Clubland: François K on his clubnight Heavy Space

Photo by Tim Soter.

François Kevorkian may have been born in France, yet he’s inextricably linked with the sounds of New York disco and house. Coming up with the likes of Larry Levan and David Mancuso at such dance music institutions as the Paradise Garage area and Studio 54, his nearly forty years in the city that will never sleeps saw his celebrity rise quickly as a producer and remixer, working with artists as diverse as Loleatta Holloway, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, while also becoming a revered DJ at his Entire body & Soul party, held together with veteran selectors Joaquin “Joe” Claussell and Danny Krivit. Having celebrated his sixtieth birthday this year, Kevorkian could easily rest on his laurels. Instead he has taken his today eleven-year-old dub-inflected clubnight Deep Space at Cielo in Manhattan in order to new heights. Here, for the uninitiated, François K takes you to Heavy Space in his own words.

This is the extended version of the text that appeared in the Summer issue of Electronic Beats Magazine . Stay tuned for the Covering Tracks: Deep Space Unique, coming tomorrow.

Throughout my profession, especially when I started going in the studio somewhere around 1978, I found myself very attracted to a lot of production strategies that clearly came from people utilizing a lot of effects processing and delays and things. Whether it was a lot more like traditional dub records from Jamaica or experimental records that originated from krautrock in Germany, or regardless of whether it was some of the avant-garde free punk that incorporated elements of tape songs, like the Teo Macero productions of Miles Davis. All of these things, that they had a confluence: astute producers were making heavy use of electronic songs production techniques to enhance the live actively playing, whether it would be jazz, reggae, stone or whatever else. It was immediately apparent in my work in the studio, and I became quickly known for being one of the people within the “dance music’”or “disco” world who could deliver the trippy elements and exaggerated processing.

Others were great at extended versions of songs or transforming them into something which had more muscle for the dancefloor. For me, it was that dub element—be it more electronic, like our work with Yazoo, Kraftwerk or Jean-Michel Jarre, or on a more traditional reggae tip, like with Black Uhuru, Jimmy Cliff, or Bunny Wailer. I could work within a pop context, too, like when I did dub variations for Mick Jagger, Diana Ross and Foreigner. But for the people who had been hiring me to do these remixes, this idea of the dub had been always the thing on the side, rather than the primary A-side version they were normally right after. Obviously I was getting hired to perform a specific thing for people, even though in most cases I just turned out a dub edition and said, “There’s no singing, that’s my mix. ” Used to do that for several big acts who accepted it and put it out there, like The Fatback Band and Night time Oil—I ended up producing them from then on.

Then, in the earlier 2000s, I was approached by the proprietor of Cielo, Nicolas Matar, and offered me a night. We were good friends, and being a DJ himself, this individual dug what I was doing. It had been pretty much with the understanding that it was going to be something related to house songs. I think they were really surprised after i came back and said, “First of, I don’t want to do a big night, such as the weekends. I want to do something as obscure and out of the way as possible. Monday sounds great. ” Because when you do that will, you’re guaranteed that the big weekend audience and fist-pumping advocates are going to be in your own home getting ready for their job the next day throughout the week.

In the context of what the club looks like and how incredible everything can be there—the soundsystem, the intimate environment that allows for a lot of seating around the dancefloor area for people not to feel awkward if they don’t dance—I figured I needed to focus on trying to do something that was going to be totally unique and in several respect related to dub. Even though dub had been a very integral part of our career and what I was doing because the beginning, it was never an recognized thing. It was just like a bonus. But I felt it was the time meant for things to change. Instead of just starting an additional night where I would just be actively playing authentic Jamaican reggae from 1975 by Lee “Scratch” Perry, Ruler Tubby, and Niney the Viewer, it was more going to be regarding trying to showcase and connect the dots for people to incorporate that dub aesthetic into all sorts of different backgrounds. Or in conjunction with that, to take songs that would otherwise be very normal and to actually do whatever processing and treatment to them, sort of an abbreviated edition of what I’m doing in the studio, but live and in front side of people. Which is why it says, “Fran ç ois E live on the mixing board. ” It’s not that I’m playing multi-tracks and doing remixes, but with technology today there are a great deal of things that can be found in order to do things that are pretty close to that. And after having accomplished a few thousand remixes and spent a few decades of my life in the studio, I have a basic understanding of what it takes to do it. There’s a real separation between the idea of DJing—i. e. playing records—and being in the studio where you’re fully making sounds from scratch. What I’m striving to do is show that those boundaries don’t exist; which you really should be able to do a little bit of all of that while you’re in front of people.

Deep Space represented an opportunity to bring this to the forefront. We all courted dub poets, DJs, or even other artists who we sensed were compatible with that aesthetic and somehow they’d accept and do, say, “special” sets around this point of view. For the reason that sense, another turning point, even though we were already established, was somewhere around 06\ when we started hearing all of these rumblings from London and all these strange new types of music that no one had ever heard before, like Electronic Mystikz and dubstep. It produced sense to me right away, but the audience took a little time to catch on. When I started championing that songs it sent a lot of people into a tailspin—they thought that Deep Space had sold-out because now we were playing this so-called crap dubstep. They weren’t used to it, they just wished the smoothness of what they currently knew. Until we actually demonstrated that there were a great deal of people who wished to hear this music I needed to get people’s ears used to that will new sound. We became, within New York, a very significant supporter of several artists visiting from the UK or even other parts that were very much into that will dubstep sound. Because no one else wanted to book them, it was pretty easy for us to get almost anyone all of us wanted. People were just delighted there was anyone in New York interested in giving them a chance to play. Most clubs just want to have house and techno. Ultimately, I’m trying to approach models at Deep Space with a totally open mind. It’s really a issue of consciously aiming to create a specific amount of contrast because I think it is really necessary in music, specifically as everyone else is striving for uniformity and sameness. I think that our mission, my role, is exposing that, even if it means taking dangers.

The particular evolution of what’s been taking place at Deep Space has actually caused me to reconsider a lot of what I was doing previously as a DJ, music creator, and generally. It has made me realize just how much I value improvisation, the instant of creation, that moment where you’re standing in front of a crowd and there’s thirty seconds left to try out on the record. You haven’t however decided what you’re going to perform next, and you have to look through all your records and find something and put it on, mix it in, and make it all sound effortless and enjoyable. It’s an unbelievable amount of pressure. When that happens somehow you shed all the unnecessary baggage and what comes out may be the one thing that you know you should be playing due to the fact, really, if you’re a DJ, a person know what that is. Sometimes things that originated from that voice were very insane, completely strange, and totally odd. But if somehow I was going to become truthful about trying to be an artist, I needed to defer to that particular voice and not stay focused on reasoning. Showing that inner part of the creative process is what it is to be a DJ, for me. It’s still a operate progress. When you do stuff like this, you decide to go in front of an audience and you don’t know what you’re going to do yet that’s what’s honest about it. While i step in front of the crowd presently there, I am actually striving to give all of them my soul—not some pre-programmed, pre-packaged, pre-digested slice of predictable hitch that might make them feel good at that really moment, but they’ll have forgetten about ten minutes later. I’m going to give them something that might surprise them, that might profoundly offend all of them, or make them feel uncomfortable, or totally thrilled, blissful, and in heaven. Heavy Space definitely has been the vehicle which has allowed me to do this. ~

This particular text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 38 (2, 2014). You can purchase the new issue, and back issues, in the EB Shop.

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