A stygian, discordant style of electronic dance music, techno has since its origin in the 1980s drawn inspiration from the relentless grind and dystopian aesthetic of industrial music. Moe Espinosa, who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley on a steady diet of industrial and punk, is a DJ/producer and a co-founder of Droid Recordings, arguably the most important techno label in the United States today. Luis Flores, also a DJ/producer, is a Mexican-born, Berlin-based veteran and a key player in the establishment of his native Guadalajara as a main hub for techno in Latin America.
In 2015, Espinosa and Flores formed Belief Defect, an experimental electronic music project deeply rooted in both techno and industrial. They released their debut full-length album, Decadent Yet Depraved, last September on the noted German electronic music label Raster. L.A. Weekly caught up with Espinosa and Flores by Skype for this interview in advance of Belief Defect's appearance at the Regent Theater on Saturday, Sept. 15, with headliners Black Line.
"I started playing guitar mostly and started playing in rock bands — I use the word 'rock' loosely," Espinosa says. "I was trying to play everything from punk to harder-edged metal and what I perceived to be industrial at that young age. I ended up finally going to raves around '95 or '96 and discovered electronic music, which was completely alien to me at the time, and just went down the path of wanting to be a DJ and working in recording studios to where I am today."
Espinosa began working in Hollywood recording studios while he was still in high school, initially performing menial tasks like making coffee. "I finished high school and I went to Musicians Institute to study recording engineering and audio acoustics and electronics," he says. "Right after I finished school, I went straight back to working in studios, until I started to put out records and travel and play as a DJ."
"I have a slightly different story," Flores says. "Among other things, because I grew up in Mexico, and I'm a little older than Moe. I got into music because my father is an audiophile and I grew up with him playing a lot of classical music. And he had very early electronic music records, in this case, Tomita's Pictures at an Exhibition and Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre. This is '70-something. I must have been 5, 6 years old. And Radio-Activity from Kraftwerk. And he played them sporadically but it always caught my attention — the movie-like soundscapes that all of them had. And specifically, those three records, they have concrète references and other sound effects incorporated in the music."
Those watershed LPs instilled in Flores a lifelong love of synthesizers and the richly detailed electronic music they are capable of creating.
"I wanted to study music and [play synthesizers] but at first I didn't know what they were," he says. "So I ended up studying organ because I kept telling my mother that it wasn't a piano that I wanted to play. Around 15, I got a sampler and pretty much taught myself how to use it. I got into industrial music as my first thing I wanted to make, thus a sampler. Industrial music kind of offered the best combination of my parents' education, which was the music side — my dad — and my mother's side, which has always been politics, so, nothing more appealing than all the anger in industrial music for a teenage nightmare that I was, so that's how I got started. Eventually I flipped to techno and so on."
Asked about the formation of Belief Defect, Espinosa recalls, "We actually met in Guadalajara when I was starting to travel more as a DJ because of the records I was doing — techno, Droid Behavior and all that. I went to go play at a festival in Mexico with Developer [respected L.A. DJ/producer Adrián Sandoval]. Right after us Luis went on, and I remember seeing this guy play for the first time and it absolutely blew me away. We exchanged information and it started a pretty long collaboration of musical work together, before Belief Defect formed, producing techno records together, releasing techno records, doing remixes for each other. And I believe even the first time that I went to Europe to DJ internationally was with Luis as well. We played a gig in Brussels. That was my first time being able to play internationally overseas."
Flores adds, "I think in that period, too, it was really kind of a lucky time because we were both a little bit jaded, possibly, and kind of lost with music and listening to the same kind of albums. It was a pretty good couple of years of music all around, as in not techno specifically, but there were a lot of albums floating around that were very inspiring." Flores and Espinosa mention albums by Andy Stott, Fuck Buttons, Haus Arafna and Alessandro Cortini.
"We were trying to look for new grounds and break out of this perpetual loop we seemed to be stuck in musically and artistically," Espinosa says. "And we wanted to do something different purely out of frustration and creative desire to explore new territories — create music freely, for lack of better words."
Describing the process of writing and producing Decadent Yet Depraved, Flores explains, "Moe came to Berlin with a lot of recordings he had on his modular system in L.A. and left them here; then I added something, rhythmically or whatever, and then we kind of bounced it back and forth. It was weird. Every track kind of came together differently on the record, but it was pretty much like pushing back and forth until we felt it was done."
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Espinosa adds, "It's weird looking back on it, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly in memory how the whole entire album came together. For me at least, it was a very cathartic experience working on the entire project. And even though we brought elements from separate studios, and maybe Luis worked on some loops when I wasn't there that I came back and listened to and then added on top of it, there were large portions of development of the record that were both of us locked in the same room with very little sleep for three or four days nonstop, never seeing sunlight.
"For me, one of the closest experiences I've had to one of those romantic notions of what you would expect to hear from your favorite musicians growing up, being locked in a recording studio and going though this maddening process of creating music. In a lot of ways it kind of was. It was a brutal experience at the end of it."
Espinosa sees the completion of Decadent Yet Depraved and its release on Raster as coming full circle. "Like I mentioned earlier," he reflects, "the first time that we went to Europe, we played the Brussels Electronic Music Festival. There was a Raster label showcase going on and I remember specifically, we all sat down and watched it. It's like a weird loop. After all these years of playing gigs and traveling all over Europe, we came right back to Raster, which was one of the labels that was there at the very beginning. Luckily, they were the first label we sent it to, and they came back and said yes."
Belief Defect play with Black Line at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Regent Theater.