October 20, 2006

Interview: Juan Maclean & Tim Sweeney

On the occasion of the 2006 US DFA DJ Tour, Stylus stopped for a moment to chat with the Juan Maclean and Tim Sweeney over sushi and Sapporo as they swung through Houston…

So, Juan, working on album number two?

Juan: Yeah, album number two is the next step.

Are you gonna be using a lot of players from the live setup?

Juan: Sure—it’s really become a different thing live—like a happy acid house jam band. Like the Grateful Dead crossed with the Chemical Brothers.

My friend saw you play at the Winter Music Conference in Miami and he wanted me to ask you if you’ll be getting more use out of the big button? The one that makes everything super-loud…

Juan: Oh—the up-down button. We do this crazy thing where we break songs down really quiet, then build up a big drum fill that comes crashing in on the one, and I press the button and everything comes screaming back in.

Tim: The target button!

Juan: I do a similar thing when DJing. It’s very sneaky. I just set up two records but really there’s a mix CD in there, ‘cuz I don’t know how to DJ or anything.

They won’t notice here.

Juan: They’ll know. When they see my skills. Mad skillz! (Laughing) No, he likes to make fun of me (points to Tim) because he says that guys who play in bands can’t DJ. It’s true though, that just trying to DJ without having produced anything of your own is really tough.

How long have you been DJing? Even just playing with it?

Juan: Oh, I don’t know—years!

Were you ever a radio DJ, or…

Juan: Yeah, years and years ago, but real club DJing I didn’t really take seriously until a little while ago.

I usually find it a lot more fun when people don’t take it too seriously…

Juan: No, no… I take it seriously…

As far as the mixing, or what you play…

Juan: Yeah, definitely! (Meaning all of it)

Well, that’s good too—it’s just another instrument, really—if you can bring a musical approach to it, it really rewards the listener.

Juan: Coming from playing instruments, it’s just another instrument that I have to learn how to play, I’m not gonna just get up there and not be good at it.

That’s good, I guess what I meant more, is that I get tired of as a listener is the cult of the DJ where the DJ plays a four-hour set of basically the same song.

Juan: I hate that! It’s really boring.

Especially with the focus lately on minimal sounds…

Juan: I know… well, I won’t say their names… I have friends who are minimal guys. And I like that stuff, but it’s endless…all that stuff sounds like an endless track, like the same track after a while…

Tim: You’re talking about minimal stuff? Who?

He’s not gonna name names, we’re on the record here.

Tim (gleefully): Name names!

[Juan looks askance]

Tim: What’s your problem (teasingly)? I thought you had more of a diverse outlook on music than the rest of the DFA?

Juan: Well, they make fun of me at DFA for liking certain things.

Like what?

Juan: Well, I’m probably the most tasteless DJ on the DFA, cuz I’ll play things that are just like retarted and fun or whatever…

Tim (smiling): Oh, I’ll agree…

Juan (continuing): But there are DJs that are infinitely tasteful, but it’s like nobody wants to hear it…

Tim, give me your rundown on radio DJing versus live club DJing

Tim: Well… it’s two different things… on radio, you obviously don’t have to worry about the crowd, or if anyone’s listening…

Do you get into that vibe when you play live, or find yourself wanting that freedom?

Tim: No, I love playing with the crowd, because sometimes you have this connection or whatever and you work with that, but you get a lot more nervous, worrying if something’s going to clear the floor or whatever… but opening for Juan, it’s like I can’t do any worse than he does. (Laughter)

Juan: I can do whatever I want to, because of who I am!

You have carte blanche, then?

Juan: A blank slate, even.

Tim: Oh, you don’t have a blank slate.

[Mallory O’Donnell]


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