interview [LORANT]

dj-lorant

DANCING IN THE DARK:
Spunk’s Aaron Tilford talks to DJ Lorant, founder of Royal Advisor Records

Aaron: How did Royal Advisor Records begin?

Lorant: Royal Advisor was a career step I’d always wanted to take. After high school I DJed here and there, but my first real job in the industry was working for Twisted Records in 2003. It was home to Danny Tenaglia, Yoko Ono, and a number of other dance music artists. Then I took some time off from DJing to focus on learning production software and to study music. I was already remixing and doing some edits for Junior Vasquez. RAR took almost two years of planning. We launched in February 2010.

A: As a visual artist and music lover, I was obsessed with 4AD and Factory Records growing up. Each label, although housing a variety of bands, had a specific look and range of sound. Royal Advisor seems similar in that way to me. How much of the look and sound of the releases are you responsible for?

L: I’ve always been inspired by visual arts — movies, fashion, etc. And I was an advertising student at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), so I’m very involved with the graphics and look of the label. When I was in high school I thought I’d end up being a music video director or a stage designer. I’ve only written two term papers in my life — one on house music, the other on Jean Paul Gaultier. That might sum me up best. I was the main producer for SAMN! and Sappho’s Journey (Monique-Renée Wilson), the first two artists signed to RAR. But each of their sounds have been a collaboration. SAMN! wanted to add a new-jack-swing flavor to the electro-R&B we were doing on his first EP, as well as a melancholic deepness on songs like “Gravity.” And for Sappho’s Journey, Monique had a strong idea of the industrial soul she wanted to express. When Will Sheridan came along with his new wave/hip hop, it made perfect sense to add him to the roster. The work he was doing with producers like Carvo and DJ Morsy really gave him an edge as a rap artist while keeping with the dance/electronic roots of RAR.

A: How would you describe the overall sound of Royal Advisor Records? You reference house music as being an influence of yours. But when I think of house music I think of a buoyant sound, like an extension of disco. It seems to me RAR has a darker, electronic sound – it runs through your own recordings, recordings from SAMN! and Sappho’s Journey (who would not sound out of place on Nettwerk Records), and some of Will Sheridan’s — especially on his new S.O.A.P. mixtape. Can you talk about that?

L: House music isn’t an influence of mine, it’s my life. But you can’t force that onto other artists, hence the variety on RAR. It’s true that in terms of house, I’ve always gravitated more toward dubby/techy rather than super “hands-in-the-air” songs. I love vocals, just not what you’d call “circuity” vocals. The levels of optimism and darkness are debatable. Will’s song “S.O.A.P.” (released independently) is a good example. By itself, it’s a dark, almost murky, electronic track, but Will takes that and makes it sexy. As for my own music — tracks like “Hunter” and “Natural Law” — I call it Illogical Techno. It’s my love of dance music combined with the way I see our world: boundaries of art and life liquefying and changing definitions daily. The initial mission statement for RAR was “Introducing fresh New York City talent to the world in the spectrum of dance and electronic music.” I think we’ve kept true to that. Going forward, it will be a little more house/techno centered — but who doesn’t like dancing in the dark?

A: “Illogical Techno” — I like that. It was because of the dark, sexy sound of your own recordings that I asked you to do the music for Hot Rod to Hell, a reading of the late Roy Garrett’s poems I put together with artist (and Roy’s friend) Robert W. Richards. Our readers included the likes of Mike Albo, Brian Kenny, Scooter LaForge, Casey Spooner, and Max Steele. You composed three pieces of music, one for each “act” of the reading. The poems tell the story of Roy’s destructive descent into hustling and porn in late 70s/early 80s New York—in a voice that ranges from humorous and horny to chillingly bleak. Can you talk a little about that experience and the music that came out of it?

L: That was a great experience. It all happened so fast! We all like stories about sex and old New York. That combined with the tragic turn Roy’s life took, you’ve got a strong foundation for a much bigger story. When you and I met with Robert and I read through the poems, I knew I needed to dig deep within and get it right. I had to get to know Roy through his poetry and write an hour of original music. Lucky for us, his writing is powerful and very descriptive of the world he lived in. I remember leaving the meeting wanting to compose music that would lock people into a mood so that they would leave the reading with Roy on their minds. The beginning of the score has a lot of romantic/innocent elements to represent this wide-eyed young man coming to the city. The second act is more playful, because even though Roy was living a dangerous life it was a life he enjoyed. Sex was his world. The third part has a sinister tone — it’s like a machine shutting down. I tried to tie the first and third acts together to suggest that all of our journeys, not just his, are complex and strange. We all hustle. It was an honor to be a part of that evening.

A: Roy was born and raised in New Jersey. He was lured into New York City by the sexual underground he saw reflected in the back of the Village Voice. All of us in New York who weren’t born here were lead here by something. You were born in Istanbul. What lead you here?

L: Our parents moved us — my sister and I — to Palisades Park, NJ when I was 12. Palisades Park is a five-minute walk to the George Washington Bridge, so it’s effectively a suburb of New York City. When I was much younger, I was kind of obsessed with New York. I had books about the structure of the subway system, the building of the Statue of Liberty, etc. So moving here was like a fascination overload. A few years later, I was a gay teenager wanting to hear house music in a club. I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of places and things to explore. In one moment, I was walking up and down Christopher Street and asking for directions to Chelsea. In another, I was walking into stores like Heartbeat Records and Rebel Rebel looking for remix maxi-singles, and that turned into looking for 12″ records. I didn’t “grow up” going to small suburban gay clubs before “graduating” to bigger ones. It was Tunnel, Twilo, and Vinyl from the beginning for me. I don’t say that to brag. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. I was 18 and hearing Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez. That’s good schooling.

A: You ended up working for Danny Tenaglia. How did that happen and what was that like?

L: I met Danny my first year of college through my friend Geoff Gains. I was the kid who just wanted to hear tribal records and Danny is the master of that. I’d pick up records for him from Satellite, burn vinyl to CD, weed through promos, etc. We’d organize records all night and I’d leave his place in Astoria at 6am. It was pretty awesome. He’s one person I truly love. Not to mention we went to see a drag show with the Pet Shop Boys once.

A: Lorant, I have known you for how long now? And you’re just telling me this. Was that around the time he remixed “Before”? And where was the drag show and who was performing?

L: It was a few years after “Before,” closer to his remix of Blondie’s “Nothing is Real But the Girl.” We saw Lady Bunny then went to Escuelita.

A: How did you end up working with Junior Vasquez?

L: My friend Darren Kawa was doing a lot of programming for Junior at the time and I did some programming with Darren for Junior and some on my own. The stuff I did on my own were mostly edits he used live. Then I remixed E.G. Fullalove’s “Didn’t I Know (Divas to the Dancefloor)” for Junior’s label.

A: Darren Kawa works with The Saint At Large (who produce the Black Party). I remember the first time I met you officially was through Mike Peyton, producer at The Saint At Large, downstairs at The Monster one night. He told me about your record label and that you had a track called “The Saint.” Shortly thereafter you started throwing some parties called Sainthood, first at The Monster and then at a bar on the Lower East Side. That’s a lot of saints! Can you sort that out for us?

L: Although I have great respect for the history of The Saint at Large, my track “The Saint” has no relation to it. “The Saint” is my take on dub-step. It’s like an ancient rave song. RAR was very young at the time and I was testing the boundaries of the label. If you listen to the track, you can tell where the title comes from. It’s heavy and omnipresent. It’s my ode to music, my epic poem. And Sainthood is an extension of that whole experience. It’s a party for DJs by DJs. It needs a good home. That’s one of my goals for 2014.

A: Let’s talk about your involvement in NYC nightlife. As much as I see you and talk to you I’m constantly surprised to find out how many things you’re doing that I don’t know about. There are the Sainthood parties — that are on temporary hiatus. You do one-off parties, like the RAR Halloween party (Hotel Royale). You did Mr. Bear with DJ Gustavo at Ritz Bar — which may be returning next summer? You regularly guest DJ at my PICKUP party at Nowhere Bar. And you just recently started your own party there (with Sonny Black) called Danger Whore. Can you tell us some of your upcoming nightlife plans and goals, and any challenges you may find in the changing landscape of NYC nightlife? It’s certainly changed a lot from the days of Tunnel, Twilo, and Vinyl.

L: Well, you can’t have a record label with the mission statement that we do and not be somewhat involved. But I can’t really gage how involved I am — am I involved? Before PICKUP started, I was coming to your Spunk Friday parties at Nowhere because everyone was so friendly and I could hear some rarities, thanks to you and Aaron Cobbett. I love Nowhere. Mr. Bear will be back in the summer, although I’m not exactly sure where. That’s up to Papa Bear (Gustavo). When the clubs you mention were hot, people would reminisce about other clubs that came before them. New York City will always be a changing landscape. You just find some people who love the things you love and take it from there. I hope to make Sainthood a more regular thing this year. Like I said, it needs a good home. I’ll also be having a party for RAR’s next release, a compilation called Our Music: Future Perfect. That should be fun.

A: Then Our Music will be the third compilation released on RAR. There was Year One: In The Mix and Royal Advisor Records: The Remixes. Who will be featured on Our Music and what will the vibe be?

L: Our Music will be a compilation of original house and techno tracks from a variety of producers I respect, as well as remixes of some RAR staples. It will make you dance. It will make you happy. It will make you think. It will also feature RAR’s newest artists Tamer Akgul and Roland Lake, and a collaboration between DJ Chauncey Dandridge and myself.

A: I would like to work with you on a Spunk/RAR collaboration — matching you and your production with some Spunk-featured and Spunk-related artists. Spunk is a printed publication so the contributors are mostly writers or visual artists. But there are also performers that become connected to the project through Spunk-related events (issue launch parties, the Roy Garrett readings) — people like Casey Spooner, AB Soto, and LastO. Then there are people like Max Steele, Joseph Keckler, and Evripidis Sabatis (of Evripidis and his Tragedies) who are better known as performers but have contributed writing or art to the magazine.

L: A Spunk/RAR collaboration would be great. I think the Roy Garrett reading was a good test. Those are all very talented people across all sorts of mediums. They are living art, as individuals and as a collective. Hopefully we can do Malcolm McLaren some justice in the process. I think he would be happy to see all these artists out there doing their thing.

A: Speaking of performers like AB Soto and LastO, queer rappers are getting a lot of press lately and Will Sheridan is certainly among them. How did Will become associated with RAR? What is the creative process like between you?

L: I met Will at his birthday show at Fat Baby right before RAR launched. He was promoting a song called “Welcome to the Jungle,” which is kind of a hip-house/Jungle Brothers throwback. He performed at a couple of our shows before he came on board and “Welcome to the Jungle” ended up being RAR’s first music video. It went viral. I’ve only produced a handful of Will’s tracks (“S.O.A.P.,” “Fu<in’ with the Giant,” “Fundamental”). Our creative process is more apparent during live shows. He’s an amazing performer, and he knows I want him to sound the best he can when he’s performing, so there’s a giddy chemistry between us that makes it pop.

A: What do you make of this queer rap movement?

L: I was reading a blog entry the other day about how Macklemore was see-thru and how every person who saw a real message in “Same Love” was a mainstream “sheep” and wrong for liking it. Instead, this blogger cited a Beyoncé song as being the liberation anthem of our time. Now, I love Beyoncé, and I am not crazy about “Same Love,” but this was obviously just an open love letter from a fan to her favorite singer. If you start an article by calling people stupid because you don’t agree with the way they’re interpreting a song, you shouldn’t be writing about music. And you shouldn’t be calling people sheep for supporting a mainstream artist then go on to be a cheerleader for a different mainstream artist. If she wanted to talk about real self-expression there is a group of people who are out there changing things — artists like Black Cracker, Big Dipper, Will Sheridan, AB Soto, Le1f, Zebra Katz, and Light Asylum. They’re making noise and the world is listening.

A: What is your proudest accomplishment in your career in music so far?

L: Royal Advisor Records.

A: Why do you do it?

L: I was one of those kids who would put on a Michael Jackson album and just lose it. It wasn’t about looking cool. It was about transcending something—no different than a tribal dance. I don’t want to say I’m a “slave to music” — because I command it too. But in a way I am. It’s love, obsession, heartbreak — all those things. It’s hard for me to explain why I do it. I just have to. I’m not Bohemian about it though. I’m grounded in reality. You need to check yourself to make sure life doesn’t pull any tricks while you’re singing around the campfire. But that doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, believe in magic. It’s all just cerebral neurons reacting to an Illogical Techno life. And I’m just a DJ.

links
DJ LORANT
ROYAL ADVISOR RECORDS

photo of Lorant by Aaron Tilford

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