GB: It would appear that much of your existence, from your job, to your creative pursuits, to your social life, seems to revolve around music. could you shed some light on how and why things turned out this way
CC: Well, I know some people say it’s a cliché answer, but it’s the only answer I have! I was raised by a family of musicians. My mother sings opera, my father is a pipe organist, and my older brother plays classical upright bass in an orchestra. All three are currently working musicians in their field. So as you can imagine, I’ve been surrounded by music as long as I can remember. I took lessons on several instruments throughout childhood including violin, flute, guitar, piano, and voice, but no one instrument really stuck for the long term. However, it was still pretty clear I had music in my blood (literally). Rather than follow in the footsteps of my other family members who mastered one single instrument, I liked playing many instruments and making many different kinds of sounds. As I started writing songs, I realized that I wanted to be able to control every aspect of the way it sounded. So you take all those things, and mix it with the fact that I ended up falling in love with electronic music as a teenager growing up in the Midwest, and it all led to me studying music synthesis in college, which led to producing music and playing live sets, etc. It’s been sort of a domino effect over time.
GB: what producers or DJs are turning your crank these days, and why?
CC: Oh wow, I could go on about this for days, so I’ll try to keep it short. In no particular order…
Currently I’ve been really loving Donato Dozzy. He played a show in San Francisco about a year ago that just completely blew my mind. I didn’t recognize a single track he played, and it sounded timeless yet fresh. Sets like that tend to end up really standing out for me. He is clearly one of those DJs who has been listening to and collecting music for a long time. There was a Krautrock mix of his up on mnmlssgs that also showed just how far the depths of his musical knowledge goes, and that mix is in my regular listening rotation. His productions are really astounding too. I like how heady and weird his music gets – people often use the term “hypnotic” for his music and I’d say that’s pretty spot on.
I also just returned from the Unsound Festival in New York, where I saw Atom Heart and Pink Elln play a rare live set together that was really incredible. It was all hardware, lots of vintage gear, and what turned me on so much about it was the fact that it sounded like future music. I also love it when vintage gear is used in music and it gives it a kind of retro sound. But to see those two play some of the most current-sounding and futuristic dance music I’ve heard in a long time, using classic gear, was a real treat. It was perfectly programmed from start to finish yet heavily improvised, and is definitely something I’ll be thinking about for awhile. I feel very lucky to have witnessed that performance because it was SO stellar. I will definitely be hunting down more music from those two.
I also get into more pop-influenced music as well, and have been liking a lot of Benoit and Sergio’s productions. Their track “Full Grown Man” is one of my recent favorites. Also Public Lover has been putting out some really beautiful, impressive music too with their EP Musique D’Hiver Pour L Ete. Brandt Brauer Frick is another group that is taking things in an interesting direction. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at Mutek Montreal last year and they stole the show for me. Their album You Make Me Real is constantly playing on my headphones. The former music school nerd in me loves to hear great songwriting, and all of those groups cater to that side of music I enjoy. It’s refreshing to hear some catchy vocal hooks, jazzy influence, and live playing in dance music.
GB: When writing music, do you have a particular way in which you generally compose? does it start with a beat and get fleshed out from there, or do you start with a melody or musical idea and work around that? how much of the end product is planned out versus spontaneous?
CC: I’ve had writing go both ways, planned and spontaneous. The planned tracks tend to get completed faster. There have been times where I get a clear idea in my head, a bass line, a chord progression, something like that, and I’ll go home and just knock it out. The title track from my Finite EP on Beretta Grey was like that, I wrote it from start to finish in about three days. It was one of the fastest writing processes I’ve ever experienced because I knew exactly what I wanted to do from the get-go. But having lots of hardware synths in my studio can lead to me recording 40 minutes of messing around, just getting lost in the gear and twisting knobs. I’ll go back and listen to those lengthy recordings and pick out a section that stands out to me, and build something from there. I’ve also had moments from a live set I played where I realize afterwards a certain part worked really well and I should expand that into a more complete musical thought in the studio. Those tracks are more spontaneous in the writing process, and can take much longer for me to finish as I find my way and figure out where I want it to lead.
GB: most live acts these days keep a pretty consistent set from show to show. I’m always amazed by the fact that you write a ton of new music (if not an entirely new set) each time you play, making each performance unique. how do you stay so consistently creative, and what happens to all that old music after it’s been used in a set?
CC: I tend to be inspired by many different kinds of music, anything from old Nine Inch Nails to current bands like Blonde Redhead and The Soft Moon. My brother has also been turning me onto Brazilian funk. Depending on what I’m listening to at any given moment, it might inspire an idea that I want to go into the studio and experiment with. Drawing inspiration from all types of music, not just electronic music, helps to keep creativity and ideas flowing for me. Also, I have a pretty extensive collection of hardware synth recordings that I’ve made over the years, in addition to the new recordings I’m currently making. All of that provides a good palette of parts to use for live sets.
GB: finally, what is your favorite aspect of San Francisco’s dance music scene, and where does it have the most room for improvement?
CC: I really like the sense of community you experience in the music scene here. There are lots of talented producers that live here, and not really a sense of competition at all between anyone, but rather a sense of encouragement. I also really like that there isn’t drama between various promoters. People tend to work together, and again, it’s not a competition between promoters. Everyone is down for the cause… you don’t see these situations where promoters are trying to sabotage each other or what have you. I also love that San Francisco is the kind of city that allows for outdoor daytime events in parks. Grabbing a blanket, some friends, and listening to tunes in the sun makes for a damn good Sunday.
One thing I would like to see more of is DJs playing extended sets. I’ll admit I get a tad envious when I see something like Bunker in NYC inviting Speedy J or Prosumer for an all-night set — they are the only artist on the bill for the entire night. There is no reason we couldn’t be doing more stuff like that in SF, I think people would be into it. And I don’t just mean visiting artists, we have many local SF artists I’d love to see playing extended sets too. I think one hour isn’t long enough for a DJ to fully make their mark, and for them to really take listeners on a journey. As a music lover myself, I find it really hard to whittle everything I like down into a small slice. I’d imagine it’s the same for a DJ trying to fit into one hour. These extended sets that start off with more chill music for the first part, then morph into full-on party music over the course of the night give DJs the opportunity to cover a wide variety of sounds. We’ve had a couple instances of that, like a party where Dan Bell played an 8-hour set (which was a really amazing night), and I would love to see that happening more often.