San Francisco Freedom: Solar Talks
It must be funny being an artist or a musician sometimes. You go through your whole career plugging away, perhaps gaining some local notoriety and fame only for a chance encounter or moment to suddenly catapult you into a wider picture.
That is kind of the situation that Solar, real name Solar Langevin, finds himself in at present. Hailing from San Francisco, he is hugely popular in his local state of California, however it wasn’t until he hooked up with Dekmantel Soundsystem in Trouw that his name has started to propel itself outside the west coast of USA, into Europe and beyond.
We talked to him about his newfound European success, growing up in San Fran and the story behind his sun kissed name.
Hi Solar! How’s it going?
Good! On a flight to Beijing for a quick weekend in Asia.
What are you up to at the moment? Are you touring or recording?
Doing a couple gigs in Asia this weekend. Friday night at Dada club and Sunday in Japan at the Rural Festival. Super psyched!! I was really hoping to get booked for Japan this year to play, do some record shopping and eating, but I only have a day and a half as I need to be straight back for our annual Sunset Campout.
How does it feel to be playing Dekmantel this year?
This is my 2nd year for the main Festival and as the first time I played I am honored, humbled and stoked! Dekmantel is the one festival that when I saw the line up on the first one, I really hoped I would get a chance to play someday. It really is a dream come true for me.
This year I will play the Boiler room stage, Redlight Radio and then the after party all on the Friday so definitely a crazy day/night! I’m a little nervous about the Boiler Room. I find them completely nerve racking .
How did you get involved with the Dekmantel guys, it’s quite a distance from West Coast USA to Amsterdam?
I first met the gang at Trouw during ADE 2 years ago. We were all hanging out having fun and they said I would be playing the festival. I lost it! I ended up playing both their festivals that year as well as the Boiler Room for their Sonar party. They kind of took me in and gave me a lot of amazing opportunities. I am eternally grateful to the gang and consider them family. I have the utmost respect for the Dekmantel guys. They have impeccable taste and vision. David Cornelissen who was helping them with the bookings and such was also giving a big push so big love to him too!
You’ve been in the scene for a long time but I think only recently have come to the fore more prominently in Europe in the last few years, is that something that bothers you or excites you?
It kind of strange how it all works. You really never know when the timing, luck or opportunities will arise. I feel very lucky to have had all of these things manifest for me. I do my best just to be present and enjoy what has unfolded. I still feel that I am in the trenches though getting people to know who I am as I don’t have much press and no releases at the moment. Sometimes I wish it would have happened when I was much younger, but then I probably would have gotten into too much trouble.
How was it growing up and playing in San Fran? I’ve never been but hear it’s atmosphere is quite European, is that true of it’s clubbing scene as well?
I grew up just outside of the city with a very rock n roll family. My parents were involved with the Grateful Dead and we were always going to shows or on tour as children. After a certain age I kind of rebelled against the classic rock they were into and started hanging out in the city going to punk and metal shows. There was a super strong scene then with tons of all age clubs to go to. Being a very young teenager it was kind of a utopia. San Francisco was super cheap to live in then. You could work at a record store and make enough money to pay your rent and go out to the endless amount of shows and clubs that were going on then. There were so many diverse scenes all happening at once from little industrial/goth parties to co-op punk shows, massive gay clubs, illegal raves, full moon and sunset parties in some of the most beautiful locations I have seen. That was the cool thing about playing or going to parties at the beginning of the acid house/rave thing. It was so new and you had all these people from all the different scenes under one roof getting down to crazy acid sounds losing there minds. You definitely don’t have the freedom that was once felt in San Francisco, but there are still some cool things lurking beneath this way over priced city.
You have a really eclectic sound when mixing, what has influenced you to be so musically varied in your approach?
I find it very hard to just stick to one sound or style when I play. I am into so many varieties of music and my tastes keep expanding the more I get turned on to. For me it’s just the natural way I that I want to express myself. A lot of it has to do with what I was into growing up. As I mentioned earlier there was a pretty diverse scene going on in SF and I was kind of bouncing from one scene into the next absorbing all the different frequencies.
For people that have never heard you play before, how would you describe your sound to them?
Gothic modern vintage sci-fi acid space waves. I don't know…
That sounds great to be fair. So what music are you currently obsessed by? Have you picked up any records recently that you have been playing in every set or have been listening to every day?
For the club a lot of the stuff coming out on June Records especially the track “Human Target” by June. It came out awhile back, but it’s always with me and played many, many times. For home listening I just found a vinyl copy of Harold Budd “The White Arcades” and have been listening to that pretty obsessively.
Who are you looking forward to seeing the most at Dekmantel? Which European DJ’s get you most excited to see play?
Unfortunately I will only be at the Festival on Friday so for that day/night: Helena Hauff, Intergalactic Gary, I-F, Stingray. I would say the most inspiring sets I have caught by European DJ’s recently I heard in the same night at Panorama Bar. Jennifer Cardini and Lena Wilikens. They both played killer sets at the 5 Years of Correspondant party.
Are there any San Fran based DJ’s that you think should be getting more recognition over here in the UK?
There are a bunch! My partner Galen from Sunset Sound System, Mozhgan, Secret Studio, Conor from No Way Back, Brian Hock (C.L.A.W.S). That’s just scratching the surface! There is a lot of talent in San Francisco.
You’ve been around for a long time, and co-founded the San Fran Sunset Parties, but what is the craziest party you’ve ever been to? Was it a Sunset Party you put on yourself?!
One of the most memorable ones was a Sunset Sound System party back in the nineties. It was the finally of that season and we had a full moon eclipse on one side of the skyline and the Hale-Bopp comet on the other side. A completely illegal party. The cops were there but they lets us go well into the night. We had a 3 turntable set up and the music was totally eclectic with an up for it crowd. I mean this only happens every 2,539 years!
Finally, Solar Langevin is a really interesting name, what’s the story behind it?
Hippie parents, ha! They gave it to me the day I was born. There was a massive storm going on in New York at the time and by 7:04am the sky cleared and the sun was shining. So they named me after the sun with a Brooklyn accent. Hence the pronunciation. My Dad also tells a story of opening up a old dictionary to the word solar randomly. Sun was misspelled as “son” in the definition – “of or pertaining to the son” Both parents tell different stories so who knows!