Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Hoj. Let’s start with your friendship with Lee Burridge who co-founded Tale + Tone. Can you describe the process of how you work together in terms of running the label, choosing tracks for release, deciding upon artwork etc?
When Lee and I were getting All Day I Dream up and running, we talked a lot about the music and the concept. We would walk around New York for hours talking about what it would sound like, what it would look like, and what it would feel like. We did the same with Tale and Tone. The time spent up-front is such integral part of our collaborations. As the years progress, it’s easy to find ourselves on the same page because we took the time to write the page together in the beginning.
I have a background in the visual arts – so I conceptualized and created the artwork for Tale and Tone as well as All Day I Dream.
As far as the process of music selection – we receive a significant amount of demos from all over the world. As we listen, we just ask ourselves – “Is this something we would play in a B2B set with each other”. If I hear something that feels good, I send it to Lee and vice versa. If we both like it, we reach out to the artist and start the process. This process works for us because as we evolve as DJs and artists, so does the music released by Tale and Tone.
Our amazing label manager, Philip Soeffker, is the magic maker when it comes to getting the music out into the world.
Listening to your label Showcase mix its rich, emotional depth is very apparent. What for you makes a great piece of music?
A great piece of music has to make me feel something. I rely on my instincts. If I’m listening to a song and find myself getting lost in it, that’s a great piece of music. If a track makes me feel emotional, or I find the hairs standing up on my arms – that’s a great piece of music.
For it to be a great house music track, it needs to make me feel something AND have a kick-ass groove. The groove is the foundation of the track upon which everything else is built – a collection of drums and bass and other sounds that come together in a way that makes people want to dance. Creating a good groove is one of the hardest things to do in the studio. But you know how they say the Earth is 70% water? Well in house music, I’d say 70% of the song is the groove. And like water, the groove makes life possible for everything else in the song.
What are your feelings on the strength of song writing today, and what can be said more powerfully through music without the use of words?
I feel that song writing is a truly personal pursuit. I want to hear the music written when the artist wasn’t thinking about the audience – what they wrote when they weren’t thinking at all. I used to think that I wasted a lot of time in the studio, but now I think what I’m actually doing is trying to get my brain out of the way so that I can write a piece of music that makes me feel something.
I think that’s the beauty of music without words as well – without the words to think about, you’re more open to feeling something.
What are your thoughts on what will happen to club culture as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? Do you think the ways in which DJ’s/ Producers make a living will alter?
I think this question is top of mind for everybody in the nightlife industry today. Brick and Mortar clubs are having trouble surviving, as are many bars, restaurants, and the like.
Once we’re through it, I think outdoor events will continue to flourish, which is great because I love playing to crowds in open-air environments.
I’m also hopeful that as we start to make our way out of this pandemic together, we will see a resurgence of local dance music scenes. The local San Francisco scene was such a huge part of my life. We bounced around to 2 or 3 events in a single night, supporting all the local promoters, artists and venues. We had our own sound and our own style, and it felt like we knew everyone. We were part of a real local community. Of course we would catch the occasional international headliner, but mostly we were dancing to the locals. As a local DJ – you would play multiple events in the same night in the same city … every weekend. This doesn’t happen much anymore with rigorous exclusivity contracts for all artists. Also, if you did play out-of-town, the city you were from was always included along with your affiliations. There was pride in that – I was an “SF DJ” – which meant that I was a part of that local scene.
The most brilliant thing was that there was a different scene with a different sound happening in every city. I feel like this is how dance music was born. I’m hopeful we will get back to that world of local club culture … back to our roots where we all support our local clubs, our local promoters, our local artists and each other.
Your next single for Take + Tone: You Are A Wonder is due out in August. Does the title refer to someone in particular, or is it a universal statement?
You Are A Wonder is a collection of songs I wrote and produced during the COVID pandemic. My summer tour and all the DJ gigs went away, and as everybody went into lock-down, I dove into the home studio. I started posting little “studio sessions” on my Instagram account @hyojmusic to invite people into my space and share what I was working on. The positivity and support people were sending my way kept me going to finish the music while trying to navigate existence in lockdown.
The outpouring from the dance music community made it more apparent than ever how much I miss and am inspired by these people. Each one of these humans is a wonder. So the EP is dedicated to them.
buy You Are A Wonder https://www.beatport.com/release/you-are-a-wonder-ep/3055371
Can you talk us through how you produced one of the tracks for the EP? Are there certain software/ hardware you always like to use?
I can talk you through Sweet Verse. This song started with a record that I found touting “Pre-revolution Iranian psychedelic rock” (I should mention I’m Iranian but came to America when I was 3). I put the record on and one of the songs (called Gold Yakh) just completely struck me. I called my mom to tell her about it – turns out it was her favorite song growing up, and when I was a kid she would dance around the house singing a verse it.
She started singing the verse into the phone – I recorded it, and took it into the studio. From there I was off to the races. Then I picked up my Telecaster and laid down a simple chord progression. From there I started to build my groove in Ableton LIVE. For the groove I recorded a shaker loop and a bongo loop live to give it an organic feel. Then I went to my trusty Minimoog for the baseline.
Once I had the groove grooving, I got going on the leads and hooks using my Juno 106, VST synths (Omnisphere is a favorite currently), and processing things through my outboard effects. Then into arrangement … and there ya go.
What is your favourite instrument? Do you own one?
My Fender Telecaster guitar is the go-to.
Outside of electronic music who would you say inspires you most (in terms of writers, poets, painters etc)?
Stanley Kubrick for being a master of his craft, a true visionary, and a cross-genre auteur.
Which speakers are your preferred choice for listening to music on?
And finally. What are your plans for moving into 2021 and beyond?
It’s so tough to plan these days! I’m just hopeful we will be able to start dancing together again soon.