Taking the time to indulge in some friendly anecdotes and banter, the Tyler-half of Classixx spoke to Stoney about following up a successful single, working with Mayer Hawthrone and throwing free raves in their basement.
Hey Tyler, thanks for talking to us. Straight off the bat let me say I’m really excited for Classixx to be touring again. Last year’s tour for the Future Classic label night at the Civic Underground was a stupid amount of fun and I’m really looking forward to this next run of shows.
TYLER (CLASSIXX): Oh great, thanks!
Your DJ sets are just ridiculous amounts of fun and have this great vibe about them. I wonder if that has translated from how you guys began DJing in LA in your basement apartment.
T: Yeah well that was kind of in an early stage of Classixx. I was living in this weird space on Sunset Blvd and we didn’t know anybody in the LA club/DJ scene, so we just tried to do it and attempt to get a name for ourselves. Actually, we threw some pretty epic parties down in my basement… it got pretty crazy. I lived in this neighbourhood with a lot of Mexican gangster type dudes who got sick of us and actually came down and threatened to kill us! They weren’t fucking around either – they were serious, so we had to stop after about 4 months but I think it did get us started on the DJ thing.
I think it does translate through to our DJ sets though. We much prefer DJing in small, intimate clubs where you can feel the energy in the room in a similar fashion. You can really feel the vibe of what to play feeding off the crowd, whereas your big festivals such as Parklife is just like, the Parklife crowd. I mean that’s cool too but it’s a totally different thing to a small space.
These basement parties sound pretty off the chain. But wasn’t your house trashed every week?
T: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah… it was completely fucked. It was free to come but we did try and make some money selling cheap booze for cash in an effort to pay for the damage to the house – and the fines from the cops. In the end I think we ended up managing to break pretty close to even.
I’ve just managed to wrap my ears around your new releases, both ‘Into the Valley’ and ‘No Strings’ and they’re both really good. I particularly love ‘No Strings’ because I’m a big Mayer Hawthrone fan, but neither of them is much like ‘I’ll Get You’, the track that seemed to get you the most attention of late. Is there a fair bit of pressure when you finally get a chance to sit down and attempt to follow up a successful release? Is there a minor version of ‘second album syndrome’ for singles these days?
T: Yeah, it was different. ‘I’ll Get You’ did really good things for us, a lot of DJs played it and a lot of people were feeling it. But for our second single ‘Into The Valley’ we did it with a label called Green Label Sound, and we wanted to do something new.
The thing that Mike (the other half of Classixx) and I never want to do is become predictable. We easily could have gone into the studio and attempted to make ‘I’ll Get You – pt 2’ but we figured doing that might be boring. So instead we just went into the studio and made ‘Into The Valley’ without giving it too much thought, it came out how it has and we figured it was a cool song to put out as our next thing.
Yeah, definitely – I personally like when artists do their best not to become predictable, because it can put a bit of a shelf life on their sound and ultimately people can tire of it. Attempting to catch people a little off guard is a great way to keep yourselves interesting and can even result in attracting new fans.
T: Exactly. I mean, every time we do something new we do think to ourselves ‘are the people who like our stuff already going to dig this?’ but at the same time we don’t ever want to be put in a corner. There’s never been a time where we’ve had an idea and then stopped to think twice about it because its ‘too different’ or it’s not going to make any sense. In the past we’ve done remixes that are super slow and we’ve also made total dancefloor tracks. Ultimately, we just want to do what we do – whatever comes naturally.
And it’s obviously working for you – this past year or so you’ve been touring pretty regularly around the world off the back of your work, which leads me to ask how you find the time to make your music? When you listen to a Classixx track, you can tell it’s you guys pretty quickly by the quality and sound of the production, with a lot of it sounding as though it was recorded in the studio on synths rather than on a laptop half way round the world. Do you use a lot of outboard gear and does this make it hard to work on music whenever you’re away from the studio on tour?
T: Well recently we got a studio space in the valley in LA – it’s actually what we’re referencing in the title of our new track. And since getting our hands on the space we’ve actually become huge nerds about getting our hands on heaps of gear. Our music is mostly all recorded on outboard gear – real synths, real cowbells and shakers that we keep in a box, etc., apart from certain electronic elements of say percussion, which are sampled.
We don’t have too many synths just yet but they all serve a specific purpose. For the gear heads, our favourite synths are the Prophet 08, the Juno 106, the Moog Voyager and the DX7. They all sound different in their own way but they all sound awesome – really full and lush.
It does make it hard to write music when we are on tour however. Really hard – we’re writing our debut album and this is the main reason why it’s taking so long for us to finish it. We’ll be in the midst of all these ideas and then all of a sudden you have to go out on tour and they can easily be forgotten. In June for example we’re in Australia for the first half of the month and Europe for the second, so it can make it quite tricky. You can put things on a laptop and attempt to work on the ideas you’ve already had but it definitely is one of the reasons why we can be so slow.
How about working with Mayer Hawthorne? How did that come about and what was it like working with him?
T: Basically a while ago we did a remix for Mayer’s ‘Green Eyed Love’ as a trade for him to do a vocal for our album. Meanwhile, Mike had put together this demo of ‘No Strings’ and sent it over to Mayer who laid down his part and sent it back to us. It sounded really cool but we couldn’t help but feel it was actually now sounding more like a song Mayer Hawthrone should put out rather than a track for the Classixx record. So when we finished it we actually just handed it back over to Mayer for him to put out.
And now it’s coming out as the first 10″ record from Stonesthrow, correct? You didn’t want to try for another heart shaped piece of wax or some other crazy shape?
T: Ha, well that’d be cool but 10″ records are great as well. It just came out actually, and the artwork for the record is really great too – it’s a painting Mayer found in an LA market of a bunch of ducks.
Not all that long ago I heard whispers of the formation of a bit of a supergroup – that Classixx and Holy Ghost! were going to team up for a series of live performances. Is that still a possibility or should I give up the dream?
T: Unfortunately that didn’t end up happening. About 18 months ago when Holy Ghost! were first putting together their live band they asked us help out as we’re really close friends. We actually went to New York and even rehearsed all of their songs for about a week, but after that we got really busy with touring and tragically Jerry Fuchs (who was going to play drums) passed away. So the band took a breather and eventually became what it is now, with the guys getting Eric and Chris to complete their live outfit. And they’re a great band! I don’t think anyone is upset with how it all turned out.
At last year’s show in Sydney you dropped Frankie Valli’s ‘Oh What A Night’ and I’ve just received a cover you’ve done of Madonna’s ‘Lucky Star’ – how much do these classic tracks influence your music?
T: Ultimately everything you listen to influences you, and I feel we wear our influences on our sleeve – it’s pretty obvious if you listen to our music where we’re coming from. When we DJ and we play those old disco records in a club you can really start to see how they help mould and shape our Classixx records, how we can lean on elements we like to help get or keep the dancefloor moving. Having said that, not every one of the tracks on the forthcoming LP is aimed at the dancefloor and I’m excited for some of the other stuff we listen too to come out in our music on the album.
Recently you tweeted that you picked up some equipment second hand from one of the Backstreet Boys and I remember reading somewhere you used to live down the road from Kesha. Is L.A. very tight knit and does this make it fairly easy to get collaborations happening?
T: Yeah – well, we have common friends and the like with popstar kind of people like that, its just one of the things about L.A. For example one of our friends, Trevor (aka DJ Skeet Skeet) is currently on tour with Katy Perry and its funny because it’s not really our world but yet it’s surprisingly close to home just by living here. Though as much as you’d think it’d make things easier to get collabs going it’s always going to be really hard to get talented people to drop what they’re doing and lay down a vocal as a favour. But, you know – it’s all coming along now and we’re pretty excited with what we’ve got.
Great! And just finally how long until you think the album will be ready to go? When do you think we can we start hearing some of it?
T: Well, our goal is to be done with the album in October.
I’m looking forward to it – and to the tour in June as well! Thanks heaps for your time.
T: Thank you!