With just over a week to go until Denver descends into techno madness with the 2nd year of the Great American Techno Festival, CGNY caught up with one of the local djs/producers Attenat (aka Thomas Attenat) who's getting ready to drop some serious tuneage over the Sept 13 weekend. Yes we can attest to Attenat!
CGNY: Hi Thomas! Where are you from originally?
AT: I was born in Pontiac Michigan. I spent most of my formative years in northeast Ohio, near Cleveland and Akron.
CGNY: Tell us about your first forays into dance music?
AT: I started going to warehouse parties in Cleveland and Akron in 1996. I was a junior in high school. This kid we nicknamed Ghetto Bill moved to our small town from East Cleveland. He had mix tapes of house and techno that really blew my mind. Kenny Dope's "Bucket Heads" record is the one I remember most. I had been listening to lots of hip hop like Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues family, mixed in with healthy amounts of The Grateful Dead, and oldies rock and roll. I loved the idea of the continuous mix of music the DJ provided at the parties I started attending around the Midwest. It reminded me of the drawn out improvisational element of The Dead and other such music that I liked at the time. After a few months of going to parties I decided to sell my drum set and buy some turntables. The first decks I owned were belt-driven Gemini's and they were about the worst thing ever to try and mix on, although looking back I think getting started on low quality gear may have actually made me a better DJ in the end because once I mixed on real decks I didn't have to try so hard to keep the groove locked and I could focus on EQing and other elements of mixing. After about two years of bedroom mixing I started playing out. My early gigs were in Athens Ohio back in 1997-1999, I had moved there after high school.
CGNY: Can you describe your sound or what you like to play?
AT: These days I am focusing on the darker and weirder side of dance music. I guess people might call it industrial techno. I like to think of it as unhyphenated techno, just proper warehouse music that is tracky but not boring, stripped down, music that sounds best when mixed and layered over long durations. Bass heavy, repetitive, not a lot of melody, with an emphasis on cerebral and hypnotic grooves. As a DJ I hope to create a space of self-reflection for the audience and I think the easiest way to do that is to play odd music because it forces people to react to something they might not yet understand, and personal transformation arises out of those situations of unexpected self-reflection.
CGNY: At what stage did you decide you were going to make a career from music?
AT: I don't think I ever really had a moment where I told myself I was going to have a music career. I mean I bought decks when I was 17 years old and really wanted to learn how to do it, but everything that has happened since that decision feels very organic to me. I just enjoyed mixing, convinced people I was good enough to get booked, and over time it sort of blossomed on it's own. I started going to parties with a large crew of friends, it was what we did in the last few years of high school. These days I'm the only one from that group of people who still participates in underground dance culture. This may sound cliche, but If you would have told me 15 years ago that I would still be playing records for people, I don't know if I would have believed it.
CGNY: This year you’re playing the Great American Techno Festival in Denver CO which is in its second year and features exclusively U.S talent. Being a native Denverite – what does it mean to have a techno festival in the city? There really isn’t another one outside of Detroit.
AT: Well, Denver is going off these days. There is a lot of really great crews making a lot of events happen. There has always been a solid scene in Colorado, which is one of the main reasons I have lived here for the last thirteen years, but these days there is a sense of heightened activity around the city. I am honored and very excited to play at the festival this year. The fact that the festival is happening is a direct reflection of what I mean when I say Denver is going off. There are serious people dedicated to the culture and they are working together to make this city a hot spot for American techno. I think it is the perfect time of year to have a festival in Denver and I hope out of town folks will organize themselves to be here for it.
CGNY: How has the scene in Denver progressed over the years?
AT: I have lived in the Denver/Boulder area for the last 13 years and it has progressed and digressed at various points of time. There has always been a steady scene though, and I think the last few years has seen a shift where more events are happening with more and more people showing up. There is a large dub-step scene here, but also a solid turn out for techno and house parties. One nice thing about the scene here is that crews tend not to compete with each other so much. Many promoters make concerted efforts not to book shows the same night as other crews because there is a lot of crossover when if comes to the crowd. I think the various scenes support each other in positive ways and that makes Denver a unique place.
CGNY: Who are some of your personal favorites at the moment, either tracks or producers?
AT: I really have been loving releases from CLR, Perc Trax, Ostgut Ton and that sort of sound. Marcel Dettman, Tommy Four Seven, Jonas Kopp, Hans Bouffmyhre have really been making amazing tracks. Oh yeah and Norman Nodge, that guys music is ridiculous.
CGNY: Where have been some of your favorite clubs/festivals to play. I know you’ve played Bunker in NYC!
AT: I have played the Bunker and it is always a good time, those parties always have great artists and it is usually a treat to hear whoever else is on the bill. The best gigs I have ever played are the outdoor parties that happen in the mountains here in Colorado. There is noting better than playing techno music in the woods to a bunch of hardcore people who are willing to come camp for the night and dance under the stars. Nothing beats the sound of a huge sound system unimpeded by walls or reverberating rafters that so often happens in warehouses or clubs. Outside the music is always clearer and I think this helps fuel the party to ecstatic levels.
CGNY: What do you like to do in your spare time?
AT: Read books, ride my bike, and do yoga.
CGNY: In terms of production have you any projects in the pipeline? You run Makemistakes.us (interesting title!)
AT: I have been working on some tracks but it is a slow process for me lately. I have really been enjoying making mixes again and I started a blog (http://technoflows.tumblr.com) to begin having an outlet for them. I am one of the founding members of Make Mistakes. It started out as a monthly party and has evolved over the last few years to include a label and now a blog. I have to credit my good friend Joshua Smith for coining the name Make Mistakes, people seem to identify with it rather quickly. The Make Mistakes music label has recently begun and people interested in it can find the music for sale on Band Camp. We are building up a handful of releases right now and soon the catalog will expand. The blog is a great way to keep involved in the scene because it allows for music and event reviews, mix series, and a space to promote events. I highly recommend people go to the site and download the Photographic Memory Series mixes. There are eight mixes up for people to enjoy and they are all good, I'm not just saying that either.
For more information about Attentat - check out his soundcloud or Tumblr or www.makemistakes.us
For information on Attentat and all the artists at GATF - go GATF.US