There’s no wasted time. It’s all about the future.
Five years ago, André Obin’s electronic music was ignored in Boston. Not anymore.
It started in Europe. A Dutch producer named Nuno Dos Santos happened upon one of André’s first electronic compositions, “Angel Dust” (Moodgadget Records/Ghostly International) in 2010. Nuno wrote to André, saying he liked the track so much that he played it in his own mixes. He asked the Cambridge-based producer if he’d like to release more tracks on his and Patrice Bäumel’s new record label for the Amsterdam club Trouw, one of the top EDM clubs in the world. From this came Trouw’s second official release, André’s synth-scape, Soft Rain and its dance-centric remixes in March of 2011, plus bookings at top clubs from Ekko in Utrecht to Pand48 in Groningen to Crack Bellmer in Berlin. Here is Bäumel’s own remix, one of my favorites, like a heavy afternoon rain storm.
When Nuno heard the poignant, dark chase feel of André’s latest, “Night Owl,” the minimal techno track he’s been perfecting for years, he connected André with a producer named Malbetrieb, who helped run a techhouse label in Holland called Kolfgeist. These two huge European club and label owners joined another Dutch producer named Sigward to remix “Nightowl.” The collection of the original track and their remixes became Andre’s latest Nightowl EP, released July 23 and ready to hit the dance floors André designed it for—perfect timing for his first DJ set this Thursday at Make it New.
Still, until very recently, few American music journalists have written about André’s diverse electronic music, which caught the ears of so many renowned EDM producers in Europe years earlier.
As a long-time music-lover who loves both My Bloody Valentine and Boards of Canada, André has played guitar and sang in bands like Endless Wave for years and has just returned from touring through Holland and Germany this past May with synth-soaked, live electronic music, yet Brighton Music Hall is the first large venue in Boston to ask André to headline next week. The show is one not to be missed, complete with ridunkulous live visuals (Joe Turner/Ctrl Alt Design) and DJ sets by Michael V and Dark & Stormy between live performances by Avoxblue and Glass Teeth—the first date of his tour with Avoxblue down the Eastern seaboard.
André’s interview offers much insight into a huge debate that’s arisen as “EDM” has exploded into the mainstream in the US, though it’s been treasured in countries all over the world for decades. EDM fans argue that you can feel as much human emotion and romance from music made with laptops, synths, and drum machines—from mixing boards and DJ sets—as music made with guitars and drum sets on a stage, while so-called “rockists” say electronic music isn’t “real music.” But do they even know what they’re talking about? What is at the heart of music, anyway?
André’s been a part of both worlds. To him, only one thing’s for sure: He’ll take the stage or man the decks wherever there are people, “as long as they are open, aren’t closed-minded, and love music.”
I heard that you spent years perfecting your new track, “Night Owl.” What does perfection mean to you?
Perfection, to me, is getting a track to the point where it has a certain aura about it. I produce every track with the intention that it’s going to be around forever. Even though all of my tracks are in the realm of electronic music, each one is kind of its own world. Like the difference between “Lemon Drop” and “Night Owl” is huge.
How would you describe the difference?
“Lemon Drop” is more for at home listening or, kind of, head bobbing, whereas I made “Night Owl” to be DJed. It has no pop sensibility.
It’s a techno track. I built it specifically for the dance floor.
As someone who’s in a band (Endless Wave) but also makes his own electronic music, what would you say to someone who said electronic music wasn’t real music, or lacks humanity?
To grossly generalize that all electronic music lacks humanity? That’s just ignorance.
With the power of the hardware and software, I don’t think you really need organic instrumentation to get an emotion across at this point in time. Some of my newest tracks that are pop and not techno, they’re built straight in my laptop; the only organic element is my voice. But it doesn’t matter what you create on. You could have like rocks and sticks,
but if you’re putting in an emotion, and you’re getting that emotion across, job well done.
Where was the video filmed for “Night Owl”?
We went to a couple of abandoned sites in Somerville for the train sequence. I think Assembly Square is one of the only places left in the entire Boston area that’s kind of underdeveloped and industrial and barren.
One of my really close friends, Ricardo De Lima, directed that video for me. He filmed some of the recent stuff on Super 8. It’s super fucking cool I love that video, it’s surreal.
What’s the story behind the tank chase scene in the Valencia video?
I got chased by a tank going 40, 45 miles per hour for like twelve hours to get the shots right.
I needed to be in the frame, and we were moving fast—the ground was slippery at times and it was just scary, but it made the video seem real. [Laughs]
What’s the deal with these chase scene themes in your videos? Do you think that’s just what everyone’s getting out of the songs?
“Valencia” is kind of a dark track and really intense, so I can see why the director went with that motif, you know? But for the unofficial video for “Lemondrop,” this random guy from Slovakia made it out of nowhere.
I had a pro video done for free; that’s how crazy the Internet is.
I’m happy people get different things out of the music, visually. Because, to be honest with you, when I’m making music, I’m not seeing visuals at all. It’s just straight from my heart, you know?
Do you have a favorite type of music that’s closest to your heart?
I love electronic music and I love rock music, like children.
I’m very, very particular about what I listen to and what I take in. I have rock bands that I absolutely love, like My Bloody Valentine, if you were to even call them rock. They’re other-worldly. Just like Boards of Canada for electronic music. Again, other-worldly.
To me, they know no genre. I attach no genre to them because I love that music so much.
Does it like ever frustrate you that we’re behind Europe sometimes when it comes to electronic music?
It goes back to that like self-promotion thing. I really loathe having to do that, but I have no choice because I really have to put my stuff in front of people here, especially with the electronic music
It’s just, until very recently with the influx of EDM, and suddenly Clear Channel wants a piece of EDM,
until very recently, electronic music has always been shunned by the American media,
but I have no complaints.If anything, the lack of exposure has let me develop fully as an artist, so if I do really break it like, supernova huge, I’m ‘gonna be ready.
What’s your opinion of Rolling Stone‘s Top 30 Greatest EDM albums of all time?
I think it’s great that Rolling Stone is trying to capitalize financially on the new EDM craze sweeping America. The faster they chew it up, the faster they’ll spit it out. I don’t think the list is terrible; I was actually surprised that they got a lot of things right and gave proper love and respect to Detroit. But it’s still flawed.
First off, excellent full length dance or techno albums are few and far between. There’s a number of mix CDs on their top 30. You need to draw the line between a full length of originals and mixes. I could go on forever listing amazing EDM singles and EPs, later compiled for mix cds. EDM full lengths of originals are really tough to find.
Also, the inclusion of Skrillex and Deadmaus is a bit abhorrent to me.
Not because I don’t like their music (I don’t like their music for the record) but because not enough time has passed to put them on a best of ALL TIME list. The Justice cross (2007) record should be the most contemporary record on there. From my perspective, five years seems like a decent amount of time to pass before immortalizing a record.
Also, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if a more trusted source for electronic music produced this list. Resident Advisor comes to mind. With all of this said, I rather the Rolling Stone top 30 list exist than not because it sparks debate and calls attention to the genre.
Some of my top EDM records…
Underworld – Beaucoup Fish
Depeche Mode – Violator (does it not count because there are a few guitars on it?)
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
Kraftwerk – Computer World would have been #1, Trans Europe Express is ace too
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92 (and volume 2 if we go beyond “EDM”)
Ellen Allien – Berlinette
The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
Future Sound of London – Dead Cities
Burial – s/t
Booka Shade -- Movements
Tricky – Maxinquaye
Massive Attack – Blue Lines, Mezzanine
Roni Size – New Forms
Ricardo Villalobos – Alcachofa
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
So you’re DJing at Make It New.
I’ve been going to Make It New since it started seven years ago. The only reason I’ve never played there is because I never claim to be a DJ. I’m an artist, I’m a performer, that’s my forte.
Like Baltimoroder, that’s a DJ. Alan Manzi’s a DJ.
I’m not a DJ, I’m doing this because I love techno.
I know how to put together a DJ set once in a blue moon, but it takes shit tons of time, ridiculous amounts of time to put a set together for me. Whereas Erik, it’s second nature to him. He can do it on the fly. It’s not like that for me, I’m actually rehearsing it, I need to rehearse mixing, I need to replace all my mp3s with WAVs, I’m sure you understand.
And on August 25you’re performing live and kicking off your tour with Avoxblue?
The August 25th at BMH I’m straight up live performance. Both DJing and playing live take a lot of energy for me, they’re both super labor-intensive, I have to be super focused to get it done.
People say, “Oh DJing is so easy,” and I’m like, not for me! [Laughs]
I’m kind of honored to be asked to headline a venue of that size anywhere, and especially in Boston now. Five years ago, there’s no way I’d be headlining that venue because 1: Electronic music was still shunned and 2: People wouldn’t be willing to take a chance on me.
When BMH asked me to do that show, they let me carry the night from top to bottom. It’s a real honor for me to be like: “Oh Avoxblue, wanna play?” Having DJs in between acts and live visual artists for each different act.
It becomes almost like a mini festival in one night, and I fucking live for that shit. That’s why I’m so excited.
Do you have anything else to add?
I’ve had something on my mind: I’m realizing more and more as I get more “popular”: some people are inevitably going to hate on you more, which is fine; I have really thick skin. It’s just interesting to me because I’m a nice guy, but it doesn’t matter. People will start to hate on you because: 1: they don’t like your aesthetic, which is fine. You can’t please everybody; or 2: they’re jealous; or 3: they’re pricks, and that’s just the way the world is.
Recently, a lot of people that are much younger than me have been reaching out to me on Facebook or finding me on Soundcloud or whatever. They’ve been asking me these questions like: “How have you done this without getting your heart broken?” But man, if you’re going into it with the idea, “I want everybody to love me. I need to please everybody,” you’re going about it the wrong way, because you’re never going to please everybody.
Some people are inevitably going to hate you. You have to stay true to yourself and stay true to your own aesthetic, and just put it up and get it out there.
DJ SET AT MAKE IT NEW
315 MASS AVE.
ANDRÉ OBIN LIVE
WITH AVOXBLUE, GLASS TEETH
DJ SETS BY MICHAEL V, DARK & STORMY
BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL
158 BRIGHTON AVE.