them all, he’d fit well as secretary of the interior of our heads. Midtown 120 Blues, his first album delivered under his disc jockey alias, DJ Sprinkles, brings these departments together, recontextualizing house music to the tune of sumptuous deep-house (easily nabbing the #3 spot in our top albums of 2008 list). So we’re very pleased to have Thaemlitz curating LWE’s 14th podcast, which is actually a live DJ mix from his Deeperama series.
LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles (73:35)
Where did the name DJ Sprinkles come from?
Terre Thaemlitz: It’s a combination of a lot of stupid things. I started DJing in a very Queer environment, dealing with a lot of safer-sex education outreach in clubs, some of which were sex-worker hang outs. I wanted a name that was totally anti-macho to go against the whole “bad boys behind the wheels of steel” thing. This was around ’87 or so, I was living in NY’s East Village and the hip-house boom was going on, and a key phrase was “it’s in the mix.” By coincidence, Pillsbury or somebody was putting out a cake mix with candy sprinkles for the frosting, and their TV commercial’s slogan was “Sprinkles in the mix!” I thought to myself, “That is so fucking gay!” Of course, the sex-work performance artist Annie Sprinkles was a kind of landmark in the East Village, so the name also conjured associations with sex work, golden showers, etc… So “DJ Sprinkles’ Deeperama” was born. These mistakes stick with us. (laughs)
Do you by chance remember much about the night this mix was recorded?
It was my first time in Fukuoka, May 2nd 2007. A few months earlier, the organizer at the club Decadent Deluxe had sent me some really nice DJ mixes to explain his event, so I was glad to be there. It was a mid-sized club, maybe a little on the small side — that’s something else I like. I don’t like big parties — those ones where packs of people come in super-hyped to hear somebody, and will scream and whoop it up regardless of what music is actually being played. I understand the social function of that kind of event, but it’s not my interest as a DJ or producer. I like small events where the audience consists of people who know what they came to listen to, as well as people who are wondering what the hell they stepped into. It was raining — it almost always rains when I DJ. The weather was a bit cool. I liked the sound, although I think there was some problem with some frequency or other – I forget exactly. Some brilliant contractor decided to build a condominium for the current wave of baby boomers near the club, so they were having problems with noise complaints.
I got a chance to listen to half of it today. Honestly, I was a bit surprised it wasn’t more… mixed, but I liked the selections.
No, I play tracks from start to finish. I guess some call that “Loft style.” I’ll use delay effects or something within a track, and keep mixing two copies of the same track to extend it (like in this mix I did it with “The Key”), but I’m not uptight about fade outs and silence on the dance floor. Part of it is that, as a producer, I’m interested in the way others structure their music in the studio. Every track has a certain structure, and when you edit that out as a DJ you also edit out that climax or anti-climax intended by the original producer. Also, I love long tracks — 10 minutes or longer. Especially when you do long sets of 4 hours or more, you have to allow for a different sense of time. Let the music create the moment. As a DJ, I don’t like the idea of the moment being about “me” or my mixing or whatnot. I’m interested in the music, and I prefer the audience be more interested in the music than in the DJ. I think it also has to do with frequenting roller disco rinks during elementary school in the ’70s, and then being a teen in the early ’80s, when mixers were not common. If you went to a “dance” (not to a “club”) you had pauses between cuts, maybe every fifth song was a slow jam which was always so exciting and depressing at the same time, ha ha! And before today’s style of record distribution, record shop selection was really poor – especially in the Midwest. DJ’s spun from a wide selection of genres.
Even when I first moved to New York in ’86 there were no genre-consistent “House Parties.” House Music was not a genre, it was the records owned by the club — by the House — and that meant a lot of old disco and other things collected over the years. J.M. Silk’s “I Can’t Turn Around” and LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” were two of the biggest house hits when I arrived in NYC, and I doubt anyone would mix those in the same set today, the tempos are all wrong, the genres are wrong…. LL Cool J as house? But yes, in that moment, it was. That’s how my ears were trained, I guess. There are some things that really are generational. Like, there are many young Japanese DJs in their late 20’s with amazing collections of classic NY deep house from the late ’80s and early ’90s — much better than my own record collection in that sense — but they are missing the LOSER TRACKS! The embarrassing tracks that SUCK SHIT! Reality was not going to a club and hearing classics all night. Reality was hearing that one fucking amazing cut in the middle of hours of shit. I try to bring that dynamic to all of my sets.
Who are a few of your favorite DJs, past and present, and why?
Although he is not really a DJ, I really loved the few sets I heard by Kuniyuki (aka Koss) from Sapporo. His sets are totally different from his releases on Mule. Very deep and soulful, but a bit dark. Also, DJ “Napalm” Tadokoro in Kyoto is brilliant — always very eclectic, yet somehow classic and deep. He organizes the Deepa-Licious events I play at in Kyoto, which are deliberately small and off-center. He’s a really interesting guy, very cross-genre. DJ Primula in Tokyo is really good for and ’80s techno-pop-ish kind of lounge setting. I used to try to get him to play at the Deeperama parties in Tokyo whenever possible. I really like DJs who share their collections with people — I prefer this kind of intimacy of selection over slick mixing skills.
What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
2008? Well, I hope to finish the MP3 archive of everything I’ve ever released, called the “Dead Stock Archive.” It includes over 400 tracks in about as many genres, spanning two data DVD-ROMs. And in 2009 I hope to finish a new electro-acoustic album called “Soulnessless,” which will be a two-disc set. Disc 1 is a 30 hour piano solo written as a single 4GB MP3 file — the world’s first “full length” MP3 album. Disc 2 is a video DVD of separate materials because these days a 30 hour album is never enough. The idea of putting out an album you cannot immediately play in a CD player or home stereo is calling into question the relationships between media formats and the album format. In effect, the links between performance duration and media duration have been severed, so what does this mean for producers? Not only compositionally, but also financially, if we must produce increasingly longer albums for smaller advances and royalties? These days everyone feels ripped off if they buy a 36 minute CD album, but that length was the standard from the ’30s through the ’80s because vinyl can hold about 18 minutes of audio before the grooves get too close and the sound quality degrades. We’re now producing “double albums” for less and less money than old “single albums.” Oh, and b_books in Berlin is supposed to finally come out with a bilingual English/German compendium of my writings to date, called “Nuisance: Writings on Identity Jamming and Digital Audio Production.”
Download: LWE Podcast 14: DJ Sprinkles (73:35)