Heroes: Interview with Diego Herrera (Suzanne Kraft, Dude Energy, dublab, Los Angeles)

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We had a super fun chat with our hero from sunny California — Diego Herrera, man behind biggest releases this year: Blase on ESP, first release of Noise In My Head and upcoming monster on the most promising label of 2015 Animals Dancing. We talked about Los Angeles music scene, samples on Dude Energy EP, growing of dublab, sketeboarders, female intuition and far more!

So how are you? You have a quite busy Monday morning!

Yeah, sort of busy. We have a weekly Monday morning meeting to go over the week ahead here at dublab. «Meeting» is a bit strong of a word though. haha :)

Are you doing only Things Of Life radioshow or something else on dublab?

I’m the «creative director» here. Working Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Wow! And for how long? Tell us about this project

I’ve been involved for about 5 or 6 years, starting as an intern at the end of high school, went away to college for a year, left, came back and became a staff member in 2011. Dublab’s actually one of the first online-only radio stations, launched in 1999 and has been online ever since. in 2008 it became an official 501 (c)3 non-profit arts organisation too. Half of our funding comes from listener support, largely during our fundraising drives that happen twice a year.

Was it your dream in childhood to become a musician?

Yeah, I think I always did want to be a musician. I’ve been so lucky that all throughout my schooling I’ve been in music programs. I went to a Waldorf/Steiner school from 6th grade on and you’re required to play some kind of instrument. I was already playing saxophone so that was easy.

So you are the man full-time involved in music: DJ, producer and creative director on dublab, right?

Haha, yeah, when I talk to people about a hectic week I may be having or whatever I’ll have to stop and realize, it’s all music and I still really like it all.

As a creative director you are choosing DJs and radioshows for the radio broadcast, right? Did you add some new shows or new artists to dublab last time? What should a musician / DJ do to get into dublab air?

My role is really more focused on collaborations with artists, designing site assets, promotional items. It’s a bit tough because I have a decade of other peoples work I have to work with/around but still fun. As far as programming, that’s more of a group decision. It’s usually pretty obvious who should have a show and can manage the responsibility of coming in on time or remember which day of the month their show is (we have both weekly and monthly shows) — and yes, about 2 years ago we expanded our live broadcasting schedule to about 8 hours a day every day of the week. That was initially what I was brought on for.

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Tell me about this thing like contact with listeners. You are broadcasting, they are listening and how do you get in contact with them? It’s really important when you are doing something not only for yourself but mainly for other people!

Yeah it’s a bit tricky that. We’ve experimented in different ways over the years… I’d say daily interaction is mostly done through Twitter. I know personally for my show I’ll post on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and see who’s tuning through comments and whatnot. I guess short answer would be — social media. Some of the higher profile DJs do have their fans who listen every time and tweet constantly and might even write e-mails if the archive doesn’t go up fast enough or something. I think because of it’s history yes. We’ve only just this year implemented an iTunes-style «archive finder» on our site — it’s the first time anyone’s been able to sensibly sift through the 15 years of content and actually see who’s come in to the station. And we’re still adding stuff all the time. There’s towers and towers of CDs and boxes of DAT tapes of sessions from before they were archiving to hard drives — http://dublab.com/search/#?page=1.

Diego, is dublab the best radio in USA in terms of musical content in your opinion? Is there healthy musical scene in USA? I mean all dublab residents are representatives of it as Americans

And yeah, I mean, the US is a HUGE place so I can’t really speak for the country as a whole… LA’s good though :) Yes, all but one of our weekly/monthly residents are American. Cosmic D’Alessandro lives in Barcelona though and has a weekly show he does from over the and sends over to us to air Monday mornings.

Was it your idea about polyethylene cover for your show? It’s super cool!

Haha, yeah ;) It’s my real-life Photoshop layer.

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Did you play on your show drunk? Be honest haha)

Haha! No way, my show’s at 10 in the morning. I try to keep my drinking sensible.

It’s a healthy decision) Who are you favorite guest on TOL show?

Aw man… I can’t play favorites! Latest guest was Jonny Nash though — I still need to archive that show… But that was great because I just love that man like a brother.

I heard you had a show with Jonny not long time ago…

Yeah, we sort of have this live project — first time we actually met was two days before a gig we had agreed to do together, live, in London. That worked out really well and so we did it again when we were in Melbourne for new years. And then he came out here last month and we played a little party we threw downtown. We’re going to start recording the ideas though and sending them back and forth — try and do a record.

Ah I heard recording of your live set from Australia! It was recorded by NIMH I think

Yup! The latest one was probably the best yet.

So do you have a record with Jonny Nash in the near future?

We’ll see! I’ve got some ideas for a short solo record for his Melody As Truth label… But no promises :)

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Cool! Let’s back to your show for a moment. I just should ask this question… Please describe the show with Harvey. You were quite natural in chat with him, I heard your voice was solid. I mean TOL show with Harv.

Oh, haha, that wasn’t a TOL show though :)

Ok, but you did that show with him!

We were doing dublab broadcasts out at the Ace hotel in Palm Springs for the week between both Coachella weekends and I saw he was doing a party out there, so I hit up Heidi (who has a show on dublab now) to see if we could arrange to have him come in. And it went really well! There was actually a lot of great stuff we talked about but while he was playing records… Synth chat ;)

Have you been on his Sarcastic Disco parties?

Yeah! I went to the last 3 ones, but there haven’t been any for a long time best party though. The most I’ve danced at any party. I think…

Is it all about his magic? Or the record selection is really so bold?

His personality definitely has a role in it — I mean, having an impression of someone or a persona is always going to effect your perception no matter how much you say it won’t but yeah, it’s everything. Consideration put into the sound, the record selection and the pace of the night. I always remember a «slow dance» sort of time towards the end of the night. That shit’s my favorite. Emotional music for dancing :)

Understand. And I think it’s the best place to listen to Harv DJing. I heard his sets outside of Sarcastic discos sound quite commercial sometimes

Yeah totally — it’s his house :)

And how did you get into LA musical scene? On that parties? Am I right that you got some recognition in your hometown at first and than only after it you get it in a more global way?

Hmmm. I guess through dublab really. I only played maybe a couple live shows before having any releases. And I didn’t have any intentions to release music back when I actually did but one day I got a message on Myspace from a guy named Gerd Janson. He said his friend was a fan of dublab and told him to check out my music and DJ sets. And he liked it enough I guess to reach out. After that I became more «active» here in LA I guess.

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Why did you choose this name Suzanne Kraft? )

Well that’s still a secret. But I can tell you it has nothing to do with Kraftwerk like some people think.

Cool))) The only thing I thought about when I saw your name on record for the first time: «some girl recorded some house beats»)

I wanted a name that would have no connection to me. On the surface.

Did you have a mentor in music production at the beginning of your career?

Not really. I’m lucky to be so young and have grown up with computers and the internet. My friend Ale (Pharaohs) likes to remind that all the time. I was always influenced by my friends making music around me too of course.

Do you like your first record now? Your first proper record (on vinyl) was Green Flash on Running Back, right? It’s a quite straight house music. Isn’t it too simple for your ears today?

Haha! Yes I still like it. But yeah, it’s pretty straight forward. But sometimes simple, straight forward, «dumb» is just what you need. Funny thing is, Green Flash and Missum were made at the same time, when I was up at school in Portland, OR.

I love Femme Cosmic from Green Flash! Man, what was your first DJ gig outside of LA?

Thanks! That’s the one that’s all original (except for drum samples). Hmmmm. Probably an ambient set up at Reed College for one of dublab’s «Tonalism» events. Here’s the link

Will check! What about Lovefingers and ESP thing? Where you friends before your debut there?

I think I met Andrew about 2 years ago… We had a bunch of mutual friends of course but it wasn’t till Pharaohs approached him about doing a record that we started to get to know each other.

We see this LA gang via social media as a big super fun community: you, Lovefingers, Heidi, Eddie. Are there really family feeling, why do you think it’s like this? My version of answer is: it’s all about skateboarding, right? ))) Eddie, Andrew, Harv were skateboarders :)

Hahaha — can’t really argue with that. I haven’t seen anyone besides Eddie on a skateboard though. E always has a board with him haha.

Maybe others are too serious for it? (I will cut it of course :) )

Eddie just turned 44!

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Why did you collaborate so often? Isn’t it harder to create music with someone else?

Haha. I think that’s just a timing thing. Odd Numbers was sitting around for almost 2 years. Blasé took another year. What else is there?

Pharaohs and maybe one with Jonny?

Ah yeah, but Pharaohs is a regular thing and really a project of Ale and Sam’s, they’re the brains behind Pharaohs. Yeah, I just like it I guess. I find there to be less pressure when working with someone else. It’s a laugh. When working by myself I drive myself crazy.

What are you playing in collaborations?

Kind of playing everything all the time. We do Blasé stuff at Eddie’s studio and he has like every synth. Plus guitars, bass, random drums and drum machines.

I remember snippets of The Third Wall made a lot of noise in Krossfingers hqs here

Working with Eddie is the best. We try to out-stupid each other. :)

Back to LA scene: all you are the best DJ/producers (or one of the best) in the world but not so famous to get in tops. You should substitute this garbage like Van Buuren and Tiesto :) Do you think this scene (I mean not LA but the whole world scene with GOOD MUSIC like Public Possession, Ene, Yozo, Basso, Tako, Tiller etc) can become bigger, more global? Should it happen?

Ha! Wow! That’s very, very flattering )))

It’s a serious question man) And not only about you but about the whole community

I’d like to think that’s possible — but we’d all have to start taking our shirts off when we DJ then and I’m very body-conscious… No, but I don’t know, I don’t think it’s anyone I know of’s goal to get to that level — speaking for myself, if I can live off making or working with music then I’m happy.

Agree with you. But there is one of the principles of «democratic» societies: if you are doing something better than others — you are the best. It shouldn’t be a goal to get in tops but what are you doing wrong that this principle is not working?

Haha! Maybe putting out only 500 copies of a record at once? I mean, all the biggest music isn’t listened to by choice, the stuff at the tops is placed in front of everybody in the world before anyone even goes on itunes and buys it. It’s not really a question of quality but availability and convenience. I’d say what «we» are all making is definitely not «convenient» music.

It’s a timeless question why the boring monotonous techno-only / trance-only / house-only set is more interesting for most of people than crazy eclectic set from Chida for example

Totally :)

Tell about this Dude Energy project in detail. We’re still in shock from hearing it. it’s differs from other your stuff.

I don’t know how much detail there is to get in to :)

For how many you want. Did you record it especially for Animals Dancing? Why it’s so agressive and energetic? The beats on it and on your NIMH record are far more experimental than earlier.

Not specifically for the AD. They’re tracks I made when I was sharing a rehearsal space with my friend Parker. It was this place that was really just for rock bands to practice and be loud. so I made those tracks as a reaction to the setting. My girlfriend at the time really called it with Renee Running. Before it was even done she was like «you have to put this out, people are going to flip.» Haha! That one was made pretty quickly, but the B-side «Some Desire» I spent at least a year on.

Oh these girlfriends )))

Yeah, the rhythms you hear on these two records are really what I like to make. Always changing specifically «Some / Beat Desire» and «Ruff Bathers». Oh girlfriends… ;) It’s all about female intuition :)

Hahaha

Love it.

You & Tornado made a very strong output on Animals Dancing, now it’s one of the most promising labels in 2015. Ah and what about their party in Australia? You played there, right?

BEST TIME I’VE HAD. Yeah, played the Animals Dancing party on New Year’s day straight from Sydney a few hours before. Yeah, it was a big party, with an outdoor «stage» and two indoor rooms. I played outside and it was raining — still a very fond memory :)

Cool! Ok man, you are on the work, will not bother you more. The last two questions: where from is that sample in the ending of Renee Running and what are the most important THINGS OF your LIFE?

You mean the vocal chanting sample?

Yeah!

It’s from this record. Eno & Byrne made it famous on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts LP. Most important things of life? To have a good time all the time :)

Ahhh) Have a good day man! It was super cool chat :) Thank you.

Have a good night and thanks mate! Cheers!

Follow Suzanne Kraft on Soundcloud, Tumblr and Twitter

Words by Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra
Photos by Diego Herrera, Cooper Saver and Sophie Hirschfelder.
Cover drawing by Sasha Tessio