Aaron Litschke on techno, Alexei Moon Casselle, and the Record Room
Photo by Christina Stearns
EDM and techno aren't contemplated as often as they should be. There is an underground following that runs deep and steadfast, even here in the Cities, that hasn't been tapped. As local DJ Aaron Litschke gets ready to release his newest EP, Drowning, which is a balance of past and present -- the songs embrace and calm, all the while titillating and corrode -- he contemplates the paths that he's taken to get to the final result.
Gimme Noise spoke with Aaron before his EP drops on Friday to get a better view on his passion, and why he doesn't care if people don't "get" techno.
Can you describe to me the genre of music that you perform?
I play Hard Techno. I think a lot of people think that anything that has a 4/4 beat is "techno." Techno like rock music contains all different sub-genres: soft-rock, hard rock, and so on. Like rock, there are a ton of styles that fall under the techno umbrella.
How did you get into spinning? Was it something that interested you as a kid?
I was a kid when I started to DJ; I was 14 years-old and going to a lot of parties and raves. My best friend and someone that I looked up to, and still do, Aaron Hart, was starting to show me some things on his turntables, and I was hooked. I got two shitty belt-driven Gemini turntables and practiced from the time I got home from school to the time I went to bed. At that time in my life, I was living in Cannon Falls, a great but small town with not much to do all of the time, so DJing became my outlet and kept me from getting bored.
You mentioned Cannon Falls. Where did you go to high school?
I graduated from the Arts High School in Golden Valley in 1999, where I went for music. I went to school with some amazing talented cats that are a big part of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene, such as Alexei Moon of Kill the Vultures, John Samels of Paper Tiger, and Stef aka P.O.S -- who went to Hopkins High School, but was over at our school a lot to kick it. There are a lot more really talented musicians. This is just a few; I could go on and on.
Do you consider yourself a composer?
When I think of a composer, I think of Beethoven -- someone who writes sheet music. I write techno using a program called Ableton. It's different than writing sheet music, but it's still writing music. I should note that Ableton allows you to write any kind of music you want: hip-hop, soul, rock, country -- anything. The door is wide open these days with what you can do with music. So to answer your question, I kind of consider myself a "composer" in some sense of the word.
With techno, since there are no lyrics, how do you know where to put the highs and lows on a piece?
There's structure in music and depending on the style of music, you'll add different layers to fill out your music.
James Hammer and Aaron Litschke
Photo by Christina Stearns
You worked with James Hammer on the new EP, Drowning. How did he contribute to the pieces?
James and I wrote the EP in his studio, and we had never worked together, and both had a different style in writing. It took a few drinks to get the ball rolling, but I think we complement each other's writing style very well. James is a great producer who has a lot more releases under his belt on some major labels like Relief Records and Naked Lunch, to name a few, so I was a little worried that I wouldn't have a lot to offer. It turned out that Drowning was half written by us both and also a blast to write. It was great to see how someone else writes a track or looks at music in general. James and I will most definitely keep collaborating together.
Who are some of your favorite techno producers right now?
I'm going to keep it to ten, otherwise the list would be way too long. This is in no particular order: Audio Injection, Drumcell, A. Paul, Sasha Carassi, DJ Hyperactive, Tom Hades, Alan Fitzpatrick, Luis Flores, James Hammer, Submerge 101, Komprezzer, Raiz Acid, Dvs1. Dustin Zahn, Mike G, Matt Rissi -- OK, maybe it was a few more than ten, but it's hard to stop when there's so many great artists.
What do you say to people who don't "get" techno music?
I don't tell them anything; you have to want to change or be open to change. There's always someone that's going to judge me or have some stereotype about techno. The same people that look down on techno are the same people who contribute nothing to the community. They work their 9-5 jobs, go home, kick the dog, play their Xbox, eat dinner, and go to bed. They may look down on me, but they're not any better than me. So, fuck them. I'm at least putting myself out there, and that's more than a lot of people can say.
Photo via Aaron Litschke
You have a monthly residency at the Record Room. How did you land this gig?
Yeah, the Record Room gig kind of fell in my lap. I had done a few shows already with my friend Matt Veloce, but didn't have anything steady until Nick Gunz started a night in that room called BLACK. BLACK is still going strong; it's every Saturday in the Record Room at First Ave. Nick was throwing shows called HOME; it was a house night, and he wanted to fill the other Saturday nights, so he brought in my two best friends Aaron Bliss to start doing one of the weekend nights. At that point, there was no room for me to have a night, so Matt and I did the fifth Saturday of the month, when there was one. At a certain point, Nick decided he wanted to leave the club, so I just fell into the monthly.
What advice would 31-year-old Aaron give to 18-year-old Aaron?
31-year-old Aaron wouldn't hate 18-year-old Aaron, but he would probably want to give him a smack and tell him to shut the fuck up. 18-year-old Aaron was kind of a big deal in his mind (even though I hadn't really accomplished much at that time). 31-year-old Aaron knows he's not a big deal, and there's a long road to go to "make it." I also know I might not make it, so I'm trying to have as much fun as I can. Living in Minneapolis will keep you humble; there are a ton of amazing producers and DJs that not only play around the States, but also around the world. I think 18 year-old Aaron wouldn't have given them the respect they deserve, because he was too arrogant and cocky to see past his own nose -- that I think is something that is just a part of youth. I wouldn't say anything to him; I needed to learn the lessons just the way I did, thus I wouldn't change a thing.
Aaron Litschke will release Drowning via Naked Lunch on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
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