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Interview / Joakim (Tigersushi / Crowdspacer)

To act as a bit of background to his excellent “Dancing Is A Visible Action Of Life” mixes that we are hosting, here`s a short conversation with DJ / Musician / Producer Joakim Bouaziz that took place just before Christmas. For more information and personal insights on the mix series as they go up please check Joakim`s Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/joakim_bouaziz/).

Where are you from?

Paris, France.

Where are you based?

New York, USA.

Why the move to NYC?

There’s no very precise major reason. I love the city, it’s like the ultimate cosmopolitan megalopolis, a mix of ancient and futuristic, people from everywhere, I find it very inspiring. It’s also a very challenging city, for better, you have to work your ass off, or for worse, extreme capitalism, but I like challenges. I think I needed a break from Paris too. Funny, or sad, how so many people want to move out of Paris these days. The vibe has been pretty bleak for a few years now. And then I got a visa, an apartment opportunity, etc., so I thought, if I don’t try this now, I will never do it.

Where were your first gigs?

Honestly I can’t remember precisely. I remember one set at an art party in Paris called Bal Jaune. I can remember it because the French cultural minister walked by while I was playing. I remember Sonar where I also played one of my first sets, on a big stage, and I felt terrorized, especially after I saw Richie Hawtin was sitting behind me on stage, hanging out.

What kind of music were you playing?

All over the place. Funk, Soul, Jazz, House, Drum & Bass, Hip Hop… I know I played Art Ensemble Of Chicago at that Sonar gig, and Carl Craig’s latin vibe remix of Johnny Blas.

What made you start making music?

I didn’t know what else to do, so I didn’t have a choice really. I mean I could have done other things for a living I guess, but only music makes me happy, well, food too.

How did Tigersushi come about? The “More G.D.M.” series was a great entrance into other musics for me.

Tigersushi started as a website in 1999 out of our frustration with music media at that time and the potential we saw in internet music media, there was really not much at that time. It was a blog / webzine / radio / encyclopedia and ultimately it was supposed to become a streaming service. Except that no one wanted to hear about streaming or even the internet in general in 1999. Remember it was Napster times, iTunes didn’t even exist yet..The general philosophy behind the website was to join the dots between genres, periods, like minded artists, etc., to help people discover good music using the new tools made possible by the internet for that.

That philosophy applied to Tigersushi as a label when we started it with the More G.D.M. series. Those records had no genre boundaries and tried to connect things in a new way, especially old and new music. Like the first record had John Tejada on one side and Cluster on the other, because I thought Tejada’s “Significant Numbers” tune had something very Cluster-esque, which is something he actually never thought of. The next More G.D.M. 12″ had Maurice Fulton and Max Berlin. Then Gina X and Metro Area… and so forth. New music from upcoming / underground producers and reissues of old forgotten classics, from Kraut Rock to Post Punk etc. Then we eventually started signing new artists. But the no-boundaries rule has always applied since then. Most of the artists on the label are quite hard to categorize which has often been a problem for us.

Does lack of a “convenient label” make records harder to sell?

Of course. We live in the world where marketing is the most important thing. Even on a personal level, social media is a marketing of the self if you want. Something is easy to sell when the buyer already knows what he’s buying. A lot of people buy music based on what they think it is or represents, sometimes just like a social status accessory, before they actually hear the music. Journalists talk about music when there’s a strong “pitch”, when it’s “categorizable” music. It’s difficult to make an interesting story from something that defies easy definitions, it’s also more work. The label’s job is basically to create that story, the story-telling, that will seduce journalists and the audience.

The abundance of available music online has also made it even more important to be able to label music to sell it. It’s basically “tagging”. Everything has to be tagged to be noticed online, otherwise your message is lost in the ocean of content out there. Problem is I’m kind of allergic to tags (laughs).

The on-line marketing of self is completely lost on me. I`m way too old. I still believe that you do something because you enjoy doing it, and I still naively hope that if you are good at it then you will get noticed. That`s what I`m hanging on to.

The online marketing of self is not the best thing to come out of the digital age…And it’s really scary when you talk to younger people who totally integrated it. It’s absolutely natural for a 20 year old to “be a brand”. The line between “art” and “corporate” is completely blurred, and that’s even more important than actually making something… Wonder where this will go…

What`s your relationship with Versatile?

Gilb’r (head of Versatile) discovered me. I mean he’s the one who answered to the few demos I sent out to labels. Versatile is my first music family and I learned a lot from him and I:Cube. We’re still very close although now I release my albums through Tigersushi/Because.

Where is your favourite place to play / party / other?

It’s typically an impossible question to answer. I don’t believe there’s one place better than another in general. Good parties, clubs nights are always a combination of a lot of factors: place, time, sound, lights, population, alcohol, drugs, even the position of the DJ booth. Of course, there are places where I’m more likely to have a good time with a good crowd: Brazil, Glasgow, Japan, Mexico all of these for different reasons. Then if you’re interested in other things than music here, food is a very important factor for me, if not the most important. So Japan is a number one destination, plus it’s a Nerds paradise, so I feel at ease there. New York is a great place because you have a bit of everything, food, culture, people. But I must say, the club scene is not what it used to be there. All my New York DJ friends complain about the same thing.

Do you have any clubs in NYC that you either play or visit regularly?

No. I play in different clubs all the time. And I don’t go out to one place regularly. I used to have bars in my old neighborhood where I’d go regularly but no clubs. That’s what I mean. DJs and music lovers don’t really have a “home” in NYC where they can go to hang out. There’re a few places which are attached to certain scenes I guess, like Elvis Guest House with the Downtown hip scene, Terrible Records, etc., Black Flamingo and the Soul Clap crew…

What are you most proud of?

That’s a tough one too. I think if I try to get a bigger picture, I’m glad that I could always do what I wanted artistically without compromising, navigating between different scenes but never really part of one, and still be here doing that today.

Who are you currently working with?

I’ve been working as a producer a lot this year. Now I’m working for the second time with this band called Montevideo from Belgium. I produced their previous album, which I think was really slept on, mostly because of a bad label set up. I’m also working on the release of the first Crowdspacer compilation. Crowdspacer is my “new” label. It started in 2013, was only vinyl until now and focused on dance music. I created it as an outlet for my more club orientated stuff, also for other artists like Crackboy or Keita Sano and to collaborate with friends, Alexis Le Tan, Krikor, Bryce Hackford, Kindness,… The idea is to make the tracks fast, spontaneous, not over produced, to find that kind of primitive flavor we all love in early House and Techno productions. DIY and Punk in some way. But not too nostalgic at the same time. I never want it to sound retro. So this is gonna be the first digitally available compilation of some of the vinyl releases and new material.

What are your plans for 2016?

With that Crowdspacer compilation, we plan on having a tour, including some of Crowdspacer collaborators who are all amazing DJs like Crackboy, Alexis Le Tan or Bryce Hackford. I also have an ambient project connected to my Cray76 identity, the name I use for the Crowdspacer solo releases. Then I have some more production work coming up and I hope I’ll have some time to work on new music soon for the next LP, I have a lot of ideas at the moment and it’s frustrated when you can’t try them out in the studio.

One thing I was wondering was if you would be able to give us some background to the ten “Dancing Is A Visible Action Of Life” mixes. What made you decide you to make ten mixes running year by year from 1989 to 1999?

I had this idea of making “year” mixes for a long time. I will eventually extend this to years before 1989 and after 1999. I like to think of myself or DJs in general as music librarians. I love putting music in context, how it interacts within the music world and outside, socially, politically, in relation to other art forms…Since Crowdspacer is a label dedicated to Dance music, I thought of doing a House / Techno retrospective. Ten years, ten mixes, one every week, leading to the release of the compilation. It’s like laying out the background of what we stand for. Where we come from. Although it could have started earlier with Chicago `80s house.

Was 1989 particularly significant to you?

Not to me especially as I wasn’t listening to any “Pop” or “Dance” music in 1989. I was too young to go to raves either. I chose 1989 because it was the end of the `80s, of what I would call a first wave of underground Dance music, heavily influenced by the Chicago pioneers. By the end of the `80s, that sound started to become popular in Europe, especially Belgium and the UK. 1989 is the end of the second summer of love, the summers of 1988 and 1989, it’s a peak and a beginning at the same time, when Dance music started to mutate more and more, and to propagate in all those sub genres. It’s the end of innocence.

Why stop at 1999?

It’s a bit random to be honest. Well, 1999 is the end of the millenium. The end of what we called “French Touch”. The year I had my first release too.

Can you tell me more about the “French Touch”?

Well, the “French Touch” refers to that wave of French House artists and labels in the mid to late 90s. Motorbass, Daft Punk, Super Discount, Versatile and a whole bunch of labels that popped up surfing on that wave of success and then quickly disappeared. It’s also associated to that “filter” sound that was popularized by Daft Punk, who took it from Chicago House producers like DJ Sneak. Basically a big Disco loop filtered on top of a House beat. I started making electronic music around then, and on my first demos, there was a bunch of filter House tunes trying to emulate Super Discount or Poumtchak releases. It was the first time French music became internationally popular basically. So it had a huge impact on the French music scene, even years later, and eventually when Ed Banger got big in the mid 2000s, Justice and co where called the French Touch 2.0.