New York City has had its fair share of superstar DJs. From Disco and Rock to Hip Hop and House music, native New Yorkers have danced to their own beat for a long time. Curses is a DJ and producer who fully understands the New York state of mind, and since leaving his home town to relocate in the techno capitol of the World – Berlin, his star has continued to be in ascendance.
With a back catalogue any veteran would be proud of already, his releases on Throne of Blood, OFF Recordings and Let’s Play House have seen this plucky American showcase a dark and romantic take on the house and techno aesthetic. His own label – Safer At Night, continues to push a cutting edge, interesting and musical release schedule with tracks by Walker & Royce, Eli Escobar, J. Phlip, and Brothers Black leading the charge.
Just as Curses embarks on a mini tour of the Far East, A&R man Simon Huxtable sat down with him to find out more…
Hi there, thanks for finding the time for a chat with us at Decoded Magazine. How are you? Hows the Asia tour preparations going?
I am actually already in the middle of it! Just played Shanghai for the YETI crew at this sick bunker type club, Arkham. Before leaving I had prepared to tone down my sets a bit, but instead found I needed to push weirder and darker. The crowds in the more underground clubs really get it out here.
So lets start at the beginning. Can you tell us about growing up in New York City?
Such an important part of me. I grew up in downtown Manhattan, and the towering architecture, bustling energy and meshing of cultures took hold of me creatively at a very young age.
In the introduction, we made mention of your musical influences. “…a dark and romantic take on House and Techno.” Who would you say those influences were?
New York has always had a nightlife like no other. Can you remember the first time you ventured uptown to the ‘Big City’?
Ha. The BIIIIG CITY. I went to high school uptown, but all my friends would always wanna come downtown to hang. Less facelifts and handbags and more punks and ravers maybe back then.
I suppose the legislation Mayor Gulliani implemented stifled the scene a bit, and we heard some clubs closed down. What was it like ‘boots on the ground’ as it were?
That really hurt the scene in NYC. The impact was tough for everyone in nightlife, and it took years to bounce back. No joke, I remember cops coming in and flashing lights on people for dancing in the early 2000’s and giving tickets. Felt so surreal. It was a blessing and a curse though as it launched a lot of amazing warehouse parties, and inspired people to find off beat locations to DJ in.
How did you find breaking into the industry? Can you even remember how many knock backs before the likes of NEIN, OFF and BBC Radio started saying yes?
The Parisian label Institubes (now RIP) were the first label to take notice of my Curses tracks, and really put me on my feet. They signed my The Deep End track from a MySpace Demo! To this day I consider all of them my brothers. On this Asia tour, I crossed paths in Seoul with Gener8ion (Surkin) who Ive known for almost 10 years now. I think the only way to break is just keep doing your thing. Even when you break in, theres constant knock backs, so it’s about learning how to ride the roller coaster and not get too fazed when things don’t go your way and just keep staying honest and true to the music you want to create and play.
Talk us through your decision to move to Europe. What was your main goal?
I became too comfortable in NYC. I needed a change, and wanted to be challenged. There are some fantastic artists and parties in North America doing some very cool things at the moment, but personally I feel that I have more in common with the labels and artists in Europe right now.
I’ve met a few North Americans that have made the move across the Atlantic to various locations, and there always seems to be a one thing they miss from home. For me, when I came back to the UK, I missed ranch sauce. Particularly Appleby’s ranch sauce. Do you have one?
I really miss ranch too, but I have dying cravings for a proper NYC bagel from Russ & Daughters… with wasabi caviar cream cheese. At least once a week. Which is way more than I used to eat one when living in NYC.
How do you find Berlin differs from NYC?
It is wayyyyyy more laid back. Even though some clubs stay open for days, I still find myself being more productive and less distracted living in Berlin, the quality of life is more financially realistic. You’re not worrying so much about how to pay rent each month, so you have more time and peace of mind to concentrate on your craft.
Can you tell us about your label Safer At Night? Are their any new releases due?
I run it with my two close buds Cranks and Lawrence Lee. They are still currently in NYC but visit me quite a bit in Berlin, so we’ve lately signed some more International releases. We decided to put out less records this year, focus on a core group of artists and put more focus on the impact of each release. Lawrence just dropped his latest EP, The Chase, Cranks is next, and we also have a new one from new Berliners, Brothers Black coming up.
How have you found running a label in the modern age? Do you now get those emails from new producers eager to break into the scene, but just can’t network? Do you write them back with advice?
No matter what country each one of us is in, we do our best to have a weekly call and go over demos together. We need to hang with the artist and see what they’re all about as people before releasing anything though. That personal connection really matters to us, especially if they know how to be funny and have fun. Everybody so serious sometimes in this industry, we all enjoy a good laugh even if were playing dark and serious sounding music.
Every artist has that eureka moment when the stars align and the music is the most powerful force in the universe. Can you recall what your moment was?
When I saw Ennio Morricone at the O2 in London last year. There are no words to express how magical that was.
As we mentioned at the start you’re currently on tour. Touring can take its toll on body and mind, how have you developed ways to keep focused when your body just wants to sleep?
Meditation is key. Even if its 30 seconds a day. Slowing down when thrown into a busy life keeps me calmer and clearer headed.
Can you tell us a funny tour story?
Couple years ago I did a 4 hour set in the south of France, massive festival. Within hour 3 I had to piss so bad, but the toilets were way too far away. I had no choice but to go over the back of the stage, thinking it was discreet, but only to realize my shlong dong was in main focus of the visuals live feed camera. Thousands saw my weenis hundreds of meters big.
HAHAHA! It’s been a real pleasure to meet you and chat. We wish you well for the tour, and the rest of 2016. Is there anything you’d like to add?
You too! Looking forward to coming back to London, it’s always such a good dance. See you soon! Oh! I am now part of the Rinse France family with my own show, every last Saturday of the month 22:00 (CET).