Visionquest Talk Spirtual Enlightenment and the Shelborne Showcase
The label/production quartet of illustrious Detroit DJ-masterminds Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtiss, Shaun Reeves, and Seth Troxler owns the international hot tip right now, having put out Benoit & Sergio's chart-topping Where The Freaks Have No Name EP and preparing to break out a few more of the label's up-and-coming stars in Miami this week.
We caught up with the foursome to talk about their treks into the wilderness in search of spiritual enlightenment, pushing musical boundaries, and what they have lined up at the Shelborne.
Crossfade: How did the four of you first meet?
Seth Troxler: I first met Ryan during my mid teens when he came into the record store where I was working, legendary Detroit record shop Melodies & Memories, to buy records.
Ryan Crosson: At the time, Seth was this geeky kid with big dreadlocks. But we both shared a love of the similar type of techno. We had both just discovered the early releases on Perlon that Seth was selling in the shop. Musically, we had a lot in common and so we started going to raves together.
Shaun Reeves: I used to throw parties in warehouses and loft spaces around Detroit. And I met Seth when he came to one of my parties. I think he was like 15 at the time, so we used to have to sneak him in.
Lee Curtiss: I knew Shaun from working at Paxahau (who put on Detroit Electronic Music Festival) and through him I met Ryan and Seth. At the time, Seth was looking for somewhere to live and the guy I was sharing my house with had just moved out. So Seth moved in with me and the Tesh Club was born.
How did the Visionquest project first come about? Is Visionquest bigger than the sum of its parts?
Shaun: Ryan's family used to have this cabin up in north Michigan. And the four of us used to go on these retreats to make music and share ideas.
Lee: We'd go on long walks in the forest, and go on journeys, both physically and mentally.
Seth: Back in Detroit, our ventures into the void began in Lee's basement. These experiments with the relationship between music and our collective consciousness became known to friends as the Tesh Club (based on the German mispronunciation of the word techno as teshno).
Shaun: Lee and Seth had this big basement with an enourmous sound system. There were a whole bunch of us on the same vibe. So we ended up having this deep concept phase for about four months where we did 'research' into all the old records we really liked: all the old Perlon stuff, old house records, basically all of the groundbreaking music that we were really into.
Ryan: This, in effect, became our research lab for taking the human mind to different places. Now Visionquest is the name for any joint productions or remixes between myself, Shaun, Seth, and Lee, as well as the name of our new label, which has just put out its first release, and our DJing project that we'll be touring this summer.
What's behind the name Visionquest?
Seth: Cubes, shapes, spaces, levels, and dimensions of consciousness.
Shaun: The idea of the Visionquest has been something that has been happening throughout the course of mankind's evolution of consciousness and we're just realigning with it. The Egyptians did it, the Mayans did it... in many ancient civilizations, and some indigenous tribes still present to this day. It is seen as a right of passage towards spiritual enlightenment.
Lee: Some tribes use it for healing purposes but usually involves an individual going alone into an unknown wilderness while fasting, seeking a vision or sign that will guide them in the future.
The four of you are all constantly bouncing back and forth between Detroit, Berlin, and various international touring destinations. Where and when do you find the time to meet in one location and work together?
Ryan: We've just spent the last month together in Berlin, in the studio. But prior to that we'd not all been in the same place together for any length of time for over six months, so it can be tough.
Lee: We have to make the most of the time we have together. We'll produce stuff in Detroit around the time of DEMF and we're always bouncing versions and ideas around even when we're all travelling.
When push comes to shove, what city does Visionquest collectively call home?
Lee: It depends how you define home, really.
Seth: For all of us, Detroit will always be home. It's where we're from. It's where out families live. It's where we met and grew up together.
Ryan: However, from a practical point of view, even though Lee is still technically based in Detroit and Seth is just about to move to London, Berlin is the base of our operations and it's where all of the music that we've been making recently has been produced.
What unique contribution would you say each of you individually brings to the table?
Seth: In the studio, we all work side by side or in pairs of two, constantly alternating to make tracks.
Ryan: As far as the label is concerned, we are all involved in the decision-making process when it comes down to major decisions. For the label, we each are finding new music and artists that interest us and we can present to the whole group. Music aside, Seth is extremely savvy with design, so he has spearheaded the artwork for the label alongside our friend and designer Pilar Zeta.
Shaun: Ryan and I have been doing a lot of label logistics and artist relations to mastering and are starting to take a more active role in press functions. Lee is a musical engine room and is also concocting some amazing video segments and getting more involved in the mix-downs for the label.
Who are some of the artists joining the label's roster?
Seth: For the first four releases on our Visionquest label, we are bringing in three duos and one female solo artist, all of whom are relatively new on the music scene. The first release which came out at the end of January features Berlin-based production duo Benoit & Sergio who have previously released on Spectral Sound and have just had an EP out on DFA.
Lee: The second release is from a band called Footprintz out of Montreal, who we are really excited about. Their music is not exactly what could be described as straight-up dancefloor tracks but will be backed up by an amazing remix from Ewan Pearson.
Shaun: Visionquest 03 will be the Italian duo Tale of Us. Karm and Matteo are such genuinely great people and it shows both in their productions and their DJ and live performances. Their use of vocals on the record creates an amazingly sensual vibe. The fourth release will be quite a special one -- we are releasing two to four tracks by an unknown talent from Mexico City, Niki Nakazawa.
What's your criteria for selecting releases?
Ryan: As far as what it takes to become part of the Visionquest project, we don't really accept demos or have a place for people to send them. I'm not too keen on asking people out of the blue for music. The artists we are releasing we all know personally. We've either met them through other people or have been friends for a while. We want to release people we enjoy to be around and feel have something to offer musically. Not just one or the other. I would hate to release music by a person and then realize I cannot stand them.
Lee: We have been fortunate enough to have friends making the exact music that we felt the world was missing. Each release up to this point is literally coming from close friends of the group, which has really cemented everything as a family affair.
Seth: For us, it's less about classifying and categorizing music but more about how we think the music can contribute to broadening perspectives and creating long lasting material that people will connect to on a deeper level.
Is the label's output going to be geared more towards the club or home listening?
Ryan: As electronic musicians, the influence and love for dancefloor-oriented music will always be present. If the A-side is pop, indie, or folk, a dance or club oriented remix will most likely be on the other side, giving the music a chance to reach as many ears as possible. The concept is simple, to push musical boundaries and put out music we love while having as much fun as possible doing it.
What's your creative process when working on original material or remixes as Visionquest? What role do each of you play in the studio?
Seth: I drink ayahuasca tea and contemplate the inner workings of the outer nebulae of Andromeda.
Lee: I grunt a lot, scratch my testicles, and occasionally press keys on the keyboard in the hope that nice noises will come out.
Ryan: I cook up crack for Shaun to smoke on a little stove we have whilst listening to Brahms.
Shaun: I play the spoons and smoke crack.
What is Visionquest's live M.O.?
Lee: We will be performing in several ways this year. Some of our upcoming shows will have Ryan and I playing live together and Seth and Shaun DJing. Others will be a mix of the four of us DJing.
Seth: Further on, we plan on incorporating more of our artists in our live and DJ sets and create a complete night of entertainment, both audio and visual. But most importantly to just have fun.
What else do you have in store for Visionquest in 2011, both as production/performance project and label?
Lee: More great releases, loads of Visionquest performances, label nights and showcases all over the world.
Shaun: We'll all be frequenting DC10 and hanging out in Ibiza this summer while working on our group album in between now and fall.
Ryan: We've got a number of remixes as Visionquest to get out of the way first but as soon as these are out of the way we are going to get busy working on our debut Visionquest album. In addition, I'm just putting the finishing touches on an album with Cesar Merveille which will be out on Visionquest some time this summer.
Seth: Also, we're developing a live show with interactive visuals for next year. As for now, we're often doing three-by-three turntable tag teams or as a foursome -- Ryan and Lee play live together from time to time, while Shaun and I DJ. We'll be trying to do more showcases where the artists on our label like Footprintz and Benoit & Sergio, mixing their talents and vibes with what we're doing to create cool and musically memorable events.
What do you have planned for your upcoming showcase at The Shelbourne?
Lee: We couldn't be more excited about the event in Miami. It's a real honour to be invited to do a label party at the Shelborne, especially since the label is so young. It's easily the best venue to throw a daytime pool party and it will be the first proper chance for most people to properly check out the new talent that we've been pushing on the label in a live environment.
Shaun: The producers of all three initial releases on the label: Benoit & Sergio, Footprintz and Tale Of Us will all be making their US debut at the party and we're really pleased to welcome our long-time friend and collaborator Guy Gerber as a special guest. All four of these artists will be playing live, alongside the four of us who'll be DJing on four decks and a mixer.
Seth: Miami is going to be off the chain this year! In addition to our party on the Friday afternoon at the Shelborne, don't forget to check out the Get Lost Party at the Electric Pickle, and I'll be playing Sunday School for the third year running which is always loads of fun.
Visionquest with Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtiss, Shaun Reeves, Seth Troxler, and more. Friday, March 25. Shelborne Beach Resort's pool, 1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. The party starts at noon and tickets cost $30 via wantickets.com. Call 305-531-1271 or visit shelborne.com.
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