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How will that set differ from the Jacobson's? Probably edgier, I would think.
Yes, I always try to adjust my format to the creative vision and concept of the space. So at Riot Room, I'll be doing Sabotage, which has a harder edge. I had a drum-and-bass night in the late '90s that always had kind of a punk-rock ethic to it, but also with some big beat and rock. I'd throw in, like, the Clash or something. So this will be similar to that — more dance-oriented. Sabotage was created out of my interest in not being linear when it comes to music and emotion. Do you know what I mean by linear?
Like, not varying tempos over the course of the set?
Right, exactly. At the time I was developing Sabotage, a lot of club nights would be DJs doing the same BPM for, like, six hours straight, and I find that incredibly uninteresting. There'd be no swelling or diminishing of energy, little emotional exploration. So I wanted to explore drum and bass, downtempo, and these other styles that were not steady house music. I wanted to mess with people's perception of what dance music is, and kind of try to prove that electronic music can have a punk-rock feel to it.
You've been a DJ for more than 30 years. Are there any trends in DJ culture now that you're particularly fond of or disgusted by?
DJ culture is — well, for one, I'm really happy that you used that term. "DJ culture" was not a term that existed when I was coming up, and I think it's really great that the world of DJs has come so far. But I think the culture has also reached an odd place. And I wrote about this a long time ago. In the mid-'90s, I said, "In the future, everybody will want to be the DJ. Everybody will want to be behind the decks instead of in front of them." I mean, we've reached a point where everybody has access to the technology that allows them to express themselves. But just because you have a stethoscope doesn't make you a doctor, you know? The tools are readily available, but a lot of people aren't taking the time to really figure out how best to use them.
As for trends in the actual music, I think EDM is to techno as Olive Garden is to Italian food. EDM is basically bad pop music from bad pop stars being remixed by global performers and DJs. There are, of course, good remixers and bad remixers. A good one will hopefully enhance a song for the dance floor, and a bad one will make it formulaic. And we're getting a lot of the latter. But there's an amazing amount of great electronic music out there right now. The new-disco trend of the past few years, I've thought, has been pretty fun — making the vibe of traditional disco more contemporary. And I'm still massively into ambient music. It's wonderful how someone like Brian Eno is still releasing ambient albums that are really quite good.
How tough is it right now in New York to make a living as a DJ?
I've been very fortunate ever since I got up here. At this point, my schedule is basically that during the day, my work is getting work, and at night, my work is performing. I've got a place in Brooklyn, in Carroll Gardens, that I've had since I moved up here, so I've been able to keep affordable rent. And the neighborhood is beautiful. Smith Street, the main street through the neighborhood, actually reminds me a lot of Mass Street in Lawrence. And really, the neighborhood overall reminds me a lot of Lawrence. There's an anchor of families that have lived here for generations but also this influx of young creatives that have moved in over the past 10 years. But the young people aren't intolerable like they are up in Williamsburg or whatever. So it's cool. I sometimes say I've always been a New Yorker, I just didn't live here until 1999. But at the same time, I'm fiercely proud of my KC and Lawrence roots, and I draw upon that a lot in my creative life.