Los Angeles has recently experienced a heavy influx of international dance music producers, DJs, and label chiefs.
Brits like Michael Cook and Mark Lewis were throwing raves in the Southland in the late '80s and early '90s, while French dance royalty Daft Punk arrived at some point in the late '90s. Recently, Anthony Gonzalez (M83) became another Frenchman-in-L.A., making electronic bedroom pop. Meanwhile, more British jocks like Harvey, DJ Garth, Jesse Rose, and Damian Lazarus have gotten in the action as well.
Other dance acts and producers like Plastic Plates, Andrei Osyka (Droog), and Filip Nikolic (Poolside) hail from Australia, the Ukraine, and
the Netherlands Denmark respectively, though they all seem to be local fixtures at this point.
What gives? Why now? I spoke with a few of these nouveaux Angelenos to try to figure out if the allure has to do with anything other than climate.
I first met with Tomas Barfod, one of several Danish producers who has decided to spend several months out of his year in L.A. He's the drummer-producer for live act WhoMadeWho. He came largely to collaborate with hip-hop MCs (which are hard to come by in Europe) and pop vocalists, and is currently working on productions for Young L and Clyde Carson, as well as a collaboration with Chrome Canyon.
"When I first came to L.A. in 2008," Barfod explains, "a lot of people from Europe didn't necessarily love L.A., but I feel like that's changing. They're not used to the structure of the city and all the driving. I actually like driving, so it's interesting to drive around the strange parts of town and listen to music. We got a lot of help from good friends who had been here for a while and knew where the good stuff was, so we didn't have to wade through too much of the obvious stuff."
Like Barfod, Israeli-born Guy Gerber has also been working on hip-hop production in the U.S. -- specifically, he's sitting on a full length for Diddy. He also produces deep house and runs a label, Supplement Facts.
"Europeans see everything that is happening in the U.S. at the moment, and that most of it is centered around L.A., so it makes it more interesting than it has been for some time. The chance to leave Europe in the winter and come to sunny L.A. is very appealing. As a producer there are many opportunities to work outside the dance music space, and interesting people from beyond the DJ world in film, art, etc, which I think pushes you creatively."
While he recently claimed that the club scene in L.A. "sucks", the city provides other aesthetic pleasures and inspiration, he says. Besides the obvious perks ("great food", "beautiful girls"), Gerber finds L.A. captures "the blend of darkness and glamour, it's beautiful and cinematic, yet gritty and dirty. For how I make music, that is really appealing."
Gerber was more than likely inspired by colleague Damian Lazarus, one of international dance music's most well-rounded vets, who moved here four years ago. He's done everything from criticism to running his Crosstown Rebels imprint to throwing parties at Burning Man and Machu Pichu, and generally pushing what he calls "underground dance music."
Like the others, he's been enchanted with the idea of Los Angeles for a while, though he admits it's not the easiest place for an outsider to breach. "Many people in Europe consider L.A. to be full of fake people searching for identity, people with fake breasts and plastic surgery hunting for their fifteen minutes of fame. But I figure this opinion comes from people that have little or no connections in the city, are not connected to people that live there that know what's going on. With the exception of LA Weekly, it is difficult for people new in town to find the cool spots, the best underground parties, the right areas to check out, and so when people come over they just see the idiots dressed as superheroes outside the Grauman's and nutbags working up a sweat on Venice Beach. Since our music scene has been building exponentially over the last few years I believe this view is changing for the better."
In addition to vibe, creative people, and the weather, L.A. also acts as the epicenter for festivals and live events in this hemisphere. Lazarus is convinced that dance music has only just begun to start infiltrating broader popular culture in America and that its place in mass media is still not decided. "Over the [last four] years we have moved on from a couple of hundred people at the infamous Droog/Culprit parties to 2,000 partying like crazy at the Crosstown Rebels Get Lost event last August. So to be in the City of Angels and watch this movement towards cool dance music has been very exciting."
"The entertainment industry has woken up to the fact there is more to underground electronic music than at first meets the eye," he continues. "Expect big things to happen from here on in."