DVS1 reaching global heights with his techno production

DVS1 (right) emerging from the shadows
DVS1 (right) emerging from the shadows
Denis Jeong Plaster for City Pages

You've heard that old maxim in the entertainment business that if you don't make it before age 30, it's time to cut your hair, join some job-seeker sites, and demote your creative dream to "hobby" status. Zak Khutoretsky heard it over and over again in his own mind. He told his friends he should just accept his local acclaim as the Minneapoils dance scene's foremost warrior and afterhours techno legend and realize it's "too late" for him to branch out now that he's deep into his 30s and fresh off the sting of failed nightclub, Foundation.

And then it all started happening.

DVS1 gaining national attention
DVS1 gaining national attention
Zak's career in the local music industry is storied, and one that you'd hear different versions on from different people depending which scene they frequent. To ex-ravers, he's the guy who threw amazing parties under bridges in St. Paul with that killer soundsystem. To hip-hop fans, he's that bald-headed dude who owned the club that brought in such acts as Afrika Bambaataa and Mixmaster Mike and set the stage for Minneapolis' "Get Cryphy" parties. But a different kind of fan knows DVS1 now. The kind of fan who lives in Berlin, goes to Berghain and breathes techno -- the kind who follows long-established artists like Ben Klock and Derrick May  -- but now loops in DVS with that group.

The pace picked up about a year ago or so, and recent months has seen this Twin Cities loyalist touring Europe and putting records out on esteemed techno labels -- labels Zak followed in his early years and now finds himself a signed artist. A great


on popular dance site Resident Advisor just came out late last week and noted Zak as its "Breakthrough Artist." It's a triumphant story for the rest of us, too. Turns out you don't have to be a fresh-out-of-college 21-year-old to gain widespread recognition -- in fact, in many cases, a seasoned vet is preferred.


Gimme Noise: How did you meet techno producer Ben Klock, the Klockwork label owner who gave you your latest 'big break'?

DVS1: Ben Klock actually weaves back almost a year and half now; it was a year ago last March that I met him. He was here playing for Black up at First Avenue and basically I agreed to do a rare live set at a rave the same night Ben was booked up at Black. At the time I didn't even know Ben yet -- he wasn't even booked [in Minneapolis] when I agreed to do my set. So basically, I asked the promoters of the party that I was playing at to put me on later at night so I could hear Ben at First Ave. because I was really into his music. Aaron Bliss and Jesse Jacob basically dragged Ben out. Even though Ben said, 'I think I want to go back to the hotel' after his performance they were like, 'Naw man, you really got to come to this place and check out our boy Zak.' And he walked in just when I started at this rave party at Profile Music Club and witnessed the whole thing. Aaron and Jesse kept telling me afterwards how he wouldn't shut up about what he heard, and how he was super into what I did and was shocked to see that in MPLS.

So what happened next?

We contacted each other and he asked me if I put out tracks. I said no, and he asked me if I wanted to and I said we could give it a try. He took my live set and listened to it again and basically just said, "I like this part, this part and that part," and I made four tracks out of those increments.

So Ben picked out small loops and you had to develop tracks from them?

Yeah, that was how I produced my first record for him. JamesPatrick and Mike G. picked 2 from the live set and I developed that into two tracks for their label, Timefog.

How do you create your live sets?

I take two two copies of Reason, two laptops, two controllers, and I run it through a DJ mixer and I play them like I do records, but on the fly. Before, I never had songs, just parts and loops. (Ed. note: See a clip from Zak's live set below:)

You said in your recent Resident Advisor interview that Minneapolis makes great music because there's 'no pressure.' Explain that.

People are just more free to do what they want here without as much scrutiny. In the artist and DJ circuit, Minneapolis has always has a good reputation. Over the last 5 to 7 years, DJs coming through here never expect to hear anything amazing, and they get these good sound systems great crowds, and they tell other DJs they should stop here. Back when we had the club [Foundation], I remember that John Aquaviva said that our club was comparable to anything in Europe. Even Claude Young has said that Minneapolis is the future.

Looking back on Foundation and its quick legend within the dance scene, do you have any regrets about it? 

No, because all those things lead to where I am. I got in my head that I wanted to open a club, because I felt that was the next natural progression in music that would allow me to play in my city for the long haul, and bring artists that I love. In the end, it was just another extension of a distraction for me and it really took away from my personal enjoyment. But if I wouldn't have gone into that debt, I would have never sold my soundsystem, and had I never sold my soundsystem -- the one thing I have held onto for over 10 years -- I don't know if I would have gotten the energy to be able to focus on my music.

So how did that Resident Advisor interview come about anyway?

The author, Todd Burns, is an American living in Berlin now. He said that he had been paying attention to Minneapolis for a while now because he hears the rumors. He had been taking notice of the Bunker guys in NY, and he had noticed that a lot of the guys getting booked at Bunker were also getting booked here. RA did a review of my Timefog release, then a review of my Transmat release.

How does it feel to be signed on one of your heroes' labels (Derrick May's Transmat)?

It's humbling, it's weird, and it's really surreal. I don't really have words to describe it, I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams to have a release on Transmat. I have Transmat albums on my shelf from start to finish, and I would never imagine my album being on that. It has been around since the early 90s but went under after Derrick lost money on the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. He laid low for a long time and now he's back, and I get to be part of the revival, which just began six months ago. Derrick and I have been friends because I used to book him, and when I was in Detroit doing sound and working for the Detroit auto show for a month, we'd hang out a couple times a week. We were just in his studio talking and listening to music and I put a couple rough edits of my tracks on and he said, 'Oh man, what is this?' and it just went from there.

What's coming up next for you, then?

I just got picked up an agent overseas - a really dope agency. I'm also working on new live set that will debut in three cities -- one in Berlin, one in Minneapolis and one more that we haven't decided on yet.

Previous slideshow: DVS1 and Christian James at DVS1's 'Future Classic' night
Previous story: City Pages music feature on DVS1 (2001)

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