Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Alex Funk

(Super honored to bring you this chat I had with rising star DJ Alex Funk. If you were at Bonnaroo last year, you know what I mean.)
1. Headed back to Bonnaroo this year? What’s on tap for 2015? I have no idea, but if they want me, I’ll be there with bells on! At Bonnaroo 2014 – as an unlisted act – I built a crowd of 200-300 people into a crowd of 5000 two nights in a row during the my set on Friday night and my set on Saturday night on the Kalliope Stage (both recordings on my SoundCloud). Skrillex showed up on Saturday after his SuperJam, liked the party and asked if he could jump on. I was drenched in sweat and dead after two insane hours, so Skrillex and Mija (OWSLA) took over and it was the surprise – now infamous – Secret Skrillex Morning Party. (Check a clip from his stupid good Bonnaroo set below)
This winter I’m really focused on the NYC after-hours scene and production, production, production – there’s no real DJ career without original music. Definitely Burning Man 2015, where I’ll have a curatorial role besides DJing at several camps.

2. Now that you’ve performed in a number of different cities in the USA, do you have preferences? Do you think one city “gets it right?” Phoenix, AZ (period). They are totally open-minded to new sounds while giving tons of respect to the history of dance music. You can hear talented local DJs like Sean Watson, DJ Ascension, Steve Hill, etc and big touring acts like Diplo, Dillon Francis, Zedd, etc…All the pieces are there.

Most local party scenes are big on “personalities”…this is nothing worse for the music. Inevitably,when the popular kids are in the DJ booth and it just becomes selfie sticks and bad bootlegs. If you want great music, ask the music nerd, not the popular kid. Phoenix respects and elevates artistic talent over personality appeal. That’s what makes it a great scene. 

3. As a DJ with Burner & EDM party experience, do you think there’s ways the two communities can learn from each other, or is it a different strokes for different folks kind of situation? We’re all learning.

EDM world – pick up your trash.
Burner World – Celebrate how we are different. But celebrate ALSO how we are the same. “THOSE PEOPLE just don’t get it” really is just “WE don’t ALL get it”

The Human Race is not against each other, it’s with each other.

4. Additionally, you’ve also DJ’d at a number of Queer parties, while maintaining a presence within the straight dance music culture as well. Do you have any preference or are there things about each setting that you like? Well… There’s the Queer/Genderqueer party scene and the Gay Men’s circuit party scene plus the Gay bar scene plus….etc; they serve very different products to different people. I’ve played in pretty much all of them over the past 15 years…house parites, dive bars, resorts, cruises, runway, afterhours, etc

Playing in the gay music scene is important to me personally. It’s taken me a lot of years to find my place in that world since my roots run deeper in UK Techno and Acid Bass than they do in gay-celebrated Disco or Cunty Beats. Gay men’s circuit music, for example, has been painfully slow to evolve; too much nostalgia for the 1990s. Luckily in the past 5 years, mostly Thanks to Italian Progressive Techno wizard Pagano, the circuit party scene has finally started to realize that the “straight” big room/afterhours sound is hot! HOT! HOT!!! These changes can’t come fast enough for me. Young gay crowds are bored with the 1990s and hungry for current music.

5. What is your favorite party size? Hotel Rooms? Club/Bars? Warehouses? Festival-sized? I love it all, but…Playing for 5000 people at Bonnaroo on the Kalliope Stage at Bonnaroo 2014. Not just quantity, AWESOME energy from that crowd. Experimental, youthful, respectful, fun, and crazy – Friday after the sunrise there was a dude so into it on our go-go stage; he was eating a pineapple whole like corn on the cob. Madness.

6. Much has been made of deep house being “discovered” by the EDM community & how it’s going to “blow up.” As someone that has spun deep house in a warehouse in Brooklyn, do you have any thoughts on how the genre is going to change as it is consumed by a wider audience? Deep House has devotees that are religious and most of the time they reflect and control about 10% of the electronic music market. The massive presence it’s showing culturally now (dominating the line-up of Ultra 2015 main stage, dominating Beatports Top100, etc) is a passing phenomenon. We had such an explosion of intense Bass Music genres from 2008-present (Dutch Electro, Dubstep, Trap, Juke, Melbourne Bounce) that people’s ears just need a break.

Deep House is a beautiful movement and an important part of our musical story, but it’s never going to hold this market share forever. I think DirtyBird Records and Deepperfekt and YoshiToshi are making awesome music…for an indoor party with 100-2000 people, but it’s going to look very silly in front of a crowd of 10,000 with fireworks and video walls.

7. After the tragic festival deaths last year, do you feel that events have a responsibility to provide harm reduction measures (free water, chill spaces, DanceSafe, etc), or is that something you think would send the wrong message? Every party community needs strong relationships with harm-reduction non-govermental organizations. These resources are available within the Burner and Gay Men’s circuit scene’s in a visible way (Green Dot’s and Medivent respectively), but I’m not aware who or what is available in the festival world.

I think there should be bare minimum for any party environment there needs to be some medically-trained non-government adults monitoring basic and health and human safety (mental, physical, sexual) of the attendees and “pulling people out” to a chill/safe/quiet spot at assess their state if there seems to be a risk. How the event handles individual and group safety needs to emphasize personal health over all else.

8. Do you bend your sound depending on the venue or party you play at, or is an Alex Funk set for 12 people at a bar the same set you rock for 3000? There’s such “time and place” to music. I take a lot of pride in never playing prepared sets; everything I do is absolutely improvised. I have music for empty dancefloors, music for building festivals crowds, music for giving an afterhours crowd a wicked spin, and music for the beach with friends after the sun is up. Phrasing (ordering before/during/after/now) is essential for moving between these musical spaces – IMO – that’s the art of DJing: weaving an evolving growing story,

Any bum with a Ministry of Sound mix-CD or an iTunes account can have dance-y music. That’s not DJing.

9. Is there anything really cool going on in your scene that you’d like to spotlight, shout-out, or otherwise celebrate? I’m bringing my online presence online at the end of March to coincide with the release of my first track. I’ve been figuring out how I want to present myself musically and socially for a long time, I’m finally there. All the rest of my plans are Top Secret until ink is dry on the dotted line. 2015 is shaping up to be a stellar year though; I must say. For now, keep an eye on my Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook presence for up-to-the-minute work.

10. Any producers, DJs or acts out there right now really blowing you away? Sleepy Tom is OWNING house right now. Bixel Boys, Ghastly, and Mija in the Bass/Garage scene. Chocolate Puma, Chris Lake, Matteo DiMarr are rocks of stable quality. I always keep an eye on them.

Bonus: Favorite track/mix of 2014? Do you ask parents to pick favorite kids too? At gunpoint I would say, “Cazette feat The High – Sleepless (A-trak Remix)”. The original is beautiful and moving and heartfelt; A-trak keeps all this, but just launches the drop into the a future psychedelic reality where electric synth bass does not separate us, it unites us.

Thoughts?

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