I remember the first mixtape I ever made. It was a mixtape in the literal sense and didn’t “mix” together like a DJ set would. In fact, I don’t think I even knew what DJing actually was at the time, nor did I even care to learn or even set foot in a club for that matter. I was more concerned about placing a series of personally significant songs in an order that built a mood and shared a feeling. It’s the same thing as creating a playlist on your iphone, or whatever you use, that is intended for a certain occasion. For me, it was all about night driving and still is. There’s something totally magical about driving at night to the right soundscape, and in most cases you dread pulling into your driveway because it’s so euphoric. Some people might think I sound crazy, and I’m honestly quite content with that, but those who don’t surely understand exactly what I’m talking about. The era of my life in which I first started experimenting with mixtapes was a time when I was living in the Vancouver area, and it only made sense that I eventually discovered DJs Neoteric and Matty C; two very respected selectors, producers, and all around great guys that come from that city. While they are both individually recognized on a global scale for various musical endeavors, a lot of people admire them as the founders and curators of the White Light Mix Series. As they describe the project themselves, the White Light mixes are, ultimately, about two things: music and space. It’s a themed mix series focusing on the sounds of the night, the sounds of space; the anti-club. Night music. A dark highway at 3 am, with only your headlights to guide you. Zone out music, an introspective trip though sound and emotion. I’ve been a fan ever since discovering this podcast and it’s played a crucial role in shaping my taste, understanding, and appreciation for music as a DJ and all around listener. And the fact that the White Light Mixes provide an intimate and in-depth glimpse of each guest’s personality simply provides another level of insight and inspiration. After many months of getting this lined up, I finally had the chance to ask Neoteric and Matty C everything from White Light’s beginning, to the present, and of course the future. Let’s look into the light…
This style, and I like to think of them as mood pieces, is less about each individual song, and more about what they become when combined together. -Neoteric
I love how over time the rules have pretty much gone out the window, and now it’s more about song… -Matty C
What’s up guys, how are things as of late? What’s new in your lives?
Matty C: Pretty good, just finished rebuilding my studio, working on lots of music
Neoteric: Great! I just bought my first house and am having a great time fixing things, buying furniture and setting up the man den. Really, I'm loving it!
So, the White Light mixes. How did the idea come about, and when did it all begin?
M: Back around 2007 we were playing lots of "electro" parties when the whole banging sound was taking off, but at the beginning of the night and we'd always zone out to disco-y stuff, old and new. I love the early and late hours of clubnights, where you can be a lot more adventurous with what you play and can really go for a journey with you set, rather than that peak time sprint of the biggest heaviest tunes du jour
N: Around that time I was doing a weekly in Whistler, BC, which is a ski town about 90 minutes outside of Vancouver. One night I brought Matty up, and we played obnoxious bangers for the evening and drove back listening to Cut Copy's 'So Cosmic' mix and others like that. Total comedown shit that felt so right driving down a dark highway. The post club listening became what I looked most forward to, and I guess part of the concept, especially the more etherial, introspective side of things came from.
You guys knew each other for a while prior to beginning this project, right? What were you both doing at the time of its creation? And where did the name come from?
M: The name just kinda . . . came. I like the idea of staring at light down a long tunnel, where you're focussed so hard on one obscured bright thing at the end everything around it blends together
N: Yeah, the first time I met Matty he was starting at a bright like for waaay too long. I had to pull him aside and introduce myself before he blinded himself. At the time, we were doing a night together with our buddy Trevor Risk called Fast Life. He is actually the originator of the series in many ways, as he gave Matty a bunch of the tracks on Vol 1 & 2 to put together, and we'd play them every week for the first hour or so of the club night. It was so perfect. And one day Trevor will finally make his own mix. I'm only saying this so he reads it, and knows that it must happen.
We had one producer say You take yourselves too seriously. At first I was a bit offended, as I think we set off to do something different, in the noblest of senses. But then I thought on it some more and realized he just didnt take it seriously enough. Which is totally fine. Maybe hell get it one day. -Neoteric
What sort of role did mixtapes play in your musical upbringing?
M: They had a huge influence. I grew up in the suburbs and as soon as I could ride the bus downtown I was off. I'm an 80s kid so mixtapes were actually on tapes, my bus ride was 50 mins, perfect for 1 side of those sick gold maxell 100 minute cassettes. I'd try and get a perfect balance each side of freeway songs, bridge songs and skyscraper songs all hitting at the right moments along the journey.
N: They have been, and will always been my favourite way to listen to music. In the early 90s I'd hit up Dr Disc in London, Play De Record in Toronto, and even ordered mixes from the back page of The Source. Cassettes of course. Then in grade 7 or 8, before I began Djing I started making mix tapes for friends, and selling them at school. Making my own proper DJ mixes was a pretty natural progression, and I still listen to mixes more than anything else.
I believe that there are two different types of mixes. There’s the kind that people throw together in which they cram as many hot new dance tracks as possible, and then there’s the hype-free kind that provides more insight and depth upon the selector’s taste. Why does the latter style of mixtape mean more to you?
N: The hot new tracks will be hot and new for a month or two at most. Maybe 2 or 3 of those will stick around for the long run. This style, and I like to think of them mood pieces, is less about each individual song, and more about what they become when combined together.
What would you consider the most important ingredients to a memorable, special mixtape that serves its actual purpose?
M: great opening and closing songs, of course. I'm also a sucker for a slow build to climax followed by a wind-down section
N: For me, it's that intangible fusion, or whatever, that happens when you put the right songs together. Peaks and valleys of emotion. That sounds a bit pretentious, but when you think about your favourite mixes, and think about why you like them so much you realize the nuances and feeling throughout. We hope that everyone making a White Light mix gets the concept and approaches it less of a promo tool for the current, and more as a timeless capsule forever. Timeless.
What are some of the key things you want in a White Light mix? What do you hope people get out of each mix upon first listen and in the long run?
N: I'm much tougher, expectations wise than Matty. Over time we've realized theres 2 equally important sides to the series; the really cosmic, spaced out ambient mixes, and the more lush, uptempo synth pop side of things. I prefer the former, and Matty leans towards the latter, but maybe I'm just more emo. But both have a place in the series. But I'm tough on the guidelines because I want each and every mix to be timeless, and I want our listeners to feel that attachment. It kills me when we get a dancefloor mix submitted; I have to turn those down. And that's the worst, but we have not only our expectations, but our listeners as well. Fortunately we've only had to turn away a couple mixes so far. There are a couple in the archives that stick out a bit to me, that I wish were a bit different, but it's also important for us to accept the artists interpretation of our explanation of the series. That sounds really serious. We had one producer say “You take yourselves too seriously”. At first I was a bit offended, as I think we set off to do something different, in the noblest of senses. But then I thought on it some more and realized he just didn't take it seriously enough. Which is totally fine. Maybe he'll get it one day.
Would you say that the true art and craft of mixtapes is a rare thing to come across today? Do aspiring DJs need to spend more time thinking about the importance and significance of their recorded selections?
M: The first few mixes of the series had a definite "feel" to them, but what I love is how over time the rules have pretty much gone out the window, and now it's more about songs that are just "important" to the mixer. And the way they are delivered to emphasize their importance. I think there are great mixes coming out all the time, regardless of style, but there's always a ton of homogenous ones as well, too many people trying to do what someone else has already done . . . but that's another conversation . . .
N: The way I see it is you have 2 types of mixes: Promotional tools, and concept mixes. Both serve a purpose, but the concept mixes invariably have more of a shelf life.
Why do you think night driving is the most ideal setting for a journey through sound? I agree that it is, but would like to hear your thoughts.
M: Cause driving at night rules!
N: Yeah! There is nothing you can do but stare. It's dark, and your senses are heightened because perhaps its a bit more dangerous, or there is less sensory distractions or whatever, but listening to these mixes is drastically different during a sunny day. Try it!
Explain the valued relationship between space, music, and time.
N: Space = MT ²
Are there any mixes that you discovered while first getting into DJing that you still aren’t tired of hearing today?
M: I still have a bunch of early jungle tape packs that I will never get rid of, I can listen to old rave tapes till the end of time. Or all those old !K7 compilations. Tyler Stadius's Absorb mix is probably my favourite "house" set. I love how good mixes can take you right back to where you were when you first heard them.
N: Old hip hop mixtapes from '96 or whatever. Within the last 5 years I really loved the Caps N Jones mixes, LCD's Nike Run Mix, Smalltown Djs best of series, and Luca C & Brigante's RA Mix. So so good!
So when you started the White Lights mixes, did you originally plan to have a different guest mix each time? It seemed like you two tackled them yourselves quite often in the beginning. Now I imagine it’s easier to get the guests on board…
N: We actually didnt plan anything. Matty had just made a couple mixes that I loved so much I had to try to replicate how they made me feel. And our good buddy Fashen felt the same and did the same. I felt really happy with #5, and we started to think we could run with this. And then our friends caught wind and wanted to be involved, so we didnt really have to even ask the first bunch of guests, it just happened. And they all nailed it because I guess they started as fans of the first mixes, and wanted to put their spin on it. Once we realized we could develop this and ask and hope some of our heroes would contribute, it was game time. That was, and still is very exciting for us. It is certainly easier in some regards, but also tougher as we are aiming big with each new guest.
At what point did you notice this little side project getting more attention? Did a certain mix/guest make you feel like you had really accomplished something?
N: It came in phases, I think. When we had Rory Phillips, Eli Escobar and Runaway, The Revenge and In Flagranti contribute, those were huge for me. Then it felt like we hit a new peak with Alan Braxe (a real hero of the series) and JD Twitch from Optimo. Recently the Ivan Smagghe (It's a Fine Line with Tim Paris), Soul Clap (Bamboozle, ½ of Soul Clap), and Weatherall trifecta really excited us. So there's certainly a feeling of accomplishment, but also even more drive to get more of our heroes down with the light.
I’m sure it’s impossible to pick a favorite from the catalog, but are there any in particular that happen to mean a lot to you for personal reasons?
M: For the "traditional" sound I really like Helsinki 78-82s, and I thought Ayres was one of the first that took things in a really different direction and opened things up alot.
N: Ah, I've analyzed them and picked favourites. Matty makes a great point about Ayres mix, that was great. My personal favourites are Eli Escobar, It's a Fine Line, Daniel Avery, The Revenge, RAC, The C-90s, and of course, JD Twitch.
How do you go about picking the guest mixers? What’s the process like? Are these all people you’ve met while travelling the world as DJs and meeting through other friends?
N: It used to be more friends and those I'd meet travelling, but now I try to find the right kind of song and work backwards, tracking down the artist and begging them. It's easier when you know the artist personally, but that's why its so great the series has a bit of a rep now, it makes it easier to line up others based on the rep and past.
It’s cool how the majority of mixes early on consisted of local friends and family, and has evolved to some pretty major guests. How does it feel to finally have some recognition and an impressive catalog to get almost anyone you want?
N: It feels great. It's kind of like picking out your birthday presents in advance. I don't think we can quite get anyone yet, but hopefully it gets to that point. Haha.
You can tell he really took the concept and went as deep down the worm hole as anyone has so far…
Is mixing that big of a concern when it comes to the White Light series? Or does sequence and mood matter more? Some guests seem to do legitimate DJ-style blends, while others disregard beat-matching and fade in and out like a straight up podcast.
N: At first, we were all about really tight mixes, the perfect flow, the perfect transitions and all that. Seemless everything. In the end, the music won, and always will. I'm fully on board with the drop mixes, as long as the programming and feel of the songs is on point. When you say “Ok, these are the 15 tracks that I have to have on my White Light mix” you do whatever you can to make it work the best it can. You can't simply replace it with another track in the same key, or that mixes cleaner because you deviate from the songs with that feeling. And we're all about that feeling.
Have you ever thought of turning the mix series into an online radio show, or are you content as a podcast for now? How do you see the project potentially expanding in the future to come? Do you have any plans?
N: That'd be great. We havent thought about the radio show too much, but had the idea to try to put together a White Light tour of sorts where Matty and I pick a headliner thats really in line with the series, and we play weird moody shit for the right crowds before the headliner does his thing. Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, LA, London, Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Berlin, and Helsinki would be great if anyone's up for it!
What’s next on the calendar for you guys in regards to the White Light mixes? Who’s coming up for the next few?
N: We're always hesitant to say because sometimes promised mixes arent delivered and we look like schmucks. But there is a very impressive list of upcoming guests, and we're both thankful, and excited.
Tell us a little about the latest inclusion in the series, the legendary Andrew Weatherall’s mix.
M: The destination of that bus trip I talked about earlier was a place called "record row" a block of 5/6 shops in Vancouver. I started off buying metal picture discs then onto Cure 12's and import New Order pressings. Then I started getting into house and dance music, but it was by way of baggy britpop shoegaze stuff, and it was around this time that the idea of becoming a DJ was buzzing in my head every day, so those early Weatherall remixes of My Blood Valentine and all the Screamadelica production really influenced me. To have him do a mix for us makes things feel very "full circle" for me personally.
N: This mix is unreal. You can tell he really took the concept and went as deep down the worm hole as anyone has so far. It's so cool he didnt just put together a random mix. I like to think he took the time to understand what we were going for, and in turn understood how to do it.
So what’s on the horizon for both of you guys outside of the mix series? What should we be on the look out for?
M: I have a project called The Slow Waves that I'm focussing really hard on right now, it's a sort of "live" project but with a definite electronic feel too, not really a dance project more of an emo thing haha.
N: I just released a compilation with Wax Motif on Strictly Rhythm which I'm really proud of. 27 tracks, 2CDs, vinyl and all that. We asked a bunch of friends to remix and edit tracks with us from the vast catalog. That was a real honor. Other than that I'm working on my label Main Course and getting back to work on the DJ and production tip after the move back to Canada.
Before we wrap this up, how about telling us the top 5 records you think are most fit for a late night drive, either from the past or present.
Matty C (past):
Can you tell us a bit about this mix you put together for us?
Absolutely. This mix is a bit of a White Light 101, for those not familiar with the series. If you like what you here, we welcome you to go a bit deeper down the wormhole. This isn't particularily challening, ambient or spacey as many of our mixes are, and it show cases a bit of the dancier, synth driven side of the series. We thought it was a great place to start though. Another mix that reflects both sides of the brain is Volume 50, so check that one out too. Thanks for listening!
Thanks guys, take care!
Don't forget to subscribe to their iTunes podcast, which you can do through their website. And as we wrap this up, I'll leave you with this immaculate mix Neoteric and Matty C put together for us, and don't forget to download Andrew Weatherall's White Light mix too.