Whether it's Dillon Francis as DJ Hanzel contemplating going "one deeper" or acts like Tiesto contemplating doing throwback trance sets in the summer of 2014, there is the growing pervasive sense in dance music that it may indeed be time for everyone to turn down and re-discover the groove. For some artists that means slowing things down to the tempo of twerk, for many others, exploring sounds not-too-distant from radio-friendly rhythm and blues. However, when you're Brooklyn-based rockabilly outlaw emperor of the dark vibes Luca Venezia, the answer is for Drop the Lime to get down off his dark horse, pass the reigns to Curses, and allow the pair to ride in an opposite direction just past the sunset to where things are strange, but ultimately safer at night.
Safer At Night is the name of his Trouble & Bass sub-label started alongside fellow NYC heavy and dark house aficionados Scrap and Chris - aka production duo DKDS. With a trio of releases already slated for 2014, this conversation with Curses centers around New York City-based producer Total Fitness, who debuts his mix for the label in preparation for a forthcoming release. Discussing his impressions regarding the evolution of the creative process of the rising producer, it's a look into the mind of one of indie dance's best regarded talents now serving as a still-talented artist, yet also a steward and curator of the future. Enjoy!
When did the moment occur when you decided that you were going to give the Drop the Lime project/concept a break and re-embrace Curses?
Basically, I was doing a lot of after hours sets [and in doing so], I tapped back into my love for '90s warehouse party music. [Of course], playing those sets doesn't work with the Drop the Lime project being so live and rockabilly based. I'm doing [Curses] again as a project, and I'll see how it goes. [Now that the return of Curses has been announced] I've been getting remix requests and booking requests. It's been really great and really fun.
In checking out your social media during the transition, I've noticed that you've very consciously attempted to create a unique hybrid brand that retains the Drop the Lime influence, but takes it in a progressive direction. Your thoughts on this evolution?
I have always had a dark inspiration and had a love for the [dark] aesthetic. As Curses, [the love for the dark aesthetic] transfers even stronger.
As well, you're kicking off Safer At Night, a sub-label of your famed Trouble & Bass imprint. Who is releasing music on this label and why?
This label is really really New York-focused, with artists like Pterodactyl, Walker and Royce, DKDS, and Total Fitness. I also want to make sure that people realize that this is not the "deep house label" of Trouble & Bass, but more the "late night label" of Trouble & Bass. It was rad to get Walker and Royce on board, as they have similar dark drive in their house music [productions].
As always is the case, you've dropped a mix for Safer At Night that really showcases a particular attention to detail in its execution. As someone who has released many mixes in your career, what are your inspirations in that process?
A great mix should take the listener on a journey and create a vibe. It has to be different than the kind of set you'd play in a club. The atmosphere and mood [of the mix] should be interesting and different. I like including intros and outros, as well as being inspired by Wu-Tang Clan mixtapes and albums. They had those great skits. As well, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist mixes have inspired me, too.
Do Androids Dance is premiering Total Fitness' Safer At Night Mix. Thoughts about him, the mix, and how both him, and the other emerging artists you're working with, fit into the label's larger creative vision?
Total Fitness' mix has an amazing and ambient intro, and he really set a mood. Safer at Night is releasing three-track EPs. There's the single, the b-side, and the third track is a departure from beat driven sounds, and will be tracks with a more ambient style. [The third track] will maybe be something [that a producer is] not used to doing. The label launches on April 1, and the first three releases are from Curses, DKDS, Total Fitness. [Insofar as Total Fitness' release, he felt like] producing these tracks opened up this whole new channel in him. He had to play keyboards and pianos [and the third track on the EP] is his favorite tune he ever made. What's important with Safer at Night is that we break the monotony of so many tracks having the same formula. The tracks are emotion-driven more than being four-on-the-floor.
Insofar as this revisit to the Curses name, what is driving your creativity in the studio these days?
I became numb to the popularity of hip-hop and EDM, so I went back to real roots [of dance music] to get re-inspired. I've been listening to a lot of experimental artists like Stockhausen, John Cage, Terry Riley, and Brian Eno, and incorporating their styles with house and techno. I'm not looking to make number one records, I want to make music to make me fulfilled. I felt a creative void [within me], and I've now finding new inspiration.
As someone who was a fan of the slightly divergent against the mainstream concepts you were executing as Drop the Lime, seeing you seemingly veer so far in an opposing direction is intriguing. Why the desire to do so, and moreover, why now?
There's a lot of monotony right now. When coming up with the philosophy behind Safer at Night, I wanted to move away from that. I'm not shitting on [producers who make those types of tracks], but they have a certain formula, and me and my community, we're not interested in that [type of music]. We want sounds that drive and push us [creatively], and we want to question and feel jealous of each other's music. I want to hear a 90 BPM cinematic and ambient track and be amazed by it. I feel that what [Safer at Night] is doing keeps music alive.
There's a lot of producers (both old and young alike) who feel that its absolutely important to develop an alter ego when attempting to take their sound "down into the rabbit hole." However, exploring alter-egos and developing creative outlets for new sounds has always been a part of what you do. Thus, I was wondering what do you feel makes an artist successful when exploring a production alter-ego?
[First,] Curses isn't a alter ego, Curses is me. The best advice I can give is that you have to become the character like an actor living role. A great example is when David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust. When David became Ziggy, David no longer existed. [Similarly], Drop the Lime does not exist [right now]. I'm Curses.
Curses will be joining Shadow Child, Worthy, Plastician, and more at Verboten on Friday, March 7.
Total Fitness - Apollo (Original Mix), Flashmob - Pieces (Acapella)
Erdal Mauff - Wanna Bath (John Tejada Remix)
DJ W!ld - Last Summer (Kerri Chandler Remix)
Apollonia - Trinidad (Original Mix)
Todd Terry vs Simone Vitullo ft Lady Vale - Bounce to the Beat (Leon Italy Remix)
Alex Celler - The Grooveseeker
wAFF - Jo Johnson (Original Mix)
Hugo - Fat Corner (Original Mix)
Reboot - Horses On The Dancefloor (Original Mix)
The White Lamp - It's You (Eats Everything & Christophe Acid Ouse Mix)
SuperChumbo -This Beat Is (Peace Division Deeper Mix)
Cabin Fever - Snapped
Thomas Schumacher - Hush (Catz 'n Dogz 2013 Remix)
Patrick Topping - What Do You Mean (Original Mix)
Remi Mazet - Le Kiff (The Gobling Swan Boris Horel Remix)
Moodtrap - Grey Area (Original Mix)
Portable - A Deeper Love (Soul Capsule's Ghetto Mix)