Can you tell us about a special gig that stays with you from your last tour run?
One recent favourite was Ankali in Prague. It was their first in-house queer party called Crush and to get the ticket link they made you fill out an RSVP form on their website with a series of questions. The questions were like “Describe your naughtiest experience in the club; what item would you bring to a deserted island?; Are you queer?; Are you an ally?; If you’re an ally, what are you doing to support the queer community?” At first, I thought no one in New York would do this, so I was interested to see how it would turn out for the club, but it was a really great turnout.
The decoration that they did was fucking amazing. In the chill out room there were all these fuzzy orbs hanging with soft light emitting from them, the decks were on a low table with cushions where you could sit to play. Then above the cushions was this bear suspended on the wall behind their head and they had stitched the word ‘Crush’ onto the teddy bear’s chest. The level of detail was amazing.
Then the people who played after me, hadri and Sanjin (who were the organisers of the party) played the weirdest, fucking most amazing set I’ve heard in so long, and they played one my favourite Maurice Fulton tracks. It was the most locked in I’ve been into a dance for a long time. I had a flight to London the next day so I wasn’t trying to stay that long, but I ended up staying and hanging with them till like 10:30. I didn’t want to leave. It was very wholesome.
It was also interesting for me, playing in Prague, because the crowd wasn’t the type to give verbal feedback. It took me a second to acclimate, but people were dancing and people were there so I felt like they were with me and I could get a little bit weirder. I definitely played my favourite tracks that I rinse often, which is a nice part about being in a new place–you can play things that you have played often and people won’t always know. That sounds bad, but I feel like DJs should be able to have signature tracks they play.
It’s interesting what you say about DJs having signature tracks. I remember Call Super said in an interview he has a similar approach.
What is your relationship to digging?
I have a friend in New York named Cosmo, and about a year ago we were talking about our digging practices, and she told me she only digs once every three to four months and she studies her tracks. I love that slow approach to digging where you really get to know your songs, but I’ve been kind of frenetic recently with how I download music. I honestly feel like I should take a page from Cosmo and restrict myself a little bit because it forces you to dig in your own library and develop a relationship with what you play.
Are there certain tracks that you would like people to know you for?
I have this song that has been very prevalent in my life in the past four to five months, ‘I’m Lonely’ by Hollis P. Monroe. I knew the song already, but my friend Nico played it when we were hanging out in Denver. I was preparing for my Nowadays New Year’s Day at the time and I knew that was the vibe I wanted to bring. Then the night before I played, I was at a New Year’s Eve party at my friend Andrew/Akanbi’s apartment with the Somatic Rituals boys. I played one track there and it was “I’m Lonely”. The next day, I played at 2:PM. I knew they were gonna come but they hadn’t gotten there yet. Around an hour into playing, I started to bring in ‘I’m Lonely’ and I looked up and they had just walked into the room, they were at the centre of the crowd, perfect timing.
This track just keeps proliferating as a lucky track. It’s literally the cult of Hollis P. Monroe. I’m amassing the serendipitous connections. I also play a lot of Maurice Fulton because he’s one of my favourite producers. I rarely go a set without playing a track of his. There’s a few others. Halo Varga ‘Future!’, ‘What Is The Time Mr. Templar?’ by The Persuader. There’s just a few tracks that I feel can be played in any context.
You’ve talked a little bit about what you appreciate in a crowd as a DJ. When did you start to notice that it was becoming something that was more like a job? Are you at the point where you could live off DJing?
I don’t know if I could live off of it right now. If I quit my day job I could, but then I will have to play things that I don’t want to and compromise my integrity a little bit. In the US and Canada, I prefer to play small DIY things that my friends put on for not that much of a fee. I would have to say no more often to those things if I were to make all my money from this, which I don’t really want to do at this time.
I feel like in music there’s always this expectation that someone would want to be full-time as a DJ or producer. But having the ability to be selective is also really important to help you keep the love for what you do.
Exactly. I’m just trying to keep my relationship to music relatively pure. I already see how my relationship to listening, digging and going out has changed. I see the potential for it to become much more commodified for me and I don’t want that feeling. I used to just log on to Discogs and dig for hours for fun. I would look forward to it and I would dig three or four times a week.
Now I feel like I need to carve out time to dig for a few hours this week and then learn my tracks. That doesn’t feel good. And on a personal level, I don’t want to relate to something, that somebody put their passion, love and countless hours into, in that way. It feels disrespectful.
That’s understandable. With that in mind, what nugget of advice would you give to someone who is coming up now as a DJ?
I would just tell them to try and keep their relationship to music authentic and to try as hard as they can to preserve it. That’s what ends up giving people a distinct sound. You can literally hear it when people play, you can feel it. For example, Ceci, CCL, they’re my friend but they’re also one of my favourite DJs in the world and that’s partly because they draw on their personal library of music that they listened to before they got into dance music.
I have the same thing with another friend, Cleo, she DJs as Razrbark. She doesn’t play out super often but she’s super amazing. Every time I see her play my mind is blown. She plays shit that I would never expect somebody to put into a DJ set, but it’s not a gimmick or for shock value, it’s totally authentic shit that she’s been listening to for 10 years. She’s a true digger. Personally, I really love when people play weird shit that takes me by surprise. I feel like I haven’t seen people just playing the true weirdo shit as much lately, but that’s what sticks in my brain and that’s what I love dancing to.
Can you tell us about the mix you recorded?
I’d been trying to make a mix that opened with this track by James Bangura for at least six or seven months, but every time I tried to use it for other mixes it wasn’t the right fit for one reason or another. I knew that it would set the thematic tone for whichever mix I’d eventually end up using it in, and I was feeling appropriately
Sophie McNulty is a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter
James Bangura – Hazy Recall
Sami & Sir EU – ????
Dex – Eléctrico
Wallace – ????
Suburban Knight – Maroon
Big Ever – ????
The Digital Kid versus The World – Total Control (Chicago Damn Remix)
Grain – Untitled B1
Orbe / Oliver – ORIENT
Mike Parker – Druma
DJ Trystero – Beneath
Santiago Salazar – Dance Floor Confessions
Ubik – Non Stop Techno
Aril Brikha – Ottil
Trevino – To The Core
Swayzak – Speedboat (2023 Edit)
Dreamscape – New Age
Written by: Tim Hopkins