Text & Interviews by : Chinua Green on the 5th of September, 2010.
Upon looking at Adultnapper’s life achievements at a glance, it becomes clear that the DJ/Producer’s mind is ticking. The growing enigmatic typewriter font tale on the back of his Ransom Note releases, the abandoned PhD program, the days spent organizing concerts with his anarchist collective— yes, something’s definitely ticking up there, but what kind of device? Well, the answer may not lie in this interview, for amidst good weather, good spirit, and great DJs, Adultnapper and Airdrop’s Chinua Green discuss Alexi Delano, an indie-inspired album, and the probability of the New York DJ collaborating with a chart-topping hip-hop artist.
CG : How are you doing?
AN : Great! How are you doing? It’s good to be here.
CG : I’m chilling. So, starting off with an oddball— what did you have for breakfast?
AN : A banana, that’s it. A banana and coffee. It’s pretty boring.
CG : Darn it… any meaning we could draw out of that?
AN : I don’t know— travel light? I guess I don’t like to play with a full stomach. I should say that.
CG : Okay, good one. Anyways, so in the whole scheme of the New York DJing scene, obviously in terms of the more minimal / techno scheme of things, where do you see yourself, without trying to put your in a box, but rather if you have ever thought about where you are within the New York scene?
AN : I’ve kind of placed myself right in the middle of everthing. I think that my style is not particularly too European and it’s not too American-sounding. I come from, like— I don’t want to say old-school, but the traditional idea that it’s all about mixing records or mixing two tracks, it’s not about the tracks it’s about how you put them together, you know, so I would say [in terms of] my mixing style I would respect someone more like Danny Tenaglia or Junior Vasquez or maybe Victor Calderone more than, say, the more new-school European thing, which is a very different style of mixing. So I would consider myself to be a New York DJ in the sense that it’s about holding a tight groove for as long as you [can]. If you’re going to be playing dance music it’s about the groove and an innovative groove in that sense. In terms of being a part of the New York scene, I mean I know everybody in the scene— I don’t really consider myself to be outside of it, I consider myself to be part of the scene. I don’t consider myself to be part of any other scene other than the New York house and techno world— not necessarily minimal— I don’t know what that even means anymore. Yeah, I’m involved, I get involved, I’ve played Bunker, I’ve played Blackmarket, I’ve played Resolute, I’ve played with Victor Calderone at Pacha at his parties, I’ve played for Flawless, I’m pretty much a free agent here and I’m willing to play and be a part of whoever will have me as long as it’s a good party.
CG : Okay, so would you say that you’re in a good place, or are you itching to do something else right now?
AN : I think I’m in a good place. I’m making a bit of a transition now because I just finished my album and I’m doing a lot more indie projects. I’m transitioning into a lot more indie stuff and I think that a lot of the new stuff that I’m producing is going to be a little bit different from the stuff that people are used to hearing; a lot slower, a lot more intricate, more musical, and with a lot more acoustic recordings and things like that. I’m not using a computer much anymore when I’m making tracks, maybe just for a sequencer, so I think my sound’s changing. Maybe that will bring a wider audience or a different audience I’m not sure, but I don’t see it changing so drastically that I won’t be a part of what’s going on here.
CG : Okay, and just to clarify, when you said indie, did you mean indie rock?
AN : Well, right now indie rock is very electronic, isn’t it? Everybody is using some sort of electronic elements in their songs. My album has a guitar, a cello, a trumpet, live drums, but it still has that sort of dark, late-night edge to it, to a certain extent. So, I guess that’s what I mean by indie. I guess it’s a wider [sound], not just a 4/4 beat and some bleeps from a computer. It’s a little bit more than that, I think.
CG : Okay, sounds exciting. So, when could we expect this album to be released?
AN : Well, it depends you know? I’m sort of talking to a few different labels trying to figure out where the best home for it is. It’s a little bit more difficult because I didn’t make a club record, and other than back in my punk days I haven’t made a rock record in a while, so it’s sort of like trying to find the right home for it where it fits and it works for the right audience to hear it. It depends, I would probably say spring of 2011, most likely.
CG : So, Alexi Delano: what has the relationship been like between you and him? Has it been more master/student, or more two equals and you just take some advice from him, or just an organic friendship in which you bounce ideas off one another?
AN : Well, I met Alexi about 11 years ago; he saw me DJ and he invited me to play his party. We became friends and as I got more and more into production he really was my mentor, I would say. I don’t think there’s anybody in the techno and house world who’s a better producer, really. I don’t think anybody has a purity of sound that he can get out of a mix. If I play his stuff and now my stuff and only to his credit, I just think that he— there’s not really anybody who produces better than he does. It just sounds better than everything else I play, with the exception of some of the guys who are like, really old-school guys who really know how to work an analogue sound, but Alexi could do just about anything. He can do house, he can do techno, he can do disco, he can do Latin-influenced deep house, he’s pretty much an everyman, and I definitely have looked up to him for a long time and a lot of my production technique comes from him, so I owe him a great deal of gratitude for my career in general as a producer, for sure.
CG : Okay, so about your Ransom Note etchings, in terms of the actual text, what’s been the process behind that? Do you kind of do it all in one go, stream-of-consciousness and than edit it down, or was it really painstakingly thought out…?
AN : The whole thing is supposed to be a parody. ‘Adultnapper,’ the name Adultnapper itself is supposed to be based on a graphic novel character, like an anti-hero, so it’s a half-joke and he’s sort of a schizophrenic anti-hero. So basically what happens is when I sign a track, the track names always go onto the text, so thinking about the names of the songs really inspires where the text goes. So the text goes in the directions according to [the track names]— it’s sort of like a Proustian-like ‘Tea Cake’ thing, you know— whatever the word inspires, the text goes in that direction. Eventually, I think that if Ransom Note were to survive as a label and we kept going, the story might end up having a little bit more coherence. My first vision was to turn it into a graphic novel if I ever got to the 50th release. We would do a little graphic novel or a comic book that would have the whole Adultnapper story and then the Ransom Note at the end, but that’s hoping for the best in the world of trying to sell records, in a kind of world where there’s like 20 record labels that are selling all the copies and everybody else is selling 200 copies, you know? So it’s a bit of a shitshow for sales to be able to do physical copies like that for 50 releases. I would love to get to that point but I’m not necessarily counting on it. It’s a financial thing. But that was the vision, initially. I think that sometimes people get put off [thinking] that the story is serious, but it’s completely not serious. It’s making fun of postmodern schizophrenic, Unabomber-style, language. It’s a joke. The music is serious, but the whole style, the whole thing, Ransom Note, Adultnapper- how can you take the word ‘Adultnapper’ seriously? It’s supposed to be a joke.
CG : Actually, I think in a press release I saw your name spelled with a ‘k’ right before the ‘n,’— kind of Germanized it.
AN : Yeah, it was a kind of joke, yeah.
CG : So is that how we can interpret the whole Sycophant Slags concept?
AN : Well, yeah. Sycophant Slags is even more of a piss-take. That’s more of like us having fun. Sycophant Slags is always meant to be more fun, club-ready gear and it’s where I kind of let my hair down a little bit and just have fun, because Richard [Mr. C] is a really good friend of mine and we always have a laugh, so the music is never meant to be too serious. That’s why when there was so much serious criticism of our remake of ‘Keep On’ [titled ‘Keep Off’]… you know, it’s meant to be fun, and funny, and not serious. We’re not taking ourselves seriously, here, we’re having fun, you know? And I guess sometimes people don’t get that— or maybe it’s because of my personality, I’m not the most gregarious person, I don’t just walk up to people and shoot the shit with them, but I have a sense of humor— it’s very dry— but that’s the way I approach things. And I think that there’s always going to be some sense of humor in any kind of art form whether it be a black humor or light or whatever. I would say that Ransom Note and Adultnapper is definitely more black humor and Sycophant Slags is more of like just a straight piss-take. We’re ass-kissing losers, that’s basically what we are. That’s what a Sycophant Slag is, you know? How anybody could actually think that’s serious, I really don’t know. [Laughs]
CG : Maybe you need to do more silly press photos?
AN : Yeah, that could work. [Chuckles] I’ve never thought about that.
CG : Either you could smile or put on a silly rooster mask…
AN : Something like that. Maybe we’ll put a big mouse head on— aw shit, that’s already been… sorry that’s already been used. [Laughter]
CG : So looking ahead… While I’m not going to quote you, I read in an earlier interview you made some comments on how people kind of want to consume techno music, instantly, and you said that if the scene ever gets commercialized or your sound [does], then you’ll leave it completely. So going ahead, if you saw increased success, do you think a conflict is inevitable?
AN : I mean, if my music had a huge commercial success in that sense, I don’t think we’d be living in this world. It’s introspective music. You can name on one hand introspective music in the history of music in general that’s actually been [very successful]… especially in our day in age in the techno world. Fair enough, the big audience in the techno world is a younger crowd, so I think that younger people want more exciting, energetic music, not introspective, thought-provoking music. I’m not trying to make a judgement, and I’m not trying to say that it’s wrong. It’s not my place to say what’s right and wrong, I just know that I’ve always been interested in a more… I don’t know how to say it— I just want to say it without sounding overly-intellectual— I’m just interested in something different than mainstream culture. Because for the most part mainstream culture in the United States is asinine, and stupid, and completely devoid of any thought whatsoever. So I guess, I’m always looking for [a way] to revolutionize my life, be around people who are open-minded, and do something interesting with my life. That’s always been my purpose. So I don’t think that it would ever be a conflict of interest because I can’t imagine ever being some big huge superstar, because I don’t… My idea of getting a wider audience is getting people who listen to Fenez and Sakomoto and certain indie rock bands to listen to my music. And I’m not going to be a rich man by doing that. Who knows? I mean, I wouldn’t turn away from success, it was more like saying that I’m not really interested in contributing to the problem, is what I should say. The problem, which is, modern society and how we live, you know?
CG : Okay, so then you definitely wouldn’t do something like a Diddy / Claude VonStroke collaboration or say, I think, Bon Iver was accredited to the latest Kanye West and Nicki Minaj hip-hop hit. So you wouldn’t be interested in any of that?
AN : Well, I mean, this is a rhetorical question, isn’t it? Would they ever be interested in what I do? I mean, really let’s be completely honest here. Probably not, you know? I’m not going to say this and then have it happen, and say “Oh he said he wasn’t going to do it!” [Laughs] You never know. I could get into major financial problems and it’s going to be the one thing that’s going to get me out of it. And then I could use it as an excuse. Or I could get sick and I have medical bills, it’d be like ‘Breaking Bad’. I’ll start cooking methamphetamine in my fucking garage and then right at that moment P Diddy will call me and he’ll be like “Francis, stop cooking meth in your garage. Produce my record.’ And then I’m like ‘I’ll have no choice!” so we’ll come back and there’s always a choice. I’m either going to kill kids with cooking methamphetamine and get involved in the drug war and beheadings and all that stuff and have to murder the Governer of Arizona and It’d be this whole thing, you know? But instead I’ll produce the next Kanye West album. [Laughs hysterically]
CG : So on that note, what do you think your going to have for lunch?
AN : I don’t know… are there any vegetarian options here? Something vegetarian.
CG : There was actually a press release on all the food offerings they have at Electric Zoo.
AN : That’s right, they have the gourmet food thing, yeah. I’ll check it out.
CG : Are you sticking around today?
AN : I’ll stick around for a few hours. My mother is visiting, so she actually saw me DJ, if you can imagine that. We’re going to hang out. Check things out a bit.
CG : Cool. Thanks for your time and let’s get back to that Dixon set.
AN : Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much.