When Carl Cox calls you “one of the UK’s freshest and exiting acts“, its a fair chance you’re doing it right. Further praise comes from DJ Mag, The Guardian, Skiddle and more, but for Joseph Keevil aka Saytek, its just another day at the office in a job he’s been passionate about for a very long time. And its that passion A&R Simon Huxtable tapped into recently in an interview originally arranged to promote his upcoming show at Lightbox in London for the Infinity 1st Birthday on December 19th. But things took a decidedly interesting turn…
Hi Joseph, great to catch up again. What have you been up to recently?
I have been having a really good time touring with recent live performances at Sysphos, Chalet, Salon Zur Wilden Renate and my regular show at Golden Times at Golden Gate. This for me is always a very special night and atmosphere is always amazing! It starts Tuesday night and finishes Wednesday afternoon the crowd are incredible. All these places are in Berlin and I feel the scene has really accepted me there. People have a lot of time for my live show which is great, I’ve also had great gigs in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Prague, Croatia, Brighton and London.
Its great that I have reached a point in my career where I have following who really understand what it is I do, and come to see me for the live show which is really nice.
On the release front it’s been crazy for me with 12″ releases on Liebe*Detail, Splitt and Golden Gate Club Records (The Club in Berlin). Also digital releases on Kevin Saundersons legendary KMS , Darren Emerson’s Detone, and more. It’s been a really creative time for me this year and the musical ideas have been flowing nicely I still feel I have so much to achieve.
We love the little videos you’re posting of works in progress or jam sessions; really inspiring. What made you decide to start posting them?
It’s a really good way to show people what I do when performing live, and the process that goes into making a live performance. I think social media and streams like Boiler Room has really helped people discover what live electronic music really is and isn’t. For a while it was a dark art and the majority of people didn’t really get the concept of house and techno live performance. People are interested today in hardware and hands on music production.
The Life EP is doing well. Got some massive support already with the likes of Marco Carola and Paco Osuna on board. Does it still surprise you when you see these names of the reaction sheets after the promo runs and the positive comments they provide?
It’s always nice and it’s great to know that I constantly get plays and chartings from some of the greatest DJs in the world. But it’s important to keep a level head as DJs need a lot of records. For me the last year has been amazing for heroes of my youth supporting my work. I signed 2 EPs and a remix to Kevin Saunderson’s labels, 2 EPs to Darren Emerson’s Detone with one of the tracks becoming one of Carl Coxes tracks of the summer. He played it on his radio show 5 times and in pretty much every set at Space Ibiza, and all his international tour dates. Plus I had Laurent Garnier loving one of my records.
Also it’s been a year when a lot of newer artists have recognised what I am doing, and nearly every promoter I spoke to whilst networking had recently bought one of my records. The funny thing is I still suffer from massive self doubt and constantly push myself as an artist!
As a live act with a multitude of hardware devices triggering sounds in you shows, how do you feel about the resurgence of hardware and indeed, vinyl? Are we getting back to our roots or is this the next phase?
I have always loved hardware for its limitations and it has a unique sound, but at the same time I love Ableton and Maschine for their vast abilities to create electronic music and perform live with. For me, hardware and software has long been the best of both worlds, and allows me to create a lot more variety of sounds which I think is important when playing for 2 hours live.
Having your music released on vinyl is really rewarding. When I first started releasing music 15 years ago, it had to come out on vinyl then the digital revolution happened. In the last year or so I have released more on vinyl than I did back then, I am not sure how long this will resurgence will go on for but I think we enjoy it while it lasts.
Something else we’ve noticed over the last year is elitism is creeping back into the creation and performing of electronic music. Have you seen this yourself at all, and how do you feel about it generally?
I think it’s a shame. I mean there is nothing wrong with loving analog gear, hardware and vinyl that’s great to have a passion. But it’s when people start to feel elite or better than other people it becomes a problem. This idea that a live act is some how faking if they are using a laptop is totally false. People can fake using hardware just as easily; backing tracks have been around a lot longer than laptops. If someone is going to fake it, they are going to fake it what ever they are using. Take for example the Elektron octatrack – a great hardware sampler, its used by many hardware only acts as the main sequencer / sampler. What people don’t know is you can buy sample packs for it, and it has the capability to play an hour backing track so a live act could easily do the same thing as with a laptop.
I have seen awful hardware only live acts that sound like they have just worked out how to program a basic drum track on a TR8 and played that, and not much else for over an hour. I have also seen an amazing guy perform a mind blowing live set with loads of improvisation with just a PC. When he came off stage he was almost apologising to me about not having hardware explaining how his generation learnt how to do everything in software.
Same for vinyl DJs that play the same tracks from the same labels as other vinyl DJs. Just playing tracks back to back, they look down on laptop DJs when there are guys out there using multiple controllers, playing all there own tracks, remixing live with 4 things in the mix at the same time… At the end of the day, elitism is often a smoke screen covering people’s perceived inadequacies and insecurities. It doesn’t matter what tools people use, what matters is what they do with them and their art. Buying thousands of pounds of equipment doesn’t make you a better artist than someone with a beaten up laptop and a cracked copy of Ableton.
Artistic freedom is something every producer wants from their record label, but in todays mass market driven consumerism, can a single record label deliver on that request, or should you as the artist be mindful of the direction labels what to take and have options with which to release your work?
I think we live in strange times musically when really it’s a hand full of labels dominating the different scenes. So if you want to make it as a DJ then you have to sign to these labels, and they have quite specific sounds that mean a lot of DJs are hiring engineers to try and imitate the music the labels want. As a result the scene is very very faddy with people jumping on bandwagons. But there is music outside this sphere, and there are DJs who do produce original stuff and play records that are not from the beatport top 10! You just have to scratch the surface. My personal experience is that I hear a lot more obscure and interesting music when I play abroad at the moment.
December 19th sees you at Lightbox in Vauxhall with Andre Crom and Clive Henry for Infinity’s first birthday. The club is well equipped to deal with a number of artists and their individual tech riders, but with having a live show with hardware, do your find there are unique difficulties with bookings at smaller clubs or venues that haven’t foreseen the logistics?
In the past I had a lot of problems, but nowadays promoters get a technical rider with clear info. I always chase up promoters as well to remind them. Some promoters still freak out when they realise just how much kit I have, but I’ve got used to calming them down, and after a few words they always warm to the idea. I’ve played at Lightbox many times and always enjoy the show, their the engineers know what they are doing and are used to me!
London seems to be blighted by a phenomena called ‘pay to play’. How do you feel about it and how can we make it fairer, so that actually talented DJs and artists have the same opportunities as those with large social networks who may not be so good?
I think the London scene is quite sick at the moment with clubs really fighting to survive for different reasons, our drug laws and gentrification really don’t help. I also see a lot of young DJs with a sense of self entitlement, and although I don’t agree with DJs having to sell tickets to play, I also don’t see why a DJ with no profile or following should expect to be paid anymore than expenses. After all, in the creative industries which are saturated, there are many people wanting to work and most have to do an internship to learn their trade and show their talent.
That’s what DJs should be prepared to do: get out there and show what they are capable of. When I was coming up, I had to play to empty rooms for nothing and face many disappointments, but this made me stronger and gave me the skills to survive in this industry.
2015 was a busy year for you. What are you plans for 2016 – new releases and tours?
Yeah it’s already looking great with gigs at Kosmonaught Berlin, The Arch Brighton, Salon Daome in Canada, a Secret Gig in Luxembourg, a festival in Dresden and quite a few London shows already. On the release front I have another 12″ on release with My Favourite Freaks and Decay records releases on Lapsus, Detone and Antura records.
As always, its been brief, but fun Joe. Thanks again for taking a few minutes out of your schedule to chat to us. Best of luck for the 19th at Infinity’s First Birthday.
Photo Credits : Chirag Gadhvi