Monday, 13 February 2012

Q & A with Kai Alce of NDATL Muzik


“Deep House” is a widely used, even abused term – and needless to say it usually means different things to different people. For some, the pounding New Jersey warehouse four-to-floor with fat basslines, while for others it might signify the raw, minimalist grooves found on Hamburg’s Laid imprint. For NDATL Muzik boss, Kai Alce Deep House is neither here nor there – it’s all one and the same as long as it is seeped in soul, layered with raw textures and doesn’t steer too far from it’s vintage, Motor City roots.
So the story goes: Alce was born in NY where he lived to watch the Hip-Hop movement boom, then spent most of his adolescent years growing up in Detroit, experiencing the early days of the now-esteemed Music Institute parties, the breeding grounds where legends such as Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson first got their shine in the spotlight. And so it all makes sense then, that NDATL – along with Alce’s independent productions –  have kept this old school aesthetic fresh all these years.
After a hearty re-stock of NDATL Muzik titles late last year, we published a primer on the respected label, it’s reflective Music Institute 20th Anniversary series, and the man behind it all. Now four years since it’s inception, NDATL is still going strong offering release after release of exceptional deep House by the genre’s royal family, artists like Alton MillerOmar S, and Abacus, to name a few. With the new year in full force, Alce is continuing his creative vision on a strong streak with releases lined up by deep House maestro, Patrice Scott, and collaborations with vocalists such as Robert Owens and Azulu Phantom.
Ahead of Alce’s guest appearance at the anticipated Discovery party this weekend along with cohort, Chez Damier, we reached out to the man of the moment for a litte tete-a-tete. Here, Alce reminisces about long (but not forgotten) record shops, his connection to Spain’s vibrant underground, and his inspirations beyond the music he helped define.
halcyon: First off, since this interview is around your February gig here, let’s start off by talking a little bit about New York. We know you were born here; does this city still hold a special place in your heart? Are there any particular parties/venues/record shops in NYC that have really stood out for you over the years?
Kai Alce: New York is, always has been & always will be a part of me & what I do. Being born there and [during my] first crucial part of growing up having been exposed to all the different cultures while being Haitian was worldly in itself. Venues: MARS, Red Zone, Nell’s, Sound Factory & SF Bar, Shelter. Records: Dance Tracks, Vinyl Mania, Rock & Soul, Downtown Records. Parties: Wild Pitch!
h: Respectable places, to say the least. Talk just a little bit about Detroit when you first got there and the Institute. We know you were working at the club at a very tender age, but were you DJing/ making music then? Or did that come after?
KA: No, just mastering my craft of DJing although I did some mixes of tracks back then that might have been up on the mixing board while hangin out at KMS Studios so I have some personal mixes of Inner City, Chez Damier & Derrick Carter & other various KMS productions.
h: What is the House scene like in ATL these days? What are the parties/venues that are really happening down there right now?
KA: Right now the coolest venue for me is The Sound Table which I currently have a monthly there called “DISTINCTIVE” some other  parties are Spreadlove, Tambor, Afrique Electrique which help to keep the ATL nightlife satisfied.
h: We want to know more about what’s going on with NDATL. We know you have Patrice Scott and Robert Owens coming up, that’s very exciting. Can you tell us more about those releases? What other releases coming up are you excited about?
KA: Well I’m extremely excited about the Robert Owens release. To able to remix a work by not only Robert but a creation by him and Larry Heard was an honor. I’m also excited to release new EPs by Brett Dancer, Founder of the classic label TrackMode, (who also coincidentally released my first 12″) and Damon Lamar of Tetrode fame. Another track with vocalist Azulu Phantom.
h: Right, that brings us to our next question – we’ve noticed the collaboration between you and another of our favorite Deep House labels, Deep Explorer, both with Alpha Revisited and the new release coming up with Azulu Phantom. How did you get hooked up with Dubbyman and the Spaniards? What’s your take on the Deep movement that’s been happening in Madrid for some time now?
KA: Yes, I released a 12″ with them a few years back and they wanted me to be a part their 25th release so I just thought of doing a cross label release which the orignal should be coming out soon on Deep Explorer while the NDATL release will come out later this year with remixes from Above Smoke and… they play deep house in Spain?? :)
h: Looking forward to those releases. Now, speaking of producing, indulge us with a little studio nerd talk for a moment. When you go into the studio, do you have an idea in mind or do you just go in and do what happens? Do you have a favorite piece of gear? Is there any software you’re excited about, or are you more of a hardware guy?
KA: If it’s a remix, yes sometimes I do. But when just creating, no I just turn ‘em on, drop a beat and see what happens. Favorite piece, the MPC then my Logic, newbie to the Mashine and [I have] my little hardware goodies to keep it analog.
h: Speaking of technology, what is your take on the Internet and what it’s done to/ for the music business and the state of vinyl? You don’t seem to be slowing down with pressing vinyl at all. What is your strategy in keeping the beloved format relevant?
KA: I mean what we do without the internet!? We’d be f@#$%d! But at the same time its really f*&^%ing us ‘cuz you can no longer control what you sell whether its music or media. From authors, to publishers, to newspapers to musicians to producers it has totally taken whatever control they once had on how to distribute their content and still make the same money. Just to put out things that are worth buying, the day of the average 4 tracker on vinyl is no longer enough. You gotta try your best to stand out not only amongst what’s out there on vinyl but also what’s out there in the digital world. And for those labels that do put out vinyl & digital try and keep something specific to each. So if the 12″ has the extended version then digital version contains an edited version but then an instrumental or dub whatever, but I don’t want to pay a hefty price for the vinyl & then it’s all available digital, [sadly].
h: Good answer, we  could go on and on ourselves about this. However, due to time constraints, let’s move on and talk about this Saturday’s party. You’re playing with Chez Damier at the Discovery party. It seems a very natural fit for you two to play together, given the history and your respective styles. Do you play together often, and if so, are there any memorable gigs together you’d like to share?
KA: We don’t play together too often but enough. One memorable time we were playing together was actually in New York at PS1 about 3 years ago. It was a great all day event.
h: What one thing, not related to House Music, brings you great happiness in life?
KA: My family and friends.
h: Obligatory top 5 records that never leave your bag.
KA: That’s tough here are a few that come to mind:
Bang The Party – Bang Bang You’re Mine
Larry Heard – Missing You
Gregory Porter – 1960 What?
Lil Louis – How I Feel
Blaze – Journey
Originally posted:

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