DJ Ewan Pearson, at Downtown Standard on Sunday, Talks Kompakt, Remixing Gwen Stefani and Tracey Thorn, and the Future of Minimalism
By Dennis Romero
Ewan Pearson is a rare electronic dance music renaissance man who is hailed among the party hearty as much as he's respected by the blogging class. He writes about dance music, he's remixed Depeche Mode, and he's recorded for the much-lauded Kompakt techno label. His re-rubs and productions gleam and resonate with the kind of timelessness associated more with classic pop than disposable dance music. His redux of Seelenluft's "Manila," as any DJ who's been playing for more than five years will tell you, is all-time. And he's been tapped to work on two Tracey Thorn long-players. Any spinner with a sense of subtlety and the sublime will have a Pearson track on-hand.
On the eve of his appearance at the downtown Standard Hotel rooftop Sunday, we asked the Brit a few questions.
LA Weekly: How did you end up doing the remix for Seelenluft's "Manila," and how would you describe the approach you took?
Ewan Pearson: I heard the track when it was just a promo on a little label from Switzerland and loved it. A friend tried to license it from them, but they weren't sure - but they asked me to remix it anyway. I didn't really change that much: It was all about the vocal and getting a nice bass-and-drum groove to go with it. Then the additional hook-line, and it was done. It was a pretty easy one - they aren't all so unproblematic.
Is this approach similar for all the remixes you do?
I try and alter my approach for each track, really. I think about what the song feels like it needs and try and tailor what I do to be most sympathetic to that. I'm really picky about the jobs that I say yes to. I always have to be able to add something that I think both I and them will be happy about. I try not to have a formula or just one method.
You get lumped in with the techno side of dance music, but your music is very melodic and approachable. How would you describe your place on the dance music map?
Erm, I'm in a tiny village just beyond the suburbs of acid house, just a stone's throw away from techno, alternative pop and Italo-disco. A few other people live there too - Joakim, Michael Mayer, Ivan Smagghe, maybe.
You're a resident at what many consider to be the best club in the world, Fabric. What do they do there that makes it so special? How does the Los Angeles club scene compare?
I'm a regular guest - not a resident, sadly. Fabric is great. The people there are obsessive music fans, really, and it's an amazing place to play. The sound man goes out into the crowd and adjusts the cross-over on the amp by remote control from where the crowd is dancing. There are other wonderful clubs that I'm resident: Robert Johnson in Frankfurt, which is small but perfectly formed club with a brilliant music policy; the Loft in Barcelona; and other places that I play regularly and love like Panoramabar in Berlin. I've only played L.A. once, at Avalon, but had a really good time there. I'm looking forward to this weekend's party with the Droog guys very much.
You write about dance music. How does that affect your production and DJing? Does it make you look at things differently?
I have always thought about the process and how I do what I do. Writing about that is just being honest about all of that really. But then I'm fascinated by process in general. I've always read books about writing by my favorite authors and about directing by my favorite film-makers. Understanding what goes through people's heads when they are making things makes the process of making things yourself a lot less strange and isolated and peculiar (which it can sometimes feel).
There's been some talk of minimal being over. Where's the music headed?
My least favorite question in the world! I'm afraid I have no crystal ball. I have no idea what's next. I'm just happy that there's lots of music out there that I really want to play at the moment. But as for the next big thing - your guess is as good as mine.
Who are some of the DJs, remixers and producers taking things forward?
Matt Edwards, DJ Koze, It's A Fine Line, Joakim, Jamie Jones, Todd Terje, Seth Troxler, Vincenzo. I could go on for days.
How did you end up working for Gwen Stafani? What were your contributions, and did you get any reaction from her?
I was hired as a programmer by Nellie Hooper (of Massive Attack, Bjork and Soul II Soul fame) and did three weeks of work for him - on two tracks on her first record and one on her second. I just did lots of programming really. They gave me Pro Tools sessions of things to work on and I added loads and loads of things. Gwen was in for just one day, at the end of the session. She seemed lovely - down to earth and very enthusiastic.
Piece Work, a retrospective of your remixes, is one of my favorite compilations of the last few years. What's next from you in terms of long-players - an artist album?
I'm doing a lot of producing for other people at the moment. I'm just finishing a new solo album from Tracey Thorn. I produced half of her last record Out of the Woods and have recently finished the debut albums for a band called Lost Valentinos from Sydney and another band called Delphic from Manchester. They are both exciting records. Lost Valentinos is psychedelic indie-pop and Delphic is quite epic and emotional - a bit reminiscent of New Order. So I'm working for a lot for other people at the moment. There will be some kind of artist record again from me at some point, but I'm not sure when.
Ewan Pearson DJ's at Culprit Sessions to celebrate the label's debut EP 'h.e.a.d.s.' from Hot Natured Sunday afternoon with Damian Lazarus, Droog and Lee Foss also on-decks at the Standard Hotel, 550 S. Flower St., downtown. Doors at 1 p.m. Cover $10 before 4 p.m. Info: myspace.com/droog_la.
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