Lusine (Jeff McIlwain) is a Seattle based DJ/beat conjurer with multiple releases out on Ghostly International. I've been ingesting this Live at Decibel incessantly. Can not stop listening. It's nice with moving legs around the city in the sun today. Ceaseless have been these Lusine beats—sixteenths falling over fours, eights, and threes. Quick and bendable. Electron fields. The water tower stairs at Volunteer Park make for big DNA. Stutters hesitate, shave back, filter through symmetrical arenas. Lusine conjugates the altimeter. (The RBMA site has tons of good stuff to stream.)
What you need is a lighter, some keys, and an empty Altoids can and you are well on the way to the deepest and darkest dubstep sound out there...
As a beat, a rap, and video, "Tsa Mandebele," which was released a year ago and features Candy, is on another level....
If you read my review of New York trio Archie Pelago's exceptional performance at Decibel Festival on Sunday and wondered what all the fuss was about, you can check out the chamber-jazz-disco-house machinations for yourself here. It gets better as it goes on, making you wish they had another hour to jam.
First, I located a Deci-date who is part human, part computer: the one and only Bankie Phones (aka Frankie Crescioni, local producer and GIF-maker). He recommended we check out the Neumo's for Light Asylum, who luckily I've a.) heard of, and b.) been meaning to see.
We walked into Neumos as another band was playing—four or five members, all dressed in black, the front-woman wore suspenders and had an interesting accent. They played regular instruments, but had some seriously banal lyrics and a sort of shimmering/uplifting folk-y tendency I just don't get down with. One minute in, Frankie said, "are we in the right place?" We were. I looked it up and found the band was called Young Galaxy, an "indie pop/dream pop" group from Canada, which explains a lot (except for maybe why they were there). I quizzed Frankie on how their music was considered electronic, and he replied, "It. Isn't." They ended with some emotional/offensive tambourine playing; I went to wait in the bathroom line where ladies wobbling on all varieties of substances shrieked, texted, slurred, and gave bad advice ("He's serrrssly an assshole! But you'rrre good with assholes, so maaaybe it workss.") I made a mental note to be home by midnight.
BUT THEN, as promised, Light Asylum took the stage and even their soundcheck—"CUNT! CUNT! CUNT!"—was riveting. Ex-Seattelite Shannon Funchess, as you are probably already aware, is an absolute badass performer. Like Grace Jones/flat-top-era Jax from early Mortal Kombat with a pinch of Annie Lennox and Tina Turner, she bellowed with arms outstretched and beat an electronic drum kit as her touring sidekick, Raphael Radna, synthed stoically. The first couple songs were a little rough (due to the sound being a little off at first?), but the set gained intensity and kept it cracking the entire time. A dude next to me in a giant frizzy mohawk headbanged and somehow our dance-moves synched up in a way that made it seem like we were going steady for three songs. Frankie informed me that their last song, "A Certain Person," was the track they had.
After someone put Led Zeppelin on the house speakers, we skipped over to Q where the music was more or less what I expect when I think of no-bullshit dance music. I asked Frankie the genre, and he said "techno—straight-up regular techno." I've only been inside Q a handful of times, and a nightclub that futuristic is definitely in it's element when packed to the gills with shiny-eyed neon lovelies. We danced and mingled in the mirrored bathroom (you can seriously hang out in there) like it was Gattaca. It occurred to me that maybe I should have wrangled some appropriate drugs (thought crime!) to better interact with the neons, but it turns out that 1,000 beers has the desired effect anyway. I tired to observe what made a DJ = a good DJ (bringing everything down so you can be a hero when it comes back up?), stopped trying to understand and had a great time anyway, and finally got home at 4:30am with a purse full of parmesan Goldfish crackers.
"I saw a shirtless old man raving so hard, it made me uncomfortable with my own mortality." —Bankie Phones
How about that feeling when you have unreasonably high expectations for a live performance and then they’re exceeded? Such a rare thing. But it happened last night at Triple Door during Raime’s set at the OPTICAL 4: Black Noise showcase. Primed by the 2012 album Quarter Turns Over a Living Line and previous EPs on the Blackest Ever Black label, I mentally elevated British duo Raime to this year’s Demdike Stare of Decibel.
Situated at the far right corner of the stage in darkness and augmented by
Leo Mayberry their own stark and unnerving visuals, Tom Halstead and Joe Andrews began by coaxing sepulchral drones punctuated by dungeon-door-slam beats. Later came methodical, glinting shafts of guitar and demonic angel sighs. Another track featured tolling bells of doom accompanied by an incongruously springy rhythm—but Raime’s beats seem to hurtle you toward oblivion, not the usual physical release. The set ended in slow-motion ambient desolation, a perfectly dank and melancholy conclusion. This is gothic music devoid of all kitsch, goth as existential condition. Raime’s is a universe purged of light and “fun.” Somehow, though, the pitilessness of their music is comforting. Someday, some risk-taking horror-film director is going to tap Raime to create the ultimate score for majestic hopelessness.
The Sight Below (Seattle’s Rafael Anton Irisarri) was feeling ill and had his hoodie pulled up and wore a jacket onstage, but he delivered what was at times his most abrasive ambient set to date. There was an orchestral grandeur to the Sight Below’s swarming drones that ranged from beatific to anguished. The performance was marked by one amazing anomaly: a massive ambient-dub bruiser that sounded like a combination of Seefeel and Scorn. More like this, please.
Nosaj Thing was subbing for the absent Oren Ambarchi, but I fled to hit Neumos for Archie Pelago. No snub to Nosaj—it’s just that I’ve seen him many times and he’s always great, but I’ve never seen Archie Pelago. And they did not disappoint. A trio featuring sax, cello (sometimes fingerpicked), and three laptops, AP played busy jazztronica that vibrates somewhere between Cinematic Orchestra and early Four Tet. It’s dance music, but Archie Pelago don’t make it overly easy or obvious. Their compositions squirm to get off the rhythmic grid and color outside of the lines. They thrive on chaos and excess, even though they have their minimalist streaks, too (the obsessive, uplifting repetition of Steve Reich and Rhys Chatham occasionally can be heard). This was some of the most involving organic/synthetic real-time mish-mashing I’ve witnessed happening on a stage. Would see again.
The tenth annual Decibel Festival once again was an overwhelming ocean of extraordinary tones and a galaxy of diverse beats. Not surprisingly, as it’s grown it’s become more accessible, but there are still enough challenging performers to wear out even curmudgeonly elitists over its five days. Director/founder Sean Horton announced with his traditional and endearingly hoarse voice from the Triple Door stage last night that Decibel had met attendance and artistic expectations, So I guess we can expect more of the same (and some of the different) next year. Congratulations to Decibel’s hard-working staff—and please consider cutting back to four days (my annual request, which will likely be ignored).
Obviously, every Decibel participant's experience is unique and you can't see everything and you may think I'm insane for spotlighting what I did. So, what were your Decibel highlights? And do you like Decibel as a five-day event or would you like to see it return to four days?
Due to flight problems, Australian guitar iconoclast Oren Ambarchi missed his set time last night at Triple Door for Decibel Fest’s OPTICAL 4: Black Noise showcase (more on that in another post). According to Decibel director Sean Horton, Ambarchi will make up that date tonight at Chapel Performance Space. Ticketholders for OPTICAL can attend for free.
I'm trying to track down more details about this and will update the post when info becomes available.
UPDATE: Show time is 7 pm and capacity is 85.
UPDATE 2: Message from Sean Horton:
DUE TO MECHANICAL PROBLEMS AND A SERIES OF FLIGHT DELAYS, THE OREN AMBARCHI SET HAD TO BE POSTPONED UNTIL TONIGHT AT THE GOOD SHEPHERD CENTER. THIS IS A MAKE UP SHOW AND ALL TICKETS FROM THE TRIPLE DOOR SHOW WILL BE HONORED. DOORS ARE AT 6PM AND THE SHOW BEGINS AT 7PM SHARP. FOR THOSE WANTING TO PURCHASE TICKETS, PLEASE BRING $10 CASH FOR ADMISSION.
Monday, September 30th at the Good Shepherd Center
OPTICAL 4 REDUX
OREN AMBARCHI w/ live percussionist
Touch / Kranky - Sydney, AU
Doors at 6pm / all ages
FREE FOR ANYONE THAT PURCHASED A TICKET TO THE OPTICAL 4 EVENT AT THE TRIPLE DOOR. $10 otherwise
No disrespect to Mr. Juan Atkins, but after witnessing Rrose take techno to heretofore practically unheard infernal heights, the Detroit techno god’s DJ set sounded a bit trad and earthbound. (From my vantage point, I couldn’t tell what Atkins was actually doing, either. I saw no vinyl, CDs, or laptop. Did he download the set from his brain to a little black box? Or was it… an iPad DJ set???) Whatever the case, Atkins’ punchy techno and house tunes were uptempo and upful, and the crowd dug ’em hard.
The Orb—old bald white guys Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann—made some of the dubbiest, w33diest techno you’ve ever smelled last night. It was like a best-of medley of their ’90s material, a fragrant reward for the die-hard, hardcore fans who remember a time when Paterson wasn’t a dead ringer for post-hair Brian Eno. We got “Perpetual Dawn,” “Slug Dub,” “Close Encounters,” “Majestic,” “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld,” “Little Fluffy Clouds,” and I think more cuts off Orbus Terrarum—but with their DNA subtly rearranged and track times truncated. (If anyone knows what that song with the funky quacks were, please let me know. I’ve spaced.) The Orb far surpassed my expectations. Granted, it wasn’t 1995 Orbicularity, but it was as riveting as anyone could expect from them in 2013.
Over to Neumos for Kompakt Records’ afterhours party (celebrating 20 years as a label), John Tejada was his usual solid self, a low-key techno master working at his impeccably paced peak. Matias Aguayo, though, is a whole other kind of special. He has more personality and lovable quirks than any dozen other techno artists you can name combined. His staccato singing in Spanish (looped for Lidell-like onomatopoeia) and his piquant woodblock tapping and singing into said woodblock and Latin-tinged rhythms contoured for techno specs all coalesce into super-fun dance music bursting with vivaciousness. He did a fantastic, altered rendition of “Minimal,” which is one of the greatest meta-techno works ever. And any track that samples Liaisons Dangereuses’ “Los Niños Del Parque” is quite all right with me (“Niños”). I’m more of a dark-techno aficionado, really, but Aguayo’s festiveness is so contagious and inventive, it makes sense to lighten the fuck up for it. Demdike Stare will forgive you… just this once.
Ageless wonder Thomas Fehlmann came on around 5 am (well past his bedtime, no?) and right out the box just started unleashing the coolest, subliminally funkiest dub techno. The decent-sized crowd was still moving more than you see at most regular-hour shows, and with a genius like Fehlmann at the controls, it’s no surprise (also:
DRUGS smart drinks). His spare moves—like a man trying to keep his incomparably suave grooves from levitating out of the room with his palms and shoulder shimmies—remain as charming as ever, btw. I only had enough stamina to stay for a third of Fehlmann’s 90-minute set, but I imagine it went on to be a heaven-lowering highlight. We might have to crown the professorial geezer Decibel MVP.
Machinedrum's latest album, Vapor City, is more focused on sustaining a mood of reflection than making you dance your ass off. His last record, (the marvelous Room(s)) and subsequent singles suggested something a bit more in-your-face, but I love this latest turn, being a sucker for the melancholic melodies of jungle at its finest (see "Renegade Snares (VIP Remix)" to fully understand the wondrous juxtaposition of hard-as-fuck breaks and beautiful keyboard lines.) So I was curious to see how he would pull this off live.
First off, though, was 17-year old Marcel Everett, aka XXYYXX, who got the crowd moving with a DJ set combining his original material with a variety of intriguingly curated beats. His head-banging proved to be infectious, and to be honest I'd never seen Aphex Twin's "Ziggomatic 17" played to such an enthusiastic crowd. Witnessing an ocean of backwards hats going ham to that track's convoluted breakbeat science was an early highlight of the evening.
Machinedrum, nee Travis Stewart, started things off in a curious fashion: he donned a guitar and played some contemplative jams off his latest record. The crowd initially seemed unsure, still reeling from the opener's crowd-pleasing and frankly amazing mashup of a Cranberries song and a rave anthem. Was he going to get shown up by his opener? He even half-sung his trademark vocal samples into his mic, making me wonder if all the backlash against "laptop sets" had set us forth on a path of electronic musicians trying to put on a real live spectacle.
About 20 minutes in though, he dropped the guitar, manned the MPC, and shit got real. The big, dirty singles came out, one after another, in an endorphin-releasing stretch of mania: "Gunshotta." "Eyesdontlie." "Body Touch." The bass, the beats, the woeful atmospheres, the head-tripping screen projections of endless tunnels: it all hit at once.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the drummer, who kept pace with these 160+ BPM drumbeats with unnerving and unswerving ability. And finally, the catharsis that is "U Don't Survive," Room(s)' crown cut of blissfully sad juke music. I link to these songs because I implore you: if you enjoy electronic music in 2013, and are somehow not already down: get with Machinedrum. A character in Thomas Pynchon's latest novel says, "Paranoia's the garlic in life's kitchen, you can never have too much." This is what Machinedrum's music reflects: the alienation and anxiety of urban living, touched with the beauty of the sun setting between skyscrapers.
Thursday was a night of disappointments and astonishments.
First, a slight letdown: One of the most hyped Decibel artists, Huerco S., was slated to play live at Chop Suey, according to the official program. Instead, he DJed. Well, at least he spun vinyl. But still, people were jonesin’ to hear tracks off the new Colonial Patterns album, but we got a solid set nonetheless. Huerco started with some medium-level, dub-dusted build-up cuts. Just as I was thinking, “This could be weirder,” it got weirder with an abrupt transition into some kind of Raster-Noton or PAN-style glitchy techno. From then on, the tempo accelerated and the strange tonalities teemed. Just as things were properly saturating my wheelhouse, our party decided to zip over to Crocodile for Actress.
Notorious for missing the last two Decibels due to visa issues (so the official story goes), Actress came on about 30 minutes late and spent another 20 making very quiet rumbles, glitches, burbles that made me think somebody had slipped a Clicks & Cuts CD or an Eno album from the ’00s into his laptop. Some audience members loudly wondered if Actress had actually started. There was something pretty soundcheck-y about the non-committal ambience issuing forth.
Close to 1 am, Actress dropped his first beats and commenced with some Eraserhead techno—very dreary and melancholy atmospheres wafting over 128 bpms. Then came the peak of his set and of Decibel itself: a slow-motion doom-dub piece that recalled Scorn circa Gyral and Techno Animal’s lost 1995 classic, Re-entry. Later a rapacious bass smear, like the sound used to crack terrorist suspects’ wills, entered over slow, skittering beats. One could sense a pervasive uneasiness in the crowd.
After 1 am, the room began to thin the hell out. Most people were not feeling Actress’ techno as space oddity and anomic drift, his dissonant, subaquatic drones and cryptic voice samples, Cut Hands-like tribal techno and jagged, Autechre-esque abstractions. This was the antithesis of pandering (Actress said nothing the whole time and was barely visible behind his gear). A lot of punters left feeling underwhelmed and confused. I may be in the minority here, but after the slow start, I think Actress did a great, unpredictable, and challenging set.
For afterhours, I hit up Electric Tea Garden’s Sweatbox party (not technically part of Decibel) and found Caro (Seattle major dude/synth builder Randy Jones) laying down his patented cracked house tunes, soul-man vox and all. He bust out those old chestnuts from his 2005 album, The Return of Caro, and kept the floor throbbing like a champ.
Then Rrose took over at 3:20 am. Rrose is a stoic man (a powerful catalyst in the Bay Area’s experimental techno scene) in drag who reportedly was feeling ill during his performance. Despite the sickness, Rrose teased out fathoms-deep, un-Shazzamable techno, totally devoid of sentimentality. This was subterranean dance music tunneling into the inmost psychedelic depths of pure/impure sound. “Waterfall” was a particular highlight in a performance full of them. There wasn’t an undilated pupil in the house.
My favorite memory of the night was of the 50something businessman type dancing wildly with dangerous swinging-lasso moves. Gramps was on fire. Unquestionably, Rrose’s was the most mind-altering live techno set I’ve heard since, I don’t know, Plastikman back in 1993? This was some historical shit.
Long before he became head of the Seattle-based Decibel Festival, Sean Horton endured two winters working 20 hours a day on fishing boats in Alaska. That seems relatively easy compared to the monstrous quantity of tasks he tackles these days. Besides running Decibel—one of the world's best electronic-music/digital-arts events—with a staff of more than 200 volunteers, including audio and video/lighting techs, Horton serves as director of music strategy and senior music supervisor for PlayNetwork. Oh, and he DJs and produces his own electronic music. And he receives more than 500 e-mails a day, most of which demand a reply. And he's married. Sleep is overrated, anyway.
Horton's workaholism has helped make Decibel—celebrating its 10th anniversary this year—an essential stop on the global music-fest circuit, and in the last decade, annual attendance has grown from 2,500 to 25,000. This year's lineup bursts with diversity and excellence on international, national, and local levels—there's a lot of something for almost everybody. For every Moby, Lorde, and Zedd, there's an Actress, Raime, and Ben Klock. You want legends? Check out Juan Atkins, Green Velvet, the Orb, and Peter Hook. Young Eastside newbies and aging, staunch avant-gardists can unite for five days and enjoy a surfeit of acts (more than 150, in fact) in 12 downtown, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne venues. After-hours parties (often generators of dB's greatest thrills), educational conferences, and even yoga sessions round out the program.
Night one of Decibel Festival was mostly devoted to the Hyperdub Records showcase at Crocodile. I arrived while Seattle DJ/producer/7 Deadly label head Jimi Jaxon was in middle of a dank, rugged set of future bass, grime, and rigorous, malevolent dubstep. The earth-moving low end made the air hemorrhage. Seriously. A nerdy-looking white dude in a SAD BOYS shirt (picture a frowny face in the O) did some frantic footworking throughout the set. It was pretty mind-blowing.
Ikonika followed, and this young British woman stunned me with a torrent of old-school techno bangers straight out of an early-’90s Best of Plus 8 comp, all hard-pistoning rhythms and martial snare fills, with the occasional odd, festive melody. I haven’t heard her latest album, Aerotropolis, but if this set is any indication, I need to. Toward the end of her hour-long performance, the music moved into more ruffneck, experimental realms, but without losing the totally amped feeling. Stellar show.
DJ Spinn, subbing for a reputedly injured in an auto collision DJ Rashad, began his performance by announcing, “We gonna turn this bitch up quick. Where’re all my weedheads at?” He proceeded to let loose the frenetic funk that we now call “footwork,” and the tempos elasticated sporadically and sometimes maddeningly throughout his 75-minute set. Dunno about you, but this seemed too long for this style of hyperkinetic music. Diminishing returns and all that. But it was cool to hear Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine" in the seemingly wrong context of mercurially shattered breakbeats.
By the time Kode9 took the stage at 12:15 am, I was feeling Hyperdub fatigue, but the 25 minutes that I heard of his heavy heavy sound system pressure was a visceral and cerebral thrill. It had the controlled chaos of a riveting sci-fi film.
Closed out the night at Q, where Ben Klock was Germanically filling the club with massive-sounding minimal techno. Q reminds us how great it is to hear ketamined bangers on a killer system. The invasive, throbbing bass frequencies made you feel as if you were in a huge pleasuring machine hurtling into deep space at 138-146 beats per minute.
Her new phase began a couple of years ago with "Shake", a longform rave-disco gambit which inspired a clip that avoids the music-video-with-kids cliché by being directed, designed, choreographed, and acted out by the children themselves, and all through a charity.
More recently, however, "All For You" zeroes in on all things small and vulnerable and brand new single "Satellite" is a mega-delightful, Kylie o'clock moment that dawns like glitter at the end of the exceptional and nebulous — and yet overflowing with hooks — follow-up Nocturnes. Unlike the '70s retro-dance pastiche everywhere else these days, Little Boots glides along the rail of both the nostalgic and the futuristic.
Rare and wonderful.
And she brings a light-up dress.
The 10th annual Decibel Festival starts today and we have an interview with founder Sean Horton in the paper. However, not everything worthwhile from the Q&A session made it into print, so I’m going to run the highlights from the outtakes on Line Out. (You can read about The Stranger’s must-see acts here. Note: There are many more must-see acts than we could fit in that space.)
What artists have you badly wanted to book but who have eluded you so far?
Horton: There are literally hundreds of offers that I make each year that we simply don't work out for based on timing or finances. People often have this perception that I can book whomever I want, which couldn't be further from the truth. Only about 15 percent of the offers I made this year actually came together, which, with all the other festivals that have popped up over the past decade, it's easy to see why. My dB bucket list always has and always will include a shortlist of Björk, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Boards of Canada, Massive Attack, Portishead, Thom Yorke, Brian Eno, and Philip Glass, all of whom I sent offers to each year. I've made incredibly generous offers to Nicolas Jaar and Alva Noto for the past four years, so I'm incredibly happy to finally have Nico on board this year.
What are some of the most outrageous rider demands your staff has had to deal with? Who has been the biggest pain in the ass?
Not the most demanding, but perhaps the funniest rider story came from Deadmau5 in 2007. I remember being on the main floor at Neumos and wondering why he hadn't started. I worked my way through the crowd downstairs to find Joel Zimmerman aka Deadmau5 crouched into a corner with his face buried in his arms. I honestly thought he was sick based on the body language and demeanor. I asked him if everything was all right, to which he responded, “No, because you obviously didn't read my rider.” Memorizing 120-plus riders is not something I ever plan to do, so I responded with "I'm not sure what you need, but I'm happy to go get it if it means having you perform.”
At this point the audience was chanting his name and we were about 30 minutes past his start time. He responded aggressively with “I need a can of Coke.” Though the request is quite minor, the club itself didn't supply any canned beverages outside of beer, so I had to run across the street to the gas station to purchase a can of Coke. I returned in minutes, handed it to Joel and he slowly opened the can and took one sip. He then put the can down and slowly walked out onto the stage. It was one of my first "rockstar" moments and definitely left a lasting impression. He went on to become the most prominent figure in electronic dance music and is arguably the godfather of contemporary EDM, spawning not only a massive solo career, but helping spawn the careers of EDM icons Skrillex, Kaskade, Excision—all of whom released seminal work on his label Mau5trap. [Of course], a lot has changed since 2007.
Putting on a festival of this magnitude must be a huge headache—in addition, of course, to being abundantly rewarding. Please discuss some of the logistical nightmares Decibel has encountered.
You have no idea. It's by far the most challenging thing I've ever accomplished and I spent two winters working on fishing boats in Alaska, working 20 hours a day. Now multiply that effort times 20 and you can begin to see what our dedicated team of directors and managers are putting into the monumental effort, involving 150+ artists, a dozen plus venues, 50+ showcases, over 200 volunteers, an entire staff of audio techs, and entire staff of video/light techs, an entire staff of drivers, an entire team of street promoters, six solid months of marketing through every possible channel, dozens of flight itineraries, dozens of hotel itineraries, dozens of will call lists, guest lists, 500+ emails a day strictly coming into my own inbox.
I start booking the festival out in January and I don't stop until October. During the most frenetic months (June through September) much of our staff are working 30+ hours a week on the festival. What's more, we all have day jobs and careers that exist entirely outside of Decibel, which basically makes it an insanely expensive and time-consuming hobby. The part that always gets me choked up though is that everyone volunteers. Decibel is probably the only festival on the planet driven entirely out of passion. Not a day goes by that I don't think, "What would I do without my staff?” Vance Galloway, Cody Morrison, Jessica Brockish, Katie Harkins, Matt Clark, David Kwan, Kate Lesta, Kristyn Brown, Crystal Fritz, Blake Peterson, Matthew Krall, Tony Gavilanes, Trevor Walker, Matt Dressman, Mollie Bryan, Cameron Jessup, Melenie Yep, Carlos Ruiz, Zach Bohnson, Ian Todd, Katie Paige, and Brooke Bendewish are all saints. Decibel would be nothing without them and the dozens of other volunteers who fuel Decibel.
Can we count on Actress finally appearing this year after two cancellations?
The previous cancellations, both to due to visa issues, were disappointing, to say the least. Since 9/11, the visa process and just making it to the US as a foreign artist has been increasingly difficult. Each year we see the pressure increase and with emerging artists that don't have North American agents and or representation, there's a great deal of confusion surrounding the visa process, which does often fall on the artist themselves to contend with. It's also incredibly expensive (minimum $1,000 and as much as $4,000 to expedite the visa). The US is by far the most difficult and expensive country to tour as an artist. As someone who runs a largely international festival, I'm amazed there aren't more of these cancellations (knock on wood). It's arguably our biggest challenge each year. Luckily, we have Kate Lesta on staff, who saw the need and has started a company dedicated to educating international artists and agents on the obtaining visas. Kate actually has been working on Actress' visa for the past couple years and has assured me that we're a go.
What developments do you foresee for Decibel’s future? What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t attained so far?
I'd say financial stability would be up there. After a decade, I'm still using credit cards, loans, volunteers, and a lot of pleading to keep the ship afloat. I've lost well over a quarter of a million dollars over the years, which may seem like a small amount for a festival the size of Decibel, but for me it's a significant amount. It's tough to think big picture when you're living paycheck to paycheck. I keep saying, if we can't pull it off as a tenth anniversary, we never will. If we do, finding a way to downsize the production needs, while increasing attendance and the overall quality is the direction we need to go. That might mean fewer venues and ultimately less intimate spaces, but if it will allow us to continue, then I'll make those difficult decisions as they come. I still dream of doing something large scale in terms of events (e.g., my bucket list) but that would have to replace most of not all of our club showcases, which are honestly some of my favorite events.
Given how big Decibel has become, it seems like you would have given up your day job to concentrate exclusively on it. But you continue to work as a Director of Music Strategy and Senior Music Supervisor at PlayNetwork. How do you manage to accomplish so much, in addition to being married and making your own music and DJing? Do you have people helping you with the booking? Do you only sleep two hours a night?
My typical weekday has me getting up around 6 am and knocking out 25-50 emails largely to European agents, managers and media partners. I leave for work around 7 am and after an often grueling commute I arrive at PlayNetwork deep in Redmond around 8 am. At that point, I completely divorce myself from Decibel until lunch around noon, at which time I knock out another hour's worth of emails, typically from North American agents, managers, and partners on the East Coast. From 1 pm to 6 pm I'm back on with PlayNetwork activity, which always keeps me busy.
On the commute home, I put in my earpiece and get through as many voice mail calls and call backs that I can squeeze into the hour-long commute back to Seattle. Depending on the day, from 7pm to midnight I'm either at Decibel staff meetings, partner meetings, or working on Decibel marketing, promotions, curation, and overall logistics. If I'm behind, I'll work until 1 am or 2 am. During the months of August and September, it's not uncommon for me to function on three to four hours of sleep, which definitely takes its toll. My wife Diana definitely has helped keep me alive over the past four years. I owe a lot to her and to my friends who provide a constant support network. Weekends offer more solitary work and meeting schedules, which I'd say take up between 10 and 12 hours a day, leaving some room for movies, DJing, and the occasional night out with Diana or friends.
In terms of my own music ambitions as a composer, engineer, producer, and DJ, they've all had to take a backseat to the festival, which is really the worst part of it all. I got into this world as a musician, collector, and DJ, which to me is still what inspires me as an individual. I have been DJing a lot more lately, which has me traveling and continuing to hone a skill that I've been cultivating since I was 16. I'll never stop DJing, composing, producing, and manipulating sound in some fashion. I long for the day that I can return to the studio for an extended period of time and work though the past decade of my life, which in some ways has been lost. Overall, the rewards outweigh the sacrifices I make each day.
Tuesday nights at Pony, with ggnzla's "I Hate Karaoke", are always a blast and last night was A+ extra fun. I was already home in my pajamas when I got a text saying that Shannon from Light Asylum and Nicola from ADULT. were singing duets and just generally hanging out at 'the Stables.
I talked to Adam of ADULT. for quite some time. Turns out we lived in the same apartment building in Detroit in the late 90s—the Phillips Manor on East Willis. He even remembered the time I confused a whole bunch of juggalos, who were waiting in line for an ICP show at the Majestic Theatre in front of our building, by throwing cooked potatoes at their feet from the window of my apartment.
He said he thought Pony was a great bar, and told me ADULT. is never playing any more daytime shows. He also said he doesn't care "if Detroit ever gets "better" or "worse"—it's perfect just the way it is now."
ADULT. play Neumos tonight, with Peter Hook & the Light, and Nightmare Fortress. Light Asylum also play at Neumos, this Friday, with Little Boots, Young Galaxy, and MNDR. Both are part of the awesomeness that is the Decibel Festival (thanks, Sean Horton!)
John Templeton is a powerhouse in the Denver techno scene. Between his duties as creative director and curator of the Great American Techno Festival, running his upper echelon record label Emote Music, and keeping things lively at his year-round workshop/party space the Would Shop, John is constantly propelling techno to new heights in his city. Now he's returning to Seattle (he played a phenomenal set at SpaceRock Saturdays in May) to check out Decibel Festival for his first time and play Yagottawantit… More!, the off-Decibel Sunday morning day rave alongside Eddie Fowlkes, Derek Plaslaiko, Mass Prod and a handful of others put on by Sweatbox, of which I am a member. In anticipation, we asked him to record a promo mix and give us a few words on his festival, his favorite tracks of the moment, and whom he's most excited to see at this year's Decibel Festival. Mix and track list after the jump:
How was Great American Techno Festival?
Templeton: It turned out really well, despite the adverse weather, rain, and floods nearby. That definitely put a damper on the mood, as many people couldn't make it to Denver due to all of the washed-out bridges and flooded roads in the foothills. Nevertheless, people came through the doors in record numbers this year, so we are very happy with that. Overall, I thought we had a lot of great performances highlighted by Bruno Pronsato's live PA and Jeff Mills' 5-hour set at Beta Nightclub on the quad-Funktion-One system; that was pretty special.
Top 3 tracks you're playing right now?
1) Pfirter - Multiverse (Markus Suckut Remix)
I play almost everything that Markus is putting out these days, but this is an older remix that I still play out all the time. It's very subtle in the way that it develops throughout the course of the song, but I just love the way it sounds in a mix.
2) Benjamin Damage - 010x (Truncate Remix)
Like Markus Suckut, I play virtually everything that David (Flores), aka Audio Injection/Truncate is producing. This remix of Benjamin Damage though, has it all: a pulsing groove, small elements of some house music, and it never fails on a dance floor when you build up to it.
3) Daniel Avery - Taste
I am starting to play a lot more UK Garage/UK Bass music and this track by Daniel Avery has a little bit of everything. It works so well in mixes as a change-of-pace track from my usual techno that it gets worked into almost every set I'm playing right now
Who are your must see acts at Decibel Festival this year?
KiNK (live), Kode9, Hessle Audio Showcase, The Orb, Speedy J, and a slew of others that I'm forgetting at the moment.
Much-hyped footwork producer DJ Rashad has been replaced by fellow Chicago-based footwork/juke artist and frequent collaborator DJ Spinn on Wednesday night's Hyperdub Records Showcase at the Crocodile. Looks like Decibel made the best of an unfortunate situation.
Decibel Festival is hosting an art show tonight at 2312 2nd Avenue in Belltown featuring over 30 local designers and artists, each of whom is depicting a musical act from this year's lineup. The night's augmented by DJ sets from Catacombkid & BeachesBeaches, Kid Smpl, IG88, and Tremel. The event celebrates both Decibel's increasing commitment to visual art and its 10th anniversary.
More info here. Find a list of participating artists after the jump.
The bad news: Due to visa issues, the Haxan Cloak—purveyor of seriously deep and mordant beatless music in the Demdike Stare vein—has dropped off the bill for Decibel Festival. The good news: Huerco S. has replaced him. As Kyle Fleck outlined in a recent Line Out post, Huerco S.’s Colonial Patterns is a stunner, one of the few works of this century to do something novel with the building blocks established by dub-techno deities Basic Channel. With this bafflingly fresh and intriguing record, Huerco has risen to the summit of American experimental-techno scene. You can catch his Decibel set Thurs. Sept. 26 at Chop Suey (that whole bill is strong).