Recloose. He’s had releases on a bunch of the coolest labels in the world, including his debut and follow-up on Planet E and more recently for Rush Hour. He’s travelled the world working with anyone and everyone from Joe Dukie to his radio show with Frank Booker Hit It and Quit It.
From Detroit to New Zealand, he’s been doing things his way for well over a decade and he’s about to do it for Sydney’s Lioness crew at their first club version of the friendly music-focused parties at GoodGod.
We caught up with him and asked a few questions.
How do you think originating from Detroit has affected you and your music?
While I’m a biased party, I have always felt there is a certain sacredness and respect in the way people approach music in Detroit. People take music seriously and generally judge your worth by your artistic output and ability to perform more so than how well you posture or how hyped you might be. I think this attitude has rubbed off on me in a big way.
Music from Detroit creates a certain perception in people’s minds, how different is the perception of people native to Detroit?
People that don’t really know about Detroit are probably taught to be afraid of it. People that know more about Detroit’s music culture can tend to romanticize it. People from Detroit are staunchly proud of their city and their art but are also grounded in the reality that is life in Detroit’s a hard slog but the people and the vibe make it worth it.
The electronic music that followed the original Detroit techno evolution eventually lost the soul that had been such an interesting and attractive element for machine music… why do you think that happened?
Techno was created partly as a means of escaping, or at least re-contextualizing, the problems the city was experiencing. As such it was as much about technology and sci-fi as soul and the resulting emotions from seeing the city and its people suffering. When you take the music out of the environment then it loses its context and, in my opinion, its beauty.
Did you have any hesitations when you first considered moving to New Zealand?
At the time I made the decision (2001) I didn’t have many hesitations; politically America was a mess and I had always moved around a lot as a kid. At that stage I’d been living in the Detroit area for over 15 years so was hungry for a change. That’s not to say I don’t miss it (I go back frequently) or don’t feel connected.
So This Is The Dining Room and Spelunking were reissued on Rush Hour a few years ago, did you ever expect your first two releases would garner so much attention and would come to be considered classics?
No, I had no idea really. This may have come about because I actually didn’t know what the hell I was doing in the studio, was somewhat unaware of electronic music conventions, and was simultaneously lucky enough to have somebody like Carl Craig shepherding that naivety/creativity into a finished product.
Over the past few years you’ve had a day job teaching music production and DJing How did you learn production and DJing?
From watching, listening, and figuring it out for myself. This came about from spending time in friends’ studios, going to record stores, dancing in clubs, listening to radio, experimenting with gear, and reading user manuals. I try to convey this reality to my students just how hungry you had to be to learn this stuff and how nobody then was ever going to offer this knowledge up to you in a neatly packaged year-long program. At least SOME of them get it (the one’s paying attention, turning up every day and busting their asses…).
What are you teaching your students that you wish you had been taught when you were starting out?
I suppose one of the most valuable things we as industry practitioners (turned tutors) are able to teach are the lessons we learned from our mistakes as well as greater aesthetic sensibilities. A lot of these kids just want to learn how to use the gear, make dubstep basslines, etc. but this knowledge is readily accessible via youtube and other online sources. It’s the knowledge garnered from experience that I think is the most valuable.
What have you made sure you don’t teach them?
How to make dubstep basslines.
What are the pros and cons you have found with the advance in technology and accessibility?
A lack of dedication, as well as a homogenization of musical aesthetic.
I saw you tweet recently that you finally deleted and MP3s lower than 320 from your laptop… How or why did you have lower quality recordings?(!)
I didn’t actively seek out shitty sounding MP3s, but did have a sizeable amount of music and DJ mixes given to me that were less than hi fidelity. I’ve been filling up my Serato library with only the finest ingredients for a while (i.e. 24-bit vinyl rips and .wavs) so I had to make some room…
What was your involvement with the Uri Caine Ensemble?
I played with Uri a few times in the last 1990s as a turntablist. It was a great experience cutting up Mahler was something new and exciting!
His seeming enthusiasm to work with all manner of different artists is rare, and similarly you appear to be inspired by an artist/talent rather than a name or taking the comfortable route; What do you attribute your ability to seek out and collaborate with different people?
I’ve always been fascinated with trying new things (to a fault I’d say). Collaborating with musically talented people of different backgrounds and perspectives has the potential to make for much more interesting music.
You recently did a remix of ‘Sexy Ways’ for Funkadelic, is it intimidating or do you feel extra pressure when involved with such an iconic band?
It was slightly intimidating and simultaneously exhilarating. The idea of jamming with Funkadelic, albeit in a virtual, time-distorted way, was pretty special.
Who have been two of your favourite collaborators to work with and why?
I’d say Dallas Tamaira aka Joe Dukie as we had some great results from working together and a positive working chemistry in the studio. Dwele was cool to work with too, and although this was more of a “pass the baton” type of approach, it was great to challenge and be challenged with musical ideas that were somewhat foreign to our mutual comfort zones.
Are you able to tell us what your research project is about?
It’s still a work in (early) progress but it stems a lot from my own experiences in Detroit as a musician, how I learned how to make music, and how Detroit is a special and unique place when it comes to its music culture and how creativity is exchanged. I’ve started with a lot of interviews, and so far have spoken to Amp Fiddler, Wajeed, The Oliverwho Factory, Shake, Houseshoes, Kevin McCord (of One Way/The Soul Partners), Dennis Coffey, BMG, J Roc.
You recently started work on another album do you already have ideas and go into it knowing what you wanted or is it a more evolving process?
At the moment the next album is a set of sketches that I’m moulding and assembling into a more cohesive work. Its admittedly been very difficult to find ample blocks of time to focus on music making due to teaching, studying, and supporting a family, hence my relative lack of musical output for the last while…
As a DJ, do you think about the music being played out at clubs and parties when you are in the studio?
A little bit, but really only the stuff I’m feeling and from producers I respect. I don’t have the time or the talent to mimic music that is popular that I personally don’t really dig.
Where did you find the extra hours in a day?
GOOD QUESTION. Post kids going to sleep or 5-7am when I get up with my toddler. See my dilemma?
Living in New Zealand you have managed to get to Australia a little more frequently, what are your favourite or most memorable moments and gigs in Oz?
I think the key is linking up with like-minded people/DJs/promoters who know your sound and have a knack for throwing a good party. In the past I’ve had a great time with my friends from the Mad Racket crew (in particular when we got to play the Sydney Festival) and am really looking forward to getting down with the Lioness crew as they have put a lot of oomph into the event.