Christopher Mohn and Reagan Denius AKA Dance Spirit have been making waves in the electronic music scene with their unique and emotive brand of minimal techno since their debut release on Los Angeles Supernature imprint back in 2013. Since then their music has landed them releases on Rebellion, Culprit and Get Weird, with their live touring schedule boasting a mix of both world-class festivals and clubs including California’s Coachella and London’s fabric.
With a forthcoming compilation due out in April for Berlin’s Kindisch Records and recently playing Crosstown Rebels' Get Lost Miami party, we thought it time to catch up with this in demand duo to find out how they keep up their prolific output with their busy touring schedule.
Hi Dance Spirit, thanks for talking to us. How are you and what’s new?
Chris: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to check in on us! At the moment things have been going really well. We had a steady flow of gigs the last couple of months that has took us all over the place! First appearances for us in Chicago, and Austin, which were both exciting and fun and also returned to Costa Rica and Panama City. We always keep busy in the studio, both on the musical and visual fronts and have a lot of projects in the works, so we are busy, healthy, and happy to be doing what we love.
Can you tell us about how you guys met and why you decided to form the duo?
Reagan: We met in San Diego in 2006 handing out flyers for a promotion company bringing all the amazing European DJ’s and producers we loved. We started working a few weeks apart from each other, and eventually got paired up together to flyer the ever so military bro and college bro parts of San Diego always hoping to catch some cool people that would be interested in dancing to the refined sounds of the underground dance market. We also had to promote some not-so-great acts as well, and it was on one of these particular nights a few months after we’d been working with each other, we turned to each other and Chris proclaimed, “If these guys can do it, then we can do it.”
Thank god we were naive at the time about how much work it would really take!
From there we formed a mutual musical monk brotherhood thing and have been working ever since. Dance Spirit is the result of two prior attempts into the art of dance music, the most recent prior being Android Cartel. Many of our original fans and friends ask us why we stopped the project. We basically hit a wall - it wasn’t really us anymore. We started just messing around working on developing our skills in different area’s than big room techno and tech house and wanted to really push ourselves, and create a project that wasn’t impulsive, that took its time to grow naturally and without pressure. Chris eventually came up with the name Dance Spirit, and it fit just right for us. Since then we’ve kept true to our original intention.
Your sound is refined and unique. Does is take you long to nail tracks in the studio and how does your studio dynamic work?
Chris: Ah great question. Over the years the way we have worked has changed and morphed but the real magic always happens when we are working together in the studio. However that can change, sometimes one of us starts something and then we bring in it in together and wrap it up as a team, we would never want to inhibit the other from creating, especially if one is in the mood and the other is not. When we are in the studio together we generally allow the other some space to explore and experiment instead of sitting together, it usually works better and faster if only one person is driving the spaceship, otherwise it can be like fighting over the remote control. One thing we’ve started doing this last month is doing private 5 minute meditations and setting intentions for the session and letting go and plugging into the infinite. This is a nice way of doing things because we both go into the session relaxed and motivated.
As for nailing tracks, it has gotten much easier over time. At this point our studio experience and techniques are refined and personal, so we achieve lots of results in very little time. In this respect the creative process is much more fun and rewarding as opposed to excruciating and mind boggling, which it was for many years! Also if we have a specific direction we know we want to go in, it is a lot easier to achieve desired results. We still have our fair of challenges and growing to do, but our comfort level allows for some really good times now.
Are your live sets an extension of your studio productions and how do you find the experience of live performance as opposed to DJing?
Reagan: Our live sets are a combination of some live on the spot creations, further combinations of various rearranged stems and loops from all of our various productions over the years, many of which never made it to see the light of day. When you go back to them you’re able to rummage up some really fun parts that when combined with other pieces like them general yield really amazing results. It’s gotten really fun to mix and match everything as it helps keep the sets fresh and morphing. The experience is much more rewarding than DJing as an artist as you’re able to take people on our own unique soundscape journey. Untimely the goal is to build the live show up into even more of a multimedia inter-dimensional groovy experience. There are definitely times we miss DJing, but every now and then at some random after party we’ll throw down!
Since you guys starting making music, how would you say your sound has developed?
Chris: Well we’d like to think that we are getting better and more refined. It’s amazing how much the experience of performing lends itself to artistic growth because the dance floor is the true judge of how well you are doing. Also, when I listen to our early recordings and songs, the ideas and aesthetic were there but something was still missing. It wasn’t until Audiofly took us touring around with them and we got on proper sound systems in front of proper crowds that you could hear what was missing or what needed work, so the more experiences we have like that the broader our imaginations and ideas grow in the studio.
Also listening to different music is extremely important and healthy, immersing your self in other cultures, urban or ethnic, there is a music behind it that can really spark excitement to create, whether it’s a something to sample or taking what you hear in a musical piece and interpreting it for yourself. Also, we are fans of so many types of dance music that we get really motivated and inspired from that stuff, especially the whole Romanian movement that has come about. It has influenced us the last few years as they have really refined minimal music to a digestible and tangible form of Avant-Garde art that it is always a pleasure to bump on the speakers (especially for that bass).
With such a varied set of gigs from intimate clubs to huge festivals, how do you tailor your sets to each?
Reagan: With the amount of music and moods we create in, it’s very easy. We always have different vibes to pull from in our library to fit the mood, and playing live is just as easy to be versatile as DJ’ing. Definitely knowing the size of the venue and type of party you’re playing before hand is great so you can get a clear image in your head of what kind of journey you’re going to bring.
The new Kindisch Stories is an extended and varied compilation; can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind it?
Chris: Mia Lucci had approached us in the summer of 2015 to do a mix for Kindisch Stories series, and the concept is to go through the back catalogue and weave together a mix. Instead of DJ’ing we had the idea to remix what we could off of the back catalogue as we are more production minded than DJ minded, so she let us have at it. Unfortunately with this concept we weren’t able to go very far into the catalogue’s discography but we were still able to work with many of our fellow label mates and associates and get parts from their releases. I am pleased with the results, as it lends itself to a more modern and contemporary vibe with the artists that have been bringing a lot of style to the scene like Yokoo, LUM, Gab Rhome, Ben Hoo, and Powell. We then filled in the gaps with our own originals, and a couple of compilations with our brother Robbie Akbal we worked together one summer in Barcelona.
What is the state of the music scene where you’re based in Los Angeles and how does it influence you both?
Reagan: I don’t think we could be any more excited about how awesome the scene is in LA right now! There is so much positive energy and vibes right now. The underground scene is strong and the community is united and tighter than ever. Everyone is working hard to provide class talent to our hungry city. From Dialogue bringing acts like Thugfucker and M.A.N.D.Y., to Cyclone bringing the Romanian flare like Rhadoo, Gescu, and Herdot, to Minimal Effort throwing parties with Mobilee and Flying Circus brands, and then Midnight Lovers, Subtract, Sublevel, Superfreq, Making Shapes, Othersound and Rhonda and Dig Deeper and and Into The Woods (they’re bringing Mathew Jonson finally.)
What do you guys get up to when you have time off?
Chris: Lately I have been doing a lot more hiking, yoga, spending time with my parents and friends, and working a lot on my own illustrations and art. I am an avid reader and start everyday with at least an hour of reading. Once my motorcycle is out of the shop I will be running around the roads and mountains here in California. We finally had rain this winter and the bloom is incredible!
Reagan: Well, I’ve been playing too much Final Fantasy Brave Exvus on my iPhone. Somehow I’ve managed to use 30GB on my data in less than a month, so that’s a sign to put it down, so now I’m alternating between reading Dante’s Divine Comedy and Carl Jung’s Synchronicity (everyone seems to respect C.J., so I figure it’d be great to learn how to explain Synchronicity in a reasonable way to people that might not believe in such a thing). I go hiking with friends often as well. LA’s been beautiful and green finally due to all the rain. It looks like a completely different state!! I also really enjoy cooking (and eating.) And of course listening to music (really loud. I’m a loud junkie.) while driving around LA! That’s where I get most of my listening done as well as checking mixdown and mastering projects I do for people. I’ve also been working on a really exciting project with our good friend and vocalist Shawni, recording ancient Sanskrit mantra’s and creating a whole music for meditation and yoga experience we’ll work on touring here and there.
Any exciting gigs or releases for the rest of 2017 you can tell us about?
We always love going to NYC as we always stay a week to hang out with friends out there and get a healthy dose of the NYC city life! Just enough. Mid-May we’re back in Miami at Do Not Sit On The Furniture.
As far as other upcoming releases this year, we’ve got a single coming out on Lee Burrdige and Hoj’s new label Tale and Tone with some amazing vocal work by the ever so talented and awesome Cari Golden, a vinyl only EP for Akbal Music, an EP for Audiofly’s new Flying Circus label, and another new Rebellion EP! Oh and one more, a remix of Guti’s live electronic jazz band Rompecorazones featuring some other remixes by some other amazing and talented producers. But that’s all we can say for now. Outside of that we’re working on our next album still, and story-boarding some exciting music video and fun content ideas for it.