What made you want to start throwing your own parties?
I used to be heavily involved in the NYC indie rock scene, but in the early '00s my tastes took a radical shift towards the electronic as my musical pursuits turned digital. Based on my rock experiences, I knew that it was much smarter to create your own gigs rather than try to get promoters to book you, especially for a relative unknown like myself. This desire to play out again coincided with a growing passion for deep techno. I soon approached my longtime friend Kevin Gregor, who I knew would make for a strong promoter, about starting a night. He was enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating and we ran with it. It took about 9 months after that initial discussion to put on our first show.
It seems like National Underground has turned into Oktave's home base in New York. How did you discover the venue and what makes it work for your events?
National Underground is definitely our adopted home in New York. It's not glamorous, but it's well located and it turns out to really suit what we're doing. Oktave is about no-frills techno—great music in a dark, sweaty basement. Keep it simple, put your money where your mouth is, and let the focus be on the music.
Tell us about Chicago, where Oktave has begun to throw parties over the past year. How is Chicago's nightlife different from New York? Do you take a different approach to programming your events for each city?
I think there are probably less venues in Chicago to do the kind of shows that Oktave does, and I also think the tastes are different. In Chicago, you have a more retro-leaning audience that is looking to hear sounds reminiscent of the ones they grew up on. In New York, it's just a broader palette and there's so much going on that there's room for everything. While the audience for the Oktave sound is probably smaller in Chicago, there is no question in my mind that it exists, and that it can grow in time.
After two years of parties, is there one night (or one set) that stands out as particularly memorable?
More than anything, it has been a fantastic personal experience to share the DJ booth with artists whose talent I respect so much—Silent Servant, Cio D'or, Lucy, Donato Dozzy, Function, Peter Van Hoesen, Perc, DVS1, Pär Grindvik, Claro Intelecto... the list goes on and on. There isn't a single show I look back on and say 'I wish we hadn't done it.'
Next weekend's birthday bash features Glasgow's Edit-Select along with Raíz, from Los Angeles. Tell us how these artists fit in with your booking policy.
There's no real booking policy, per se. It's more about giving the artists we respect as much exposure as possible. Edit-Select is a brilliant producer who, in my opinion, flies too low under the radar—especially stateside. My intention is to expose the New York audience to his talent. As far as Raíz is concerned, I have so much respect for the Droid Behavior brand and the things they are doing with technology—from a production, performance and promotion perspective. What some people don't know is that Raíz (Vidal and Vangelis Vargas) are a big part of the engine behind that project. This is our second time bringing Raíz to NYC, and then we're bringing the whole Droid collective to Chicago in November.
What does the future hold for you and for Oktave?
I am currently working on two production projects I'm very excited about. I haven't put out an EP since Exit Sound
in March on Perc Trax, so I'm anxious to finish the new material. Of course I'm hopeful that I will find the best possible release channel for them. As far as Oktave is concerned, after the anniversary show and the November Droid showcase in Chicago
, we have shows in New York in both December and January that look to be coming together nicely.
Lastly, I would very much like to start my own label. With a label, I'd like to do what Oktave does but on a release and production level. At the same time, it would allow me to be less reliant on others when it comes to putting out my own material. Curation has always been a passion of mine, along with production, so I can see this becoming a priority for me in the next year. Stay tuned.