Exchange LA has served the people of Los Angeles a quality program that goes above and beyond the cookie cutter formulas operating inside many of the mega clubs all over the world over. It’s a risk that has paid off, and we have the good people walking through our doors every weekend–people who expect a quality music experience–to thank for that. This Saturday, we continue to bust the myths perpetuated by the nightclub business establishment by welcoming Art Department to the trading floor. These artists are the very antithesis of the cookie cutter, and we got a chance to talk to them ahead of their play at Exchange LA.
Welcome Back to LA! Exchange is happy to have you. First off, tell us about how two decorated underground house music power players decided on the name Art Department.
It’s just a name that was at the top of a list I keep of possible names for new projects or brands. I had actually been saving it for another label that I was going to start, releasing edits of old Italo-disco records that we love.
One of the ways you’ve made Art Department unique is to bring in a live vocal element to the performances. Has Kenny always had this talent, or was it something he had to learn for Art Department?
Kenny used to sing with his church when he was younger, but as far as I know, there was a big gap between those years and when he began to sing again on his own productions. He started to explore this on records like “Pressing On” in the late 90’s and then again on his solo album for No.19 another decade later. That’s when it began to translate into something really original and recognizable. I think and has been one of the core elements of Art Department’s sound.
How important was the guidance and support you received from Damian Lazarus when it came to the development of Art Department?
Damian has always been very supportive, and he did an amazing job as a friend and as a label head. He gave us the freedom to really shape the sound of Art Department into whatever we wanted it to be which, at the time, didn’t neccssarily mean massive success since the sound wasn’t something that was in the foreground of the industry. He did a great job presenting it to the world and letting people know who we are.
You’ve recorded some amazing sets at Burning Man, which has always been an incubator for experimenting with forward thinking sounds. Has that particular culture and shared passion for artistic experimentation successfully seeped into mainstream Mega Clubs, or do we have a ways to go?
Into “mega clubs”, in a way yes. The fact that they hire acts like Art Department to perform in those types of venues is a testament to that in and of itself. That being said, we don’t ever play anything we don’t love, but at the same time we are very carfull as we go about making the sound work for those crowds in what woud be considered mainstream venues. In other words, we’re not going to play the same set and take the same risks that we would at a Dc10 or Panorama Bar.
What, in your opinion, is the “art” of Djing?
Quite simple really. Creating an experience through track selection and programming. For us it means taking on the responsibility of finding new and old intersting and ground breaking music for people since they don’t have the time. It’s a responsibility to go beyond what radio and the commercial music industry does, which is feed the masses the necessary crap to fill pockets. The art is really in finding an acceptable and digestible way of doing it. Making the records work in the context of a set so that people are hopefully more open minded to new ideas.
What are some projects you’re working on and parties you’re playing that you’re excited about this year?
This year… it’s quite a long list really. After not really releasing a ton of music since our last LP, we’ve completed our second full length album due out towards the end of the year. The first single featuring Seth Troxler complete with Kenny Larkin and Fred P remixes will be out mid summer on No.19. We’re continuing on full force with the Social Experiment branded events after a great start to 2014 at BPM and WMC. Upcoming Social Experiments include shows at DEMF, Sonar, and at DC10 this summer. I’ve also just partnered in a brand new after hours Nightclub project in Toronto called CODA with the former owners of Footwork Bar, which is quite exciting for us and for my hometown… Lets leave it at that and save a few surprises
In seven words, and seven words only, what are your life philosophies?
Wow, I would love to see a few of the examples of this one. thats a loaded question… You live life once. Make it count.
If you were hired on in the art department of a high school or college and could develop any class to teach, what would it be and why?
Going on my previous answer… I guess it would be nice and valuable to have some type of educator or councilor teach you how to get to know yourself and what matters to you as an individual as early on in life as possible. I think one of the the greatest tragedies for most would be the fact that people don’t generally get to know themselves well enough to know what they want to do with themselves before they’re forced to make a decision about it. They follow a path which, more often than not, leads to a life spent doing something that they don’t love. In essence, they are wasting a lot of the time that they have here. Before you know it you’re thrown into real life with real responsibilities, and it can be quite difficult to make drastic changes and sacrifice income for happiness later on. A class focused on the kid as an individual would be great, rather than forcing the cookie cutter curriculum down everyone’s throat without giving kids an opportunity to stop and think: who am i?