Today for the 43rd mix in our guest mix series we have LA based edit maestro ‘Luxxury’ weighing in with a slow edits mixtape to soundtrack your sunsets until the summer winds down. There’s a very familiar feeling to this mix indeed as Luxxury puts his laid back touch on artists like ‘The Doors’, ‘Paul Simon’, ‘Tears For Fears’, ‘Dolly Parton’and the list just goes on. It’s a really interesting to hear his approach to revitalising something you already know so well and we think he manages to put his own voice in there.
A mixtape with an hour’s worth of just-slightly-north of 100bpm edits, designed for a sly 3am skinny dip in the rooftop pool at the hotel. Take off your clothes and those of a close friend, lover, or admirer; put on those white bathrobes (which are NOT free for you take home with you, btw); and try and contain your giddy giggles as you take the elevator to the top floor. Do what you need to do to convince the poolside bartender to let you slip this mix on the soundsystem as he leaves you to enjoy a slow, delicious moonlight swim.
Tracklist is below the interview
Can you tell us a little bit about the chronology of your career as a music producer?
I started playing drums in high school, picked up some bass and guitar in college, and sat in my apartment in New York for 4 years with a 4 track tape recorder trying and failing to write songs with it. Then someone hipped me to Pro Tools and I never looked back. Made my first album “Rock and Roll is Evil” by myself in 2006 which got me signed to a publishing deal. I moved to LA to pursue that, wrote a hundred songs for other artists and ultimately put out my next record “The Last Seduction” on Manimal Vinyl (Bat for Lashes, Warpaint). Then I got into Ableton Live and just fell so deeply in love that my whole style and methodology changed. Whereas previously I’d say I was mainly a songwriter who made electronic sounding pop songs, now I’d say I’m a dance music producer deeply influenced by classic songwriting arrangement and other techniques.
At this point I was already moving away from synthpop and into a more classic disco sound. A friend of mine showed me some multitrack stems of classic songs he’d discovered and I decided to try using them to remix a Fleetwood Mac song. But rather than make it sound modern and EDM-y (and therefore, by definition, destined to be dated sounded in 10 months), I wanted it to feel as if it had been made and released at the time the original song came out in the mid-70’s. I sent my version of “Rhiannon” to the Fleetmac Wood folks in London for their compilation, and to a blog called AOR Disco. Both of them responded favorably and used my remix, which encouraged me to continue. I decided to call these “edits” because “remix” has come to mean “completely new music with the vocal from the old song”, whereas “edit” means “making a few changes to a classic tune to make it more DJ-able”, which I think better honors the original work.
So I sent a few of my nearly-finished mixes to Greg Wilson and was floored when he wrote an entire piece about my “Hotel California” edit on his widely read blog. That exposure led to a lot of interest in my work and soon I was getting offers to DJ all over the world, interview requests from major international newspapers, not to mention a manager and booking agent. This is just over the past year, so its been pretty exciting.
How have you found the transition from band to solo producer?
It’s actually not that different, production wise. Even when I had a “band” I was the sole songwriter, producer, lyricist, engineer, you name it. The biggest difference is in performance. When you’re playing live music you and your bandmates rehearse in a crappy space downtown, which costs money and you tend to share with an awful metal band who borrow your PA without asking and steal your cables. Then on gig night you pack up the drums and amps, load out the gear and drive to the venue, load it in, sound check, push everything to the side of the stage til it’s your time to play. After you perform you take it all off the stage, lug it back to the car, drive back to the space and bring it all back inside, and finally you split the $50 or $100 you got paid between all the band members. Compared to that, showing up with a laptop, playing some songs and leaving with 100% of the money is cake! That said I miss many things about live performance: having a live drummer, the musical communication between people onstage, the camaraderie of travelling with your group etc. I’ve been writing new original material with a collaborator named Billy Caruso who is a talented keyboardist and I’m very much looking forward to playing these new songs with a live band next year.
You only perform a ‘live remix’ set, what does this mean and how do you think it sets your show apart from the majority?
When my Luxxury Edit series started to blow up last April I was asked to play in SF opening for The Scumfrog. It was at a pretty high profile venue called Public Works where some of my heroes like DJ Harvey, Todd Terje play when they come to town, and the crowd was going to be 10x bigger than anything I’d ever done. So I wasn’t sure that just showing up and pressing play on my laptop was going to be good enough. I remembered a show I saw by The Twelves where they chopped up songs and performed along with them, and that was my epiphany. I decided to see if I could incorporate elements of live music performance to DJing, so I took my remixes and a bunch of other tunes I wanted to play, chopped everything into loops and bits of other tracks and just made this huge, infinitely remixable Ableton Live set out of it.
If I can get geeky for a minute, I use a MIDI controller called the Akai APC40 Mk2 to play my set. It has 40 buttons that correspond to clips in Ableton, 16 knobs and 8 sliders, all of which I’ve custom programmed so when I’m playing I’m literally working nonstop pushing buttons and twisting knobs. It makes it seriously fun and unpredictable as I literally never know what I’m going to do next, not just as far as what song to play but within the song if I’m going to, say, add the kick drum back or filtersweep the guitars out of the mix or loop a vocal snippet and tweak it out into a psych disco reverb meltdown. That element of performance makes it so no two shows are the same and no two songs are ever the same. It feels a little dangerous as I can and often do make mistakes, so then the trick becomes making that mistake make sense in retrospect. I have been trapped within a loop with no obvious way out many times! But somehow I manage to find the next thing to play.
My mom calls it – cringe inducingly but not wholly inaccurately “Jazz DJing.” Which is just so horribly awful sounding but its not 100% wrong either. Yay mom!
To be clear I also have a handful of finished productions I play which are maybe 30% of my live set, and act both as “crowd pleasers” as people will often request the version of, say, “Sound of Silence” that I already put out, and frankly also as a respite since I need to take a break from the nonstop action on the Akai every now and again. But either way 100% of what you hear is my reworking the material: either something I made before in my productions or something I’m doing right there live, on the fly, never to be repeated again exactly the same way.
Who are your musical idols, both alive and dead?
Tough one! Long list. David Bowie essentially invented the idea of the constantly re-invented pop star. His mix of genius songwriting, keen style and aesthetics, dry wit and longevity make him the all time king for me. ELO’s Jeff Lynne is in my top five for his brilliant songwriting and huge, distinctive production style – especially his drums. I also like how Lynne’s like the Anti-Bowie, fashion-wise: same beard, sunglasses and hair for forty years! James Murphy is my role model for dance music, as he balances being a musician, lyricist, producer and DJ – all with, like Bowie, a great sense of humor. I love that he is equal parts songwriter, producer, and ass-shaker. More recently Todd Terje keeps coming up for me as I am trying to similarly go from “dude who makes awesome edits” to “dude who makes awesome original music.” And the Chic Organization is up there too, undeniably: from “I Want Your Love” to Sister Sledge, Diana Ross etc, everything Nile, Bernard (R.I.P) and Tony put their fingerprints on as producers and performers is just so endlessly pleasurable and listenable, forever.
You are doing your first European Tour in September, as an american what excites you most about visiting europe & how do you feel the ‘scene’ differs in the USA and Europe?
I’ve gotten such a great response online from Europe, the UK especially. People seem to “get” what I am doing in Europe, which they do in the US as well but here it seems more like a smaller subset of the EDM-soaked masses. I don’t know maybe it’s just because I’m a lifelong Anglophile (having grown up reading the NME and The Face and watching The Young Ones and Python, among others) but it does seem like people are more sophisticated about music on the whole in the UK especially. My edit series and DJ set is about finding the unfamiliar within the familiar, and that by definition requires some previous exposure to and understanding of the material. Not necessarily all of it but enough to crack a smile suddenly recognizing an isolated drum part that turns out to be from Stevie Wonder, or Jim Morrison turned into a vocoder. Some shows in the US I’ve played I can tell that there are people who have literally never heard, say, Blondie before, and therefore it is totally lost on them that I’m playing a version of “Rapture” that is unlike the version that other people have heard 1000 times before. Those are the sort of people that come up to you when you’re DJing and say “Got any Pitbull?” or
“Hey why don’t you play something I can dance to?” I dunno, maybe you’ve got people like that there too. Guess I’ll find out soon enough…
What’s next for Luxxury?
Original music! I’ve been working on my next album and the first singles are ready to go. My music has taken a massive amount of influence from the Luxxury edits series: I’ve ditched the synths and Moroder-y stuff from my earlier records and now it’s all 1979-style Rhodes piano, funky bass, vintage sounding beats and dreamy floaty vocals: Bee Gees meets Todd Terje. I couldn’t be more excited to put it out and start playing the music live. The first single is coming in a couple of months with remixes by Greg Wilson and a few more heavy hitters I can’t quite announce yet, but with any luck you’ll be hearing about it here when it does!
0:01 Riders on the Storm (LUXXURY live edit) – The Doors
7:39 Summer Came My Way (LUXXURY club mix) – Greg Wilson ft. the Reynolds
11:46 Like an Eagle (LUXXURY live edit) – Dennis Parker
15:08 Diamonds (Todd Terje Tangoterje Dub Remix) – Paul Simon
22:06 Only Happy When it Rains (Virgin Magnetic Material rework) – Garbage
26:35 Shout (LUXXURY live edit) – Tears for Fears
29:46 Small Town Lover (LUXXURY lite edit) – Cheri
32:59 When I Think of You (GDFN Edit + Luxxury extras) – Janet Jackson
37:18 No P’s (Dr. Dunks) – Dolly Parton
41:42 Whole Lotta Love (LUXXURY live edit) – Led Zeppelin
46:13 Money for Nothing (LUXXURY live edit) – Dire Straits
49:41 Money (LUXXURY live edit) – Rosebud
52:14 Do it Again (LUXXURY live freakout dub edit) – Steely Dan
58:07 Don’t Stop The Dance (Eric “Dunks” Duncan Remix) – Bryan Ferry