Dan Wender of Brooklyn's RINSED parties greeted us with this week's feature mix. Nooka Jones sat down with Dan to pick his brain on underground/unofficial parties, the younger generation, and the RINSED beat.
PL: RINSED seems to fill a particular niche in Brooklyn's burgeoning underground/unofficial scene. What have been your biggest frustrations and accomplishments in trying to take the party out of the known venues?
Dan Wender: Our first run at trying RINSED as a ground-up, underground operation came from organizing the official after party for the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival. After pulling that off it was kind of an awakening to what the true potential of RINSED could be. We have complete creative control, we can set our own prices to suit our crowd, aesthetics can be altered without restriction, we get to make our own club every month. We're still working on some things at Le Bain & some other places in the coming months so it's not like we've sworn off known venues, but there is a certain freedom in doing everything yourself. So far the most frustrating thing is the lack of infrastructure, you'll see me running to buy ice and cranberry juice in the middle of my dj set.
PL: The sound at RINSED varies from party to party, but the vibe maintains this persistently upbeat, relaxed attitude. Is this a product of your setup and venue, or find it mostly coming from the crowd?
Dan Wender: The way it all started was Blacky & I kind of being frustrated with the scene and the wack gigs (or lack thereof) we were playing. Us and our buddy Quinn played the first 6 parties b2b2b for 6 hours straight and the sound kind of just kept evolving as our tastes shifted. Eventually when the party started catching on and we started booking more well-known acts we wanted to just stay true to that vibe. Our process for selecting acts is essentially just reaching out to the people we're digging who we know will attract fun people & keep everyone dancing. We like to make the party as appealing for people who just want to go out and dance to new music as it is for proper music heads and experienced clubbers.
PL: Speaking of crowd, RINSED tends to attract a younger, more eager set of dancers. What do you make of this? Do you feel underground dance music is becoming more relatable to a younger generation?
Dan Wender: We've always had a very mixed crowd and I think that makes for the best kind of party. So many of us, especially younger people, spend so many hours a day slaving away on the internet whether it's for work or school. We're all addicted to social networks and I think right now is a more relevant time than ever to set time aside to have a real-life human experience. As people become more reliant on the internet I think the surrealistic and inhibition-free environment of a really well curated dance party will become a form of therapy to keep us all sane.
PL: What's in plan for RINSED? What's the next thing for Dan Wender
Dan Wender: We're planning some amazing things in the coming months. We just confirmed Morgan Geist for March 8th so we'll start taking RSVPs for that next week. Right now I think we're just trying to improve our current system and expose people to some great music. I'm sure in the future we'll want to expand, my other partner A.Pop has visions of transforming a huge warehouse space into some kind of futuristic paradise so expansion is always a long term goal. For now we're all trying to sleaken the operation and make it as good of an experience for as broad a range of people as possible. For me personally I think the goal for 2013 is to finish some of the tunes I've been working on and finally get something released. And to work on finding a special outdoor space for summer a la RINSED bbq day-rave style.
If you haven't heard the mix Extreme Animals just gave us, or seen the Paper Rad videos that somewhat shaped my teenage life, or read about the 4th of July fireworks fail in San Diego last summer, or listened to their awesome sounds, I suggest you click those links and begin there. For most of you, Paper Rad will be a recognizable aesthetic that you can ultimately trace back to them. One of the art collective's founders, Jacob Ciocci, has been making music with friend/musician/DJ/Dr. David Wightman (who holds a PHD in music composition from UCSD) for over 10 years as Extreme Animals. Though attention is easily held during their spastic videos/songs/live performances, the really interesting thing about these guys is the philosophy behind their sounds and the commitment they have to it. We caught up with the duo to further discuss the mix, pop vs. underground music, and having everything happen at the same time.
Percussion Lab: Can you further explain the idea of your concept for the mix being the fireworks mishap in San Diego?
Extreme Animals: Sure! When all the fireworks went off at once from all reports it was an accident, a "fail". And yet it was both symbolically and literally very magical. In the upper left hand corner of the artwork for the mix inside the "8-ball" it says: "everything 4-ever". This is how we experience the internet, this is how it feels to be an american sometimes, and this is something we try and express in our own work. This was an over-the-top accident that was amazing—an ecstatic moment that came out of something that might seem trite or silly at first. That is another approach we embrace in our music, videos, DJ-mixes, etc.
PL: Do you feel the internet has erased the line between popular culture and the underground? Is it all just popular culture now?
EA: Sometimes it feels like the internet is manifesting a reality that existed pre-internet, just making things more obvious, showing us the "numbers/views/likes" behind pre-exisiting power structures . We have been "inter-connected" for years—there has always been a cyclical relationship between underground/small and corporate/big—now we just see it all day everyday.
But everything is definitely not all "popular" culture now. The internet has leveled the playing field in terms of who can access what.
PL: Were the choices for your mix, then, a commentary on this relationship, or were you being mostly facetious?
EA: We were definitely NOT being facetious... these are all songs that we really like. We have different relationships to the different songs but they are all songs that we feel like do a good job at "doing what they do." There's a lot of songs that aren't on the mix because we are not feeling those songs.
Maybe what you are getting at with the word "facetious" is that everything can be funny if looked at in the right way? If a David Guetta song is hilarious so is a Black Pus song. Life in general is absurd—not just major label pop stars, the WHOLE THING! We actually think a lot of music is made with a sense of humor as well—a lot of artists from all walks of life are aware that the work they make is slightly funny... especially within the realms of EDM.
In general we like artists that "go all in," that have an intensity that you can feel... This kind of music may be easier to "make fun of," but the absurdity is a bi-product of the intensity and focus, the "real-ness."
PL: Yes, but don't you think the Taylor Swift dubstep song was not a product of Taylor Swift, but of the corporation that owns her. That she's just a face for a production company that's more interested in the advertising and profit than in the "real," and that the sort of funny thing is that we can imagine a group of businesspeople sitting at a board meeting discussing how kids these days want dubstep?
EA: People in boardrooms trying to tap into youth culture is definitely a real thing that happens, but we don't see it as any less or more genuine than a noise artist with a delay pedal sitting in a warehouse trying to "break through to the other side." This is not cynicism but a conceptual way out of the "us versus them" mentality that has gotten us into so many problems—the world is not black or white, just all grey, we all have to work together to create a more humane terrain for artists... this does not mean that we need to accept big business wholeheartedly. It's more about accepting the power that corporations have (that Taylor Swift song is incredible because so many brilliant people were paid lots of money to make it) and using that power in interesting ways, the same way big business uses us! What a boring and sheltered world it would be if everyone was trying to come up with everything from scratch by themselves, if there was no stealing of ideas, if everyone just listened to Decemberists with their ears shut...
PL: This is something I've heard both of you speak about before. This idea that nothing can be owned by a person, not even ideas. I've always wondered if you've encountered any problems from, say, Monster, for using their logo on your shirts. Obviously it would be difficult to get a corporation to agree with your philosophy.
EA: Who knows why we haven't been approached by companies who own the material we use. In the case of the Monster logo we did a very simple appropriation... there's no malicious "subversion" of the logo on the shirt (we are not defacing it, or "making fun of it"), beyond the fact that we are combining it with our name. But this for us is a powerful gesture—claiming a corporate logo as self. This relates back to what we were saying earlier about Taylor Swift and power dynamics in 2013.
PL: So, would you say that what Extreme Animals is doing—has set out to do, as a kind of mission—is trying to subvert the power structure inevitably in place? By exposing the "real-ness" which is easier to spot in pop music, and then further exemplifying this in everything else? That if you look deep enough, you can find the absurdity of reality in everything?
EA: That's one of our missions... but we're also trying to make banging music at the same time :) EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE! When we make a decision of what software synth to use it is never divorced from thinking about context. But every good artist thinks on multiple levels at the same time like this. Good art has to speak to people on a gut level, open them up and make them think all at once, without being too didactic or simple-minded. There needs to be an element of paradox and mystery or it falls short... this is what we strive for.
PL: To tap into Jacob's history a little bit, is this same philosophy that inspires Paper Rad? Everything all at once. Tapping into the real.
EA: Haha! I'll answer this question by saying that the language I (Jacob) use to talk about this stuff in interviews is my personal way of thinking about what we did or do. It's my take on it. Most of me and David's ideas come out of listening to the radio while we are tour. The best ideas start out as jokes or as "non-art" ideas... out of just being around each other. There was no philosophy that existed as the "mission statement" before we got started—that would be counter to the principle of being open to surprise, or that things are constantly changing and in motion. No rules. The tricky part is that it is impossible to separate an action from it's meaning, both are enacted at the same moment and then they both change over time. It's another paradox I like about art.
PL: Speaking of touring, what is it you guys do when not touring, making music, or making art? I know that must take up a lot of time. Or is that something that is always happening?
EA: If we are not on tour, making music or making art we are talking or thinking about making things, or getting depressed or anxious about not making things...
PL: Last question: we've been in correspondence since last summer, having met for the first time sometime in October. I'm wondering, what is the process like creating a mix like this? Was this something you would pick up every so often, or is it a lot of sending back and forth between each other?
EA: It took us a long time to make this mix, because we did pass it back and forth a lot and took breaks to think about it while we worked on other projects. But now we are getting better/faster at these and David almost has a whole new one done to pass along for me to work on. Thanks a lot for asking us to do it, it made us think a lot and try out new things!
Scottish oddity Neil Landstrumm has been delivering slabs of head-scratching wax quite prolifically over the last two decades, and with each emission his sound collects another component in what is becoming a hulking Transformer of various genres & influences. Whether it's techno and hip hop in the 1990s on labels like Peace Frog and Tresor, or hip hop and grime on Planet Mu in the 2000s, the Edinburgh-residing artist seems to incorporate any electronic inflection he wishes into his deliciously loony take on dance & beat-driven music.
The latest incarnation of Landstrumm's explorations comes from an unexpected place: Hypercolor boss Jamie Russell, issuing the Montesa EP on his own Sneaker Social Club imprint. Lead track "Guzacid" is an inspired step towards acid house for the producer, a weighty cross-section of plonking synth layers ratcheted to a boisterous kick drum that only pauses for the occasional ritualistic freak-out. Dip into "HL_LM" and find yourself back in familiar Landstrumm territory: chugging through digi-charged techno that twinkles with little square-wave arpeggios like so many robotic insects fluttering overhead. It's a trademark of the artist (if there ever was one), and sends the listener plowing headlong into "Super Mousse (is on the loose)"...twisting away into his hip hop-dappled history with an unconventional, grimey sway and Spaceape-style vocals that surprisingly work.
The EP rounds out on two less memorable numbers that nonetheless manage to incorporate jungle-driven hysteria and what amounts to psychoactive drugs in aural form on "MC Aidsy Aids", followed by some grimey creature called "315" excavated from 2008, sopping wet and cold as f*ck. This Montesa EP will go under the radar of those looking for a "classier" or "deep" sound, but when it comes to the original rude bwoy sound and ethos of UK bassbin culture, this is some pretty impolite material that stands as one of the year's best and most eccentric.
The response to our first ever release, 'Cambio', has been tremendous, and we're overwhelmed with the level of support and love that's poured in from all over the world since the release. We're kicking off a monthly event on January 11, at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg. Braille, Contakt, Nooka Jones, ENOE, and our newest residents, Archie Pelago, will be playing on the night. See you on the dancefloor; 2013 is going to be awesome.