Thursday, May 13, 2010

Artist Interview: James Duncan

James Duncan is a name whispered in DJ circles and those in the know. A trained musician with a DJ mentality, James' work as a producer shows his experience as a long time DJ and club devotee as much as it shows his musician background. Duncan has played trumpet in sessions and live for Metro Area. Yet his own productions point to a more loop and groove based direction. Having recently moved back to his native Toronto from New York, and with multiple projects coming up, James may come out from his underground status and into the limelight...perfect timing to catch up with James about what he's been up to.

DT: Many would say that NYC is going through a resurgence as far as Dance Music. Would you agree? Is there as much happening as the media would suggest?

JD: Man, that’s a good question. I can’t really speak to what has been going on over the past few years because I haven’t lived there for a minute now, but I’m really inspired by all of the music coming out of the city these days. The quality is so high, especially on the House front from all the people that have been getting some well-deserved media focus.

NYC is such a strange situation in the sense that, just like anywhere, after a while, even it can begin to feel small. Walking through Times Square just becomes more of a hassle than the total center of insanity that it really is. So I think when one is there, in the thick of it let’s say, it’s easy to feel as if not much is going on at all and take it all for granted. But then you leave that situation and environment and you quickly realize there’s quite a bit going on and it’s all so accessible.

So it’s not like there’s some “oasis” with all of these people sitting around welcoming you with 12”s, but I think all of the various circles of people and their activity combine to make for a very vibrant environment in which to be creative in, even if one takes the stance that NY is maybe a somewhat muted, cleaned up version of its former self.

Having moved back to Toronto recently, what is the difference between working as a producer in Toronto vs New York? What inspires you musically in each city?

Well another great question. I think the things that are different, other than maybe the size and some of the outward focus on NY in general, is merely reflective of me still being some what of a “new comer” back here in Toronto. At my age, I’m not out too much shaking hands and doing a lot of face time. My process is, and has always been, me literally sitting at home alone, listening to great records that I love and then trying to make music.

What always inspired me about NY was that energy you could feel seeping right up into your feet every time you walk outside of the house. What seems to be pretty inspiring about being back in Toronto is a general sense of ease about being creative and to be honest, Health Care. Not having to stress out about getting randomly hit by a cab and then all of a sudden having an $80, 000 hospital bill should inspire anyone to great things.

We spoke at length about the positives and negatives of the Toronto scene. Many Torontonians tend to complain about the state of the scene. As a local who recently returned to the city, perhaps you could expand on your views of the city from a fresh pair of eyes?

Well that was a good conversation mostly because it was so positive. I think I’m a bad guy to ask about scenes because I always enjoy going to more low-key events and I usually go out during the week.

I do try to get involved in scenes but being at home; working in the studio and practicing my trumpet and guitar usually distract me. But I’ve been trying to get out more and more lately. I’m DJ’ing a weekly here in Toronto these days and it’s been great to connect with a lot of people that I knew via 6 degrees of separation and some old friends.

I think the situation here is very good. There are parties and people to both play at them and go to them. There’s so much good history here too, especially for House, so one of my pet projects is to try and get some of the older cats and newer guys (like yourself) to play some gigs around town in some more intimate settings. I tried to get D’Pac to play but Yogi (his brother) said he doesn’t DJ, so maybe there’s a Live PA there waiting to happen. The fact that the guys responsible for one of the greatest house records of all time live here in the city just is so cool. I’d also like to get the Stickmen too.

As far as some fresh eyes, my take is simple - there’s quite a lot of stuff going on and it seems healthy, as well as it’s getting good attention from abroad. A friend of a friend played on David Letterman the other night and Letterman said the band was from Toronto. That’s pretty good in my books, so I’m happy to be here.

Being a musician, producer and DJ, do you identify more with one or do all three have equal importance to you?

It’s funny but I still have problems identifying with any of them! I guess since I’ve been a DJ and musician the longest, I do identify with them, but not really with the ways in which the musical public perceives what those roles are. I started DJing in 1983 but it was on a high school radio station and I was also playing at high school dances, so I still feel at odds with the notion that one is a focal point of attention when one DJs. I’m much more comfortable being quite anonymous, but I do love playing and sharing music I love with people.

How does each role affect the other?

For some people they all go hand in hand, but for me, they all seem to just get in the way of each other. Playing the Trumpet is a very physical, taxing activity and a lot of one’s practice time is spent on musical calisthenics in order to keep up one’s tone and endurance. So people sometimes assume that because one has some degree of proficiency on an instrument, therefore one must be a good producer, but for me it’s been quite the opposite. I guess the only thing that is consistent between all the roles is that I’m not very good at any of them. If I were to play a stock trumpet gig where there were charts, and other ensemble players, I’d fail miserably, even though I studied legit trumpet and have played in Orchestras, playing some bigger pieces in the repertoire. That being said, I play with people I enjoy and am inspired by and sometimes I contribute to the situation and thankfully, people seem to relate to my musical statements, however small and humble they are, in the grand scheme of things.

You’ve mentioned about your musical background progressing from Jazz, Free Jazz into Hip Hop to Disco and Boogie then eventually discovering house music. Do you remember when and how you discovered house music? What were some of the first and most influential house tunes you heard?

Well I remember “house” coming along in around 1986-7, along with the club culture that went along with it and the whole UK Summer of Love vibe. I would intermittently go to the Twilight Zone in the mid 80s, but I was far from a regular or conissuer, just a drunk teenager. I remember hearing Mr. Fingers and some of the other more mellower things that came out around that time. Hearing New Wave, New Romantic, music on Factory etc was such just a “given” growing up in Toronto back in the 80’s that the early, more beat oriented house tunes I heard at the time just initially mixed in. When House really hit, I had sort of thrown myself full into discovering and studying jazz so it was sort of when I got in Disco that I re-discovered (or really closely discovered) House in the mid 90s. I had been playing both indie rock and jazz up until that point, so it was around when I started to try producing and learning how to make tracks and beats. I think the track then that really hit me was Acid Tracks. To me, it just sounded like a punk rock record, which in my mind, it basically is.

Though you are a trained musician, to me your productions convey more a sense of a loop based groove. Do you consciously try to step away from making productions that are “over- arranged” or “over-produced”?

Yes and no. I mean I think Dance music inherently is a very abstracted form of music, so maybe sonically, I like to explore that, plus loving sampling like I do, I guess that work flow just lends itself to loop based music. But I’ve been really trying to make it less “loop” based, but still using samples. I guess for me, every time I try to play arranged things on a keyboard, I just hear my bad clich├ęd Piano playing and throw in the towel. I guess I’ve also always loved the “happy accidents” of working with samples, so I’ve always stuck to that method. Plus I’m just such a huge Hip Hop fan that I guess that mode of production is now part of my musical DNA.

People have try and push me to broaden my arrangements, but when I sit down to work, I just come up with very groove based things. Personally I have no problems with that reality and if that’s all that comes out, so be it. I just try to get better at it as I go along.

What is your method of production. I believe when we chatted last time you had recently acquired an MPC 2000. Has that changed your approach?

Yeah the MPC 2000 completely changed things for me. In some ways it was what I was always looking for. All of my records from NY (listen to me, “all of my records”. it’s like 5. Producers out there make 5 records a month and here I am waxing on about 5 records in a career) were made on a laptop, but it was literally a portable, digital version of my original set up, which was a Prophet 3000 run by either an Amiga 500 or a early version of Cubase on a Mac Powerbook 140. I used Halion and Battery running though Cubase and that was about it. I was mapping samples onto an external midi keyboard and triggering them. Removing the keyboard has been a godsend. It abstracts the music so that I’m not thinking about pitches or about any little keyboard facility I might have.

Just last week I got a MPC 2000xl and it’s been the perfect transition. The updates to the sequencer section and the way the XL handles switching between various modes have been amazing and I’m already busting through a lot of barriers.

After a long hiatus, your Le Systeme final saw another release with the Friday Night Sessions ep. Have you got more plans for the label this year and releases lined up?

Yeah this year might be busy actually. The next release is by Carlos Hernandez of Balihu and Basenotic fame. Carlos is basically a “go to guy” for tons of friends and peers in NYC when it comes to percussion or various instruments.

I met Carlos originally in 2003 doing some Metro Area Live PAs and we’ve always stayed in touch and done some gigs together. His big connection is obviously to Danny Wang, not only playing on some of Danny’s tracks but also having productions on Balihu proper.

As a producer though, he’s one of my faves and we talked about doing a record on Le Systeme over dinner and drinks in NY when I was there a while back. I’m so happy that it’s almost a reality. The record is getting pressed as we speak and I hope people check it out.

What are some projects, releases, gigs, etc. on other labels to look out for?

Man, it’s been busy, something I’m really not used to. I have a new record coming out at some point on Real Soon and there’s a remix/edit I did coming out soon on Bliq, both from London. Then I’m just finishing up a 12” for Third Strike, run by David Griffiths in London, who does both Jiscomusic and Under The Shade, and who is just a great music person and long distance email friend since his days in the Jigsaw crew when they got in touch with support in 2003. So a lot of London right now. The UK people have always been such massive supporters and it’s so great to do all of these projects there.

As far as my label goes, I want to re-issue the Mantler CD this year (that originally came out in 2000) plus my first 12” that I did in 1999. I’m trying to track down the plates now.

I have a bunch of gigs in NY for the first week in July, some with my friend Jon DeRosa’s Aarktica project and some other things that we’re just getting the details together on now.

I’m trying to get a EU tour set up at some point this year, so working out the details for that over the summer.

And then there’s my weekly gig here in Toronto at Sweaty Bettys. Pow!

Friday Night Sessions Ep is available here

Friday, January 22, 2010

Artist Interview: Lerosa

Deep Transmissions has been in hibernation mode for awhile mainly due to personal reasons. But as we're having a bit of a mid-winter thaw here in Toronto, I figured it was time to reactivate it. To kick things off we have an interview with Ireland based Italian producer Lerosa (Leopoldo Rosa). Leo has been building a steady name for himself on the back of several great releases on labels such as Real Soon, Quintessentials, Uzuri & Millions Of Moments. The recent inclusion of his track "Plesso" on Tama Sumo's Mix CD on Ostgut Ton also up his profile no doubt. Rosa's sound is derived from his love for classic house and techno as well as all things deep but there's a quirkiness that gives it his personal touch. As discussed below his musical interests and influences span beyond just four to the floor. Deep Transmissions talks to Leo via email about working with Donato Dozzy, his impressions about returning to DJing and doing live shows, and his new found appreciation of vocals.

DT: Now that you’re back playing live and Djing, how do you find the current vibe in clubs? Does the club environment excite you as much these days?

LR: I quite enjoyed the places I have played at; I am hardly what you’d call a big clubber so gigging gave me a chance to see venues across Europe that I would not have seen otherwise. It’s nice to be back on stage either Dj’ing or playing live, I had not played in a good few years and I really enjoyed the feeling even more than back in the days (late 80’s early 90’s) mostly because back then a lot of the Dj’ing involved having to play some commercial music whereas now it is acceptable to play quality underground music from start to finish. Also I am enjoying the little bit of notoriety

Any particular experience (city and club) that was memorable?

I think Fabric was the most memorable, sharing the stage with big names, an immense sound system, a great crowd, it was quite overwhelming. Also Tape in Berlin alongside Jus'Ed was a blast, great fun from start to finish. I've enjoyed the smaller parties a lot too with Luxor Live in Arnhem, Club 80 in Amsterdam and the party for Sound the Alarm in Glasgow being some of my favourite. Can't say I have seem much of the cities but the little time spent in each city I really enjoyed so far. It's nice to meet new different people all geared up and in party mode, you catch them at their best :)

A lot of people were surprised (maybe stylistically speaking) of the collaboration with Donato Dozzy. Have you known him for awhile? How did this project come about and what was the working process like?

I have known Dozzy for ages; we went to the same school, lived in the same neighborhood and for a few years Dj’ed together at various parties and venues. We lost touch after I quit Dj’ing and moved to Ireland but then found each other again when we realized we were both producing electronic music. Once we got in touch again we immediately decided to try and work on something together as we were curious on how the years and experiences had changed us and as a way to rekindle our friendship and artistic relationship. Because of the distance we decided to start 2 tracks each and to send these to the other to finish. As a result some tracks have a closer association to the style of Dozzy and some to mine but I think as an overall project it worked nicely and generated an EP with variation which we both enjoyed.

Are there any other collaborations in the works? What other artists would you be interested in working with?

At the moment I am working with Lakuti of Uzuri on a vocal project. I have always been more interested in instrumentals but I have recently come to appreciate vocals more, in particular thanks to Prosumer’s productions and Dj sets as well Theo Parrish DJ sets. Something about a good vocal tune can definitely make a track special. The Prosumer Dj sets I have been lucky to catch of late have really been a revelation in that sense. I hope to be able to produce something worthwhile. I think I would like to work with Prosumer at some point as well as with Oliverwho Factory.

Have you maintained any links to the Italian scene (producers or Djs)? Do you know what the scene is like there now?

No, the only Italian Dj I know is Dozzy, I only go to Italy once every 3 or 4 years and when I’m there I’m too busy catching grief from my parents or stuffing my face to find out what the scene is like! In terms of producers I rate Marcello Napolitano very much as well as Ra.h and K Soul, very talented bunch.

You’ve mentioned before that you have a lot of other types of music that‘s un released. It’s also obvious even in your house tracks that you have a lot of other influences. Do you ever feel pigeon holed into being a house artist?

I feel some labels pigeon hole themselves in focusing too much on house at the moment. I produce a lot of different things but all I’m asked of is mostly house. I can’t blame the labels as at the end of the day it is the distributor dictating what they will carry. It’s a buyers’ market so the distro is just stocking up on things they know will sell and won’t chance their arm on styles that are not hot, what with vinyl sales being what they are. I’m happy to produce and release house music when I can, the other stuff I still record and store away, when I come across labels that want something different I release these other things too as I think they are worth being released.

Seems actually that you were able to stretch out a bit more on your recent debut album release “Dual Nature (Further Records). In the digital age, why did you decide to release your debut album “Dual Nature” on Cassette? Was it your idea or did Further Records approach you on this?

Further proposed the tape format as they were keen on giving artists a channel to release a physical product that because of its cheaper costs did not weight as heavily on the choice of tracks as vinyl would have. When Further approached me they presented this as a chance to release ‘the album I always wanted to release’. I immediately accepted as I did like the idea and felt I had finally found a way to release my less dance floor oriented projects. This ties up with the point I made earlier about the pressure of releasing sure fire sellers. It can be argued that digital releases are a neat solution to this but I don’t feel excited about releasing digital files. I Dj with records, I buy records, CDs, books, I like things like that.

Do you have any desire to start your own label (as it might give you more creative control)?

If I had more spare time I probably would give it a shot but as things stand with my full time job I have just enough time to produce music and to work on my sets, adding to that the running of a small label would just be too much for me, I'd rather give that hassle to someone else and concentrate on making music.

You’ve been into house for a long time and seem quite knowledgeable (as evidenced by your classic house mixes for ISM). Do you find a lot of the current trend in classic sounding house tracks derivative or are there producers in this vain that are pushing the boundaries for you?

I don’t know if I am that knowledgeable but thanks! I like a lot of the current producers that use sounds and production techniques from yesteryear. I have always loved trax and nu groove, dance mania and even though I missed on things like Cajual, Relief, Balance and Prescription when they were new I am very much enjoying those too now. I like producers like Levon Vincent, yourself, Spectre, Polarius, Prosumer , Omar-s etc etc as I hear what might have influenced them but I also see their willingness to add a bit of their own to that and for taking things further.

2009 was quite a productive year for you. Are you working on music full time now?

Na, I still have my day job (thankfully!), but I do tend to work fast on my music in general and I don’t like holding releases back in order to create some fictitious sense of demand, so when I have music and a label that I like working with I just go ahead. I am always working on something as I enjoy working in the studio.

What are you inspired by and listening to these days outside of house or techno?

Well I listen to a lot of 70’s Jamaican dub, soul and funk, afro funk, jazz and fusion…since I have got my Dj hat back on I have found myself listening to a lot of Dj sets; again Prosumer, Theo Parrish and the regular ISM contributors have been my main inspiration in that sense as they tend to have a lot of variety in their selections.

What can we look out for from Lerosa in 2010?

I hope to finish and release my collaboration with Lakuti on Uzuri soon, plus hope to wrap up EPs for Love What You Feel, Quintessentials, Apnea and some contributions to Lunar Disko and another as yet unborn Irish label which I hope to work for. Also March should see me play in Japan for the first time so I’m very excited about that.

Dual Nature Cassette album available here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Artist Interview: Mike Shannon

Mike Shannon
grew up in Kitchener in Ontario, Canada, perfectly situated between Toronto and Detroit. From this vantage point, he was able to dive first hand into the burgeoning house and techno scenes of those two cities during the 90's. One can feel Mike's influences from this era in his production which always has an underlying funk beneath the electronic and digital sounds. Always on the move, Shannon also lived briefly in Chile, Spain and currently resides in Berlin, thus soaking global influences. Having earned his dues through these years DJing, producing and running his Cynosure label (since 1999) and later on teaming up with Jeff Milligan on the Revolver imprint (2001), last year saw Mike's full length Memory Tree (his 3rd) released on Richie Hawtin's coveted Plus 8 records. Deep Transmissions caught up with Mike via email to find out a bit more about his history, living and DJing in Berlin and what the future holds...

How did you first get interested in electronic dance music and what were some of your earliest influences club and musically speaking?

There was always a variety of music in my house when i grew up. So I had influences from Blues, Jazz and Soul from my parents and my brother was the source for the psychedelic Rock. There was always the odd Electronic record my mom would pick up. Thomas Dolby and Soft Cell were always my favorite things to put on when I was really young... I got into House music when I went to my first all ages club in Kitchener, ON and heard my best friends brother djing. He introduced me to hip house (Rob base & Dj EZ Roc - Fast Eddie) and from there I was searching out more records like this. Eventually discovering Techno.

I can feel a sense of soul and funk in your work that was probably influenced by your experiences in the Toronto and Detroit House and Techno scenes back in the day. Is that correct and is it something that consciously influences you to this day?
Absolutely, those influences scared me for life. I think it was a good combination of what I grew up listening to and being a part of those of both of those scenes. I think when I stop feeling those influences I'll stop making tracks.

How did Cynosure get started and what is its ethos?
Cynosure recordings was founded back in 1999. J.Hunsberger and I were members of a KW (Kitchener - Waterloo) based arts collective that had an mandate to promote the arts coming out of the area. So we came up with the idea of a record label that would encompass a majority of the artists involved in the project. We thought the project was an ideal one to promote the artists involved but the director of the federally funded collective didn't really like the music. So when it came time to pay for our first release our funding was rejected. Claiming that the idea would only benefit myself and didn't seem worthy of the investment. This was a big controversy at the time considering a number of people had worked on the project already. So we couldn't let the idea die there... we had to scrape together what we could and fund the label. And we've been rolling slowly but surely ever since.

What is the theme or concept behind your latest LP "Memory Tree"?
A Memory Tree is just other words that express the concept of an album. A collection of creative works that can identify or recall specific memories. I wanted to release a collection of tracks that all had a timeless quality to them. My goal was to write some tracks that wouldn't be forgotten after one play. A record that you could play on the dance floor years from now and still get the same feeling.

What was the working process like? eg. Did you already have a strong idea of the overall concept from the start and built songs from it?
To be honest I didn't have a grand vision that shaped everything. Things started to take form as the process was happening. Tracks were slowly changing and morphing with each other depending on the order of things. I really wanted to keep the album interesting enough but still having a strong sense of continuity and synergy... so there is a good variety of sound on the album but a distinct sound signature holds it all together.

Has being in Europe changed your approach to dance music both in terms of DJing and producing?
I think it's changed my approach to djing a little. I think I take things a little easier these days. I tend to let the records do the work a little more than I used to. Growing up as a dj in North America you really had to have some skills to set you apart from the others. When I first started djing everyone had access to basically the same records and the amount of music released was dramatically less than what exists today. So you really had to do something special with those mixes to make your mark. But over here it's really all about a consistency of good tracks. Building momentum with the selections. That's what's influenced my style a little these days. For Production I haven't noticed any change in approach due to being in Europe. I'm still doing more or less what I was doing before.

Both Spain and Germany have been hotbeds of dance music activity for the last while (eg. Sonar, Popkomm, Berghain, etc). Are there other gigs or countries you have been pleasantly surprised with that has been under the radar and are upcoming?
The City fox club called Alte Borse in Zurich is the best club in Europe at the moment. Nothing comes close to the sound of this club and the feeling of this club. Built in the old Stock market of Zurich the acoustic treatment of the room is intense. If every club in the world took this approach to acoustics we would all be ten times happier to go out to club and our ears would be so much better off. Zurich has the best all around quality of parties that I've experienced in Europe. Nothing really under the radar about Zurich for me but for some that haven't heard about the scene there it's time to see what I'm talking about.

What is your opinion of the current scene in Toronto and North America in general?
I just came back from a few dates in Canada and the US and I have to say not that much has changed in a few years. It's seems that the frequency of minimal house/techno club nights has grown in the States a little... from I can see mainly on the West coast... LA, San Fran. Toronto's Techno scene still seems like it's fledgeling along but I think the underground after hours scene is starting to rise up again. I checked out a couple of cool parties when I was back and played a good one too... so who knows?

Is it possible to stay in North America and be a successful DJ or producer?
Yes. But you have to have enough demand world wide to be able to jump over the pond from time to time. I think surviving on the North American Circuit alone is tuff for most. I think if I was to move back to Canada I would have a hard time keeping things on the same level as I have them now. There's just not enough worthwhile venues to go around and travel costs in North America aren't getting any cheaper.

Will vinyl always be a vital part of the release plan for Cynosure? How has the digital market changed the game?
Vinyl is an integrated part of the process. What I've noticed is when a label goes a 100% digital only it looses a sincere amount of momentum. It's as if the shelf presence of physical product that fuels digital sales somehow. So we'll keep Vinyl in the loop as long as this still applies.

What are things to watch out for in the near future from yourself and from Cynosure?
I'm starting to work on a new project with my studio partner Deadbeat and I've got a new release of my own coming out Wagon Repair and Circus Company for 2009. As for Cynosure, it's our ten year anniversary this year so the plan is deliver heat one after the other. We've got a new Adam Marshall EP coming out 2009 as well as new EP from Brett Johnson featuring a Chic Miniature remix, a new EP from one of the original Cyn producers Matt Thibideau and an EP from one of the original Montrealers Horror inc. aka Akufen. The tracks are all hot and most definitely an exciting line up of releases to start off the year.

Memory Tree is available here
Cynosure Recordings on Myspace

Monday, January 19, 2009

Artist Interview: Tokyo Black Star, Innervisions

To say that Alex Prat
is an international artist would be an understatement. Born in Paris, growing up in Tokyo (with a short stint in Bangkok) and now residing in New York, Alex is practically a world citizen. All of these experiences and influences are of course crucial to his sound when producing music (with partner Isao Kumano) under the Tokyo Black Star moniker. Theirs is a sound which I would call deep modern dance music: it could loosely be defined as house music, but it is obvious that they have many other influences. With their debut full length coming out on the Innervisions at the end of March (they also had the distinction of being Innervisions first release when it was still a sub-label of Sonar Kollektiv), we asked Alex a few questions about his interesting history, the Japanese scene and what to expect on the upcoming album.

DT: Let's start from the beginning. You were born in Paris, how did you get to Tokyo and now New York?

AP: I was born in Paris. I went to Tokyo when I was 4 years old with my family after living 2 years in Bangkok.

When and how did you first get interested in Club music?
I got interested in club music around the mid 80s through my dad and some friends at school in Tokyo before house music. I was listening then to American music through my Japanese friends and I was listening to all new European music through my french and European friends. I was into all kinds of stuff, top 40, the beginning of hip hop, new wave, funk, disco. I started to go to clubs from a very early age in Tokyo at around 14 years old thanks to my best friend Tommy.

Who were some of your early influences from this period.
All the hip hop and club music from NYC were huge in Japan at that time! It really influenced me. Sugar Hill records, Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Prelude records, all the US big disco funk hits. New wave was a big influence too, New Order, Factory records, Depeche Mode.

Who were some of the earlier influential Japanese DJs in the house scene?

The first real underground house club I went to was this club called "The Bank" in Roppongi. It changed my life! It was so different from all the other clubs. Some of the Japanese pioneers house/techno DJ played there: DJ Hiro, DJ Katsuya, DJ Wada. Living in Tokyo, I got influenced first of all by Japanese djs. Hiroshi Fujiwara, DJ Marbo, DJ Nori, DJ Heyta and Toru Takahashi who was the resident DJ at the legendary club GOLD in Tokyo in 1990.

With the lost (at least physically) of Dance Tracks, Vinylmania on one side and the lost of Cisco and Manhattan Records (not to mention the club Space Lab Yellow) on the other, are the New York and Tokyo club scenes still alive and well? How would you compare them?
The Tokyo club scene was very influenced originaly by the NYC club scene. They are still today very connected. Culturally and historically speaking, Japan has been very influenced by the US after the War. Japan became very Americanized. Black music has a real tradition in Japan too. Tokyo has always been very diverse and very open to all the trends from all around the world too especially when the economy was good in the 80s and early 90s. The Tokyo club scene is still very alive today, the club culture is still pretty strong, and the tradition and culture of the music are still there. Japanese people pay a lot of attention to traditions. Like everywhere in the world, the past couple of years, the Influences of music from Europe are big in Tokyo and in New York to a certain extent, we have seen a whole European wave, and the emergence of new cultures like lounge culture etc. Tokyo right now has lost a bit of its energy. It is a bit sad after Cisco and Yellow closed down. Commercialism and money changed everything in New York, the club scene is not the same anymore. There are still great things happening but it is very underground.

What made you decide to start DJing and producing?

I was fascinated by DJing from the very first times I started going to clubs. I started playing records with friends around 1989 in Tokyo at international school dance parties. We then started to organise our own little warehouse parties in different kind of rental spaces in Tokyo. I moved back to Paris for my university studies and met with the whole Paris scene which influenced me a lot. I teamed up with Dj Deep and Gregory in the early 90s and we started our "A Deep Groove" unit playing house and garage on radio FG 98.2fm and clubs in Paris. I always wanted to produce but never got the chance and the time to focus on it then. When I went back to Tokyo after my university studies in 1995, this is when I said to myself that I want to live by doing music. My very good friend a well known hip hop DJ in Tokyo back then I was working with for the Mr. Bongo disorient label gave me my first opportunity to produce. My first experience was a remix of a Ashley Beedle track "Urbanisation" on disorient.

How did Tokyo Black Star get started and what is the idea behind it?
In the late 90s I met Isao Kumano who was working as an engineer in this big studio in Tokyo. He was in charge of a dance music radio show on a Japanese digital TV channel. We became close and we started to work together. One of our first record was a remix of a track by Big Moses on a new sub-label of Soundmen on Wax. Kerri Chandler was part of the label and was in Tokyo then. He listened to the mix with us, he liked it very much and he was joking and calling me Tokyo Black Star because he knew that I loved champagne referring to "Black Star champagne"! The remix we did together was called then "Tokyo Black Star Dub". We liked the name Tokyo Black Star! It had lots of meanings. Tokyo Black Star is the collaboration project of Isao Kumano and myself.

How does the creative process work between yourself and Isao Kumano?
Isao and I work together in his studio in Tokyo every time I am back in Japan. Isao is at the control of the technical aspect of things, I have more of a direction role but we do play and make everything together from scratch to finish.

What is the concept or theme behind the upcoming Tokyo Black Star album on Innervisions?
One of the main idea behind Tokyo Black Star is to revive within people their imagination and the richness of their heart through our music. We consider ourselves as artists. We have collaborated on the album with the NYC based Japanese painter Tomokazu Matzuyama for the artwork. The album is going to come up as a special CD package which will look like an art book. "Black Ships" is somehow our nonfiction travel diary for those 3 past years, and at the same time is is a fiction of traveling through the world of imagination.

How did your relationship with Innervisions begin?
My relationship with Innervisions started before Innervisions existed. I met Dixon on the Bossa Tres Jazz project I worked on around 1999. We became close to each other. Dixon was visiting NYC in 2003 and I gave him a CD-R of our new track "Blade Dancer". I wanted to release it on Sonar Kollektiv. He emailed me straight away saying that he loved the track and that he wanted to release it on Sonar. Finally after more than a year, Dixon decided to start his own label Innervisions and release it as our 1st and as Innervisions' 1st release!

I know you also do some interesting work outside of DJing and producing. What other projects have you worked on recently?
I am working closely recently with the fashion brand Y-3. I help them for fashion show and I do the music of their stores worldwide. I do a lot of coordination work too between Paris, New York and Tokyo connecting artists, labels to each other for special projects. I translated 3 years ago Laurent Garnier's book "Electrochoc" from French to Japanese which was a huge project.

What can we lookout for in the near future from yourself and Tokyo Black Star?

Our first album "Black Ships" is coming out worldwide through Innervisions on March 30th. We are so looking forward to it! This is a big priority for us. We are thinking to start a Dj/live performance for the release of the album sometime this year. I hope I will be able to visit your beautiful country Canada very soon!

Tokyo Black Star's "Bit Commander ep" is now available through Juno on vinyl here and download here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NYE with Osunlade, Jason Palma, Dirty Dale & More

A special NYE event for the Toronto people brought to you by Solid Garage & Footprints (if you're wondering, I am part promoter/DJ of Footprints)... Featuring:


(Yoruba Records, Greece)

Samba Elegua with the Uma Nota Ensemble

Dirty Dale

(Twisted, Warehouse Jacks)

Footprints DJs:

Jason Palma
(Higher Ground)

General Eclectic
(Uma Nota)

DJ Stuart aka Basic Soul Unit
(Deep Transmissions)

Groove Institute
(Solid Garage Residents)

Hosted by Lybido

$25 Limited Earlybird tickets (Until Dec 19th)
$30 Advance tickets More at doors

Tickets available at:

Play De Record, 357a Yonge St

Rotate This, 801 Queen St W

Soundscapes, 572 College St

Cosmos Records, 607 Queen St W

Online tickets:

info: Facebook event page

facebook groups:

united soul


The organic and soulful deep house don from Greece (via New York) helps us ring in the new year. Osunlade is the head of the acclaimed Yoruba Records exploring Soul, African, Latin, influences with a modern palette. As a producer, He has worked with renowned artists such as Patti Labelle, Roy Ayers, Salif Keita, and Cesaria Evora. Osunlade has provided us with dancefloor classics like Cantos a Ochun et Oya, Don't Change, April among many other original and remix works. Besides Yoruba, he has released music for many top dance labels like Strictly Rhythm, Defected, Soul Jazz, & BBE.


(Led by Dave Arcus & Jonathan Rothman w Scott McCannell, Ty & Kensington Horns)
A live Brasilian Percussion Ensemble with live horns and band. They've been in part responsible (along with General Eclectic) for hosting the amazing Uma Nota events fusing live music and DJing together into a rhythmic body movement inducing experience.

Always a local favourite. His dance background gives him the insight into what make people move on the floor. Dale has played along side some of the biggest names in house music and is currently at Toika every Thursday night.


The Footprints crew of Jason Palma, General Eclectic & DJ Stuart have been bringing the funk as well as jazz, soul, latin, afrobeat, ska, house, hip hop and whatever else their fancy to the dance floors of Toronto for 6+ years. Over the years they've brought distinguished guests like Mr Scruff or Bobbito but really, its all about the 3 local DJs giving it to the loyal crowd they know best!


The trio of Yogi, Anand and Mark behind Solid Garage recently celebrated their 10th year anniversary proving their status as one of Toronto's solid foundations of the house scene. All have a deep knowledge of soulful dance music from boogie & disco to house that gives their sets a timeless quality. They've held regular events over the years bringing in top talent to the Toronto crowds like Byron Stingily, Robert Owens and Kenny Bobien.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Artist Interview: Jackmate/Soulphiction

Hailing from Stuttgart in Germany, Michel Baumann (aka Jackmate, Soulphiction and also part of Manmadescience) has been steadily churning out quality electronic music since 1996. Baumann has released music on many respected labels such as: Morris Audio, Perlon, Freude Am Tanzen & Sonar Kollektiv. Although his various guises take him into different directions (from house to techno to hip hop), the trademark behind all his sounds is the skillful interpretation of soul and jazz in a modern electronic context. Melding Detroit and Chicago influences with modern German house and techno sensibilities. On first listen, one can hear the attention to detail and technical care Michel puts into his work, but his sound is far from sterile and dry. Baumann's songs never forgets the groove and in this sense, coupled with the fact that he was doing this way before the current deep house revival trend in Europe, Michel's music has a depth and authenticity not found in many of his contemporaries. Besides the aforementioned labels he has released for, Baumann also runs the Philpot and Phil E
labels with partner Tobi Ettle ("Philpot" being Larry Levan's real last name is more soulful and open format while Phil E is more techno based) releasing his own work as well as like-minded producers such as Reggie Dokes, DJ Koze and Move D. We asked Baumann a few questions about his influences and his creative process...

DT: How did you get into club music and what gave you the inspiration to produce?
MB: In the early 80s I got some tapes from a friend to copy. There was a wild mix of disco, early electro and new wave stuff on them, so i started to buy stuff like the "Street Sounds Electro" Compilations and the "Funk You" Compilations. These were my first encounters with Electro and HipHop.

My father played the Piano and bought me Yamaha DX7 Synthesizer and a Roland DrumMachine when I got 14, and I was playing along my favourite tracks and recorded that on tape. When i was mixing tapes for friends to practice breakdancin, there was always an additional synthline or an "extended" beat on the mix that I did myself...guess thats when it started.

What was the Stuttgart scene like at the time that you got into house and techno?
Your typical mix of RnB and cheesy Disco in the bigger clubs..., also the Italo name it. EBM and Belgium Acid was still very popular. And there was an American Nightclub called Maddox, where I first heard tracks by Frankie Knuckles, Lil Louis and such, but my presence in this club was more of the obscure..:) It closed down in 1991 and was re-opened as the famous On-U Club, where the Djs played Hip Hop and Reggae until 4am and then they changed to House and Detroit when the first straight kick came in, the crowd went nuts!! The Anthem then was Bobby Konders "Dis Poem"....there was tears and some of the best times in my life!

Even though you are mostly known for house and techno, your tracks have heavy soul and jazz elements. Who are some Jazz or Soul artists that have really influenced you?
Surely too many to name here, but mainly Producers like Weldon Irvine, Norman Whitfield and Bob Thiele are big Influences when it comes to certain aesthetics in sound and orchestration, even if those aesthetics are sometimes hard to combine with the electronic components of actual club music, that´s the challenge!

Who are some contemporary producers that are catching your ears?
Electronica-wise my man Koze is always a great inspiration and Mr. Reggie Dokes, who is now part of our Philpot label family, changed my view on club music a lot. you just have to dare to play it!...:) same counts for our young blood Tim Toh, look out for this one...seriously!! Martyn was outstanding this year, NWAQs "Dead Bears" was great and Kenny Larkin's last album is my new testament of Detroit techno!, ...imho...too many to mention too...oh, i love BSU!...check this guy!

As your label name suggests, Larry Levan must have been an inspiration for you. What makes a great DJ set in your opinion and who are some of your favourite DJs to hear in a club?
S/he takes you through the whole night while entertaining and educating you musically. I want to be surprised, hear some new and old stuff , and, most important of all, change the tempo and the style now and then! Every Minimal DJ is a House DJ nowadays, so what???...that´s not surprising!! I guess, I like djs who have a grown musical personality, like a musician. Just for example, the Krause duo or Theo Parrish are always a challenge, because...really good djs also sometimes suck!..:) not like Beatport-driven dj-machines who just deliver...

Explain for those that may not be familiar with your work ,the differences between your monikers, Jackmate, Soulphiction and Manmadescience.
Well, Jackmate was how i started, more Chicago-influenced, tracky style, as well as chord driven techno....straight for the club! SoulPhiction is musically open and doesn´t have to be particularly floor material, more Hip Hop and, like the name suggests, Soul-influences here. ManmadeScience is my band-project with longtime friends Nik Reiff and Benjamin Lieten aka Phlegmatic...Disco and House is the Teacher!

How does the creative process work for you? e.g. do you mess around with sounds and samples till you find something or do you start with an idea in your head and try to create that sound?
Mostly I start programming a beat and a bass-line. From there I add instrumentation and maybe vocals. Sometimes i also start with the recording of an instrument, like a cello or a guitar and do a little song-like arrangement, before i decide to add beats or anything else. I also do a lot of field recordings and while i edit them I might find some samples to start a track with or get in a certain mood while listening. So i don´t really have a plan mostly, for me, there has to be an initial sound or pattern to create a track-idea .

Do you use analog and/or digital for production and what gear or software do you use?
Mostly i use analog equipment, as long as you would call MPCs or Nordleads analog. There´s also some antique synths and organs in my studio like the Sixtrack, Alpha Juno, Korg CX3, Wersi..etc. and there´s lots of percussions and a Jazz Kit from Tama. Actually i try to use my computer for recording and post-arrangement only, so i can play live without it in the next future. The only Software I use besides Cubase and Live, is the NI Kontakt , so i can use the Vienna Sound Collection for proper orchestration.

What can we look out for in the near future from Philpot or Phil E?
We gonna start on Philpot in 2009 with my new SoulPhiction 12" called "Underground Railroad", followed by the forementioned BSU having his first release on Philpot in march 2009. Till june we´ll have releases by Tim Toh, Reggie Dokes and the long awaited Break SL album! On Phil e there will be a new 12" by Lump, followed by a new Jackmate 12" and a surprise release, i´m not allowed to talk about yet.

Reggie Doke's Rain Redemptive Love Ep on Philpot is available now on

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Promoter Interview: Box Of Kittens

For over a year, the
DJ/promoter crew Box Of Kitten (DJ Hali, Jamie Kidd, Mike Gibbs & Fabio Palermo) have been responsible for re-energizing Toronto's underground with a series of highly successful loft and warehouse parties. No chin strokers and wall flowers here, the party's ethos is about good music and having a good time. Just in time for their upcoming big bash with like minded promoter alienInFlux featuring Seth Troxler, Deep Transmissions asks the boys a few questions about the secret to their success and where the name Box Of Kittens came from...

How did you guys meet each other?

HW: We all knew each other through the music scene but I think what actually brought us all together was playing at alienInFlux events, like the Harvest Festival, for the last 3 or 4 years. Afterwards, DJing together only seemed natural.

FP: I met everyone in 2007. Mike at Boreal, Hal at Cherry Beach and Jamie at our first party.

Why did you start the night and what is the concept behind the night?

HW: Mike and I had many conversations about the state of the scene and how Techno was becoming marginalized and, well, too serious. There was no 'party' at techno parties. We had envisioned a different type of party that would be fun and sexy, but still retaining strict ethos to the underground. We had been talking about doing something all of the previous summer, but nothing really materialized. And then, suddenly, the 4 of us got brought together to DJ at a friend's going away party, and it was literally the big bang that ignited Box of Kittens.

FP: We felt Toronto was in need of something fresh. Rather than use the DJs as the draw, we want the event to be the draw. The four of us is what Box of Kittens is all about. Our styles can interbreed with each other. Basically, a warehouse party meets a house party with killer techno!

How did you come up with the name "Box Of Kittens"?

FP: That is a Mike and Hal question! LOL

HW: It was an inside joke that we had for a year. Mike came up with the term which was an offhand remark about a girl. I think he said 'Look at her, it's like looking at a box of kittens'. And then when we were searching for a name, we thought of it. It was so leftfield, sexy, fun, and unusual, it was perfect. I think it fits our type of parties perfectly.

What can people expect musically?

FP: Amazing techno of all kinds. The sound has progressed so much into many different sub-genres that allow the night to flow smoothly. You get the housey side, the glitchy side, the progressive side, and the funky side.

HW: The great thing about our crew is the dynamic range and the different angles we all take towards Techno. You can expect to hear 4 on the floor techno but that's a really broad stroke. From my side, I tend to play on the deeper side of Techno. I love organic elements so you would definitely hear some Soul, Funk, and Jazz undertones, but I love the trippy shit as well, just as long as it's interesting. My musical influences are Detroit Techno, Chicago House, New York Garage, and Berlin Minimal, so you are bound to hear some of those influences come through my Techno sets.

JK: From my side expect things to change and cut up a bit with music that incorporates elements from many styles. Sexy, glitchy, bass heavy minimal, tech house and techno with some electro and fidget house – although I’m not typically into anything that is sample laden. I’m usually more on the raw, dark tip, but these days I have definitely been getting deeper with some (dare I say) strong tribal influences coming back. I’m also really into the cosmic disco scene now, so I incorporate those sounds whenever I get the chance (which is not often enough!)

As a bassist, I’m always tuned in to how the bass and drums are working together to create an overall pulse. I come from a live music background; studying and performing jazz for years, as well as playing, recording, and touring with rock, funk, dub, and live drum & bass groups. I’ve always been able to hear the similarities between styles more than the differences, and I try to bridge those similarities in my mixing. My main influences historically have been innovators like Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Parliament to Amon Tobin, Cari Lekebusch, and Matthew Herbert.

MG: I come from a live music background as well, having sung and played guitar and bass in numerous industrial bands that toured the states, Europe and Canada with bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Meat Beat Manifesto.....

Like all of us in Box Of Kittens when I spin I like to incorporate different styles of electronic music, though I generally lean towards the more 'tweaky' and trippy end of things, lately I'm enjoying the deeper, housier sound that's been emerging from Europe as well. I also like to throw in a couple of curve balls, like the odd dubstep or vocal track.

I would consider my musical influences to include Funkadelic, Autechre, Einsturzende Neubauten, Barry White, Plastikman, Gang Of Four, Primal Scream, Hardfloor, The Sex Pistols, Ricardo Villalobos, The Meters, Aphex Twin and others too many to mention lol. As long as it's got the funk I'm looking for I enjoy bringing new sounds and rhythms to new audiences, everything depends on the particular vibe of the party and where I think I want to take the dancefloor ; )

What would you say is the current state of the House or Techno scene in Toronto?

HW: I think people are starting to get a little tired of regular club nights, I know I am. But, the underground scene is thriving, and there's a demand for 'different' types of parties. You just have to be in-the-know. Look at the success that Promise Cherry Beach had this summer. Or that crazy packed party on that disused bridge over the Don Vallley. And even the success of Nuit Blanche proves that people really don't want the same. So, I think this is representative to what people want. More unusual settings, less of the same. Box of Kittens has been aware of this and, we always like to keep our parties and venues fresh and new.

FP: Well, I am not a fan of the clubs right now and I don't go to them to know what the current Techno/House scene is all about. I see it from the Internet picture world and live vicariously through friends who still go out and party. We have a lot of local promoters doing great jobs of bringing in NEW talent, which I applaud and think is most important to the scene. I'd go out and listen to someone new rather than someone in town every couple of months. Our scene is still thriving -- you just have to go to the right events, hint hint :)

I know you guys each have musically related projects (e.g. production, radio, etc. Can you describe for those that don't know what else you're involved in)?

HW: Apart from event production, and even some music production, I'm known for my work with Netmusique. I founded and operate it which is a high-volume, international Internet Radio station. I started doing it as a simply way to play music for my friends. In doing that, it literally became the world's first Deep House netradio, which is known as Housemusique. Now it's grown to include Electrique and Flaresound which have been hugely popular in their own right. But, I have to admit that I'm simply amazed at what was created and what it's become. This year, it really hit me as we are going into our 10th year of operation. You can find Netmusique highly ranked on AOL/Shoutcast, or on iTunes radio, or the site itself at, if you want to check it out.

JK: On the production front, I’ve been very busy over the past couple years producing with my good friend Frederik Hatsav under the name Metalogic. Most of our releases have been edgy, percussive techno, but lately we’ve been branching out a bit. We’ve had 2 twelve inch EP’s released thus far; one for New York’s Addon, as well as one for Brooklyn’s Hidden Agenda, which we were proud to have supported by some of our favorite artists including Someone Else, John Selway, Extrawelt, and Frankie Bones. We are excited to have a new 4 track EP coming out this November on London’s Perc Trax called ‘Surge Stimulation’, as well as a few more digital singles and remixes.

I also produce under my own name for Toronto's Thoughtless Music, and California's Monism -- but for the most part I devote my time to Metalogic's productions and our live p.a. I'm really feeling the itch to get a new live band together these days but there's never enough time for everything.

MG: I'm currently working on projects with the other guys in Box Of Kittens, plus Gaz Mellen and Lachlan Bleackley.....I'm hopeful we'll start seeing stuff released in the new year. Gaz and I have just had a remix released on a new album by Spiral Into The Storm. Released by Decibel Palace ( ) it's available on iTunes and most mp3 sites.

And recently Transformantra a live four piece techno act that I was involved with in the late nineties has had two albums re-mastered and re-released also on the label Decibel Palace. Transformantra and Transformantra 2 have stood the test of time pretty well. Lol, don't be mislead by the name as the music is in what would now be considered more of an electronica vein. Both albums are available on iTunes.

FP: I've worked on production for years with so many different amazing people. I started working with Xstatic Records back in 1998, helping them promote and sitting in on many studio sessions. That later developed into DMT Records with two of the partners from Xstatic. I've played radio shows on and hosted one on Global Groove, and produced radio shows with Chris Sheppard that were syndicated across North America. I have a few releases out with Sydney Blu that are available on Beatport, and am currently working on some remix and original projects. My hectic day job makes it very difficult to stay in touch with my musical side at the moment, but I think that will change in 2009 :)

Will there be any "official" or club nights from "Box Of Kittens" or will it always stay underground?

FP: We actually branched out with "Sourpuss." It was/is our club front and it started with a one-off Friday at Circa. Things behind the scenes did not work so well for us that night and we feel we didn't belong in that environment. Knowing this, we will (if we decide to) make sure the club and us are a perfect match for us to do it again!

HW: I want things to stay underground, but that's something we need to discuss. The thing about the future is you never really can quite tell. :)

What are upcoming "Box Of Kitten" events to watch for?

HW: We are actually partnering with the one that brought us all together to begin with. On December 6th, we team up with alienInFlux to bring the latest Box of Kittens event at a brand new space at 1610 Bloor West. This time, we have 3 rooms and several headliners, which is a first. As well, we are representing different music genres including different shades of dub, and not just Techno, so we are really excited about it. Headlining is Seth Troxler from Detroit/Berlin, and a live PA by Komodo from Montreal, as well as our own, the Gates Foundation, and of course, all of us. All the ingredients are there for it to be the best one yet. Can't wait, can't wait!

FP: December 6th, 2008 and scattered events through 2009. All our events are ones to watch for!

For more info on Box Of Kitten's upcoming event on Dec 6th, check here: