Releasing a successful album can be a double-edged sword, especially for new artists or someone that’s never been in the spotlight. Touring and publicity can become a poisonous combination for those lacking a relatively well-adjusted background, and for some they may just feel like an unnecessary bore. Luckily, Egyptrixx (real name David Psutka), has found a nice middle ground for himself and continues on a ceaseless touring schedule as his first full-length “Bible Eyes” captures fans across a broad spectrum of musical backgrounds. Even blurrier and more confusing though, is the line between producer and DJ that has been slowly eroding over the past few years.
Egyptrixx prefers to align himself with the former, and consequently, he’s finding himself building on to a genre that artists like Flying Lotus, Gold Panda and Caribou have helped loosely develop over the past decade, albeit adding his own dark, industrial sound to the mix. Obviously, there are less limitations as a producer, but live composition and original music also seems to suite Egyptrixx better, considering his past experience playing everything from guitar to piano in various experimental bands. I recently spoke with Egyptrixx about the making of his debut album, how he united with the Night Slugs label, and discerning producers from DJs. –Aaron Frank
AF: Well I wanted to start out by asking about some of the projects you worked on prior to Egyptrixx. Can you tell me about the type of bands you were in before you went solo?
DP: I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 years old basically, so I’ve really played a little bit of everything. I played in metal bands, hard rock bands, experimental bands, drone bands, noise bands. I’ve done songwriting and all sorts of things really.
AF: Those all seem to have that darker, or at least an edgier sensibility.
DP: Yeah, for sure, primarily. But I also worked with an R&B singer doing songwriting when I was like 19, so it’s also pretty diverse.
AF: Did you have a particular instrument of choice in any of those bands?
DP: I’ve played basically all of the traditional and non-traditional instruments at one point or another in various bands and projects. Drums, guitar, bass, singing, whatever.
AF: That seems to be a pretty common thread among a lot of DJs I meet these days. Many of them can also play a pretty wide variety of instruments.
DP: Right, see I don’t really even really consider myself much of a DJ. That’s something I’d really only done very passively for years. And even now, I’ve just been doing live sets for the last year that really don’t resemble DJ sets whatsoever. So yeah, I didn’t really have much of a background as a DJ.
AF: Well I had read before that you never really went to raves or drum and bass parties growing up in Toronto, which I found interesting since those were both very popular there at one point.
DP: When I was younger I didn’t really go to any of those parties. I listened to a lot of Drum N Bass by the time I had turned 15 and 16, but I never really got in to it. I was in to noisier punk music or metal music. I guess when I started making techno or house or whatever a couple years ago, it was kind of inspired by a collection of records someone had given me. It was a friend who was a techno DJ in Toronto around the mid-90s, so he was really passing down his musical background to me. So I was sort of influenced by the Toronto rave scene indirectly and even though I’d never gone to any raves.
AF: So are there any particularly memorable or influential people you can think of from that period?
DP: Local DJs like Marcus Visionary was one of the biggest drum n bass DJs. There’s a hardcore guy named Paladin that was popular. There was a hardcore scene in Brooklyn in the 90s that kind of bled over in to Toronto. It evolved into acid techno and these harder techno sounds. They were short lived, but I guess I picked up on a little bit of that from my friend’s records. DJ Dominik was another big name.
AF: It always felt like Toronto’s scene was more on the techno side and didn’t really get influenced by the huge House wave as much back then.
DP: Yeah, I mean the whole Stay Up Forever Crew were huge in Toronto and that was like the hardest that techno ever really got. There was a house scene there too. Toronto’s a very diverse place so you can pick up on a little bit of everything, but the big club sounds that you were hearing were all jungle, drum n bass, and then techno was a little bit smaller. But even still, there’s a pretty classic Chicago house scene that’s still vibrant. DJ Sneak’s lived in Toronto for a long time. I guess there’s sort of a scene that coalesces around him.
AF: There’s certainly an interesting mix of influences in your background then. What were some of the things that influenced you while you were making Bible Eyes and how long did it take to complete?
DP: Well first of all, it took about four months to write the whole thing and the equipment I was using was primarily a collection of analog synths and different software. So I was using like a Roland System 100, which is like an older keyboard from the late 70s. And then a Roland JX3T, which is like a poly-synth that Roland put out in the early 80s I guess. Synths that are in not that great of shape end up creating this sort of surprise white noise and unexpected texture from the board just being kind of old and dusty. I think that actually like gave the record some character. And then I have like software patches and different things I like to use.
AF: Those sort of weird textures from the synths that you were talking about seem to be favored highly by you and some of the other Night Slugs producers. Do you guys share equipment or ideas often even though they’re overseas?
DP: Well there’s probably some sharing of ideas that happens just organically just because we pass our music around. But Alex and James are in London, I’m in Toronto and Kingdom’s in California, so we’re all kind of spread out so we rarely get to the studio together. And actually when I wrote this record, it was a very isolated process so any sort of cohesion of sound that happens, that happens naturally not deliberately. We’re not passing patches around or anything like that.
AF: So when were you working on the record and was there anything in particular that happened that made you want to put out an LP?
DP: I basically finished school about a year ago and before then Egyptrixx was just kind of a part time, weekend thing. I was just doing it for fun but things started picking up and opportunities started to come up, so I decided to commit to it a little bit and invest myself in the project and making a record.
AF: One of my favorite songs on the album, “Liberation Front”, sort of caught on as an anthem for the social media uprising and revolution in Egypt. What was your reaction to that and did you feel any particular connection to the issue?
DP: (Laughs) Well, I mean it kind of happened, didn’t it? It has nothing to do with me really. Most of the time when I write with this project anyways, the writing has all been pretty loose and accidental and any kind of symbolism in the music is accidental. I work in a pretty unconscious way with this project so any sort of meaning in any song is indirect. So with that song, that was basically just a coincidence. I thought it was really cool that people were picking up on it. Obviously, I support the plight of the Egyptian people.
AF: Well, I’ve followed you on Twitter for a while and a couple of posts I’ve noticed make you seem like sort of a politically minded person or an intellectual in that sense.
DP: I mean, I have my own personal interests but Egyptrixx is in like no way shape or form a political project. It was a viral thing for like three hours, but I enjoyed it.
AF: What would you say is the biggest difference between your live show and a DJ set?
DP: Well, from my understanding a DJ set is more like a collection of songs mixed together. It may be your songs or someone else’s songs, but there are elements of selection to it, like curating. But when I play it’s just my own music and a representation of my own sound. So I don’t really have any interest in representing anyone else’s sound, or any scene or any city or any label. It’s just my own performance and what I’ve done to create that is I’ve taken all of my music and broken it down in to pieces, stuff that I’ve released and stuff that I haven’t released. And the live performance is just like a re-sequencing and a recombining of all those pieces of the songs. Later this year I’m going to be doing some non-dance sets, some more ambient, experimental set using other songs I’ve written. But right now most of the sets I do are for the club environment, so they’re more dance-y or whatever. It’s designed to be really flexible though.
AF: So what kind of direction will you be taking with the more ambient material?
DP: Well there are a couple of songs on the album that are kind of experimental, but I’d like to be taking it more in that direction.
AF: So are you just going to be doing shows with that material or are you also planning another release for later in the year?
DP: Both, really. I’m working on some new material and that’s something I’ve always kind of wanted to do. I’ve never wanted to do a project that was exclusive to dance clubs.
AF: Does that ever become an issue with booking? Trying to differentiate yourself from traditional DJs.
DP: It can be, definitely. Especially with dance music, there’s a reluctance to take chances. For a while I’ve been trying to explain what this record was with words and it was really difficult. It’s so much easier now that people have heard it. It’s something different. It’s kind of a middle point between two different styles or sounds or whatever. But if you’re putting out music and people are in to it then you’re gonna get booked and people are going to come expecting your music. If people are in to it then they’ll want to hear it, whether it’s ambient music, or dance music or whatever.
AF: So you’d like to expand to where you can play both nightclubs and larger concert venues?
DP: Definitely. I’ve done a bunch of shows like that already and that probably represents about 30-40% of my sets. I’m also finding that the set I’m doing now tends to work better in festival settings and live music settings than in clubs. But it mostly has to do with whether or not people have heard the record.
AF: Are you playing any big festivals later this summer?
DP: I’m playing Sonar Festival in Barcelona. Strom in Norway. Share Festival in Belgrade. I just finished HARD. Lovebox in London. Abril is in Madrid.
AF: Those are some pretty big festivals. It sounds like you’re excited to get out of the nightclubs and play to these bigger crowds.
DP: Yeah, but like I said my schedule has pretty much gotten to the point where it’s 50/50 nightclubs and concert venues. And sometimes nightclub gigs are really awesome. I really enjoy the atmosphere of festivals and I feel like my music actually works well in that setting. That’s been the experience anyways. Who knows?
AF: So how did you initially link up with Bok Bok and the whole Night Slugs crew?
DP: We were just friends on the internet really. We were just friends on Myspace before any of us were releasing music. They were putting out mixtapes and writing a blog that I liked. And we just sort of got in touch and started chatting online and it grew from there.
AF: So being on the road as much as you are, who was the last artist or DJ that really you impressed you live?
DP: All the Night Slugs guys, they always smash it. I’ve seen Addison Groove a couple times. Mount Kimbie has a really great live show. Actress, I really enjoyed his live sets and DJ sets.
AF: How are you able to sustain such a busy touring schedule? I saw where you played three shows in two days for HARD this weekend.
DP: When I’m on tour, I try find good food when I can come across it and I spend a lot of time hanging out in art galleries, and that’s how I stay sane.
MP3: Egyptrixx – “Rooks Theme” (128 kbps)