Monday, July 16, 2007

Interview with John Acquaviva

John Acquaviva has been playing as a dj for about 30 years and has been a driving force in the international music and club scene since 1989, when he and Richie Hawtin founded one of the world's best known and influential techno labels, Plus 8 Records.

Last year, he was recognized in the Top 100 (#22) in DJ Magazine’s canonical poll of DJ influence and success worldwide. John is known as a DJ’s DJ with a vast vinyl record collection (over 50.000 pieces) that essentially spans the history of club music. . . and he was spinning through it all!

Always at the vanguard of new music and ideas, John was one of the first people to take notice and embrace electronic music’s digital future at the dawn of 2000. First, he got involved with and championed Final Scratch as a new innovative way for DJ’s and artists to connect the digital world with the analog world. He also helped launch, the biggest dance-music download site in the world.

John played a fun set at Movement 07 – Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival. We had the chance to meet him, and later pose a few questions (I’ll let you guess which questions were from Rusty – our trusty DJ in residence.)

MMR: You seemed to have a really fun time at Movement 07 performing “Bad Habits” and “It’s All About the Music” with Dan Diamond. (I very much enjoyed these songs too.) What brought you two together?

JA: The lyrics to Therapy just grabbed me. I thought that Therapy was a Peace Division record with a vocal sample I had never heard before. A few months later, I bought Bad Habits and I figured it was the same vocalist. I called beatport and begged them to help track him down...Imagine my surprise and delight when I found he was from Detroit... The rest is history.

I decided to bring Dan two years ago [to DEMF 2006] as a proper coming out to the world at large...Then this year – being on the Main Stage - I just figured dj's are boring to watch - so I asked Dan to come and perform with me to add some life to the show... I think it did. We decided to have fun and I think that came through nicely.

with Dan Diamond

I noticed that many artists – including yourself - turned out to listen to one another throughout DEMF. What were your highlights as a listener and fan from Movement 07?
That would be it. Most festivals are in and out, but Detroit was special. More so because not much is happening in North many people came for the whole weekend. In Europe, I have done 3 festivals in 2 days many times - so there is no time to hang out.

How did you make the transition from clubber and fan to performer? And what were the inspirations/influences for the Electro House sound that is currently synonymous with John A.? How do you define ElectroHouse music?
I always loved and bought music...wanted to share with my friends...and dj was the way to do it ...since my school days [the disco era].

Electro is not too hard and not too soft...about having fun -which sometimes we can all be too serious as producers...but always for dancing

I noticed at DEMF that you were playing on Stanton's Final Scratch 2. It seemed to me that almost all the other DJs have switched over to the Rane’s Serato Scratch Live. Why are you so committed to FS2? I've also heard that Traktor is not yet supporting the new intel Mac's (and is generally unstable). Am I misinformed?
I am not much of a technical guy. [Ed. Note: “I don’t believe you!”] But you are right about Stanton not supporting the new intel macs. Me...I have been using FS2 waiting for Traktor. I love the Traktor interface for FS technology and the new Traktor Scratch takes FS technology to the next level for me in every way

Another thing I observed was your use of CD decks instead of turntables. I know that many DJ pioneers that have been doing this from the very beginning (as you have) have an almost religious loyalty to two turntables and sometimes even a rotary mixer. Recently, I was dismayed to see one of my favorite local DJs performing with a single CD Deck and a laptop running SSL. Do you think the turntable and vinyl is on its way out of the DJ booth?
Turntable is the best controller. The decks were a bit dodgy...that is a real pity. CDs cannot do what a turntable does. A lot of young guys don’t know what they are missing. I don’t like and never liked rotary mixers as well... Knobs take too much to handle when you are mixing.

What's got you excited about your music these days? What are you currently working on?
I get excited about the next thing I buy or receive as a demo. I’m still sorting studio sessions this summer...but right now, doing more with Olivier Giacomotto who is my favorite producer, and definitely the fresco guys.

Your weekly gig at Privilege in Ibizza sounds sweet. What is the ideal size audience for a John Acquaviva performance? Is bigger better? Or do you prefer the opportunity to perform in more intimate spaces?
Middle is best, 1-2000 people. In August, we get 4-5000 which is great. Big rooms are very special, but hard to do day in and out.

I’m impressed by your successful entrepreneurialism – including starting Plus 8 records, helping launch and running your own labels. Do you enjoy the business side of the industry? Or is this simply the price you have to pay in order to be get the music out into the world?
I am proud of the vision and hard work I have put in along with Rich and many others. Basically waking up in the day and taking care of business is a price that you must pay. And I think that smoke and mirrors can only get you so far.

What music are you currently recommending to friends? What is on your turntable/ipod now?
I typically recommend tracks that I find on beatport...last month was was a huge can get these on my newsletter along with a regular podcast. [Ed. note - his podcasts are fantastic!]

What developments do you foresee in the electronic music genre?
Things are always changing but a photograph and yourself over time. There is a new generation that has finally and truly embraced technology, so things have been fast and furious the last few years...and I expect it to continue.

I had the chance to groove alongside John during the Jeff Mills performance, and I found him to be one of the most hospitable and gracious artists that I’ve met. If you ever get the chance to go to one of his parties – do it!

After DEMF, I raced out and bought a few new cds by some of the artists that I “discovered” that weekend. One was John Acquaviva presents Acquaholic: The True Electro Experience. It has stayed in frequent rotation and is still fresh. Recommended listening.

Your best move is to buy it at - or if you simply must have the physical media, buy it from locally-owned music stores. As a last choice, buy it through this link to Amazon and help support our site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

superb interview. I am insprired to go out an listen to some of his releases. Thanks!