American born and Los Angeles bred DJ, producer, and artist David Alvarado continues a career that has spanned well over a decade, and is still considered to be one of electronic music’s best kept secrets. He is best known for his work on some of the worlds most respected imprints such as Ovum, Ultra, Peacefrog, Yoshi Toshi, Plastic City, Strictly Rhythm, and Guidance, along with his early work on his own label Bomb Records.
David began his career as a DJ running a renegade sound system and deejaying underground parties around the Los Angeles area. He quickly made an impact on the American electronic music scene with his unique style and signature music selection. His work as a producer and artist began to take root after a chance meeting with the legendary Plus 8 duo, Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva, who stumbled across one of his very first works and invited him to be a part of their newly formed Definitive Records. From there David forged relationships, and created a body of work that would take him around the world, opening the door to performances at legendary clubs and events such as The Ministry of Sound, The Hacienda, Fabric, Tresor, Florida 135, Row Club, Panorama Bar, The Arches, Extrema Festival, Sonar.
David is currently releasing music on his own imprint, as well as making continued appearances as an artist ton Josh Wink’s Ovum Records. He continues to actively tour, bringing his unique sound as a DJ and performer to many of the best clubs and venues worldwide. Fusing new technologies and creating a DJ/Live experience that continues to make him one of America’s most respected talents.
If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you what first drew you to electronic music?
I think the most attractive thing to me was that electronic music could be very solitary, you didn’t need 4 or 5 other guys to be creative and make music. I’ve always been somewhat of a loner so it was perfect, I could do what I wanted and not have to answer to other personalities that would make up a group. I never was much of a group person, always on my own, moving light and fast.
In your career you’ve seen a lot of changes. What changes do you think have been for the better and is there anything you’d like to change back?
I think that I’m most interested in where software and hardware are going. I was one of the first users of Final Scratch in 2002 and I was very frustrated after a few years because I saw the potential in where this could lead, but the technology when it came to controllers was still way behind. I think now finally it’s become interesting to me again, the software and hardware are finally in concert with each other and thus you see some interesting things being done with it. I dont think there is anything I would want to change, everything happens for a reason. Good and bad it all serves a purpose. I’m happy with the way things are, all these things have lead me to this place to be what I am now, as well as many others.
How has the your sound developed since it first entered the international consciousness several years ago? Why do you think it became such a phenomenon?
I think now I am producing more in line with what I would actually play out. Before I felt there was a disconnect between what I produced and what I played. Now with the focus on music being made with the intent of being played out live, I feel I am more in tune with the energy and image I have in my head that I would like to translate when I play out. I think I was fortunate enough to be out of the way in Los Angeles, no pressure from other people or a scene since their weren’t many people doing what I was doing there. In NYC, Detroit, or Chicago, there seems like so much pressure to live up to what other people are doing, I was always on my own so I had nobody to please but myself. I think that allowed me to be true to myself and not really care if I was pleasing anyone else. I guess that’s what made my tracks different, they weren’t trying to be anything in particular, no certain expectations, just what I wanted them to be. I’ve always stuck to that approach, making what I want, not what is expected of me or is popular.
How important do you think the internet and social media is breaking new artists into the scene?
I honestly think it’s too important, but it is the devil we need to dance with now. I think it has been a case of those with the biggest budgets win, and the rapid ability for someone to come out of obscurity before really having the ability to establish a track record is a bit bothersome. I agree it’s a good tool but I really think it’s a tool that’s being overused. I have to admit I have had to play the game a bit, and I’m not the most comfortable with it, but I try to just tell myself that I am an evangelist trying to save a few souls by doing it. It’s the way it is now, everything is geared towards it and we have to use it accordingly. I find hope in knowing labels like Sandwell District built a label and reputation without and social media presence and very little internet hyping. That too me proves that there is an alternative approach if you’re willing to invest in it.
Where was your first gig? How did it go?
Wow.. I don’t know if I can remember that far back. I don’t think I can recall a proper first gig, seems like all my life I’ve been doing this in one form or another. I do remember my first time overseas, it was in Germany, in Darmstad with DJ Tonka, Yannick, and Ian Pooley. It was in the bridgehead on the river, amazing place, like an old cavern. I remember just having a wonderful time, from then on I spent most of my time playing in Germany, it’s been a big part of my career and inspiration.
Tell us what are your favourite bits of kit both to play live and produce with in the studio? (Do run analogue, digital or a mixture of the both?) Is there a special or any unusual process you go through when building tracks?
Right now I am fully involved in Ableton Live and Push, I think it has given me the ability to translate my ideas into finished product quickly. My problem has been that my time is usually limited due to travel so I have a small window of time to get my ideas out or else I get bored or frustrated. I think the combination of those two allow me to work finally how I think. Maschine has also been a key piece for me. I come from a heavy sampling background, I never owned drum machines or racks of synths. My approach has always revolved around 1 or 2 key pieces. My first samplers were an MPC3000 and EMU 6400. I was taught from the hip hop approach of slicing and dicing up loops to create kits and sounds from which to develop tracks from. My sound has always been built off that approach, Maschine allows me to mimic the sampling and slicing workflow similar to what I was able to do with MPC and my EMU. Sampling is my life’s blood.
Do you feel that mixing on vinyl is a dying art?
No I don’t feel it’s a dying art, I do feel it has a certain place. I find vinyl still attracts me as a medium, I’m actually starting a new label that will be releasing on vinyl in the fall. As far as playing it, I find it still has a place, but for me I am more interested in playing my music live. I think it will always have it’s place, and I find the time I get to play it quite special, but it is a different mindset.
How do you feel the rise of digital software has help breed a new generation of electronic music?
Everything has it’s positives and negatives. Coming from the inception of Final Scratch there have been more positives for me personally. I can see how it has created an over saturated market of DJ’s and producers, and one can argue the quality has deteriorated as well but I’m not one to judge. What bothers me is that we’ve created a generation of work that is mostly disposable, no value as a commodity, just a file that is not seen as something tangible. I think it has created shorter life cycles for music, producers, dj’s, as well. It has given us interesting abilities and techniques for making and performing music that are what excite me the most. I just think that I personally must stay open and adopt and adapt the technology that’s available to my need to create. I see that other people embrace that same philosophy, but like with anything else, there are those that abuse it. I feel we are at a great impasse and in uncharted territory.
How do you go about set building? Off the cuff organic mixes or do you have a rough plan for where you’re playing? Where are your favourite places to play? Couple of tracks which u want to mention?
I work within a theme that I am feeling at the moment. I frame a foundation of tracks that fit that framework and make sure I have enough to build around and improvise either deeper or harder, whatever the moment calls for, but it all fits within the sound I’m currently trying to project.
My favorite places to play, that’s a hard one to choose, there are so many nuances that each place bring, hard to pick a favorite.
2013 has been the year of the collaboration. Are there any collaborations we’ll be seeing you engaging in the near future?
I’m trying to finally get together with DJ Rolando, we’ve been talking about working on something together for years, and hopefully this is the time for us to finally get to it.
If you could play literally anywhere and with anyone where would you play and who with?
Giorgio Moroder and I at the Shelter in NYC
Can you tell us a few names of producers’ work you are really enjoying at the moment?
Silent Servant is keeping me intrigued, Rolando and his release on Osgut Ton is bringing it back home for me. There is the Deep Space Helsinki guy’s that I like quite a lot. Also Lucy and his label Stroboscopic Artifacts are quite interesting. A couple names from LA Truncate and Developer or putting out solid stuff as well as my friend from Mexico Luis Flores who’s been killing it lately.
What are you own plans for the future both within music and outside of it? We’re always fascinated as to the many side projects many producers have…
I hope to spend more time developing the sound I’m looking for and finding interesting ways to present it. I am a visual person, I have always wanted to put the audio and visual together so I am exploring ways to do that. Right now this is a time where I feel everything has come together, technically, personally, and technologically, that I feel comfortable and capable of expressing myself as I have tried to from day one.
Where our readers can catch you next
Tour dates in Europe coming this fall, I’m excited to be able to come back in my favorite time of year. Summer is great but my music is better experienced in dark places with walls to reflect the nuances.