Our friends at Communikey – the crew responsible for putting on the annual Communikey Festival – have been contributing quality podcasts to Percussion Lab for the last few months, showcasing some of the artists that have performed at their events over the years. Their latest mix, from the Denver-based DJ, producer, promoter and all around mensch steofan (a.k.a. Steven Dermody), is a preview of the killer line-up they’ve locked in for this year’s Communikey Festival, which is slated to kick off on April 25th in Boulder, CO. Touching on everything from textural electronica and wonky synth explorations to driving techno, the mix is a taster for what’s to come. We took a moment to catch up with steofan to discuss his craft, his connection to Communikey, the Colorado scene and the simple pleasures of a freshly mown lawn…
PL: So you’re in Ohio right now. Is that where you’re from? How did you end up in Colorado?
steofan: Yes. I’m in Ohio at the moment with my family, about thirty minutes south of Cleveland in a cozy wooded town. I grew up here after we moved to the States from Dublin, Ireland when I was three. My Dad is actually in Ireland right now visiting. I lived there for most of the year in 2004, student teaching and traveling. I always wanted to live out of Ohio for a stint, so when I came back from overseas, I scoped out either Boulder or Brooklyn. I had friends in both places, but they’re obviously very different locales. After my first visit to Colorado, that was it. I moved to Boulder in 2005 and have been in Denver since 2007. It’s one of the most fantastic places anywhere, in my opinion. A very special place Colorado is.
PL: What do you miss most about the Midwest?
s: The trees…my family and friends…green, fresh cut grass…the people. Midwesterners are very balanced, grounded people. Midwest values are very solid. Well educated, hard working, outgoing, family first…at least that has been my experience with Ohio and I’m thankful for it. I also miss being three hours from Detroit. Now, making the trip out for DEMF is almost as expensive as going to Mutek and involves tons of planning, rather than just winging it, raging it and crawling home exhausted.
PL: How long have you been involved in the electronic music scene? What got you interested in the first place?
s: Around 1997 I started going to raves, in the wide and thriving Midwest rave scene. It had a really big impact on me. Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Toronto…it was vibrant. Jungle, trance, techno, house; literally every genre had a huge and loyal following, and there were focused parties for each. Some nights you would hear everything, then there were massive events with 10-15,000 people in an indoor / outdoor arena. Man, I was hooked…just so excited about it all. The dancing is what really resonated first. They had absolute proper “rave” dancing back then, which is unfortunately something of a lost art. I used to practice my sweet moves for hours, listening to Oakenfold’s ‘Tranceport” in my bedroom at night…classic!
I moved in with a few good friends from Ohio when I got to Boulder; they had decks and a set up there, so I started buying records. From that point I have been on a trajectory with everything, from promoting and DJing to writing, production, project management and blogging. Knee deep in all of it and I wouldn’t want it any other way. So I guess it’s been about fifteen years and going?
PL: What’s your involvement with Communikey? How did you link in with them?
s: One of the first events I attended in Colorado was a Communikey party. As is the case for anyone who has attended one, it didn’t take long to feel the special difference with what these cats were up to. That was 2005, and since then I’ve frequented as many of their events as possible; always coming away inspired, wanting to be more involved each time. 2007 was the first year for the Festival, so I volunteered to do some random tasks. From there I had a foot in the door and began befriending a lot of them…always a useful tactic to get what you want. For the third and fourth editions of the festival, I worked with the Artist Management team and helped out with curation. This year I am heading up Merchandise. I hope to always have some hand in the collective, as the friendships that have resulted from it have been both life long and shared in passion for the music and community. I’m extremely grateful for the experiences and people that Communikey continues to bring, a very progressive bunch of warm souls they are.
PL: You also are a part of the Make Mistakes crew, which operates out of Denver. How does the Denver scene compare to Boulder?
s: Well for one, Denver is much bigger, so there are more people doing more things. I honestly believe Denver is a hotbed for electronic music and music in general. It is bigger than Boulder’s art and music scene, but it’s obviously still smaller then the big coastal city scenes. It is thriving, healthy and collaborative for the most part, which has really helped it grow and thrive. You’ve got the old house heads carrying their torch, solid techno crews, a very large dubstep / DnB scene and a growing experimental / ambient community. So there’s a little bit of everything going on, with loads of options for all night party venues, which is definitely not the case in Boulder, unfortunately.
The four of us behind Make Mistakes are all directly linked to Communikey, some dating back to the beginning of it. We like the finer things in life, including but not limited to gourmet food, good conversation and throwing proper techno parties.
PL: When you were putting together this mix, how did you approach the track selection? Where was it recorded?
s: It was nice to have been given criteria for this mix, which was a due date about two months out and to include only festival artists. Limitations in a limitless creative medium have become more and more interesting. I started by going through the entire list of all festival artists, seeing who had released music to track down. I asked a few friends for any unreleased material for a little extra punch and then got on with programming. I broke the mix into thirds, beginning beatless, moving into slower rhythms and then finishing with faster stuff. This is probably the most comfortable approach to mixing for me personally: genre hopping while trying to keep a clear focus is interesting, with more variance in sound.
The mix was recorded in my living room in Denver on Traktor Scratch. I built a boss DJ booth from a design I found on line, made of all Ikea parts. The door is always open for a jam session!
PL: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?
s: Man, the festival itself is always such a magical time of year. Connecting with dear friends and making new ones is always a treat. Program wise, I’m looking forward to the mastering class with Pole, the live RA Exchanges, Biosphere, Nils Frahm, DJ Sprinkles, Deniz Kurtel, the entire techno jam on Saturday and of the course the park party on Sunday. The park is one of the most golden events on the calendar, year in and year out. Somehow the weather is always smiling on us and everyone is smiling at each other. And I just got the call from coach [Communikey Director Kate Lesta], she put me in on Thursday to play a boutique set in the afternoon; so I’m looking forward to that as well.
Full link to Percussion Lab here : http://percussionlab.com/posts/166
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Steofan’s mix can be listened to here, and passes for the Communikey Festival are still available and can be purchased via Bookr. For more information on Communikey, check out their website.
See you in Boulder!