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Photo Mixing q[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Much of how I judge my connection with an artist is based on the lessons Kevin Kennedy taught me about one’s musical compass. In a candid conversation we had on how we both relate to music, he shared with me an insight that has become a core idea to how I approach music. He said that one knows very quickly if a track or set speaks to them. If the music grabs you and leaves you bobbing your head then you know that you have a connection with that creation. I have carried this insight with me and it has helped me immensely in understanding and refining what I call my musical compass. This inner compass is pretty important in our time period of increased “connection,” screaming NOISE, and endless mounds of “news.” Like the magnetic forces of our north pole has provided a form of navigation through endless horizons of land and sea, our inner musical compasses now guide us through the mounds of information that we all have to move through to find the art and people we connect with most and want to learn from. It was this compass that has led me to a deep appreciation for Tony Fairchild’s work and his desire to take the long, scenic route through the valleys and mountains of skill building rather than the direct route of instant gratification.

Anyone present the the first time I heard Tony Fairchild spin could see how I instantly connected with his work. Prior to seeing Fairchild spin live, I had not heard much of his work. I knew from the little exposure I had with his mixes online that we had a common musical vocabulary and were interested in the same constellations of sound. However, it was not until that set that it really clicked for me. It was not until I turned off all the distractions and just opened myself up to that experience that my musical compass confirmed how much I connected with his vision of the world. From the minute that needle hit the first record, I could not stop bobbing my head and was soon propelled into strange, trance-like convulsions around the dancefloor. However, its not surprising that I connected with his work.

At that time, my musical compass had me exploring the darker spectrum of techno and house, which primed me to look deeply into the imagery behind Fairchild’s set. Fairchild spun a set that weaved together a string of sounds that evoked the dystopian soundscapes that seemed to really be capturing my imagination at the time. The set ebbed and flowed through an exploration of the space in-between precision and spastic syncopation. It moved from propulsive energy to the sort of deconstructed sputtering so characteristic of the music of the past 6-7 years. In this set, I saw the richness of our organized world revealed. I saw the “perfectly ordered universe” of our bureaucratic lives set against a backdrop of the contradictions and dysfunctions of the very human systems we have created. I saw past the rhetoric of how our world worked to see the simple realities of municipal bankruptcies, the convulsions of the world economy, and our inability to deal with simple social problems in a direct and non-partisan fashion. In his soundscape, I saw him revealing simple truths about the nature of our reality and the common space and organizations we share through the synthesis of sound. Quite pointedly, I saw that despite our best efforts to make things work the way we want them to we will always be human and have to adapt to the paths presented to us when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Aside from my connection to his music, it is quite obvious that Fairchild has embraced his own inner music compass and has let it guide him to construct his own path through the sound. His inner compass led him to not shy away from the challenge of embracing vinyl. He has embraced a deep respect for the music format and the lessons it can teach someone. His inner compass guided him to not shy away from making the transition from the “dubstep” that gripped him in the mid 2000s into “house”, “techno”, etc. He took the lessons he learned on how to focus on a single genre that he picked up listening to these artists and applied it to other constellations of sound he had yet to explore.  His inner compass led him to not shy away from the long, scenic route of attempting to master the craft of DJing. In our age of instant gratification, this is a powerful act. Fairchild rejected the seductive lure of building a social media following and its accompanying HYPE. Instead, he invested his time in building a toolkit of skills that would help him express his voice. He took on the never-ending task of mastering a skill, and in that act dropped out of the rat race of EDM. He just followed that inner compass and opened himself to what the experience will teach him. Is that not what all of us should do if we are truly paying attention to our collective soul and seeking to connect deeply with the sacredness of our community and the art we all love?

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[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Luckily, Fairchild was kind enough to do an interview and a mix for us all to share some of his art with our community. I hope you have the chance to check out the mix and interview. It really captures the deep respect and reverence Fairchild has for the artform we all love. I hope you too will show this same respect for this mix as more than just another 54 minutes and 6 seconds, but as an opportunity to see what Fairchild is trying to teach and reveal to us. Don’t come at it ready to judge. Come at it with no judgements at all.  Respect the music and the artist and amazing things can happen and you can allow the music to lift your mood, your spirits, and your heart. I know this mix he created has done that for me numerous times over the last two weeks as I let it float into my world. You can connect with Fairchild on his Soundcloud page and through his association with local dance organization Squared. He plays on a regular basis for Squared’s monthly at Victory’s.

Mix:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Tony Fairchild: There are two sides to this coin. First, music inspires, stimulates and opens my mind to new ways of perceiving reality or giving shape and sound to a reality that may only exist in your head. Dance music, techno in particular, tends to either paint a picture of the reality in which the artist exists or create an alternate reality that the artist has dreamt up. Detroit techno is the textbook example of the first; guys writing tracks about the decaying, technology-driven city in which they lived. The whole minimal-Perlon-Ricardo Villalobos camp really exemplifies the second; guys writing tracks to give shape to some exotic alternate reality or future that exists in their head. Both approaches allow me to experience realities and aesthetics that aren’t my own and open my mind to a bigger world of ideas than the one I naturally inhabit. It’s a great experience to listen to a piece of music that conjures up the image of another time and place in your mind.

On the other hand, music distracts and consumes me. I have a very obsessive personality and the thought of the next record I buy, the next artist I discover, etc. can take up a bigger portion of my thoughts and attention than they should. I have to consciously temper this, otherwise I would have no friends and my only chance of getting a tan would be from the light coming off of my computer from the Discogs home page. It’s a double edged sword.

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LA: How did you get into dance music?

TF: Listening to a lot of electronic music in high school in and early college. Traditional music production (ie bands) lost its appeal and I sought anything that was produced electronically. At first I listened to a hodge podge of genres, trip hop, IDM, techno, it was all just electronic to me. Around 2007-8 I got really into dubstep coming out of the UK. The sound was so novel at the time. It all sounded like the music for a film noire score. In retrospect it was a good entrance into the dance music world because it was more cerebral than dance floor oriented and that’s the kind of stuff I had always been into. Guys like Skream, 2562, Hessle Audio and Digital Mystikz narrowed my focus to a single genre. Around 2009 as dubstep DJs started to slow their tempos and mix in house and techno, I followed suit and started exploring those genres. You’d heard a DJ mixing a 130-135 dubstep track with an Anthony Shakir cut for example. I loved those blending of genres. Basically I listened to Ben UFO mixes and played whatever he was!

LA: There has been much written about the resurgence of the popularity of people of our generation going back to vinyl. What got you into vinyl and what keeps you loving the medium?

TF: I had a really strong conviction when I decided to start spinning that I wanted to do it the hard way, the way all the old school guys did. I thought that if I took the hard road I would end up being much more skilled in the long run. There was also a gravitas I felt from the DJs I liked that spun vinyl. They had the dubplates and the super-rare old school jams. It showed commitment and I respected that.

Chain Reaction2

What keeps me at it now is the desire to master the craft. That and I am obsessed with buying and collecting records. I get sweaty hands every time I go to the records store. “What goodies will I find this time?” I was up in Toledo this past weekend and found some crazy shit on this German label, Chain Reaction. You can’t find those records anywhere, and here I got them for 50 cents from the back of a used record crate in Toledo! I used to think that you couldn’t find house or techno in Ohio, but its just a matter of digging hard enough and having the knowledge to recognize worthwhile artists and labels. Digs often end up fruitless but finding the occasional gem more than makes it worthwhile. I heard records referred to as the Black Crack lately. I’d say that’s a suitable description. If any of you readers want to unload, you know who to call!

LA: Each set I have heard you spin I hear the presentation of older house/techno tracks right alongside new, which I find extremely gratifying as I feel the music always holds up next to the “new”. What approach do you take to weaving together music of different eras?

TF: Its not really a conscious act for me. It might be a techno record that came out last week or an acid house tune that is older than me. If it complements the track that is playing or takes my set in the direction I want to go, I’ll mix it in. This is very much a Midwestern mentality that I’m proud to associate with. All the old school guys I look up to spin this way. They’ll mix a disco track into slamming techno back into a Kraftwerk tune. The contextualization is fun as a DJ and it usually makes for an engaging, diverse set.

LA: We are both from Toledo. I know that city influenced me in ways that shaped the type of music I listen to and who I am today. Did Toledo shape your tastes in music or your interest in music?

TF: If Toledo is responsible, its only because the Airport Hwy library branch had a copy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works that I rented when I was 14! Much more is owed to the friends I had in high school. They were all in a band and I got to hang around while they wrote songs, practiced and shared other music they were into. They turned me onto a lot of the music that would have a large influence on my tastes. Radiohead, Four Tet, MF DOOM. I have them to thank.

Later in life, I have come to have an affinity with Detroit and its music. I actually used to live further up in Michigan, about 30 minute away from the city. It blows my mind that I grew up so close to such a powerful cultural revolution but only realized once I moved away. The Midwest is the birthplace of all the music I love so much and, despite its lack of popularity these days, I am very proud to be from the same fertile lands.

LA: You have begun dabbling in production doing what you term “Sketches”. What has been the most surprising thing you have found in that creative process?

TF: Its embarrassing to even talk about because of how undeveloped and uninspiring my stuff has turned out so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that loops are easy to make. Arranging them into dynamic, fleshed out tracks is hard as hell. Also, a lot of work goes into refining your overall sound. Just because you have 909 samples, a Juno and a 303 doesn’t mean its going to sound old school. Regardless, its been a fun experience and I look forward to learning how to use my gear in new and interesting ways. Also, big shout out to Kevin Parrish for all the knowledge he’s shared and patience he’s had showing me how to use my own equipment!

In the moment

Dezi Magby, aka DJ Psycho, is a prolific DJ and producer from Flint, MI. He has been honing his craft  ever since he was 11 years old and picked up the turntable as his instrument of choice and started wielding records like sonic weapons. He is affiliated with the all-important Detroit Techno Militia, which has helped carry the banner of Techno music for that city and for all of North America for some time. He is a part of a new collective of artists called Convergent, which focus on sound production and DJing that pushes the boundaries of arbitrary music rules. They also just found out that their releases will be distributed by Underground Resistance/Submerge. Even with this techno pedigree, he is not one that can be so easily put in a box labeled “techno” and placed to gather dust in this genre classification in your brain. He spins EVERYTHING. I do not exaggerate here. In my short time immersing myself in this form of music, he finds connections in beat and sound that I have heard few people even consider. Take this recent mix he put together called “Scenes From The Closed Doors”:

Or take his appearance on Detroit’s Fox2 where he found an innovative new way to introduce people to his sound through the use of the Charlie Brown Theme Song and another very interesting track I will let you hear for yourself:

His sets for dance floors are no different. One listen to his extensive set of mixes on his mixcloud demonstrates he is adept at taking the listener back to a place where disco, house,  jungle, techno, and Drum & Bass were all part of the same musical language not distinct, unrecognizable vernaculars.   Listen to those mixes HERE. ]

Nebula

Entering DJ Psycho’s world of sound is like stepping into an interplanetary portal and being thrown at light speed into an alternate dimension. A dimension that looks, smells, tastes, and feels like the world we are so accustomed to, but where the development of music took a left instead of a right turn. One might say going left wouldn’t have made much a difference than going right, but in DJ Psycho’s universe the result was dramatic. Gone is narrow minded listening according to the limiting rules of genre classification and the hype machine. Gone is defining oneself according to arbitrary definitions of “the cool” created to push product. Gone is that empty motivation of self-aggrandizement and party culture. What remains is the pursuit of art. The pursuit of self-expression and finding ways to link the power of the music in vast interconnected networks via the turntable device. What remains is Soul; that irresistible force that propels us to Live, Create, and “Point Ourselves in the Direction of Our Dreams”. Seems to me that going left is the only way any of us make it out of this existence with any sort of experience of really getting in touch with the human condition.

Flyer

Luckily, this saturday (May 11) you got a chance to take that left hand turn and enter this alternate universe for yourself with a night of sound curated by Squared. Dezi will be playing alongside like-minded local musicians: The Fallen, Lower Frequency, and Beckett. As excited as I am to see Magby spin live, I am equally excited to see how this night of music unfolds with our local support. I am a huge fan of the live PA sets of The Fallen (We are talking creating music on the spot here and not just spinning), the smooth roller coaster ride of Lower Frequency, and the downtempo sounds of Beckett. All the fun starts at 9 pm at Victory’s and there is no cover. Event Details HERE. In the mean time check out the interview with Dezi below to learn more about his art and approach to music:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?
Dezi: I was taught at an early age that everything around U influences U. Good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant. The oddest things influence me. Watching Looney Tunes. Talking 2 my kids. The news. It all has 2 go somewhere…and it locks its way in 2 my subconscious until it gets pulled out 4 some reason or another. Luckily, I keep my headphones on most of the time, so the thing that gets me going the most is what’s in them. I try 2 take in as much as I can in the course of a day and most times at night, because U never know when something will strike U. I’ve woken out of a cold sleep and made things. Still do.

LA: 2.) It took a lot of courage to end the Irrational outfit and start Convergent. What drove you to start a crew that was more like a family?
D: Irrational HAD 2 end. It had no choice. It reached the end of its course by not having a course 2 begin with. The ideas were there, but there was something holding it back. I kinda had this personal dustup over the winter, and when things like that happen, U naturally want 2 take a different course in life just 2 keep U from going insane. I decided at that point 2 ‘dead’ Irrational, since its purpose was muddy anyway, and true irrationality is just an ugly thing 2 witness, and I didn’t want that connotation anymore with what I was doing creatively. Luckily, as the lineup goes, it was already there. Nano Too Hype has been one of my best friends 4 over 15 years. I’ve had his back since he was 17, and I always accepted him 4 being him. Ryan Start and I are as close as it gets. Our philosophies are in sync. We’re both Geminis – he’s a G II, I’m a G III – so there’s an understanding that goes beyond just simple friendship. Dustin Alexander aka Dayda….he and I have been friends forever as well. We like a lot of the same forward thinking music. Kevin’s my best friend on the planet – we have a 26 year history of bashing clubs 2gether on a cerebral level. Me and Kevin bought records from Jeffrey Woodward when we met in ’87, and Jeff was also the first person I heard play house music in my city – outside of me. It goes on and on throughout the entire lineup. All of us have some sort of long LOYAL history 2gether….so when the idea of putting Convergent 2gether came around, the family unit was the BIG thing that I wanted 2 put forth. The name was thought up by family, voted on by family and perpetuated by family. That’s the key. No one man can take on this all alone. Your team is everything. The name says it all. Convergent. All of us individuals coming 2gether and making something that represents our relationship 2 each other.
What’s beautiful about Convergent is that I don’t dare hold any of the members back from doing whatever they want 2 do – any avenue they wanna explore, I say “go 4 it”. Learn something, get good at it. That just means that the next time we come 2gether, no one is afraid 2 say “I got this” or “I think so-and-so has a hot record” or “I think I wanna put this out”. Our lack of fear combined with our respect of each other makes us all better as musicians and DJs and FRIENDS in the long run….and that’s what it should be about anyway, right?

LA: I loved hearing you share some of your philosophy on music creation and group building when you said at the end of a recent interview: “Forward motion. Don’t settle. Try Anything and Everything.” How does this open-minded, present moment centered approach influence your music?
D: If U take a look at my record collection, U realize that I have very few limits on things. I think of music as a gift, regardless of the source. I get as much feeling from a Public Enemy record as I do a Billy Squier record, or a P-Funk record, or a YMO record, or whatever. People take 2 much time worrying about genres and where things are supposed 2 fit and categories and all that dumb stuff. I don’t have time 4 that. When I go 2 a record store, I’m all through the room. My friend Herm that runs Vertigo Music in Grand Rapids, MI kinda makes a game of what ends up in my pile at the end of my trip. Most times, he is flat surprised. Other times, he’s like “I expected 2 see U pick that up.” That’s my philosophy. That’s what makes me tick. If I stayed in one lane, the people who know me best would think I was sick or something.

LA: I loved working through your back mix catalogue. Everytime I thought, “Oh, I get Dezi.” I was thrown a curve ball and you were spinning late 70s prog rock or you would throw in some disco, D N’ B, etc. How do you fit all these musical pieces together into a mosaic? Where do you see the connections?
D: Musically, everything has a pulse….the trick is 2 find it and make it relate 2 U. My influences are so freakin’ scattershot that writing it down kinda confuses even me. U never think of an inner city Black kid with a good set knowledge on The Beatles or Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren….or could talk 2 U about bands like Strapping Young Lad or Santo and Johnny or what have U. All of those things have a pulse that I can relate 2. I’ve always worked on the theory that the only thing that separates good music from working 2gether perfectly is BPM.

LA: Finally, what are some of the place, moments, people, or practices that inspire you to create?
D: I wish I could say that there was an individual time or place. It’s more like this running series of events. Seeing P-Funk at the height of their musical powers at age 9 at the IMA Sports Arena. Seeing Prince as many times as I have (16 and counting). Again…the cartoons. U have NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO idea how much Looney Tunes inspires me. It’s the whole warped sense of humour that I believe that people have lost touch with, especially in electronic music. The history of that music is so vast and so deep, yet people are happy 2 put them in their little categories, shut off their minds and pay attention only 2 that point in time. I have pre-dubstep records in my bedroom that the hardest anti-dubstep dude would lose his mind over. I can pull out Underground Resistance records that would make the nearest electrohouse fan drop a load of bricks in her pants. It’s all relative…and people need 2 see that. Maybe I’m the bridge. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I’m the furthest thing from being done.
As far as people, my family comes first. My moms, she was all blues, old Stax and Hot Wax stuff, Sam Cooke, Motown and Atlantic sides, James Cleveland…music that spoke 2 the soul. My dad….man!! His taste was wide. Doo-wop, early rock and roll, anything funky, anything DETROIT, fusion jazz. He would bring back records and tapes from his friends at the shop all the time. He introduced me 2 Chicago “IX”, Bonnie Raitt’s first 2 albums and Stevie’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” in the same day. He and I discovered a lot of stuff 2gether – Frampton, Pablo Cruise, Steely Dan. My uncles gifted me with deep jazz, all the funk stuff that was coming out of Atlanta and Florida, Heatwave, Brothers Johnson. My brother and me were all about Funkadelic and Parliament and Kiss and stuff like that. Both parents sung in the choir, as did I and my siblings. I hated my own singing, so I picked up instruments. Of course mom and dad indulged me there. Drum sets, guitars, build-it-yourself keyboards. I got records 4 Christmas all the time. I didn’t care much 4 anything else anyway. The trips 2 my grandparents were big. Dad would flip the radio and keep driving. That brought me pop and rock. My cousin Jessie in Detroit put me on 2 the B-52s and whatever crazy stuff Mojo was playing. My aunt’s now ex-husband was a cabaret DJ in Pontiac, so whatever was hot, I was on be4 my classmates. He gave me lots and lots of records. Ugh. That’s only the first 10 years of my life….
I could go on forever, really, but again, it’s the whole thing about everything U hear, good or bad, or from whatever source U get it from, there’s an effect…and if U look close enough, there’s a tie. There’s a funk in early Andrews Sisters records that’s as hard as any James Brown jawn or in any of DJ Premier’s scratches. The middle finger that’s strong in Dead Kennedys records is united in spirit with Johnny Cash’s Sun Records output. I see as much syncopation in a Derrick May record as I do listening 2 George Shearing’s piano solos….and if U are listening 2 Kraftwerk and don’t hear Parliament’s playfulness, U gotta listen harder and looser, man. The uniting point of all of this great music is right there.

I have been getting a great response from a lot of people around the scene from my posts concerning what’s going on in the scene today. All I can say is thanks. Thanks for doing what you do, so we can all have a community and I can help tell stories. This project does not exist without the energy expended by all of you in our community.

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Today, I am continuing these contemporary community-centered posts by shedding some light on the past and present of Mister Shifter. Mister Shifter is an artist that cut his teeth in our scene in the 1990s when the underground and club scene was thriving. He is an accomplished DJ and producer whom made up half of the critically acclaimed Drum and Bass duo Random Movement. Listening to the Random Movement back catalogue, one is catapulted back to the late 90s and early 2000s when the D & B sound was at the cutting edge of dance music and Mister Shifter himself was a key contributor (alongside Mike Richards) to pushing these new bass sounds in our city and abroad. Not only does his story help detail some of the back history of bass music in our city, but also provides a lesson on how an artist changes over time. Over the last few years, Mister Shifter has adopted an open format approach to sound, which has enabled him to continually change up and incorporate new styles and sounds into his sets. This has proved incredibly useful for him, as he has been able to reinvigorate his love of DJ’ing even as he grew bored of past sounds he immersed himself in so heavily. For me, it also makes for better art, as Mister Shifter is able to draw on diverse musical influences to craft soundscapes for dance floors that aren’t pigeonholed to any one tempo or mood.

mowgli Sheets

Mister Shifter will be playing a free show this Friday, February 22nd at Victory’s Live hosted by Squared headman Scott Litch (Event Details Here). Squared has been one of the gold standards of Columbus dance music for over ten years, as Litch has continually tried to innovate conceptually and graphically to push Columbus dance music to the next level. Within the last year, he has brought in new resident DJs to his Future Fridays event like Lower Frequency, Kevin Parrish, Tony Fairchild, and others and collaborated extensively with Quality, Run614, and Push Productions. Together these actions have increased the cohesiveness of our scene and provided artists in our scene a platform to play sounds not often heard. The show this friday is no different. Scott has carefully curated a stellar line up of artists like Mowgli, Mister Shifter, Ill Atmospherics, Lights Out!, and Doctah X that have expertise across the spectrum of bass sounds from Drum & Bass to Dub. In order to get you ready for that show, I provide for you a broad ranging interview with Mister Shifter that delves into his love of music, his time with Random Movement, and what he is up to now.

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Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

Mister Shifer: It may sound cliché, but I’ve been a music junkie since I was a young child. Ever since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with music. I feel honored to have grown up in momentous times like the golden era of hip-hop, and the grunge movement of rock, even the 80’s (for better or worse). Being engaged and in love with music during those times of my youth really helped shape my life, and how much I appreciate music.

I’ve always enjoyed sharing music that I love with friends, from making mixtapes before there were CD’s or MP3’s, to modern day methods . Eventually becoming a DJ was a very logical progression, and that desire to share music with others has always been the driving force. DJ’ing, for me, was never about ego or because it was a cool thing to do, it was always about sharing what I loved. There’s almost no better feeling than playing the music that I’m passionate about, for tens, hundreds or thousands of people at at time, and watching them experience the same joy that it brought me. It’s a really amazing feeling that makes me never want to stop doing it.

LA: How did you get into dance music? Was Drum & Bass your first love, or did you get into later?

MS: In the early nineties I really started to gravitate towards the hardcore-breakbeat stuff that was emerging out of the UK. Artists like 2 Bad Mice, Underworld, Omni Trio, and Hyper On Experience loosened the grip that hip-hop, industrial, and some other genres had on me at the time.

Soon after, I was full-on obsessed and going to clubs and raves every single weekend, experiencing the full gamut of electronic music at the time. I think most importantly I have the ele_mental guys to thank for exposing me to such quality music, from their core artists, to the amazing local and international artists that they were bringing into Columbus on a regular basis. I’m eternally grateful for people like Ed Luna & Titonton.

Oddly enough, I didn’t gravitate towards drum & bass right off the bat, and primarily favored techno & house music for quite some time. That all changed, and I’ll never forget when drum & bass just “clicked” for me. I was at a rave at the Valley Dale Ballroom in 1997, and Titonton was playing a drum & bass set in the main area. Grooverider’s remix of ‘Share The Fall’ came on and it honestly turned my entire world upside down.

1997 was a pivotal year for drum & bass, so in my mind it’s easy to see how I got taken so hard by it. Artists such as Ed Rush & Optical, Dillinja, Photek and Adam F were putting out some of the best music the genre has seen to this day. Drum & Bass was taking the electronic music scene by storm, and I surely got pulled into the frenzy.

In a way I guess I could consider drum & bass my “first love” as I’d never been full-on consumed by any single type of music like that before. I soon bought my first set of turntables and a mixer, and started buying vinyl in massive amounts. I basically did nothing but practice DJ’ing in my spare time for the next few years.

LA: What were your experiences like in the late 1990s and early 2000s when you were DJing huge dance music events and pushing the Drum & Bass sound?

MS: I was a great experience to be a part of drum & bass in what I consider it’s golden age, the late 1990’s. Playing raves in warehouses before those type of events dried up is something that I’m so thankful to have been a part of.

Once everything started to move into the clubs in the early 2000’s I had made a bigger name for myself by getting into production. Getting signed to an iconic drum & bass label like Breakbeat Science was huge. That really opened doors for me, and allowed me to play some of the biggest drum & bass shows that would come through Columbus. It was a treat to play alongside some of my idols such as LTJ Bukem and Bad Company during those times.

LA: What prompted Mike Richards & yourself to start the Drum and Bass duo Random Movement?

MS: I managed the DJ department at Sam Ash Music Store a long time ago. One of my co-workers who I went to high school with used to have a friend that would visit often and blow my mind while toying around on the synths in the keyboard department. His name was Mike Richards, a classically-trained musician with a background in Jazz. He was somewhat unfamiliar with drum & bass and DJ culture at the time, but was very interested in knowing more. I basically fed him all of my favorite drum & bass tracks to get him initiated with certain artists and labels, and got him instantly hooked.

It didn’t take long before we started making tracks together and within about a year we had an offer from DJ Dara to release a 12″ on Breakbeat Science’s sister label Orgone Recordings. That single, “What a Woman” sold all of it’s pressings and got us out there in the international spotlight.

The success of that release gained us enough exposure to secure a release on Ireland’s Bassbin Recordings. That release contained our biggest hit to this day, “Stars in the Dark.”

Drum & Bass icon DJ Marky fell in love with “Stars in the Dark”, as he famously played the track three times in one set at The End nightclub in London. He later said he was extremely upset for not being able to sign the track to his own label, Innerground, but we worked out a deal and our next release came out on his label.

At the time, Bassbin and Innerground were two of the most popular drum & bass imprints in the world, and we were the first American artists to be signed to each of them. It was a huge accomplishment, and I’m still shocked and humbled by it.

LA: Its crazy to think that you were still releasing vinyl records with Random Movement in the mid 2000s when vinyl was arguably at its lowest popularity. Though vinyl releases have always been a benchmark for success for producers, What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl within the last 5 years?

MS: Yeah, at that time the vinyl market was declining pretty heavily with the emergence of CD decks and hardware like Final Scratch and Serato. Releasing tracks on respected labels were enormous accomplishments for us. At that time, releasing a 12″ was basically what you needed to do to earn the respect of your peers in the DJ community.

I’m not surprised that vinyl is still popular today, albeit more so amongst purists. There is nothing that compares to the warm sound and tactile feedback it provides. I prefer DJ’ing on vinyl wholeheartedly, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love taking advantage of some of the innovations that later came along, like Serato and Ableton Live.

I used to pull my back out lugging over a hundred records to each gig for years, and then all of a sudden I could show up to a venue with thousands of tracks to choose from, and instantly sort by artist or label. It made playing shows a lot of fun, especially since I never had set lists in mind, and would always read the crowd to figure out what songs to play next. Being able to pull out a classic from ’95 because it just felt right at the moment was really gratifying. It’s not surprising to me that the vinyl market took such a hit when these technologies became ubiquitous in the DJ community. That said, I’ll always treasure vinyl, as I loved the many years I played on it exclusively.

LA: Within the past few years you have transitioned into a more multi-genre DJ’ing approach. What led to that shift?

MS: I had always appreciated all styles of music. I would have loved to DJ other genres over the years, but during a large portion of my career DJ’s strictly used vinyl, and it would’ve cost me a fortune to buy enough wax to support that type of endeavor. I reached a point where I had honestly grown a bit tired of drum & bass. That scene was starting to crumble due to a lack of innovation, and tracks were becoming quite samey and cookie-cutter.

Around 2007 the dance rock scene was really starting to blow up. Labels like Ed Banger, and artists such as MSTRKRFT, Diplo, and Hot Chip were surging in popularity. I made a DJ mix called “Selections for Love Making” around that time which ended up getting a lot of buzz, and surprised a lot of my friends who knew me only as a drum & bass DJ. I started playing shows and had a blast enjoying the freedom of not being pigeonholed into one style of music. I loved dipping into techno, french house, 80’s… you name it. It was fun being able to pull from different genres, yet striving to keep a cohesive vibe during the course of the night.

Around that time, Squared and I started a dance rock night called “The Fix”, and soon after I became a resident DJ at places like Bristol Bar and Spice Bar. Things took off pretty fast, and before I knew it I was playing sold-out shows alongside heavyweights like MSTRKRFT, Benny Benassi, and Steve Aoki.

LA: What is next on tap for you musically?

MS: There’s nothing I love more than DJ’ing. I’ll continue to play shows as long as there are people on dance floors.

I just always try to keep an open mind musically, as my tastes tend to change over time. I’ve never tried to jump on any bandwagons, even though my identity as a DJ has altered over years. I like to keep up with what’s new and emerging, but still incorporate it with the sounds of the past. DJ sets only consisting of the top tracks of the moment tend to bore me, so I’m always looking to diversify.

If I like a new song that I hear, there’s a good chance I’ll try to somehow work it into a set. I’m currently enjoying a lot of the future garage/post-dubstep stuff that’s coming out of the UK at the moment, and I’m really starting to come back to drum & bass. I’m glad to see a lot of artists over the last few years break out of molds and experiment with different sounds and tempos. That’s surely what I’ll continue to do myself. You’ll rarely hear me play the same type of set twice, and I find that to be very exciting and rewarding.

See you on the dance floor.

If you are around in our scene its hard not to know Aaron Austen. He has got his hands in a little bit of everything.  Whether he is putting on shows for his Production outfit Run614 or DJing, you can always find him trying to help people have a good time. He has got over a decade in the game here in Columbus, and he is still trying to push the envelope of our local shows. I hope you can take the time to read this interview, as he sheds some light on his history, how he thinks about putting on shows, and where he thinks we are going as a community. Enjoy!

Local Autonomy (LA): You have been involved in DJ’ing, organizing, and attending shows for a good part of your life. What is it about dance music that interests you so much?
Aaron Austen (AA): It is the way that people interact with the sound and can relate to certain noises that make them happy. People that listen to electronic music generally don’t always know who or what they’re listening to at the moment. It’s not so much like pop/radio music where commercialism repeats itself over and over. EDM to me is a truer form of what the music industry should be like. Producers get known usually for the music & most people can’t even put a face with their name. I think that is pretty kool. Music is meant to be heard, not seen. I think the general population of America has put that notion on hold over the years. The fact that image becomes more important than the music saddens me. You don’t look at music. You listen to it and, in turn, feel it as well.



LA: You cite your experiences in Columbus clubs in the mid 1990s as a key Ah Ha! moment that really inspired you to get more involved in the scene. Why was that era so special to you?
AA: When Mekka opened in ’95, it was a big moment for me. It was the biggest culture clash I have experienced still to this day. You had rich, poor black, white, gay, & straight all there to party together.  It didn’t matter what brands of clothes or shoes you were wearing. It was about a common interest of the music.

Then I went to DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) in ’02 and got bitten by the deeper, underground sound. I still didn’t really get it at that moment, but I saw something that really left an impression on me. Seeing thousands of people all getting crazy to the rhythmical pounding of Detroit Techno made me try to dive deeper into the music and helped me understand where I wanted to take the music that I play. It also made me think how I wanted people to experience my live sets so that we could be connected on the dance floor. This makes me try to craft an experience when I play that is less about playing the one track everyone knows, and more about the vibe of the set as a whole. I advise anyone who says they love EDM go to Detroit for Movement (DEMF) where it all started. You get such a deeper understanding from the roots.



LA: I get the sense that you approach DJ’ing as an artistic activity. I know there has been a lot of controversy of late in the DJ community about the artistic nature of DJ’ing. Why do you think DJ’ing is an artform?
AA: There are all kinds of forms of DJing/mixing. For me, the thing I love the most is the long mixes.   I love it when it is no longer just the one track playing and for a moment it becomes its own track bridging the two together seamlessly. Also, I feel that it creates a sway to the mix making and has more of a live, improvised feel. For those moments, the two tracks join to make the set unique.

When you have laptop DJs using effects to loop or delay tracks it just feels cold to me and loses my interest fairly quickly. For me, phrasing is a huge part to mixing that gets lost by the use of newer technologies.  Don’t get me wrong, there are the DJs out there than can fool my ear & do an amazing job, but they are few and far between.



LA: Switching gears to talk about your experiences with shows, How did you get your start putting on events?
AA: When I was living on E 13th on OSU campus, we used to throw an annual Disco party from“96-2000”. We literally had 14 kegs, 3 garbage cans of hairy buffalo, an ice luge, and a full bar for shots.

Our house would host over 2,000 guests (Most in full disco garb) throughout the night. The front yard, the house, & back parking lot would be packed. Needless to say, I had met a lot of people though these parties, and I found a way to turn those connections into a following.

So in ‘98 Jerry Calliste (AKA Hashim creator of the old school electro massive “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)”), had me put my people gathering skills to work at a seedy little afterhours joint called “The Alley” just off 5th and High in Pearl alley.  During this time, I also worked with Chad Allen of Purpose Productions, who threw the Revolution & Transformation parties in the late 90s. I started out being the the kid littering the city with flyers. I put in work & gained respect from the older promoters.    Over the years, things have just snowballed and I have taken the same approach to step up the ladder as they were presented.

LA: What drove you to go out on your own and start Super Good Events & Run614?
AA: I felt the music was getting stagnate. At the time, we were only using one bar and we were the only EDM game in town. Some shows were great there, but it felt like we were losing our edge by beating a dead horse. The crowd was shifting to a “be seen” crowd & the owners were pressuring the DJs to play music they normally wouldn’t choose to play. It was hard to convince the powers that be to try to build something rather than just riding the wave until it was beached. It was also tough because I knew that that the amazing local & regional talents we were bring in to open were better than the headlining acts. They just don’t have the money behind them to break out. My hopes are to bring a balance back to the taste makers of the area that are pushing the envelope musically.



LA: What is your philosophy when you are putting together events? In other words, what are you trying to achieve and what are some of the guidelines you use to put an event together?
AA: Location & sound! They are always the first things I check out. People don’t seem to wander off the beaten path so much anymore. Getting people out to experience something new is the hardest battle for a promoter like me. After the location is set, then I move on to the sound. I want people to hear the music the way it was intended to be heard. If you don’t have the correct amount of bass, especially for techno & house, it sounds flat & boring to people. I feel that not having a proper system here in Columbus, Such as a FUNKTION-ONE System, has limited these genres of music.

After sound come the smaller details such as capacity, programming, and booking. I like to keep it where you have room to be comfortable. I really dislike feeling like you are in a dead end & are stuck somewhere. I feel that many venue owners overlook where they bottle neck people & make it impossible to get around.  I focus on figuring out the flow of the location to prevent large crowds from having to stand around & wait just to get through a door. Programming is also really important. I always ask: What Music feels right for the spot?  There is nothing worse than walking into a room where the DJ is beating the hell out of the system playing bangers at 10-11 pm slot to a room of ten people. Programming & volume can make or break your event. There is also nothing worse than the DJ not seeing when the people are ready to dial it up a notch, which ends up flat-lining your night. In general, I always strive to make it as comfortable as possible for the target audience.


LA: You have worked in both large national production companies like Disco Productions and have attempted to help build an underground scene with Run614. In your opinion, what role do the underground and large promotion companies play in a healthy scene?
AA: Lets start with the larger style promotions. They are a necessity for the underground to survive. They are able to pull in the masses to increase exposure to the music. Here in town, PSG (Prime Social Group) is an amazing resource to get in touch with the younger age groups. It creates a trickle down effect to the underground. There are kids who are just there to party, and then there are the ones who love the music. The ones who love the music usually end up expanding their relationships with the music and what they listen to. They tend to search more for their personal sound. That is where I feel the Underground type of parties really benefit from the larger exposure of the national companies. There are a lot of really creative underground events happening by forward thinking people out there.  If you are looking for them  Squared or Push Productions are a good start.  It seems the more you focus on a sound/genre that the crowds begin to split into their respective sub-genre. I would also have to say I have noticed over the years the underground is an outlet to a more artistic minded type of crowd. Trying to capture their attention & hold it is a much harder battle to accomplish. It becomes about the experience as a whole. The really good underground events seem to be the ones that can program a cross promotion of multiple groups, and can set personal agendas and ego’s aside for a night.  


LA: We talked at length about how the Columbus scene is embedded within a larger economic system that we don’t often talk about. What are the limits and opportunities that money places on crafting dance music events in Columbus?
AA: It is a huge obstacle in Columbus. We all want to see world-class talent come through our city, but with world class talent comes world-class riders (contractual requirements). There are some pretty decent clubs in Columbus; however, other than some that are just catching on & getting closer, there isn’t a world class sound system in town. Having to add/rent sound everywhere kills your break even number and makes most mid-to-small sized shows lose money.  It is a trend here for clubs to open up on what will just get by for their night-to-night operations. They aren’t prepared for special event demands. Sound rental limits our market to doing the non-top 20 djs & ultimately keeps us from being able to do the up and coming acts. I would have to say that in my opinion it is the element that holds our city back from a true dance club culture like you might see in Chicago or even Detroit. We have to spend more as promoters to book talent and rent sound, so the ticket buyer has to spend more to attend the show. This prices many underground shows out of our market. People would rather party at home with their friends instead of feeling gouged at the door. 



Make sure to Check Aaron Austen out with special guest Seth Yender out of Detroit (Check out the samples on this recent-ish EP from him out of Beretta music) at The Social Room tonight for Niche. Event Details HERE.

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