The US house maestro talks about the danger of musical categories and the reason why he's never put himself in one. Time Out pulls up a pugh and promises to think outside the box.
How did you get into DJing? I was always making mixtapes for myself to ride my bike to the beach or school. When I found out there was a machine called a ‘mixer’ that would let me mix two records together without a tape machine, I had to get one. At first DJing was just a hobby, something I did for my own tapes and recordings, but it eventually led to having house parties at college. One night a guy opening a new club in town asked me to be resident for him and I never looked back.
How strong is the US scene? In America, the club scene has always been underground. Never mainstream at all. We have never had radio or TV support – just the opposite, in fact. So to hear this music, you need to seek it out, and that gives us an ever-growing and changing scene. In the last few years the more underground, no-nonsense clubs and scenes have been doing very well. We have a lot of great things going on beyond the big-name commercial DJs, and that is now refuelling the rest from the ground up. Some of the best gigs I do now are back in America, and that is something that I haven’t been able to say in years.
How strong do you think the US scene’s presence is globally? I think it is probably stronger then most casual clubbers realise. There are a great number of fantastic, well-known DJs from the States playing all over the world, taking what we created almost 20-25 years ago to a new audience. I often get people from Europe or Asia automatically assuming that I am from England or France, because of my name, profile and reputation. It’s something I am happy to correct too. US techno has never been stronger than it is today.
You make a point of still playing vinyl in your sets. Why’s that? It’s not that I play vinyl because I am a purist, it is just my preference. I started buying records and DJing because the art of mixing two records was fun for me. I enjoy that aspect of it – creating something unique with two pieces of vinyl – and I don’t want to lose that. I also love collecting it. When I look at my walls of records I see something special: memories and feelings. And I don’t get that from looking at lists of files on my computer screen.
How do you feel about people who DJ with mp3s? I don’t have any thoughts about how other people choose to DJ – that’s their choice. All I care about is that they put a great set that flows together and takes you somewhere. I’m not interested in watching a DJ, either. I don’t need to stare at him like he’s performing some kind of magic trick. Whatever method keeps me dancing, that’s fine by me.
Can you tell us what to expect from your night? I never have set plans, ever. I try to go with the flow of the night. I mean, I do have records that I aim to work into the set, but you have to be open to reacting to the crowd, for sure. I don’t like to get into genres either – putting music into little categories only limits the audience. People make assumptions when you micro-manage music and ultimately they can miss out on something special. I consider my music underground and energetic. I just hope people let their ears and feet decide if they like it, not whether or not someone else told them to.
What is your vice? Music, of course. I live and breathe it.