LWE Podcast 173: Steven Tang

Sometimes it’s not just a fable that slow and steady wins the race. It’s taken more than a decade for wider audiences to discover the persistence and clarity of creative vision which have defined Steven Tang’s catalog. But all along, the Hong Kong-born, Chicago raised producer would remind himself that “failing is not an option,” and continue releasing stunning deep-house and techno records on his own Emphasis Recordings for going on 15 years. Tang operates both under his own name, where he makes his most expressive and musical tracks, and Obsolete Music Technology, which showcases his most floor-friendly work. While Emphasis will always be Tang’s homebase, branching out with other labels — including Aesthetic Audio, Machining Dreams, Syncrophone, and most recently Smallville Records — has afforded him the renown his talents deserve. In July Smallville released his debut album. Somehow, after 15 years in the making, it succinctly emphasizes his appeal, offering a mixture of more commanding dance tracks and more esoteric explorations with dance music’s form. And now there are many more vinyl-hungry fans paying close attention. Little White Earbuds took the opportunity to interview Steven Tang at his apartment in Chicago, learning more about what’s given him the drive to make it as a full time artist. He also mixed together LWE’s 173rd exclusive podcast, 60 minutes of luscious house and techno, both new and old.

Download LWE Podcast 173: Steven Tang (60:04)

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01. Jody “Fingers” Finch, “Whistle Worm” [Let’s Pet Puppies]
02. Jungle Wonz, “The Jungle” [Trax Records]
03. K. Alexi, “Me” [Eargasmic Recordings]
04. Juergen Junker, “From Day 1 On (Dedicated To My Grandmother)” [Laid]
05. Tobias & Marco, “Untitled” [Confuser]
06. Chris Mitchell, “Snakes Heat And Concrete” [Vanguard Sound!]
07. Chicago Skyway, “I Don’t Give A Fuck” [Eargasmic Recordings]
08. The Sun God, “The Nine Billion Names Of God” [Bio Rhythm]
09. It’s Not Over We Hustle Harder, “Conscious Collectives” [It’s Not Over]
10. The Oliverwho Factory, “Before” [Dolly]
11. DJ Aakmael, “Crazy” [Welcome Back To The Underground]
12. Drivetrain, “Acid Track” [Soiree Records International]
13. Paul Mac, “Retro Basics” [BoomChik]
14. Massimo di Lena, “Ms3” [Bio Rhythm]
15. Javier Orduña & Active, “Luz De Coco” (Steven Tang Remix) [Pong musiq]
16. Norm Talley, “Track From The East” [Roundabout Sounds]
17. Loco Dice, “Black Truffles In The Snow” (Mike Huckaby’s The Jazzed Out S Y N T H Remix) [Desolat]

I’m kind of curious what your relationship was like with Chicago’s scene from when you started, and how your relationship has changed — or if it’s changed.

Steven Tang: The only difference is that now people know who you are. And, you know, they don’t treat you like a second-class citizen in the scene, if you will. It’s just one of those things we all have to kind of earn our “respect” in the scene. But I don’t think — it’s just different people. I don’t think people treated me differently back then as opposed to now. It’s just pretty much the same.

I guess the reason I asked that question is mostly just because it feels like it’s hard to be a house musician in Chicago.

Ugh, from the looks of it, yes. I mean and even for me and my own personal experience, yeah, it’s been hard. It’s been a long road. But it is what it is, you know? And we all have to do what we’ve got to do to survive — not only to survive regular, daily life, but creative life as well. So we all have to do what we’ve got to do. But me, personally, it took me a long time because I felt like I wanted to do things more honestly, as opposed to kind of trying to wheel and deal and step over people. I wanted to be cool with people and be like, “Hey, let’s do something.” But a lot of times back then people were into their own stuff.

What are you thinking of specifically?

You know, thinking of collaborating, and I guess some people might not see the bigger picture. Because once you go overseas, man, it’s like people romanticize about Chicago and Detroit and wonder what the scene is like and what people are like, and if people are together. And I felt like, “No.” I mean there’s competition, but it’s almost cutthroat here. As opposed to in Europe, at least in Berlin because that’s where I’ve spent the most time, I felt like people at least have more of a friendly competition. People will network and help each other if they can. I’m sure there’s always going to be beef between crews and things like that, and there’s always that kind of stuff where people are in their own little cliques. But in Chicago, the scene is so small, and then you’re in your own little clique and you’re wondering why things never grow. I felt like early on I was trying to connect people and bring people together. I wanted to work together with people, but people weren’t for that. So I was like, “OK.” So I just went ahead and started my own label and did my own thing, you know? And was not worried about a scene. Because obviously, people in general were not worried about a scene in Chicago, so…

Were you going out and dancing and going to clubs much around the time that you started the label?

Oh yeah, sure. But I think when I started the label, that’s when I was winding down, but prior to that, sure. I was going out every weekend and seeing faces; and then after a while, when you go out every weekend, you start to notice — you’re seeing the same faces. So some people you connect with, some people, you know — it’s just one of those things where people might be just shy. I know I was a little bit. You don’t want to bother certain people. Or let’s say if they were already an artist or a DJ or producer who’ve kind of made a name for themselves, I wasn’t starstruck, but you just kind of want to keep you distance. Here you might have an artist you respect and you like their music, and then you meet them and they turn out to be a complete asshole. “OK, that’s an artist or DJ I really love their work, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t think I want to meet them because it might just fuck up my whole — what I thought of them.”

So your first release, Windy City EP was really excellent. I went back and listened to it again last night and I’m thinking, “This is this guy’s first release, and it sounds so confident.” How long had you been making music before that came together?

It came together — started around ’96. Early ’96 I just was not happy in college. So I quit school, picked up a second job, and decided I — and even when I was in college, I was taking courses that I felt like could help me. I think in the back of my mind, I already wanted to do it. I already knew I wanted to make music. Didn’t know that I was going to start a label, but at the time I knew I wanted to make music. It was just like the DJing thing, I went as far as I can go in terms of, my skills are not going to get any better because I started DJing in ’88. And in the early 90s I was very confident in my DJ skills, and I was buying records regularly, so the fact that I couldn’t get bookings or even work with a promoter or a club to start a night. And then there was already — there were people in place.

There was a lot of competition — a lot of DJs in Chicago, a lot of great DJs in Chicago who people will probably never hear of. It was just so intense in terms of so much talent coming out and so few little places for people to express their creative ideas. That’s when I decided, “Yeah, I’m going to just quit and produce music.” That was the next step, and just from looking at the landscape at the time, of this industry, thinking, “Who’s getting booked?” And everybody that was getting booked was producing music, too, or had label. So I was like, “Alright, I’m going to do that.” I started teaching myself to produce. I got stacks and stacks of Future Music, Computer Music. I mean that’s how I taught myself, with periodicals, magazines like that. Electronic Musician, all that stuff. Any periodical I could get my hands on, I was reading that stuff. And what put the bug in my head was a friend of mine loaned me an Amiga computer after the early 90s. And it was simple score program, and each score is assigned to a particular track and you assign a sample to that track. I took courses like music theory in college just so I could learn how to read a music score and things like that. And that’s how it all came together where I was like, “Oh yeah, this is something I would like to do.” It was fun.

So when were the tracks written that actually ended up coming out? Was it around the same time?

Yeah. Well, Windy City, that came about in a two-year period. When I started and learned it wasn’t I was trying to rush myself to market, you know? It was getting the two jobs to have the money to buy the equipment. And so once you get the equipment, it’s like, “Oh shit, I’ve got to pay for it, so I’ve got to be at this job for, like, 80 hours a week, so….” You know, where would you have the time to make music? I felt like, “OK, weekends, or a couple of hours before I go to bed and things like.” And it was a culmination of two years of teaching myself and learning the process. And then around ’98, I finished the EP, and I thought, “Wow, this is great stuff.” I’d originally wanted to make banging techno, but after going into the studio, that record came out instead.

Right. It’s still pretty hard, but in a lot more melodic sense than perhaps you were initially going for.

Yeah, originally I wanted to make rave music. You know, at the time, mid-90s, the Detroit techno thing and the raves. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make some banging techno. But once I got into the studio, the melodic stuff — I felt like the melodic stuff and the “deeper” stuff kind of came out. That’s the direction I was going, and it made me realize also, “Yeah, I’m already burned out by the techno” — hard techno stuff. At that time it was at its peak, and so I knew, “OK, this shit’s going to die really, really fucking soon.” You start to realize as you get older, “Man, that stuff is trendy.” I don’t want to do stuff that’s trendy. I want to be able to make a record and have some shelf-life in it. Originally shopped Windy City around to a few labels, techno labels.

Can you say who?

I remember sending a demo to Djax-Up-Beats at the time. Because Djax was doing a lot of records from Chicago artists. So I sent a demo to Djax. I don’t think I heard anything back from them. And then there were some other labels that were kind of small, but I don’t even remember now; it feels like so long ago. It wasn’t even that many labels. At the time, I felt like they were like my favorite labels, and I felt like, “Maybe this stuff might fit with them.” I think I pretty much got no reply. That’s why I can’t remember the labels. So I said, “Shit, then I’m going to put this out myself.” I’m already doing two jobs, so I can raise the money. And that’s what I did. And I came up with the name Emphasis Recordings, and that was it. And I don’t recommend this to any young person doing this right now. Because I made the record before I even had the distribution. That’s how gung-ho I was, and that’s how much I believed in the work at the time. Now when I listen to Windy City, I think it’s good, but I feel like, “Ugh, amateurish sounds,” you know, in terms of, “Ah, I could have recorded that better,” when I listen to it again.

At the time I did that record, it sounded really great to me, and I was like I want to put this out. So I raised the money and I made the record. Up until that point, I had worked in a record store, like a third incarnation of Imports Etc., that was on North Avenue. So I was working there maybe like one or two summers. For no pay. You only can get records. That was fine by me. So from working there, it gave me a look into the business side of things. So even though I made the record without distribution, I already knew who I wanted to contact. I knew of the distribution houses at the time that existed in the U.S. So Watts in New York, at the time. I approached them. There was a small company in — what was it? — LA or San Francisco. I’m not sure if these people are even around anymore, but I pressed up 500 copies, contacted Watts, and I contacted this place on the West Coast so I had each coast. I was not going to directly to local shops in Chicago. I did not go to Gramaphone.

After I sent Watts a promo copy they wanted 500 copies. They wanted my whole lot. I was like, “Well, I can’t send you the whole lot, so I sent them like 400 and something copies, and then on the West Coast, I sent these guys, you know, like maybe 70, 80 copies. And yeah, and it worked out. I was like, “Shit, they really liked the record. Cool, great.” And got paid a week later, luckily, because they —

Because it’s now kaput.

Yeah, Watts went out of business. By the time I was working on the second record and I contacted Watts, they were already out of business, or they were going out of business, so they did not take my second record. So I had my struggles in terms of dealing with distribution. Because Watts was the biggest in the U.S., and they closed down. So for my second release, the reason why there was also that slow output was you’re working two jobs [laughs] to pay for the equipment you just bought, you know? And then also, once you did finish a record, you had no distribution. So I was a little afraid because I was like, “Fuck, I just got started and here’s this digital — the advent of the MP3 and all this digital techonology that’s coming out, and people are pushing that.” So and yeah, all of the distributors in the U.S. pretty much closed down.

were there any in Chicago at that time?

Groove was not around. And Crosstalk may or may not have been around in the late 90s, no. I think it was early 2000s was when these places came to be. Dirk [van den Heuvel] at Groove and Phillip [Hertz] Crosstalk, they used to work for Cargo Record and distribution in Chicago. When they closed down, I guess they started their own business. But at the time they weren’t around yet, so everything closed down. Basically, vinyl shut down. I mean I was afraid, “Like what the fuck do I do now? Am I just going to start an MP3 label?” That was not really all that interesting to me. I’m glad vinyl’s making a comeback, in that sense. I think the fact that it has come back, in a sense, that now I am not so against digital technology. I just didn’t want digital technology to eliminate vinyl. I just think it should be something that’s there for people that want it, and then you have this digital technology that’s also available for people who want to go that route. So now I have no problems with digital. I was lucky to find Crosstalk in the mid 2000s.

Are you doing music now full-time?

You could say that. I am doing music full time. That’s always been my goal, to do music full-time. I know that it’s hard, and I know the success rate is, like — especially in our little industry — is very low. But yeah, I just didn’t care what the statistics are. I was like, “This is what I want to do, and I’m just going to do it.” That had just been my thing. I just didn’t like the alternative. The alternative is to go back to school. I have friends or people I know who are going back to school so that they can get a better-paying job. I mean where does it fucking end? You know what I mean? So for me, failing is not an option. That’s been my mentality, you know?

Is it mostly gigging that gets you through?

Right now it’s the gigging. I have made some money, you know. I’m fortunate to be paid to — whatever the amount of money, even if it’s a dollar — I have to say I’m fortunate that when I do something, that somebody is actually paying for my work. I mean there are a lot of artists that start out and they’re willing to do stuff for free, and I really don’t recommend tha. Not just in music, but in all creative areas — writing, photography, you know, web development, things like that. There are people out there willing to do it for free, and it just cheapens the art, you know? So yeah, I’m very fortunate now that at least I get one dollar for a track or a remix that I do. So I can’t complain.

Do you feel like it’s necessary sometimes to be a full-time artist in order to succeed?

Yeah, because it will take all of that energy. I mean that was another thing, too: I feel like, why am I giving 80-plus hours to the corporation and I get nothing in return? Sure, I have a little money, but there’s no satisfaction in it. And it goes back to, like said, failure is not an option. I have to keep going, keep plowing through, whatever it takes. You know, if a record didn’t do so well, I’ll make another record. Keep going with it, you know? And that’s pretty much been my mentality this last, what — 13, 14 years, in terms of when I started producing.

Let’s take a little turn: where do the ideas behind your tracks come from?

Just sitting at the desk. Or sitting in front of a keyboard. Or, these days, sitting in front of a soft synth, with a MIDI controller, and just basically, you know, hammer out some sounds, try and find sounds that are interesting or somehow move me in some way. A lot of times, when you’re playing around with sounds, you can kind of hear a melody in it, and it kind of writes itself, in a way. You’re looking for inspiration when you’re tweaking sounds. A lot of times the writing is really easy. The hard part is spending a day just sorting sounds, going through sounds, whether it be samples or sitting in front of a synth trying patches. And once you get a bunch of patches together, then you go into work. It’s like prep work, you know? So doing your prep work makes doing the work after that a lot easier. And it may even help you, in terms of sparking creativity in writing that one track.

And how do you go about, like, bringing these things to life?

Well, if I hear something, you know, I try and write it, loop it, and then once that loop is playing, then I try and go and cycle through other sounds and see if I can add something on top of that. And so forth and so forth until I feel like it’s something that’s full. It tells a story or it gives the listener a certain mood or something like that.

Are you a producer who spends a lot of time working on one thing, or do you consider yourself rather prolific?

I am not prolific at all. I mean I wish I was more prolific, actually. But it’s OK because the one thing I’m more focused on is when I produce something, I have to make sure that it’s tight. If it’s not tight, then it’s just not going to get released. And if I don’t have anything that’s worth releasing, then I just won’t release.

I’m always going for a timeless sound because, you know, I don’t follow trends because trends die. I mean I want to make good music, and good music lasts, you know? And that’s what I’m going after, and I’m very fortunate that I think I’ve been able to achieve that. And I have proof from record sales, where after awhile of having stuff sitting around in the warehouse — and I’ve kind of kept prices very reasonable — so people have been picking at it, and now I’m doing re-presses of the first record, Windy City. It’s great. So I hope that it can continue, and with this album that just came out, I hope that it will bring more listeners to discover my sound, we’ll see where it goes.

Let’s talk about the album for a second. Disconnect to Connect contains a few tracks, like “Heat Burst” in specific, which sort of recall your work as Obsolete Music Technology, and I wondered if you felt like you needed to incorporate that to make the album more rounded, as far as sounds go?

I did. I did. I definitely wanted to make a more well-rounded album, not just sonicly, but also in terms of commercially. I was thinking commercially as well, not just, you know, from an artistic standpoint. Just from looking at the landscape of the music business, kind of looking at what sells, what doesn’t sell. Because at the end of the day, I’m wearing many hats. Sure, people see me as an artist, but I do a lot of stuff that’s kind of behind the scenes as well in terms of trying to run this label of mine. Even if this work was going to be released on my own label — if I was going to send it to somebody else, I have to look at the commercial side of things.

A lot of artists wouldn’t necessarily admit that. I know it’s a consideration that many make, but I’m honestly surprised every once in a

while when someone is honest about that.

You kind of have to. I mean art is is a business, you know? How else are you supposed to pay for your living expenses if you spend your whole day doing art? So you have to have some commercial value, or look at the commercial value of your art and be able to kind of make some decisions on, “OK, this stuff here will be commercial, and this stuff here is something that I want to do because I like it and I enjoy it.” It really depends on where you’re at in terms of your own personal career. But eah, when putting the album together, I was totally looking at the commercial side of things as well as the artistic side of things. I didn’t want to do something that was just one particular type of sound, even though some might say the whole album sounds the same, or sound.

I specifically wanted to ask about the jazziness in “It’s Perceived As Sound” was a side of you that I really hadn’t heard before.

Yeah. That was something that I wrote back in, like, 2000. It was just me experimenting in the studio. I listened to other types of music, and I said to myself,

“Why don’t I try to emulate a jazz track using electronics?” And that’s what came out of it. And then I felt like it wouldn’t really sell well on an EP. I figured I’d hold on to it if and when I have enough material for the album. So yeah, that’s why this track is being released 13 years later.

The album is a mixture of old and new material, so I wondered how did you end up deciding what would be on it?

I knew that those ambient pieces were going to be on the album. I knew that also, those type of tracks by themselves would not necessarily sell the album because you have to understand, again, the commercial side of things, meaning, “OK, this market is driven by DJs and driven by people who want to play records out.” So I had to throw some stuff that was dance stuff in there. Or, in the case of “Heat Burst,” yeah, that original idea was supposedly for an Obsolete Music Technology track. If I showed you the original idea I had, the drums were completely different. The bass line stayed, I changed the drums completely and made it kind of jacking and kind of a familiar sound that people can, like, “Oh yeah, I recognize that. Some 909 drums, and it’s jacking, acid. Great, cool.” But I had that acid bass line written a couple of years ago, actually, with some different drums, and I decided to go back and change it up for this album. Because I wanted something that was really straight dance floor — like, there’s no mistaking it, from the opening minute, opening second.

And how did you end up choosing the other tracks? Were most of those newer? Like the sort of, like, mid-tempo-ish — ?

The mid-tempo-ish, like the title track of the album, that was maybe written in the last six, eight months. It was something I’d been working on, working on, working on, and same thing with “Some Solace” was something that was something I worked on for the last six or eight months prior to February, because that’s when I submitted the tracks.

What role did [Smallville Records owners] Julius [Steinhoff] and Just [von Ahlefeld] play in paring it down even further? Were they like — ?



No, there was nothing like that.


I spoke with them over early last year. I forget when. Or maybe even before that. I had seen a couple interviews they did where they mentioned my name. And I was like, “Huh, OK.” I knew they were fans, but when you mention my name in an interview, I was like, “Oh, these guys must really, really like my work.” And so having traveled to Hamburg and playing with them two years ago and gotten to know them, I was thinking to myself — having gotten to know the label and then the artist, Stefan Marx, who does all the artwork for the label, I was like, “Yeah, I would like to release this album because I want a full-color jacket with my album.” That was my whole thing. “I want to get nice packaging for my album.” The only label that I know that are doing that kind of stuff on a regular basis is Smallville, so I was like, “Let’s give them a try. I just hit them up. I sent them an email and was like, “Hey, I’m working on this album. Would you be interested in releasing it?” And without even hearing a track, they said yes. I told them, “I’m not done yet; I’m still working on it.” And so that was that.

I left it at that, and many, many months had gone by since that first e-contact. A friend of mine was asking me, “Have you finished the album? Have you showed the Smallville guys any music yet?” I said, “No, I haven’t showed them anything; I’m not done with it yet. I want to show them the complete thing when it’s done.” And my friend was like, “Eh, you should probably show them something, you know, because they’re Germans. They really need to know that you’re actually honest about putting something together.” I showed them four or five tracks, and they were like, “Yeah, we like it; we like it.” And that’s all they said. They didn’t give me any explanation or any criticism. Those were the tracks that I had done already, which were the older ones. So I showed them that, and they were like, “Yeah, we like it.”

I’d just gotten done with the tracks this past February, and that’s when I sent it off to them. And I sent the tracks in the order that I wanted it, and I showed it to them and told, “This is how I see it,” and they got back with me and they were like, “OK, we like it. We like how it sounds; we’ll do it the way you have it.” That was it. I mean they’re very short and very precise in everything they say; their emails to me are very, very short, very curt. They say what’s on their minds and that’s it. There was no criticism; there was no changing this of rearrange that. Flash forward to July and it came out.

In general, you seem to be a little bit more at ease working with other labels these days. Would you say that’s true? Because generally, most of your stuff has come out on either your own labels or a friend like Hakim Murphy’s label, or something like that. It’s been a progression.

Yeah, it’s definitely been a progression. Up until this point, since early on when I started this, I couldn’t get signed to labels, and so I had to start my own label. And then flash forward 10 years, 11 years later and I’m just like, “Well, what’s the point?” I might as well just keep doing what I’m doing, releasing stuff on my own label and it’s been working for me. I might not get the hype, but I see it in sales. I see people picking at my backstock; I see stores carrying my stuff. So that’s fine with me.

And then I met Keith Worthy, and we became friends. And then after we became friends, he asked me, “Hey Steve, would you mind doing a record for Aesthetic Audio?” And mind you, I had no intentions of releasing any material on another label. I was like, “Sure,” because he was just a cool guy. He came down to visit me a couple times, we hung out, went drinking, broke bread, you know? He was just a cool regular guy and I trusted him. So when he asked me, I had some material that I’d already done. I lost my job at Crosstalk, like, November 2008. When I lost my job, I decided not to look for work. I was going to put all my energy into the music, and I had all this material I had written like “Since The Accident,” the stuff I did for Hakim, that stuff was already written. And I was just waiting and thinking, “How am I going to package each single together?”

I had showed Keith one track and he really liked it. I gave him some other stuff he wasn’t feeling, so I was like, “Alright, let me write something around this one track you like,” which was “Glimmer,” the first track on the B-side of the record. And then, after that record came out, that’s when Hakim hit me up. And he hit me up at the right time because the next record was the Machining Dreams release, and originally I was going to release that on Emphasis. But when Hakim approached me… I kind of knew what he was trying to do, you know? I felt like I should, instead of push people away, let’s work together somehow. And he was a cool guy who I’d gotten to know him over the years, and I was like, “Here you go; here’s this record.” He wanted to do 200, 300 copies, and I was like, “Dude, we are going to do a re-press of this shit. You know this record’s going to sell.” And sure enough, the 300 was sold in a week, and then a week — maybe a couple — a month later there was a re-press, and then he stopped it. And then I forced him to do another re-press late last year. And then now with a track from the record is on Steffi’s Panorama Bar CD, I’m going to talk to them about doing another re-press because I’m sure with that track being released on the Panorama Bar CD, there’s going to be more new listeners that may be interested in that track, and it could equate to sales.

So I am looking at things commercially. But I’m not greedy. [laughs] You know, there’s a difference where I have to look at the commercial side of things, but I am not trying to rule the world. It’s just about trying to survive and keep things moving — keep the records moving, keep the records coming. It takes money to make a record, you know? So people need to stop being childish and stop thinking like, “Oh, you know, it’s not about the money.” Come on, now.

You’ve got to make money to turn it into something.

Yeah, exactly. How am I going to make a record if I don’t have any money?

I know you’ve worked with Chicago Skyway a little bit. Is that ever going to see the light of day, that material?

Yeah, right now we’ve just been playing around. He’s been able to work with other artists in Chicago in particular — Hakim Murphy. They’ve got a new record out on Episodes, Ike Release’s label. Me and Skyway have been dibble-dabbling, but nothing has come out it. It’s just scheduling, so to speak. But yeah, I eventually would like to really continue with that collaboration and see where it takes us.

Do you have any other burning desire to do collaborations with other artists?

Not really. I’m working with the people that I’m working with because I’ve gotten to know them, they’re friends of mine. But other other than that, no. I mean unless something comes along. I mean I never say “never,” but at this moment I can’t see myself working with anybody because I have just have a full plate as it is, doing remixes and trying to follow up on those records. I want to follow up with an Aesthetic Audio release, follow up with a Dolly release, and the Syncrophone release, as well. Maybe start thinking about a second album if this one sounds like it’s doing well. I mean I haven’t seen any figures yet, but I hear those a lot —

It’s still early times.

Yeah, it’s still early, so — yeah, but I would like to do a second album.

So to sort of start wrapping things up, I know you have sort of three main sets of influences: Chicago house, Detroit techno, and shoegaze or indie rock. I was wondering if you would tell me three of your favorite records from all three of those influences.

I mean I would have to say, of course from the Detroit side of things, of course the Juan Atkins, Derrick May stuff. I mean there’s really no one record in particular, but it’s just their sound that I really — heavy influence of mine. And in terms of Chicago house, of course Larry Heard, Mr. Fingers. Love his work. And then as far as shoegaze, there’s all kinds of bands I like. My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, you know, that kind of stuff.

Do you ever think we’re going to see any more of an influence of the more indie stuff on your music? Vocalists or anything like that?

You never know. You never know. I haven’t met a vocalist yet. Or at least one who I want to work with. I mean I would like to work with other musicians in that aspect if I can, like, venture out of what my sound is and try something new. That’s going back to that previous question, if I was to work with other musicians or other artists, that would be the reason to work with other musicians and artists — if I was do a completely different genre of music or incorporate another genre of music with my own sound.

What were your intentions for your Little White Earbuds podcast?

I was just going to do a mix where I show a little bit of my influences, from old stuff to new stuff. So you’ll hear a bunch of different stuff in the podcast. Yeah, from like old, classic Chicago stuff, Detroit stuff, to what I like of current music today.

And you’ve kind of hinted at this, but what’s coming up from you in the next 12 months?

Traveling more. And also writing more music. That’s really been on my mind. Even more so than traveling is writing new music, see if I can write not just the same ol’ stuff, the so called the nostalgic stuff that I’ve heard some people say about me. Just more music. I want to create more music.

And you’ve mentioned that you’re interested in maybe doing a live set as well, right?

Oh, yes. Live set. But that’s something also management is pushing me to do, as well. Not just me in terms of switching things up, because I can DJ all day. That’s fine; I don’t have a problem with it. But just to make things interesting and do something different while traveling, other than playing records. So yeah, I’m working on the Obsolete Music Technology live set, and I’m still trying to figure out the technology part of the live set. So that’s while I’ll be working on in the next six, eight months to a year: the live set. New music, new releases on Emphasis, as well as — I’m trying to release another artist on Emphasis, from Chicago. An unknown artist. He’s in and out of the scene. He kind of keeps to himself. I did one record back in 2005, 2006. He goes by the name Intrinsic, so I hope to hear something from him really soon. I have two tracks from him already, and I need one more.

Last question: what was the best piece of advice anyone gave you about being an artist or being successful?

Oh shit, to be honest with you, when I started this, I guess you could say I decided to kind of just do it one my own. I was kind of becoming an introvert. I kind of have tendencies of being very social, and then there’s the other side of me that is a complete introverted person, where I just like to be alone and just left to my own devices. So when I started this music thing, it was something that I did on my own, and I really had no advice. I was just going about it all on my own. So no one really gave me any advice. But a friend of mine when I started DJing, gave me the advice of — “The break is 32 beats.” [laughs] So you just count the beats. 16, multiples of eight. That was the DJ advice that I got from a friend.

That’s good advice.

Yeah. The music production thing and the label thing was completely — I learned on my own and felt everything out. Made my own mistakes, tried to learn from other people’s mistakes, as well. But yeah, I’d really gotten no advice from anybody. [laughs] Sorry.

Hakim  on August 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Yeah Tang….

kuri  on August 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM

great interview. just when I thought I knew him 😉

Chicago Skyway  on August 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Do DAT SHYT TANG! Great Interview and mix.

Comrad  on August 23, 2013 at 5:01 AM

I just wana say that I really like Steve Tangs music, but after reading interviews with him and hearing about his dedication and drive and the 80 hour weeks and the struggle. Its made me just wana go out and buy a ton of his records, not just for the great beats but all his story. He deserves it.


Steven Tang – LWE Podcast 173 | DREAM DRUMS  on August 19, 2013 at 8:06 AM

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Steven Tang – LWE Podcast 173 | The Hipodrome Of Music  on August 20, 2013 at 4:11 AM

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