Saturday night's Rave L.A. event will bring together the old school and new when Swedish Egil, one of the major forces behind popularizing techno and house in the city, joins Bul!m!atron and DJ S!n for a downtown all-nighter.
"Swedish" Egil Aalvik began his DJ career in Europe in the 1970s and relocated to Los Angeles by the end of the decade. In the early-80s, he solidified his tastemaker reputation when joined the team behind KROQ 106.7 FM, where he not only hosted Reggae Revolution and co-hosted Loveline, but championed the emerging dance music of the era. Then rave happened and, after leaving KROQ, Aalvik moved to the short-lived, but massively influential MARS-FM 103.1. As the station's music director, he is largely credited with bringing acid house and techno to US airwaves. After his second stint on the 103.1 FM frequency, Groove Radio, ended, Aalvik relaunched the station on the web, where it still enjoys a healthy listenership. Currently, he continues to work on terrestrial radio as a co-host of Powertools on Power 106 FM. He also DJs on Sirius Satellite's 1st Wave channel.
Q: How did you first get involved in the underground dance or rave scene in Los Angeles?
A: Back in the late '80s when I was working at KROQ, one of my interns, this guy named Big Dave was going out to the underground raves. I was also working with a record store called Record Reaction in Long Beach. That store was bringing in house music, like I remember getting one of the very first acid house records, MARRS "Pump up the Volume." That was the beginning of getting into the underground scene. The scene was slowly merging. There was an industrial scene sort of going on and there was another electronic scene going on and then acid house and that's when the underground started to take off. It merged slowly from the clubs into the undergrounds where people would break into the warehouses.
Q: Did you play at the warehouse parties?
A: Not as much at that time. I did, I played a little bit of house music. I played reggae music for a while. I hosted a reggae show on KROQ, Reggae Revolution, and then on Mars-FM I had a show called Planet Reggae. I would go to the raves and play reggae music in one of the other rooms, not necessarily the main room. Then, maybe a few years later, like in the early 1990s, I started to play out more at the raves.
Q: What were the early parties like?
A: They were awesome. The emphasis was on the people. People would set up in some warehouse somplace and bring in these huge soundsystems and good lights and then the people would bring the energy. That's what it would be all about. This music was emerging fast with techno, breakbeat and house music. There were different vibes, like Doc Martin would be out there playing house music. Sven Väth would come out here and play techno, or trance at the time. The era was very exciting.
Nineteen ninety-one was when we started Mars-FM and I was the music director. We were the first radio station to play house music and techno music on a regular basis. I put Moby's "Go!" on in regular rotation. He came out and played our Christmas party and he would play big raves with 808 State and The Shamen. That scene was phenomenal and MARS being an FM radio station, 103.1, we were the Indie of the time. We played Eon [note: Eon's Ian Loveday sadly passed away on June 17] "Spice," Utah Saints "Something Good," we would have those in hot rotation, just like the way they rotate any top 40 artist today on KIIS FM. Nobody else played that music, so we had a big audience and we could promote all of the raves. We promoted all of the raves. Some of the wildest things that would happen was that it was so hard to get a hold of all of these artists that some shady promoter would put up some nobody and claim that they were the artist. They would buy time on the radio station and we promoted that there was going to be an event with them and it was a fake artist that was up there on stage, performing, taking all that money.
The music was so different from anything that had been on before. It was an extension of New Order and Depeche Mode and Erasure, stuff that we had played in the '80s, mixed with the industrial music that had been coming out. DJs were starting to get really creative and make a lot of their own music. They would play reel-to-reels in the clubs or burn acetates. The music was exclusive. It was really cool. Not that it isn't right now. I feel a resurgence in the rave scene, but now it's sort of a little more planned and not off-the-cuff. When people were doing stuff out in the desert and doing events, breaking into these warehouses in cities you had never gone to before, like El Segundo or something. It was cool. There was an old church in Long Beach that people had taken over. Maybe they hadn't broken in there, but it was just an empty space and we completely took over that space and just played music. That must have been '91 or '92.
Swedish Egil Live at Monster Massive, 10/25/08
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Q: How are your gigs different now?
A It's a little more organized. I don't think people really break into buildings anymore and set up. Some people try to bring that back, where there's just a phone number or an email address and you go there and get a map. I don't think a lot of people are doing that. I think that it's more organized. Look at Monster Massive or Together as One or now Electric Daisy Carnival, where I'm going to be an MC, these are well planned and well thought-out and they're really good about bringing in awesome talent.
The parties in the Inland Empire, one at the Pharoah's got a little out of control, but the one at the Hudson Theater continues to do well. They can get 20-25,000 people out there. I just played there recently with Thee-O, we did a thing at a rave called Illuminate. There were like 10,000 people at that event, I think. the soundsystems are better now than they have ever been. Equipment is better. People seem to be even more educated now because they've had all of this time to discover the music. It was so brand new to people, they didn't know how to react to it. Today, house music is mainstream. I think that people are more ready for it. The music scene is so vibrant right now because in the electronic scene, those people are promo-ing the music so that they can have the music out there and available to people. The DJs can play it, the people can like it and know their names and that's how they get booked on tours and bigger events and that's how they make money.
Before, it was so difficult to get your music out. Now you have Beatport and downloads, so there is so much music out there and it's so healthy right now from that point of view. The trance scene has a lot of awesome music. The electro scene that sort of came out of electroclash and the indie scene and new disco, those are merging together. With a club like The Heist in Hollywood every Thursday packing in 2000 people, it's very healthy and these kids really know what's going on and it's completely different from before. If you tell them Sasha or John Digweed or any of those names, without saying anything bad about those people, they are not as aware of those. Now there is a whole new group of DJs like AC Slater or Wolfgang Gartner, Crookers. Then, with the little more mature crowd, the whole tech house scene has exploded.