Dave Aju is the alias of the SF-based producer Marc Barrite, whose name has been popping up lately with the release of his second full length, Heirlooms. Barrite’s last LP, Open Wide, is made entirely of vocal samples. Now, four years later, he pays tribute to his late father with an album sampling his jazz records and instruments.
Although his late father’s jazz musicianship plays a strong role in his own music, Barrite’s influences stretch further, touching on hip hop of the South Bay and house music that filled up early SF raves. In his musical exploration and experimentation, the unique sounds he tapped into have gotten him international recognition since hooking up with the French label, Circus Company.
We had a chance to catch up with Barrite to discuss his background just in time for his next gig at As You Like It’s second year anniversary.
Barrite performed last year at AYLI’s first anniversary party, joining fellow Circus Company friend, Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts, with a collaborative live set and a DJ set. This year, he returns with a live set prepped for this daytime occasion at the W Hotel.
When did you first become interested in electronic dance music?
My introduction to electronic music would have been through some of the fusion and jazz/funk stuff my dad was playing and listening to or when my brother started DJing electro, freestyle, and early techno. Later on, I was mostly into hip-hop, but going to house clubs and underground parties in SF helped open my mind up, and going to the Solid Grooves record shop and those dudes turning me on to more cutting edge tracks, away from the more obvious stuff I was buying at the time.
Are there any ways in which DJing has helped you find direction for your productions?
I’ve always been a DJ first, for almost 20 years now; to me it’s the cornerstone of this music and how it’s presented. In some productions I’ve tried to stray from certain limitations DJ tracks have, but really it’s always there and that’s a beautiful thing. Now for me it’s more about focusing on the unique qualities of DJ sets and how production plays a role—making more music that fits in with how I play, and bridges gaps in a way.
Describe your experiences getting to know electronic music in the SF Bay Area. What were the parties you went to and who was involved (promoters, DJs) at the time?
As I mentioned, Solid Grooves in San Jose was essential, but there were plenty of other shops, clubs and parties in and around SF too, such as: Star Records, Plan B, Friendship Hall, Mary’s, Cactus Club, The Usual, Harmony parties, Wicked Crew, The Gathering, Acme Warehouse, Back to Basics, Community, early 1015, The Top, Tweekin’, Open Mind, Mad, Sabotage, Space Children, Soundworks, The Endup, BPM, Primal, Sunset, Stompy, Future Primitive. The list of DJs/friends involved would be way too long, but a lot of these good folks are still in action, and of course some close friends I used to do nights with were key influences too like Raf One, Inhuman, The Tourist, and DJ Wrong.
What sorts of changes have you seen in the SF Bay Area scenes? How do they compare now to those in other metropolitan hubs like Berlin, Paris, or elsewhere?
Things have definitely changed a lot over the years, mainly in that the physical outlets for the music have diminished, like in most cities around the world – way less record shops, multi-use spaces, clubs, etc. The opportunity for diversity and cross-breeding is what suffers most from this, running into random folks at shops and hearing new things at venues you never went to before was a blessing.
But there is still some diversity in SF, and the music scene overall is always healthy here; it’ll never really blow up, but it will never die either – I think that’s its strength. Maybe the same couldn’t be said for larger cities like LA, NY, Berlin, or Paris, simply because there is more outside pressure to make it a “hotbed” or hyped scene, so there may be a more noticeable rise and fall of energy over time in those cities. You’ve been closely affiliated with the artists at the Circus Company. Do you think there is anything in particular about your sound that speaks to French electronic music in general? Musically and culturally we share a lot of similarities – they were also raised on jazz and world music, came up through hip-hop, graffiti, and punk so there’s a love for grittiness in the music, sampling, oddities, humor, but also an appreciation for finer art and high brow culture, and of course a good party.
In the four years between Open Wide and Heirlooms, you probably scrapped a lot of ideas before reaching a final product. During the process, what spoke out to you more this time around and why?
Once I came around to the idea of using my dad’s music and material, it started to click. Especially because I had been spending a lot of time with his records and absorbing them musically; I think that’s why the album has the tone it does, I was listening to a lot of music from earlier periods and was refreshed by the sounds and sincerity of the content. And since I was dealing with the concept of my roots, I was also getting close to some hip-hop and house music that is classic for me again, so that influence is in there too.
Is there any piece of advice your father gave you that you keep in mind when making music?
Indirectly, to not try to be good, just try to be yourself. He had his own sound, and all his friends and peers would agree – he was not the most technical player, but he didn’t sound like anyone else and nobody sounded like him. Of his verbal advice, I always liked: “some days you just can’t win ‘em all…” It may sound cliché, but anyone who knows the creative process and having to let things go can relate. It applies to life in general too, with a subtle positive note that most of the time things are up really.
Dave Aju plays AYLI’s 2 Year Anniversary at the W Hotel, Saturday, August 18. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased here.
Photo Credit: Shauna Regan