Tag Archives: house

Fei-Fei got me hammered on tequila

23 Sep

Feided 3

Sometimes, to get the story, you have to be willing to go outside your comfort zone. Sometimes, you just have to drink a lot of tequila.

To write about DJ/producer Fei-Fei, I went to the opening night of her new monthly event, Feided, where the tiny Chinese-American dubstep fan proceeded to basically drink me under the table. She bought me tequila shot after tequila shot, and then, when I made the mistake of admitting I didn’t feel all that drunk yet, she bought me another tequila shot. Feided is pronounced “Faded” and, believe me, it’s an appropriate name. This girl likes to knock ’em back. (That’s her on the right in the above photo, still going strong while yours truly was propped up against a wall somewhere waiting for the room to stop spinning.)

Somehow, I still managed to partially document the evening—although a follow-up interview over coffee several days later helped a lot.

Bass Drops and Tequila Shots With Fei-Fei, EDM’s Wild Child

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson should be an electro-swing fan

20 Jul

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Here’s a quote that didn’t make it into my article about electro-swing for Insomniac, mostly because I didn’t feel like explaining it: “House music,” said Buck Down, one-half of electro-swing duo Gentlemen Callers, “is the tardigrade of electronic dance music.”

For those of you who have no idea what a tardigrade is (and I counted myself among your ranks until Buck explained it to me): It’s a tiny, water-dwelling critter that’s been around for over 500 million years. They’re about as close to indestructible as any life form yet discovered; you can freeze them, dehydrate them, even expose them to the vacuum of space, and after their ordeal, most of them are fully capable of reviving and reproducing. Neil deGrasse Tyson uses them several times on Cosmos as an example of the diversity and resiliency of life.

So how is house music the tardigrade of dance music? Because no matter how many other styles and genres of boom-tss music come and go, house music always makes a comeback. It’s having another moment now, thanks to the popularity of acts like Disclosure and Duck Sauce. And, as Buck explained to me, it’s ultimately the foundation of Gentlemen Callers’ highly addictive take on electro-swing.

Technically, electro-swing doesn’t have to follow a house template. Plenty of European electro-swing bands and producers bring elements of breakbeat, electro, hip-hop, techno and even dubstep to the party, as well. The real common denominator is jazz, preferably of the “hot” variety popular in the 1920s and ’30s. But for the music to take hold in America the way it has in Europe—and in Europe, it’s huge right now—it’ll probably need that four-on-the-floor house bounce.

I hope it does take off, because at its best, electro-swing is just crazy fun. After writing this article, I finally got to go to a party the Gentlemen Callers performed at, and I danced my ass off. In full speakeasy attire, I might add. Which at my age only adds to the fun. I can’t pull off raver chic anymore, but I look pretty good in a vest and porkpie hat.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Electro-Swing (Insomniac.com)

Songwriting sneaks into the dance charts

15 Jun

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“Dance music” and “singer-songwriter” are not terms that usually go hand in hand. But Matthew Koma has been changing that. Over the past three years, this guy has collaborated with at least half a dozen of the biggest names in electronic dance music, including Tiësto, Hardwell, Zedd and Afrojack. Not primarily by producing beats or singing hooks—although he can do those things, too—but by writing lyrics and melodies that can ride atop their tracks.

My Q&A with Koma is my first piece for Insomniac’s new website. Yep, America’s biggest rave EDM event promoter is getting into the content business, and I’m pretty psyched to be along for the ride. I remember when Pasquale Rotella was still out and about at underground parties, flyering for his own events. It’s crazy to see how far he’s taken Insomniac, and I have no doubt he can take it even further. Hopefully I’ll be along for the ride.

Matthew Koma: The Voice of EDM

The clubbing life

9 May
Photo by Drew Barillas

Photo by Drew Barillas

I think the first show I ever saw at Avalon was Sasha on his Involver tour in the summer or fall of 2004. Instead of putting him onstage, they set him up in one of the side balconies beneath a giant projection screen that, as I recall, basically just played endless variations of his name and the Involver logo like the world’s most expensive screen saver. Ballsily (is that a word? guess it is now), for at least the first five minutes of his set, Sasha didn’t drop a single beat. But the crowd was enraptured, in so small part because the music sounded incredible. “Immersive” was a word I remember using later to describe the experience. Everyone faced the DJ—by this time in dance music history, crowds always faced the DJ—but the music was all around us. I’ll always have a soft spot for L.A.’s first house and trance mega-club, Circus—less clubby, more like a warehouse, which is more my speed—but the sound at Avalon was unbelievable.

For my latest LA Weekly piece, I got to meet one of the architects of that sound. His name is John Lyons and my article only scratched the surface of everything this guy has done. From co-founding the House of Blues to pretty much inventing the nightclub scene in Boston, he’s one of the industry’s heaviest hitters.

I also got to interview some of the biggest names in dance music, all of whom testified to the power and clarity of that Avalon sound system. The new one they just installed is supposed to be even better. I got a little taste of it while it was still in “beta,” so to speak, but I’m looking forward to hearing it now that’s fully fine-tuned. Maybe next time Sasha’s in town.

Avalon: A Sonic Overhaul and a Look Back

All hail Hawtin

21 Dec

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I’ve contributed to several snarky lists for LA Weekly, so it was a nice change of pace recently to write several entries for their 20 Greatest EDM DJs list. I especially took great pleasure in singing Richie Hawtin’s praises, because he is awesome and I think LA Weekly got it exactly right by putting him at No. 1. Although John Tejada is probably still my personal favorite, there’s no denying Hawtin is killing it these days. You almost can’t even name another artist in any genre with as much pedigree and influence who’s still operating at such a creative peak. It would be like if Metallica still made great records. Or Madonna. Or Chuck D.

The rest of the list is pretty good, too. Some naysayers have cried foul at including more “mainstream” DJs like Deadmau5 and Skrillex (or argued that they’re not technically DJs—to which I say, oh get over it), but I say they belong there. At least what they’re doing is different and interesting. Unlike, say, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, who you will notice are not on the list. So overall, I think LA Weekly done good.

The 20 Greatest EDM DJs: The Complete List