Producer/DJ Switch Interviewed: On M.I.A., Santigold, Major Lazer, Amanda Blank and 'Fidgit House'
British-based Switch is one artist who lives up to his name. Known in the super-club world for his left-field, tech-flavored up-tempo sets, the DJ born as Dave Taylor has also become a certified name-brand pop producer, having working with the likes of M.I.A., Diplo, Santogold and up-and-coming rapper Amanda Blank. While that's not so unusual in jock-land (just ask Stuart Price), what's impressive is the range of music he covers.
As a spinner, his wiggly bass lines and shuffling bleeps fit right in with the Berlin-flavored grooves du jour. As a producer, his inner rasta seems to come out when he takes his position as part of Caribbean-flavored hipster act Major Lazer, a duo with Diplo that recently dropped its debut long-player, Guns Don't Kill People ... Lazers Do. Switching between the black-clad geeks of techno and the neon-draped cool kids of nu electro can't be easy. On the eve of his Friday appearance at Avalon, we asked him about it. -- Dennis Romero
LA Weekly: How did you end up working with M.I.A and Diplo?
Switch: I started work with Maya after hearing her do a show on BBC Radio 1 in London. I had just got back from a trip to Jamaica, where I'd been trying to write different styles of music, so I had a load of new beats. And when I heard her on the radio she sounded so different to anything else that was around at the time. I went and left a CD at her record label (XL) and got an intro. At the time she was working on "Bucky Done Gun" with Diplo and they were stuck on where to go with it, so I offered to help. We kinda' just developed a working relationship from there.
A lot of up-tempo DJ fans would find it unusual, if not refreshing, to see someone like you working in such diverse genres. How do you make the transition between styles? I guess the studio technology is the same?
Yeah the technology is the same, but different styles of music allow you to use it in different ways. I just really try to keep inspired, and it's difficult to do that if you only listen to one genre of music. I come from London, where underground music was very segregated when I was growing up. Hip-hop heads stuck to what they liked, and they hated on everything else; club kids liked specific types of club music, and they hated everything else; indie kids hated everything else; and to me it was causing everything to get stale. The Internet was really the catalyst that brought all different styles together: People started buying and stealing music in a different way. iPods became the new format, people could design their own albums track by track instead of having to purchase a whole album by one artist, and DJs started using laptops and music from blogs. So the transition to making different styles of music was pretty natural when you're surrounded by all this.
You worked on Spank Rock rapper Amanda Blank's forthcoming debut long-player. What were your impressions of her and the music?
Amanda's so good. She was the reason I originally came to the states. I heard a mixtape that Alex XXXChange [of Spank Rock] put together with her rapping on it, and I had seen her onstage with Spank Rock. I really wanted to go and spend some time in America. So I left London and used Amanda as my excuse to go to New York. It would have worked out sooner if I had realized she was from Philly! I think her album is gonna' surprise a lot of people. She has a rep of being a no nonsense kind of artist, and her [upcoming] record has a real pop sensibility without being too deliberate. I hope people like it.
You've already made the transition to producing tunes for some of the biggest names in pop. What keeps you coming back to the DJ booth?
DJing is still, for me, the best way to gauge where peoples' heads are at. It gives you an instant testing ground for anything you're working on in the studio. You can finish a track and then play it to a thousand people the next day. It's also a pretty good way to get to see what's going on in different parts of the world and pick up new influences.
Are there any other artists you'd like to work with? Any up and comers rocking your world?
I'd love to work with Amy Winehouse. I've been a fan of hers since day one. I love this girl called Mapei from Sweden who's doing her record in Paris with Justice. I think that could be one of the most exciting records to come out this year. There's a band I'm helping out called Le Corps Mince De Francoise from Helsinki. They're a three-piece female outfit doing some pretty special, twisted, pop stuff
How would you describe fidget house? Is that your DJ sound? Is techno still having its influence with you?
Ha ... Fidget house was a joke name we invented to see if people would bite. But it's basically just jackin' house beats with a few unexpected twists and turns. Originally we just wanted to make records that didn't do the same thing for seven minutes. Now we just want to make records that do the same thing for seven minutes.
With Major Lazer, how do you perform -- via DJ, band, or a little of both?
It's a mix of both: We just got back from Texas, where we did two shows with our friend Skerrit Bwoy, and with our dancers. It's pretty cool - just crazy hype shit with some new records from the Caribbean that we like. And the dancers pull off all the new shit from Kingston. It's a proper fun show!
You're headed to Asia?
Japan is next up with Major Lazer. We're gonna' go work with Mighty Crown out there, which is gonna' be mental. We're looking forward to that.
Control presents Switch, Sammy Bananas and more Friday at Avalon Hollywood, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood. Doors at 10:00. 18+. Tickets $10 advance. Info: avalonhollywood.com.
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