John Tejada has been a legendary figure in the dance world in general, but for LA-based music fans like myself, he's an iconic figure that's become vastly important to the city's bursting underground scene.
We got a chance to chat with the talented artist about Palette's 20th birthday, surviving the music industry, and more.
Hi John, thank you for chatting with us! Palette Recordings is turning 20. That's a massive accomplishment! Being in the music game and in Los Angeles for so long, do you see a big shift in the dance scene in Los Angeles? You played a 12 hour set at Acid Camp, a relatively well known LA event. Do you feel like the LA scene has opened up to a more diverse musical platform since you began?
The LA scene has changed a lot in the last 20 years for sure. It seems to me that before all these music sharing and social media sites existed, people heard about music at a slower rate which divided the music scenes city to city. Now with every city having a world wide instant voice, it’s more of a global music scene and people in LA are as familiar with all the current artists as any other city. That has really made quite an impact in the scene here.
There are record labels popping up left and right every week, but hardly any of them make it to 20. For people who are thinking about starting a label, what advice would you want to impart on them?
It’s difficult to say. In the past, I relied mostly on shops (which a huge percentage have closed worldwide) and word of mouth. Now everything is so quick and disposable it’s very tough to make a lasting impact. I would say the old advice of hard work and putting out quality product is still the most important thing.
On November 4th you decided to release 20 songs from catalog numbers PAL 1-18 digitally, which had never been done before. What prompted you to release them digitally now that your label is celebrating 20 years?
I was thinking I would do something as a digital compilation around the 20th anniversary to compliment the 2 singles also being released (A re-issue of my Timebomb from 2001 and new single Therapy due Dec 16th). There had been a few songs that had some impact but have sort of gotten lost now that the years have moved on. I wanted to re-introduce some of those titles to people who might remember them, or people who might be discovering them for the first time. The Bandcamp version by the way includes 8 bonus tracks previously unreleased including a collaboration I’ve done with Dntel and one I’ve done with Klute.
You've been in the music world for a long time now, and with the last 8 years or so, there's been a big boom in the dance music industry. How do you continue to keep yourself motivated, and how do you continue to challenge yourself as you continue looking past the label's 20 year mark?
It seems like in my progress one thing leads to another. For example, I may have a goal of writing a certain piece or number of songs and once that is completed I might look forward to playing those live. Then after playing them live I might have ideas to record some of that, or remix some of the works. There are also my many collaborations that I look forward to on a regular basis. I learn from my collaborators as well which sparks ideas that I myself want to try on my own later. So it’s an ongoing process and that is how I stay interested throughout the years. That along with following music and always searching for music that might inspire me.
You have deep ties to Los Angeles' music scene, even spending time previously at the legendary Ruthless Records. You've had the opportunity to travel around the world and perform in places so many people can't dream of. Why stick with dance music and why root down in LA?
There was a very brief stint doing a only a handful of beats at Ruthless, but my interest in hip hop led me to a more techy electronic sound. When I was younger mostly interested in early '80s NYC hip hop, my ears always gravitated towards these sounds (vintage Roland synths and drum boxes among other brands), which are still the fundamental core of sounds used in modern dance music. In fact, all the manufacturers are now scrambling to release re-issue boxes of these same instruments. The experimentation of it all was also something that became less prevalent in hip hop and became something exciting in house, techno, electronica, whatever you want to call it, and that excitement and experimentation is what keeps me interested in producing electronic music.
I moved to LA from Vienna in '82 and even back then as a young kid I noticed everyone was into something different and expressing themselves. That is still something I really like about LA. I grew up here and don’t have any plans of leaving.
For more information about the record, listeners can listen and purchase via Bandcamp.