Deepchild Blog Entry: USA Tour Reflections
It’s been almost two weeks since I arrived back in Berlin after my last whirlwind US tour, promoting my recent album Neukölln Burning with a series of live shows.
I’m finally finding my feet (and head!) enough to write a few words, processing the trip – from Hawaii, to Seattle, to Boston, then finally Chicago, in less than two weeks. Four ‘official’ live shows, two special unlisted ‘guest sets’, and a lot of time spent in hotel rooms in a state of half-stupor, napping, rendering loops and sampling local beers. After more than three years based in Berlin, I’ve spent at least as long a period touring the US and playing shows like the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, the now (sadly finished) legendary [KONTROL] party at The Endup, San Francisco, DECIBEL Festival in Seattle, Esthetic Evolution Festival in Idaho and so much more.
Whilst the US visa application and renewal process is its own complex ordeal (I’m about to apply for my 3rd ’01’ visa), I must admit, the rewards of playing so frequently in North America (and sojourns to South America!) have been immense…. and I have not only supporters, but those I’d call ‘family’ from San Fran to Detroit. It’s an honour, and a pertinent reminder of the unifying wonder of our electronic music community.
Fitting, then, that I’m sitting in candle-lit café here in Berlin’s snowy Neukölln, listening to Deltron 3030, and drinking too much coffee, whilst slowly digesting the last few weeks.
Despite the barrage of anti ‘bro-step’ and ‘electro-house’ critique (which I admit, somewhat ashamedly I have been party to), I can’t help but admit that it feels like the sands of North American electronic music culture are shifting – and doing so in an entirely positive and energising way. Local boy and ever-engaging journalist, Philip Sherburne astutely iterates this in his recent article for SPIN Magazine and I’m inclined to agree, wholeheartedly. Whatever aversion you may have to Skrillex et al, the enigma that is Sonny Moore is more than forward and generous when it comes to continually acknowledging his peers, his roots and the importance of the community which supports him. It’s a new voice in North American mega-stardom which we haven’t heard in some time (sobbing Grammy Award acceptance speeches from R’N’B’s orthodoxy notwithstanding).
Certainly, my experiences in the USA of late have served to renew my faith, and always my gratitude for those people who house, feed, and pay me to play the music I write/love, to their people, and their communities. If someone had told me that this would be my path say, 10 years ago, I’m sure I would have choked on my Seattle fair-trade coffee (for the record, I spent way too much time sweating caffeine at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, whilst soft, grey rain blanketed Seattle’s asphalt). If someone had told me that I’d be sitting in the back-room of Asylum after-hours club in Hawaii (we opened up the club, AGAIN!) discussing US annexation of the country with locals, I’d be equally floored. If I’d be told that my flight from Berlin to Hawaii would be delayed due to snow in London, and that I’d effectively step off the 21+ hour flight directly onto stage, I’d probably have a heart-attack. Yet these are the anecdotes I have so many of already, and can only hope to recall in years to come. Electronic music is a hard mistress, but an honest one.
Hawaii, for me, was a glimpse into a side of America which felt queerly ‘un-nationalistic’, with all the grace and warmth I’ve come to expect from Polynesia in general. I dearly would love to return soon. I must admit also that DJing on a private yacht watching the sun set the following day (surrounded by nubile, happy people!) was nothing short of humbling.
Seattle, as always, feels (like San Francisco) like a community heartland to me. The generous and beautiful folk from Shameless Productions and Electric Tea Garden not only house and feed me – they adopt me as part of their family, in a way which is open-hearted and life-changing. I hope that I can reciprocate this for years to come, in my own way. I have a very special vote of gratitude to offer to a certain Devin Kelly (and housemates) who allowed me access to their house and music-studio for a week, whilst I alternatively slept, ate their salsa and corn-chips and finished off a lot of urgent production work. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
My time in Boston was, once again, sadly too short. The local hero that is David Day (check out his documentary, Speaking In Code) has become my regular host, supporter and friend there, and a reminder that even the less ‘obvious’ US centres can build authentic, enthusiastic and genuinely ENGAGED electronic music scenes. I first met David (and his partner at the time, the effervescent Amy Grill) via his documentary work, which I have deep faith in and support for. In recent years, David has gone on to play a vital roll at the Dig Boston which provides an increasingly critical voice in matters both art and justice related.
Chicago, much like Detroit, possesses a rawness which is far different from the West Coast – both alienating and compelling. In Chicago and Detroit, electronic music feels like a lifeline – and, indeed, a quantity which can’t be taken for granted. Despite bucket-loads of snow, my experience performing at Primary Nightclub was fantastic – one of the most impressive and devastatingly powerful sound-systems I’ve played through in my life, and no shortage of fans, producer-buddies and budding DJs who wanted to talk. I’m still amazed when people show me their Deepchild albums, CDs, and 12″s in their record bags. Special thanks must go out to both Matthias Matthew and his partner Chelsey, and Gavin Marks, who not only made my stay possible, but took me to Waldorf Estoria Hotel – where I sat in awe, eating fantastic house-cooked vegan food, as snowflakes fell. I also saw a Picasso-etching, up close. Which was, well… brilliant…
There’s much more I could say. But I’ll save it for future posts. For now, many thanks to all my supporters and friends in the USA, and to my US agency Cohenshi who make the rigors of touring possible, with so much attention to detail and back-end support.
Image: After hours, Honolulu styles