If you’ve been going to the right clubs and tuning into the right frequencies, Seattle’s Dave Pezzner is likely to be a name that you’ll be familiar with. Arriving on the scene in the late 90s as one half of West Coast house duo Jacob London, Pezzner and partner in beats Bob Hansen established a reputation for unfussy, underground house sounds and the kind of absurd track titles that lodge themselves into your memory (No Farting In The Ice Fort anyone? How about Sausages For All?)
Recent years have seen Pezzner establish himself as a formidable solo talent, both as a producer and DJ. He’s embarked on tours of Asia and Europe, as well as becoming something of a permanent fixture at Seattle’s Decibel festival. A close working relationship with the London house imprint Freerange Records, culminated in his 2010 debut album The Tracks Are Alive, a record which I Voice described at the time as being ‘a living, breathing portrait of tech house done Seattle-style’.
Three years down the line and he’s about to release his second album. Partially written whilst on tour in Europe, Last Night In Utopia is an expansive journey through Pezzner’s versatile repertoire, from funk-kissed disco to rattling tech-house to deep grooves to all-out party tracks. It’s a dance-music album in the most classic sense: all the tracks would work on the floor in one context or another, but it also sounds great as a record that you might, as Pezzner himself states during our interview, listen to whilst you’re cooking or riding the bus.
I Voice phoned up Pezzner to quiz him about the new album and more...
How’s autumn in Seattle?
We have a lot of rain and there are leafs everywhere. There’s lots of colour, I like it.
Do your surroundings inspire you?
Oh, yeah. Over the years I’ve noticed that in the winter time my music productions are a lot more serious and deep, and then in the summer I tend to write [tracks with] more party, funky vibes.
You’ve just come back from a short tour of Asia. How was that?
It was amazing. It was my fourth time to Japan, and I find Tokyo amazing. I love Japanese food and being able to visit record stores, like Technique and Lighthouse Records, and dig through the kind of vinyl records that I don’t often find in Seattle. Plus, the audiences [in Japan] are up for gritty, electronic sounds, which is something that I’m not always able to get away with here in Seattle. I love darker electronic vibes and in Seattle people opt for a more up-beat, funky kind of thing. So it was cool getting to play music out there that I don’t usually get to play.
So, you have a little more creative freedom in Japan. Can Seattle be a stifling place to be then?
I wouldn’t say I feel stifled here in Seattle, it’s just a different vibe. I enjoy playing in Seattle as much as anywhere else, I just have to pull a different coloured rabbit out of my hat!
Let’s talk about your productions. Asides from a few remixes, it’s been a while since we’ve seen any new material from yourself. Why is that?
It’s because I initially started producing Last Night In Utopia back in 2011 and I decided to put a hold on releasing new material until the album was finished and released, because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to ‘do’ with the album. Initially I had been producing the album with Freerange Records in mind, but the [tracks] started to take a turn that weren’t in line with the Freerange sound and so I decided to send the album out to a few other labels.
How did Freerange feel about that?
It was totally cool. There are a few tracks [on the album] that aren’t techno or experimental, that I sent to Freerange [early on in the recording process] and when Freerange heard them, they wanted to release those.
I was then at a crossroads: I realised I could either produce some new tracks for the album that Freerange would want to release or I could take this body of music elsewhere, which is what I decided to do. The door is still open at Freerange and I’m definitely going to be doing more stuff with them in the future.
The album’s coming out on Systematic Records, how did that happen?
I was working with [Systematic Recordings boss] Marc Romboy on some remixes and I told him about the album, and he wanted to hear it. So I sent it to him and he immediately responded with an offer. That was probably about twelve to eighteen months ago.
Since then, it’s been a process of refining the music and shaping it into an album, as well as lining up Justin Martin and Robert Babicz to remix the lead single All Night Dancing Party, so that we could release that at same time as the album. It took a long time, but I knew I didn’t want to release anything else until the album was out. Which is crazy, because during that time I’ve probably produced like twenty tracks.
So we’re going to see LOADS of releases from you in the next twelve months?
Yeah, there’s a lot going on. There’s a track coming out on a Leftroom compilation under my Native Language moniker. Also I’m going to be launching is my own label within the next six months, called Hunt And Gather. It’s going to be a platform just for my own work, no remixers or signed artists. It’s going to be mostly for my side projects, I’m not even sure if I going to release any of my work as Pezzner on it.
I wish I could just sit down to a piano and play an amazing solo or pick up a guitar and get an idea out of my head. At the moment, when I have an idea in my mind I have to write it manually note for note...I read that a lot of the album was written whilst you were travelling between gigs in Europe. Tell me a little more about that.
I toured Europe in December 2011 and I had a lot of free time between a show in London and another one in Moscow. I wanted to be somewhere warm, so I booked a cheap flight to Malta and 29 euro a night hotel, and I brought all my equipment and set up shop in the hotel [and started writing]. When I wasn’t working on the album, I would be walking around the island, taking photographs or writing notes, drawing in inspirations for my music. For instance, I might hear people chattering in tour groups and that sound would inspire a crescendo sound that I might use in a track.
The result is an album that is really varied in its sound. Did you set out to make an album that encompassed a wide net of genres?
It’s just something that happened. I’m never really quite sure what is going to happen when I sit down to write music. I start from an experimental point and try to do something new. I don’t have a classical training and I don’t have a great knowledge of music theory, so when I have a basic idea down I then use Mixed In Key and listen to other songs that are in key with what I’m working on. Almost every time I do that, some kind of hook or bassline comes to mind, or else something comes up that might be good to sample.
Is the fact that you don’t have a classical or academic musical background something that troubles you?
It does bother me. I would love to be have spent years training in piano or to have gone to college and studied music theory. My experience as a producer has been through trial and error, and initially, for the first nine years that I was producing as one half of Jacob London, it was almost all samples and loops and drum sounds that we were using. As time’s gone on, I wish I could just sit down to a piano and play an amazing solo or pick up a guitar and get an idea out of my head. At the moment, when I have an idea in my mind I have to write it manually note for note, slowly adjusting the notes until it sounds right. It’s a long process.
I was looking through your tour schedule and it has been a while since you’ve played at Ibiza. Why is that?
The only time I played in Ibiza was right after my The Tracks Are Alive tour and I played Space, it was amazing show and I wish I could have stayed there longer. I will definitely go back there if I get a booking. I’m hoping that this new album will help with that.
So if any Ibiza promoters are reading this interview, when they’re thinking about acts for next season they should book you?
Pezzner’s Last Night In Utopia is out on Systematic Recordings now.