Interview: Classixx Go Deep On Their Origin, Bridging Creative Differences and Developing Live Show

Get to know Classixx in this in depth interview!
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Classixx

American duo of Tyler Blake and Michael David, also know as Classixx, helped usher in a new wave of dance music with a smooth blend of disco, funk, and house. With a wide range of releases and remixes from indie artists to mainstream headliners, this duo has been on our watchlist for quite some time. As fans, we always want to get to actually know the artists; what they are like, how they began their journey and what they like to do. With that in mind, we asked Classixx a few questions to let all of our readers really get to know the two! 

How did the Classixx project come together from you two being friends, to producing and performing together?

We've known each other since we were little but we really only became good friends when we started playing music together. There were only a handful of kids that were serious about music in the town we grew up in and Michael and I seemed to share similar sensibilities and taste when it came to what we wanted to soak up from the past and what current stuff excited us. A lot of the music we discovered was literally in the same room listening to records at one of our houses or a mutual friend's house. We actually have pretty different personality types but somehow music brought us together and made us really close. Through that bond we started having a lot of fun together and began embracing each others' personality differences and learning and growing from them. I think a lot of best friends are that way. As time went on a lot of the other people we made music with in our adolescence fell away and we just always stuck together. 

To answer your question about "Classixx," its simply a name we chose around 2007 or 2008 for the music we were releasing, but it was really just the culmination of everything else we ever made together. It started to be that if the two of us made something together it naturally just sounded a certain way. It happened to be around that time people started recognizing us and so the name Classixx stuck.

How do you guys work together when creating music? Does knowing each other for so long help, or can it be a hindrance at times?

Our familiarity is pretty invaluable. Its very rarely a hindrance. It saves a lot of time not to have to explain yourself. We both usually pretty much understand where each other are coming intrinsically. Like I said, a lot of our references were mined together and the same goes for our process of making music. Usually the way it works is one of us will have an idea for a track, get it sounding good enough for the point to come across, and then present it to the other person. Then if we both like the idea and agree that it makes sense as something for Classixx we'll work on it together and take it to where it needs to be for us to consider it good enough to put out.

How do you two resolve any creative differences, if there have ever been any to arise?

Over the years we've become pretty good at not taking things personally from one another. We've become ok with criticism from each other and are usually even able to accept when something isn't really doing it for the other person. I think that comes with maturity and having some successes; you're able to take more of that kind of rejection without getting the feeling that you're a failure or that maybe you're just not any good. You remember the reason you're working together is because of a mutual respect and admiration for one another's talents. You gotta let it roll off your back when something doesn't connect and realize that even though you may have very similar taste there's gonna be things you like that the other person just doesn't. Sometimes you have to surrender some of your pride— you can't expect everything you do to resonate the same with everyone as it does for you. Sometimes the best way to resolve stuff like that is to just move on. 

If for whatever reason a track we're working on starts feeling like an uphill battle and we can't seem to get on the same page we'll usually just scrap it. There's a vast graveyard of songs on our computer that probably takes up most of our hard drive space to be honest. I don't lose much sleep about it though because our best work has always proven to be the stuff that meets both of our standards. When we do get to that place, it pays off and makes the sacrifices seem inconsequential. Our differences act as a kind of quality control and although it can be frustrating at times, its also comforting in a way, because I think when we're old men we'll be able to look back on our body of work without either of us cringing. That's the hope at least.

You have such an eclectic collection of music. What are some of your biggest influences when writing music?

Our influences come from countless places really. We'll always be influenced by the music we grew up with— stuff our parents listened to when we were kids, music we discovered together, music our friends turned us on to. Besides that, usually when we get an idea for a track it comes from hearing something that sticks out to us that makes us think, "oh we could do something like that and put our spin on it and maybe that could be interesting." It could be a record a friend is playing at a party or something we hear in a mix or even just something that we hear out in the world.

For example, we visited South Africa where Michael's family is from a few years back while we were writing our second album Faraway Reach. A lot of cool rhythms and melodic stuff that wouldn't typically come to us naturally trickled into the beats and riffs we were making simply because we were surrounded by those sounds and immersed in that environment.

This is your third time playing CRSSD Fest, how is this festival different than others you have played? Are there any shows that specifically stand out more than others to you guys? If so which and why?

CRSSD is unique for sure. It feels very SoCal. The lineup is usually really solid and it attracts a cool crowd. San Diego is a beautiful place and the clean ocean air is a nice environment to play our breezy music in. Its always been fun to play but each time has been a little different. The first time we played was a live performance but it was pretty early into our transition to doing that from only just DJing. It was kinda cool in some ways because we were still figuring it out and it was kinda rough around the edges and I think it can be fun to watch a band doing something new even if they haven't totally found their footing yet. 

That was a pretty different show than you will see from us this year. We've gotten a lot touring under our belts since then and fine tuned everything, changing things that didn't work and getting the show to a place we're happy with. There is a pretty strong visual element to the production now. In general its just a much more fully realized show. Also, we'll have our friend TC from the band Crush Club singing with us this time. He is an amazing singer and performer that has been with us for a couple years now. He adds so much to the show. I'm not sure if we had any singers the first time around. The second time we played CRSSD was just a DJ set and it was a B2B with our friends Holy Ghost! Basically, that just felt like a party on stage as much as out in the crowd. There were 4 of us total so we only had time to play couple tracks each giving us a lot of time to just dance around and enjoy it with the audience when it wasn't our turn.

The shows that stand out besides CRSSD are ones that are unique and/or have a really specific identity or a personal connection. Coachella is an obvious example of that for that reason. Both years that we've played were really amazing and special to us because its the festival we attended when we were kids, just as fans. Since then, for better or worse, it has turned into more than just a music festival. Its like a hub of culture and non-culture where great music and art collide with cultural depravity, Instagram fame, and celebrity obsession. Whatever criticism that incites is always kinda funny to me because I just find it fascinating and, honestly, besides all that bullshit I always just have a good time.

Another show that stands out in my memory was a festival we played in Norway called Hove. It was on this surreal and picturesque island with some of the most incredible panoramic views imaginable. We DJ'd in the middle of a small forrest where a soft rain fell through the spaces between the trees. A million twinkling lights lit the area casting brilliant reflections off the light drizzle. Everything seemed to be sparkling like diamonds all around us. It wasn't lost on the audience, a young and wild crowd. It felt totally magical for everyone that shared in the moment. I remember Robyn co-headlined the main stage with a cyclone of a performance followed by the Strokes who smashed it in herculean fashion. It was all really fun to watch. By the end it was really muddy but no one cared because the music was so good and spirits were so high. I think the year we played was the last time they ever did it unfortunately.

You've remixed songs from massive artists like Phoenix and Major Lazer, as well as much less known artists. If there were three people that you could remix or collaborate with, who would they be and why?

This is just off the top of my head but it would be awesome to work with Robyn. She has always stood out of the crowd in pop music. She's got the attention of everyone, from the most casual of music listeners to the snobby elite. That's pretty rare. She's managed to stay relevant over the years which at our age is something we are always so in awe of. She is still so cool and left of center and above all she's just such a great writer. People often say she's kinda like a less mainstream Madonna for the millennial generation but she is also kinda like Kate Bush in that she writes all her music and lyrics and produces and plays instruments.

It would also be totally insane to work with someone like Brian Eno for obvious reasons. He's just one of the most prolific and subversive musical minds of the last 40 or so years and probably the most influential living record producer in regards to sounds and space. It would be pretty unreal to work with a hero like that. His eminence would be pretty intimidating.

I think it would be fun to do a session with one of those young lo-fi house guys named ironically after a 90's sitcom character— DJ Seinfeld, Ross From Friends, Niles Crane, Ray Barone.

How do you two feel differently when playing a DJ set versus a live set? Is there more anxiety for the live set or do you prefer the rush?

Playing live is harder than DJing in every way. Instruments are harder to play than turntables. Instead of just carrying a USB drive and some headphones there is a bunch of gear you gotta lug around and set up. Its harder to sound good. You gotta sound check. You gotta monitor check. Its just so much more involved on every level. Its also harder to get the crowd on your side, especially at a festival when not everyone out there is specifically there to see your band. You have to win over the crowd with nothing but your own music and performance and the fact is, sometimes you can't. You have to accept that your music isn't for everyone and just give it your all and try your best anyway. 

When it works though it can be the most beautiful thing for your spirit. To see people having an experience that they're really enjoying, to see people dancing and singing along to your lyrics, or chanting to play "one more song!" is an immediate affirmation that what you've made and what you're doing up there in that moment has value.

With DJing, if you have at least some degree of skill, you can usually transition pretty quickly into something you know will kill when something isn't working. That kind of safety net doesn't really exist when you play live. That sense of danger can be scary but its also what makes it more exciting.

When you aren't working on music, what do you like to do in your free time?

Mike recently just had a kid so he's got his hands pretty full on dad duty. But we both going on trips with our friends and doing outdoor stuff—hiking, rafting, kayaking, riding atvs, etc. We're both really into film and watch a lot of movies and Netflix (like everyone). We have a great group of friends that we can have a good time just sitting around making dumb jokes with for hours. I like skateboarding and snowboarding a lot and have recently gotten into rock climbing... sees "Free Solo" once.

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