Coming up on the end of September, I rounded up my favorite releases of this past month to find the destined pick for this week’s Wax Runoff. Overall a wonderful month for excellent tunes, but there is one record that I have consistently been coming back to.
Fitzzgerald was a new name to me. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to learn that his recent 12” on Tugboat Edits is actually his first release. In truth, Tugboat Edits Vol. 11 sounds as if it had come from a much more decorated veteran. It’s a deeply jazz-infused carpet ride through sexy house loops and gourmet samples that vary in flavor for diverse hours and moments.
A1 “Starfruit” is a precipitant introduction to the record. Lo-fi jazz licks and warm pads accompany a classic disco bass guitar line while a Rhodes piano goes on seemingly endless G# scale tangents. The drums are forward; a jackhammer 4/4 kick rhythm gives an undeniably groovy feel to it, but that’s not to discredit the hand drums solo around the five-minute mark. Ultimately this jam comes off polished and tight, ready for a sunny terrace near you. This track sounds like how a Mister Saturday Night party feels.
The second cut on the front, “On Your Side”, takes things a bit farther left from center. Slowed down and with a noticeable bossa nova influence this one features some great marimba scales. It takes about four minutes, but eventually a more house-centric rhythm does start to command things as memorable disco strings create a wonderful classy vintage type vibe. While maybe not for the prime time hours of the night, this is still an amazing piece of music that certainly has its time and place.
Someone once told me the best tracks are always on the B-side. That superstition seems to be true as my favorite tune by a long shot is “Mysterious World”. It’s essentially a really done house re-work of the title track off MFSB’s 1980 jazz-fusion release Mysteries of the World. Devastating for me because I actually had sampled my copy of that 12” earlier in the year and was halfway through an edit of my own when I bought this record. This re-work seems better than I could likely do, with just the right amount of delicate percussion and an extra funky synth line that was written for this edit. Serious party stuff when the vibe calls for it.
The clean-up spot on the roster belongs to “Shaka Joe”; a nice mix of tribal and deep house, it’s less experimental for sure and yet still easily avoids being forgettable. As with the other three tunes, there are plenty of punchy and improvised jazz scales, this time coming from an unidentified organ synth. It sounds great with lots of loop layering variation, along with points where the mix clears out making this one a favorite that creeps onto your table more as you begin to wear out the other three.
All in all this record is a must have if you are really into the jazzy lo-fi house that is popularized by well-known taste maker labels Razor N Tape or Mister Saturday Night. And I would say a nice record to have if you like really solid and well-mixed house and disco tracks that carefully measure to never venture into the realm of over-production. This slab would be particularly valuable in a bag for early morning after parties and late afternoon BBQs in my opinion.
I encourage you to scoop this great record straight from the responsible party. There are of course is Discogs and the usual main online competitors: Juno, Deejay, Redeye, etc. If you want to support a smaller online retailer who have a great team and really care about this music on a personal level, I recommend grabbing a copy from Downtown304. The press is limited, and if you were going to buy new from retail, I would act fast before this release is comfortably sitting in other people’s record collections the world over.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.
Well-spoken and quietly humble, it is fair to say that Naeem Martinez is becoming increasingly enamored by art and music as time passes. Now based in Pittsburgh, he was born and raised in Harlem where his mother introduced him to the world of fine art in New York City.
“My Mom would frequently take me to museums. Being really young at the time, I would do my best to breeze through whatever exhibit we went to see. I would then proceed to inquire about when we would be leaving. Fast forward 15+ years, I’m the complete opposite and I’m totally interested in spending hours and hours in a museum. I took a long route to gaining an appreciation for the arts and have only come to really value these early experiences in retrospect,” he says. “With my growing appreciation for arts, I began to pursue a degree in Fine Art at Carnegie Mellon in 2008. I had spent six weeks taking summer courses at Carnegie Mellon the previous year, so I had a vague idea of what I was getting myself into.”
Martinez is a DJ, producer, and member of Pittsburgh-based label DETOUR. His interest for DJing piqued upon arriving to the City of Bridges when he found himself tuned in to Carnegie Mellon’s radio station WRCT. Specifically, he was exploring the sounds of rap and hip-hop on “What’s Really Good Radio” – a Monday evening show run by DJ Thermos and Shawn MC. As he became more exposed to rappers and MCs that he had never heard of “like the Monster Island Czars and Binary Star” his inspiration grew.
“With my head full of ideas after listening to WRGR for a few weeks, I joined WRCT in hopes of having a show and DJing. I went through the proper channels of becoming a member at the radio station and took the required AIR test (which took me four times to pass),” he says. Two years later in his spring semester of 2011 he started his show “Side A, Side B”.
“Over the previous year I had begun listening to more electronic music due to the influence and range of things you would be able to hear on WRCT. I simply say electronic because in retrospect, my taste was pretty surface level at the time. The jolt that really got me into things was seeing my peers like Alex and Juan use a computer to DJ, while at events like WRCT’s Biannual Dance party. One of the things that initially appeared as a roadblock for me to begin DJing was, me wondering how in the world I would get my hands on a pair of turntables.”
In the meantime he used his keyboard to explore technicalities through Virtual DJ and Traktor. Late 2011 he acquired a controller and soundcard, and would take any opportunity to practice at WRCT. He says, “This usually meant late at night or whenever there was a free studio.”
Years later he began exploring the realm of production, dabbling with GarageBand and then eventually he delved into advanced software. From that point forward he says producing is “a practice in trial and error with me trying to get things to sound the way they do in my head. The most helpful thing for me and I have to constantly count my blessings for this, is the amount of people around me who have a wealth of knowledge and experience producing. But more importantly who have no problem sharing this information. People like Preslav, who helped Juan and I mix down the second DETOUR record, when we really had no idea what we we’re doing. Shawn, who is always excited to talk at length about almost any synthesizer and drum machine under the sun. And Tom who wouldn’t hesitate to let me know if a section of a track needed to be edited or totally rearranged, while the second DETOUR record was being finished.”
His dive deeper into house and techno came about through another community of peers at Hot Mass. “Similar to my interest in the arts, it took me some time to really wrap my head around what was what in the realm of house and techno. I credit Humanaut’s Out of Order nights with helping me sort things out,” Martinez says. “I had a rough idea of what a house or techno DJ should sound like prior, but after regularly attending these nights, I was really able to my to get my bearings on things.”
Eventually he joined DETOUR in 2012, just before the label’s first event held at 6119 – an art gallery and performance space located on Penn Avenue. The label began under the efforts of Juan Lafontaine and Alex Price, who Martinez met through WRCT. “Juan approached me about DJing this party during one of my late night practice sessions at the WRCT and I of course said yes,” he says. That first party in September 2012 featured music from Naeem, Gusto, Mirko Azis, and Mr. Sensitivity.
“The current DETOUR crew is made up of Juan, Alex, Allison [Cosby] and myself. We all shift and trade jobs as needed to keep things going, but it’s a team effort to choose what actually makes it onto each record. While I share design duties with Juan, I’m the one that finds the the B-side images for each record. Each one is a location in and around Pittsburgh.”
DETOUR hosts events on the third Saturday of each month at Hot Mass. Although a techno label, their bookings reflect an eclectic taste for sound and energy. Their parties have seen the likes of Umfang, HUNEE, Analog Soul, Doc Sleep, Gunnar Haslam, Aurora Halal, Lena Willikens, Patrick Russell, and Norm Talley, just to name a few. Earlier this month DETOUR celebrated a five-year anniversary with Courtesy and Olin at Hot Mass. A Weekend Send day party celebration followed at the Ace Hotel with more from Olin, Elvin T. and sets from label residents Cosby and Naeem.
“I believe Hot Mass has truly become a second home to a lot of people. What makes it feel like a second home for every person is probably very different, but I think we would all agree, that being able to have that feeling is invaluable.” – NAEEM
It is undeniable and irrefutable that Hot Mass has had an impact on so many, from promoters, to DJs, to party goers. Each weekend Club Pittsburgh is host to something special. “For a person who is totally in love with dance music, Hot Mass becomes this place where you can hear that strange B-side cut, from that one artist’s eccentric side project, that just wouldn’t fly in a lot of other venues around the city,” Martinez says. “On a national and even international level the quality of what both the promoters and regulars of Hot Mass collectively bring in regard to energy, emotion, care and hospitality has been affirmed as world class by a number of guest DJs. Hearing how amazing this intimate club is by people who regularly DJ the world over, speaks volumes about what has been cultivated here.”
DETOUR plans to continue the genuine and passionate agenda to push quality music through future bookings and productions. DETOUR006 is the next four-track EP set for release Friday, October 13. It will feature “stuttering electro, sluggish EBM and booming techno, by the Brooklyn based duo SEER,” Martinez says. SEER, comprised by Maroje T. of Remedy NYC and Matt Parent of Blankstairs, are on the rise as solo artists with this EP being their first collaboration. “To celebrate the record, we’ll be having a release party at Hot Mass on October 21, where SEER will be playing live and DJing.”
Whether it be through curation and creating artwork through DETOUR, cultivating his sound as a DJ, or simply enjoying it all amidst the crowd on the floor, Martinez’s appreciation for his journey through music and art simultaneously expands while his passion for the craft deepens.
“There are two realizations that I’ve had in the past year or so regarding my love of music,” he says. “The first being the sheer amount of music that is out there to be discovered. As I search for new music with every gig I play, I’m constantly astounded by what is out there. I sometimes have to stop and think, that I’m really only scratching the surface with what I know and have heard. This feeling is simultaneously overwhelming and very exciting. The second realization is about how many connections I have been able to make solely through music. I’m hardly a social butterfly but through music, it’s allowed me both to meet and share ideas with a great many people, that I likely would never had met if it hadn’t been for music.”
Tony Fairchild was born and raised in a creativity desert. Living his formative years between Toledo, Ohio and Monroe, Mich. he was inspired to seek beyond his roots to satisfy his need to discover the unknown.
“I can’t attribute any profound musical experiences or sage tutelage to my time spent in either place, but I can definitely credit the lack of art and culture in both cities with instilling in me a thirst for unique and transgressive experiences of all sorts. When you are raised in the middle of a cornfield or a faceless Ohio suburb, your thirst for adventure in all forms gets pretty real,” he says.
It took some time before he delved deep into the house and techno realm. As an early teen living in Monroe, he says, “I used to impatiently wait for the techno shows on WJLB and 89X to end so I could resume making mixtapes of Limp Bizkit and Ludacris. Only much later did I start to appreciate this music that was being broadcast in my backyard, again thanks to radio; in the form of Ben UFO’s Rinse FM show.”
After graduating from Ohio University, Fairchild spent five years living in Columbus. His time there came to a close soon followed by a decision to move to Pittsburgh, Penn. “I was fired from a long term job and ended an even longer term relationship. The time was ripe for me to explore a new future and there were no strings attached to prevent me from doing so,” he says.
He has since made a name for himself as a DJ, promoter and label head. At Hot Mass, Pittsburgh’s favorite after-hours spot, Fairchild assists throwing events through Humanaut. This came to fruition quickly upon attending his first Mass as a fresh Pittsburgh resident. Soon he would find himself being wrangled into the mix by Aaron Clark.
“Aaron Clark approached me with his signature brand of endearing enthusiasm and told me pretty squarely that he needed help with Humanaut. It was never a question; more like, ‘Hey you! Join the team!’,” he says. “As anyone that knows Aaron can attest, he is the ultimate mover and groover and an amazing community engineer. Aaron brought me into the fold as a Humanaut resident and connected me with the rest of the Hot Mass family. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to my new city.”
Between Hot Mass’ resident parties (Honcho, Humanaut, girlFX, Detour, Cold Cuts), The Weekend Send events at the Ace Hotel, and smaller up and coming parties like MESH, Pittsburgh has established itself as a hub for Midwest techno and house.
“Right now I see Pittsburgh as being the exemplar of sustainable underground partying in the U.S. We have somehow managed to carve out for ourselves not only a present, but also a future as party organizers in a mid-sized American city with 2 a.m. closing laws. I see Pittsburgh as proof that this thing can work if the right people are brought together in the right circumstances with the right resources. Luck is no small part of the equation.” – TONY FAIRCHILD
He has witnessed how Pittsburgh’s success has inspired smaller metro areas to bring life to barrenness or expand on an already established smaller scene. Hot Mass continues to play an integral role for many cities within the American Midwest and Rust Belt, and has become a reputable destination on an international level.
Fairchild says, “I know that Hot Mass was a major source of inspiration for myself and the co-founders of Midwest Fresh. Seeing the team throw a weekly party that goes till 7 a.m. while maintaining a certain level of organization and professionalism is really encouraging in a country that tries to stifle this exact sort of thing. We are also now seeing Pittsburgh bring more attention to the broader U.S. scene in the global sense. Word has gotten out that Mass is a great party to play and artists are starting to plan tours around playing the club. This has bridged the (sometimes quite large gap) between the EU and U.S. scenes to the point where relationships are built that increasingly bring EU artists to the states and visa versa.”
In addition to Midwest Fresh, Cleveland’s In Training parties are another that have been influenced by Pittsburgh. Instilling and growing small but concentrated music scenes in these rather desolate areas are necessary for cultivating creativity and providing safe spaces. Regarding Ohio he says that “in a state so devoid of culture, these parties are absolutely crucial. In Training and MWF in particular are some of the last bastions of cool shit in their respective cities. Thanks to them, Ohioans have a chance to experience something more novel than the weekly special at their favorite overpriced brunch establishment. On a more positive note, I have seen the nexus of MWF and IT summon an entire generation of incredibly smart, funny and immensely kind party people from the woodworks. These people have become DJs, promoters, producers and contributors to the scene, both locally and globally. Most importantly they have become a community of friends. Today I count almost all of my closest friendships as products of the intersection of MWF, IT and Hot Mass in the past three years.”
Party energy is pushing out beyond Chicago and Detroit and growing in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, also stretching to the edges of the Rust Belt in smaller cities like Buffalo and Rochester. The Midwest Rave is alive and well. That classic rave feeling can come in so many different forms, and although inexplicable the existence when experienced is undeniable. How does Fairchild define it? “No Way Back 2013 or whatever year they sold out of water and I had to drink Snapple all night to stay alive in the 95+ degree heat. Any party that nails that feverish, unhinged and diehard vibe shall be knighted as True Midwest Rave.”
As a DJ he has contributed to the growth of the scene not only in Pittsburgh but with his booking beyond. He recently returned from an international stint where he played in Denmark and at Berlin’s Tresor. Prior to that he was found in Detroit at this year’s Industry Brunch, Service at Smartbar in Chicago, Washington D.C.’s Flash, In Training, and many times on home turf for Midwest Fresh. On the horizon he’ll be sharing the night with Hot Mass resident Naeem for REDUX in Buffalo as well as the next Jack Dept. in NYC for a Hot Mass showcase.
Additionally, earlier this year he launched his own record label. Is / Was “seeks to put out future-proof new releases that will be as listenable in 20 years as they are today.” Complimenting that mission, sublabel Was / Is will reissue classic cuts to “serve as reminders to dancefloors of 2017 and beyond of the origins and possibilities of this music.” Output includes releases and represses from Archetype, Dwayne Jensen, Mark Ambrose, Cube 40, Omni AM and 4E. Dropping Monday, September 25 will be a limited run of Cube 40’s “You Make Me Function” reissued and remastered. Attesting to the vulnerability of change he comments on how his initial drive to show a reflection of the “true lineage of American dance music” has evolved.
“The vision and concept of the label are currently in flux. I was just talking to Brian Bohan and Shane Christian of In Training about how I feel like I have no coherent curation for the label at the moment. At first it stressed me out, but I’m settling into the fact that the only coherent thread through all releases is that they represent a moment in my exploration of the wide realm of dance music in all its forms. My recent obsession with UK garage is even leading me to drop the whole ‘true lineage of American dance music’ thing. My only goal right now is to put out what I feel to be important music in whatever moment it comes to me. Right now I’m salivating over the idea of putting out a comp of 1995-1997 proto-UK garage tracks for instance. In three months I will most likely have moved onto some other compulsion and will pursue that until it haunts me no more. No matter the format or genre of the release, I suppose the goals for each label are always the same.
“It’s no secret that I am disappointed by the lack of funk, swing and experimentalism in today’s music,” he continues. “I hope that I can steer both labels to exemplify how I’d like to see this music continue to progress.”
Music was a gateway beyond normative minutia of his surroundings. It continues to be a guide into the past and future. “Music has opened a whole new world of exploration and connection to me that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve had some of my deepest spiritual experiences thanks to music,” he says. “I’ve connected with people from all over the world and forged almost all of my deepest relationships through a mutual love of this one thing. Not having access to this would be like emotional and developmental equivalent of having your ISP turn the internet off.”
While at my local record shop recently I was flipping through the new arrivals when a paper sleeve Mojuba stamped 12” caught my eye. It appeared to be a re-press of the 2009 deep house smasher Time Visions 2 by Chez Damier. I handsomely paid the clerk and headed home to enjoy the sweet sounds.
When I checked the Internet later, sure enough I couldn’t find much on this mysterious release. Discogs only has the various 2009 releases listed, and a google search yielded essentially one result at a Russian online record store where it appears to be sold out. I started to become a bit more skeptical now, but when I placed the record on the platter and set the needle to it, instantly it was clear that this was a high quality, top notch repressing that if not official is one of the best bootlegs I’ve come across.
The record is soaked in creamy deep house goodness from beginning to end. The A side “Why (D’s Deep Mix)” is a marvelous 10 minute slugger that loops and swerves way down at 113 BPM. This is classic Chez, with a glowing and pulsing chord loop setting the mood and never falling from the mix as bongos and tight bass blips repeat bar over bar. Eventually, a legitimately groovy harmonica solo cuts through that’s not hard to love.
On the flip side “Help Myself (Unreleased Reshape)” stylistically brings things back to popular ’90s house fare. Fitting as it’s Carl Craigs unreleased edit of the classic KMS tune. A 16 bar live drum sample sequenced rhythm with resonant synth melody loops with perhaps the most tasty upright jazz bass samples. Something about the crash cymbal ending phrases in classic house tunes just feels so right. The tune is atmospheric while remaining organic and would burn down any 21st century dancefloor.
The record closes with what is probably the crowd favorite of the trio, “Soul Minimal” on B2. As the name suggests, it’s a fairly stripped back soulful house number, but there’s a bit less depth compared to the other two jams. This one is more strictly party material with the main feature being a fat and round bass synth that bounces up on swung out 16th notes. The sharp reverbed pads behind everything start to mix with sax samples and a lively bongo line. The tune works quite well in 2017, as it’s structured in a way where the core of percussion never leaves the mix. In so doing, it lends itself well to the driving syncopated rhythmic adventures popular in minimal and house right now.
I wish I could tell you how to find this record. While I’ve never owned any of the previous presses, the sound quality is excellent on this one. Even the website for the store I bought it at never listed it online. Keep your eyes peeled for the all-text red stamp center label seen in our picture here. If you do fancy the slab and want to purchase a 2009 copy from Discogs it trades at a pretty agreeable price depending on which version you’re after (the limited red translucent press will cost you). However you come across it – repress or not – this piece comes highly recommended. It’s thoughtful, heady, and just the right mix of tech and deep; new and old.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.
In Central Illinois, Justin Cudmore was raised with Midwest sensibilities. His environment, he says, was simple but there were structural bounds that kept him from feeling truly free. When he was in his youth and started to feel he didn’t fit in with the the people around him, he found sanctuary just next door.
“There are straightforward expectations about what you’re supposed to do when you grow up, how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to look like,” he says about his hometown of Springfield. “My family and my surroundings taught me to be genuine, polite, helpful…but anything different or out of character was pushed away. My family was not religious but still clung to conservative ideals on family and politics.”
Around middle school Cudmore started feeling estranged from his youthful peers. “I never opened up to my parents about these feelings, instead kept them inside. My neighbor growing up next door was an old hippie and I think she could tell I was different. She would invite me over for tea and we’d listen to The Beatles, go rummage through junk, make sculptures. That was an outlet for me I didn’t have in other places. She really opened up the world and my mind to let me think maybe it’s OK to be different; maybe there is more out there.”
Her name is Janis and one specific memory he has of her was when he was around 13 years old. “She invited me over and we were going through all the ‘junk’ she collected in her garage. She loved garage sales. We’d go out hunting for items on the weekend. On that day she showed me this collection of all blue glass bottles she had been keeping. Anytime she went to a rummage sale or antique mall there were certain items she looked for and loved to collect. These blue bottles were one of them,” he says. “She brought them out and we used metal pipes stuck into the ground to display them, almost as a bouquet. I vividly remember creating this decoration from nothing with her. It’s still there in her yard as you drive in. I loved these moments of creativity. I don’t think I realized at the time how comfortable I felt around her or how much I could be myself but looking back it was really special. Having that time helped me find myself at crucial points in my teen years. Janis really shaped me. She always encouraged travel, the arts, exploration, fun. Major contrast to my more conservative parents. I don’t think I’d be where I am without her guidance and love.”
Music eventually became a grounding creative expressive outlet as he processed these feelings. He found his rhythm playing drums in grade school and continued until the end of college. “Percussion is something that always came easy to me. Jazz, concert, marching – I did all of it. Band was a place for weird kids to feel at home and have something to concentrate on,” he says. While attending the University of Illinois he played in some jam bands. Inspired heavily by dance-driven beats he would incorporate post-punk sounds when they played. “New wave groups really captured my ear,” he says. “The melodies were uplifting and the bass/drums driving still. That combination stuck with me.”
Cudmore started DJing in college and went on to host a club night called Physical Challenge. “I played a house party sophomore year for Halloween that was a big success. It was probably a mixture of blog remixes, ‘90s house classics, some of my own music, Girl Talk edits. Anyway, it went really well. The owner of the local club hit me up and asked if I’d like to help run this weekly night at The Canopy Club – one of the oldest spots for live music in Champaign-Urbana.” He agreed but only after returning from a six-month study abroad stint in Norway’s capital, Oslo. This trip became pivotal in expanding and fine-tuning Cudmore’s music taste.
“Living in Oslo those six months was a big shift for me. Dance music was just getting cemented as something I really cared for, I was started to dig, buy records – then I left to go live in a place where I could club at 19. I would go almost every weekend to different parties. Blå was my favorite. Locals like Todd Terje, Prins Tohams, G-Ha, this party called Sunkissed – really left an imprint on me,” he says. “Cosmic house but with a groove and a bassline. I returned from Oslo that summer with a whole new perception of dance music. It became clear to me just how little I knew and how much there is to know. It humbled me. I tried to bring that attitude to the club in Champaign every Wednesday, trying different combinations of things – disco, house, techno. I learned you didn’t have to stick to one sound.”
After college he moved to Chicago where he immediately delved into the scene, frequenting spaces like Smartbar, Danny’s, Berlin Nightclub, and warehouse parties such as No Affiliation. Somewhere in the mix he met Steve Mizek, founder and A&R head of Chicago labels Argot and Tasteful Nudes, as well as founder of now defunct website Little White Earbuds. The two started talking and Cudmore started working with Mizek on the website. He says, “I would assist with site architecture, coding, ads – we were trying to make some money off LWE. This is actually when I started first meeting a lot of New Yorkers over email like Bryan Kasenic. He would purchase ads for The Bunker in NYC. My big contributions were two Curator’s Cuts mixes, along with some end of year lists. LWE opened up a whole new world of underground music for me. It was kind of like going to Oslo all over again but even bigger and I felt more connected this time. My record collection at home was starting to grow and I felt confident to contribute a mix that I’d be proud of and one that would suit the style of LWE. To this day that final mix remains one of my favorites.”
At 21 years old and new to the clubbing, Chicago’s Smartbar became influential as he explored his sexual freedom. “Smartbar is dark, it’s seductive, no one seems to care what you do. It’s how clubs should be. That was the first basement club I went to. And really I did all my formative clubbing there. Nothing in Oslo really matched that layout,” he says. “At that time in Chicago, Queen hadn’t started yet. Sunday’s there was this party called Dollar Disco. But Boystown was close and sometimes gays would wander over. It was the first place I felt comfortable dancing with a boy all night to house music. It is a special place. Nowhere else could I have done that. That’s why places like this are so important. They allow us to be ourselves in the dark, in the fog. We can act on our curiosities and let the music take us over.”
From a childhood feeling different and out of place, he felt comfortable enough with himself around 22 years old to come out to his parents, “And it didn’t go well,” he says.
“That started a slow descent in my relationship with my family which wasn’t always the best to begin with. And so when Jordan, this boy I loved and cared for, said he got a job in New York and was moving – I didn’t know what to do but follow him. Also after two years of Chicago I felt like I was ready for more. As eye-opening as Chicago was for me, it does have a level of stagnation that I felt. I could have stayed in Chicago and really buried into my music production. I could have seen myself become a sort of Smartbar hermit – run with the same circles and be a bit of a techno recluse.”
He continues, “I moved to New York only for Jordan, my boyfriend; I didn’t want to lose him. Work/music was an added benefit of moving here. I really had no intentions of a music career coming here. I got a job at a startup, Jordan started his job, and we continued our lives pretty much as is in Brooklyn. I would come home from work every night, get stoned, work on music, dig for music. But not to play – not to release things – music at that point was always a side hobby. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m doing now without all those years of simply going out, hibernating on music, learning things. Too many people jump right to the DJ thing. That was never a motivation of mine. I was curious, just like way back when I was young, hanging with my neighbor learning new things. It was always like peeling back a page on something new – new sounds, new labels. There was always something more to know. In my eyes, it was not my time to be playing in New York. There are plenty of people who have put in their time and know loads more – they should be playing.”
He began networking and connecting to people in the New York City realm, including folks at The Bunker like Bryan Kasenic and Mike Servito. Cudmore met Servito after making a comment on his Boiler Room set. A conversation started and a friendship blossomed.
“I went to see him play at TBA Brooklyn. That’s where I met him for the first time. There was some natural friendship chemistry between us and we stayed in touch. I went to see him play at the Bunker and Out Hotel. And soon hanging every few weeks turned to texting, meeting up after work for a margarita, getting dinner. Our relationship started and remains to be just because we get each other,” he says.
“We had similar problems with our family growing up about being gay. We were both searching for this kind of escape. Our friendship grew stronger because we could talk/share music but Mike was more like an older brother to me. He has shown me a lot, and how to be an adult.” With similar taste in music they would have lengthy email chains of tracks sent back and forth. Cudmore eventually introduced Servito to his boyfriend Jordan and Chris Miller (aka Gunnar Haslam). Miller, Servito and Cudmore eventually went on to start performing together as Hot Mix. He says, “Just three boys sharing stories, laughing about music – we had each other’s backs. I started regularly attending The Bunker probably six months into my friendship with Mike. I eventually met Bryan and the extended Bunker family. He probably wondered who was this kid Mike kept putting on the list.” Cudmore’s introduction to the Bunker were post-Public Assembly days, when parties were being held at Output.
“The Bunker family is made up almost entirely of Midwest expats with a love for Detroit techno. They all sort of welcomed me in. Just as I have seen a handful of new faces welcomed in after me. Having never had a family that supported me for me growing up, here in NYC I had that for the first time, and I could be myself. Everyone had my back and I could be myself. I partied and met people and learned about more and more music along the way.” – JUSTIN CUDMORE
While living in New York City he continues to work on music, perform and push forward with the “Bushwick hustle” by picking up any occasional part-time job to make money on the side. New York, he says, “is an expensive city for an artist. But also all these friendships and opportunities would not have happened if I wasn’t here. I also wasn’t searching them out. I was just following my interests.”
Cudmore was fiddling around with production, sending little demos to Servito for constructive criticism with no real guided intention toward a certain label. “Sometimes he’d give some feedback, other times he’d say what he liked. But I wasn’t trying to make things for him or any label in particular so I just followed my own ear. One time I was playing with this acid line and sample and jammed this track together.” He sent the demo over to Servito. “Unlike other times, he reacted immediately and freaked out. He insisted to have the WAV so he could play it that weekend at Bunker. That was actually the first time Mike used a CDJ – before that he was always vinyl only. The track went over well.”
A huge opportunity came to fruition for Cudmore after Servito dropped that track during a Honey Soundsystem party in Folsom, Calif. Soon thereafter the label members made their way to NYC to chat with him about “Crystal”. A completely inspired Servito and Cudmore started working on a remix together. “We had never thought about working on music together before but it seemed natural – so we sat down and me as his engineer sort of built what he had in mind. The inclusion of Chris was a no brainer,” Cudmore says. “He was our boy and our DJ partner. He was of course extremely happy to contribute a remix. The whole package came together really naturally and nothing about it was forced. I think that’s why it was the success it was. It made sense on that label and came out right before the summer. Timing was on our side.”
Since the track’s official release on HNYTRX in 2016, he has had subsequent releases on The Bunker as well as Interdimensional Transmissions for the Acid Series project. Performing throughout numerous venues in New York City, he has also been booked at TV Lounge and Tangent Gallery in Detroit, Hot Mass in Pittsburgh, and Spybar in Chicago. Abroad he has played at Berlin’s ://about blank, as well as in Barcelona and Ireland. He says he can feel that he’s on the scene’s radar, but at heart he will always cherish being an anonymous rave soul among a crowd of so many others still seeking the comfort he has always been on a mission to find.
“It’s cool but I feel this constant need to prove myself over and over every weekend. Mike says this won’t stop and he still does it to this day. But there is something about just being that kid in the background of the party dancing in the fog that I miss,” he says. “Now I’d be crazy to sit here and say I wish I still had a full time job and didn’t get to do music full time. I feel very fortunate to be where I am and not have to get another job after I was let go last fall. In a way I guess this was my dream and I didn’t know it yet. I feel like life kind of unfolded this path for me and all I was doing was following my interests and staying close to my friends.
“Every weekend I play I learn some things and also realize how much more there is to learn. It can be intimidating to be affiliated with such giants like Mike, The Bunker, Derek [Plaslaiko], IT Detroit. I always think that if I was some kid on the outside I’d be like, ‘Who is this kid anyway?’ I’ve always had some confidence issues and it’s taken people like my neighbor or people like Mike to pull me out of my shell. Mike is truly my mentor and best friend. He shaped me into who I am today. Maybe he saw something in me way back when we first met and groomed me for this. I just hope that everything continues to be fun and I can still have those moments lost on the dancefloor.”
Attendees of Sustain – Release will be able to catch Cudmore play a sunny poolside setting next weekend. His fourth record is currently in the works and has had two mixes recently released from TRUANTS and also through Is Burning with Servito.
“The list of things ahead of me seems daunting. Every weekend is like a new challenge. But would I rather be sitting in my office working on something I don’t believe in? No way.”