CGNY: Where do you come from?
JD: Originally I am from DeKalb, Illinois - my father worked at Wurlitzer, which was based in DeKalb, believe it or not. With a father in the music business we moved around a lot - Boston, Rotterdam, Cincinnati etc, but I ended up going to high school back in Chicago. I went to undergrad at Indiana University and a year after that, I moved to New York to get a masters at NYU. 16 years later, I've moved back home.
CGNY: Jeff – tell us a bit about your genesis in the world of electronic music?
JD: My earliest influences in terms of electronic music came from soundtracks - Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, and especially Tangerine Dream. I was mesmerized by the sequencing and the arpeggios. The Blade Runner, Risky Business and Escape from New York soundtracks were big for me. So was 'I feel Love' by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder, just like everyone else. Later I found myself gravitating towards industrial and '80s synth/goth pop, followed by trip hop and big beat electronic music, especially what was coming out of the UK- underworld in particular. Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack and Portishead are all early touchstones.
CGNY: You’ve just had your first release “Tarantula” on Perc Trax –a huge label. How did that come about?
JD: Zak (DVS1) and I were talking about the first Oktave show in Chicago. Zak and Ali (Perc) are friends, and Ali emailed Zak asking for the names of American promoters. Zak sent him my information and we started talking. I sent him my first EP on Subtrak and I think he liked it - we spoke about perhaps organizing an event together. Soon after that I sent him Tarantula and he was into it.
CGNY: Last year CGNY picked the Lucy/Stroboscopic Artefacts party as one of our Top 3 events of 2010. As creative director of Oktave, one of NYC’s prominent dance scene initiatives, how do you decide what artists to bring to the Oktave parties?
JD: Thanks for the kind words about the Lucy show. I think a lot of people really enjoyed that event, which makes me feel good and also proud for Lucy of course. He's a huge talent, and I'm glad Oktave hosted him in New York.
I'm not sure Oktave is a prominent dance scene initiative, but I like the way you say that so I'll go with it. In terms of what artists we bring to the Oktave shows, essentially I do what I've always done with music, which is to follow my tastes. I've always had a fairly specific radar when it comes to the music I like, and I just kind of trust it. Kevin (Gregor) thought I was completely insane when I insisted on flying Cio D'or over to the States (and for good reason - no one knew her here), but that turns out to be one of the defining moments of our first year.
For me I've always had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted Oktave to be - a cutting edge techno event that was less concerned with the scene or what's going to drive a huge night, and more concerned with the quality and sound of the music we deliver. This is why we don't do regular shows - the show has to be right for Oktave before we'll do it. We don't do events just for the event's sake.
CGNY: You’ve also recently expanded Oktave to Chicago – what made you decide to branch out to another city and how is that going?
JD: The move to Chicago was less about expanding to another city and more about me needing to leave New York. After 16 years, I was finished. I was also embroiled in an advertising career that was pretty much eating my soul, and my gut told me to cut the cord and jump. So I jumped. But as I started thinking about coming back home, I realized that it didn't need to be the end for Oktave. In fact, it soon started to appear as an opportunity. And the more I put ideas in play regarding the move, the more they seemed to make sense and come to fruition. The Silent Servant/DVS1 show came together at the same time as I released my first EP, which got good notices, and soon I started connecting with the local Chicago scene and things have just kind of developed from there.
Overall I would say Oktave in Chicago is going well. Like all situations, it has its obstacles, but it's also full of tremendous opportunity for techno and dance music in general. This is a foundational city in that regard and I think it's so viable here in every way - the music fans are passionate, the history is here, and artists want to come play. I was struck by how happy Donato Dozzy was to play in Chicago (it was his first time). He really appreciated everything Chicago represented in terms of musical history and club history.
Did Chicago appreciate Dozzy the same way he appreciated Chicago? Probably not. I saw some confused faces out in the crowd that night. I do think Chicago needs some time to get back on track from a dance music perspective. However, reaction to what Oktave is doing in Chicago has been incredibly gracious and passionate, and I get a real sense of appreciation from the dance music fans that are seeing something different happening here. As I said, I think the potential in this city is huge.
CGNY: I feel more and more people are finding a deeper love of techno as a specific genre within electronic music. Do you feel there is resurgence or some kind of new interest in techno at the moment? It does seem to be more popular!
JD: I agree with you that techno appears to be gaining in popularity, but I would say that about all electronic music right now - or should I say all music created on a computer. There isn't a doubt in my mind that the new wave of music, and the future of the music business, exists in the project and bedroom studios that have developed, and continue to develop, all over the world. There's a lot of people hunched in front of a computer as we speak, just cranking out dirty beats. America is figuring it out and for everyone who makes their life in this music; that is a very good thing.
CGNY: What programs are you using to produce and DJ? Do you see any advantages over digital djing versus old school CDJs or vinyl? There seems to be a bit of controversy over that whole issue – thoughts?
JD: I use Logic and Ableton to produce. Ableton is my sequencer and sampler, and Logic is my mixing and finishing environment. I'm teaching Pro Tools and Ableton at an arts college here in Chicago called Columbia, but my days in Pro Tools are likely over outside of the classroom. I prefer Logic as it's a native Apple software at this point, and the sound engine is the best I've heard. Ableton is a great place to sketch out ideas and build an arrangement. I also really like the ease of automation in Ableton - it's just click and draw, which is how I like to work.
To perform I'm using Traktor and two X1 controllers. I'm really enjoying the 4 deck format right now and that specific sound you get by weaving in and out of tracks while multiple loops and sounds are firing. My favorite DJs are set creators, mood creators - clicks and cuts are not for me. I particularly admire the style of Cio D'or, Lucy and Donato Dozzy as DJs - they really take you on an adventure that rewards the patient listener. I try to create something of a sonic tapestry with what I'm doing - but God knows I'm still developing in this arena.
I've never been a vinyl DJ. Back when I would have been a vinyl DJ, I was drumming. I come to music from a musician's perspective, and production is definitely more interesting to me than DJing. I do enjoy DJing, especially as I hear my sets improving. I've said this before but I don't have any problem with not being a vinyl DJ. If a guy thinks I don't have cred because I don't use vinyl, there's not much I can say to dissuade him. At the same time, he doesn't have the first idea of the type of work I've put into music for the last 20+ years, the work of my whole life, so his opinion is of no consequence to me.
CGNY: Jan 29th sees Oktave bringing Raiz Acid, members of the West Coast Droid Behavior family to NYC – very excited about that. Raiz have been keeping techno alive West coast for a while. What do you think we can expect them to bring to the party?!
JD: Raiz are amongst my favorite producers going at the moment. Their latest Droid EP was a monster, definitely one of my favorite releases of 2010. I also really admire what they do in Los Angeles with the Droid Behavior brand. like Timefog in Minneapolis, I feel like Raiz and Droid represent the foundation of a growing techno movement in America. It is obviously in Oktave's best interest to promote the expansion of that foundation. For this reason, and for their talent and character, we decided to book them in New York.
Raiz are technology forward and they play using a combination of Ableton, Traktor and Machine. I think you can expect an innovative, exciting, and sweaty evening at National Underground.
CGNY: Are you working or any other tracks at present? Tarantula has been remixed by some top class talent too – that must be exciting!
JD: I was thrilled with the way the remixes on Tarantula turned out. Both Claro Intelecto and Iori turned in great tracks, and I am extremely grateful to them for that. I am currently shopping a new EP that is of a similar format to Tarantula - my original mix paired with two remixes by extremely talented producers. Stay tuned on that. In the studio right now I am working on the 8th Nightvision mix, which I hope to have done in February, and then I'll be working on a new EP that will be my own material exclusively.
CGNY: What might we be surprised to find you listen to on your ipod? Any closet folk or blues songs there?!
JD: My ipod is techno dominated in a pretty severe way. The most surprising thing you'd find on there right now is the score to 'The Fountain' by Clint Mansell and the music Trent Reznor did for 'The Social Network.' not very exciting, I know, but what can I do? I'm a techno junkie...
Check out Jeff with Raiz Acid and Taimur at National Underground, Jan 29th