Interview: Dance Spirit

18 February 2014 - - - The DJ List


Dance Spirit is a philosophy based on attaining subconscious harmony through rhythm, timbre, melody, and movement. True veterans of the music industry who've made their name through their previous moniker, ANDROID CARTEL. In the past 2 years they've reinvented themselves and created the name, DANCE SPIRIT.

Can you tell us a little bit about your musical background and how you two met?

Reagan: We met in the Summer of 2006 in San Diego. Chris was finishing an education in graphic design, and I moved to town a few months earlier to get a fresh start in a new place. We were both employed by a production company called Realivze Tribe, who in those days partnered with Giant and brought all of the circuit DJs through San Diego on Fridays. We were packed down like mules and were basically martyrs for forward thinking dance music, especially in a place like San Diego, which at the time was one of the last places on earth to get culture out side of surfing, skating etc. Mind you, they are currently doing amazing things down there between Lovelife, Desert Hearts, Triballove, etc. It's been really exciting watching a new generation of classy music lovers foster a great scene and flourish!

Chris: Reagan produced for a few years, had formal music training on the piano, and an extensive knowledge of computer programming on almost every level. I was more of a music aficionado, and a fledgling bedroom DJ and avid raver.

Reagan: I believe that we hung out for at least 4-5 months before getting in to the studio together, but once we did, we opened the flood gates, and there was a serious chemistry between us, and a synergy that had to be explored and seen through to the end.

Can you describe your sound for us?

Chris: Well, we constantly create and listen, so usually it depends on what music we obsess over that inspires us. We have an aptitude for heavy layering, and a techno based rolling low end with head snapping percussion. The music we sprinkle on top is usually our quest to capture beauty, and is most notably influenced by Pink Floyd. There was a month I think we listened to nothing but Pink Floyd and everything we wrote ended up coming out as musical ballads ala Wish You Were Here/Echoes etc, and realized "ok we need to listen to some dance music again!"

Reagan: Other people label us as space house, or future house, but I don’t know what to call it except that we strive to create and convey beautiful emotions in our productions. For us, music is a universal language and we use it to communicate to the world.

You guys first started off as Android Cartel. What made you change names to Dance Spirit and how did you come up with the name?

Chris: So glad you asked this question as there is a lot to say on this subject. When we first started making music, we spread ourselves thin by trying to make everything: ambient, house, progressive, drum & bass etc. In fact, the first thing we produced was an album in about 3 weeks. We then decided to hone in on one style in order to improve our craft. At the time minimal techno was riding high, so we dove right in. In my opinion, techno is one of the hardest art forms to master. It's very conceptual and experimental, and looking back on it, we really had no clue what we were doing. We were obsessed with creating crazy soundscapes with no real attention to the groove or making people dance. We were signed by STEVE LAWLER to ViVa in 2009 and did an EP and a couple of remixes, but still inexperienced and really did not have what it took to keep the ball rolling. We are happy with the work, but the songs were essentially uncontrolled experiments that worked really well.

Reagan: For me, Android Cartel had no stability, and if you go through the catalog there was never a consistency with the sound except for a heavy low end. I always tell people that AC was our biggest failure, and I mean that in a super positive way. We learned a lot about the business, production, ourselves, it got us lots of gigs, and got us in front of some industry people and it did help pave the way for relationships and fun. One of the things we miss most about Android Cartel i think is DJing, as Dance Spirit is strictly a live act.

Chris came up with the Dance Spirit name, and it was a concept we started developing in 2011. MACEO PLEX came out with his album and suddenly revitalized melodies in the music and in the conscious of club culture again while still maintaining attitude groove and sexyness. VISIONQUEST and Tale of Us took it one step further, and all these amazing artist were coming out with fresh melodies and intricate pieces of groovy art which got us really excited to start exploring that route for ourselves. It took about a year of creating and soul searching to finally arrive at the heart of Dance Spirit, and now that we have we couldn’t be happier.

Chris: At this point Dance Spirit is who we are as artists, we abandoned the Android Cartel project because one, it was too time consuming to juggle both projects, and two, it was holding us back from growing. Dance Spirit has allowed us to grow so much as artists and musicians and persons, and we have a tangible and unique sound that we are very happy about. It has also broadened our listening of more serious and avant-garde dance music which is always fun and intriguing to listen to.

What does your family think of your career? I know it can be hard for parents to get behind their children when they choose careers in the arts. Did you have to reach a certain level of success for them to take it seriously or were they on board from the start?

Chris: We both come from very loving and encouraging families. I think they entertained the idea, but really it got a lot more serious once we had some high profile gigs in Barcelona and Ibiza last summer. They could also hear the growth in our music, and realized we actually did have something special going on. Both families are very supportive and are rooting for us, even if they don’t fully understand the art.

Let’s talk about producing a little bit, what’s your studio consist of? What hardware/software do you use most and why?

Chris: Well for crafting beats we love using Native Instruments Maschine. It's so versatile and deep, and really took our beats to the next level. It's a fun piece of gear and we are constantly learning something new with it. We have a Juno 106, Roland 303 (with ‘The Beast’ mod), Virus TI, and Elektron Machinedrum. Software side we are going nuts with all the u-he plugs, Diva, UBIK, etc. The Arturia bits are also very fun! We are always experimenting with different granular tools as well. Our main DAW is Logic X, and it's really been great exploring the new version. The built in MIDI Effects are super fun to layer and can get you some interesting results. (For those who are skeptical of the upgrade and afraid of losing their favorite 32-bit plugs, a company named SoundRadix has come out with a 32-bit to 64-bit plugin bridge called 32 Lives.)

Reagan: We also have a Fatso Jr. and the Universal Audio Apollo, which both help us achieve our sound in the harmonics department. The Apollo is really amazing and couldn't be more happy. The technology behind it is incredible. And of course there are many more fun toys we dream of assimilating into the spaceship!

You guys have an upcoming collaboration, “Calling For You” featuring singer Shawni , that's been hitting the airwaves. You worked with Discern and Balcazar & Sordo to create the track. Can you tell us how this collaboration came about and how did you do the production process when working with so many producers?

Chris: Well yea, there is a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen on this one. We basically started collaborating with Jonny Cruz and Sordo last summer in BCN, so we were open to the idea of working more with them as the music we made together turned out really great. The Discern guys started the song and sent it over, and they suggested that we should try to get a female vocalist. We'd been working with Shawni for a few months as we had her sing on our LP for Supernature, and her voice is so unique and beautiful. She came over a couple days later and delivered the vocals in about 20 minutes. We then added some more sounds, keys, and trippy bits, and then sent it over to Balcazar & Sordo who added a few more layers to the music. Sordo submitted it to Culprit and the rest is history!

What's the most important thing for you when you're working with a vocalist?

Reagan: When we are recording any artist or musician, we really like to let them do what ever they want and see what we can get. Lots of times people have an idea in their head and will try and have the vocalist conform to that, but for us it's the other way around: we really want the essence of the person we capture. We love the improvisational, on-the-spot-deliver-what-the-universe-brings-forth feelings. One important thing is always keep the person you are working with confident in what they are doing, and it will come through. Of course every vocalist is different. Sometimes you work with one person who has a range of “vocal characters” (Cari Golden for instance can work wonders with her voice, ranging from sweet, to sultry, to sexy, to diva) that can accomplish many different sounds so it’s important to help them hone in on the sound you’re looking for. But in the case of someone like Shawni, she has such a unique style we really like to let her be herself.

All your performances are live. Can you tell us more about your live sets?

Reagan: Well at the moment the live set is a work in progress, and in a sense it always will be as we like to keep it alive, fresh, and changing. Currently we are running Abelton on two computers synced via midi, and use a Livid cntrl:r to trigger effects and loops etc. Chris in on the beat side of things doing FX, and mixing. I'm on the Arturia Keylab for live synth work and vocals. Right now that's the optimal set up, of course. Sometimes there's not enough space to set up the whole rig, so you really have to be able to adapt to the space around you on the fly.

Chris: The content consists of tons of our own loops and songs. Eventually we'd like to have more gear to play around with and grow the set, but that will come with time. We'd love to incorporate NI Maschine and the Juno and Maschinedrum, and eventually turn the whole live experience into a jam band kind of thing, like the Greatful Dead meets MINILOGUE, but that will come as the project grows.

Your latest release is on Superfreq, which is run by legendary artist Mr. C. How did you first meet him and how did your relationship evolve over time?

Chris: We met Richard a few years ago at our place. At the time we were helping our good friends Alex and Oscar of The Spacebyrdz out of Vegas run Riff Raff, and had commissioned Richard to do a remix. He cruised over to our studio and we engineered for him and there was an instant chemistry in the studio. I mean, we are all Ravers right? David Scuba was the liaison and set the whole thing up. Working with Richard was awesome because watching him perform in the studio really opened up our eyes to how this music is done, and in fact our music grew tenfold after working with him. Richard is also a great mentor, and really cares about the scene. Dave and Richard are seriously the nicest, and genuine people on the planet, and we are blessed to call them friends.

What are your future releases and projects you have going on?

Chris: Right now we have a 5 song EP coming out on Maison D’etre with a remix from Jun Akimoto. After that we have our album coming out on Supernature at the end of April. It is 12 songs of absolute beauty, saturated with melody and music. We collaborated with a bunch of our friends, from JAY TRIPWIRE, JON CHARNIS, to NIKKO GIBLER, and our good friend and vocalist Shawni Birds, and other incredible musicians we've met along the way. This is a major milestone for us, and something we are looking forward to sharing with the world!

Reagan: We've been getting tons of support from AUDIOFLY and their team which we are very grateful for as we have always been huge fans of theirs since the Stolen Goods days. They are including us in their Flying Circus events this year as official residents and cannot wait to unleash all the music we've been working on upon music loving crowds. We also have plans to move to Barcelona in either April or May for the summer. With the heart of the culture being in Europe, we can't wait to immerse ourselves in it while making lots new friends and music!

Be sure to follow Dance Spirit on their socials to keep up-to-date:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | SoundCloud

About the Author

Dale Take
android cartel audiofly jay tripwire minilogue mr c steve lawler cari golden visionquest nikko gibler maceo plex dance spirit jon charnis