It wasnât Comedy Dancing: It Was Alright Dancing: </b>Growing up dreaming of being either a ballet dancer or pop star, Cheshire born DJ Charlotte Horne partially realised both ambitions in 2000 dancing on the podium at Danny Tenagliaâs infamous Miami party at Space. Her lost-in-music 11.30 am performance in front of the 60 or so diehard stragglers caught the attention of friends and producers Peace Division, who loved her dancing style so much, they promptly named a track after her; Lottieâs Vogue.
âThat was one of the best things ever, having a track named after you,â Lottie reveals today, chatting in her Maida Vale apartment.
âBut I wasnât doing proper Vogue-ing,â she insists.
âIâve always liked dancing on podiums, I always do it if I get the chance, I love dancing. I went to ballet school and Iâll dance for hours when the musicâs good. At the Danny Tenaglia party that night I wasnât doing comedy dancing, it was alright dancing.â
Miami party frolics aside though, Lottieâs much better recognised these days as one of Britainâs most popular house DJs, routinely spinning at clubs across the UK and abroad, as well as running her own Thursday West London weekly, Missdemeanours (at Ben Wattsâ new venue Neighbourhood). Living not far away in Maida Vale (one of Londonâs swankiest areas), sheâs come a long way from when she first arrived down South ten years ago, to take up a job folding jumpers in a clothes shop.
âWorking in the clothes shop was good if boring to be honest, but doing it meant I could go out every single night and get absolutely nutted (wasted) because you could do that job brain-dead.â she chuckles.
âThe manageress used to say to me âyouâve been here a while now, donât you want to be assistant manageress?â and Iâd be like âabsolutely not!- Iâm not going to be staying here for longâ. I wanted to be in clubs every single night listening to music.â
Nowadays making more and more of her own music, she recently released a new single Superkilla, a track she co-produced with Justin Drake (better known as one half of Peace Division.) Sheâs also now a regular guest DJ for Radio 1, enhancing her profile still further (on top of her acclaimed appearance on Channel 4âs lifeswap programme Faking It, when she teamed up with Anne Savage to teach a young violinist how to mix.) Sitting pretty (both literally and career-wise) sheâs also as friendly and open as her reputation suggests.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What was your approach with Supakilla, what kind of track did you set out to make?
DJ Lottie: âA few years ago I was doing loads of tracks and then I got really busy DJing and stopped producing for a couple of years, which meant that before
Supakilla I hadnât made one in ages. So I initially felt that it needed to be âbigâ, then I reconsidered and decided to make a track purely for myself, for my DJing, which is how it is. Itâs quite (DJ) Sneak inspired, with a summery version and a darker weird one and I wanted it to have a woven groove feel with the percussion coming in. Because thatâs what I really like, those 8 minute real grooves.â
Skrufff: Your biography talks of you dreaming of being a pop star, now that youâre making records as DJ Lottie, are you thinking in pop star terms?
DJ Lottie: âI have started making non house music too because having spoken to lots of people Iâve understood that the best way to make music is to go with whatever works. Iâve found myself spending hours learning drum programming, not break beat as such, but certainly not 4/4 beats and Iâm trying to find new sounds and go with them. I donât see my music as pop, though I love a lot of pop; everything that I do will be dance orientated. When Iâm asked what I listen to at home itâs Prince or Missy Elliot or Air. I suppose I also listen to Talking Heads and Fleetwood Mac but itâs generally dance based. I like a bit of rock but Iâm not really a rock girl, Iâm a dance girl.â
Skrufff: The editor of tabloid magazine Heat described fame recently as being a tax on celebrity, how do you view the fame side of Djing?
DJ Lottie: âItâs really weird, I donât see myself as famous. When itâs you, you have no idea how youâre perceived, I know Iâve been on (TV show) Faking It, I know Iâve done Radio 1 and know that Iâm in the Evening Standard each week with my club column but I donât really register the level of how well Iâm known. I recognise that Iâm known in clubland, obviously, because thatâs what I do, but I donât know beyond that. When I appeared on Faking It thatâs when I found myself being recognised in Marks & Spencers and the garage round the corner and that was really weird. But thatâs just the nature of television and how scarily powerful it is. But apart from that I donât see myself as famous.â
Skrufff: When did you first get into dance music?
DJ Lottie: âWhen I was 15 I got into hip hop and used to walk around Chester, spray-painting my tag on walls and got into loads of trouble. I did it on a wall in my house and my Mum went mental. My tag was Crash, standing for Charlotte Ruth Anne Sommerville Horne (chuckling). Those are not my actually initials, my Dad wouldnât let my Mum put Anne Sommerville on my birth certificate but she always told me thatâs your full name. I was really into Public Enemy then too.â
Skrufff: You got your first decks aged 17, were you still at school at the time?
DJ Lottie: â was in the Lower 6th but I ended up not doing the Upper 6th form. I didnât finish my A levels. I was planning to go to Salford Technical College to study sound engineering and I remember going on the open day with about 25 long haired, really dirty blokes all wearing Iron Maiden T shirts, and me. I was happy because I just wanted to make music. At that age you donât really know how you can do what you want to do so you go with whatever viable options come along. But instead I started clubbing and got a bit rebellious and naughty so didnât finish my A Levels. I wasnât getting paid DJing then, I didnât realise you could get paid, it was just a hobby, Iâd look at people like Graeme Park, Sasha and Andy Weatherall but it seemed like a pipe dream that I could be a DJ like them, it was just something I enjoyed doing.â
Skrufff: Graeme Park was telling us recently about noticing Sasha at the Hacienda, when he was just another, admittedly enthusiastic punter. . .
DJ Lottie: âYou have to be a punter, all the best DJs are like that. I was out clubbing the other week, dancing to Damian Lazarus in a dirty filthy sweatbox in East London and I loved it. You canât sit on your laurels. Half the reason I go to the Miami Conference each year is because I get to hear other DJs and they inspire me. Whenever I get the chance and itâs worth it, Iâm in the middle of the dance floor. I think if you forget that element youâll start losing your own judgement behind the decks, you need to be a punter as well. The best DJs are record collectors, the best DJs have all been collecting records for years before they start mixing, in my opinion.â
Skrufff: How do you find time to go out as well as DJing?
DJ Lottie: âWell Iâm single again so Iâve got more time on my hands. To be honest, when I was in a relationship I stayed in much more whereas now Iâm out all the time. Itâs the nature of your lifestyle, and I like going out.â
Skrufff: The Chester Daily Post recently said âshe doesnât have a partner or childrenâ, I donât know if you watch Sex In The City. . .
DJ Lottie: âOf course, Iâve got every single episode on DVD.â
Skrufff: Theyâre frequently going on about babies in the last series, do you see it as maybe sacrificing kids for DJing?
DJ Lottie: âHmm, if I was with somebody that I was really in love with then Iâd have a baby. DJing or not DJing, Iâd take some time off then go back to DJing when I could. Hopefully Iâll be in a position at some point where I can do it careerwise, maybe through making records. I donât see myself DJing when Iâm 40, itâs not a good look really, but Iâve still got a few years left in me. I definitely want children, without a doubt, but Iâd want to be in a relationship.â
Skrufff: Do you get many male groupies?
DJ Lottie: âI get a few, but not really, theyâre just messing around. I think male DJs get more. Youâll see a lot more girls hanging round DJ booths, pouting and sticking their boobs out, than you do blokes trying to do the same thing. If youâre a woman DJing in that environment, youâre obviously going to be quite a strong person and a lot of blokes donât know how to handle that.â
Skrufff: I understand you started out as a clothes shop assistant, which shop?
DJ Lottie: âWhen I first moved to London I had to get a job to pay my rent so I worked at Agnes B, in Covent Garden, for about 18 months. I started DJing doing the warm up at The Gallery and sometimes the last bit too, I remember once playing from 6am til 8am and I had to be in the shop at 10am. I could do it because not many people came in the shop, it was one of those quite intimidating designer shops, so it was really quiet all the time.â
Skruffff: Were you a good shop assistant?
DJ Lottie: âI was very friendly and nice to people but I think thatâs because Iâm Northern. A lot of shop assistants are quite snooty arenât they, Iâve never understood why. Because I know what itâs like when you want to walk in but you havenât got any money, especially if youâre young.â
Skrufff: Were you particularly determined during that period, thinking one day Iâm going to be a DJ?
DJ Lottie: âBy that stage, yeah, I used to look out of the shop window on Floral Street and think âI really want to travel the worldâ and by that time Iâd realised it was possible. I remember hearing Jo, Smokin Jo in Trade and thinking âIâve got all these records, I can mix, and sheâs a girlâ, and it clicked that if I put my mind to it, then I could do it. But it took a long time for me to realise that.â
Skrufff: You said in The Standard last August âwhen you think about it, itâs pretty funny that I get paid for playing other peopleâs recordsâ and the paper suggested you got up to Â£15,000 a night . . .
DJ Lottie: âWhereâs that come from, Iâve never been paid that much? I know where it comes from, they asked me my biggest fee and I said I usually get around Â£1,500 to Â£2,000 though sometimes Iâll do it for free if itâs a mateâs party for example. It varies all the time. But they pushed me and I told them about one New Yearâs Eve when I got paid something like Â£12,000 but it was for three different gigs- that was the Millennium. Iâve never got Â£15,000.â
Skrufff: When youâre playing for a high fee, do you feel more pressure to deliver?
DJ Lottie: âNo, absolutely not. To be honest, Iâm more pressured at the gigs I do for free because theyâre usually full of people who really know their music. If I get a big fee, like I do abroad sometimes, itâs usually because a partyâs sponsored by a big company but I always do my absolute best whether Iâm being paid or not.â
Lottieâs Supakilla is out now on Missdemeanours Music.
Interview by: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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âThe symbol of The Orb is a round circle with a cross on top, itâs quite an important sign thatâs been used for millenniums. It dates back to the Pre-Egyptian days of Sumerian and Mesopotamian culture.â 15 years after he gave up roadying to concentrate on building ambient house giants The Orb, Alex Patterson remains one of dance cultureâs most enigmatic, highly developed souls, as comfortable discussing chill-out as he is ancient Sumerian History and the future of the world.
âMy missing link at the moment is that we donât go to Heaven unless weâre complete,â he suggests.
âOur own egos have to belief that something happens after death, because weâre much too intelligent just to die. What we need to find is some kind of formula that gives us longevity in life so that we can actually reproduce the real power in our brains. But it that happened, weâd all become genuine supermen and there would be far too much of an overspill of population. So right now itâs still about keeping that formula from ancient alchemy, down.â
Equally happy discussing the background of Stonehenge (heâs recently returned from visiting Irelandâs equivalent Neolithic structure Newgrange) heâs nevertheless resolutely down-to-Earth and quick to downplay his alchemical knowledge.
âItâs not about me knowing this or that, itâs rather about me reading books, learning about these issues and discussing them with friends,â he explains.
âIâm not a person who philosophises, I just read things and try and connect them together. If I had the money Iâd love to become and explorer and go on adventures, to find ancient cities in the jungle. But itâs not the 19th century.â
Instead he continues to make music, such as he brand new Orb album Bicycles and Tricycles, which sees him returning to the four/four ambient dub style he first pioneered in the late 80s.
âIâm 44 years old and I find it magical to be 44 and playing 4/4 music a lot,â he quips.
âI am 44, I shall play 4/4.â
Chuckling as he ponders such numerological coincidences, he admits heâs chilling out even more as time passes.
âI think Iâve slowed down a lot since when I started, I give myself more time, thatâs something that happens when you reach 40. You suddenly realise all the rushing around doesnât really matter,â he says.
While it might not matter much now, Pattersonâs energy in the past helped make the Orb one of dance cultureâs most significant, indeed popular bands of the 90s, their number one albums and Glastonbury headlining live shows putting them firmly on a par with their peers of the era Underworld, Orbital and Leftfield. However, as corporate forces took musical control as the millennium approached, The Orbâs relentless experimentation saw them being relatively marginalized though not before Alex duetted with Robbie Williams in a bizarre version of the Bee Gees ballad I Started A Joke.
âRobbieâs someone who, if I met him again, weâd have a coffee, a chat and a laugh, I still regard him as a kind of mate in that sense, because heâs that kind of bloke, heâs not a pretentious pop star,â says Alex.
âThe funny thing was he first saw us when we were on Top Of The Pops playing chess, years ago- all day, because he was there performing with Take That. He told me that when he next saw us playing live that summer he was so impressed that he decided he wanted to do a tune with us.â
Odd collaborations aside, though, heâs nowadays back to collaborating with Orb originals Jimmy Cauty (of KLF fame), Thomas Fehlmann and long term collaborator Simon Phillips and will soon be touring the UK as a band in May. Though not before heâs completed a 16 date DJing solo tour of Australia.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Youâre shortly off to Australia for a DJ tour, how does DJing compare to playing live as a band?
The Orb: âAs a DJ I will be playing Orb music, I think thatâs probably what they want me to do, though I actually find DJing much more difficult than performing with the band, because you canât hide behind anyone. Itâs two hours of sheer concentration, I concentrate with the Orb too but you can have more of a laugh than when youâre on your own- thereâs no cover.â
Skrufff: youâve got an extensive back catalogue to choose from, do you sometimes find yourself thinking âOh God, Iâve got to play Little Fluffy Clouds again?
The Orb: âIt gets like that now and again, itâs bound to. Itâs just when I go out sometimes people say âthis is the bloke who did Little Fluffy Cloudsâ. Itâs a talisman but itâs also been a great salesman for me, itâs opened so many doors for The Orb. I canât say âI fucking hate itâ, because thatâs what you want me to say, because thatâs a good journalistic line. I actually regard Little Fluffy Clouds and A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain as the two main cornerstones of The Orb. If it wasnât for those two tracks we wouldnât have got anywhere, the other tracks would have been seen as being just good tracks, whereas those two are the excellent ones.â
Skrufff: How do you see acid house culture, now that itâs 15 years old?
The Orb: âI consider it to be a way of life, I see it all over the world, itâs still springing up everywhere. Iâve toured China, Iâve been doing a regular club in Moscow, all last year and Iâve been to places like Macedonia, all because of the music. I find itâs all opening up and itâs still fresh. In Australia itâs still fresh too. I played the Earthcore party on the millennium and that was magical. Iâll never forget that one.â
Skrufff: Do you ever look back and thing you should have done things differently?
The Orb: âI think everybody has regrets but you canât really change it, youâve just got to make sure it doesnâtâ happen again. I donât really have regrets- though if I started again I would never trust anybody (chuckling).â
Skrufff: Do you see yourself as being involved in music until the end?
The Orb: âI think so, yeah, particularly when I go and see Kraftwerk play and know that Killing Joke are doing gigs this year, I think I can carry on for a few years yet. I think having a couple of classic albums under my belt has put me in the right sort of company.â
Bicyles & Tricycles is out on new label The Hexus shortly (check the website for release dates, which vary widely for different countries).
http://www.glasson.com/sights/newgrange.htm (Newgrange: Built some 5,300 years ago, this holy place is one of the oldest built structures in the world. The tomb is the passage grave which on the morning of the winter solstice becomes filled with the dawn sunlight for one memorable moment every year. At all other times of the year the tomb of a shrouded in darkness . . .â)
Interview By: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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Nag Nag Nagâs Next Star? 12 months after he started door-whoring Londonâs still oversubscribed, always interesting, alternative club Nag Nag Nag, man-with-the-clipboard Mr Cormack stepped up to the decks, joining John Taylorâs Punx Soundcheck crew as a fledging new electro (clash) DJ. And 8 months later, the expat Irishman spins monthly at The Ghettoâs equally fashionable gay/ electro weekly The Cock and beyond, while continuing to bar undesirables from Nag every Wednesday (notably Christina Aguilera and Irish boy band Westlife).
âThere are nights you think it should be called Blag, Blag, Blag, the stories people come out with trying to get in,â he laughs.
âIâve had girls groping my cock, trying to get in, people offering me money and drugs. Sometimes some of them get embarrassed by what they say, comments like âdo you know who I am?â Actually, only one person has ever said that to me; Kylie Minogueâs ex-boyfriend, what was his name, James Gooding? I said âYes, I do know who you are and youâre not coming inâ.â
âIâve also been spat at in the street once,â he chuckles, âIt happened when I was walking through Soho Square on day.â
Skrufff: (Jonty Skrufff) How long have you been DJing for?
Mr Cormac: âNot long, just a few months. Iâve been into dance music for seven years or so and I was previously a club podium dancer which made me understand I was more interested in the music than the movement. The DJing all came about through opportunity and good luck. Iâd bought some decks and learned how to beat mix and found I really enjoyed it. Though I was actually offered my first proper gig before I could beat mix, to be honest, which Iâve since found out is quite common amongst lots of DJs who are nowadays well known. Itâs a good way to learn, to make all your fuck-ups right at the start and also to get through the fear of getting up there and doing it. My first gig was at The Cock, eight months ago.â
Skrufff: How did the Cock gig come about?
Mr Cormac: âIâd been doing a project with John Taylor from Punx Soundcheck and part of that project was making music as a band, he was already doing the first Friday of the month as a Punx Soundcheck night at The Cock and he offered me the gig as a monthly thing. Everything progressed from there. My second gig was at Cock Live at The Face magazine party which was even better, I loved it. That was the first time I really saw people reacting to what I was playing and dancing and that was when I really got into DJing. Iâd had so many lost moments myself dancing in clubs and to be able to create that atmosphere and effect as a DJ was amazing.â
Skrufff: You started from zero; how did you decide what records and what style to play as a DJ?
Mr Cormac: âI started from a position of playing dance music predominantly, though Iâd also got into the whole electro thing a few years ago and by the time I started going to Nag I was so ready for it, it was so overdue. For years Iâd been going out on the hard house/ tribal gay scene and had got so blatantly bored, so when I started hearing electro, with its tongue-in-cheek, more fun vibe I was immediately into it and knew that it was a scene I wanted to get involved in.â
Skrufff: When did you first move from Northern Ireland to London?
Mr Cormac: âI grew up in a little town called Banbridge, near Belfast, which was where I started clubbing and had my first foray into dance music and all that comes with it; the good and the bad, the natural and the unnatural. I was a podium dancer in those hard house clubs of the time (chuckling), I was about 16 or 17 then. Clubbing really inspired me to move to London, actually much more than the gay scene.â
Skrufff: How old were you when you came to London?
Mr Cormac: âI was 20 and came over not knowing anybody, I came here for a bit of freedom I wasnât feeling it at home. It was quite challenging for my Mum to deal with my sexuality, being based in a small town, at that time. I felt out on a limb when I first got here and felt I had nothing to lose, which was great. So I jumped in at the deep end, starting working at an all night cafÃ© on Old Compton Street, doing the night shift. From there I started going out clubbing loads and started finding out which clubs interested me.â
Skrufff: How did you end up doing Nagâs door?
Mr Cormac: âI met Jonny (Slut) in Brighton when he was trying to get another club he was involved with, Marvellous, off the ground there. Iâd gone to Brighton after travelling in India, wanting somewhere a little quieter than London and I ended up being so fucking bored, it was terrible. Iâm not into pub culture and found it really hard to live somewhere after London because I still wanted to be social. So I started going to Marvellous regularly; started flyering for him, then when Nag got going I got into the club via Fil (Fil Ok, who co-promotes the club with JoJo De Freq). I remember Fil being quite excited about this club he was doing, and when he was telling me I was listening to a Dave Clarke CD called World Sessions. When I went to Nag they were playing it and I was blown away. At that stage, I didnât think the club was going to be huge or crazy, I donât think anybody did, but I liked it anyway. Then when Nag moved to The Ghetto, bigger and bigger crowds started arriving at the door every week so I said to Jonny, âyou need a door person, Iâm going to do it for youâ.â
Skrufff: Had you worked a club door before?
Mr Cormac: âIâd done it sporadically at various cheesy celeb type clubs, places like Kabaret. Doing the door at Nag felt right and I wanted to be involved. It was a good challenge for me, itâs been a real insight into what people are like (chuckling). There are nights you think it should be called Blag, Blag. Blag, the stories people come out with. People say they work for magazines, Iâve had girls groping my cock, trying to get in, people offering me money or drugs. Itâs not so crazy now, though there was a period about a year ago when it was absolute mayhem.â
Skrufff: Did you really refuse entry to the boy band Westlife?
Mr Cormac: âYeah we did and also Christina Aguilera once. Westlife just turned up at the door one night and to be perfectly honest, I didnât recognise them, though I kindaâ did after Iâd refused them, and I didnât want to back down then (chuckling). But when I first saw them my first reaction was âthose guys look like theyâre out on a stag night, they looked dodgyâ. The security stopped them initially and said âdo you know this is a gay clubâ and one of them said âI can tie my t shirt in a knotâ and was actually being quite witty. At the end of it all they didnât seem that bothered, and werenât that phased, I donât think theyâd set their sights on going to Nag, Nag, Nag, I think theyâd rather stumbled into it.â
Skrufff: What happened with Christine Aguilera?
Mr Cormac: âWith Christina Aguilera we have a mutual friend, and she phoned me saying âChristina wants to come down tonight, can she come with us?â I said âof course she can comeâ but she wanted to bring four or five security people with her. Jonny and I talked about it and we decided that we thought four or five security was a bit unnecessary in a club like Nag, Nag, Nag. It doesnât fit with the feeling of the club; people should come down and leave their shit at the door. Christinaâs response was that she didnât use the bathroom without her security, so I donât think we missed anything.â
Mr Cormac DJs at the Punx Souncheck night at the Cock, Ghetto, the first Friday of the month and door whores Nag, Nag, Nag every Wednesday (also at the Ghetto. Falconberg Court, Soho).
Interview By: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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You Donât Need To Be Famous To Write About Fame. Staring off the cover of DJ magazineâs latest issue, Miss Kittin (aka âDark Little Poetâ aka âartist, pop star, DJ, electroclash survivor and poetâ, as DJ dub her) is both famous and presumably well used to riding round in limos, though chatting to Benedetta Skrufff she insists sheâs only done it once.
âIt happened with Sven Vath after Iâd worked with him, I went to see him playing and later he invited me to an after party,â she reveals.
âThe people from his office had rented a limo with zebra seats for him as a birthday present, so there were ten of us in the car and it was really funny being driven along the highway. Especially when we had to stop at service stations because all ten of us were desperate for a pee. But it was nothing like I imagined in the song.â
And significantly, when she dreamed up her seminal electroclash lyrics, her life was as far from limousines, Frank Sinatra and even Sven Vath, as any Hollywood rags to riches clubbing narrative could contrive
âJust picture this scene,â she says (sounding exactly as she does on the records- her regular voice is exactly the same).
âI used to go to many illegal parties all night, and Iâd go home, still on drugs, switch on the TV and watch the music channels, and all youâd see would be those hip hop guys in limos, surrounded by girls in bikinis. There I was, all super dirty, wearing my army boots, shaved head, off my head, watching these videos . . . of course I laughed at them, and eventually I decided to write my feelings down.â
As well as writing Frank Sinatra during her early morning comedowns, she also penned the limousine themed lyrics to Felix Da Housecatâs genre crossing anthem Silver Screen Shower Scene, which both kick-started electroclash and changed Kittinâs own life irrevocably, when the track became one of the biggest club hits of 2000.
âWhen my career begun I never thought it would have taken this turn, I never even thought I would have become a DJ,â she admits.
âI started making music with The Hacker, decided to talk on some tracks and next we meet DJ Hell. He asks for music; we deliver him music . . . bang, the rest is history. And then thereâs this legendary Chicago DJ who wants me to put some vocals on his new album, and sure, of course I do it.â
And four years after Felix took her in the studio for his album sheâs sitting in a Central London luxury hotel to talk about her own album, a highly eclectic record called I com that encompasses hip hop, techno, electroclash and her own unique sensibilities and slant on life.
Skrufff (Benedetta Ferraro): âThe album is really varied in style, did you create it with one specific vision?
Miss Kittin: âThe whole concept for the album was to include a lot of influences that inspire me as a DJ or as a music lover and if you think about it, itâs like my DJ sets. I literally went to the studio with a book of notes and went through all my ideas, one by one, with one of the producers Thies Mynther and we picked together the ones we thought would work. I told him what I had in mind musically, he then pointed out which styles would work best with whichever lyrics I had noted in my book. He made it easy, because we had a guideline to combine the music with this sort of imaginary world I had already jotted down in my notebook. It was fun. Perhaps some people thought I made this album in order to impose myself as an artist, which I can assure you is not true. I loved the collaboration and the input I have received throughout.â
Skrufff: Did you consider involving The Hacker more closely?
Miss Kittin: âNo really, because I donât think he would have liked to follow me in all these crazy, different styles I explored. Thatâs not his philosophy, so I did it on my own. He did, however, collaborate on one of the tracks.â
Skrufff: People now have a certain image or idea of you, how conscious were you of peopleâs expectations?
Miss Kittin: âThat didnât concern me. I wasnât conscious about it because Iâm not interested in this part of the job. Everybody thought it was risky for me to expose myself, but if you donât take risk, you never do anything. Everyday life imposes a certain code of behaviour on you, sometimes you want to shout in the middle of the street, but you donât do it because you donât want people to think youâre crazy. As an artist though, you need to express yourself in the most genuine way, so the answer is to just do it. Iâm pretty good at that.â
Skrufff: All your previous records seem to reflect this untainted approach with your vocals recorded on top of the tracks, seeming to tell a story . . .
Miss Kittin: âSure, thatâs because I recorded them spontaneously. Thatâs the key to everything I do. If I think too much about things, if I start to intellectualise, then I loose it. For instance, when I did (mix CD) âRadio Carolineâ I had just moved to Berlin, I had all my possessions scattered on the floor, and I was in that frame of mind. I was honest, there was nobody there to judge me so I went with the flow, I had confidence in myself, and in what I was doing. Of course, by being honest sometimes you might end up being a bit cheesy too, but thatâs the charm of spontaneity. If youâre interested in someone, then you should also be interested in their faults.â
Skrufff: How did you develop this confidence in yourself?
Miss Kittin: âIt develops over the years and probably it started when I was very young, when I used to shut myself in my room, making my own private world. I used to draw and paint, a lot of my time was spent creating things, and my granddad was also an artist, so he was very inspiring to me. Then I became independent, had my experiences and for sure, like any artist I had problems with authority, nevertheless I did what I needed to do. I think it all came from me trusting my own intuition and following this driving force I have inside me. It may all look crazy from the outside, but in the end everybody had to agree with me. We all have this ability, but people give up too easily because our society doesnât encourage abstract thinking, everything is expected to fall into the ranks. To me though, thatâs the essence of being an artist.â
Skrufff: Thereâs a method in your madness then . . ?
Miss Kittin: âAbsolutely. Thereâs no point in acknowledging your energy if you donât channel it somehow. I try not to waste my energy, instead Iâve learned every time to go a little bit further inside myself and Iâm proud of that. The process seems more interesting that the final result, because itâs a lifetime work.â
Skrufff: DJ mag describes you (amongst other things) as a âpop starâ, is that a term youâre comfortable with?
Miss Kittin: âI donât describe myself as a pop star; not at all. Though I can understand why people would say that because I think I represent something the market was waiting for. For some reason, I donât know why yet, I came at the right time in the right place, and now Iâm here.â
Skrufff: Is it a good or bad thing?
Miss Kittin: âI think itâs good. If you succeed in what you do itâs definitely good, if you donât it means youâre on the wrong path. I wonât complain if people take an interest in me and what I do; of course not. The reaction was a little extreme though, but I think thatâs a reflection of the times weâre living in where people project themselves on to celebrities. I donât have a problem if some people recognise themselves in what I do, but as soon as that happens, there you have it: pop music. The moment people start singing your song in the shower it becomes pop music. This I understand, but Iâm not ready to follow the rules of the market, so in that respect I donât consider myself a pop star, no.â
Skrufff: Do you tend to follow the rules more as a DJ?
Miss Kittin: âTo a certain degree, yes, I think I do, not as a singer though and thatâs why it works for me. On the same token, how many people have tried to imitate me and have not succeeded? There must be a reason of âwhy meâ? But Iâm not here to judge, I donât make that my business. I leave that job to journalists and criticsâ¦ they are here to analyse, arenât they?â
Skrufff: Am I here to analyse you? I knew I wanted to be a journalist since I was 6 years old, and I still doing it for the love of meeting special people . . .
Miss Kittin: âThatâs brilliant. I also love meeting special people, but once I also wrote ânever meet your idolsââ¦ because itâs never the way you think it is. I love the fact that people can have their own idea of who I am. Nobody needs to know my personal life. Would you like the masses to know what you do and who youâre fucking? I donât think so.â
Skrufff: On the subject of fame âFrank Sinatraâ certainly came out from a burst of imagination, and you wrote that before being famous . . .
Miss Kittin: âTrue. I do have a vivid imagination, for sure. Was I a visionary in that moment? Who knows. That was one of the first songs I ever wrote, where I came out with that âspeakingâ thing. You donât really need to be famous to write about fame, and when you are famous you tend not to talk about it.â
Skrufff: How do you feel looking at your picture on the cover of DJ magazine in a red low cut dress, red lips et all?
Miss Kittin: âItâs a nightmare; honestly it is, but I donât think Iâm alone on this one, I truly believe itâs every womanâs problem. So here I go, look at my wrinkles, the outfit is too small and it wonât fit, I look so fat, my skin looks bad; I hate it. I donât even pretend not to care about my image because in a way I do, not that I care about what people think, but I do care about how I feel inside. If I feel good, then everything is OK. The truth is I donât look good in photos and I never did. I never liked being photographed and I think I never will. As a woman you carry this weight, a man can get away with going on a shoot looking dishevelled, we canât.â
Skrufff: Youâve managed pretty well so far though, Iâm thinking about that nurse outfit you used to wear, for example . . .
Miss Kittin: âWhen I started playing out live with The Hacker, nobody wanted to see a girl with a microphone on the stage. Techno parties with a girl singing live? Err, donât think so. So I had to use any weapon in order to bring attention on us. Michel was all right behind the keyboards, but I had the rough end of itâ¦ and I still do. So I went and spent Â£30 in a fetish shop for that nurse outfit, which I wore four times, and six years later people are still asking me about it. This is just to show you the power of image.â
Skrufff: Do you feel more comfortable on a stage rather than in front of the camera? Presumably, youâll have to perform live at some stage?
Miss Kittin: âI feel at my best when Iâm DJing, but as far as performing, no, Iâm not obliged to do it. Of course, the record company would love me to and I think that people would like to see me performing live, though right now, itâs the last thing on my mind. I feel exhausted even thinking about being on the road. On the other hand, I donât want to make a mistake. As an electronic music artist Iâd have to hire live musicians, gear up the whole show, which can easily be a failure. Maybe in a yearâs time, but for now DJing is what I know best, so why not continue with that and make it even more special?â
Skrufff: Do you still feel DJing is something selfish?
Miss Kittin: âOh yes, and music is too. If you do it for the people who come to see you, youâd become addicted to the crowd and that could become a problem. When I was younger, I used to think that as a DJ you should educate people by playing more obscure tracks, for example. Then I met Eric Krug, this French DJ who really put it into perspective for me. âEducate?â He asked me. âWho do you think you are?â I remember taking it really badly at the time, then I understood he was right. The most honest way to do it is by having fun doing it, as an entertainer you should, first of all, entertain yourself.â
Skrufff: Why do you always go on about Laurent Garnier?
Miss Kittin: âBecause heâs been a very inspirational and influential figure in my life. I used to go and see him every Thursday with my friends who knew him and even then heâs always been very friendly to me. Of course, in time we have become good friends and heâs always given me plenty of good advice. To be a good DJ you must have a big heart and Laurent certainly has it. Heâs a giver and you can witness that whenever he plays, as he manages to sexually charge the atmosphere, he amazes me. Itâs always a big lesson for me to see him playing.â
Skrufff: Your have talked at length about having been exploited when you first started. Is it right that you got no money at all from all your Felix Da Housecat tracks?
Miss Kittin: âWhen my career begun I never thought it would have taken this turn, I never even thought I would have become a DJ. Then, I start making music with The Hacker and I decided to talk on the tracks, next we meet DJ Hell, he asks for music, we deliver him musicâ¦ bang, the rest is history. Then thereâs this legendary Chicago DJ who wants me to put some vocals on his new album, and sure, of course I do it. Then again, thereâs another producer from Zurich, who also heard what Iâve done with Michel, he also wants me to do something, also heâs not too far away and heâs a friendâ¦ so there we go again. Of course, the more you do the more experienced you become, but then there has to be a limit, otherwise you become a microphone whore. In my collaborations itâs never been the case that I sing, then I leave. I always write my own lyrics, Iâm always behind the music, I want to know what they do with my voice, as a DJ I have a sense of how the arrangements should work and when the voice should come in, and of course if Iâm not there it becomes very frustrating for them.â
Skrufff: Did you get any money from that Detroit Grand Pubbhas track, âAfter School Specialâ?
Miss Kittin: âThat was also a very strange scenario. Their label asked me for vocals for an artist I really loved. I did the job, sent the tape to the label in Detroit, Detroit Grand Pubbhas were in the office when my tape was played, so they asked if they could keep it. At the label they said yes without asking me, but as it turned out the track sounded great, so I was at least happy about that. When Detroit Grand Pubbhas signed for an album deal with a big record label, I was still without contract so it was a horror to clear the whole thing up. Since Detroit Grand Pubbhas are no longer with that label, their lawyers are urging my lawyers to sign whatever contract they have, because itâs either that or nothing at all. I have learned my lesson, for sure. Now I donât do anything without a contract unless I know the artist very well, and even then you can never be too sure. Obviously you have to take risks if you want to work and I donât regret anything, because itâs all been part of the process and I was very lucky because Iâve retained my name. Iâm still Miss Kittin.â
Miss Kittinâs debut album I Com is out on May 17, on Mute Records.
Interview By: Benedetta Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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I Almost Quit DJing After Leaving Radio 1. When acid house pioneer Danny Rampling chatted to Skrufff just months after leaving Radio 1 in 2002, he spoke optimistically about his DJing future, though two years on, he admits it wasnât such an easy change to navigate as he hoped. âI felt totally demoralised, I was ready to give everything up, for a time I really felt like Iâd had enough of it all,â he reveals.
âThough as timeâs gone on Iâve realised that Iâm stronger than that and the Radio 1 experience was just a minor glitch in a huge picture,â says Danny.
âMusic is in my blood, especially house music,â he declares. âI live itâ.
Finding inspiration through his keen interest in astrology (âI find it can help when your direction wanders, it can give you signs and point you in the right direction on the path of lifeâ) heâs now firmly back on track as he launches his new London club night Union, on May 1st at the Cross.
âThe name totally signifies what the clubâs all about, itâs a statement, itâs about bringing people together, the DJs and audience alike; people that really believe in the music,â he explains.
âHouse music in recent times has taken some bad knocks across the press and in clubland as a whole but thatâs been going on for over a year and itâs got rid of a lot of the driftwood. I think house is gathering strength again, itâs had its downturn and weâre coming out the other side again.â
The new club also opens just three months after the birth of his first child, an event thatâs affected both him and his plans for Union.
âI think becoming a father has enhanced my spirit musically, Iâm so much happier in my life generally and when you reach that state of happiness and inner peace, then that comes through in the music,â he says.
âCurrently Iâm playing a lot more soulful music and thatâs the musical direction I see for Union. I want it to be about beautiful, lovely soulful music, from deep house to Latin to Afro to jazzy house. Iâm thinking about clubs Iâve been out to in places like New York, such as Body & Soul in more recent times, and Lazy Dog in London, my dream is to capture those kind of atmospheres.â
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You previously ran Metrogroove at Turnmills up until the end of last year, why did you feel the need to change from Metrogroove to Union?
Danny Rampling: â spent three years at Turnmills and I needed to retain total direction of a night but unfortunately that was lost at Metrogroove last year, I didnât really have too much input there by the end. So we can to an amicable end and Iâve moved on. Now, itâs all down to me, Iâll be pushing the new club in the direction that I feel is correct and proper.â
Skrufff: Given that youâre back in full control, what exactly is the new vision for Union?
Danny Rampling: âIâd like to aim for a club that appeals to an audience who are really into the music, firstly; itâs not about the way you look or who you are and itâs certainly not about drugs either. I think that drugs in London clubs, and in clubs in general, have suffocated a lot of the goodness in the scene, especially cocaine; cocaine is just terminally boring. Weâll be doing four Union parties a year and theyâll be a US guest DJ for each of those parties, supported by UK and European talent. The whole idea is to bring together a decent crowd of people that love music as well as hopefully attracting a good mix of people. Iâm not implementing any strict door policies, as long as people donât look like football hooligans, they can come in.â
Skrufff: How do you set about attracting a crowd these days?
Danny Rampling: âPrincipally by working a lot with flyers, 30,000 flyers have already gone out. There are less and less angles to promote a night these days, itâs really reverted back to how it was in the beginning, in a sense. Youâve got to get out there at ground level and work very hard with flyers. Thatâs always been the way for any clubs Iâve been involved with, plus good art direction too. The flyer represents the mood of the club and what itâs about, itâs a very colourful flyer, it incorporates London, nightlife and fashion and is intended to draw a good mix of people; gay, straight, black and white.â
Skrufff: Lots of small alternative clubs like Nag, The Cock, Drama and Electrogogo have sprung up around electro in the last couple of years, have you been inspired much by that scene?
Danny Rampling: âIâve been meaning to go to Nag, Nag, Nag since it opened because some of my friends go there regularly, but I feel like Iâve missed out there, in a sense, turning up two or three years later. Iâm a little bit embarrassed by the fact Iâve not been there, to be honest. And now that Iâve got a child itâs very difficult to even go out at all right now, itâs all very new for me, getting familiar with the role of being a parent.â
Skrufff: Are you a hands-on, changing nappies kind of father?
Danny Rampling: âYes Iâve changed a few, though not every day. I do get involved, itâs a joint effort with my girlfriend and weâre both ecstatic, itâs such a great change of direction. I made a lot of changes in my lifestyle at the beginning of last year, and cut out a lot of things then suddenly all of this has happened. Spiritually, itâs so rewarding. Every day I wake up and thereâs my son, smiling at me. Thatâs worth more than anything in this world, itâs precious; weâre really cherishing these days.â
Skrufff: Seb Fontaine was talking about fatherhood to Skrufff recently and mentioned heâs conscious of avoiding war zones or dangerous places, because of his kids . . .
Danny Rampling: âI think heâs got the right attitude there because you do look at the world very differently when youâve got kids, it gives you a completely different outlook on life and the safety of your family becomes paramount. Iâm also refusing to go to dangerous places now, whatâs the point of going to somewhere like Tel Aviv where people are being blown up on buses at the moment? Thatâs happening regularly, do you really need to put yourself at that risk? Itâs a great place to go and play but when youâve got kids it becomes a whole different world. In the past I was relaxed about it all but now I wouldnât go anywhere where thereâs conflict going on, itâs just not worth it.â
Skrufff: Youâve maintained a presence in Italy for years, does it remain a key territory for you?
Danny Rampling: âI still go there occasionally, I love Italy, my girlfriendâs Italian and I really have a passion for Italian culture, Iâve been playing there since 1988, when I went there with Norman Jay and I remember being amazed at the quality of the clubbing out there. Italy still retains that, I noticed Benny Benassi told you Italian clubs are all about champagne culture, well I donât know where the fuck heâs been playing in Italy. OK, like here, if you want to go and play on that champagne bar scene, itâs there, however, like in the UK, there are a lot of good underground clubs and there is still a very strong club culture in Italy. The crowds are very responsive and they know their music, and what theyâre into currently is much more the electronic driven sounds. They love electroclash and music with an electronic edge, thatâs what ruling in Italy right now.â
Skrufff: I read about you owning over 40,000 records, which must take up a huge amount of space physically, where do you store them?
Danny Rampling: âI keep them in a cellar, I did in fact move on from a large number of records last year, I sold the whole of my trance collection, apart from a few key records, because there was no point holding on to them. I cleared out a lot of early US house and practically all of the trance records, which came to about 7,000 trance records. I didnât have enough space and the decision had to be made, thereâs order in the cellar again now.â
Skrufff: How long did it take to select 7,000 obsolete trance records?
Danny Rampling: âMy assistant helped me out and we went through all the racks one by one and broke them down. They all went off to one person. The whole of Tony De Vitâs remix collection was in it too. Theyâve gone to another record collector/ DJ whoâll be putting them to good use. There were a lot of rare trance records also included but theyâre no use to me anymore. Playing 150/160bpm trance is a period I went through which I loved but Iâm not going to be doing it again.â
Skrufff: Are you CD mixing routinely these days?
Danny Rampling: âYes I am, CD mixing is brilliant for travelling. Obviously I still take some vinyl on the road but nowhere near as much as before, I used to carry two 35kg bags whereas now I take a small bag plus CDs. I have embraced CD mixing fully and I see lots of other DJs have done too. Three years ago people still werenât keen on it whereas now Iâd say 90% of DJs out there use CDs. Itâs definitely the way forward.â
Skrufff: Do you own an Ipod?
Danny Rampling: âNo, I donât. I have no shame in saying I donât have one yet either.â
Skrufff: You link to a few charities on your website, how do you choose which charities to support?
Danny Rampling: âMy heart lies with Nelson Mandelaâs Childrenâs Fund and the Terrence Higgins Trust. Both those two are very close to my heart. Iâve chosen those just through life experiences and becoming aware of situations in South Africa when I visited there 8 years ago. The Terrence Higgins Trust came because I lost a lot of friends, probably ten friends over four or five years, during the mid 90s (to AIDS). The Terrence Higgins Trust is a great charity, they also help Africa, and the people that work there are so passionate about what they do.â
Skrufff: You were a regular down at Trade in the 90s, do you ever listen to hard dance music these days?
Danny Rampling: âYeah, sometimes, I could still go down to the beach, take a trip and go ballistic, sure (chuckling). If itâs played in the right space and thereâs a good atmosphere then sure I can enjoy it. But actually listening to trance at home? No.â
Skrufff: Do you still go raving?
Danny Rampling: âNo I donât, not in the way I used to. I partied hard for England for about 20 years, major partying, and I think Iâve done pretty well to come out of that experience still in one piece. When I look back on some of the positions I was putting myself in, now that I have a child, it horrifies me. I think âMy god, how could I have been so reckless?â But thatâs the lifestyle we were living at the time. I like to party, but my levels of partying are not the way they used to be, and Iâm happy about that.â
Skrufff: Did you ever get arrested or seriously ill during those drug days?
Danny Rampling: âNothing major. In terms of being arrested, thank God, no, though I was never a person who did things that made me majorly liable for arrest. I was once caught with an E in my pocket on Charing Cross Road (Central London) and taken to the police station, where they threw it away. I got off lightly there, that was back in 1988.â
Skrufff: What do you make of this renewed culture of people dressing flamboyantly and gay and straight clubbers mingling again?
Danny Rampling: âThatâs very positive, in terms of myself wearing makeup, I donât look very fetching in it (chuckling) so you wonât be seeing me out and about all done up. But in terms of whatâs happening in London, itâs about diversity, and itâs great to have that diversity here in this city. Itâs such an exciting, vibrant place already and to have that diversity going on is brilliant. If people want to express themselves flamboyantly or whatever way they choose, we should celebrate that. Thereâs enough dullness in this world and people who want to celebrate style and look unusual are brilliant.â
Skrufff: Youâre a born and bred Londoner, do you ever think of leaving?
Danny Rampling: âFrom time to time I think about moving out, I day dream about moving to the South of France or Ibiza, but my heart lies here. And every time I return home from an overseas trip Iâm happy to be back. This country takes a lot of criticism. Iâm finding it hard to be away from my baby. It gets to you on the road, particularly when you have children. Iâm trying to establish something in London that I can build on for my future. Thatâs also part of the reason for doing this club Union.â
http://www.dannyrampling.co.uk (Union opens on Saturday May 1, at the Cross, London: guest DJs include Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro) and New York veteran DJ Romain (of Limelight, Tunnel fame).
Interview By: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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Why I Hate Huge Egos (And Love Being a Casual) âI donât like egotistical people; I donât like huge egos out of control, all that being treated as someone special with your huge entourages being whisked off to VIP rooms type of thing. I find that attitude a real turn off. Thatâs why I donât do much press, because I donât like talking about myself all the time.â
Chatting down the line from his London studio Pet Shop Boy producer Chris Lowe, is surprisingly (and thankfully) extremely chatty despite his well-known dislike of publicity and being recognised. Heâs also remarkably down to Earth, particularly given that with his PSB partner Neil Tennant he belongs to Britainâs most successful pop duo of all time. Not that heâd see it that way, in terms of fame, money or even whether heâs a pop star, at least in the usual sense of the term.
âIâve never sought fame or public recognition. I think one of the qualities many pop stars have, which is why they are what they are, is because they have huge egos, whereas Iâm actually against the whole concept of ego,â he explains. âEverything I do tends to be contradictory.â
One thing heâs less contradictory about his music, which remains an abiding passion some 20 years into his career.
âIâve always loved going in the studio, having fun and seeing what comes out of it. Weâre always working though I would probably like to work less but Neil likes to be busy all the time, Iâm a lazy git, and Iâd be quite happy to disappear for two years to go trekking but our diaries are always pretty full,â says Chris.
âI think thatâs a good thing really, because otherwise you just disappear. When you stop or go away itâs so easy to lose touch with whatâs going on in England, even if you go away for a three week holiday youâve lost the plot. I donât know how these superstar DJs manage to travel around the world and still keep in touch with whatâs happening. I think itâs good to keep on top of it all.â
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You recently released another PSBs Greatest Hits album as well as your current single Flamboyant, do you feel like you starting a new phase of the Pet Shop Boys?
Pet Shop Boys: âWhatâs different about now is that weâve really been inspired by the electroclash scene, itâs rejuvenated our interest in clubbing again. House music lasted a very long time (laughing) and I was always a huge fan but I think we were ready for something new to come along. I canât deny the electroclash scene has been an influence on Flamboyant for example. The other factor is that now you can get all these virtual analogue keyboards that we used to use in the 80s. You can now get them as plug-ins so thatâs also given us a whole new impetus, weâve been able to access all these great old sounds that we used to use and do more with them in the computer. Those two factors have come together for us to start producing more electronic sounding music again.â
Skrufff: George Michael was talking recently of a dreadful creative block he had, saying he was worried he couldnât write anymore, do you ever go through that kind of emotion?
Pet Shop Boys: âHeâs never been very prolific, has he? I imagine that almost every song heâs written is on an album, whereas with us you often get an albumâs worth of songs with each single. Weâve never had creative blocks, Iâve always loved going in the studio, having fun and seeing what comes out of it. No doubt that could happen at some point. All songwriters are supposed to have a ten year period of writing good stuff then after that itâs all over, though weâre 18 years in.â
Skrufff: Youâve had number one hits throughout your career, what criteria do you judge success by these days, are you judging by chart positions?
Pet Shop Boys: âCharts are a different side of success. There are two elements, the success of the record creatively, ie whether the record has an emotional impact on the listener then thereâs the chart thing. Both Neil and I would still love to be at the top end of the charts all the time and we still manage that, Miracles was top 10 but weâre doing it these days without mass media coverage, which is actually quite a struggle. Englandâs quite a strange place in the sense that the media will suddenly decide theyâve had enough of you and move on whereas in other countries itâs different. Thatâs a fair enough attitude if the artist has lost it or has stopped making good music but I think weâre still producing good music personally.â
Skrufff: DJ Hellâs recently remixed West End Girls, how do you feel about other producers reworking your version, do you feel in any way competitive?
Pet Shop Boys: âOh no, I get totally excited by it. We almost always choose the remixers and I find it very exciting to hear how someone else interprets your song and giving it a more clubby feel. I think DJ Hellâs mix is great, heâs done it really punky and all the sounds are very dry. I think itâs quite shocking.â
Skrufff: Is Hell someone you know personally?
Pet Shop Boys: âIâve only met him very briefly in the DJ booth at Nag, Nag, Nag last year. I remember reading about some famous party he had in Barcelona. He also designed a special label for West End Girls. I really like the whole aesthetic of Gigolo Records.â
Skrufff: Do you know electroclash-man Larry Tee in New York, heâs just opened a new club at Pyramid, on Avenue A?
Pet Shop Boys: âPyramidâs back? Thatâs good because I thought clubbing was over in New York. I canât believe what theyâve done to New York nightlife in the last few years though Iâm sure weâll follow suit here in England. I hope if they do try and bring those rules in over here, that thereâs some sort of uprising.â
Skrufff: What do you make of the puritan anti-club culture attitude prevalent in the States currently?
Pet Shop Boys: âI just donât understand it at all. New York advertises itself as a 24 hour vibrant city but when you remove that night-time element from it, thereâs not a lot left; itâs just a boring city with tall buildings. Itâs a lot safer admittedly. I remember being near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the mid 80s and it was terrifying. There was a very interesting club there, actually in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Though Iâm actually in favour of the no smoking ban (bursting with laughter). Iâm a massive contradiction. You just cherry pick the bits you like but I do like going to a club and not stinking (of tobacco) when I get home. I think there should be smoking areas in clubs, thatâd be a good compromise. Another outcome of all these rules could be to make the scene more underground again, the beginning of the rave scene, for example, was totally illegal and it was fantastic. I loved all of that.â
Skrufff: Were you going raving through all the Shroom days of the late 80s?
Pet Shop Boys: âYes. Though what I really liked doing was driving up to places like Walthamstow (North-East London) looking for raves and seeing a lad standing by the road, with an arrow, saying âthis wayâ. I used to love all those raves and warehouse parties. I remember touring round the UK at the time when the rave scene hadnât spread outside London and Manchester and being shocked at seeing people still going to old fashioned clubs.â
Skrufff: You grew up in Blackpool, a northern party city with quite a tough reputation .
Pet Shop Boys: âBlackpool certainly can be quite a violent place though I think Blackpool, and actually every town centre in England, is more violent now than it was in my day, though maybe thatâs because Iâve turned into a soft southerner. When you go outside London, you do think âGor blimey, how scary is this?â I went to watch Arsenal in the FA Cup Final in Cardiff, for example, and, my God, Cardiff on a Saturday night, Wow!â Itâs got an incredible air of violence and aggression that I donât remember when I was younger.â
Skrufff: Weâre you born in Blackpool?
Pet Shop Boys: âI was born there and grew up near the Pleasure Beach (Blackpoolâs rollercoaster theme park). The Pleasure Beach was literally at the end of my road so it was great to hear the noise of the rollercoaster. The good thing about growing up in Blackpool was that you spent all your time hanging round amusement arcades. I also used to go to a club called Man Fridays which had plastic palm trees, during the disco era, and I did odd jobs as a glass collector. I remember seeing a horrible fight once on Central Pier, when this lad was getting his head kicked in by about a dozen other lads, it was such a horrible sight.
One of the things I always liked about the rave scene was that it wasnât about violence; it was about love and that was a huge change. Because people forget nowadays that the only time that men ever went on the dance floor before the rave scene was at the end of an evening, to chat up a girl. Men never used to dance; theyâd stand round the edge of the dance floor while the girls danced around their handbags. Lots of people wonât remember that far back.â
Skrufff: You were in London during the New Romantic era of 1981/ 82 when people like Boy George and Steve Strange were all over the club scene, were you also going out on that scene?
Pet Shop Boys: âMe and Neil were there but we werenât really part of it, we were more like observers on the periphery. I found that whole New Romantic era so exciting, Iâve always loved people dressing up and being flamboyant and going against the norm, but Iâm just not one of those people who does it. Even though I admire it so much in other people.â
Skrufff: Were you ever tempted to try it out?
Pet Shop Boys: âNo, I wasnât tempted at all, the only time Iâve ever dressed up is as a Pet Shop Boy. Everything I do tends to be contradictory. My favourite fashion clothes during the new romantic days were casual. I loved the casuals, and loved having a Fioruccci top and Tacchini jeans and even now I still like Stone Island. Iâve never been into wearing make-up either, itâs just not me, but Iâve always liked going to those clubs where people do. I went to the opening night of the Camden Palace in 1982, Steve Strangeâs night, and went there wearing a sweat shirt and a pair of jeans; I donât know how I got in. There were people dressed in amazing costumes being turned away but for some reason they let me in.â
Skrufff: I read in on old Guinness Book of Rock Stars that you were dropped by CBS in 1984 when West End Girls was first released, after it failed to chart. . .
Pet Shop Boys: âWe werenât dropped, what happened was, we had a one single deal.â
Skrufff: Did you lose faith at all when the song failed to make the charts the first time round?
Pet Shop Boys: âNo, because although it got a little play on Radio 1it amazingly got a huge amount of play on K Roc in Los Angeles and was their screamer of the year, in other words, their biggest record of the year, and had a huge impact so we still thought the song had something. So then when we signed to Parlophone we went on to re-record it. You never know when youâre going to have success. When you havenât had any success, you canât imagine ever having it, because you canât imagine that the radio stations will ever play your records. So when it does happen, itâs amazing.â
Skrufff: How easy was it to avoid going off the rails, when you achieved number one hits?
Pet Shop Boys: âWe were both quite old when we started, Iâd already finished six years of university, so we werenât young, though I donât know if that makes you more sensible or not. Iâm not such an excessive kind of person anyway, I donât have an addictive personality, my brain and my body have real cut-off points, which says âgo to bedâ. I know people whoâve had problems and they donât seem to have that cut-off point, they go out on a Friday and theyâre still out on Monday afternoon. I like sleeping too much, I love going to bed. I think thatâs a real safety valve.â
Skrufff: Some pop stars talk of fame and worldwide success as being hollow when they get it, whereas you seem quite fulfilled by the whole thing, has money brought you happiness?
Pet Shop Boys: âMoney? Money doesnât bring you happiness though itâs nice not to have to worry about it too much, which isnât the same thing as happiness. That sounds terrible to someone whoâs sleeping on the streets. Happiness is a very complicated issue and itâs not simply related to money. Iâve never sought fame or public recognition. I think one of the qualities many pop stars have, which is why they are what they are, is because they have huge egos. Iâm actually against the whole concept of ego, I donât like egotistical people, I donât like huge egos out of control, being treated as special with your huge entourages being whisked to VIP rooms. I find that attitude a real turn off. Thatâs why I donât do much press, because I donât like talking about me all the time. When you think about those huge rock stars with their huge egos, if thatâs the only thing thatâs driving them, then maybe thatâs why theyâre not fulfilled ultimately.â
Skrufff: Do you feel a sense of drive to keep on going long term with the Pet Shop Boys?
Pet Shop Boys: âGod yeah, weâre really driven, we love doing what we do and we love writing songs. Weâre into it, we still watch Pop World on a Sunday.â
Skrufff: Any relationship is difficult to maintain for 20 years, how easy has it been to maintain your relationship with Neil?
Pet Shop Boys: âIâve not really thought about it, we get on. Neilâs really funny and good company and we have the same interests. I think the main thing is that we enjoy working together. I read something about Michael Stipe saying REM could only function if they spend a lot of time apart and I thought âwell, why bother?ââ
Pet Shop Boysâ Flamboyant is out now on Parlophone (as is their latest Greatest Hits compilation PopArt: The Hits.
Interview by: Skrufff.com
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It's very rare that you often get a chance to sit down face to face and talk to someone as busy as Amil Khan of Technasia. For the past 8 years, Technasia has been busily stirring the global techno scene by storm, offering tracks like "Hydra", "Declamation", "Force", and "Themes From a Neon City."
They have travelled to every possible corner of
the world promoting their unique emotional sound, and their records can be found in the crates of techno jockeys worldwide. They are partners, they are close friends....they are Technasia.
PL: How was Technasia formed? And did you two have any musical training or experience in music production prior to the collaboration?
AK: Technasia was formed back in 1996. Charles Siegling and myself had met by chance through a mutual friend in Paris and had met up in a club. It was funny because we got along very well right away. He had just came out of Film school and i had graduated from university. We were both from completely different backgrounds but it was the music that had brought us together. Charles had suggested that we work together and come up with a label. At that time, i thought it wasn't going to be as easily said then done, however there was a feeling of confidence we both had. We were really hungry for music back then, and in some ways even angry because at the time there wasn't any much emotional sounding techno out there. It was then that we decided to start putting material out. As for your second question, Charles and I had something in common: we both loved going clubbing! At the time Charles was experiencing with vintage synths and keyboards. I was doing a bit of that too, but i was DJ'ing alot more at the time.
PL: With Charles travelling around so much,and you taking care of the business aspect of the record labels, how difficult has it been for you guys to sit down and hammer away at a track from its brainstorming stages to its finishing touches?
AK: What has basically been happening over the past 7-8 years, is that when we first released our first three singles, we were spending alot of time together in the studio and coming out with ideas and experimenting with sounds. So the first 3 EP's we were really working properly in a studio in terms of music production. At the time i spent most of my time in Paris with Charles creating that Technasia sound, but then i moved back to Hong Kong because my roots were here and because i wanted to be back. Then we began using with the internet. I would basically be experimenting with sounds here in Hong Kong, and he would be making his music there. Then we began exchanging ideas and audio files over the internet. It was a bit tiring because we originally worked together in a studio and it was a bit of a challenge being so far away. Many of our ideas were done seperately and when i had DJ bookings in Europe, coincidentally it would be around the same time when the tracks had to be mastered. We would then meet up and do most of the post production together. This worked for another few EP's, and it was around this time when "Hydra" and "Force" came out. Nowadays, I am concentrating heavily on the business side, while Charles is DJing more promoting our Technasia sound.
PL: Gone are the old days when producers had to lock themselves in a dark studio fiddling with hardware sequencers and synthesizers. With the explosion of digital culture and computer software plugins, how has Technasia adapted to this change in technology?
AK: Its funny because when we first started, many of the software guys like Steinberg were coming out with plugins and this was fairly new to alot of the producers. During the years, we have made many friends around the world who make techno music and we often talked about this subject. Everbody pretty much did the same thing. Starting out with a sampler as the main outboard, and then running a few synths through Cubase. In the early days, there were not many people who were actually making good of the harddrive. They would be mixing down directly from the Mackie into ADAT. We went through the
computer route and did all the mastering and effects on the computer. To be quite honest, i didnt quite like it at first. But then as time went on, there were more interesting plugins being released on the market and we almost felt we had to at least experiment. Now we do alot of the stuff through a computer based setup rather then a vintage based setup.
PL: DJ'ing and producing usually starts out as a passionate hobby. When did it being occuring to you guys that it was very possible to make a living off this? Was it after the success of a certain release?
AK:(laughs) I will NEVER forget the day when we first released Technasia records. I was in England with the master and we released 50 copies of the record just to see how it would do. My father would tell me "cmon man, this is just a hobby, you cant possibly think you can make a living off this." As long as you have the motivation, the passion for it, and if you use your mind, anything can happen. One of the breakthrough moments for us was when Laurent Garnier had stopped by Hong Kong and i had happened to know the promoter. Our record had just been pressed in the UK and i gave him a copy. He gave us a call back 2 weeks later and told us this was gonna be huge and a big hit. He tried to get us onto F Communications, but we were so determined to do our own thing at the time. Ultimately, it was a passion for us, but alot of drive and motivation was there to finally make this happen, and amazing things happened.
PL: I've noticed alot of your recent releases have been less loopy and more on the melodic and emotional tip. Can fans of some of your harder productions expect some of that dark and banging style of techno demonstrated in past releases like "Acid Storm" and your remix of John Thomas' "Undisputed Life"?
AK: Actually i would correct you there for a sec. When we first made our debut, people were actually surprised at our emotional content. It was later when the techno crowd embraced our sound that we went into a phase of a very hard sound. We were inspired by the hard sound. We were inspired by the events we were playing. We were travelling alot in Germany and Eastern Europe. They were playing very hard stuff. We got inspired to experiment in some harder sounds. That was when Hydra came out and was much more energetic. That was the harder phase we were in at the time, but after we brought it back down a bit and released tracks like "Force" and "Evergreen".
PL: While the two of you have been making a significant impact in the techno community worldwide, it's ironic that very few people, if any at all, even know whom you two are in Hong Kong. How hard has it been for Technasia in educatingg the people out here in Hong Kong/Mainland China in sending them a message that there is more to music than cantopop and cheezy trance music?
AK: In regards to the first part of the question, we have been very much in the shadows in Hong Kong. It kind of reminds me a bit of Underground Resistance in Detroit. They almost purposefully tried not to be heard of too much, and worked with a small circle of distributors. We were a bit like that too. When Technasia first formed, it wasnt my mission to get into alot of marketing and big promotion. In fact, alot of hype in Hong Kong was focused on the UK material like the Oakenfolds and Digweeds. It was hard for me in those days being based in Hong Kong when people were just focusing on this kind of UK trance sound, but im not the type of person to brag about our music nor will i force our music on you. If you do get a chance to hear our records and you enjoy our sound, then we're happy and it puts a smile on our face. Nowadays, its been changing a bit in the past few years. I think theres been a new generation of asian youth that have conglomerated in Hong Kong and have brought us something new to the electronic music sound. Even from the beginning, we knew the music we made wasnt going to be big in Hong Kong and China. It had to be brought over to Europe, then Japan, and America. Then hopefully one day it would be brought back to HK and China. This has been my working philosophy and its beginning to take shape!
PL: With techno exploding in Europe now and with big named DJ's giving you and Charles heavy rotation, what are your thoughts in the possibility of techno becoming more mainstream and less underground?
AK: Hmmm.....mainstream vs. underground has always been a touchy subject in electronic music. In a way the media has taken a big part in this segregation. For example, Daft Punk when they first released their debut album they signed with a major label and brought underground house music to the "overground". The people who had supported them before were basically saying "hey these guys are selling out." I like to stay away from this whole issue because at the end of the day if people continue to listen to our music and keep giving us the motivation to continue this, we will be there. In terms of techno being bigger than what it is now, the people that attend the big parties out in Europe are just average everyday people that want to get away from the city and enjoy themselves at an event. We play them hard techno, we play them emotional techno and they enjoy it very much. But as for Hong Kong and China, i think it will take a bit of time.Everything needs time.....
PL: Vocals, vocals, vocals....Technasia has taken a bold yet brilliant step in incorporating vocals into techno.Is this something that we will continue to see in future releases?
AK: The way charles and me work, is that we're always out there to try to bring something new. I would say one of the main difficulties in techno music becoming widely accepted globally like trance, is that its really loop oriented. When you listen to a bar in a techno track its just a minimalist loop to most people. Personally i go crazy when i hear a loop because theres so much going on in there. I just dont think people have taken the time to really concentrate on a loop. You listen to a minimal track in the past by Richie Hawtin and theres just so much color! That is one of the reason why techno music is hard to accept because people dont have the time to read between the lines, and see through it and be sensitivie to the music. As for us, Technasia's mission has been to always try to get more peodple into listen to techno, and what better than vocals? When we first created "Force" we tried to step into the shoes of the average listener, and perceive techno from their viewpoint. There was actually a bit of truth to some of their thinking. We understood why they thought techno was just a loop and so we got together and tried to add some warmth by incorporating vocals without trying to make it sound like we were singing a song. It was more like using words to bring out hypnotic emotions, and it worked i guess.....people loved "Force"!
PL: What can eager fans expect in your next album?
AK: I think definately emotional sounds. Using electronic impulses and loops but with more chord progression. Certainly not trance or excessive chord progression to the point where it sounds trancey. I would describe it as "minimalist emotions". That is more of the spirit of our next album, and we're actually working on it now. I try to go to Europe every 2 months now so i'll be working with Charles soon on the album.
PL: Finally, any words of wisdom for youn talent that are inspired Technasia's music and are trying to make their mark in this ever increasingly difficult scene?
AK: You know, going back to what i was saying earlier, i never imagined we would get this far and its wrong to say that things are impossible. As long as you have motivation, the energy, and using your mind and being smart about the things you do, anything is possible. Believe in what you do. I also believe in taking things step by step as opposed to jumping 3 to 4 steps. Take things step by step and i guess that is the only wise thing my pops had told me in fact(laughs)! Dont believe the words of wisdom! My father said it was not possible and as long as you plan things properly and you use your mind, it CAN happen. Its funny, we get alot of demos from Japan and we're beginning to see something new and something solid coming out from Asia.
Interview by: Philip Leung
Dimitri From Trash Palace (& Paris)- London Is More Perverse (and I Like It).</b> âTrash Palace started out with the idea of music as sex, which is not exactly a new concept but I think that the way sex is usually exploited in the music and fashion business, in fact generally in all commercial areas, isnât really sexual; instead itâs slick and exploitative and thereâs nothing dangerous about it. I wanted to approach a deeper side of sexuality.â
Sitting in a west London bar on a sunny afternoon, Trash Palace main-man and former Parisien producer Dimitri Tokovoi, speaks softly as he outlines the centrality of sex in his electronic rock band and more specifically the importance of real sex behind Trash Palaceâs aesthetic.
âThere are so many programmes about sex on TV here but when you watch them you feel like youâre at school studying a subject such as how you should give a blow job,â he snorts.
âSex is not about that in reality at all; itâs fashion, perversion, love, whatever; itâs much more complex than just the image thatâs portrayed in the media at the moment.
Heâs equally opinionated about Trash Palaceâs perfectly formed fusion of rock & roll and electro-disco, which heâs created with the help of a highly impressive cast list of collaborators.
âI deliberately set out to find different people to collaborate with because sexuality is about a relationship between two people, itâs very hard to have sex by yourself,â he points out.
âI wanted to have different views, different moods and different sorts of perversions on the album and thatâs why there are so many different people involved.â
That Dimitriâs as persuasive as heâs well-connected is clear from the characters he tracked down, who include Velvet Underground legend John Cale and Placebo singer Brian Molko. He also managed to seduce Italian sex siren Asia Argento into performing a version of Je Tâaime, though admits he didnât actually know her until she walked into the studio to lay down her part.
âI had this idea of doing Je TâAime because Iâve always loved the track, but my idea was to invert the charactersâ roles,â says Dimitri.
âIn the original track, Serge Gainsborough is fucking Jane Birkin, heâs doing the act of penetration and I wanted to invert the roles; to have Asia doing the role of penetrating someone else. Brian (Molko) said he would do it so I asked Asia by sending her an email. Immediately she sent me an email back saying âyeah, I really want to do itâ so I flew to Italy to record her voice.â
âShe was very nervous when she did it because sheâs not a singer and she didnât know what I was going to ask her to do, she was still shooting XXX at the time,â he continues.
âWe did it in a small room with a very basic recording set-up and I remember her chain smoking with me sitting in front of her. It was a little bit of a tense atmosphere but that was good for the track. She didnât know me, I didnât know her so it was a slightly bizarre environment.â
With Asia being generally acclaimed as one of the worldâs sexiest starlets, the resulting track is as salacious as Dimitri presumably hoped it would, reflecting the overall highly polished standards of all 11 tracks on Positions. Musically, heâs succeeded in tapping into the talents of all his various collaborators, to produce a album of punk, funk and electro songs that genuinely (and unusually, in this day and age) truly rocks.
âI come from a rock & roll punk background but like a lot of people from my generation, when I was 14 I got a computer and started to make music on it, I was always trying to translate this punk vibe to electronic music,â he explains.
âI used to love AC/DC and Motorhead and all that stuff. I think a lot of people from my generation grew up with that idea of translating that concept from one medium to the other.â
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How long ago did you start Trash Palace?
Trash Palace (Dimitri): âI started it four years ago, I moved to London from Paris seven years ago and it was a fairly frustrating period for me initially, because I had to start all over again. I started Trash Palace because I had time to do it and all these ideas were floating around in my head about making music. Before that I was already a musician and a music producer and over the years Iâve done remixes for bands like Goldfrapp, and The Raveonettes as well as working with lots of other bands.â
Skrufff: Did you know many people in London when you arrived here 7 years ago?
Trash Palace (Dimitri): âNot one person at all; which meant it was a difficult time in my life. I left France because I didnât feel the music scene there was going anywhere and also because Iâm not a big fan of French electronic music, itâs not really âmy cup of teaâ (taste- slang Ed.) Iâve always preferred the harder kinds of music you find in the UK. 7 years ago I was into people like Tricky, PJ Harvey or even Bjork for example, who were much harder than French bands like Air or Daft Punk. Even more electronic bands like Depeche Mode are much harsher than them.â
Skrufff: How did you recruit your collaborators?
Trash Palace: âIt was mainly down to luck. I was working with those people in different ways as a producer or programmer, and most of them I was introduced to them through my work. I told them about my project and usually I got a really enthusiastic response from them.â
Skrufff: Is your ambition to be famous, to be a star yourself?
Trash Palace: âNo, I like to be in the shadows, Iâm quite happy to be the man behind the keyboards and the computer, I prefer that, I find it more exciting not to be seen.â
Skrufff: You were wearing make-up when you performed at 93 Feet East recently . .
Trash Palace: âItâs possible, yes.â
Skrufff: Were you dressing flamboyantly in France before you came to London?
Trash Palace: âYes, though looking back I donât really know why. I think itâs a question of taste but going on stage is an act, itâs a performance and my main aim is to make sure the performance isnât banal. I think itâs important to provoke something out of the ordinary and thatâs how I always approach the stage show: Iâd rather people hate the project than they donât care about it.. I want the image on stage to be as strong as possible and to renew itself. Live performance is something unique, it will only happen once and you live with the memory of it that will keep evolving in your head.â
Skrufff: Is Trash Palace essentially you and the story of your life?
Trash Palace: âNo, theyâre two different things, Trash Palace is my fantasy, itâs something that Iâm taking out of my mind. Sometimes I come very close to living it as well (chuckling) but essentially I donât want it to be an explanation of my life. If I try to recreate my life through Trash Palace it will have limitations, whereas my fantasies or those fantasies that Iâm generating with other people, are limitless. With fantasies there are more possibilities.â
Skrufff: Having lived in London for seven years, do you see yourself as a Londoner now?
Trash Palace: âI see myself as a foreigner living in London, Iâm not a Londoner but Iâm enjoying my life being a foreigner living in this country.â
Skrufff: How do people in Paris react to you, now that you live here?
Trash Palace: âItâs a little strange, Iâm an outcaste in Paris as well, because I donât live there, they see me as a guy who lives abroad, Iâm a bit of a tourist in my own town when I return. I donât know whatâs going on in Paris, I have no contact with people so itâs a bit weird. Iâm not aware of things, in the way you are when you live in a place. Itâs interesting, Iâm a freak everywhere I go.â
Skrufff: Many French people are quite nationalistic, Iâd say more so than Brits, do you come across people saying youâre betraying France by living here?
Trash Palace: âI get a mixed reaction, some French people think Iâm pretentious, they think you think youâre bigger than your country. For me, I have more freedom here because I donât have any background, I donât have any personal history of living in this country so I can create something new, Itâs a brand new life for me and a brand new way of presenting things. The language factor also makes a difference. I think you have a different identity, depending on the language you use and the country you live in, itâs a bit like schizophrenia. Itâs like when youâre with your family or friends; you act in different ways. Thatâs an early stage of schizophrenia and I think |âm at an advanced stage. And on stage itâs different.â
Skrufff: Have you taken Trash Palace to America?
Trash Palace: âNot yet, I wanted to start with the UK because itâs the place where I live. But Iâm afraid of Americans.â
Skrufff: Why are you afraid of Americans?
Trash Palace: âI think itâs a place which has a lot of blind conviction, they follow ideas to an extreme, without necessarily knowing why, which I find very scary. It can be amazingly positive and amazingly destructive, so Iâm afraid of this aspect of America.â
Skrufff: How do you regard Londonâs vibe in sex terms, compared with Paris?
Trash Palace: âSex is more diverse here and more pretentious in Paris. There are a lot more taboos in England which makes it a lot better because it makes everything a bit more perverse, so more interesting. There are more rules to break and places to go in the dark to break them, which I find really interesting. One of the aspects of sex I like is its danger; that makes it more exciting. In France, people are more upfront; there is less perversion in France, I think, perversion is more a part of the English culture.â
Skrufff: Are you a big fetish club regular here in London?
Trash Palace: âIâm not a regular but I like the idea of fetish clubs, though again, as soon as something becomes a routine or a clichÃ©, you lose the excitement and the interest. To keep the excitement you need to keep meeting interesting people that have different views. As soon as become a member of a club it becomes a habit so even if itâs the biggest perversion you can imagine, it will quickly become something quite banal, which then has no more meaning to me.â
Trash Palaceâs new album Positions is out now on Fulfill Records.
Interview by: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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New Yorkâs Keoki on Drugs, Death, Fame & Redemption- I Feel Like A Teenager Again. "Charming, charismatic and remarkably fresh faced and lucid, New York superstar DJ Keoki is a million miles away from the junkie casualty caricature heâs sometimes been portrayed as in the press."
âCrystal Meth was probably the hardest drug to give up, because that physically got me. It wasnât hard to stop but for months and months after, Iâd still fell âickyâ, grouchy and depressed, I gained weight and was miserable.â
Charming, charismatic and remarkably fresh faced and lucid, New York superstar DJ Keoki is a million miles away from the junkie casualty caricature heâs sometimes been portrayed as in the press.
âThe weirdest lies Iâve heard are reports that Iâve passed out on turntables, Iâve never done that, I was always on speed, you donât pass out on speed. Iâve even had people think that Iâm tied in with the murder, that somehow Iâm involved in that evil circle of monsters.â
The murder heâs referring to his ex-boyfriend Michael Aligâs infamous slaughter of their drug dealer Angel Menendez, a tale recently immortalized in celluloid as Party Monster (Keokiâs played by actor Wilmer Valdarrama). And as the film correctly depicts, the pairâs 7 year romance had ended over 12 months before Alif finally crossed the line.
âDuring the period when I lost my friendship with Michael I wasnât in love with myself but rather the idea of myself,â he suggests.
âI donât think you can truly love yourself when youâre on drugs, itâs not really possible. You can do all kind of things physically but itâs not real love, youâre actually hurting yourself because youâre closing yourself down. Iâm like a sponge; I can take everything in and absorb it but when Iâm on drugs I can take things in but they donât stay, rather they rot me from the inside.â
Keokiâs chatting to Jonty Skrufff in the corner of a busy Bayswater pub, sitting next to his long term boyfriend Alfio.
âFortunately I met my husband here, Alfio, whoâs been my rock, no pun intended,â Keoki laughs, gesturing to his partner.
âHe taught me to look in the mirror and really see myself. When I was fucked up on drugs, he wouldnât like me and treat me the way I wanted to be treated. It wasnât because he didnât like me, it was because he didnât like me on drugs. Iâm a totally different person when Iâm on drugs; Iâm very selfish. Which is cool, I donât regret anything because if I hadnât been selfish I probably wouldnât have done any of the things that have made me who I am today. But I realise that lifeâs a lot more fulfilling in other ways, that I didnât realise before.â
Skrufff: Starting with your music, you were known throughout the 90s for playing hard four/ four house and techno, though both your new compilations (Kill The DJ and Keokiclash) are electro/ mash-up compilations, have you abandoned house altogether?
Keoki: âIâve abandoned everything thatâs already been done, that same old DJ formula of build up, breakdown and trance out to washy synths. Iâm too excited about whatâs happening right now with the return of vocals, melodies and songs with beginning middles and ends and Iâve recently realised that Iâm right to have totally changed what I do. In America, though, Iâve had it easy because people almost expect not to know what to expect from me.â
Skrufff: In practical terms, how did you do go about switching from house to electro-mash-up?
Keoki: âI started by completely changing my record box; I took everything out and started from scratch, and actually went to record stores again, listening to records and maybe buying two or three at a time, instead of 20, but knowing that those two or three are great records. It makes me feel like Iâm 17 again, like Iâve just started DJing again, it feels fresh.â
Skrufff: Do you feel a part of the whole electro-clash-synth scene, with your old associate Larry Tee?
Keoki: âDefinitely, Larry Tee has always been in tune with everything thatâs happening and weâve been friends for 16 years, weâve always been around the same circle of friends. In New York City, itâs rare that you have more than six or seven really good friends and Larry is one of them to me. Weâve evolved in the same circles so when he did his Mutants thing in Brooklyn he had the same head-space that I was in. Iâd go and listen to what was happening and realise, âOK, this is where I should be atâ.â
Skrufff: I was surprised to see you started out in New York working as a baggage handler at one of the New York airports, how did you land that job?
Keoki: âI always wanted to travel and, in fact, the very first place I wanted to visit was the Vivienne Westwood shop here in London and I figured the only way I could ever make it happen would be to work for an airline. I was 17 or 18 years old at the time, I applied for a job, went through the whole training procedure then got a job placement in New York. And sure enough, I got free travel, so the very first trip I took was to visit London. I slept at Heathrow airport, travelled around on London buses and visited the Vivienne Westwood shop, though I was window shopping I must add, I made hardly any money at the airline job.â
Skrufff: How did you first penetrate New Yorkâs 80s club scene ?
Keoki: âWhen I got there I didnât know anybody at all, I had the airline job and they helped me find an apartment in Queens, which is near La Guardia airport. When I wasnât working Iâd take the train into the City (Manhattan) and wander around and the very first club I went to was Danceteria (NYCâs key superclub of its day) where I met Michael (Alig). We became friends and he got me a job there as a busboy (glass collector/ general assistant). I knew I wanted to be around the club scene and be a part of it, I loved everything I saw around me, coming in and out of Danceteria. So I got more nights bussing there (working as a busboy0 US Ed) while Michael started toying with the idea of doing parties for Rudolph (Danceteriaâs front man/ chief promoter). Rudolph said to him one day, âYou and Keoki donât pick up enough glasses around here, we like you being around here but youâre not working that much, youâd better think of something else you can do if you really want to work hereâ.
So Michael came up with this idea to do the Filthy Mouth contest where whoever got on stage and said the filthiest thing would win 50 dollars. The party was really different and it was a success but we realised after the first party that the music wasnât very good. Iâd never DJed before and only had one turntable at home but Iâd always collected music and I knew what a DJ booth looked like so started doing it and became Michaelâs DJ. Meanwhile, I was still working for the airline but would always arrive late for work. I needed to get there at 3pm in the afternoon which I thought allowed me to stay up all night, but I then moved to The Bronx and eventually got myself fired. That was a sad day for my Mom, she was like âwhat are you gonna do, you have those travel benefits with the job, youâre not gonnaâ be able to visit meâ.
It was a big decision and it took me a while to decide whether I could give up the airline job and actually make a living playing records in a club. It was terrifying but I managed it, starting to DJ at Danceteria, then a club called The World, and also the Lounge at a club called Area (another of the eraâs key nightspots). Area was where everything took off for me. I was playing lounge-y alternative stuff, Frank Sinatra next to The Cure, and the owner of that club gave me some really good advice. He told me, âI donât care what you play, just as long as people stay in the club. And as long as you look fantastic and keep on dressing up.â So I started calling myself Superstar DJ and Iâd wear a crown on my head and loads of chains when I was DJing and everything took off. I realised I could keep on filling the room until 5am and started making $50 a night, three nights a week, which was perfect for me, I was making more money than I was at the airline.â
Skrufff: How long did it take to move from $50 a night to serious big bucks?
Keoki: âIt took about two years, I paid my dues in New York City and played loads of shitty little clubs for nothing but it was the right place to be at that time. â
Skrufff: Reading some of your old interviews via Google, you talked about your crack addiction in 1997, and you said âI love drugs, but I canât do drugs and other things at the same timeâ, when did it all slide out of control?
Keoki: âIt went out of control around the same time Michael went out of control. I was travelling the world and Iâd become really good friends with Caspar Pound (Rising Highâs infamous label chief, from London) and Caspar really brought out the rebel in me and made me feel I could do anything. I thought I could DJ, produce and remix on drugs, but just as quickly as I thought that, I learned that I couldnât. This was around 1995; I found myself making lots of money, getting offered every drug in the world and every opportunity in the world but everything started clashing and I realised that you canât do everything on drugs.â
Skrufff: Crackâs renowned for being tricky to give up, how easy was it for you?
Keoki: âPhysically, my body wasnât addicted to anything, fortunately I never got into heroin, and I think I purposely avoided heroin because Iâd never seen anyone come back from it. I dove into using crack, cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy but never really had a physical addiction to any of them, but I started getting frustrated with them thinking âWhy canât I get high and still make catch my flight in timeâ. It became a mental problem for me and I needed to find other ways of doing things and fortunately marijuanaâs always been there for me (chuckling).â
Skrufff: So with crack you just said one day âNo moreâ?
Keoki: âOh yeah, though I could do crack tomorrow but Iâd probably have a two or three day binge then realise it wasnât such a good idea. But I most likely wonât do crack again. Iâll answer that question in that rehab way; âToday Iâm not going to get fucked upâ.â
Skrufff: Larry Teeâs still very active in Narcotics Anonymous, hosting a group in New York; did you also join NA?
Keoki: âNo, I didnât do any rehab at all. Though I remember when I returned to New York three years ago visiting Larryâs club and I hadnât seen him for a few years and I came up to the DJ booth with a drink shouting drunkenly âhey, Larry, how ya doin?â and I split booze all over the mixer. He just looked at me with a frown and I said âIâm so sorryâ, I felt like such a monster.â
Skrufff: I understand youâre a great believer in pursuing self-fulfilling prophecies, in what way?
Keoki: âIf you truly follow whatâs inside your heart and try not to hurt yourself and others around you, then you can accomplish anything, Iâm the poster child for that approach, because Iâve come so far, Iâve sold over a million records and I honestly donât think Iâve even tried as hard as I could. God was with me when I was doing drugs and heâs with me now, itâs all part of the masterplan. I donât like to preach about drugs but Iâll always speak about them honestly. For me they became a constant battle and at one point I realised the battle was enough. Now, Iâm aiming for some smooth sailing and Iâll deal with the ups and downs of real life like I was supposed to.â
Skrufff: You have a massive tattoo on your back saying Misery. .
Keoki: âThatâs in homage to Michael. Before he went to jail he was talking to me about what happened and I couldnât believe it in my head. I was battling my own demons at the time and I was just thinking âMichaelâs lost his mindâ. Up until that point Iâd always thought of Michael as being one of the strongest people Iâd ever met, I admired him, I thought he was strong, I thought he was smart, he just didnât seem like the kind of person that could be crushed by anything. Then this happened, everything crumbled and he crushed like an eggshell. I interpreted that as him being a strong person going through misery and heâs going to be miserable for a long time. A friend of mine helped me design the tattoo, we took a weeping Buddha, put that underneath and figured out the word would be perfect above it.â
Skrufff: Do you believe in evil as a genuine force?
Keoki: âYes. I believe that evil is really there and it can come in lots of different ways. I also believe that through the use of drugs you open yourself up to everything, evil and good, evil and ecstasy- you open yourself to all of that. So itâs scary when youâre on drugs and youâre around all those forces because they can take you over. Iâve been guilty of being evil when Iâm on drugs, because itâs not been me, the evil has taken me over. I certainly do believe that thereâs an evil force that can totally take over.â
Skrufff: Do you see Michaelâs killing as being down to the drugs?
Keoki: âI think Michael was overtaken by evil and demons, the selfish entities that are out there that wanted to manipulate this brilliant creature into doing something for them, for the dark side. Thatâs what I think happened.â
Skrufff: You talk about the RAVE act on your website. . .
Keoki: âJust a little, I prefer not to get too involved in politics but I donât feel that oppressing everything and trying to buckle everything down is helping at all in America. I think the Just Say No drugs campaign in America is bullshit, education is the most important thing, to teach people what drugs do for you. I thought we were moving in the right direction where raves started including pill testing booths and leaflets giving out harm reduction information then this RAVE act came in and started closing everything down. Now kids will try to find other ways to take drugs and they have to do it in hiding which Iâm totally against.â
Skrufff: Miamiâs Space 34 almost closed down recently over drug issues, what did you make of that?
Keoki: âWhat do the authorities think is going to happen, do they imagine people are going to stop going out looking for their pills and ways to escape? Of course not, theyâre just going to find other routes, which is kind of exciting because maybe something else will happen as a result. But itâs wrong, I wouldnât be where I am, at the happiest point of my career if it wasnât for clubs and music. Itâs about being able to stand next to someone like Nina Hagen in a bar and talk to her. I remember realising that the one place I could meet her was a club where we could actually sit and talk. Or you could turn around and talk to a businessman, who has no idea but millions of dollars and can maybe produce a record together. Clubs are the only place you can find that kind of atmosphere and possibility.â
Keokiâs latest mash-up/electroclash compilations Kill The DJ and Keokiclash are both out now. For further information check his site.
Interview By: Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
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Alex Bau, despite being label manager of German based Toneman along with long time partner Sven Dedek, is also a celebrated producer of fine uplifting and sometimes hard or groove based techno.
Just as they see the birth of their second label, Pershing Records, with itâs first fine release by the duo Basic Implant, Alex took the time out after a hectic visit overseas to Canadian shores to speak to HKClubbing.com about the history behind the label, troubled times and the artists that have been involved in the string of successful worldwide releases over the years. Toneman are most definitely here to stay and are set to grow even stronger on the market. DJ Alixir caught up with Alex to delve a little deeper into Tonemansâ world.
Alixir: Hi Alex, firstly, can you please give us a little information as
to how exactly the birth of Toneman became a reality? What lead you
and Sven Dedek into deciding to launch your 2 labels? Did anybody
suggest to you that you should or was it merely an idea you'd had for a
Alex: In 1998 sven started producing music for labels like touchtone and fine
audio, later on we more and more produced stuff together. after some not so
nice experiences in the biz and especially due to the fact that we wanted to
have more influence on what we put out in what way we decided that it was
time for standing on our own feet. it also was very important to have more
influence on the style of music we wanted to be identified with. formerly
all the labels just wanted to have the hard edged sound from us only...
Alixir: Where exactly did the name Toneman arise from? Is there a story
Alex: Well, it was sven`s idea. we expect toneman to be more than just a
company, it should be expected as a kind of personality that translates our
musical philosophy to the audience.
Alixir: Obviously yourself and Sven are the forefront of the company, does
anybody else make up the Toneman team?
Alex: We have our booking agent verena and some more unregularly helping hands.
but the labelwork itself is handled by me and sven.
Alixir: I'm guessing there is always a huge financial risk involved in
hoping that releases are going to be successful and what the record
buying public want to buy. Has there ever been a real breadline
struggle in getting Toneman to be where it is today?
Alex: It`s always hard to make your business growing, but it`s not just a
challenge, itÂ´s also a chance. you are your own boss, investing your own
money, taking your personal decisions. in the end it`s interesting to see if
your work is respected by the people or not. the main challenge is always
finding the right business partners. it the same like in any other business.
Alixir: Are you purely a European distributed label, or are you
represented worldwide these days? If you're not represented worldwide,
do you have any plans to further the sales network?
Alex: Toneman is distributed worldwide by neuton distribution, this ensures
that every recordstore in the world can sell toneman if the like. we have
nice feedback from all over europe, especially easternh europe, but also
some from brasil or more and more north america.
A1ixir: You have some heavyweight artists on your label from the techno
community, who approached who?
Alex: We had some remixers, probably known to everybody: Chris Liebing, Rush,
Pascal Feos, The Advent, Justin Berkovi and more. but we are also proud of
out upcmoming new acts like Multitude or Grafit and we do a lot on our own
Alixir: Are there any other artists that you would like to see releasing
Alex: The list is as long as the list of really most respected artists for me.
it begins with Martin l Gore (probably never - unfortunately) and ends at
real techno acts like Adam Beyer or Steve Rachmad.
Alixir: Who mainly deals with the A&R of Toneman, who's the boss of
whether a track is worth releasing or not? Do you play these tracks to
a wide variety of people or purely judge for youselves?
Alex: The boss is basically the discussion between Sven and me. Of course we
have to take of what can be sold and what can not, but the main goal is
finding pure techno, high quality, no matter if hard, melodic, minimal or
whatever. it just should fit under the genre "techno".
A1ixir: Following up from the release of the mix CD "Propulsion", how well
received was it? Has the release been successful?
Alex: It`s sold out, so I guess it was successful. we also had some good
reviews and feedbacks from the magazines and the people.
A1ixir: Promotion of any release is priority in any label's eyes, do you
always take every chance and opportunity to get your message across
about certain tracks?
Alex: This is a point we probably could do more, but we are not about pumping
up stuff with marketing. we try to educate people to listen to the music,
and not just reading the names on the records. Itâs not easy this time, but
I expect this to be a honourable goal.
Alixir: What's the furthest you've ever gone to promote a release, have
you ever found yourselves doing something that you wouldn't normally do
characteristically? There must be some interesting stories to do with
Alex: Well, promotion is part of the biz, and we are grateful for every chance
to make promotion in a correct way, but we would never pull this to the
centre of activities. The best promotion in our eyes is being able to
convince the people live in the clubs that we are all about partying and
doing nearly everything to get the party started.
Alixir: Where next for Toneman? Are there any future conquests laid out
yet? This is a good chance to plug any upcoming releases!
Alex: We had some really string records during 2003, even if the market was
extremely hard this year. now we just started to produce the next basic
implant single "revenge of the 202", itâs gonna be the follow up of our big
success "revenge of the 101". Just imagine what comes up next year... ;-)
beside this we try to get around the globe more and more, presenting the
music to the audiences all over!
Alixir: Alex, thanks for taking the time to speak to HKClubbing.com, we
wish you every success!
Interview By: Alixir