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OUTPOST1 interview: Contakt

The June edition of Outpost1 is packing a doubleheader and both DJs agreed to let me pester them with questions in continuing the mixtape + interview series we’ve been happily curating. On Monday, we released the beast of a mixtape from Cunei4m (which, btw, is available for download), as well as the Q&A. Open it up in a new tab and re-familiarize yourself before Friday if you fancy. Anyhow, to bring the interviews twofold, I am pleased to present to you all the second of the pair with Contakt.

Here’s Scott with the on-point introduction: Contakt has been running the TURRBOTAX® parties in NYC for the past few years, booking the most cutting edge DJs in America, London, and beyond. Many of those DJs make their NY debut at TURRBOTAX®. Contakt’s debut EP on Local Action explores golden-age Detroit techno through the lens of modern UK Bass.

photo © Francesca Tamse

So.. let’s get to it… HIT THE JUMP!

In the game since: DJing since 1995, I think my first production to come out on vinyl was 2001.

Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the music scene and how you got started with making music? What brought you to NYC?

Bizarrely, I got into DJing and producing through jazz. In high school I played bass and was deep into jazz, funk, and fusion and hearing the way hip-hop and house producers were sampling and chopping up these jazz records really intrigued me and was what sucked me in to DJing and producing. The mid 90’s was a really special time musically in Michigan, in that era, you had Dilla (then Jaydee) working on Tribe Called Quest and starting Slum Village, Drexciya and Aux 88 writing amazing Detroit Electro, Underground Resistance and Juan Atkins defining the next era of techno with their “hi-tech funk series, and on the radio you could hear what most people call “ghetto tech – records from Assault, Godfather, Deeon, Funk, etc mixed with Miami bass, house and techno classics. I feel very lucky to have grown up hearing all this music as it came out, and I love that I am still playing records from this era that I bought when they came out. I moved to New York in 2000 to get deeper into the music business. I quickly began DJing for a bunch of rappers, touring with J-Zone, and opening for artists like MF Doom, Cormega, Necro, Non-Phixion, etc and working for labels like Fat Beats, Caroline/Astralwerks, and XLR8R.

How did TURRBOTAX® get started? What elements are you involved with for running the TURRBOTAX® parties? (Design, booking, promotion, etc.) How did you meet the other residents?

We started TURRBOTAX® 2 years ago as the first club night outside of the UK focused on these new sounds that weren’t quite dubstep or UK funky, but uniquely their own sound. Since then success keeps building upon itself, and we have been fortunate to have some of the biggest artists in the scene like Kode 9, Martyn, Untold, legends like Todd Edwards, Karizma as well as so many overseas artists for the first (and only) USA appearances.

The nice thing about all of the residents is we are all friends, and knew each other before we started the night. Rem Koolhaus, Space Jam and I all worked together, C-Sick and I have DJed together since I was 15 back in Michigan, and Mayster, Rem Koolhaus and I have been friends for years. Rem Koolhaus and I came up with the initial idea, so we work out the bookings, and typically I am handling the logistics, while he deals with the artwork, Mayster, C-Sick, and Space Jam each have their own distinctive task/role that keeps the party running smoothly every month – it’s really the friendship and the team effort that makes it work every month.

Maybe tell us a little bit about your experiences collaborating and remixing with others, such as with Mele or Mayster, or who you want to work with next?

The remix swap with Mele (free download here) was a really fun project that came together through Tom Lea (owner of Local Action) and Sinden (owner of Grizzly) pairing us up as we both had records coming out at the same time. Generally for remixes, the artist just sends you all the individual parts of a song for you to do whatever you want with. In this particular case, I really didn’t use any of the original parts, instead, I replayed the melody, changed the tempo and the entire direction of the song. This the best part about both of our remixes – we both turned each others into something entirely unexpected.

Mayster and I work together in a studio generally about once a week, and it’s a very different experience collaborating in the same room. The energy is entirely different, we argue and inspire each other and most interesting is that when we work together it’s very interesting because the music doesn’t sound like either of our solo efforts. We have an EP coming Dutty Artz next month with remixes from Matt Shadetek and Doc Daneeka that should be getting sent around soon on promo.

In playing a variety of genres and rinsing in hip-hop, garage, house, techno, grime, etc. do you feel restricted or inspired by genre? How do you describe what you play to others, whether it’s an original production or a remix?

It’s funny, I really loathe having to describe what it is I play. While I think most genre names are stupid (like “future garage and “post dubstep, etc), the fact that there isn’t a genre name for a lot of this new music that all shares a similar sensibility is pretty annoying.

I have always played a mix of genres, I would say that is actually a hallmark of most Michigan DJs – people don’t just play straight house, or straight techno or whatever, it’s a mix of great music and a “techno dj might play 50% techno, 25% house, and 25% boogie – the skill is of course is keeping the crowd moving and defying expectations, while still making sense

With my own productions it’s kind of a similar thing – to me I feel like you can hear all of my influences in my songs. There are little references to everyone from Joe Zawinul, to Just Blaze, to Kevin Saunderson.

What’s it been like following the release of “Not Forgotten?” How has your experience been so far being signed to Local Action? What can we look out for from you in the future?

It’s been great actually. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and hearing, and seeing my favorite DJs and heroes playing the record is a tremendous feeling, and I am incredibly thankful that people like what I am doing. In all, working with Local Action has been outstanding, Tom Lea (the owner) is great, and just absolutely on it – I have worked in music at labels, at distributors, managing artists, in almost every aspect and I couldn’t ask for a better experience than I have had. Next up as I mentioned earlier Mayster & I have a single coming in a few weeks on Dutty Artz that has been making the rounds a bit. We are both really excited for this one as both of the songs get such a great reaction from the dance floor.

If you could DJ anywhere in the world, where would it be and whom would you split a set with?

If I could DJ anywhere, it would be at some of the legendary 80s/90s venues like Music Institute or the Packard Plant in Detroit, The Warehouse or the Music Box in Chicago, or Paradise Garage or Twilo in NYC. I can only imagine how exciting these clubs in this era must have been, hearing music evolve, and hear never before sounds and genres, but more than anything, the remarks about all these places from people who were there are that it was about the music – which is how it should be.

As for splitting a set, I honestly don’t wish for it for anyone in particular – I get to DJ with my friends all the time, and we all share a certain chemistry while having really distinct styles that challenge yet compliment each other, it really gets no better than that for me.

Do you remember the first party or event you played? How shitty was it? What did you learn from it?

I do remember my first event. It was a hip-hop night at coffee shop, I still have the flyer for it at Mom’s house in Michigan. I don’t remember the details of that particular gig so well, but I remember that era of DJing and it was a blast – lots of DJing at illegal venues, playing lots of different genres, and worrying about getting shut down by the police.

How organized is your personal music collection?

Obsessively organized. I am down to about 3,000 records at this point from about twice that – you have to stay organized when you have that much vinyl or you can never find anything. My system is Genre > Artist > Chronological by release. It suits me though, I am an obsessive person.

What’s your favorite part of DJing and producing? Your least favorite?

My favorite part is actually doing it, it’s fun to play gigs, make records, make friends, meet people, see new cities, how can that be a bad thing? My least favorite isn’t really the DJing or producing, but the unnecessary high-school ego bullshit that unfortunately sometimes surrounds it.

What’s a weird moment you’ve experienced en route from city to city? What is the most boring city you’ve killed time in? (JK) How do you combat boredom? What do you do when you’re not making or playing music? When you’re traveling, how do you like to pass the time en route?

So far my weirdest experience traveling was taking the overnight sleeper train from Edinburgh Scotland to London. I was sharing a tiny (seriously, tiny) train car with some random businessman and it was very close quarters to be in with an absolute stranger. I love traveling and I love reading so I generally pass the time on long flights/trains, etc by reading and I usually pack several books b/c I am a bit of a speed-reader. When I get to the city I always do as much sightseeing as I can fit in, and balance that out with having a few pints from a local brewery.

What’s your favorite type of taco?

I couldn’t pick just one! I am a massive foodie, so I really like it all, fish, lengua, steak, etc – I always start with house specialty and move on from there.

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