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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Oct 21, 2009
DJs Aye~n and Mal of 2cents and the Colonel MC have been making dirty drum n' bass beats since 2002. As a team, they represent the musical goodness of DJ production and what prolific attention and fame it can gather. With two tours of Europe under their belt and the long awaited comeback of Compression, thereís no reason to not to join this duo at their next party. Chatting with SF Station out of their studio in Lower Haters, these two share their shrewd thoughts about the SF music scene.
SF Station (SFS): How did you guys start working together?
Aye~n (AN): We hooked up through Compound and Compression. Weíve known each other for about nine years, and weíve been making tunes and DJing together for about six/seven years.
Mal (M): Yeah, long time. The chemistry basically started when I was in the basement at Future Primitive working on music, and Corey was the manager here and we were both residents at Compression. And one night he popped in and we just started working on tunes. We have a chemistry that is important that really translates well to the audience and itís not disjointed at all.
SFS: How did both of you get into DJing?
AN: I was collecting records before, since 1995 or so and DJíed at the old Justice League which is The Independent now. And our other buddy Ian started Compression and it just all went from there.
M: I got into DJing my first party when I went to LA, and I just remember seeing someone standing there with headphones on their head playing two record players together and making it sound really fluid, like one long continuous song. And I said, "I donít know what that guy is doing but Iím gonna do that." That was in 1993 or 1992, bought my first decks in 1996 and been doing it ever since. I really got into the production side of things once I understood DJing really well, and I thought about what the next logical step was, and that was to make the music Iím playing. Thatís what weíve been working on. Weíve been doing production for a long time, but really focused in the serious in the last four to five years.
AN: Longer than that, I think. Weíve been making tunes together since 2002, 2003.
SFS: So what do you think the main difference is in being able to start producing and not just solely DJing?
Mal: I think as an artist you get to share you craft
with something youíve created. I donít think thereís an easy way to put it, but one analogy would be an artist showing another artist their prints. So if you had an art show, you would be a curator in that sense. When you start to produce your own music youíre now showing your own work while youíre playing. For me it makes me feel more involved in the community of the music Iím associated with because Iím not only playing other peopleís stuff, but what weíve created being integrated to what weíre doing. I think long term; most people want to see an artist that is creating their own music. I donít want to be a jukebox. Thatís not saying the art of DJing is not a craft in itself.
SFS: You guys play mostly drum n' bass, and it seems like itís a growing genre in SF, and since you guys have been producing music for six to seven years, how have you seen the evolution this genre?
AN: Here it went up for sure. It had its high, then its low, and now youíre right, it is growing again. Itís in everything now, like car commercials all that stuff. People donít know what it is, but they start to hear it more. So when they go to some massive event or festival and hear it and they totally like it, theyíre like "what is this" and totally dig it. Itís been around forever but people are just noticing it. I think itís on a definite incline; itís going up.
M: I think stateside people donít quite get it yet on the map scale. I think that is because of the introduction and integration of the music like dubstep and electro pop, electro glitch, all the bassline stuff. The main fundamental principles of those genres are slowed down drum ní bass. So I think if they use it to a younger audience, the next logical step is to want it to speed up.
AN: Whereas if you go to Europe itís huge. Itís on their top 40 radio. Itís like their hip hop.
M: When we play overseas itís a different feeling and really inspiring because itís like what you do is for the audience. You finally get this of why people play this kind of music vibe; itís that high energy. Itís like the punk rock and heavy metal of electronic music. Thereís a really high energy to it that you canít get out of any other genre. To sustain that amount of energy for that many hours is insane! To go to a party to see it start at 10pm and go till 6am and to have people nonstop losing their mind, jumping around, and responding is crazy. The only time Iíve experienced that is at huge rock shows. I think itís the beat pattern and the chop and blender style of drum n bass and you have so many niches of other styles of music that makes it fluid.
SFS: You guys play overseas, do you do it often?
AN: Weíve done two tours there.
SFS: What are some of the main differences did you see besides high energy and people lasting through the night?
AN: Well like I said, itís like drum n' bass is our hip hop. Itís in the mainstream, itís on the radio, people, used to hearing it and they love it, just like people here listen to Outkast or Jay-Z. Over there theyíre listening to Goldie and SS and all the heavy hitters over there.
M: Iíd just say there is more respect for electronic music overseas. Itís treated more as a craft and a legitimate genre of music than it is an afterthought. Weíre spoiled in this city, but in the rest of America it doesnít exist. Most radio stations are dominated by a certain sound thatís not electronic. Usually itís the pop remix of the electronic music. Itís nice to go to a club that is musical venue and not a bar that sells drinks.
SFS: Who would some of your influences? There has to be an exponential list, but just a few.
M: Definitely SS from Formation Records, World of Drum n' Bass. He has definitely has been very influential. Weíve admired him for a long time, and we now have the honor of working with him, weíre on the roster for the World of Drum n' Bass roster for the United States ,and weíre on the label with Formation. And I love Goldie, heís a big spokesperson for drum n bass and thereís always a big list of producers.
AN: Even by other genres, we're always pulling influences.
M: I would say the biggest influence would be music;
different sound spheres, and a whole slew of music in between and all that has influenced what we produced, what we DJ, and who we are at DJs. I found drum n bass thatís all I ever did, all I ever loved, I think everything before that I appreciated and when I heard drum n bass I felt like it was a fusion of everything that I liked together and that created the love. ..I felt like it was part of what music was missing.
SFS: What keeps you guys in SF and not some other city like LA, or NY?
M: I did LA, I used to live there and moved here in í98, and itís always part of my heart but I love the city. The city has the vibe, the politics, the people, and the music scene when I moved here was incredible. Itís definitely a little slow right now but itís on a comeback and I would say the scene is more family oriented. And thatís important because thatís how you create music communities.
AN: I feel like itís so diverse and you can always find a party to suit your mood. Itís not like LA where you have to drive 45 minutes to another club. Here you can go out to 2-3 clubs in a night.
M: This city has a very European feel for being an U.S. city.
AN: Itís like me and him make drum n' bass all the time "weíre like you know what I donít want to hear it anymore." I want to go see the Roots, the Pogues, you know whatever. And we do that.
M: Weíve got so many friends in so many different facets of music. Itís how we got that fresh creativity going. One week itíll be Asian Art week and the next week itíll be King Tut. Thereís a lot of art and science, etc.
AN: Itís good to stay in the know of music regardless of what weíre doing.
SFS: You guys do this full time right?
M: Itís very hard work, donít let anyone fool you.
SFS: Do you guys do your own designs too? Itís a pretty sick logo.
AN: Ian McDonell created that, founder of Compression, and we saw it and that was it.
SFS: Tell us about a bit of Compression.
M: The thought behind it was in music production thereís a technique called compression and thatís to take a piece of audio and smash it thereby making it louder. By squeezing it itís gotta be louder when it comes out the other side. Thatís compression. In drum n bass itís used a lot. We also pride ourselves on is our sound, and our sound quality. Itís extremely important.
SFS: Tell us what you have coming up soon!
M: Weíre restarting Compression on Nov. 20th because weíve been on a hiatus!
AN: Every third Friday at 103 Harriet. Weíll have everything from hip hop to electro in the three rooms.
Catch them at Reach for the Lasers in Oakland on Oct 30th for a pre-Halloween bash, and eagerly anticipate the return of Compression on Nov. 20th. Check out some tunes at http://www.myspace.com/2centssf
by Christina Li on Oct 21, 2009