Interview: Avalon Emerson
Posted in Interviews
"DJing underground is quite literally one of the most fun things I've ever done."
The Bay Area is one of those few standing cultural hubs in the United States where you can find music of all genres. The rap scene there has given birth to the Hyphy movement as well as weirdos like Lil B. Indie rock is still strong as ever in the Bay, as Girls are the latest buzzband to make a name for SF. And the electronic music scene, with its roots in SF's burner community, remains extremely diverse to this day.
Enter Avalon Emerson, a young DJ/producer from the Bay who recently caught our ears with her tribal-influenced deep house tune "Warm Up Love." In fact, we liked it so damn much we reached out for an interview to ask her about her influences and where she gets her unique sound. What started out as a talk about music, quickly ventured into a conversation about her wonderful home, San Francisco, and why it's so freaking awesome.
Hey Avalon, thanks for talking with us today. Where are you coming at us from currently?
I'm typing at you from my lower height abode. It just finished raining here…about time.
So what is it that you do? I understand you've been involved in quite a bit throughout the past few years.
I moved to San Francisco about three years ago into a big 14-person warehouse living situation where I was one of the few Americans. One of the other Americans was a former Bay Area rave DJ and he taught me how to spin and after a couple years into it we started throwing parties. We developed a pretty significant scene actually, and it drove me to really fall in love with the craft of DJing and party throwing. Serving a predominantly European audience (mostly French, German and Spanish kids), my style molded itself around the club floor sounds.
When I'm producing, I always think of the track's vibe and the effect it would have on our warehouse parties. DJing underground is quite literally one of the most fun things I've ever done. I've played out in clubs around the city too, but it's just no where near the same feeling and connection you can build with the dancers if you're only allotted a little hour time slot at 12:30 am.
Talk to us a bit about how you made the transition from DJing to producing…being as there is such a fine line that separates the two these days.
I've been a songwriter since I was a little kid. When I lived in Phoenix (before SF), I was involved in the noise/art folk/whatever-belittling-sub-genre you want to call it scene by way of making lo-fi folk and helping friends record songs. When I came to San Francisco, and again, fell in love with DJing and electronic dance, I started producing tracks almost immediately.
The huge difference between the two kinds of songwriting/producing to me is the somewhat objective lens you can put over a dance track. It either works on a dance floor or it doesn't. I like that there's a trial you put dance tracks through.
Let's go ahead and dissect the heater "Warm Up Love" that you laced us with this afternoon.
Well I'd say I was going for a powerful, rolling, and latin-ish rhythm with a deep, almost muddy growly kick that's not totally stuck on a 4 to the floor grid. Kinda gritty and overdriven. Ran parts through a tape to get some natural saturation going. The "funky worm" sounding flute synth came from a melody I had floating around in my head for months.
And the second set of acid house inspired tunes you sent us..can you tell us about those as well?
This is the first in the "John McCain & the Cybernetic Chamber" series. I'll be releasing them as free tracks under Non Seq Records, a brand-spankin' new San Francisco dance label launching a little later on this year.
The tracks are inspired by the legacy of SF raving I've been systematically consuming while shooting photos for the Lost in the Night column for SF Weekly. Also the marathon DJ sets from the warehouse party series I'm a part of.
What artists have been catching your eye lately? What's on your iPod?
Generally, techno, specifically, Detroit beat down guys like Kyle Hall, and Theo Parrish. I've also been enjoying the recent acceptance of playing 90's house in clubs. I love hearing more Morales and MAW jams and that stuff with it's snappy swung hats and piano stab melodies. It's really fun to spin.
Five albums you couldn’t live without?
Sly & The Family Stone – There's A Riot Goin' On
Björk – Debut
Magnetic Fields, The – Holiday
Prince – Sign "O" The Times
Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping
Song to live by?
Favorite song to get buck to at the moment?
So what’s next for you? What can we expect to see from you soon?
I'm in the studio all. The. Time. So more tunes. Workings on getting my vocals on the next couple upcoming tracks, you know, try to inject a little humanity in there.