Introducing Juana (USA)

I have met Juana in 2017, when she came to my studio in Amsterdam. Back then I was just a photographer who was slowly developing a passion for electronic music and an addiction for vinyls. I felt incredibly honoured that she found some space in her schedule during her stay in Europe to meet me to do this interview as she was not feeling very well at the time and the same day she had her long flight back to the US. Yet, she did not cancel and being a journalist and a musician herself, she supported my idea of running an electronic music blog that aims to focus on the underground scene.

After a couple of minutes into our conversation, I asked for her permission to record the entire interview with my phone as the way she was telling her story was so compelling that I didn’t feel like taking notes; I just wanted to sit there and listen – with full dedication. The samples taken that day were sleeping on my hard drive for almost two years. Juana stayed patient throughout these past two years. She fully understood my personal struggles with the blog and my own life, supported the name change of the blog and the website and never ever asked if this interview will ever see the day of light. On the contrary, when she got the chance to play at De School Amsterdam during her visit in 2018, she put me on her guest list without any hesitation, which really showed what a sweet and caring person she is. End of February 2019, the news broke about Juana and another fellow Discwoman of hers, Akua playing in the upcoming BOILER ROOM on tour edition in Utrecht (NL) organised by club WAS. Therefore I couldn’t be more delighted to finally be able to pen down her story.

 

 

The minute Juana walked through the door, she came across as an energetic, vibrant personality and she never stopped smiling! We took some photos afterwards and although I know by now that she is not a fan of having press photos taken, she was very easy-going about them. I chose to feature the one in this blog post which I hope she liked the most and which in my opinion, the best reflects her character – an unstoppable energy bomb, full of positivity and with her own words: “princesa de oscuridad, party animal, chicagoan, discwoman “.

Let’s start to roll out the thread by starting with the last two: Chicagoan. Discwoman.

Discwoman

“Discwoman is a New York-based platform, collective, and booking agency founded by Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson (I’d recommend to listen to her RA Exchange interview), Emma Burgess-Olson (also known as Umfang) and Christine McCharen-Tran. Discwoman’s aim is to showcase and represent talents in the New York area electronic music scene. Started as a two-day festival in September 2014 at Bossa Nova Civic Club, Discwoman has since produced and curated events in more than 20 cities and is working with over 200 DJs and producers to-date.”

Chicagoan

Maybe some of you can relate and some of you can not, but even though as a millennial I am blessed with fast speed internet access to the world wide web, things that happen overseas in different time zones, often stay a grey area and go unnoticed by. I only realised, how little I knew about the current scene overseas, when some years ago, I dug up some cool electro stuff in a Berlin record shop which was from a young, contemporary American artist. That was when I decided that it was time for me to explore what was happening outside Europe, particularly in the underground scene. Since this scene is standing on the shoulders of giants, I decided to briefly enumerate the most important North-American electronic music pioneers, also to give a better understanding of the background Juana comes from.

Electronic music pioneers of the USA

When one looks deeper into the origins of electronic music, one stumbles upon many-many American artists. While to Europeans, names like Daphne Oram (UK) (optical synthesiser), Delia Derbyshire (UK), Dick Raaijmakers (NL) (aka Kid Baltan) or Tom Dissevelt (NL) from the Philips Laboratories (Natlab) might sound most familiar, there are many-many American pioneers who deserve to be known for their groundbreaking inventions.

I would definitely differentiate between first and second generation of electronic music pioneers. I would count to the first generation of pioneers the American Louis en Bebe Barron who are credited with writing the first electronic music for magnetic tape. Then I would definitely mention Clara Rockmore and Robert Moog, the pioneers of a very unusual electronic musical instrument, controlled without physical contact, the Theremin. The instrument (which was originally known as the etherphone) was invented in 1920 and it was named after its inventor, the Russian Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin). After a lengthy tour in Europe, Termen moved from the Soviet Union to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928.

PHOTO BY BERND HUTSCHENREUTHER

Clara Rockmore was one of the most famous ‘thereminist’ touring around the USA. “After the Second World War, the theremin fell into disuse as newer electronic instruments were introduced that were easier to play. However, a niche interest in the theremin persisted. Robert Moog, who began building theremins in the 1950s, while he was a high-school student, stayed enthusiastic about the instrument and he credited the theremin experience as leading directly to his groundbreaking synthesizer, the Moog.

Wendy Carlos, best known for her electronic music and film scores in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, was one of those overseeing the development of the Moog synthesizer. Once the Moog was there, the experimenting had begun. The first person who tried to combine her own voice with one of the first Moog synthesizers in the late 1960s was artist Annette Peacock.

The Chicago-born Laurie Spiegel, who worked for the Bell Laboratories in computer graphics, is known primarily for her electronic-music  compositions and her algorithmic composition software called Music Mouse.

Another internationally acclaimed American composer, performer and humanitarian who has explored sound for four entire decades was Pauline Oliveros – forging new ground for herself and others through improvisation, and combining electronic music with rituals, teaching and meditation.”

 

 

Outside Europe, the roots of techno and electro lead us to the second generation of electronic music pioneers of Chicago and Detroit. The two major collectives of American artists who are the most closely associated with the birth of Detroit techno as a genre: the movement of  the musical collective of the Underground Resistance, founded by Jeff Mills and Mike Banks in 1989, later joined by Robert Hood (and supported by many associated acts like Drexciya, Milton Baldwin also known as DJ Skurge or James Pennington also known as  Suburban Knight , another crucial figure on the outskirts of Detroit techno since the mid ’80s and who became a mentor for Mike Banks and the Underground Resistance crew with the rise of Detroit’s second wave in the early ’90s).

Jeff was definitely a key figure to the Detroit scene as it was known that he would often drive as far as Toronto or Chicago in order to purchase newly released music for his sets that took place in empty, suburban warehouses around Detroit. He also had a nightly radio show called The Wizard at WDRQ (hence his alias), where he would highlight local techno artists, giving light to the so called Belleville ThreeJuan AtkinsKevin Saunderson and Derrick May.  These three individuals were high-school friends who started producing electronic music in their basements. Just like Mills, the Belleville trio, too, “often made trips to Chicago to investigate the house music scene which was a natural progression from the disco music genre.”

 

 

Their style was reflecting “a synthesis of the type of dance music they have encountered in Chicago, combined with the mechanical sounds of groups like the above already mentioned Kraftwerk, with elements of political and social commentary on the economic recession of the post-Reagan era, “producing uncompromising music geared toward promoting awareness and facilitating political change. UR wanted to establish a means of identification beyond traditional lines of race and ethnicity.”

 

Princesa de oscuridad and party animal

Juana was born into a family full of musicians. Her father was a guitarist who studied classical and blues guitar at school and he was in a band with some of her uncles and an aunt, which had several different names, but she recalls her favourite which was ‘Mother Souls’ Children’. Being born she always felt like she had a call for doing something with music, she was just not sure what exactly that was. Her mother made her play the piano which she enjoyed for a while, however it never really took off with her, but it proved to be a great aid at a later stage as she learned a lot about musical principles. She discovered dj-ing and started collecting vinyls in her late teens and early twenties. She started picking up mainly disco, classic rock and jazz records.

It all started with a house-party she and her roommate organised. Juana by then owned quite a few records in different genres. She took over the turntables around 3am, starting with spinning some deep disco, funky jazz and break tracks. People welcomed her choice of records and got super energised, and so she went on playing deep house and techno till the break of day.

LC: So you started with classic rock, jazz, break, disco and house. How did you got to techno? Do you remember which tracks were the transitioning tracks that took you from disco to house, from house to deep house and techno?

Juana: I think house & deep house was always part of my life, because I am from Chicago and in Chicago there is no lines between genres like there are in some scenes, so like you can transition from a Mr. Fingers acid track to a jazz-funk track like Roy Ayers’ Love will bring us back together to a Lonnie Liston Smith track and it does not really make a difference as long as the groove is there. So to me when I am playing different styles, it does not feel like a harsh transition, it just feels like the continuum.

 

 

LC: I remember that not so long ago, a well-known female dj tried to mix up different styles within her set at a certain festival in Europe and some people were so upset that they demanded their money back. She even wrote a long explanation on her social media profile, explaining her choice of records. Do you think that when it comes to mixing different styles, a European audience reacts differently than an American one? 

JuanaThat’s what I’ve heard, but I haven’t had the chance to play that much in Europe yet. In fact, I haven’t experienced it, but it is something that I’ve heard about and in addition to mixing things up which I think all dj’s like to do from time to time, you also want to allow yourself room to grow and not get bored and do it in such a way that you can continue to nurture your love for music.

LC: Do you think that the expectations can limit / restrain artistic freedom?

JuanaEverybody is not gonna like everything. People are always going to either appreciate you or not appreciate you. So I think, if you are a creative person and a dj, you should continue to do what makes you happy, because if you are trying to fulfil expectations all the time, I think you are going to drive yourself crazy. 

LC: Music is indeed perceived differently by everyone, also depending on their current mood which can be influenced by so many factors – therefore it is very subjective. 

JuanaMusic is a personal experience… and just to go back to your previous point about expectations, I think that there are certain circumstances when you know what the expectations are – when you are playing in a certain club or booked by a certain promoter, you know what those expectations are. It doesn’t really make sense to go too far out of left-field, but I think that where you have the flexibility and the latitude, I think that one should absolutely explore and have fun with it, but I understand that it is a bouncing act between expectations and expression.

discwoman dj artist juana "playing music" american "sequence dc" "washington dc" "USA" "lost connection" "underground electronic music blog"

Discwoman Juana

LC: Are you a full-time dj / producer at the moment or do you see yourself doing it full-time in the near future?

Juana: Currently, I have a day job… It pays the bills. I work in publishing that keeps me busy all day, but it is not so demanding that I can not have a life outside that. If I had the chance, of course, I would choose for music, but I am in a good place now. I am just allowing things to unfold and not forcing or rushing anything. I am living at the moment in Washington D.C. I have moved there 13 years ago. I have played in some of the smaller clubs, f.e. Dr. Clock’s Nowhere Bar is a great place where I’ve met lots of great people who were into techno and that is where I met my crew with who I throw parties with at Sequence or Sequence D.C. We’ve been doing a series of parties for about a year now. Also, we’ve played at Flash in Washington D.C. That is kind of as big as it gets, because D.C. is very small. It does have some of the bigger clubs, but I guess my sound is not appropriate for it.

sequence baltimore "steve kirn" "ron jackson" "takaaki itoh"

 

LC: Why did you decide to move from Chicago to D.C.?

JuanaThere were a lot of things that I wanted to do in D.C. and I was just kind of, a little tired of Chicago and I could get a better job in D.C. I just wanted to get away from home as I have always been living there. I wanted to explore some place different and I got acquainted with the house music scene and I made a lot of connections that way. People like Sandburns were really inspirational and were really helping me out a lot. Due to these new connections, recently I have started playing in Brooklyn. Damon Bradley has been awesome in kind of connecting the Brooklyn techno scene with the D.C. techno scene, so I got to play at Bossa Nova Civic club a few times and some other cool places. Bossa Nova is a particularly great place and I had some really nice experience while playing there. 

LC: What makes this club so special? Is it the building / the space, is it the sound system, or the audience?

Juana: The venue itself is fine, but the music is that makes that place really special and the artists that they bring and the loyal, amazing crowd that always gathers. It’s really cool. In a couple of days, I will play in Smartbar in Chicago which is huge. It’s kind of a home-coming thing for me. I will be playing with people I’ve never played with before, but I feel very comfortable just because it’s home. 

LC: Have you been going there often before you moved to Washington D.C.? 

Juana: When I lived in Chicago, I went there all the time! So now I get to experience it from the other side. I am very excited!

LC: Who were your favourite artists from these clubs you were visiting regularly? Who inspired you the most?

Juana: Ahm, let’s see… Well, in that period when I was going out in Chicago, I was influenced by a lots of DJs and at underground parties and at the clubs. In the late 90’s there were so many great talents in house music. Obviously, people like Derrick CarterRon Trent  (LC: also known as Ronald Trent who co-owned the house / deep house label Prescription with Chez Damier) or Roy Davis Jr and Peven Everett – I was really into their sound at the time. Especially Roy Davis Jr.’s very early stuff. It was very sort of edgy and weird, and sort of disco-infused house music that also felt kind of experimental, so I was really-really moved by that sound in that period and I definitely saw all of those guys to play at places like Smartbar, Red No.5 and just countless other little bars and restaurants, like Buddha Lounge, Red Dog etc. There were some really neat little clubs back then and I went out a lot! (*laughing*).

The house music pioneers of Chicago

"Derrick Carter" dj producer music house "house dj"

Derrick Carter

Derrick L. Carter was one of the pioneers of Chicago house in the 1990s, who used to work in the famous Gramophone Records store in Chicago and who until today is considered as one of the best house music DJs in the world. Carter’s sets are firmly rooted in Afro-American music of the 1970s with hints to old-school discosoul and jazz. “In 1989, together with Mark Farina and Chris Nazuka as the group Symbols & Instruments, they released the Mood EP which had a strong influence on the flourishing ambient techno movement in England. Even though the record wasn’t a big commercial success, it established Derrick as an international artist in the underground house scene. In 2006, according to a survey by a free weekly newspaper, Newcity, Carter was named #53 in the 100 Most Famous Chicagoans.  (Other house music figures on the list included Felix da Housecat (#21) and Frankie Knuckles (#41).

Before setting up his own record label, Undaground Therapy Muzik and becoming an A&R scout for the Strictly Rhythm imprint in NYC, Roy Davis Jr got known in the house scene after joining the Chicago-based acid house group called Phuture (founded in 1985 by Nathaniel Pierre Jones aka DJ Pierre, Earl Smith Jr. also known as Spank Spank and Herbert Jackson). Davis rose to fame when he teamed up with Peven Everett and together they produced the single Gabriel. The single sold over 200,000 copies and was played in nightclubs all around the world.”

Acid House as a sub-genre

“Acid house (also simply known as “acid“) is a subgenre of house music developed around the mid-1980s by DJs from Chicago. Acid house’s minimalist production aesthetic (due to its synthetic strings and stabs) combined house music’s ubiquitous programmed four-on-the-floor 4/4 beat with the deep bass-lines and “squelching” sounds of the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer – sequencer by constantly modulating its frequency and resonance controls to create movement in otherwise simple bass patterns. Acid house brought house music to a worldwide audience when it spread to the United Kingdom and continental Europe. English acid house and rave fans used the yellow smiley face symbol simply as an emblem of the music and the scene that portrayed the “simplest and gentlest of the Eighties’ youth manifestations” that was non-aggressive, “except in terms of decibels”. Acid house had an influence on many styles of the electronic dance music including TranceJungleTechno, Trip hop etc.”

 

 

LCWhich artists / record labels do you find the most inspiring these days, from the US and from Europe?

JuanaI think that there is a lot of inspiration coming from both places and I guess I don’t really think of it in terms of, you know, these are great American artist and these are great European artist…

LC: But do you think that European techno is different than US?

Juana: Yes, I think that European techno has pushed boundaries on a different way. I am a big fan of Peter van Hoesen, or the Monnom Black imprint (LCwhich is the label of Dax J) – it’s dark and industrial – it’s just really wicked. Then I also listen to a lot of releases from L.I.E.S. records and Ostgut Ton. These are two big, prolific, well-known labels that have artists who are boundary pushing in different ways. I like to see the different directions that European artists go as oppose to US artists. What I think most important is that we don’t get distracted by the differences, but continue to build our own sounds out of all of these different pieces. I think it is really boring to listen to a whole set of music that’s kind of often one direction. It’s not interesting to me, because there is just so much good music out there that if you can put together different sounds and different influences and things that are funky and very distinctly different ways, you can tell a really cool story at a party, or within a mix or a podcast or whatever you are doing. I think that is where the real skill comes in, being able to thread together desperate sounds and prospectives and to create something that feels whole and true, but also having fun while doing it. It’s very important to have fun and to enjoy it!

LC: Do you mostly play vinyl sets or do you prefer CDJs?

Juana: Sometimes I play vinyl. I still collect records, but sometimes, if I am just going to play some place by myself, I bring USB sticks with me, but if the event happens locally or I know that I have time to stretch things out, I always bring vinyl. 

LC: Did you also dive into producing or have you already released something? Do you find time to do it, next to your job and dj-ing?

Juana: I am still looking at labels… it has taken me a long time to get here… Everything I do is kind of slow and careful, and I am still busy with my work and day-to-day finding time to hunt for music and to create as much music as I’d like to is sometimes difficult, but when I do make time to create things, I am always willing to sort of, put them out there. I am not afraid of hearing opinions or getting feedback. 

LC: Do you have specific people who you ask for a first opinion, before you show any of your new creations to the world?

Juana: Not really, I mean, I do belong to some groups where we share our creations with each other and just listen to group opinions. I also started participating at some monthly events where they broadcast our tracks at a club, at Flash in D.C. and that is really cool. It is inspiring to see people put themselves out on such a public way… You can even find the event on Facebook and it’s actually at the club, so you go there and they are actually playing your track at a Funktion-One sound system. It’s pretty cool. It’s just make you wanna keep doing it. There is definitely a community of music creators that isn’t bashful of sharing with each other their stuff – not just sharing music, but also tips and ideas, you know, everything really. I feel grateful to be in proximity to a community like that.

LC: Do you think that in other cities (within or outside the USA),  there are similar communities to yours where people are helping each other? (F.e. if I look around myself, as a female producer, I wouldn’t know, where to go to ask for help or advices…)

JuanaI would hope so and I am sure there are in different ways, because you know, that is how you cultivate your scene… by sharing and being open with each other and if not, then people should definitely start them, because again, I think it’s vital to the health of any music scene – to be able to share together communally.

LC: What would you consider as a next mile pile in your music career? Releasing some music? Releasing on vinyl?

Juana: I would love to release on vinyl, because all of my friends are heavy vinyl collectors, so I would wanna be able to give them some copies, even if it is very limited, so I would love to release on vinyl, absolutely! It would definitely be a great next step. My music career has been short, but long… I have been doing this since 2000 and there is still so much that I have yet to do… some people just kind of like, take off, but for me, it’s been a marathon. Signing with Discwoman has really moved the meter in a lot of important ways, but I know that I still have a lot of things to do to get where I wanna be. I definitely see releasing music is not more important than doing dj gigs, I think they are natural partners, but I think releasing music and creating your own label eventually, maybe would be great next steps. Right now I don’t really see that happening for me, but there are so many things that I did not see a year ago that are now completely possible. I guess I like to keep certain aspects of this open-ended and just enjoy it, when it comes and don’t fight it and just do my best. 

LC: Since we talked about you attending here Katharsis (organised by Reaktor events). Have you ever been to any DVS1‘s parties in the USA?

Juana: Yeah, absolutely, I saw him at the U-street music hall at D.C. and that was maybe in 2011, something like that. That was really cool.

LC: How did you experience his set now at Katharsis 2017 (with his own words “3 hour set. A little faster, a little harder, a little darker…)?

Juana: It’s the same, he is just amazing. He is so consistent and I think that one of the things that I like about him is his ability to sort of transition on an exciting way and build energy and use different sort of styles – what you were saying earlier – to kind of create intensity or intention and kind of set of a bomb. He is just so good at that and he probably influenced my style regarding that. I think it’s coming from sort of mid-Western rave background. 

LC: I started respecting him even more after I watched the Origins documentary about him. It is amazing, how committed he was, and how committed he stayed even when he had loss at all the parties he organised, yet he never quit…

Juana: DVS1 is a great example of somebody who had worked so hard and so long and just never quit and it paid off. I think a lot of people take off, when they are very young and our society, in the US anyways, really values youth and so there aren’t really that many examples of people who worked for a really long-time and not much happened and then suddenly everything happens. I think that is just as inspiring as people who are very young and very adapt and create their own successes as well. I think that those are both very important perspectives.

LC: You mentioned you had a story you’d wanted to tell about your name… 

Juana: So, my childhood nickname was “Bird” – for whatever reason. So when I started playing deep house, my dj name was “Birdhouse” which is really kind of corny now… it was probably corny back then, too! (*laughs*) After I kind of took a break from dj-ing and I just kind of felt like burned down, because I wasn’t really able to expand my sound the way I wanted to, I ditched that name and I adopted my first name… It was kind of almost like an experiment to see if I used my real name and not an alias, if something more sincere would be generated and if I could actually draw into my life some better experiences and some good luck by just kind of being myself and hopefully, that’s what just happened. I liked being “Birdhouse”, but  I like to be Juana more. 

We write now 2019 and sure many things have changed since we've discussed in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Stu Crosbie DJ producer label owner Lost Connection underground electronic music blog

Introducing S. Crosbie (UK)

The first time I connected with Stuart was after purchasing a record from him that was released on his label, ‘Dark Arts’. The DA08 EP showcases tracks that are continuously balancing on the verge of different genres and sub-genres: ‘Radius’ for instance is on the verge of techno & electro, while tracks like ‘Blueshift’‘Final Orbit’ and ‘Further Out’ are like balancing acts between dub-techno, deep house and downtempo. It’s been one and half years since our first interview. Since then Stu has released another EP (Dark Arts 09) which has been reviewed by Matt Sever, and tracks like ‘transmission 9’ have been supported by artists like Jane Fitz in Rinse FM podcasts.

I have never met Crosbie in person, but every time I talk to him, he comes across as a down-to-earth, polite and kind guy who keeps on releasing nice music without trying to force himself into the spotlight. His humbleness is another reason for why I respect him so much.

I usually like to start these personal stories ‘ab ovo usque ad mala’ – from beginning to end – as I am genuinely interested in the different paths everyone walks, together with all the joys and struggles in order to become the person they are today. However, this journal will also be like a journey back in time with a quick dive into the UK’s electronic music scene through the memories of Stu.

 

Lost. Connection: How did you get in touch with electronic music? Which city has nurtured your artistic tendencies?

S. Crosbie: “I studied just outside London and I went to lots of gigs. I was always more into guitar music when growing up. First heavy metal then more indie type material, but I was getting interested in bands like Ministry and NIN, so I guess an electronic element started creeping in. Also towards the end of my studies, I met a new group of friends who were heavily into clubbing. I have to admit I was cynical at first. I went to a couple of house nights, but the night that changed things for me was a party some friends of friends were putting on called ‘Boo’. They had booked Evil Eddie Richards as the guest and it was amazing – probably the first time I heard techno and house music – I was hooked.”

(L.C: Ed Richards or Eddy Richards aka Acidman / Jolly Roger / Key Largo / Kode etc. was one of the very first people to play house and techno in the UK back in the mid eighties. Under his many different aliases, he has done several remixes, amongst them multiple ones for The Shamen in 1991, f.e. ‘Love Sex Intelligence’ or ‘Oxygen restriction’.)

S. Crosbie: “For me, the timing was absolutely the key. This was in London in the mid 90’s which was the most amazing time for the scene. It was such a fertile period. It felt like you could go out and hear the best of any given scene 7 nights a week. But for some reason I was instinctively drawn to techno and to clubs like Club UK and The Complex. Lost in particular was something I’d never come across before – it was just so single-minded. For music so intense and uncompromising to bring so many people together was very inspiring.”

(L.C: LOST’ has been going on since 1991 and the mastermind behind the record label (Lost Recordings) and the event series was Steve Bicknell himself, throwing notoriously dark and sweaty parties in the best bunkers London had to offer at the time, influencing everyone who’s anyone in the UK underground.)

S. Crosbie: “And bookings like Mills, Hood, Young etc – this was where I really found the Detroit sound of the time. One I particularly remember was Suburban Knight playing! It was so stripped back yet filled with so much funk.”

(L.C: Steve was one of the first people ever to bring Jeff MillsRobert Hood or Richie Hawtin overseas to London. Without him, the UK techno scene would not have been what it became. As described by Arthur Smith, LOST was a real gateway club and its atmosphere was incomparable with any other UK clubs’. Every single person was zoned in to exactly what was going on: no-one was talking to each other, no-one was distracted, everybody was hanging on every single moment of the music that was being played. Bicknell is still actively present in today’s scene. He is also known as one of the members of the formation LSD – Luke Slater, David S. aka Function and himself. They have been performing in the Netherlands at last year’s Reaktor Events during ADE. In 2018, they were performing at Dekmantel festival in Amsterdam and at Draaimolen festival in Tilburg which is a big deal considering the fact that LSD for a long time was a Berghain exclusive act.)

S. Crosbie: “There was definitely something unique about the Detroit artists approach to futuristic music, though I never underestimate the importance of the UK artists either. For me some of the most enduring music of that period was coming from artists like Stasis and labels like Ifach. I’m not really sure if the word ‘underground’ is the correct term but at that time, even though the scene was huge, you felt as part of something that was taking place away from the spotlight. It didn’t need (nor crave) attention to justify its existence, and Lost was the perfect example of that. The opening of  The End was pivotal – I think that was very important for clubbing in general.”

TheEndoftheEnd2009

THE ENTRANCE OF ‘THE END’ IN LONDON

(L.C: The End’ was a nightclub in the West End of London, UK. Started in December 1995 by DJs Layo Paskin and Mr C, it was also responsible for the label End Recordings. Musical genres played there included techno and house, drum and bass, breakbeat and dubstep. Throughout its nearly 14 year history, it was regarded as one of London’s most popular mid-sized venues for electronic music of all kinds.)

S. Crosbie: “Again, just quality music, whatever night you went to, and yet such attention to detail in terms of the venue, sound etc. That dance floor is undoubtedly the one I’ve spent most time on – I went the weekend after it opened and was still going when it closed. I admire the risks they took with programming. I was getting into drum and bass around this time, too, as there were definitely links between the deeper end of d’n’b and Detroit. I remember a Promised Land night at The End and being blown away: a) by the depth of the music on show and b) by the atmosphere (it was so friendly at a time when d’n’b had a reputation for moodiness). I always felt you could trust The End to be presenting the quality end of any scene. Fabric opening was also important for the scene  – underground sensibilities but in a beautifully designed space.”

L.C: Did you get to visit some clubs outside the UK, too?

S. Crosbie: “I went to Berlin’s Tresor for new year’s eve 2000 – 2001 – the atmosphere in the Globus room that night was something very special. It actually felt much more like a party than I expected. The Tresor room was, of course, so intense but the venue as a whole felt very open and welcoming. There’s definitely a thread running through these nights – Lost, Tresor etc – it feels very inclusive, you feel part of something but they make no compromises on the music which, let’s be honest, is the beating heart of the scene.

L.C: Any memorable festival visits?

S. Crosbie: “Yes, ‘Tribal Gathering’ 1997. I have to mention this – anybody that was there will know why. An entire tent dedicated to Detroit artists. And Kraftwerk in another tent. The whole thing was a blur – a lost weekend – but I genuinely get goosebumps thinking back – took me a long time to recover!”

Tribal gathering 1997 poster

LINE-UP OF THE TRIBAL GATHERING FESTIVAL ’97

L.C: So after attending all these nights and parties, how did you get started with DJing?

S. Crosbie: “Around 1996 I bought a pair of Technics 1200s – and I’ve still got them today. After that, record buying becomes a sort of compulsion. You start to view money in terms of how many 12 inches you can buy with it. But again the timing was vital.  London was packed with amazing record shops, tucked away in back alleys.”

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RECORD SHOPS OF SOHO 1946-1996

S. Crosbie: “I always tried to take a few risks when buying – picking something up without listening to it. Maybe buying just from the description on the shop’s label or something. It’s funny how specific moments stick in your mind. I remember buying my first Robert Hood solo record in Soho’s Tag. It was ‘Apartment Zero’ – I can genuinely remember seeing it on the racks and taking a chance on it blind. Got it home and to this day it is one of my favourite records. I have to mention Glasgow also – I’m Scottish and my parents still live there so whenever I was visiting I would go record shopping to Rubadub or to Rat Records. It was these trips, in particular, that got me hooked on electro. I remember buying on labels like ‘Interdimensional Transmissions’ (TA: Detroit based electro label run by Ectomorph.) and picking up Drexciya 12″s. That was next level stuff for me – in fact it still is.”

S. Crosbie: “I had played at a few house parties, but a friend I knew from work who was putting on a mid-week drum ‘n’ bass night asked if I wanted to play in a bar. Unbelievably this bar turned out to be the Blue Note in Hoxton. So yeah – crazily my first proper gig was in one of London’s most iconic venues. It was packed and I was so nervous but it went down a treat and I was asked by one of the guest DJs to come and play at his night. It kind of snowballed from there but the sound I was playing at these nights wasn’t my real love. I was supporting artists like Faze Action and playing jazzy beats, deep drum n bass etc. I love the buzz of DJing but my real passion was always techno / electro. After a while I realised that I wanted to focus on something that felt a bit more honest. So myself and two mates started our own night – Shady Brain Farm. There was still a wide musical range played across the night but at last I felt I could play what I wanted and take a few risks. It ran at various small venues for a couple of years and we had some great nights but eventually after a fall-out with the owner of the last venue, we wound it up.

I still love DJing and I’ve been involved with several nights since then (at spaces such as London’s Corsica Studios), but for a few years now I’ve definitely focused more on the production side of things. But DJing is another great way of expressing yourself and I have re-discovered the passion for it recently.”

L.C: So I guess, now it is time to tell the story of how you started producing and what led you to the establishing of your own label…  

S. Crosbie: “I got a second hand computer from one of the guys I eventually ran the night with and he had put a couple of basic programmes on there – Acid Pro and Soundforge – so I started messing around with loops etc. I loved it and started to obsess about it. It immediately changed how I listened to music, starting to try and work out how things had been put together. I guess if I think back, I’ve probably been doing it for around 15 years or so. It’s a strange one for me – I have a daily battle with self-confidence. I think it stems from questioning what my role is – I don’t really consider myself a musician, don’t know a great deal about the technical sound engineering side of things.

When I’m producing I’m just looking for something that provokes a gut feeling. And often that is achieved (to these ears anyway) with a relatively small number of components. Hence my material often being referred to as stripped back. I’m endlessly fascinated by how some producers can get so much swing out of so few elements. I tend to find the groove I’m looking for and then remove different elements to make sure it all still works. At times, by doing this I find that the idea is stronger with a reduced number of elements.”

“Life is just so busy with work, my amazing family – these are all extremely important to me, so finding the time to get into the studio can be tough. And of course there are some studio sessions where you can create something strong very quickly, and others where you toil away for hours and end up with nothing of value. But I’ve learnt something recently – if an idea is good enough, whenever you go back to it, it will still sound good. My battle is learning to trust my instincts. The last EP took a year to get finished. I can be quite scattergun in the studio with ideas flying around all over the place. With releases on DA  there’s not really a pattern –  I just know when I’ve got there and am happy with the tracks. I always try and put out an EP that, even if it contains disparate styles, stands up as a cohesive whole. That’s always felt important to me.

In 2005, myself (under the dubious name ‘marbles’) and a very good friend, Spencer (under the marginally less dubious name ‘shockt’) put out a 12″ .

It didn’t set the world alight but Spencer’s tracks in particular did get some support from people like Swayzak. After that I was still producing in the studio but was lacking vision – enjoying learning about it but not really with any focus. Then my wife, daughter and I moved from London to Brighton and I set up a much better studio space and more cohesive ideas started to take shape.

In 2012 I decided to take the plunge and launched Dark Arts. One story sticks in my mind. I had used up all my savings to press up DA01 myself. So when it arrived I took a few copies down to my favourite London record store to see if they would stock it. “You’re in luck – the buyer is here at the moment” said the bloke behind the counter. So I stood at the counter whilst I heard them flick through the tracks in a back room… only to come back out: “Sorry mate – not really for us”. I was gutted. I thought I’d wasted my time and money and the self-doubt kicked in. It took me quite a while to build up the confidence to let anybody else hear it – but I got in touch with Diamonds & Pearls in Berlin to see if they would possibly take on the distribution as they looked after some of my favourite labels at the time. They turned everything around for me and I can never thank them enough. They took a chance on me, took on the record, it was stocked across the world and within weeks it had sold out (even in the London record shop that had initially rejected it). Some very strange things started happening – I got an email from a guy called Zak saying he’d ordered his copy but it wasn’t going to arrive on time for a gig and he was desperate for it so could I send him the wavs. He was so genuine and polite that I sent him the files – ‘Zak’ turned out to be DVS1! Tracks started being charted and turning up on mixes / radio etc.”

“So of course this gave me the confidence to persevere and DA02 and DA03 continued to do really well. People like Answer Code Request, nd_baumecker, Dario Zenker, Stenny, Roger 23  and Resom were supporting the label. And as someone who loved The End so much, it felt very special when Mr C put a track from DA02 in one of his Superfreq mixes.

I never thought that I’d be here over six years later, having just released DA09. I think if you listen to all the Dark Arts back catalogue, it’s quite varied but there is a link running through everything – maybe there’s a little bit of myself in there holding it all together. It is such a labour of love, there’s no money to be made in production but that’s just never been the point.”

L.C: “Always an interesting question for me to hear about your source of inspirations – which artists do you follow, either from a DJ’s or from a producer’s perspective?

S. Crosbie: “I tend to be inspired by people’s attitudes towards their craft, be it DJing or production. People who have a clear vision – it’s that singular idea running through everything. I have so much respect for so many producers that I don’t really like mentioning specific names (and of course it can change from day to day) but at the moment, people like Terrence Dixon, Marcellus Pittmann, Jamal Moss, Shake are up there – they are proper artists with a totally unique sound. They’re not trying to fit into any scene.

I watched a recent interview with Shed which I‘ve re-watched several times ‘cos I just love his attitude – he just makes music he likes, doesn’t compromise and trusts his own instincts.”

“But it’s not just big names I take inspiration from – some of the most inspiring DJs and producers are the lesser known ones. At a recent Night Moves event in London, the Until My Heart Stops crew of Duckett, Leif and Joe Ellis played. I reckon it was the best night of music I’ve heard in several years – within a house and techno framework but doing something very different rhythmically. It seemed so fresh. And I can’t mention Night Moves without talking about residents Jane Fitz and Jade Seatle. They have been so supportive of me. Jane got in touch about the label on Soundcloud and we met up for a few beers. I went along to Night Moves and immediately felt part of something very special. Then they invited me to play their Field Moves tent at Field Maneuvers festival last year.”

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FIELD MANEUVERS FESTIVAL @ PHOTO CREDITS: RA

“It was one of the best DJing experiences I’ve ever had – everyone was so open-minded. And the music in their tent was next level all weekend – mostly played by DJs you’ve probably never heard of – just so inspiring. But what sums up people like Jane and Jade for me is also what sums up the best parts of the scene in general – they are totally ego-free and they do things for the right reasons. They made me feel totally accepted. Oh and they are absolutely flawless DJs.

I really admire labels that are brave and just put out what they believe in. I guess people who have a purity in their vision, and the confidence to follow that path – be it producing, running labels or putting on nights – that’s what I admire and take inspiration from.”

L.C: … and here we jump in time and I will sum up the things that were about the happen in 2017… In August 2017 you got to play in Brighton (with local legend) Donga and Forest Drive West at one of the awesome Well Rounded parties. Then your  split EP with Frazer Campbell came out in September 2017 which got some great feedback and support.

S. Crosbie: “Through a shared appreciation of our productions, I hooked up with Frazer Campbell (Open / Mosaic) and he asked me to send him some material for his own label – Elliot Project. Frazer is such a good guy, supremely talented and just goes to show that one of the greatest parts of our scene is being able to meet up with likeminded souls.

I’ve also been lucky enough to release some material on other labels – the Venice based Where We Met label is quite rightly building an excellent reputation with music from the likes of Mihail P, Reedale Rise (aka Fernando The Lobster – another alias of the artist, Simon Keat), Derek Carr and some excellent new talent, so I was blown away to be asked to contribute. And also keep an eye out for the London-based EYA Records who have released 3 excellent records in 2018.  I’m delighted to be working on certain projects with other labels.”

(L.C: Mihail Petrovski aka Mihail P is hailing from Vinica, Macedonia. An artist with passion for the deeper sides of techno & house.

Simone Keat aka Reedale Rise‘s biography on Resident Advisor writes: “His teenage years were spent listening obsessively to techno and drum and bass mixes taped from the radio, with the likes of LTJ Bukem and Jeff Mills being pivotal influences in terms of his current sound design and musical moods. Liverpool’s Bugged Out! parties led him deeper into the world of house and techno, with Derrick May and Carl Craig becoming ongoing influences and inspirations. Reedale Rise’s debut vinyl release was a deep techno cut on Edinburgh based label Common Dreams which was followed up on the Rotterdam based label, Frustrated Funk.”)

(L.C: Derek Carr’s biography on Discogs reveals that Derek perhaps might not be the most-known figure in the scene, yet he has been producing and releasing Detroit-tinged electronic music for almost two decades. Derek got an early taste for finely crafted melodic techno through compilations like f.e. Warp Records’ ‘Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove’. According to Discogs, once recognising the home made ‘punk’ ethos of early ‘Bleep techno’, he began to pick up second hand instruments including a cheetah sampler and boss drum machine and he started working on his own sound – influenced by techno pioneers like B12, the Black Dog, As One (aka Kirk Degiorgio), the duo of Nexus 21 and Rhythmatic just to name a few. In 2001 Derek launched his own label ‘Trident Recordings’ and released the ‘Copper Beech EP’ which has since become more of a collector’s item.

L.C: What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and 2019?

S. Crosbie: “I want to keep developing the label. I’m always toying with the idea of a side project / sub label to put out some of the more off-beat material I’m working on and I think 2019 will be the year that happens. I’ve also got a couple of releases for other labels lined up, which I’m really excited about. And I’d love to say that DA10 will hit the tracks but I can’t make any promises. I just want to keep meeting new people – there’s always something to learn about our scene.”

All images used in this article are courtesy of the artist and the promoters / owners of the mentioned clubs, festivals & events.
Lost Connection underground electronic music blog Farron Shaw Cuts musician artist performer producer label owner

Introducing Farron (DE)

About a year ago, on one summer night, I was backstage at Shelter Amsterdam with Niels L. (aka Delta Funktionen). He knew that I am a vinyl addict and also a big fan of his sets, so when I’ve asked for it, he allowed me to go through his records that he prepared for the night. I went through quickly the bag of records while trying to memorise all the artists that were new to me. Among them I have come across Farron (GER). When I got home, I could remember perhaps 3 names out of the 30 and his was one of them, so I’ve checked out his bandcamp account which resulted in the immediate purchase of 2 records (‘Legend of the Bat and Death Duel). Shortly after that, I have decided to contact him and asked him for an interview and luckily for me, he agreed to it.

 

PART 1

Lost. Connection: I have talked to Farron a bit less than a year ago about the origins. How he got involved into the electronic music scene, which were his first releases, live acts and why did he decide to create his own label, Shaw Cuts.

Farron: “I grew up in a little suburban town around 45 minutes drive away from Munich, Germany. When I was really young, music didn’t play a big role in my life. I was mostly playing outside with my friends from the neighbourhood and my older sister till the sun went down. There wasn’t anything particular that caught my ears until one Christmas eve. I was around seven, when I got my first CD-Player and together with it Michael Jackson’s double CD ‘HIStory – Past, Present and Future, Book I’. I can still remember putting on that CD in the kitchen and dancing around to tracks like ‘Billy Jean’ or ‘Thriller’. In the following months I was listening to that whole album at least hundreds of times. I really fell in love with it.”

LC: Any further childhood influences that guided you towards music?

Farron: “My older cousin also had a huge influence on me. I was really looking up to him and admired him a lot in many ways. He was a real Hip Hop head and a skate guy in my teenage years and I just wanted to somehow be like him. I wanted to wear baggy pants, big hoodies and skate shoes like him and wanted to listen to his music collection. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old when he showed me some stuff from the Wu-Tang Clan, from Gang Starr, NAS, some 2Pac and Biggy stuff etc. Also German rap music started playing a bigger role in my life, but I have to say that what particularly got me was the Wu-Tang Clan with ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’. When it came out, I immediately had to buy the album and got even more fascinated the more I’ve listened to it. The whole raw and dirty vibe combined with all these versatile rap styles totally blew my mind and looking back on it, I think that this album influenced me and my own music a lot. I became a teenager with some sort of music addiction from that point on. I’ve always used my headphones in any moment that gave me the possibility to listen to any music and to build my own soundtrack of the world.

Then when I turned 14, I’ve started skateboarding which has also changed my musical taste. I was getting more into (post)-punk-rock and a lot of music that was used in all of my favourite skate videos and so I started visiting a lot of underground punk concerts with my friends. Skateboarding is also very connected to the hip-hop culture, but that went a bit in the background around at that time.

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I got to know Marco Zenker a bit better through skateboarding and we were also on the same school in the same grade. Electronic music was not really a thing for us at that time, but the years went by and I opened up for other musical genres as well.

When I was around 17 years old, I started hanging out with Marco on a more regular base and we became really good friends. Since we both had pretty much the same taste in music, we’ve listened to a lot of things together and one evening we thought about doing some music, too. We picked some classic Hip Hop beats and started writing lyrics that we recorded later. And damn, we were pretty whack! Marco was rapping in English and I was rapping in German and also in French (even though my French was pretty bad at the time). Making music together was much fun.

LC: So how did the two of you got involved into electronic music in the end?

Farron: “Who ‘brought me home’ was actually my sister. She was the one who was into electronic music and was visiting raves regularly at the time. She sometimes told me about her crazy nights out at the legendary Ultraschall (TA: In the spoken language mostly only referred to as U-Schall or Schall was one the most significant clubs of the 90’s techno scene in Germany, next to some other clubs like (the well-known) Tresor and E-Werk in Berlin, the Dorian Gray and Omen in Frankfurt, the KW – Das HeizkraftwerkNatraj Temple, the Millennium and the Rote Sonne (LC: still operating) – all Munich-based clubs which opened after the Schall.)

She also showed me some electro and techno mixes and tracks. Some of this stuff sounded kind of okay to me, but none of them had really touched me deeply at that time.

I did not know Marco’s brother Dario, until Marco told me once that he is a producer and DJ and that he was playing in the same clubs my sister was going to. When I’ve heard that, I thought ‘mhm’, maybe this could be something interesting to see and experience some day.

One night, Dario was playing at the old Harry Klein club in Munich and we took the train to join the party. This may sound a bit cheesy, but that night turned out to be a game changer to me. I’ve never experienced something like that before. The vibe, the sound in such an environment, the open and crazy crowd, the dancing and the impression of freedom – that everybody can do their own thing there was mind-blowing. From that point on we have become regular visitors to Munich’s clubs like Harry Klein, Rote Sonne or Die Registratur. We danced almost every weekend and than usually slept at Marco’s dad’s flat or took the morning train back combined with hitchhiking to our suburban places.

Because of these club-nights, I’ve started to listen to a lot of electronic music at home. Rhythm & Sound (TA: another alias of Moritz van Oswald or MaurizioBasic Channel (together with Mark Ernestus), Ricardo Villalobos, Deepchord, Burial and several other artists got a lot of my attention and excitement. But since there was a connection to Dario, I was really amazed by his own music and his label ‘Hometown Music’ – the forerunner of ‘Ilian Tape’.

Marco immediately got into making his own music and I followed him in that some months later. I was using Ableton and some crappy computer speakers in the beginning. Not to mention the computer I was using at that time. It didn’t have the power to play more arranged channels at the same time, so I always had to edit the arrangement, bounce it, check it and then edit it again, bounce it, check it and so on. Looking back at it, it was a nightmare, but at that moment, it did not matter to me at all – as long as I could produce. I was mainly just experimenting around with sounds, trying to build some loops, arrange them and then try to start the next one – probably the same way how everyone else has started. I chose spontaneously an artist name “LaChriz” which was maybe not well-conceived enough, but in that moment that was the least I cared about.”

LC: When did everything started becoming more serious?

Farron: “While I was still experimenting, Marco was already doing some solid music that lead to his first digital releases on his brother’s label, Ilian Tape. Seeing that pushed me a lot and so I got more into it with a more serious approach.

There was always a musical exchange between me and Marco and so one day, Marco sent a track of mine to Dario. He kind of liked what he heard and contacted me via Skype telling me that I should keep on doing what I do and that I can always send him new stuff. Some weeks later he got back to me and told me that he is planning a digital remix compliation of Marco’s ‘Namibia Dub’ EP and gave me the opportunity to contribute with a remix to the project. I was working my ass off on that remix and somehow got it signed on Ilian Tape. I cannot even put in words how happy I was about that.

But before the remix EP came out, Dario has already asked me if I was interested in a digital solo EP with several tracks and I’ve sent him some newer stuff. This is how I got my debut with the ‘Purple Mountain Meadows’ EP on Ilian Tape. Looking back it is pretty weird and also amazing to me. I don’t know how I was able to do it, cause my technical production abilities were not on point at all. I didn’t even know how to correctly use an Equalizer or a Dynamic Processor. But Dario heard something in my early stuff and I’m still thankful for that till this day. I was able to do another digital solo EP and two appearances on digital compilations on his label and I’ve totally felt like home with them. Ilian Tape was everything for me and I could have never imagined to release somewhere else.”

Farron Technocity.Amsterdam TA

LC: After your releases on Ilian Tape, what motivated you to start performing?

Farron:Shortly after the label’s financial recovery, Marco had got his first vinyl release on Ilian Tape. He was already playing live in some clubs at the time and got a residency at Harry Klein. That was another big push for me, so I started building up a live sets, too. I didn’t really expect to get the opportunity to play live at any club, but shortly before Marco’s birthday in 2010, he asked me if I would like to play live at his birthday rave at the new Harry Klein. Of course, I’ve said yes, but I was also sh*ting my pants. Preparing the live-set for weeks, the excitement and tension grew like crazy. When the day was finally there, I was an emotional wreck. I was so nervous, not being able to eat almost the whole day and even secretly puking in front of the club. But right after the first five minutes of playing, the nervousness was gone and I knew that everything’s going to be alright. I also think that it was the perfect setting for a first gig: the club was pretty crowded, I had lots of really supportive friends there, the vibe was great and Harry Klein was generally a place I was familiar with. I have a lot to thank to the Zenker Brothers.

Due to a lack of routine in playing in front of a crowd, I’m still struggling with the nervousness a bit. It’s not as heavy as it was in the past, but it’s still somehow there. I wish that it wouldn’t be that intense before playing, but I guess that I’m not the only one with these issues. I just have to trick my mind and then I’m usually fine.”

PART 2

LC: Which was the next step or milestone in your music career?

In order to study, I had to move to somewhere else. The city I was living then was pretty boring. There was nothing really going on there and I was far away from Munich. Fortunately, I was lucky with my neighbours. To them, making music all day was no problem at all. I was already having some analogue synths and drum machines and so I’ve jammed a lot in my free time there. I was able to finish another digital EP on Ilian Tape called ‘Belmont High’ in 2012.

Farron: Right after that Ilian Tape stopped doing the digital-only releases and so I was trying to maybe get a vinyl record on Ilian Tape, too. I can definitely say that I wanted it so bad that I got stuck and tensed. I was feeling pretty lost with my music and that feeling lead to frustration, desperation and disaffection. That may sound too harsh, but being such a big fan of the label itself, the Ilian sound and the people behind it, I wanted to take part of it on a bigger scale. I was craving for this relief of seeing my name on an Ilian Tape vinyl record. Unfortunately, it never happened. Only when I looked back at it some years later, I understood it better, what has happened. It was a lesson for life, but it was a good lesson that an artist might need.”

Farron Technocity.Amsterdam

LC: When did you get to release finally something on vinyl?

Farron: In these past years due to networking in the music industry I was able to make several new connections. I was able to release my first vinyl record on the label ‘Woods N Bass Records’ run by a Columbian friend, that was followed by a record on the label ‘Out-Er Recordings’ with the help of another friend of mine. Right after that I released a record on the label ‘Baud Music’ which was my last record under the old moniker ‘LaChriz’.”

LC: And by now, your artist name is Farron and you are a label owner yourself. How did you get to this point?

Farron: I’ve started thinking about having my own label already two years before I really started doing it. At first, I had only some few ideas that popped into my mind here and there. And all these ideas and thoughts about it got more and more intense during those two years. I’ve had several nights laying in my bed for hours, brainstorming about it if I should really make that step. I was intimidated by it and I was also asking myself a lot of things: Do I have the time and energy to do it? Is the time right for it? Will I be able to handle it? Do I have enough knowledge to do it? Do I have the money to do it? And how shall I even start with it?

In the end, I came to the conclusion that all these questions will never stop. If I keep on thinking about risks and not doing anything, I will never get to know the answers to these questions and they will just keep circling around in my head. I wanted to create a platform for my own music, but also for the music of other artists who come close to my ideas and my musical vision. Driven by the desire to get more independent, things started to become more specific.”

 

LC: How did you come up with the label name? Why did you need a new alias?

Farron:One of my biggest influences are old martial arts movies. Especially the ones that got produced by the company called ‘Shaw Brothers’. I simply love that kind of stuff! That influence became the main concept and aesthetic to my label. The reference on these movies and the company behind them can be found in my label’s artworks, press texts, the titles of the records, the logo and label name itself and also in the music and sound aesthetic.

While getting deeper into planning the label, I felt like I needed some more changes and so my moniker ‘Farron’ was born, too. I wasn’t happy with my older name anymore and it generally made sense to change it. ‘Farron’ has no deeper meaning. It’s just a name I was coming up and I thought that it suited better to the ‘breaky’ sound that I was getting more and more into.

Some years before I started setting up my own label, I used to work for a big studio in Munich where I was responsible for the quality control of DVD- and Audio-productions. There was this project together with a famous energy drink company for a DVD production of their X-Alps event series contest and one contender taking part was a guy called Pawel Faron. I think I had to watch the DVD 10 times and always thought that his name was dope, every time he appeared on screen. Maybe my brain got branded and maybe that somehow influenced me several years later regarding my new moniker.

The first release on Shaw Cuts was by me with the tracks ‘Equinox’ and ‘Apo-G’. Jonas Kopp was down to remix the A1, but I wasn’t expecting that he would send me 2 different versions that both blew my mind. I couldn’t decide which one I liked more and so I had to put both of them on the record. This was in the 2015.”

LC: Who was the next artist you have chosen to feature on your label?

Farron:I’ve always really liked the music of Kaelan (and I still do). I’ve contacted him, we got to know each other a bit more and he was down for my request of him releasing a record on my label. He immediately sent over several great tracks and The Silent Swordsman’ EP was born. Kalean also works under another moniker, 2030. Truly great stuff that he makes!

 

The third record was again my own tracks, this time with four Farron originals. I’ve decided to do a remix EP of that record right after its release that included reworks by Marco Zenker, Poima, Roger 23 and Simo Cell. I always wanted to see Marco’s name on a Shaw Cuts record and I was more than happy that he was down to take part in this.

Poima is a Russian duo that got my attention several years ago. I was browsing through SoundCloud a bit, got on their profile and really liked what I’ve heard. Especially their Boiler Room live set left me speechless. I’ve contacted the guys and we became friends. They were also running a club called Рабица in Moscow (TA: Rabitza had to close at some point unfortunately) where we were able to organise the first Shaw Cuts label night in April of 2017. Simo Cell, the remixer of my track ‘Par-2’ also was on the line-up at that party and played an absolutely outstanding set there. Simo Cell’s productions are super interesting and fresh and his style of DJ’ing is very special. The fourth remixer was Roger 23, a guy from Saarbrücken who’s music was always very influential to me. After we got to know each other, we had several long conversations on the phone. He is somebody that always had an open ear for me. He’s a special and great person with lots of experience, knowledge and talent.”

LC: What happened next after the first label night?

Farron: In May 2017 the SC005 was released which was another solo record from me called ‘Legend Of The Bat’.

2018 started off with a record by the Russian duo Poima. It was their first solo release ever and I’m super happy that my label was the platform for that record.

And it was also nice that Regen and Ed Davenport under his moniker Inland contributed remixes to that one. My ‘Invincible Shaolin’ record have been recently released on Shaw Cuts and also includes a remix by Leibniz and I feel very content with the release.

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I will definitely try to keep things going concerning the label. Plus, it is a nice feeling to be able to support other artists. Things like that let me keep going, too. I’m doing this whole thing all by myself. This is my baby and I would love to see it grow and I’m more than thankful for any support, interest and love for Shaw Cuts.

What I’ve learned in my past few years in the music business is, that often it is better NOT to see it as a business, but more as a passion. It will always stay some sort of business, but you can have your own rules in this cosmos. Maybe because of this principle I took some bad decisions and I’ve also missed some chances regarding my own musical career, but I definitely don’t want money to control everything. All I want is to make music and to play music freely, for people who appreciate it. Because that feeling is priceless.”

 

BinaryFunction TechnocityAmsterdam

Introducing BinaryFunction (UK)

Electronic music’s surge in popularity can be explained through the concept of information cascades.

The scene emerged around the late 70s and made a few advances during the 80s, only to return underground. By the 90s, its presence was making its way into society. At the turn of the millennium the intimate, small raves of the nineties turned into parties attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. The demand called for bigger venues resulting in today’s festivals attended by hundreds of thousands. The phenomenon of web 2.0, the appearance of smartphones and social media applications had a major role in spreading the different genres of electronic music world wide. Analog equipment since have been translated into digital software that made the production part accessible to the masses. By now, almost every producer incorporates digital software into their production, while DJ’ing is mostly done with CDJ’s instead of analog turntables and vinyl records.

There are only a few DJ’s in the current scene who can say that they have been present from the very beginning – having started off with analog gear, shifting to digital throughout the years, yet, never completely leaving analog behind. BinaryFunction (UK) is one of them. Next to his passion, he kept on working in his day-time job as a network analyst and since then raised 4 beautiful daughters, but he never gave up on his ambitions to make a career as a DJ and producer. Till today he is producing actively and recently had more opportunities in Germany and in the UK to perform, too.

I asked him about a year ago about his past, the present and about his future plans.

Lost.Connection: You are not a novice to the electronic music scene. When did you get involved and why?

BinaryFunction: “I actually started learning to DJ in 1985  after becoming immersed in the whole hip hop scene. I saved enough money to buy my first Realistic 2 channel mixer and a pair of old school turntables from a second hand shop, and from here I started to practice the art of DMC style DJ’ing with 2 copies of Public Enemy’s Yo Bum Rush the Show album. I was completely hooked from here on in and started to make a name for myself as a DJ amongst my school friends.

My mother is British and my father is from the paradise island of Mauritius, he came to the UK in the 60’s. We had our first real family holiday to Mauritius also in 1985. I fell in love with the island and on the last day of the 6 week holiday, I locked myself in a room and cried for ages and ages because I didn’t want to leave. I think a connection was made between me and the island during this time, a connection that would come calling my name again in 1991 when I decided to leave the UK to make a new life of my own as a young bachelor. By this time I had surpassed the hip hop era and transitioned through in to the acid house and techno scene.

Around 1989 my parents bought me my first pair of Technics turntables that I had dreamed of owning for several years and I self-taught the art of beat matching. The inspiration to become a DJ came from watching legends like Jazzy Jay, DJ Cheese, Chad Jackson, all the old school greats and the whole coolness of hip hop itself. I was mesmerised by the sound of the needle on the record as it was manipulated back and forth to create this amazing scratch sound. The warm sound of vinyl, the sheer joy of holding the music in my hands and having total control of the beat etc.

 

Manchester played a huge part in my early DJ’ing years providing me with a constant nourishment of the freshest tracks from around the world. Iconic record shops such as Spin Inn, FAT City Records, Vinyl Exchange and of course my favourite, Eastern Bloc would feed my addiction to the music. Mauritius on the other hand back in 1991 was completely behind the times when it came to the electronic music scene, with just one or two local club DJ’s playing some odd European tracks here and there. This was a prime opportunity to demonstrate my style and sound and I very quickly secured a residency within a couple of weeks of arriving on the island of Mauritius.

To give you an idea of how difficult DJ’ing really was in Mauritius back then, try to imagine the old school disco’s where no one would approach the dance floor until that one well known track came out the speakers. In this case it would be something like It’s ‘My Life’ by Dr. Alban or ‘All that She Wants’ by Ace of Base, you get the picture. But then one completely unknown track would clear the dance floor in seconds, that’s what I was faced with, and here was me, trying to drop Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’ and Jay Dee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ to this same crowd. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to strike the right balance to keep the crowd interested and dancing throughout my entire set… well, most of them (haha).”

LC: After having started DJ’ing and producing in Mauritius, how many years later did you win that particular DMC competition, that brought you the breakthrough on the island?

BinaryFunction: “In 1995 I saw a flyer for a DMC competition from the club where I first started out in 1991. Unfortunately, I never kept hold of a copy of this flyer, but I do remember it saying the competition would be judged by French DMC officials and hosted by 1991 French DMC Champion DJ Crazy B. I had one thing in my head at the time of seeing this and that was to win the competition. It was stated on the flyer that the winner would go on to represent Mauritius in the DMC world competition and would be flown over to Reunion Island for the preliminary heats. I did win the competition in the club, with a trophy to prove and some great photos, but unfortunately the promoters of the event in Mauritius did a runner with the takings and I never made it to Reunion. I am very happy to say that I recorded my set live from the competition using a small portable minidisc recorder and it is currently up on my SoundCloud page. It’s a 25 year old piece of personal history for me and it has received some great feedback. Artists in the mix include, LL Cool J, Apache, Bionic Booger Breaks, Public Enemy and more. I was competing against some 10 or so local DJ’s.”

LC: In 1998 you were on the line-up before Laurent Garnier. Do you have any special memories about that particular event?

BinaryFunction: “During my time living and DJ’ing on the island I started to organise some events of my own and word spread to the neighbouring island of Reunion. In 1996 I was contacted by a friend named Sylvie asking if I would like to come and play a techno set on the island. I said yes of course and a few years later Sylvie placed me on a huge event DJ’ing alongside the legendary Laurent Garnier. It was from here that I started networking and becoming friends with some of the big name DJ’s from Europe, Jack de Marseille, Charles Schillings, Stéphane Pompougnac (Hotel Costes albums) to name a few. I have many memories from the Laurent Garnier party but one of my favourites was the pre-gig dinner. I was sat right next to Laurent in this really nice modest restaurant and you can imagine me, this kid from Manchester, totally used to this VIP treatment (not). The menu comes along and Im like wtf should I order, I had no idea so I waited to see what Laurent was going to order and I said, I’ll have the same as him please. The steak arrived, it was still mooing on the plate (apologies to any vegetarians out there), very raw, swimming in blood, what the hell did I just order? And of course I had to pretend it was exactly to my liking and so I started to eat it, each mouthful washed down with a huge glug of red wine. The moral of this story, I should have just ordered the fish and chips (haha).”

LC: You yourself had been a regular clubber while living in the UK. Would you share with us your memories and experiences about club goers and the UK clubbing scene back then? What do you think has changed since?

BinaryFunction: “For me it was the late 80’s when I first started going to clubs in and around Manchester. I went to pretty much all of the clubs that were playing acid house and techno at the time, but the main ones for me were the Thunderdome, the Hacienda, Konspiracy, The Orbit, Angels Burnley, Shelleys, The Sound Garden and many of the illegal warehouse raves mainly in the Burnley/Blackburn area. However, for me it was the Thunderdome that changed my life forever. This club was extra special; anyone who went to the Dome often will know exactly what I mean. It was dark, gritty and moody-as-hell, a pretty dodgy place, but man, purple ohms, double dipped strawbs, banging shiny techno, need I say more. Some of the tracks that stuck with me from this era were Future FJP – Liaisons D; Rhythm Device – Acid Rock; Adonis – No Way Back; 808 State – Pacific State,; The Beat Club – Security; Joey Beltram – Energy Flash & Mentasm Second Phase, NJOI –Mindflux; Lil Louis – French Kiss; Shades Of Rhythm – Sweet Sensation – just too many classics to list them all here. Fast forward to the present day and the music has evolved in to different genres of house and techno, I like to listen to what I call organic techno, Mathew Jonson, Silent Servant and Sebastian Mullaert are amazing producers and their music is an excellent example of this style.”

 

LC: In 2004 you have moved back to your hometown, Manchester and since then you have been honing your production craft and DJ’ing skills, waiting for the right moment to breakthrough in the UK as well. What was the reason for moving back?

BinaryFunction: “After marrying my Mauritian girlfriend and having children, my wife and I decided it would be best to return to the UK and start a new life, better education for our kids, better careers etc. Since then I have continued to DJ (at home) and have become much more serious about producing. I had 12 years at the top on the island and decided the time was right to focus on family. It was a really tough decision but one that I made self-consciously knowing it was the right choice if I was to give our children the best start in life. I DJ and produce purely out of passion, music is in my blood, I breathe and live for it 24/7 non stop. If I do well from what I love doing the most, then ultimately this means I can give more to my kids, and that is priority for me. I want my children to grow up being proud of their dad, giving them the message never to give up on something that you are really passionate about. If you love it enough, your time shall surely come, and if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be, but you had at least fun. I will continue doing what I do with the music till the day I die, no matter what. I have been loving the music, the scene, the DJ’ing, the clubbing; all of it for over 35 years, it’s in my heart forever.

LC: Among all the producers out there, who do you look up to the most in the current electronic music scene?

BinaryFunction: “Around 2008 I was introduced to music from an artist known at the time as Maetrik, and before Maetrik he went under the name of Mariel Ito. I’m a huge fan and personal friend of Maceo and all of his work. Maceo manages to fuse house, techno and electro in a way I’ve never heard before and he is without doubt one of my biggest influences at present. Of course there’s no getting away from my Hip Hop roots and the wide spectrum of other legendary electronic artists that have influenced and inspired me along the way. Such artists include – Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Bob Marley, Hendrix, Hawtin, Mills, CJ Bolland, Arthur Baker, Vangelis, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, and lots and lots more.”

 LC: Which one do you enjoy more, DJ’ing or music production?

Binary Function: “That’s easy – DJ’ing. The day I get to play in front of a crowd will be the most exciting day of my music life. Sure I did this years ago whilst growing up and living in Mauritius, but to break the mold here in the UK, Europe and the US feels like an impossible task.”

LC: Thank you, Paul and good luck!

What is mainstream and what is underground?

“Change is the only constant factor to the fundamental laws of our universe.“
It is not easy to define when we talk about music, what do we regard as mainstream and what do we perceive as underground. What creates or increases the demand for a certain music genre? Can any artist that gathers a wide audience still be called underground? What is wrong with mainstream and why do so many insist on the importance and the existence of the underground?
A music genre according to the encyclopaedias is defined as a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of conventions. If we talk about traditions and conventions, already at this point into our analysis, we could say that the minute a certain type of music is defined as a conventional category, it stops being underground. But is it really as simple as that? What is wrong with conventional music? How did throughout music history the need for the new sound appear and how did it evolve? I am trying to find the answers, but the task seems unyielding.

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If we look at the currently existing electronic music genres, we can split them all further into sub genres. If we take Techno and House as an example, we can roughly differentiate Detroit Techno and Chicago House, Acid Techno and Acid house, Dub Techno and Deep house and Tech house, Minimal and Electro. Certain waves create new sub genres and it seems like genres are constantly influencing each other. The more people are involved into making music and the more often encounters of different genres do happen, the more diverse it gets.

The conclusion is that diversity always had a positive effect on the development of music. If we look at music history, the forefathers or pioneers of electronic music through their experiments created the “music of the future” for generations to come: they created music that has never existed before – music with endless possibilities.

Around the 90’s, the digital revolution started spreading around the world like wildfire. The appearance of the world-wide web, technological advancements like new hardware and software created multiple online platforms where people from different parts of the world could connect and share music with each other. This has certainly accelerated the exchange of new sounds between producers, end users etc. and generated different waves in each music category, amongst them the electronic ones. Moreover, the new digital tools made it available to many to start producing music – with samples and plugins, everyone could dive into the production side of electronic music, without a conventional music education, without the extended background knowledge of classical musical instruments.

On one hand, the digital revolution had a beneficial side, as it enhanced creativity within the scene. But on the other hand, the mass appearance of new artists – producers and / or DJs – with more or less technical and musical knowledge resulted in an adverse effect that could have only been foreseen by Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory theoretician, Hari Seldon.

The accelerated flux of information through different social media channels resulted in information overflow and the process is ongoing. The more new producers and DJ’s appear in the scene, the more difficult it becomes for the end users to follow-up with new music, to absorb new names, to distinguish between producers of quality and producers of quantity. The importance of the lead generation becomes stronger and trends start to rule the scene.

While the music taste of any individual person stays relative, if the majority of the people within a community turn into conformists, they begin to form a certain block – a large group of people with the same type of demand. What are the dangers of such a phenomenon?
In capitalist societies, this will mean that the competition amongst the suppliers of this demand will become heavier and sheer profit gain can take over the scene even within those genres that have not been part of the music industry so far.
Clubs, festival promoters, labels and agencies will start to rival each other for the attention of the same target audience. The more suppliers appear on the market, trying to search for a market niche and supply all demands, the more the new generations will find themselves surrounded by a “Land of Canaan” and thus, the number of the trend followers will eventually grow into an even bigger block which will start a self-generating process.

If media sources that are the platform of communication between end users and suppliers start to concentrate exclusively on the well-known names, on the biggest clubs, on the most attended festivals and focus only on the popular labels, the yearning within the electronic music community for something new and different and unique will shrink.

At this point, the artistic freedom will be compromised as producers and DJs will try serve the already established trends in order to satisfy demands of the industry insiders and the audience instead of being out on the search for the new sounds. Underground artists will start vanishing from the scene and not consequently because the music they make or play is not creative or good enough compared to the industry standards. Simply because there is decreased demand for the unconventional and because for that reason they are not backed up by famous clubs and powerful agencies.

Such a phenomenon can become an enormous hurdle for diversity as unknown (or less known) DJs will not be booked anymore and unknown producers will not be promoted by labels / artists. If diversity will be more and more minimised, the quality eventually will decline which can result in a very paradox and vulnerable situation.

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