2005_07_lokke.jpgAge: 34
Occupation: Music Director, PS1 Museum
Place of birth: Argyle, Scotland
Current residence: Upper West Side, Manhattan, NY
Online guilty pleasure: I download a lot of Japanese television, mostly sport fighting (kickboxing and mixed martial arts).

You program the PS1 Warm Up series. When and how did you get involved with that?
I was on the committee that chose the DJs for the first two Warm Ups, but then I moved to San Francisco for two years and was not involved. When I returned to New York, I was asked to consult to PS1 for anything relating to music, and I brought Jason Drummond in from California to help me book and run the series. I felt that the differences in our musical tastes would make for an interesting mix of musical styles.

We’ve heard you talk about how you “curate” rather than book your artists. Why the distinction?
We have a unique situation with Warm Up, where we are expected to book the music with the same exacting standards as the curatorial staff curate the artwork. We plan days that flow in a certain way, and in some ways we are DJing with DJs instead of records, if that makes any sense. We have to make sure that the DJs flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense, but keeps the music changing throughout the day.

Nightclubs are run as a business, and they have a mad politics involved in the choices of the DJs (especially the opening slots... "Let me play at your night and you can play at mine" or worse.) Quite often larger clubs with good sound systems have to cater to only the most commercial sounds to make sure that they pack the place regularly with people willing to buy expensive drinks.

What might we hear if we come out on Saturday?
Tim Sweeney (DFA) is sure to bring an eclectic sound and push the crowd, and Darshan Jesrani (Metro Area) is going to play that Metro Area house sound and then MU & Maurice Fulton are going to have a very energetic and wild live performance which should really push the crowd's sensibilities.

How about other weekends...
Lovebug Starski is going to bring some much needed Hip Hop flavor on Aug 13th, Monolake is going to do their live PA on Aug 27th, and that is sure to be a lot of fun since those guys literally wrote the software they use. Norman Jay is going to bring the soul on the closing day, and Bluewater is going to bring the funk, so I'm really looking forward to that one.

How do you think the series has changed over the years?
Warm Up started as a way to attract a new audience to the museum, it was not originally conceived as a fundraiser or a tastemaker event. By the time I returned to NYC from San Francisco, it had grown into a huge event that both generated income and also had a dedicated following with an unusually open-minded attitude towards new music.

I saw it as a chance to expose this special crowd to a wider variety of music than they had ever heard before, and I shifted the focus to both bringing back legendary innovators like Trax, Mad Professor, and Afrika Bambaataa, as well as bringing more exposure to under-known artists like Lindstrom & Prins Thomas, Force of Nature, and DJ Tyson.

In addition to selecting the DJs, you’re also a DJ and have mixed it up at a Warm Up or two. Both are curatorial in nature, but you get a bit dirtier when you’re actually doing the spinning. What are your thoughts/feelings on picking the DJs versus getting in the trenches and picking the music.
The DJs surprise me a lot with what they do, more often than not, so I really don't have that much control. All I can do is hope that the music will go a certain way. So in that way it can be hard to be hands off, since I have been DJing for so many years. There is nothing like doing it myself, but I have a lot of respect for the artists and want them to express and really push themselves.

You mentioned that the DJs often surprise you. How so?
I had no idea Mad Professor was going to remix his songs live in the way that he did... I thought he would have a lot of stuff pre-programmed but he was just lightning fast with his hands on the faders, controlling the delays and reverbs by ear. I was stunned. It was a huge learning experience for me.

The funny thing is that I had people complain to me that he wasn't "mixing" the records (He would play one song and then pause and load in the next one) people didn't realize he wasn't playing a DJ set, he was mixing his old records down in a new way right in front of our eyes.

How do you find the artists?
Although we do accept demo submissions and we have booked one or two people from them, most of the DJs booked for Warm Up are people that Jason and I have found through going out and listening, listening to sets online, or checking out sets on recommendations of friends.

At the museum, you’re also responsible for programming music for shows and other events. What was one of the more interesting or challenging projects you worked on outside of the Warm Up series?
Well, during the Chen Zhen show, there was a large piece with drums made from tables and chairs with skins stretched on them.

The piece was designed to be played by Tibetan Monks, and so we actually arranged for Monks to come and perform at the opening of the show. That was amazing.

Let’s get back to your DJ’ing, how would you describe your DJ style?
I'm a music historian, and I like to draw connections between the songs I play, subtle stuff that no one but me and a handful of people might get.

How did you get into DJ'ing? What was your first gig like?
Way back in 1992, I got exposed to the early days of the Acid Jazz sound, and was immediately hooked. Before that, I had been playing electric and upright bass for several years, in various unsuccessful bands.

The frustrations of band life coupled with a rapidly growing record collection led me into the DJ life.

I think the first time I played for a crowd was a Frat party, shudder, but a few weeks after that I secured a weekly slot at a local bar, brought my own turntable and started a weekly Funk & Soul night in Madison WI where I was going to college.

You were involved with the Konkrete Jungle parties in the mid-90's. What was that scene like?
It was a great period to be involved in the Jungle/Drum & Bass movement. The sound of the music was developing at a fantastic rate, and you really had to work hard to keep up with it. We had a regular crowd, a great crew of DJs and we were able to bring whatever we were working on in the studio to check out on the dance floor, so it was very valuable as a producer to be able to test out new ideas on a crowd we knew well.

Any interesting stories to share?
The best Konkrete Jungle story (at least that I'll tell in public) is that back at Wetlands in the basement, I had a hardcore breakdance crew who would dance to whatever I would play, so for a couple months straight I would end the night with old original Ska tunes and they would still be breakin'. I thought that was really cool.

You DJ’ed at a few places that are no longer around, including Coney Island High and Wetlands. What do you think of the scene now versus then? What do you think of places like Rothko or Luke & Leroy?
Wetlands was a really fantastic space, and had to be my favorite place I have had a residency at. The sound was very good, and the atmosphere was very laid back. Coney Island High had bad sound, but it was a hell of a fun place to play, and Konkrete Jungle was probably at it's peak when we were there.

I think that both Rothko and Luke & Leroy would benefit from real soundproofing and real sound systems. When I have been to either of those places I have been appalled at the amount of distortion and the lack of bass.

Clubs in Europe, the UK and even Asia, all have better sound than most places in New York, and it's a shame that when you go out here, you don't get to really hear the music.

So, what cities have the best party scenes now?
Shanghai's scene is maturing at an almost scary rate. I went there a year ago, and then again recently, and the quality of the DJs playing there and the quality of the clubs have gotten 200% better in just one year, and it shows no sign of slowing down. I'm very impressed with Tokyo's clubs, and I've heard great things about Rio, although I haven't gone there myself (yet.) London's clubs have the best sound around, and there's always something to go see there every night of the week.

It seems like these days with technology and scratch classes, everyone and their brother is trying their hand at DJ’ing. What do you think of this phenomenon?
I have seen a lot of piss poor DJing, that's for sure. A couple classes on scratching, a "Hits of the 80's" CD compilation or an iPod do not a DJ make.

You need to know how to take people on a journey and make it interesting, and you also have to make sure that you bring something to the table that no one else can.

As a DJ, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve?
I decided a long time ago that I wasn't the type of DJ who took requests (save that for the wedding DJ). So I approach a gig with an idea of what I want to play. I do take what I know about the crowd into consideration when deciding what direction to take the music, but essentially I have been brought in to share my vision, so that comes first.

Usually my set will be one of a number of groupings, like Funk, Soul and Reggae, or Hip Hop, Dancehall and Downtempo, or sometimes I play a set of Old Skool Jungle or Breaks if someone asks me to play at a "nostalgia" night.

What techniques are you working on now?
Triangle Choke, Knee Bar, and Heel Hook.

Seriously though, I'm not that kind of DJ, never been into scratching or tricks (although I have lots of respect for the guys who do that) I'm there because I have a great selection. I do beatmatch when it's appropriate, but that's about it.

What DJs or musicians are you currently listening to?
I recently saw DJ Krush play and he was fantastic as always, DJ Harvey is a genius.

I have been impressed by some of the sounds coming from Broken Beat producers, I like the Silhouette Brown project a lot, and there have been some fantastic Disco Edits put out.

I think there is a lot of good Dancehall being made, if you have the time and patience to go to the reggae record stores and listen to the new releases on 7".

Also I have been listening to a band called "The Pillows" from Japan. I just found out about them last year, but they have been around for over 10 years I guess. They have such great production, the records are very clean, and the songs are well written. Also the guitar player really knows his tone in an almost Zappa sense.

It’s Friday night, summertime in New York, what are you doing?
Since I teach kids and then adult Kung Fu on Saturday mornings and then have to head to PS1 for a full day of Warm Up, I usually stay in on Friday nights and watch a movie. Thursday is a much better night for going out anyway.

Ok, it's Thursday night, what are you doing?
At the Rong music party at APT most likely, unless there's someone special doing a one-off.

What trends in music are you currently tracking?
I'm curious to see how the concept of music retailing is going to change over the next few years thanks to file sharing and mp3 software. Artists may need to start viewing their recorded material as promotional in nature, and concentrate on live shows to generate income. That's the way dance music producers have been working it for a long time now. You can't make money off a record that only sells 1000-2000 copies, if you're lucky you break even, but you can get DJ gigs that pay pretty well if you have records out that are any good.

Do you have any side projects you’re working on? Any upcoming DJ gigs?
I want to get back into producing an album's worth of Downtempo and Breaks songs, but that project has been on hiatus for a while, hopefully I can get back on that at the end of the summer. I need to re-wire my whole studio and my 808 has an inch of dust on it! It's scandalous!

I haven't really been spinning much in the last year or two, the club scene really suffered at the hands of Giuliani and Bloomberg and their war on nightlife. The number of quality spaces available for underground music has really dwindled.

Photo credit: Eileen Costa, courtesy of PS1 Contemporary Art
Center