Drawing parallels between the worlds of philosophy, science and electronic music is always cause for attention, and our guest this week doesn’t just sever the abstract alternation at this point – redefinition and exploration proceed it. With over 14 EP’s to his name spread across labels such as Little Helpers and Crosstown Rebels to Foundsound Records, as well as two full albums and counting, Alphahouse’s founder has morphed himself and said label into one of the most respected base camps in the techno and house world.
We’ll pause for a moment as the unpredictable frequencies of a drug induced coma affirming itself would normally generate a sentient of alarm, though this weeks broadcast envelopes the concept into an effulgent yet distorted space. This 2 hour instalment is more than special, we’re live from Treehouse Miami hosted by the LINK crew. The event was one of the of the most successul on the recent clubbing calendar and your host is in the form Andrew Rasse, aka: Butane.
Nothing but support and respect from our end.
Kn: As a literary student of some of histories most influential philosophical thinkers you’ve surely invested quite some time discerning the intricacies of life and the evolutionary process. How has this influenced your work and production process over the years?
B: Good question. I read incessantly in Philosophy, Economics, Politics, Evolutionary Psychology, Biology, Neuroscience, Game Theory, and similar disciplines. In a Socratean way, I understand that the only thing that I can truly know is that I know nothing. Thanks Socrates, glad we’ve got that out of the way. Okay, so I’m 31 years old and I’ve traveled all over the world non-stop for the last 6 years of my life, and I feel like I have a decent understanding of some of the ways in which the world works. And that’s what I’m mostly obsessed with: finding out how things work. Wanting to find out how it works is what got me into making electronic music, so I guess you could say that’s one of the drives that motivates me above all others.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a big culture war raging in the Western world about the role of government, and whether people are Randian rational utility-maximizers who are better left to settle their business in unencumbered markets, or whether we’re imperfect emotional primates that need government to ensure social order. As an artsy liberal educated in Evolution I tend to believe the latter, but I have very close and smart friends who swear the former. What does any of this have to do with my music? Well, I used to think that I garnered some artistic inspiration from my time pondering these subjects. Now I’m not so sure. I think at best, contemplating philosophy acts as a mental sharpening tool for me. It’s an escape from my artwork. A reset. The same can be said in reverse: doing art is a way to escape from the average machinations of the world. I’ve always loved techno music for it’s ability to transport me toward the abstract. Deep theorizing in Evolution, Cosmology, and Philosophy is also very abstract, just in a different way. Surely becoming better-read in general has some effect on the music that I make. Does it mean that I make smarter music? I don’t even know what that means!
In my private life I’m interested in science, knowledge, and information, and I support myself by making and playing weird hypnotic dance music that lends itself to psychedelic drug use. Surely these things aren’t such strange bedfellows, right? I mean, I can see the connection pretty clearly. By the way, I’m working on a “theory of everything” but I don’t think it’ll be ready for another ten or twenty years. Keep an eye out.
Kn: Your newest imprint Little Helpers was essentially set up alongside Someone Else (Sean O’Neal) as a vehicle to release DJ tools that can also hold their own as individual tracks, and has featured the productions of some of the scenes big hitters with impressive reviews. What was the motivation behind starting the imprint?
B: Sean and I both come from the old vinyl DJ scene, and share a love for some of the more unsung parts of DJ culture; namely, warm-up sets and afterhours parties. We were also early adopters of and have become ardent supporters of digital DJ technology. We feel that with this technology boom and ensuing natural demise of vinyl culture, there is a widening hole in the market for b-side-type tracks, just solid groovy stuff, without all the over-produced whooshing breakdowns that drive so much of the digital market these days.
There’s an escalating arms race between labels to get exposure on sites like Beatport, everyone looking for tracks with big hooks, and chart-topping potential. We’re kind of moving meaningfully in the opposite direction. We want to be the go-to label for DJs around the world who are doing warm-up sets, or when you’re playing afterhours and need more deep grooves and less tricky production. My experience traveling tells me we’re succeeding. I meet resident DJs at clubs all over the world and Little Helpers is often a topic of discussion. This is not to say we don’t release the occasional stormer that will rock the club, but the core principle of the label is to release simple, solid tools that are suitable for many different situations. Being a good DJ is all about playing appropriate music that enhances your environment, so there’s a need for this stuff; it behooves one to carry around a wide range of material, and you need to know where to look to find it. We feel like we’re filling an important niche with Little Helpers by providing this type of music. Let us not forget our roots, after all.
I’m currently compiling and mixing a compilation CD for the label, comprised of 40-50 tracks from the catalog, all broken up and re-envisioned as a 70-minute original piece. I guess you could say it’s a cross between a DJ set and an original composition, similar to Richie Hawtin’s DE9 experiments. It should be released in the early part of 2012, and is a personal statement about the creative possibilities of digital DJing.
Kn: You’ve recently signed Andras Toth to Alphahouse, a very talented young producer from Hungry producing some groove based cerebral house and we’ve also seen an impressive split EP that was released in may this year. What’s on the horizon for the label?
B: Andras is a crazy-talented young man with an old soul, and I’m proud to have him releasing for Alphahouse. Alphahouse Records has always been my baby, and I only release about 3 records a year, so it’s something that I curate with extreme care. Andras has been sending me demos for years, and always did it in such a tasteful way that I paid attention. He’s also a remarkably talented solo pianist who composes and performs beautiful original piano works, so when he finally nailed his house/techno sound, I was very pleased to sign him to the label. Not to mention his hybrid live/DJ sets absolutely burn the club down. He’s just wrapped up his next EP, called “Would U?” to be released before the end of this year. Needless to say, I think it’s great.
But first, up next for Alphahouse coming in late October is an EP by another young talent with a slightly more recognizable name, Ilario Alicante of Cocoon Records fame. He’s done a really versatile techno 4-tracker that I’m very happy to have as part of the catalog. It’s two big-club techno cuts with an old-school feel, and two thick, musical, slow groovers.. the techno cuts are a slight departure from the last few Alphahouse releases, but that’s the beauty of the label, there’s no mould. I pay no attention to trends. If it’s music with integrity, I’m interested in it. This one has it in spades.
Then tentatively scheduled for the first release of 2012 is a 3-track collaboration I recently completed with Kris Wadsworth, but there’s still a small chance that it will be released on a different label, so don’t write that one in stone. I guess If I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be: uncompromising.
Kn: Productions are one world, performances are another. The gig at Treehouse was something else, so can you tell us how you approach a club space like that?
B: Miami has a very strong scene for this music.. easily one of the best in the United States, thanks to crews like LINK, who invited me for this party. This was my first time playing at Treehouse, and I hope it won’t be my last.. it’s a very beautiful club, with atmosphere to spare. (It’s the old Groove Jet space, for any old-school WMC veterans reading this).
The crowd in Miami is very well-educated musically, stylish, sexy, “Latin-centric”, and always up for a party, so you know you can take some chances with the music, which is always refreshing. Contrast that with a lot of clubs in Berlin, where because of the long opening hours and general over-exposure to dance music, you’re expected to play flat, plodding deep house that goes nowhere lest the people actually experience some emotion for a few minutes. Oh shit, did I just say that? Sorry Berliners, I love your “keep it between the lines” DJ culture too, don’t worry. That’s a special skill in itself after all, to play for 4 hours ensuring that just enough happens to keep people interested, while nothing really happens.
In other words, my approach to playing at a club like Treehouse is to pull out some party jams, put a smile on my face, and try to rock the place. People should leave the party with some good memories of musical peaks and valleys over the course of the night, and maybe a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
Kn: Let’s kick everything forwards 20 years and have a similar discussion, what would you like to have achieved irrespective of the medium?
B: Well, my genes would like that I had fathered several multiracial babies by then, but as a conscious human being I’m struggling with that. I think I’d rather contribute a -1 to the net population of the planet, but ask me again in a few years. Speaking of being conscious, by then I would like to have uploaded my consciousness into a private spaceship with all of my friends, leaving our physical bodies behind to go on an epic interstellar booze cruise. I already have the perfect soundtrack in mind.
Photo Credit: Michal Ignition Imaging