Ryan Crosson Talks His Out-of-the-Ordinary Musical Influences and Playing Electric Pickle on Saturday
After signing on the Cologne-based Trapez imprint, Crosson joined the expatriate EDM community in Berlin, from where he has continued to garner international praise following releases on top labels like Wagon Repair, Spectral, and Minus. He has also cemented his reputation as a world-class DJ, specializing in driving and funked-up sets with no shortage of quirky, weird themes and deep moody atmospheres to expand your mind in addition to jacking your body.
Ryan Crosson will be alighting at the Electric Pickle on Saturday night, and joining forces with another Visionquest star, Shaun Reeves, for what is sure to be a night of memorable grooves courtesy of SAFE. New Times caught up with Crosson and picked the brain of this emerging talent.
New Times: As a Detroit native now working in Berlin, you're sort of straddling the two transatlantic EDM capitals. How much of what you do and who you are as an artist can you attribute to your Detroit background and how much of it to your life as an expatriate in Berlin?
Ryan Crosson: Living in Detroit for 25 years, I was exposed to a lot of different types of music: Motown, jazz, hip hop, rock 'n' roll, blues, and of course techno. But I didn't get deeper into these types of music and the artists from Detroit until later in my early 20s. So I think things have worked a bit backwards for me, as strange as that may sound. I am appreciating more music from Detroit now that I live in Berlin. Maybe because my tastes are changing or I'm bored with certain styles of dance music.
In my teens it was mainly hip hop and classic rock, and later on dance music. Sure I was listening to a lot of Plus 8, Minus, and Spectral records, but I would say I was definitely more influenced by Perlon and Telegraph records than stuff coming out of Detroit. When we moved to Berlin, I was super excited to be there and I was going out soaking in all the music I could hear. It was affecting how I played and how I would make music, but I don't know how much music from Berlin I was actually listening to. Now, although I feel Berlin is still truly a special place for me, I'm going out less and less to clubs. If I am not working in the studio, I prefer to stay in, eat a good meal, and listen to something that's not dance related.
Your style as a DJ/producer is not easy to pinpoint. Sure, it's techno/house territory, but obviously you have a penchant for special moods and atmospheres that take the music beyond just a groove. What sort of feelings or reactions do you aim to illicit on the dancefloor?
It's constantly changing. I'm a very moody person, and get bored quickly with doing the same thing over and over. Seventy five percent of the time I'll have one idea in mind for a track, and then it will turn a different way. I think it's the same in most DJ sets. I like to go up and down if given enough time to do so. As things have progressed over the past 4-5 years, I've tried to do more with layers while producing to pull out a deeper sound in my tracks. I don't know if I have this in the back of my mind when I start, but lately it's ending up that way more and more.
Counting both original releases and remixes, your discography reads like a formidable map of the hottest transatlantic labels right now: Mothership and Culprit in the West Coast, Minus and Spectral in the Midwest, Wolf + Lamb in the East, and Wagon Repair, Trapez, Bpitch Control, etc. in Berlin. If you had to choose one record that defines "the Ryan Crosson sound," which one would it be, and what is that sound?
I don't think it's been released yet. I've never been 100% completely satisfied with everything that I've put out, but it's getting there. I am working on an album with Cesar Merveille at the moment, and this sound is where I want my music to go over the next few years. We're sampling a lot of jazz and early experimental music from the 50's, 60's, and 70's, and twisting it around and combining it with moody atmospheres that are filtered or have lots of effects on it. The main core of tracks we have now are great for a dancefloor or also for home. There will be some intros and outros that have no beat whatsoever. I don't think the music is falling in line with the "house trend" that is going on right now. If the album is put out next month or next year it won't make a difference. We think it can be something for people to listen to years down the line.
How did Visionquest come about, and what's the status of the project these days?
Visionquest formed after Lee, Seth, and I were hanging out for a while and working together on music and would have super long DJ/listening sessions in Lee's basement. A lot of people want to center our existence with each other around partying and drugs, but this just isn't the case. Yes we go out and get wild and off our faces sometimes, but the main thing has always been the music. I met Seth when he was 15 or 16 and Lee met us shortly thereafter. Seth had known Shaun before and when we started touring in Europe Shaun became the last missing piece.
We've all lived together now at different points, and they are my closest friends. I'm very excited for our future together. We are launching the Visionquest label this fall, and already have music signed from Benoit & Sergio, Karm, Niki Nakazawa & Footprintz (the latter two being new artists). As far as our own productions, we just released a remix of Tracey Thorn and two more coming this fall for dOP and D'Julz. We've been meaning to put together an EP of original music, but it's tough to get us four in the same place at once. This fall we'll have a proper studio to work in as well, so maybe it will happen at that time.
As part of a cohort of successful Detroit artists including Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss, and Shaun Reeves, do you think making it in the international EDM game depends on who you know? How have your personal relationships in the industry shaped your career?
Everyone at some point in their life needs a break or needs help to succeed. Whether they want to admit it or not, it's the truth. Personal relationships are great to have in any form of business or education, but I don't think your success depends on it. The key is to grind it out, work as hard as you can as often as possible and surround yourself with people whom you enjoy spending time with and who share a common goal. I was fortunate enough to catch the eye of Riley Reinhold early on when I was sending out demos and making music. He and Richie [Hawtin] were very encouraging to me and helped me to improve the sound and structure of my music. I owe a big part of where I am to him, Rich, Clark Warner, and the Traum and Minus families. Although I'm not working with them so much anymore, I haven't forgotten the support they gave me.
What have been some of the highlights of 2010, and what do you have going on for the rest of the year?
Easily the best highlight of 2010 was our "Need I Say More?" party during Movement festival in May. It was our fifth year doing the party, and was by far the best in my opinion. We finally sorted out proper sound for the event. I think it could have been our biggest turnout to date as well. Even when a thunderstorm came through, people still stayed in the rain and partied while Matthew Dear & Ryan Elliott continued to play. It was truly amazing.
Thank you also to Masomenos and Matt Tolfrey for great music throughout the day. The other big highlight was on August 18th: We did a Visionquest party at DC-10 in Ibiza. Seth, Shaun, Lee, Bill Patrick, and myself were all able to play. The Circo Loco family has been so good to us this year, and the feedback from the crowd was amazing. It was a great way for us to keep Visionquest the group moving forward and to sort of announce our label beginning.
What can Miami expect during your performance with Shaun Reeves at Electric Pickle?
Last time we played together it was quite techno, and he slapped me in the face a few times for playing the wrong record. I was cussing him out during breakdowns. It was magic! But we've both been to the Pickle before and know the crowd, so I doubt it will get that intense ... but maybe [winks].
Ryan Crosson and Shaun Reeves. With SAFE residents. 10 p.m. Saturday, September 11. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com