|With his new album, his first in six years, Yore Records founder Andy Vaz makes an impressive case for timeless house music. We caught up with the Düsseldorf-based producer right before he went straight vacationing.|
Andy Vaz is a man attached to distant places. One is India, where part of his family is from and where Vaz travels once a year, the other is Detroit, his secret musical home.
In the geographic middle between the two lies Düsseldorf, the West-German city known as the home of Kraftwerk and the focal point of Andy Vaz's musical endeavours.
Since 1998 Andy Vaz has been busy running record labels and writing music, but while many of his peers - especially in neighbouring Cologne - devoted their energy to developing a genuinely German form of techno, Andy intensified his ties to the American Midwest.
His own imprints such as Background, A Touch Of Class, and since 2007 Yore have served as outlets for unique American artists such as Terrence Dixon, Rick Wade, Alton Miller, and Deadbeat, while his own productions have covered experimental minimalism as well as soulful house music.
His new album, called 'Straight Vacationing', is firmly devoted to the latter: Eight tracks of jazz-infused, yet deep and futuristic tracks that serve as a profession of love for the house music sounds of the Motor City, from the programmatic deep techno of 'Detroit In Me' over acid and disco flavoured cuts to the jazz electro fusion of the album's closing track, 'The Other Place'.
An Interview with Andy Vaz
You started your first label, Background Records, in 1998 by mainly releasing the music of well known US techno artists, such as Terrence Dixon, Todd Sines or Stewart Walker. How did this connection come about?
I originally got into techno when I was 15. I was living in Bochum at the time and had already been a music nerd, collecting NY hip-hop and so on. After my first techno night I clearly needed this new music, of course on vinyl. So I went to nearby Essen to check out this record shop, Important Records. The record that was playing when I entered the shop was Claude Young's Brother From Another Planet release on Seventh CIty, which I ended up taking home. At the time I knew nothing about Detroit or the history of techno, so I guess I was lucky they weren't playing hard-trance!
So that's how you got involved in the early techno scene.
Right, and it was in 1995 that I got my hands on Terrence Dixon's 'Minimalism' EP on Utensil, which blew my mind. I had already been a fan of Robert Hood - Minimal Nation, M-Plant - and yet Terrence's music was even more reduced. It was almost made out of nothing, but it was such an important records for me.
His 'Minimalism II' and 'III' appeared on your own own label, Background Records.
I was in contact with Dan Kurzius at the time, who ran a US fanzine at the time, called Hard Sync. I asked him about Terrence Dixon and he actually got me his private phone number. So I called him saying, "Hey, this is Andy from Germany, do you want to play in Europe?" Terrence was completely flabbergasted, he actually thought it was a prank. In the end he came over a few times, staying at my place, and eventually he invited me to come and visit him in Detroit. Once I was there he introduced me to a lot of people. We met Mike Banks at Submerge, had chicken at Juan Atkins' place, and so on. That was how the first Background Records release ended up being by Terrence Dixon. Today a lot of young guys that want to start a label ask me about business plans and financing - all I knew back then was that I liked the music, I had my guys in Detroit and that was the plan.
Lately Yore has become your main imprint - after running Background, A Touch Of Class, Soundvariation, ...
Yes, Soundvariation was my initial project as a producer - a concept series limited to ten releases. My first album, 'Repetitive Moments last Forever...', even though it sounds different than what I'm doing today, has already been a house music album, more than a minimal or experimental one. So my new album, six years later, doesn't come complete out of the blue. There's definitely a continuity there.
Andy Vaz: "You don't have to walk right into the cliche trap"
Yet, what was your motivation to restrict yourself to a single project instead of covering multiple angles.
Well, of course my labels and my productions always reflect what pushes my buttons at any given time, and for the past years that's been deep and soulful house music, really. For me there was a point where laptop-based experimentalism had come to a conclusion, when all was said and done. House music for me has the advantage of being timeless. A good house music track comes without an expiration date - it always works, no matter if you've been listening to the music for 20 years or just started yesterday. That's why the new label is dedicated to the sound, as well as my new album.
Tell me a bit about the genesis of the album - how long have you been working on it?
Forever! First of all I'm a slow worker. second I took a lot of time off from recording. The whole process extended over at least one and a half years. But of course you scrap stuff, work on and off, experiment with ideas forever before you reject them and start something new. So the tracks on the album didn't take that long, but the whole gestation was rather drawn out.
Did you work with other musiscians on the album?
Yes I did. There's one track with Andreas Pasternack, a 52-year-old saxophone player, who I got to know in Rostock by chance.
That's the track 'Stubnitz'?
Exactly. I DJed on the 'Stubnitz' [a former transport vessel of the GDR fishing fleet, now anchored in Rostock and converted into a cultural centre] one night and before me a local DJ played classic US house with a saxophone player improvising over the music. I was really impressed with his musicianship, so I invited him to my studio and we completed the track in a day.
The other collaboration came from a Goethe Institute tour in India, where I also have some roots and frequently spend time during the year. You know, I always look out for counterproposals to house music cliches - I find it pretty bad how black music is sampled in Germany to create this kind of cliched soulfulness, which doesn't work for me, as it is taken out of its context. Or black political speech fragments, which get used by 22-year-old suburban white kids with a complete lack of context and legitimacy. So I thought if I was to use something organic, it would be Indian. I don't have to quote African music to make house music. I mean, clearly my music is rooted in Afro-American culture, but you don't have to walk right into the cliche trap. So I recalled this professional Tabla player, who records with artists like Xavier Naidu and who I knew from ten years ago, and who anded up playing on 'The Other Place'. It's hardly recognisable as Tabla though, because I put a lot of effects of it - contrary to the saxophone, which I left very raw and upfront.
You will play live a lot after the album comes out?
Yes, starting in January. Right after the album is released I will travel to India for five weeks. That's one reason why the album's called 'Straight Vacationing', not the only one though. It's a bit crazy, to go on holiday right after release, but I just love travelling.
Andy Vaz's album 'Straight Vacationing' is out now on Yore Records. Listen to and download more recommended releases below.