As was already established in our mix and Q&A with Eprom a few months back, there’s something about the current generation of US West Coast based electronic and dance music producers and their blend of sound system and IDM aesthetics, hip hop and European dance music influences. Among the artists operating in this sphere, one of the most interesting is Salva – a producer whose background includes turntablism and hip hop, Miami Bass and Chicago house and whose extensive resume gives his music the kind of appeal that only comes with experience.
After half a decade on the West Coast – San Francisco, and now Los Angeles – the Chicago-born producer made his first solid worldwide impact in early 2011 with his debut album for the Friends of Friends label, “Complex Housing”. Painting an interesting story of influences, the album made one thing clear – Salva knows how to make you move. He knows how to do it well and how to make it sound incredibly crisp and shiny in the process, without losing any of the soul required to make it echo with its audience beyond just moving feet. His solo work is only part of the story however. While in San Francisco he also set up the Frite Nite collective, a group of likeminded producers that isn’t dissimilar in its approach and operation to the likes of LuckyMe, with whom they share complicity and a degree of kinship in both where they come from and where they want to go. Currently counting the likes of B. Bravo (solo and alongside Teeko as Starship Connection), NastyNasty, Eprom, Epcot, Comma and Salva himself among its members, Frite Nite is perhaps one of the most slept on electronic music collectives outside of the US, though its individual artists are perhaps best known in Europe for their own solo careers rather than their collective affiliation.
Having been quietly putting out music via the Frite Nite name since 2009 and organising some of San Francisco’s more legendary parties, the collective is gearing up to some notable releases this year - with B. Bravo and Teeko’s Starship Connection due to drop this summer. It has already whetted appetites with digital releases from Salva and Grenier (formerly DJ G) and most recently Dark Ages (a collaboration between Star Eyes from Trouble and Bass and 5kin from 5kinandbone5); with the latter’s EP one of the most striking dubstep flavoured releases in the first half of 2012, yet one that passed many people by.
As part of the alumni of the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy, Salva was invited to Sonar to showcase his dance-floor savvy sound, as part of the RBMA stage at this year’s Sonar by Day festival – perfect timing as he’d given us a mix for our ongoing series and we needed some words to go with it. So on the second day of Sonar, we grabbed some time away from the pounding heat to discuss the history and future of Frite Nite, his recent and unexpected commercial success, the fickleness of US audiences and other interesting things like scratching and chopped and screwed.
Salva will be on a short European tour in July – dates should be on his Facebook shortly.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did Frite Nite come into being?
I moved to SF in 2006, and the scene there was really unified I guess, really tight city, lots of people living in a small amount of space. So art and music is easily propagated there and I became friends with everybody. B. Bravo was one of the first guys I started working and collaborating with. I actually hired him at my day job as a temp and during the interview I asked him what music he liked and he said J Dilla, at which point I was like ‘ok I can work with you’. Shortly after I went to his studio and he had all these tracks on his hard drive and we started working on it. From there I started working with other cats. I’ve also been a part of smaller labels when I was younger and this was a time when more people were starting their own labels and so that’s how it really came into being. I got it off the ground and ran with it.
So it’s almost like you brought everybody together then?
Yeah, I’d credit myself with that and also with the parties.
What sort of parties?
Well the first party I did that year was an LA vs SF party. Low End was just starting to bubble hard at the time, so we invited people like D-Styles, Gaslamp and Nosaj Thing alongside Mike Boo, Eprom, Epcot and myself. It was a great party, that’s what I was into really. Moving to the West Coast and being exposed to everyone else’s work and motivation, that was the catalyst in a way.
What would you call Frite Nite? A collective?
Definitely. Since day one I have told everybody that I don’t have a bank roll, so let’s make this a vehicle to get everybody signed and doing things. I record for Friends of Friends for example. It’s unification, we’re all friends. Even though the styles differ so much, at the start we’re all people who vibe together. NastyNasty to B. Bravo for example – almost complete opposites - but when we all play together that’s kind of the beauty, because it’s not the same thing all night and it works.
"Some people started to
compare us to the purple
stuff but ultimately I
don’t think it sounded
like Joker or those guys,
it was us doing our own
take on the UK sound"
What would you say is the unifying link between everyone in Frite Nite?
Despite everybody’s sound being different, we all have an open mind to music. When I started hanging out with Bravo we were geekin’ out to what was happening with dubstep in the UK, the original sound. We didn’t make it but we would be going to parties that played the music and vibing to it. So this overall love of the different facets of electronic music is what unites us.
That reminds me: last time I saw you, we were talking about how the sounds born from London – from jungle to grime and dubstep – seemed to have an influence on the work you guys do, before you started working with each other even. And from this I got to thinking about this new West Coast sound that appropriates these influences and returns them via the music in a new, interesting way. I was talking to Eprom about this too. Do you see it as well – how you guys adapted those influences to your own backgrounds, to inform the music you made and still make?
Totally. During that time I was just telling you about, we were all making 140bpm music because that’s what we were influenced by. Bravo’s “Computer Love”, my track “Icey”. Some people started to compare us to the purple stuff that was coming out of Bristol, but ultimately I don’t think it sounded like Joker or those guys, it was us doing our own take on the UK sound. That UK sound, from the early 2000 onward definitely had a huge influence on all of us in terms of the music we make.
How do you try and re-appropriate these influences from the last 10, 20 years? How do you bring it into the music?
I think of the overall idea behind it. I get inspired by these micro movements you know? For instance people like Disclosure in London or Jacques Greene in Montreal; they’re taking Chicago from the mid-90s and reintroducing that. Or what Jackmaster has done with Numbers. Seeing these movements, hearing these sounds, the records they’re putting out. It’s the same thing to me; they’re re-appropriating American sounds from 20 years ago. Hearing young artists do this stuff over is really inspiring to me. They’re doing it in a different way and a lot of times that’s where I really get most inspired. What Om Unit has done with Kromestar is another example. I’m like ‘oh shit, they made jungle accessible again’ and it’s inspiring. And at the same time you hear a lot of clones of their style.
You were saying last time we spoke that the music you make and play, the music within Frite Nite, was quite popular at the time in the US, is that still the case?
Definitely. The faster tempo stuff has died down a bit expect for certain artists and tracks. I’d expect that when Om Unit comes out to the US that it would work for example. When Machinedrum does it, people go crazy. I’m hearing it less and less this year but last summer, the faster stuff, all that 160bpm stuff, was huge.
is into the trap
thing, 130, 140
in the club.
It’s big time
in the US"
Is it slowing down again?
Well… the U.S is trendy as fuck ultimately. Probably more so than anywhere else. So right now it’s trap rap or nothing. Everyone is on that tip. Which is funny to me because it is a home-grown sound, it’s the Southern rap music sound and it’s undoubtedly our biggest export in terms of electronic music genres, you know? Hip hop music of that variety has been a worldwide phenomenon. So it’s funny to me that everybody characterises it as trap because it’s nothing new by any means. It’s like future bass, post dubstep and all this shit. It’s always been about re-appropriating existing movements, and it’s never been revolutionary as such, more like a slight tweak here and there. You do have revolutionary movements that come from things like this though, like with dubstep. It did start as a re-appropriation of 2step and other styles, and it was a pretty big leap compared to others. So yeah, long story short, everyone now is into the trap thing, 130, 140bpm bangers in the club. It’s big time in the US.
It’s like all of a sudden Dirty South club bangers are trendy again…
Some of it is stupid and no doubt there’ll be a media backlash in six months and everyone will be sick of it. But I’m waiting for someone to call us out and say we’ve jumped on the bandwagon so I can give them a Lazer Sword mixtape or an Eprom mixtape from six or eight years ago and be like ‘fuck you’ [laughs].
Release wise, with Frite Nite you’re doing a mix of physical and digital releases for the rest of the year right?
We did one 12” for the compilation last year, and we’re about to do another one for B. Bravo and Teeko’s Starship Connection project in the summer. And then we’re supplementing this with digital only releases. It’s tough to put out a physical product on your own like this, it’s a lot of work, time and money. My main focus right now is the label work, Comma helps out too so I wanted to have a system where content could continue to go through the label while we prepare other things and do it all without too much stress. So that’s where the digi releases idea came in. They’re easy and it keeps people interested and the fans happy.
The first one of these digital only releases was yourself and DJ G, who now goes by Grenier. Then we had Dark Ages and the next is one Comma?
Yeah, Dark Ages’ EP just came out, then it’s Comma with “Tweggionaire”. And then we have my OGs from Miami, when I lived there, who put me onto the Miami bass sound – they’re called Hydraulix. It’ll be a proper Miami bass thing, the real deal. Then we’ve also got Clicks and Whistles out of Charlotte, they’ve done a release reminiscent of what Om Unit and Machinedrum have been doing, really deep and dark vibe.
Dark Ages was a big surprise for me. It really blew my mind the way they managed to synthesise that classic dark, techy drum‘n’bass sound, but with the bass pressure and swing of 140 riddims.
I don’t think a lot of people got it unfortunately. But it’s cool, heads know [laughs].
Do you think there’s a value to letting things like this bubble to the top naturally, rather than trying to shove it down people’s throats; I’m exaggerating a little there of course…
I think so, definitely. The more I’ve been acclimated to the industry in the past few years, the bigger steps I take, the more contempt I have for the hype machine.
It’s a weird one isn’t it? This whole thing about hype and cycles…
It’s like on one side you need it, but you can also function without it. I’ve been trying to do what we do as honestly as we can, which to me means leveraging all the homies that we know. We know a lot of DJs so we do it directly with people we know, who we think will like it and go from there.
That’s another interesting thing about Frite Nite to me, you all have established careers.
I see the same thing with LuckyMe, they’re just friends. There is no big bank roll. I tried for a moment to get real serious with the business and it felt like overkill ultimately. At the end of the day, the releases we’re putting out I wouldn’t consider to be for the general public as such. The digi singles are DJ tracks, so I realised that we didn’t need to shove the music – like say Dark Ages’ EP – down everybody’s throat, when they’re not going to even understand the concept behind it.
It’s more a case of putting out music for people, the general public as you said, to hear in a live setting, in a club. The people who you push the music to are those who can get it heard in its ideal context. No one’s really going to buy this and go home and listen to it on their stereo.
Yeah, and when we do have a situation like that, where the music could be bought and listened to at home, that’s when I feel comfortable pressing a 12”. The compilation was a long player, it was a mix, it had all these different artists and so it made sense. And with Starship Connection it’s the same. These guys are really into the musicianship, into playing instruments, singing and so it makes sense to push that to people at large. They’ve really grown into that whole idea of what they’re doing as a modern version of the West Coast funk sound. When you see them live it’s incredible. Their keyboard player is a jazz pianist, Teeko is vetted, Bravo is a keyboard and sax player and their bass player also plays synth.
There’s a real jam feel to a lot of their music, you can tell they have fun putting it together.
And the crowds respond to that too. To see dance music crowds respond to stuff like this is incredible and so good to see.
"When I was
in high school
I didn’t play
in the band, I
12h a day and
it opened up
Well actually, talking of this has reminded me that Teeko is a bit of a scratch vet too. We were talking about this a while back too, this secret history of scratching and how it’s influenced a lot of what’s happening today in the dance and electronic/hip hop underground. If you think about the period from 00-05 when there was a strong movement of making music with turntables, it was a dead end musically but it did give a generation of artists an understanding of experimentation that is fundamental to what’s happening today. It showed them you could go beyond the rules, beyond normal understanding of compositions, of established electronic composition forms. Do you feel that, as an artist and someone who was also a part of that scene?
Time and again when this comes up in conversation, I could name a ton of people who come from that scene. Everyone that came from that, I see their music has being advanced and they were able to build a sound that’s unique and attributed to that. For all of us, that was our growing up instrument. When I was in high school I didn’t play an instrument in the band, I scratched for 12h a day and it opened up this creative spark inside of me. It allowed me to express myself musically and taught me about impromptu musicianship, it’s the closest link I have to something like that in terms of formal music. And then alongside the scratch thing there was also the chopped and screwed culture, remnants of which still exist in the American dance music scene I think. For me, a lot of the cats I came up with scratching had the Vestax tables with plus and minus 60 pitch, which was another big thing. I feel that a lot of Americans who tried to do dubstep, a lot of them were coming at it from the screwed perspective. They just wanted those slow beats; they didn’t understand where the music came from in terms of things like DMZ and sound system. They had no idea about any of that shit, but they were hearing those slow beats - which like you said sounded like scratch beats - and went from there.
So we were talking yesterday about this Kanye West “Mercy” remix which you just put up online. It’s kind of blown up a little bit hasn’t it?
Yeah, I mean we’re only a day in but I’ve got more hits on it then anything in my whole career. So I guess we can consider it a success by whatever quantifiable measure web hits are worth.
It’s funny to me that, as you said, you did it for fun and it blows up, yet you spend ten months slaving over a record and it doesn’t get the recognition or reach you’d hope it would.
I’m trying to make some sides as a professional artist, and I never want to compromise myself musically ever, even if I get a chance to work with a big name. I’ve played a lot of big stages in the last year, it’s my first time at a lot of these big festivals - my first time here at Sonar, also Mutek, a lot of the big festivals in North America - and it’s changed me a little bit. The reason this remix sounds like it does is because I’ve been playing for big crowds and I’ve been playing more big room music. My focus now is towards this I guess. And also, as we were saying yesterday, this type of music has made a huge comeback, to me at least, in the underground and even in the mainstream. The production has gotten crazier. That sort of music is part of my roots too, ultimately.
Do you think it’ll influence the next thing you do?
For sure. I just want to make big room records at this point. I want to keep it musical and melody driven, but with that frame of mind of being for a big room. I’m a big fan of Eprom’s new record and those tracks get played by everyone from Oneman to Gaslamp to you name it. And despite it being stripped down and weird, it’s big room shit and it works. You can get as weird as you want, as long as you keep it system friendly it’ll work. It’s all club music.
Once a member of the influential Anti-Social crew and now full-time Deep Medi artist, V.I.V.E.K. lives in a permanent st...
Living in the Reunion Island for almost a year, Jazzanova’s Alex Barck may seem to be living in Paradise. But he doesn’t...
The mysterious Arandel gives us “Neige”, his homage to Christmas with tons of traditional songs arranged in an electroni...
Johan Agebjörn of Sally Shapiro fame gives us a big dose of his passion for eighties synthetic disco and previews us an ...
Active for ten years in the depths of the underground, and now ‘discovered’ by Scratcha DVA for his brand new DVA Music ...
Sam XL, the British expat rooted in the LA bass underground, shows us the history and the sound of the huge Pure Filth S...
Next week, the Scotish duo known as Clouds will drop his new smashing techno 12” for the Turbo label, called “Tannhauser...
Enrique Mena, alias Svreca, is the man-label par excellence in Spanish techno. In charge of the exquisite Semántica Reco...