The first ever Anjunadeep North America Tour begins later this month. The seven-city tour features eight of the London label’s finest producers, with a different line-up in every city. As we prepare for such a groundbreaking event, Your EDM is sitting down with three the acts to chat about the production process, the future of deep house in the US, and much more. Kicking off our three-part interview series is Beckwith, one of only two artists on the tour that’s from the United States. The New York native is responsible for funky, vocal house tracks like “Take Me Home” featuring Natalie Conway and “Life” ft. Javi.
What does the term “Deep House” Mean in 2015?
My impression is that Deep House in 2015 has a similar definition to house in the 80’s and 90’s, very much inspired by the original sounds coming out of Chicago and Detroit from the likes of Marshall Jefferson, Larry “Mr. Fingers” Heard, Frankie Knuckles, Kevin Saunderson’s Inner City, Steve “Silk” Hurley and so on.
Those are the guys that helped bring producers like Todd Terry, Masters At Work, MK, Sneak, Pierre, Murk forward to redefine the sound the second time around.. Like dance music itself, the constant evolution of sound and trends dictate the changes in the music. It’s a hard term to define since it means so many things to different people. I would like to think that you get to know a producer or DJ and then define what they do based on whether you like it especially since it allows that producer more freedom not to be put into a box.
It’s true that we live in a time of acronyms and titles. The truth that just an abbreviation can change what something means is most obvious in the case of “EDM.” The abbreviation stands for Electronic Dance Music, but the acronym has become associated with a certain sound that is part of the scene and has nothing to do with the broad term it should define.
With regard to the music I make, I would say I definitely lean toward “deep house.” and stay away from the styles that are now associated with “EDM,” it’s just not me or who I am.
How do you feel about DJs from other genres releasing house tracks? Are they helping or hurting?
This debate has been around for so long. Commercial success is a double edged sword; on one hand you want your music and shows to be popular, but once you’re popular, you generally go up the charts and receive commercial success…it’s difficult to straddle that fence. On one hand, the success brings new people, but then the downside is once the genre gets overexposed, it can go over the tipping point and become a dirty word much in the same way dubstep has suffered.
We all want to be apart of the next cool thing, so when it comes to who’s putting out what, I really just try to keep my head down and focus on putting out records I think will stand on their own and have longevity. That’s why I like to see people who like my style as well as my music. They can see through the facade and know who’s around for the long haul.
How has your sound/production style evolved over the past year?
I honestly don’t know how it happened, but over the last year I’ve just gone back to my roots. I’ve worked in various areas of the music industry, but the one thing that always stuck with me was vocal house, and I’ve always loved really funky house. Just really…housey house music (laughs). You know, old Paul Johnson records, Soul Searchers, Chicago House, French House…late 1990s early 2000s. Records like Crystal Waters’ “100% Pure Love: will always be one of my favorite records of all time.
I work with people who’ve never had someone willing to take the risk and just give them an extra push. You’d be surprised what can happen when you do. Also, I refuse to over tune my vocalists, I’m really over these clinical sounding, over-tuned singers. It gets really boring. I want to let people sing! Who cares if it isn’t perfect, in fact, those tiny imperfections are what makes them fabulous. If you tried to tune the great singers of the past like Michael Jackson or Tina Turner, you’d be surprised how much tuning they’d need to fit today’s standards.
Do you think Europe will remain the epicenter for deep house? Or is the Anjunadeep Tour proof that the spotlight is shifting back to the United States?
To be honest, it was the US that has always been the cultural epicenter of house music. It was born in New York, raised in Chicago then it grew up in Detroit and moved back to Chicago. The underground culture has always been here. Europe took house music, tweaked it a bit, and made it cooler and totally more accessible. They put it on the radio in a culture that is very supportive of music as a lifestyle..I do think that the spotlight will always be in Europe, and I really hope it stays that way. They just have that “Je ne sais quoi” that is just not definable….they have style and a different take on it.
Are there any technological advancements you’d like to see in DJing or producing?
People always come up to me and ask, “what do you use?” And I tell them, “a 7-year old computer and a bunch of outdated equipment.” But you know what? My records still sound fine. If you can make a record, who gives a shit what you did it with. Now, nerding out about gear is fun, but I think people get so caught up in it that it becomes a distraction. And it’s probably because they’re insecure about their other production skills. If people stop caring about gear and focus more on honing their skills, they’d be a lot better off.
Now, DJing is a different story. I love the Funktion One system; it enables me to hear so well. But that’s about it. I learned on vinyl and turntables. To this day I beat match. I don’t use a sync button. I tried it once, and as I stood there I realized I was giving the worst performance of my life. I felt so disconnected from the music and what was going on around me. Beat matching takes your performance to another level. Although, there are people who can do amazing things because of the new technology. My buddy Matt Lange uses Traktor and I’m blown away by what he can do, even though I have no idea what he does and will never understand. It’s the monkey not the tools.