I recently discovered Clovis from a mix he did for Sleepersound, and came to find out he’s a native Los Angelino which peaked my interest more. With few of those who truly understand this kind of music from these parts, it’s refreshing to find someone who’s bridging the gap all the way between the west coast to Europe, representing at parties for those such as Culprit and Sunwaves. I’m super excited to share with you all an interview we recently put together with Clovis where he lets us into a perspective of the underground scene here in Los Angeles and abroad.
Questions & Answers with Clovis :
Growing up in LA, what were some of your first encounters with tech house music?
Out of high school I was listening to a lot of hip hop with the rest of the US kids but also interested in more electronic stuff like Massive Attack & Moby. Most young Americans were not listening to much dance music at all when I was growing up, but through a friend from the UK I started listening to trance music, which was pretty much my first encounter with dance beats, and I was always interested in the more atmospheric and progressive stuff. Everything grew from there and as I got closer to 21 I was going out to the clubs in LA like Avalon and King King and seeing DJs like Danny Howells, Sasha, and Steve Lawler. That was about 2005-2006.
Do you come from a musical background?
Not in the sense of being classically trained or being a serious musician, but my father was a voracious collector, definitely a life long music enthusiast. I certainly owe my passion and love of music to him. He opened one of the first CD only stores in Los Angeles in the late 80s, and when I was a kid music was playing at home pretty much all day long every single day, from classical or church recordings of french monks in the morning, jazz & blues in the afternoons to Michael Jackson, Nirvana or Edith Piaf later on.. Really almost anything, apart from maybe country or asian music my dad’s collection was pretty deep. I still have most of his CD collection, a couple thousand, full jazz catalogs and a lot of bootlegs. He collected a lot of bootleg recordings from live shows that were surfacing on CD in the 90s, both from jazz and rock. Later in my life when I lived with other relatives it seemed really strange to not have music playing almost all day long or when I’d get home from school, he was always putting something on depending on his mood or the mood of the day. I particularly remember a sort of dark rainy afternoon when I was maybe 12 or 13 and he put on Philip Glass’ solo piano album which remains one of my all time favorites. I suppose that influenced my understanding of how music can fit a mood or a setting so well if you put some thought into your choice. Other than that I played the drums for a while as a teen and enjoyed it but was never in a band or anything, though I’d jam with friends occasionally.
How do you see the progression of parties here in LA over the past 10 years?
It’s sometimes hard to say, LA always seems to have up and down swings. There is always some sort of underground and brave people putting on parties that flaunt the official rules and licensing that are such a hurdle for dance music in LA and California. The 2am liquor laws in this state really make it difficult to compete with places where that isn’t an issue, mainly Europe but also other parts of the US like Chicago, Miami and NYC. I think overall the arc has been positive in the last 10 years, more people are interested in more underground flavors of dance music and now with the EDM craze Americans in general are more receptive to dance parties, they aren’t so much this weird thing on the sidelines.
To be honest, after spending 7 months in Berlin last year I feel I’ve been a bit disconnected from what has been going on here, I’ve been slowly kind of checking out what is going on since I got back in December. It seems like recently we’ve had a spate of underground parties getting shut down by the police which is really unfortunate, it comes with the terrain but they have been cracking down really hard lately and some good friends have been affected, it’s really a blow for people trying to keep the movement going and bring interesting and lesser known talent.
I can say that since the first undergrounds I started going to in 2007 or 2008 we’ve always had a strong underground scene and some great parties pushing past the sunrise in a city that doesn’t normally allow that. A lot of times those are the only ways in which we approach the kind of experience you take for granted in Europe and elsewhere.
I discovered you through a mix you made for Sleepersound in Germany… how did you connect with them?
I met my lovely friend Sacha who runs Sleepers while hanging out at Club Der Visionaire last summer, lazy sundays and saturdays spent listening to nice music or relaxing and joking by the canal. He introduced me to a lot of other great people and CDV family, and we became good friends. I love my little italian family in Berlin, along with the Sleep is Commercial crew. They really have great taste and are a formidable force pushing underground dance music forward. One of the things I love most about being involved in this music is going to some new city and meeting people who are passionate about the same things you are, I mean, this is what makes life worth living and travel so rewarding!
What’s your experience with the European party scene, places you’ve travelled, parties you’ve played, how does it compare to the States?
I had an amazing time last year using Berlin as a base. Playing at Sunwaves in Romania was definitely the highlight, maybe even of my life so far (haha), even though being nervous and tired was not the most fun way go into my set, but I still enjoyed the whole experience immensely. There is just nothing like it for people who love that kind of music, really the best of 4/4 dance music as far as I’m concerned, the only music that can keep feet moving and minds captivated for 6-8-10-12+ hours. Absolutely nothing in the US compares to Sunwaves, but I have found that the Romanian dance music ethos and sound is starting to catch on in NYC and Chicago among other places. In Los Angeles I can still count its fans that I know of on two hands, yourself being one of the newest ones I have met.
Beyond Sunwaves I loved Berlin and playing a marathon session at CDV was another thing crossed off my bucket list and probably one of the most fun experiences I have ever had DJing. I played on Jan Krueger’s night, on my own, and for the first time with a lovely emerging artist named Andrea Cichecki, she hails from Holland but lives in Berlin. We had talked a bit online before and I had bought her music, but never actually met. We ended up playing b2b in the evening for 6 hours and then the next morning for another 6 hours and having the best time. It’s always fun when you meet someone you can play with and everything feels completely natural, each person following what the other is doing and on the same page without needing to discuss it at all.
I met the Droog trio in 2007 when they were residents at Avalon in Hollywood after I was drawn to their sophisticated opening sets that included a lot of the newer music I was really feeling at the time, stuff that no one else in LA seemed to be playing. We became good friends and they launched the label soon after in 2009, having me as a regular resident at their parties in LA, along with encouraging and releasing some of my first production work. They really precipitated the shift away from the sort of soulless dead end that minimal techno had reached in 2007 towards the resurgence of more modern house music that followed, and brought ambassadors of that new sound like Jamie Jones and Dyed Soundorom to LA. The Culprit family has been my hometown berth since, even though in the past 2-3 years I have been increasingly influenced and drawn to more experimental sounds coming from europe and that Romanian ethos I mentioned. Music is a continuos exploration and a lot of the time it seems like it leads you ahead and you’re just along for the ride, and I enjoy that.
Are you throwing parties? What’s your main focus these days, djing, producing, how else are you involved in music?
I would love to throw my own parties and be able to have full creative control over events, bringing artists that I really love, but I just don’t have the resources myself, given that music is my full time employment these days. I’ve been in the studio working on music for the last 6 months, trying to get to a place where I have something done that I really feel happy with. Last year I spent very little time producing any music and it was a setback, getting back into the grind was difficult this year, and most everything I made the first few months, I set aside or abandoned. I’ve recently finished a few pieces and am waiting to hear back from labels, while I work on some new ones.
Downtown LA where the studio is. I really like downtown, it has changed a lot in recent years, it has some grit that a lot of more residential parts of LA lack. At the same time I love how green most of LA is, that is something most people don’t realize, we are awash in trees and shade, backyards and palms, gardens and flowers.
Best and worst thing about this city and why?
My favorite thing about LA is the geography, the hills, the valleys, the mountain back drop, the beaches, etc. There is plenty to explore by car and on foot. Also our great food, particularly of almost every asian variety. I would say our biggest drawback is the lack of a serious subway / public transit system. We are making progress but lag behind almost every other major city on earth. As one of those rare people considered insane by many who does not own a car in Los Angeles, it’s an important issue for me.
Any plans coming up for gigs, releases, mixes, etc?
I’m hoping to have my first EP released in the next few months on Lessizmore, the label owned by my european agent Jessica and the resident DJ at Fuse in Brussels, Pierre. They have given me a lot of love and support and its only fitting that my first record should go to them. I have 2 new podcasts to be released soon. I’m playing in Santa Monica on the pier this Sunday with subtrakt music, and will play next weekend in Tijuana on July 4th, then at The Standard rooftop on Sunday the 6th with the Culprit gang. Planning to go to europe at the end of August and spend a few months in Berlin as a base again, and DJ as much as possible before I come back to LA for the winter. In the meantime I’ll be in the studio 24/7 as usual, working on a record for BodyParts in Moscow and whatever else I can finish before it’s time to hit the road again…