BUFFALO – Somewhere on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh and up a long flight of stairs, you will cross over the threshold into a place like no other. It’s late, but you’re just getting started. Both residents of Hot Mass, Tony Fairchild and Naeem are often found behind those decks, working the soundsystem. Not only technically skilled, they are both incredible selectors. All night long on September 30, Buffalo will get a little taste of Hot Mass.
TONY FAIRCHILD —
Owner of is / was Records and resident at Humanaut’s monthly function at Hot Mass.
Naeem is a Pittsburgh-based DJ that currently holds a third Saturday residency at Hot Mass, as a member of the local techno label/crew, Detour.
Tony Fairchild and Naeem
Saturday, September 30
11 pm – 5 am
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.”
In Central London sits Savile Row, a street lined with tailors who honor a history and tradition of crafting custom suits. Inspired by fashion, his dream destination, and the manner of the craft, Gianpaolo Dieli applies a similar bespoke integrity to his life in music as a DJ and producer. He resides in Chicago and is known by his alias, Savile.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by clothing. In many ways, fashion inspires me to write music as much as anything else in my life,” he says. “My core ideal of a DJ is one who reacts in the given moment, who is ‘tailoring’ their performance, music, etc., to those in the room and situation at hand. I adopted this name as a reminder, in some way, that I should be making it up as I go along.”
Applying this philosophy to many other aspects of his life – with the ever changing ups, downs and in-betweens – Dieli has navigated so with a passionate and exploratory heart.
Michigan born he was raised by a matriarch in an old farmhouse in Sturgis, a factory town just 10 minutes from the border of Indiana. Brought up by his grandmother and mother, two generations of Italian immigrants, he says his home life was one of comfort and safety.
“Looking back, I was terribly fortunate to be raised in an open-minded household smack-dab in the center of a conservative Christian hotbed. I was surrounded by intolerance of all forms as a kid, and as a result my childhood was fraught with bullying and quite difficult when outside the home. My taste in music and personal style made me what you could call an outcast and I was fairly unliked by my peers until the tail-end of my high school years,” he says. “My mother had an idea to send me to summer camp when I was eight or nine, hoping that would provide me with some male role models as a fatherless child. What she didn’t expect was the great cultural discovery that would happen at the hands of camp counselors from all walks of life and countries across the world. Here, I discovered my first musical love – underground hip hop, and my musical experimentation and desire to create began in earnest.”
With a background in graphic design he originally planned to go to art school for college but his passion for music prevailed. He says, “I stepped back from design after realizing I couldn’t continue to learn and grow in music with the same intensity while still creating quality, thoughtful design.” This endeavor also proved difficult as he lacked the proper resources. Additionally, there were several other factors that came into play and diverted Dieli’s path toward art school. “I spent a year after high school kicking up dust in my small town, and ended up getting arrested for a drug offense as I was going through my application process,” he says. Since misdemeanor drug charges affect eligibility for financial aid, he decided to take a costly plea deal with probation and counseling. “This, coupled with the fact that I could only rely on loans for whatever wasn’t covered by scholarships and grants (I didn’t get enough), led me to do some hard math and realize I’d be leaving school massively in debt with a major that was quickly becoming over-saturated,” he continues. In order to survive he picked up a full-time position as a cook.
By 2010 he made the move to Chicago where he started working long nights in restaurant kitchens and even went through a brief period of unemployment. Although months spent without work was a challenging period, he says it was “one that afforded a surplus of reflection, discovery, mistakes, and a lot of growing up that I sorely needed.”
First and foremost he moved in the pursuit of music. He did his research and began connecting himself to Smartbar, other clubs and undergrounds in the city. He says, “I made a list of folks in the scene I wanted to meet and started going out as frequently as I was able to. I felt it was important to me to make my presence known as a dancer and patron first and foremost. I was fortunate to meet a few supportive friends who took chances on me as a new DJ, and I started playing around the city shortly after I moved in 2010.”
Yet he remembers vividly when he first started discovering house and techno. His earliest memory of dance music ventures back to a program called Electric Circus, a live Canadian dance program which aired on MuchMusic.
“I had very little connection with [dance music] besides an interest in ‘city life’ and the dancing on the show. Embarrassingly enough, the ‘stand out’ moment in cementing my interest in dance music is tied to Hot Topic, everyone’s favorite mall goth outpost,” he says. “Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ was playing one day as I was at the local mall and I was transfixed by the repetition in the chorus. I sung the hook for weeks, at that time not having Internet at home or any local music stores, until I convinced my mom to buy the CD for me weeks later. I can remember standing in my yard with my Discman in my pocket, raking leaves, and daydreaming about the world of sounds in the intro to ‘Revolution 909’. Was that a club? A house party? Who were these people?”
Eventually he would discover those places and those people. On floors he would become one of those dancers and in the booth he would be the person playing that grooving music that he fell in love with. Not to mention, he would become an active player in creating those sounds.
He began releasing tracks in 2010 followed by a 2012 release on Amadeus Records, which relishes the musically unorthodox. Later that year he partnered with Jason Garden (aka Olin) to put out the Horizon EP on Wazi Wazi Music and then Thanks, Karl on Argot in 2015. Karl, he says, was a bouncer at Smartbar “and became a beloved gatekeeper figure of our home club.”
Steve Mizek is Dieli’s closest friend, DJ partner and founder of Chicago-based record label Argot. The two not only can be found performing side-by-side but also work together to put records out through the label and sub-label Tasteful Nudes.
“Argot exists to showcase American Dance Music in it’s many forms. The sub-label, Tasteful Nudes, celebrates talent outside the U.S. Steve has been a crucial ear and support system for years and his taste has helped shape many of my records,” Dieli says. “We started DJing together in the summer of 2013, and after a few years growing closer as collaborators, Steve asked me to come on board to help manage the label with him at the beginning of 2016. Managing a vinyl label has been humbling, to say the least. The market is unpredictable, the trends swift and the payoff is self-made. Trying to find special ways to share the stories of our artists and their music has been a wonderful challenge in the last year. We are coming up on our fifth anniversary this fall, and will be commemorating with a special release and some events!”
He continues, “All my records since then have been made to present bits and pieces of the friends, parties, travel, sounds, that are happening around me.” No Sleep, Not In America, an output on Chicago’s Stripped & Chewed label, was released in 2016. Later on that year he released Share Power, a record on Argot with two tracks inspired by the present and influential Midwest techno scene. The A-side “3 Hours In The Meat Sink” is a nod to Columbus’ underground Midwest Fresh, while on the flip side “Effort Won’t Betray You” is a dedication to Cleveland’s In Training.
His work and effort has brought him into a whole new realm of experiences, including traveling to Germany to play with Mizek at Panorama Bar as well as Bar Charlie in Munich.
“My experiences as a dancer and a DJ in Europe have been peppered with realizations about the similar threads that tie the party together, no matter where you find yourself. There are certainly little peculiarities, especially in terms of stamina and programming, but ultimately the same kind of release and reckless abandon you might encounter at a party overseas can be found anywhere else, at any time, if the elements are right. In terms of Berlin specifically, I think what makes the city particularly unique to me is this layer of darkness that kind-of hovers below everything. It’s a city that’s easy to fall into completely. The party is always within reach. That sort of awareness can push crowds into a really interesting space, and I think this thread is one of the things that makes the city so alluring.”
As he continues to create his mind is inquisitive, constantly philosophizing the bigger picture and occasionally writing down sentiments of the experience in a truly vulnerable way. In a blog post from 2011 he delved into the idea of fear and how it becomes a driving force in so many aspects of our lives. In his piece he writes:
“As someone who pursues the dream, you must be prepared for the fear.
You can call it the ego, resistance, or the lizard-brain; but you must be prepared for it.
I treat my fear like a compass. it always points true north. It always points to what matters.
The stronger the fear, the closer you are to your goal.”
I asked him to expand further on this concept of fear, especially now after so much change in his life. He says, “In as far as my true fear – this is such a complex one… I think, at this moment, my most present fear is that I’m not making myself available enough to those around me. By ‘available’ I mean present in whatever capacity I’m needed in – be that support, advice, physical presence, advocacy, etc. This fear informs much of how I schedule my time, engage socially and otherwise. I have adopted many habits in the last few years geared towards sharpening my level of attention and it’s potency in any given moment. These habits guide my time spent writing music and how I DJ. My residency at Smartbar, Service, is absolutely about these themes, too. The notion of being present and flexible in support of others’ needs.”
Jason Garden, talent buyer for the Chicago club, offered Dieli an opportunity to build his own night from the ground up. The opening party for Service was held on April 29 featuring guests from the Midwest. Pittsburgh’s Tony Fairchild and ADAB, resident of Cleveland party Heaven is in You, joined Dieli in the Smartbar booth that night. The event calls to service yourself, the room and each other. The description reads: “We will set the table for conversation, interaction. Decentralizaton. A focus on us. The spectacle of an audience enjoying each other. The regal nature of a room of great friends. The curiosity of introductions. A state of play.” Inspired by his past experiences in the industry he says the evening is not only a curation of talented music but one that cultivates an atmosphere of hospitality. Smartbar was entirely transformed that night. Curtains draped from the ceiling to the floor and some tables were set with soft glowing light.
“I’m more and more convinced these days that the magic of ‘the party’ is created less by the DJ and more by those on the floor. When coupled with a young adulthood spent in the restaurant industry, Service emerged as a way to experiment with different ways of engaging a crowd. I am incredibly fortunate to have one of my close friends, Craig Gronowski, as my partner in Service. He’s an interior designer by trade and brings a level of expertise and confidence to the design process that has blown these ideas out further than I could have hoped. With Service, Craig and I endeavor to create environments where the crowd is both taken care of and challenged in equal measure – a kind of space where people feel comfortable enough to be curious and explore. These conditions, I think, will lend themselves to the kind of party you feel better walking out of than when you walked in.”
Maybe you’ll catch him playing somewhere, as he says “I’ll be playing out as much as I possibly can, with a focus on more solo outings, for as far as this ship will take me.” On the horizon Dieli will have several mixes released, the most recent put out this week through Honey Soundsystem. Additionally, he just signed a 12” to some friends in New York City which he says will span a wide range of tempos and styles.
“I’m fortunate to have a list of challenges as long as my ideas, which means more growing ahead and more experiments! As we speak, I’m working on edits for the next album to be released on Argot, the label I run with my DJ partner and brother-from-another, Steve Mizek. We’ve got a beautiful acid record from Todd Osborn coming just in time for summer, and we’ll be celebrating our five year anniversary later this year with a pair of 12” compilations and other fanfare.”
It becomes quite clear that the moniker he adorned himself with is a true reflection of who he is and the way he creates in the world. With a humble heart he works carefully and with close attention to detail. He does so honestly so to most suitably fit the form of his creation. All the while, it is apparent he walks through life gently and fully aware of the energy in motion that surrounds him.