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DJ interview

 D:FUSE & HIRATZKA

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intro by Kris Upjohn & interview by Jennifer Warner

Releasing on their own label, D:Fuse and Mike Hiratzka have jointed forces, and with their first release, offer a CD of music that dips into both the chillout and house music pools, but with a subtle but significant difference. They've crafted electronica-based songs that still move with the flow and feel of dancehall culture's music, entwined in pieces of more traditional songwriting structure. Described as a "song-based electronic album," "Skyline Lounge" is indeed something of the sort. It's both traditional (in a modern electronica context) and distinct. The songs flow smoothly from chilled grooves to sublime house elements with male and female vocals (DJ Rap and Delerium vocalist Kristy Thirsk, among others) both making appearances.

To find out more, we talked to D:Fuse and Mike Hiratzka via email for this exclusive interview! (

When & where was the first time you heard Hiratzka and do you remember what you thought?

D - I first played a remix he had done back in 2001 - Medway and Pete Gawtry "La Fin Du Monde" (Mike Hiratzka Mix). I was very impressed with the production and surprised to hear he was from the U.S. Most stateside production was not up to that level at the time.

Mike – I knew who D was, his manager had been sending me his playlists from his radio show, and I knew he had been playing my stuff.

Who was your musical cupid (how did you two meet)?

D - I attended a BT album launch party when Brian was doing the "Mr. Rourk Fantasy Island" white suit look-alike thing. Mike happened to be opening that night. He handed me a CD of some of his new production and I soon played and charted every single track.

Mike – I didn't know D was going to be at BT's album launch, I just happened to run into him in the parking lot after I got done DJing.

What was it about him and/or his music that made you think you'd like to work together?

D - Mike was one of the few producers that went beyond writing disposable dance "tracks" that you hear so often. His productions were complete songs. Each one was a complete story, a cohesive journey. He also had a good ear for lyrics which I'm a real stickler for. Like me he also had an ability to write different styles- from house to progressive and even downtempo and chill and that was cool to see.

Mike – We have similar tastes in music, and we have a lot of fun hanging out. After doing our first remix together (My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – "Days of Swine and Roses") we knew we had good chemistry in the studio, and since then we have only gotten better at collaborating and trying to make music that means something both to us and the listener.

This isn't the first time you've worked on a collaborative project that involves a lot of live instrumentation, what was it about this one that allowed it to advance all the way to an album?

D - Mike and I had completed my live-band DJ album concept (People_3 live in San Francisco) and I was touring supporting the release. I called him out of the blue and said- "the world needs least right now is just another house track" I told him I thought a lot of dance music was getting mundane and I was sensing some unrest in the clubs. I pitched him the idea of forming a band of sorts and getting back to old-fashioned lyric/song writing and incorporating different musical styles and he agreed. I made plans to move to L.A. soon after.

Mike – After doing the live show thing for a while, and seeing how it really worked and got the crowd into things, we decided that keeping that live aspect involved was really important to us and would be a defining element in the future of our music. It's an excellent way for us to really add something personal and organic to our music.

On your album Skyline Lounge, why did you choose to work with vocalists on most of the tracks?

D - Mike and I believe vocals really flesh out a track and make it more human. It allows a closer connection with the listener. Mike was doing a side project with vocalist Kristy Thirsk. I was familiar with her great work with Delirium and Mike brought her on board to do a song with us. We generally write all of the lyrics ourselves but she heard our track, wrote her own lyrics, and sent the vocal from her studio in Vancouver. When Mike and I heard the vocal to "Overkill" we were floored.

DJ Rap and I became friends shortly after my move to L.A. and one night we talked about our favorite ballads and Frankie Goes to Hollywood "The Power of Love" came up. Mike and I brought her in the studio the next week and she did a killer job on the vocals. She really has an angelic voice.

I met Ceci Castelblanco in San Francisco and heard her sing accapella at a party and when we wrote the lyrics to "Perfection" I knew her style would fit well with the vibe.

I've worked with MC Flint quite a bit- we ended up having him do some freeform rhyming in the studio and then we chopped it up to make the hook on "Love it, Live it." We generally write a song and determine what's best for the song overall- whether that be Mike or I doing the vocals, or finding a different singer or instrumentalist.

Mike - We had initially planned on doing most of the vocals ourselves, but as the project developed the tunes where we featured other vocalists just seemed to fall into place.

Did you all actually get together in one studio, or was a lot of the recording done long distance?

D - We generally produce almost everything at Mike's studio in L.A. I would drag my drums there and do a lot of live takes there in his living room. Mike would always have a guitar or bass handy to be able to throw those into tracks as well. Kristy Thirsk sent her initial vocals from her Vancouver studio then did some overdub work with us here. Govinda sent his violin parts from his studio in Austin. Other than that everything was done at the L.A. studio.

Mike – D had already moved out to LA before we began recording the album, so thankfully we didn't have to do anything long distance. The most difficult thing was trying to balance our schedules, since both of us travel a lot and DJ on the weekends. Having Kristy and Govinda be able to do their things at their own places and send them to us was great, the power of the internet really helped us out with those tunes.

Speaking of virtual, you are releasing this album on your new all-digital label. What made you decide to go that route, now?

D - The death of CD's is right around the corner. No one will be buying them in a year or two (if not sooner). Even my mom is downloading music! The technology is ramping up and it's becoming easier and easier. Revenue streams for label sales are much easier to track. The cost of putting out a release digitally makes a lot more sense for us in a lot of ways.

Mike – We both have had some bad experiences dealing with other labels, and felt that it would be great to be fully in control of our projects in the future. Having our own label to release our album just made sense.

How do you possibly find the time to record, tour AND run a label? Is there a man/woman (or several) behind the curtain doing at least part of the work??

D - We're distributed through Ingrooves and they also market and promote our releases (and do a great job). We also outsourced the bulk of the publicity campaign to Rephlektor Ink in New York who have a solid reputation. Other than that it's just Mike and I. We do our own graphic design, most of our own marketing and promotion. It's a ton of work but it's extremely satisfying to know that it's being done right. We put our hearts into it. I wouldn't do the label with anyone other than Mike. We are both very hard workers who believe in what we do and do what we say. That's a bit rare in this business. When I released my artist album "Begin" the label fell asleep on just about everything they promised and I watched 3 years of hard work limp out into the music poorly promoted. I promised myself I would never let it happen again. Skyline Lounge has already been a huge success for us and we're both proud of that.

Mike – Sure, there's lots of things we'd rather do than handle paperwork for our distributor, doing graphic design and handling mail outs to DJs, but for us, having control of our future, and our music, is worth the work. Plus, the response we've been getting from people about the music is such huge reward for us; it's great to know that the work we do means something special to our listeners.

What does this or will this look like when you perform it live? Who will be there performing/doing what?

D - We shot a live video recently in Los Angeles at Red to a capacity crowd. Director David Presley agreed to take on the project and he's featuring the song in his new movie "Ninja Cheerleaders" www.ninjacheerleaders.com and it's on the soundtrack. David and his editor V did a great job on the video and it really shows where we're heading with our live show. Mike is on guitar, keyboard and vocals, I'm on drums and vocals, and we feature Jason Blum from Deepsky on keyboards. It's the first time we've worked with Jason and he rocked it! We'll have the video up on our myspace pages soon and at www.lostangelesrecordings.com

Mike – Yeah, what he said.

When you perform, is it at a club where there is a DJ and then a "live" act for an hour (that would be you) and then back to DJ?

D - Basically yes, and we'll also be featuring the show at straight-up live music venues.

Mike – We've been playing mostly at clubs that we would otherwise DJ at, and adding the live show as the extra highlight of the night. As the project progresses, we hope to take it to the full-band experience and play at more concert-oriented venues as well. Pretty much wherever they will let Mike and his super queen sidekick D-Faggle play...

D, is it true you MOVED to LA? What brought you out here? (You cannot tell me the sunshine. Ok you can tell me that but you were living in Texas right??)

D - I moved to L.A. to further immerse myself in one of the best electronic communities in the world. L.A. is really a mecca of great studios and producers. Mike and I also have a good friendship and working relationship. Before I was flying back and forth to Austin with limited studio time and now Mike and I can spend weeks on a track if need be.

Mike – LA rocks, and it has one of the best electronic music scenes in the US. It's nice that we can work together without the time-constraints that we used to have.

What are you loving and hating about being out here?

D - I have a place near the beach. I really love L.A. and all of the great outdoor stuff California has to offer. I mountain bike and jog a lot and just learned to surf. The weather is amazing.
But... the traffic sucks to high heaven and I avoid it as much as possible. I used to go out with someone in the Valley and you couldn't pay me to take up the 405 commute ever again. Forget it. Luckily I work out of my home most days and I'm just a cab away from LAX.

Mike – The scene is great, the weather is nice most of the time, and there's just a great vibe to the people out here.

What is up for you next?

D - I was thinking about making a stiff cocktail…

Mike – We're focusing on releasing the next couple of singles from our album, then we'll probably get to work on the next full-length project.

Anything else you'd like to say?

D - Like I've said in previous interviews. Grab a copy of Skyline Lounge, light some candles, and have some sex. The album has a sensual feel and we like the idea of people getting "funky" with it. Forget about all the crap going on with the world and connect with someone. Oh yeah…BRING THE TROOPS HOME. NOW! Is it 2008 yet? Thanks again!! :)

Mike – Thank you to everyone who has picked up the album and taken the time to send us an email or leave a comment on Myspace. It means a lot to us that our music is being listened to and appreciated. You rock!

We think you two rock!! Thank you!

See tour dates and more at :
www.djdfuse.com
www.mikehiratzka.com
www.lostangelesrecordings.com
www.myspace.com/dfuse 
www.myspace.com/djmikehiratzka
 

 

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