EDM Interview: Checking In With Classixx

EDM Interview: Checking In With Classixx

Having built a name for themselves as one of Los Angeles’ prime DJ duos, Classixx have just wrapped up a slew of national dates for the first time as something new: a full live act. Also armed with their debut LP, Hanging Gardens, childhood friends Michael David and Tyler Blake are in the swing of what promises to be a big year. I sat down with them before their show in Portland on Friday to talk touring, big retail, and Daft Punk.

How’s the tour going? Any good stories?

Michael David (MD): Good, we just got off tour with The Presets and it’s been really cool … we’re at a point now where we’re a little more comfortable playing live.

Tyler Blake (TB): This is our first tour playing live … usually we just DJ. The Presets are really cool guys … it’s been great getting to know them.

MD: You see this persona of what people are like on stage. Kim (from The Presets) for example, he comes off very serious on stage. But, he’s actually a hilarious dude off of it.

You guys posted a Vine on Friday, very eloquently soundtracked by Enigma. Any influence you take from them into your music?

MD: I listen to a ton of New Age music.

TB: And not necessarily Enigma, but first off, “Return to Innocence” is amazing. A lot of that music is New Age, but synthesized.

MD: The Yamaha DX-7, which is a keyboard that we use a lot, was heavily implemented into that sound and that era. We really like pretty synthesized music, and there are parts on the record where we get sweet like that.

TB: The video was obviously sort of a joke … that song has a funny context in pop culture.

Besides Enigma, what else are you guys listening to right now?

TB: The new Daft Punk record … we like it …

MD: … but, we think there are some weird choices they made that we wouldn’t have. In general, it’s a pleasant thing to listen to. We don’t really put too much more thought into it than that.

TB: We’re really huge fans of great musicianship, so that record couldn’t have been made or sound like that without a bunch of people that could play their asses off.

MD: I don’t think great playing alone though makes great records. You can go to Guitar Center and hear great players, but they’ll make you want to jump out of a window.

We really like pretty synthesized music, and there are parts on the record where we get sweet like that.

TB: We’re huge Daft Punk fans and fans of great playing, so just on those two things alone, it’s pretty fun. It’s also cool to hear a record that sounds really expensive; you don’t hear that much anymore.  You couldn’t have done a Thriller or Rumors, without a million dollars or something.

We really like pretty synthesized music, and there are parts on the record where we get sweet like that.

Is there any particular release you’re excited for this year?

MD: We look into a lot of archives for new music … I think that sometimes some of the best new music has already been made.

TB: The new James Blake release is really nice. We’re interested in the Boards of Canada record that’s coming out because we listened to a lot of that stuff in high school. I think everyone is really interested to see what that band is going to do in 2013.

Michael, you said in another interview that when people see a live show, they want to see something authentic…”not 12 guys worth of sound from two guys”. What makes Classixx’s live act authentic?

MD: The fact that everything you’re hearing is actually happening live. We’re manipulating things live. It’s not gonna sound like the record; it sounds more stripped down. As a negative, the set could go bad really easily.

TB: Once you get a song going when you’re Djing, you can just stand there and drink beer or whatever you want. With this set, we’re playing pretty much 100% of the time.

MD: And we have to play properly.

TB: We come from bands where we’ve played live before, but being in the studio, you can fuck up as much as you want as long as you get a good take, then you can choose which one you want to use.

So has there been any improvisation on tour?

TB: Yeah, we always leave a little bit of room for improv.

MD: There’s actually a couple things that we’ve been doing as we pick them up in songs. They’re very tiny elements, we don’t know if anyone will notice, but it’s fun to play with the melodies a bit.

Do you two know when/how to feed off of each other when improv happens?

TB: We’ve been doing this together for a long time … a bazillion years. There’s not a time when Mike looks over and says “Don’t fucking do that!”

MD: If Tyler fucks up, I’ll probably just think that it’s funny. It’s going to happen regardless.

 But that’s the charm of it: There’s this moment where the audience thinks, “these guys can actually play”.

MD: But that’s the charm of it: There’s this moment where the audience thinks, “these guys can actually play”.

TB: Or not play (laughs).

MD: But another piece of it is that our songs are pretty dense. So we had to strip them down to elements that two guys can play on stage. It’s a little different. There’s one drum machine playing the entire set rather than having all of these different drum sounds on each song; it makes it easier to control.

How did you get connected with American Eagle Outfitters for a recent video? Do you think they fit in with your overall style/concept of your music?

MD: They were fans of our music, approached us, and were super cool. It required very little on our end.

TB: They’ve also done some advertising for us.

MD: There was a moment when we thought “Should we do this?” But, then we realized we’d be complete idiots not to.

TB: The things they asked us to do were actually pretty rewarding. They asked us to make playlists for their stores. We do that for our friends anyway, so it’s cool to turn different groups of kids on to something they might not have listened to before.

So how do you go about designing playlists for a big retail chain?

MD: Really the only pretense was, what do I wanna hear right now?

TB: We did a party for them – essentially a photo shoot – where we were DJing in the background. Some of the fun parts of that were that these kids were young – 15 years old – so if we put on a Prince song, to all of my friends it’s an obvious choice. With this, we’d have a kid come up and ask “who is that?” We’d say Prince, and he would say, “Oh, I’ve never heard that before!” That’s a pretty cool feeling: Turning a 15-year-old onto Prince when he may have never listened to him before.

In terms of the overall band, is there something Classixx hasn’t done yet you’d like to do or something you’d like Classixx to become? Or would you rather just let things happen as they may?

MD: There’s tons of stuff. I think one of the most immediate, in terms of the live thing we’re doing right now, is that we keep talking about is some sort of visual element. Watching The Presets, their stage production adds so much to their show. It can take it all of the way up to ten. For us, we’re just getting going. When we have a guy that does great lights, it makes the live show way better. And it would be cool to tour with something like that.

TB: Right now, we’re very stripped down and have made it really easy to tour with. We’ll try to expand upon it at a reasonable rate.

Are you inspired by any light shows you’ve seen?

MD: We have a bunch of ideas, but we’re not set to reveal any of them yet.

Have you been surprised by any of the acclaim the album is getting?

MD: A lot of the reviews haven’t happened yet. It’s nice that people are positive about it, but the thing is, I don’t seek out reviews, so the only ones that come to us are the good ones.

TB: Part of the reason to put out an album is to gain new fans, and this is our first one ever, so the people that are talking about it already know and like us. It’s going to be scary to see what people that don’t know us have to say about it.

MD: I don’t think we put too much weight into any of it. If you are quick to be flattered by a good review, you have to be able to be torn up by a shitty one. We’re happy with the record and it’s obviously good to hear nice things.

TB: It’s way cooler when a kid that hasn’t heard us before say he likes it. We’re huge fans of tons of bands that have gotten terrible reviews.

MD But, if there are any journalists reading this, please be fucking nice to us!

In our interview with Holy Ghost, they said they’d be down to form a supergroup with you two. Thoughts?

MD: We’ve always talked about it!

What would it sound like?

TB: The group would sound pretty sweet. They respect us and it would be a ton of fun.

MD: Those guys are so good. We’d run the risk of having more fun on stage than the audience.

TB: It would probably be very self-indulgent, almost nerd rock. It would sound like the new Daft Punk record.

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