Israel Vines Interview

Israel Vines on 2B continued

In addition to being a talented DJ who understands recontextualization as well as the difference between playing records and mixing them, Borrowed Language label-owner Israel Vines is as passionate and enthusiastic about electronic music as anyone you’ll find. Currently based in Los Angeles but a Midwesterner at heart, Israel discovered techno music as so many growing up in Michigan did: via the sounds of the Belleville Three and Underground Resistance. He started DJing soon thereafter. Moves between Chicago and Detroit followed, and included a three-year stint at Gramaphone Records, a Chicago institution where the likes of Derrick Carter and DJ Heather cut their teeth. Like Surgeon and Rob Hall before him, Israel’s approach to DJing is all-inclusive, incorporating classics, house, techno, and dubstep rhythms into the fold to create a sound that’s far from purist — and Borrowed Language’s future releases look set to reflect this open-minded, eclectic aesthetic as well.

Q. It’s mentioned in your bio that you, “discovered techno music as so many growing up in Michigan did: via the sounds of the Belleville Three and Underground Resistance.” Can you tell about the Underground Resistance in Michigan with affiliated to the culture aspects?
Israel Vines: The Bellville Three are, of course, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Juan Atkins.  Underground Resistance is a label that was started by Mike Banks and Jeff Mills.  The label was later joined by Robert Hood, James Pennington, Rolando, and many other influential artists and DJ’s.  UR was, and is, important to me not only because of their musical output – but also for their stance in regards to the music industry.  They are a fiercely independent crew who do not follow trends and believe in content over hype and fashion.  Having come to techno from a more punk and industrial background, their attitude was something that I identified with – and of course, the music above all was a draw.  The same holds true for my first exposure to the music coming from the Basic Channel and Hardwax camp.

Q. Tell us about Gramaphone Records, your involvement and the importance of it in Chicago?
Israel Vines: I started working at Gramaphone shortly after moving to Chicago in 1997.  I had met Karl Meier, who has been a friend ever since, at Tribal Gathering in England.  He was working at the store at the time and got me a position there when I relocated.  Gramaphone’s importance in Chicago is one thing, but its importance to global dance music culture on the whole is another.  Gramaphone was the first store to stock early Chicago House and Acid records, and the influence of these records spread from that base to the rest of the world.  Like Record Time in Detroit, the importance of Gramaphone is simply massive.

Q. What names are involved with Gramaphone Records?
Israel Vines: It’s a huge list…but most notably, for me anyway, are the following names: Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak, DJ Heather, Justin Long, Josh Werner, and the Meier brothers – Ken and Karl.  This is speaking strictly of the techno and house side of things.  DJ PNS and Panik of the Molemen crew also had, and continue to have, a huge influence on the hip-hop culture of the American Midwest.

Q. What did this (the experience at Gramaphone Records) give you as an added value to your DJ’ing and music style?
Israel Vines: The impact that my time at Gramaphone had on me cannot be overstated.  It was not only a great history lesson, as they stock all manner of classic dance material, but it was also a chance to see and hear the new records that were coming in on a weekly basis while I worked there.  That, and getting an inside look at some of the politics involved in the dance music scene (both positive and negative), was a huge awakening for me.  I was only there for three years, but my understanding of dance music history and culture was forever changed.  It was an irreplaceable experience.

Q. How has your music evolved since you first began playing music?
Israel Vines: Some things have changed, but the core has not.
I think that my tastes have become more refined, which should be the case after doing anything for 17 years.  I’ve become more adept at choosing music to play that is expressive of my own thoughts and emotions, rather than just playing what I think people want to hear.  For instance – although techno has always been my first priority, I used to play a lot more house music than I do now…especially when I played out for people.  This is not to say that I no longer like house music – in fact I love it, and always will.  I just enjoy hearing other people play it more than I enjoy playing it myself because, for the most part, there’s not a lot of house music that I connect with on a deep personal level – and therefore, playing it would not be an honest expression of myself.  I will still play house for fun or if the context in which I’m playing it matches my mood – but on the whole I’m less of a hands in the air person, and more of a fist in the air type.  And this goes on to other choices.  I’m more willing to play experimental pieces in my sets now than I used to be.  This came about through a better understanding of what it is that I want to communicate through DJ’ing.  I used to be more hesitant to throw left field things into the mix because I didn’t think that people would “get it.”  Now, I don’t give a toss.  When I feel it, I do it.  Self-expression is much more important to me than approval.

Also, I started DJ’ing using Ableton Live a couple of years ago.  Initially, I was very resistant to the advent of the whole digital DJ market.  I stumbled into it by accident, I suppose.  I bought the software for production purposes and started learning its ins and outs by toying with the DJ aspect of it.  I found that I enjoyed it a great deal, and the vinyl vs. digital debate quickly left my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, I still buy and love vinyl – but at the end of the day, what matters most is what comes out of the speakers.  For the time being, I’m happy DJ’ing with Ableton.   I enjoy the process.  It’s more of a cerebral exercise than the physical tension one gets from playing vinyl – and it fits the direction I’m trying to go as a DJ at the moment.

The one thing that has remained a constant for me over the course of my time DJ’ing is the desire to create a narrative with my mixing.  I’ve had varying degrees of success and failure, of course – but it has always been the goal.  Very early on in my exploration of DJ’ing, I read an interview with Laurent Garnier in which he said that he always tries to tell a story with his mixes.  That notion has always stuck with me, this idea of creating a narrative – and is at the forefront of my mind any time I start putting together a mix.

Q. What stands behind this interesting name Borrowed Language?
Israel Vines: The Borrowed Language title has been with me for a long time.  Originally, it was the name of a nite in Chicago at which I was the Resident DJ.  It came from what my understanding of DJ’ing is – the appropriation of other people’s tracks for the use of communicating one’s own thoughts and emotions through mixing and contextualizing them.  It goes back to what I said about creating a narrative by way of DJ’ing – borrowing the language of other people’s music as that narrative’s vocabulary.  That, and I think it’s an admission of the fact that there are really very few artists who reinvent the wheel with their creations –  most every work of art is indebted, in varying degrees, to what came before it – so in some ways it’s a humble statement of thanks to those who paved the way.

Q. Why did you decide to open your own label?
Israel Vines: The idea of starting a label had been in the back of my head for years.  It was a thought that I sometimes took more seriously than others, but for any number of reasons it never came to fruition.  I relocated to Los Angeles from Detroit three years ago for work purposes, and quickly found myself cut off from much of what I had taken for granted while living in Chicago and Detroit – namely, regular DJ gigs and a cadre of like-minded friends that enjoyed electronic music.  I missed it terribly, and still do.  As a result, I needed another outlet for my interest in perpetuating the music that I love – and finally starting a label seemed the best way to go.

Q. What differentiates you / your label from other artists?
Israel Vines: That’s for the listeners to decide.

Q. Tell about the nightlife scene in Los Angeles. What styles of electronic dance music are most popular in it, and who are the key figures of the Los Angeles scene?
Israel Vines: To be honest, I’m not at all connected with the electronic music scene here in Los Angeles.  I tried connecting with some promoters and the like when I first moved here and for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen.  There’s really not a ton of stuff that comes around that I’m all that interested in.  Not to say there’s nothing, but very little that I go out for.  In both Chicago and Detroit, I went out a lot.  I saw a lot of DJ’s and had a great time doing so.  Rather than lament the loss of that, however, I decided to isolate myself somewhat and just stay home in order to do my own thing and get the label started – which has, to my mind, turned out to be the right decision.  This is not to say that I would pass up the opportunity to be more involved in things going on in Los Angeles, but it would have to be with the right people.

Q. Where can we hear and see you playing live these days?  
Israel Vines: I’ll be playing New York in July, and that’s all that’s booked at the moment.  As I said, I’ve been a bit isolated the last few years and have not actively tried to get many DJ bookings.  I’ve instead focused on the label.  I did get to play New York, Detroit and Chicago last summer – – – and that was great, but while in Los Angeles I keep to myself.  Next summer I plan on heading to Europe for a few weeks, and I’m working on lining up some gigs there.  In the mean time, the label is the priority.

Israel Vines “Trouble Down” – Compiled for 2B Continued May 2011

Tracks – ARTIST Title / Remix (Label)

JEFF MILLS Silence (Axis Records)
EMIKA Count Backwards / Marcel Dettman Vocal Edit (Ninja Tune)
PERC 1909 / Millie’s Darkroom Mix (Perc Trax)
PANGAEA Inna Daze (Hessle Audio)
2562 This Is Hardcore (When In Doubt)
LURKA Stabiliser (Box Clever)
LURKA Return (Box Clever)
LUCY Eon (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
SURGEON Bad Hands Break (Dynamic Tension)
LUCY Bein (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
MONOLAKE Reminiscence (Imbalance Computer Music)
SANDWELL DISTRICT Svar / Live Version (Sandwell District)
O/V/R Post Traumatic Son / DVS1 Pessimist Mix (Blueprint)
SILENT SERVANT Entrada (Modularz)
FRANK MARTINIQ Blast Corps (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
RESOE Minus & Plus / Sigha Remix (Echocord)
FROZEN BORDER 5B (Frozen Border)
DEVELOPER Talking With The Analogs (Modularz)
MILLIE AND ANDREA Gunshot (Daphne)
SHACKLETON Deadman / The Bug’s Crackle Remix (Honest Jon’s)
KARL O’CONNOR & PETER SUTTON Washing My Hands (Tresor)
MALE House Of Ride / Re-process by Anthony Child (Other Electricities)
CABARET VOLTAIRE Fade Crisis (Industrial Records)

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