The mountain peaks of Berne, Switzerland isn't the first place you'd pick as a Twin Town for either of the industrial skylines of Detroit or Chicago but it was from these environs that Sam Geiser AKA Deetron came to keep the legacy of the windy & motor city machine funks burning. Deetron has produced some of the most timeless pieces of recent time and birthing 2010 masterpieces ‘Each Step’ ft Seth Troxler (with whom he's about to go back into the studio with) on Circus Company and ‘Collide’ on Green and the incredible The Maze in 2011. Launching his brand new Balance album at Trouble Vision's Double Trouble Vision this weekend at Corsica Studios, we caught up with Sam for some thoughts on a few things…
How are you right now, are you in Berne?
I'm all good, thanks. i'm sitting in a train to my gig in Milan while typing this.
Your mixes for the Balance series are utterly pleasurable to the ear, and resulted in Earl Grey flooding all over a tea shop from overly enthused head nodding. Also, the conceptual side of your selections could not have come at a more interesting time in the future of music sales and production.
Thanks, I'm glad you like it!
When did the idea hit you to juxtapose digital and analogue mixes? It fits so perfectly with the name of the compilation series that we suspect the idea hit you as soon as Balance approached you…
It only came to my mind after having done some brainstorming about how to make perfect use of the 2 CD format, which the Balance Series allow you to use. The idea was to represent as many facettes of my DJing as possible, both musically and in terms of the technical approach. Additionally, I found it increasingly amusing to see how passionately both the defenders of Vinyl as well as the digital fraction would engage in disputes over the use of the format. I was almost worried that people would forget caring about the music, which should always be the top priority, whichever type of media it might come from.
You’ll probably be as happy as we were to hear that vinyl sales in the UK were up by about 39% in 2011: more home listeners are buying wax for that special geek joy of physically owning music. Do you think this is a sign that analogue recording can have a longer shelf life than some doomsayers have predicted?
Of course I'm happy to hear that and I think it shows the current Zeitgeist with all things vintage and the return to physical values because we're so sucked in by the digital world. I personally think that over time, Vinyl will stay there for a select group of geeks – count myself in – but I have no big hopes for the economic importance of Vinyl.
When you play out and decide on a set up, do you often stop to think of the politics? Or do you just get on with it?
Not at all, I'm quite pragmatic in that sense. If I come across a club system, which doesn't cater for Vinyl I'd rather choose to play CD's in favour of everyone's experience. There's no point in forcing it just for the sake of politics. Luckily my lovely booking agent puts a lot of emphasis on my technical requirements and a lot of effort into making sure that they are met by the clubs.
What makes these mixes so good is the fact that you are known as both an incredible selector as well as being a fiendishly technical mixer, you have that art of making a dear, familiar track feel completely new by mixing it in with something a little more dusty. Would you rather to listen to a technically astute mix full of average tunes, or a tracklist of unbelievable selections clanged out with some appalling cross fader action?
That's a really tough question but if I transport myself to a club and imagine which one I'd rather listen to, the latter would make the cut. There's no point being an incredible technician if there's no musical background.
We know you’re supposed to be sitting right on the fence on this one but let’s be honest… Did you enjoy recording the digital or analogue mix more?
To be very honest with you, I actually enjoyed making the digital mix more. This is because I approached it more like a production or a really long track with the use of other people's music. It can be slightly weird to mix a 3-deck set without a crowd facing a white wall but you kind of have to picture yourself being in a club and get on with it.
For the second Analogue CD were you at all conscious of selecting tunes current as well as classic to show that vinyl is still fully relevant? For example, you conclude the entire collection with your own dub of ‘Collide’…
Not exactly, because I even cut quite some tracks on dubplate, which will probably never see a Vinyl release – like the extended version of Collide you are mentioning. The main criteria for my track selection was, that the tracks must have the necessary quality to be able to stand the test of time. Ideally, I'd like people to be able to listen back to this compilation in a few years time.
The variety of the track list for the digital CD stands out the most. From Autechre, to Julio Bashmore, to Maceo Plex, to the Burial/Thom Yorke / Four Tet collab, to that stunning LV and Message To Bears release on 2nd Drop… Obviously many DJs move to digital to lighten their record bags, but would you say that variety of selection is the main advantage of the mp3 age?
I believe the mp3 age is a great thing actually because it gives people access to music, which they'd normally never be exposed to. At the same time, though, finding your way through the masses of releases in the digital world is a great challence and while there may be more variety, there's much more of the same as well. Pressing a record or manufacturing a CD is a much higher obstacle for an aspiring producer so it sort of acts as an instrument of quality control to a certain extent. Speaking of DJ-Gigs, I think you can pack just as much variety in your UDG bag as your computer, most definitely for the duration of your average 2-4 hours performance.
You’re touted as a man dedicated to keeping the music of Chicago and Detroit alive, are there any tracks on the album you just had to include for their legacy?
No, I don't think so. There definitely are some classic tracks on the CD but like for instance with Model 500, I chose to just use them as a teaser in the form of a loop or sample or mixed them with contemporary music. I love to use classics but I prefer to do just a bit more with them than just playing them for the sake of their legacy.
What are your favourite labels of all time and right now?
All time: Motown, Impulse, Warp
Current: Rush Hour, Text Records, Running Back, Brainfeeder
So you’re known as one of the ones who does quality over quantity, what can we expect to see from Deetron next?
There are remixes coming for PBR Steetgang on Hot Creations, Candi Staton on Defected and Marc Romboy & Rodriguez Jr. for Systematic. Furthermore there will be a new single release before the summer.
Deetron plays Double Trouble Vision this weekend.