SA / 015: Furtive
Washington DC-based Furtive is an affiliate of the Sequence crew, known in the capital and beyond for their warehouse parties featuring both international and local heroes from across the US. Sequence has also recently spawned a monthly Thursday night party, Article, at U Street Music Hall. He has self-released two EPs, both available on Bandcamp.
About the mix:
Sort of like making a collage or writing an essay, I think recording a mix can offer an opportunity to glue together some key influences in a coherent, kinetic, dancefloor-oriented format. Unlike playing in front of a crowd, recording a mix presents the opportunity to be very intentional and weird with track selection, so there’s the breathing room to connect all the dots of the various, disparate musical influences that I find compelling.
So perhaps for my brain-context: as far as I can tell, I have always had a tendency to cross-pollinate narratives and concepts and synthesize them into new forms that I find personally compelling. I guess that has been a key part of my process of making sense of the world.
A simple example: as a kid I would take characters from a film or book and imagine them in the storylines of another, expanding, re-writing, and inventing plotlines. While writing some, uh, creative papers in college, I drew parallels between class readings about political philosophy, medical anthropology, or 16th century picaresque literature with gonzo journalism, black metal lyrics, and mecha anime.
While facially totally ridiculous, this process of connecting the dots makes all of the relevant points more poignant and coherent to me - it’s ultimately a really affirming exercise in world-building, in placing the touchstones of my identity and writing a self-mythology, I guess.
This same tendency spills over into music - in a previous experimental electronic project, Lavender Colored Life, I combined elements of witch house, black metal, and gloomcore - totally disparate genres and scenes that I independently find incredibly moving and have been important to me at various points in life.
This mix attempts to connect a bunch of musically-important dots as a techno set. In this case, the mix starts off with a track from the soundtrack of the 1999 computer game Tiberian Sun. The mood set by this Y2K-era scifi soundtrack and the shabby graphics had a huge influence on me. The inclusion of the Shackleton track is a nod to my dubstep phase - the deep stripped-down dungeon stuff that totally has gritty techno sensibilities. I mean, I initially started producing because I wanted to make dubstep.
The tracks by SHALT, Born In Flamez, Suda, all touch on contemporary “deconstructed” post-club experimental stuff, with razor-sharp, glossy 3D-rendered aesthetics that I find immensely imaginative and compelling.
There are also a few of my own tracks thrown in (unreleased at time of writing). All of these conceptually-motivated elements are woven into a mix largely carried by murky, textural, driving techno - the stuff I like to play and that gets me wiggling on a dancefloor.
I recorded this on my home setup, which is a digital vinyl system: two turntables (AT-LP120s), NI’s Kontrol Z2 mixer, and Traktor 2. The mix runs away from me at a few points.
What is the place you call "home" now? How do you ensure that you're both drawing inspiration and contributing there?
When I moved to Washington DC in January 2015, I didn’t have the slightest inkling that it would completely spin my life around. I initially thought it would just be a quick stop on a journey to… well, somewhere. Instead, I’ve wound up deeply rooted, I met the most incredible and supportive partner I could imagine, am part of an incredible community of friends and supporters, and am somehow a member of a fantastic crew that helps push the District’s underground scene.
I think many folks imagine that DC, as the seat of the United States government, is fairly straight-laced - and at a surface level, that might be true. But despite this, or perhaps because of it, all the weirdos manage to find each other in unexpected, sometimes scuzzy nooks and crannies throughout the District. It’s a small but lively collection of scenes with a great deal of cross-pollination, and a wild diversity of folks gravitating around weird venues and watering holes.
A major part of my life in DC (and more broadly) is SEQUENCE, a (mostly) monthly techno event series and the gang that puts them on. I’ve been a part of the gang in a hands-on-deck capacity for two years and formally a part of the team for a year, helping put on some absolutely flooring techno parties in various warehouse spaces around the District. In 2018, we brought out names like DVS1, DJ Stingray, Erika, Developer, and Aurora Halal for wild warehouse all-nighters. Our 2-year anniversary party had me opening for Rrose and Adam X. We kicked off 2019 with I Hate Models and Katie Rex and ended up selling out a totally dry party during a snowstorm. It’s been a wild affair, and immensely gratifying.
Putting on events can be an incredibly frustrating and taxing process - we all agonize endlessly over finances, promo copy, emails with agents and promoters (sorry Seva...), permitting, safe dancefloor policy, and all sorts of other logistical bullshit. We really try to make our parties a safe and comfortable space for dancers, free from harassment and unwanted bad vibes. We honestly lose sleep over this shit, and not just because we’re only getting into bed at noon.
But! Ultimately, there’s nothing like the feeling of stepping onto the dancefloor and seeing dozens of people losing their minds, or seeing just one person dancing, eyes closed - smiling. It’s so immensely gratifying to see people’s joy at the parties, or to learn of people coming from out of town, or to hear praise from other promoters.
Before I became a part of the team, I would wait impatiently every month for the next party to be announced and would buy tickets literally the minute they went online. I think in part because DC isn’t exactly saturated with underground techno stuff, having this one special night means a great deal to people. I was pretty chuffed recently when someone hit me up to ask if there was a party next month, so as to know whether to cancel a work trip in order to make it...
Beyond the parties, the SEQUENCE gang is really tight - we’re a fairly dysfunctional but loving little family. We hang out outside of the techno stuff, we celebrate birthdays and holidays together, we go to each others’ weddings (sometimes even play them!), we travel to other cities for each other’s events.
A last point: I was able to cut my mixing/mastering teeth at a monthly Thursday-night event series called Headroom. Local DC-area producers have the opportunity to test their WIP tracks on Flash club’s Funktion One installation. I haven’t attended in a while, but it’s been an incredibly valuable learning experience and a cool community. I encourage clubs with serious sound systems around the country to open their doors for producer happy hours!
Do you have any thoughts on the present struggles of DIY collectives and spaces and how these spaces can continue to exist?
Since I got a little mushy about SEQUENCE above, I’ll try to be to the point here. As a member of a DIY techno collective, I obviously have a lot of (constantly evolving) thoughts, but I want to be clear that I am speaking purely for myself here.
- Booking strategy: I think a particularly dicey issue in various US scenes is booking strategy. Do you book major international A-list headliners, or do you prioritize a scene of locals? Major names have a huge draw, so while the up-front investment in artists fees and travel and a bigger venue, etc etc can seem like a dizzyingly risky prospect, it often pays off handsomely. But I worry that the high-risk/high-reward strategy might work at the expense of a diverse local scene - you can have just as good of a party and just as meaningful of a dancefloor experience with a mostly-local lineup, or a lineup that pulls on adjacent cities. I feel like the latter strategy slowly builds a tighter, inter-city community of promoters, artists, and dancers. But a locals night can also end up being a financial flop when you don’t have a flashy headliner - so at the end of the day you don’t book the bigger venue and don’t rent a powerful system, and stick to the usual thing. This isn’t a bad thing - in fact it’s great to have dependable, solid consistent spots, but many smaller scenes in the US don’t have access to that, and long-run it does miss out on the dynamism that newer and bigger undertakings can inject into a scene. To be clear, I think there’s an upward pressure to go-big-or-go-home that can hurt locals and DJs/producers who haven’t had their big break yet, and that hurts the diversity of lineups. What I’m saying is: have faith in your locals, your scene, and the scene next door. Incidentally, RA had a very good piece on basically this same dilemma that promoters face back in early 2017.
- Viable venues: The availability of viable venues is a huge issue, but certainly not unique to DC, so I won’t really get into it, but to demonstrate how stiff it can be: we had to move a recent party to Baltimore because the only really viable all-night venue was temporarily shuttered by licensing authorities…
- Safety and inclusivity: You want to build up a party that is comfortable and welcoming to everyone, you want a dancefloor that’s safe and inclusive. Finding ways to keep a dancefloor safe, diverse, and free of harassment are paramount if you want people to continue supporting an event and space - it’s simply not negotiable. Smaller scenes like DC might not have the critical mass of partygoers for it to be a realistic strategy for DIY promoters to aggressively reject people at the door (a la Sven Marquardt, obviously), so with that in mind, it’s important for DIY organizers to very intentionally consider whose experience to center when planning an event, and how to prioritize safety and comfort with smart, considerate policies.
- Accessibility: A final point: while parties are inherently physically demanding affairs, one can do a great deal to make them more accessible, by all understandings of the term. Just providing seating and separate chill-out areas, with some snacks and water can make a world of difference for folks. Toning down intense lighting and thick fog can make dancefloors more welcoming. Doing daytime parties can make it more realistic for some folks to attend. DIY organizers have a unique opportunity to make raves friendlier.
Ha! and that’s all for basic, larger-scale parties lol, let alone doing something like a DIY play/kink latex’n’leather techno rager, which poses a variety of other issues (My dream is to pull off a DC equivalent of Bound or Gegen. Someday...
How does online communication and social media play into your music/performance practice? Can these tools be used for community building?
I broadly speaking don’t have much faith in mainstream social media platforms for building a community. They’re unequivocally extremely useful tools, but ultimately not that good at actually fostering a sense of community, with a few exceptions.
One of these exceptions is the Facebook group TechnoFist. Former SEQUENCE member Damon Bradley launched the group initially as a joke, but through his relentless energy, affable presence on the dancefloor, constant travelling, and dutiful moderation, the group has wound up being a valuable resource for US techno heads. It’s a rare sort of group that actually builds momentum, in part by giving folks invested in the scene the opportunity to contribute and feed back into it via the fabulous TechnoFist mix series (full disclosure, I recorded a mix for TF in 2018), and because it’s an online community that’s centered around something that can be communally experienced IRL.
What I find extremely impressive and valuable is projects like Spontaneous Affinity - it’s honestly everything one would want from a music scene: Deeper, personal dives that get the participants intensely invested in the project, and that give observers deep insights into other folks in the scene. Coupled with intelligent and diverse curation that touches on a wide but coherent variety of folks and scenes, this is the type of community building that more folks ought to take up! It really works to knit different scenes together and shine light on so many more corners of our underground. It also works to connect people over something that is mutually experienced IRL, and having the physical copy of the beautiful zine really underlines that shared experience.
A weird aside here regarding online communities: when I had more of a stomach for toxic bullshit, I spent a lot of time on 4chan /mu/, the notorious imageboard’s music board. Between all of the caustic vitriol and incessant shitposting, there would be quiet, touching threads were folks would share really special, obscure, and personal music. Strange Bandcamp stuff that has probably been heard by maybe 20 living people, recorded in bedrooms on laptop microphones. Some stuff that has had all online traces of its existence erased, the only remaining evidence on my hard drive and the music libraries of an unknown number of anonymous internet denizens.
While overall it’s a nasty and toxic place, I like to look back at those momentary, poignant anonymous connections on a shitty imageboard as a testament to people’s sincerity and the power of music to really connect people and convey something special. Much of this serendipitously discovered outsider art has been a significant influence on me.
Share a video or photo that you recorded that takes you back to a moment, and tell us a bit about that moment.
This is from the SEQUENCE 2 year anniversary party, shortly after the fire marshall and cops showed up and killed the music. The authorities took issue with a few things and turned the music off. This was a bewildered, steamy, bemused moment on the dancefloor, where the sudden silence gave everyone a moment to look around and take stock of the weird, sweaty, breathless revelry around them.
It was a staggeringly hot, humid day in DC, Adam X was impatiently rolling his eyes at the authorities and quietly playing some ambient stuff for some writhing pill-freaks, there were celebratory birthday cupcakes in the chillout room, the poorly-installed urinals were leaking piss on the floor, there is a cemetery across the street, people had come from around the country for this party, all the ice in the venue had long-since melted. And then, the authorities left. They let us crank the music back up, the system roared, and we continued raving well into the morning. Absolute highlight of the summer.
It was incidentally also basically my first time playing out (ie, the booth had monitors and the sound system didn’t electrocute me when I touched it…)
For the DJs: share a track you've always wanted to include in a mix, what you love about it, and why you've never managed to include it.
I’ve always wanted to include any of the tracks from "the Drums from No Flashlight" by Mount Eerie in a mix for additional percussive layers. As the title might suggest, the album consists mostly of the percussion elements of the songs on Mount Eerie’s record "No Flashlight". I haven’t managed to include any in mixes because the organic, acoustic drums are somewhat at odds with most of the murky, pounding techno I play, they aren’t tightly quantized and aren’t mixed for club systems - and because to some extent, it feels inappropriate.
Wanting to include these tracks in a mix stems in part from my sort of academic, tongue-in-cheek desire to connect all of the music that has influenced me. But Mount Eerie is different. Phil Elverum, the artist behind Mount Eerie and The Microphones, is able to convey something oddly, comfortably transcendental with his music that feels incredibly familiar and relatable - an existential yearning, some sort of overwhelming profundity in mundane happenings, the jumbled wonder of being a human in the world. Wide-eyed elation at the experience of being alive. Vivid, genuine, aching renderings of grief and loss. Mount Eerie’s discography is something touchingly, intensely, warmly human. I write about it with this almost religious reverence but there’s really nothing like the gravity of these sentiments, and Elverum’s overall work and life - beyond even Mount Eerie’s music. I’m certain that no music I’m capable of making will ever instill in others the sort of feelings this does.
And so it’s a quiet, gentle, inside joke for myself to want to include this intensely personal, profound, cozy music in a techno mix - something that’s facially laughably at odds with the sentiments and aesthetics of Mount Eerie. Yet, for me, it’s a subtle nod to the immeasurable, existential influence of a variety of things: a nod to the influence of Phil Elverum’s work, it’s a nod to my immensely formative time in the Pacific Northwest, a nod to the influence of my friends, the influence of non-electronic music, a nod to the influences of nature, silence, human limits, all the subtle and profound formative experiences over the course of a lifetime, and a quiet recognition of the capacity to find deep, transcendental profundity in simple things.
I guess there’s something satisfying about reconciling the sentiments of, say, stargazing, hearing the ocean’s roar, the wind’s poem, and earthly silence with the sentiments of hyperkinetic, decadent sensory overload of a warehouse dancefloor. They’re not inconsistent. To paraphrase Phil Elverum, “there is no nature, there is only one big THIS.”
I want to add the disclaimer that no matter how long I spend trying to convey why this is so deeply important, no words will ever really do it justice. In re-reading this stuff, it just feels glib. You know, sometimes you’re just taking out the trash and then you’re stand outside in the cold air for too long staring at how beautiful the moon is? Sometimes you’re just washing the dishes and there’s a tear rolling down your cheek because you love someone? Sometimes you have a wicked sunburn but you go to bed grinning anyway? You close your eyes and see snowflakes falling? Boiling water for a fresh pot of coffee makes you want to dance? The color of honey sends shivers down your spine? Sometimes you look over and see a stranger smiling and everything feels fucking worth it?
I guess it’s something like that, that maybe the feeling of walking out of a warehouse rave into the morning sunlight doesn’t have to be that different to the feeling of watching the stars grow brighter as a campfire burns out.
- Frank Klepacki (Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun Original Soundtrack) - Timebomb - [Westwood Studios]
- E-Saggila - Carbon Snare - [Allergy Season]
- Tunnel - When Peace Descends - [webuildmachines]
- Zeitgeber - Body Out - [Stroboscopic Artefacts]
- Shackleton - Shortwave - [Skulldisco]
- SHALT - Acheron - [Astral Plane Recordings]
- Kangding Ray - Luna - [Stroboscopic Artefacts]
- Furtive - Soporific - [unreleased]
- Architectural - Sorrow - [POLEGROUP]
- Clotur - Orion Constellation - [Warok Music]
- Hioll - Phobia - [FLASH Recordings]
- OLSK - RW05 (Moteka Remix) - [webuildmachines]
- Furtive - Troublemaker - [unreleased]
- JX-216 - Splinter 4 - [From 0-1]
- Goor - Inmod-ed (Atrxia Remix) - [webuildmachines]
- Suda - Inner Monologue - [Her Records]
- Cleric - Concrete - [Infrastructure New York]
- Gabeen - Noise - [Green Fetish]
- Born In Flamez - Talking To The White Noise (Quest?onmarc Remix) - [self-released]
Base photo for mix cover provided by Nathaniel Young.