Armin van Buuren closes Ultra’s main stage on weekend #1

This is how it starts every year: a flood of images, stories and reviews from SXSW in Austin, TX. Time to get your game face on, kid, because now you’re looking down the barrel of Winter Music Conference, Miami Music Week, and Ultra Music Festival, which is (for many) the beginning of Festival Season.

Ultra went worldwide in 2012, with events in Argentina, Brazil, Ibiza (Spain), and Seoul South Korea, and new events planned for Chile and  Croatia later this year. Then, following the example set by Coachella, Ultra announced an expanded TWO weekend festival for 2013, book-end events to the traditional Winter Music Conference (WMC) and Miami Music Week (MMW). That was a pretty fucking BIG risk to take at the time, especially so close on the heels of EDM’s “coming out party” in 2012.

Well, any doubts were quickly squashed as ticket sales for both weekends were brisk, fueled by the announcement that Swedish House Mafia would be closing the Main Stage on the second weekend as the last date on “One Last Tour”, which sees Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso performing together purportedly for the last time. After hitting #2 on the Billboard charts with “Don’t You Worry Child”, that’s a pretty audacious way to wind down a project.

UMF TV’s live feed of the first weekend showed vastly upgraded production for the main stage, the “mega structure” (home to Carl Cox and Friends) and the Ultra Europe stage. The Amphitheater features LIVE performances from Bloody Beetroots, Hot Chip, Pretty Lights, Crystal Castles, Sleigh Bells, Major Lazer, and many more. With Electric Daisy Carnival staging a new event in Chicago this year, and Tomorrowland reportedly eying Atlanta for Tomorrow World in 2014, Ultra stepped up their game to be considered the premiere electronic music festival in North America.

John Digweed in the Mega Structire for Carl Cox and Friends, weekend #1

What many DON’T realize about WMC, MMW and Ultra is that, often, the clubs are where it’s at for the true fans of electronic music. With some of the world’s finest clubs in Miami proper and a plethora of venues dotting the South Beach strand, clubbers from around the world get the chance to see many of the biggest names in the business playing in fairly intimate venues (sans explosions, trampolines and flying cake) for a once-a-year taste of the finest in nightlife and club culture. There are generally no less than three concurrent parties that you want to attend, making evening planning gut-wrenching. Honestly, it’s overwhelming.

Victoria’s Secret PINK Pool Party at the Shelbourne Hotel

I’ll be on-site In Miami starting Thursday evening for semi-live reports for IndyMojo and Mojo Radio, hoping to get some comments from the talent appearing at MMW as well as check out some of the super-sick day parties on the strand in South Beach (DJ Mag at the Delano, anyone?). Audio recorder and camera batteries are charged and at the ready. Will our intrepid hero survive the weekend? Stay tuned to find out…

Friday March 22
3:05 PM

After a pretty LONG day of travel (my own personal version of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”), got feet-down in Miami and arrived at Base Camp around 9pm last night, and enjoyed a fantastic dinner with my hosts, Kathy and Carl (long-time Miami natives, and a tremendous resource on navigating the city). I was pretty wiped out from the excursion and didn’t make the trip into South Beach for the UMF pre-party, a decision I’m likely to regret until this time next year. Hey NASA – get to fucking work on that teleporter already…

I’ve done a technical run-through of all the gear, got a few pointers from ace cameraman Carl BaseCamp, filed a preliminary report for Mojo Radio on what I think *might* be the highlights of Day 1, and am preparing to go catch an MTA train from BaseCamp and head into Bayfront Park. For those planning on attending next year: take my advice and load up an MTA EasyCard. You can pre-pay by mail, have it delivered, and use it to travel on the Miami-Dade County train and bus lines a whole hell of a lot cheaper than taking cabs. The Trains run until 2AM and pick back up at 6AM, conveniently when a lot of the South Beach night clubs are kicking you the hell out so they can clean up and start all over again that night.

Check the Mojo Radio facebook page, my twitter feed, or the radio channel proper for updates tonight and throughout the weekend.

March 23
1:13AM

Holy shitballs… Day 1 (ie the ‘short day’) is in the books. I was able to sneak away from the press area a few times to get a feel for what was happening throughout the festival, and the scope and scale of the event is almost indescribable. Every one of the six stages I managed to visit today was mobbed. The crowds this year seem an order of magnitude larger and more intense, which is only amplified by the over-the-top production. Tiesto’s closing set on the main stage was so crowded that even using the service paths was nigh impossible. Bloody Beetroots’ live set at the Amphitheater was rocking, and Luciano had the crowd whipped into a frenzy at the Mega Structure to close Carl Cox & Friends.

I got to speak to lots of performers today, some of which will run as late updates on Mojo Radio later this morning. The personal highlight for me was to meet Nile Rodgers, the beating heart of disco icons Chic and collaborator on the new Daft Punk album. The word “legend” gets bandied about quite a lot, but this encounter left me hands trembling and completely at a loss for words. His appearance was unscheduled, and rumor has it that he contacted some friends in the press corps to attend to “see all the pretty girls”. Whatever the reason, that was the icing on a pretty fucking tasty day-1 cake.

Hopefully I’ll get some of the pictures from today posted here early in the morning. Tommorow looks to be the day of days, with Calvin Harris, Fatboy Slim, deadmau5, Hot Chip, Faithless, Flux Pavilion vs Doctor P, Bassnectar, Andy C, Dillon Francis, Sub Focus, Riva Starr and Funkagenda on the schedule. Continue to check the Twitter feed and Facebook – my goddamn phone went DOA around 8pm today, but a fresh battery and a healthy regimen of plugging the bastard in should make the in-the-moment updates go a lot smoother. Check in with you all later today.

March 24
12:17 AM

Of course, Internetz on site decided to get wonky today, so I was unable to update in near-real-time. That being said, temperatures were in the mid-80s and not a cloud in the sky as I made my way from BaseCamp to the press area in Bayfront Park.

Grabbed a little nibble in Bayfront Marketplace, the outdoor mall that sits adjacent to the park proper. If you plan on attending next year, you can save yourself a little cash by hitting the mall for food before you enter the festival. A pretty decent New York slice and a Coke runs $6 at the mall, which is a hell of a sight cheaper than you’d find it on the grounds.

So, no sooner than I step on site than I nearly knock skulls with 12th Planet, clowning with some of the female help in the press area. Chatted briefly (off-mic) about his Indy gigs, his upcoming set at the Dropzone stage, and one quick station ID later – poof! – he was gone.

Moments later, I had a bombshell dropped on me. Chuckie was performing with a “secret guest”, and I overheard a conversation that guitar legend Slash was on the grounds. It didn’t take a genius to put those two together (especially after Madonna’s appearance with Avicii last year), so I posted the teaser and set about trying to find a second source before going public with the story. It was KILLING me to sit on that information, but I had to do the responsible thing and find a second source, preferably from inside the UMF staff, before going public with the information.

I approached Chuckie’s Altantic Records contact and mentioned that I believed I knew what that situation was, and they were NOT pleased. They asked me to embargo the info until the event was actually taking place, and it’s always a good idea to NOT PISS OFF ATLANTIC RECORDS. I attempted to tease the special guest and point people to the UMFTV live stream to catch it as it happened, but WiFi on the festival grounds proper is non-existent, and cellular service was so overwhelmed by the masses of Twitter and Facebook updates clogging the cell networks that it just wasn’t going to happen. I shot some pics from the pit, and after it was closed found a decent place stage-right to try and at least get a good shot of one of contemporary rock’s legendary guitarists. Fifteen minutes from the end of the set, a platform rises 10 feet above stage level, bearing a top-hat wearing, Les Paul slinging Slash as he blazed a gnarly solo over 32 bars of Chuckie’s set. I feel very lucky to have been there for such a special moment. Mother-fucking SLASH!

The crowds for this event are SO much more dense when compared to last year. As early afternoon turned into evening, you could sense the pressure from what has to be record-breaking crowds for Ultra attendance. Throngs of fans crowded the Trapped stage to catch Flosstradamus and Dillon Francis bring it low. I happened upon that stage just as Baauer was dropping some personal bootleg remix of “The Harlem Shake” and no video, words or images can do justice to the bedlam and carnage in the first twenty rows – one of the most intense crowd responses I’ve ever seen.

Fatboy Slim popped through teh press area on his way to the main stage to begin stirring the pot and ramping up the energy and anticipation of the Main Stage home stretch – Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and the closing set from deadmau5. His time was brief, but I managed to catch up with his tour manager and asked what their week was like. Last Sunday, Ultra. A different South American country every night of last week, and back to South America tomorrow morning. Seven countries in nine days, and they won’t return to the UK until next Wednesday. An insane travel schedule for (quite possibly) an insane man.

Although pressed for time, I got to say ‘hey’ to Flux Pavilion and Doctor P as they breezed through on their way to Dropzone for their shift in command of the most terrifying low-end sound system I’ve ever been around. I moved into the photo pit to try and find an angle to shoot the stage when the first big bass drop shoved me towards the retaining fence. Even with 20dB attenuators in my ears, I could feel the subfrequencies resonate INSIDE my skull and sinuses and knock my equilibrium slightly out-of-whack. This set was in a much more intimate venue than last week’s set on the Main Stage, and the close proximity of the crowd coupled with the re-goddamn-diculous sound system turned the crowd into a choppy, churning sea sweaty bodies and rage-faces.

I was advised to haul ass to the photo pit for some cool photo ops during David Guetta’s set. I’d peeked at some of the performances from weekend #1 and saw the design and layout of the Main Stage, but it doesn’t give you the sense of scale that seeing it in person does. If you’ve ever been to an Imax film and sat a little too close (you know, where you have to move your head to see the ENTIRE screen), then you have a frame of reference. The structure towers over the park, standing at least 5 stories high and threaded with what must be miles of cables to control an obscene number of LED screens, lasers, spot scanners, and a whole bunch of shit I don’t even have names for yet.

David Guetta has made it a tradition to debut new material in Miami for Ultra music festival, a ritual he claims has brought him a ton of good luck. This year is no different, with Guetta debuting his latest single near the opening of his set, which sounded a whole lot like Usher singing over a sample of Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone”. The peak of this set was a production piece that looked like they set the entire stage on fire as pyro and fireworks blasted into the night sky. I blasted off a ton of pics before putting the camera down to bathe in the heat, light, and thunderous roar of the crowd.

A quick bottle of water and a re-set before heading BACK into the frey at the main stage to set up for deadmau5, who’s set was simul-cast on UMFTV. New stage production and a fresh new set of material promised to make the official closing of day #2 special indeed. Silhouetted against a curtain of spotlights, the massive carbon-fiber mau5-head bobbed rhythmically over the top of the latest incarnation of the cube. Kudos to the projection mapping gurus and the digital artists involved in setting the tone and mood on stage as deadmau5 dodged shifted from track to track. The anthemic “Raise Your Weapon” became an incredible sing-along moment for a crowd that was packed solid from stage-front to the back fences near Biscayne Boulevard.

Holy shit am I tired, and still trying to process everything. If the internet decides not to shit the bed tomorrow, I’ll try to get some of the images posted and give you a preview of day #3 and our farewell to Ultra Music Festival 15.

 

How do you go about describing the Shpongle experience? That’s really a problem, because , as a 16-year veteran of the electronic music scene, Simon Posford (the driving force behiond Shpongle) deserves better from those like me. Honing the live show as festivals from Tokyo to Topeka, Shpongle is a fixture at events like Coachella, Electric Forest, and Wakarusa. How to describe Shpongle live? A synaesthetic convergence of visual and sound. Part DJ set, part Laser-Floyd. Future-primitive. Shpongle’s music? Calling it “psychedelic electronica” is a disservice, because it is so much more, encompassing cultural music from all over the globe, and the solid grooves of modern club music. Even as I write this, I realize it doesn’t come close to encapsulating the live experience. Fortunately, Shpongle will be performing at the Vogue on May 8 on the Masquerade Tour with the full production in tow, and is an experience not to be missed in such an intimate venue. With four albums behind him and a fifth as-yet-untitled album set for release, I was finally able to get in touch with Simon to for this exclusive interview for Indymojo.com

RK: Well we finally got this done, after a few false starts and some illnesses. Glad to have you on the phone. You will be coming to Indy on the Masquerade Tour, and we wanted to get in touch with you beforehand because you have been at this for a pretty long time.

SP: I am on a day off today, a rare day off. I don’t know my head from my elbow right now; my head feels like a Frisbee (laughs).

RK: What has it been like for you, because you have been doing this since 97-98, to see Electronic Music, which is standard fare in Europe, become so big in the U.S?

SP: You know, it’s very exciting to see Skrillex on the front of Rolling Stone Magazine. It is a good thing to see for someone like myself who has been pounding my head against the wall for the last 15 years or so playing Electronic Music and basically living as an unknown and an unloved musician. It is good that people are finally starting to get EM (Electronic Music) over here.

RK: I think part of that is due to folks like you that have been so big on the festival circuit. Doing not only just DJ sets, also doing live PA’s and working with live bands. With the complexities of a modern DJ show, what are the differences between doing a live PA and working with a live band or just doing the DJ tour?

SP: We never really set out to be a band, so when we do Shpongle as a band initially it was more for our own entertainment and for the challenge. As an artist you have to keep challenging yourself and trying something new. If you have heard the Shpongle music, it is very multi-layered and very complex. The idea of pulling this off with musicians really excited me. We got initially a band of 12 musicians together, and they were all phenomenal players. Luckily we made the great move of surrounding ourselves with people far better and more talented than me and my partner Raja Ram, who plays the flute. At the moment the lineup is Joe Russo on drums, who plays for Furthur which is one of the Grateful Dead spinoffs. He is a phenomenal musician, and is probably one of the best drummers in the country. We have a cello player who just wrote a piece in Dubai for 300 musicians and 200 singers. He arranged and composed the whole thing. We have an amazing jazz guitarist, singers, drums, bass, whatever we can bring to make the music sound good and for us to amuse ourselves. We have Brazilian dancers, Contortionists in a box, and giant fluorescent slinkies. We add whatever is needed to make the show look better. However, logistically and financially as you can imagine this is a huge challenge. For example, there is a legendary venue in London called the Roundhouse, which is a 3,000 person venue. For example we also performed at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York and also a venue in Oakland. All of these were about 3,000 people and we sold out every time, and we made no money (laughs). We just liked to make the shows entertaining for ourselves. To sell those venues out and make no money shows how much of a challenge it really is. We do it for our own amusement and fun and its great and we love it. Going on tour like that I don’t think we would ever do, especially since my friend Raja Ram is 71 years old this year. He has more energy that anybody I know, he probably has more energy in his big toe than everybody I know combined.

On the other hand, doing a DJ tour which is sort of what I am doing now. It is boring watching a DJ at decks just spinning tunes, so I go up there and play my own tunes on a laptop. I try to mix it up so you can’t really tell what the boundary is between one tune and the next. I will play parts from different tunes together at the same time, mix it up all the laptop and play some synth over the top and play effects. We also have this visual structure called Masquerade, which is 3D projection mapping and a very aesthetically pleasing structure. I am trying to make something that psychedelically stimulating and visually exciting combined with top quality audio as possible. Occasionally the Masquerade is so big that it will not fit in the venue, which is always a little disappointing for me. This means I have to go back to the old style of DJing of playing off CDs and playing off my laptop without the full show. We try to avoid those shows, but some venues are just too small and don’t accommodate those situations.

RK: Visuals and psychedelia have always been associated with Sphongle performances, do you have any specific artists that you prefer to collaborate with to try and tie the visual aspect of this tour, specifically the Masquerade tour, together with what you are doing musically?

SP: These guys at the moment we are using, Lucid Design and Technology, they built this structure. We have a guy called Xen who is the visual guy working on it and a good lighting director. They are both fantastic and really good; I couldn’t hope to be working with a better team. Last year we had a fabulous team. We had a VJ named Zebbler, I don’t know if you have heard of him. He is the only guy I know who has managed to close down the city of Boston with one of his art projects (laughs). Some of your listeners might have heard of him, it had something to do with the Cartoon Network.

RK: Ahhhhhhhh, Yes.

SP: He put these little boxes on bridges and buildings that would spring to life and project some animations on these buildings. To the unaware, they looked like little metal boxes with wires sticking out of them.

RK: So of course, it means terrorism.

SP: Next thing he knows, Boston is closed down, the FBI is knocking down his door, and he is under arrest. Being the difficult artist that he is, he refused to answer any questions about why he was arrested. He would only answer questions about 70’s haircuts (laughs). So if your question is not about 70’s haircuts, please don’t ask us because we won’t respond. All these guys are very interesting and great visual and luminary visionaries. I am happy to be working with such high caliber people.

RK: With as crazy as Shpongle performances are known for, working with these kinds of anarchist mindsets has got to really influence what you are doing in a live setting. How much flexibility do you have in your music choices as a DJ, since the audio and the visuals are so tightly tied together, does it let allow you to go in different directions as an improve kind of deal?

SP: That is the problem. I do like the visuals really synced up to the music. The lighting guys do want a set list before the show. But I also like to encourage people to think out of the box and throw them in the deep end sometimes. I will change everything at the last minute and throw them into confusion and see what happens. I can also take a tune, like for example Divine Moment of Truth, and throw in bits of other tunes while still keeping it Divine Moment of Truth and confuse them a little bit. I do have to keep it fairly structured. I do like that mess with that when I can.

RK: It sounds like there is a foundation set list, but it gives you a structure from which you can do improve if you want to while still maintaining cohesion between what you are seeing visually and what you are hearing sonically. That is going to be really great to see. The venue is the Vogue here in town, and for my dollar it is the best room in the city to see a show.

SP: Is it good sound?

RK: It is one of the better sounding rooms in the city. From my experience, I think there is one room in the city that sounds better and it is built as a performance hall for musicals and things like that with standard seating. As far as best of both worlds, this probably the best you are going to get in Indy.

SP: Great, because it is always a luxury. We have got our visuals down, and I have got my performance of the sound down, but we are very much at the mercy of the venue. So it’s a bit of a lossery (?) if you turn up, and we don’t bring our own PA on tour, we have to hope that the sound is good in the venue.

RK: The sound is definitely good in the venue. We are talking about sound and technology, I have recently been to the larger festivals and I have seen artists do sets there and then I have seen artists do sets at a more intimate venue like the Vogue here in Indy. As an artist, do the festival sets that you do differ from a solo headlining set in a venue? What kinds of things are you free to do in the solo setting that you can’t do at a festival?

SP: Normally in a smaller venue you get a longer set. At a festival, it’s a very fast changeover. You may only have an hour, my shortest has been 45 minutes which is barely time to get my pants off, so to speak (laughs). I like the intimacy of a smaller venue; you can really connect to a crowd there and play a much longer set. But you know there is nothing like the vibe of the festival with having a lot of musicians around and people really there to have a good time and be open to all kinds of music. Festivals are great since they are outdoors. I think Shpongle in particular is meant to be heard without a roof over your head.

RK: Fantastic. You have mentioned “Shpongletron” briefly that is part of the visual setup that you are touring with. Can you kind of describe that, and as briefly as you can since it’s a complex entity (laughs). There are going to be folks that have seen it before, that haven’t heard of it and have their heads opened up by what they see in here.

SP: Yeah, the translator into language is very difficult. It is a multi-sensory, visual, sonic extravaganza. I know this sounds all blah, blah, blah (laughs). It really has to be seen to be believed. It is a great pyramid like structure that is projected into a very 3D, psychedelic way. It should provide a slightly mind-expanding experience. You know some people will of course be prone to taking substances to aid that. Hopefully those that don’t will also find it extremely stimulating and exhilarating.

RK: You have a new album that is scheduled to come out this year; you want to talk a little about that? I have not heard of an album title, so hopefully we can get a scoop here.

SP: Yes, we haven’t got an album title, but I can give you a scoop. Each time we come for with an album title, we end up using it for the name of the track we were working on. The first track was ‘Museums of Consciousness’, which I kind of like as an album title. We had ‘Further Adventures in Sphongleland’, which has also been used as a track title. The rest of the tracks are unnamed. We are about half-way through the album, I would like to release to it on December 21st, 2012 for my own bit of fun (laughs). Sometime when people predict that the Mayans thought the world was going to end, which clearly is not the case. I think it would be a good time to release an album anyway. I am really into numbers and I think that is a great number.

Shpongle and the Masquerade Tour stop at The Vogue on Tuesday, May 8. Tickets available at the Vogue box office.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks” on X103, and is dejected that his mask-making skills for this show are sub-par.

Thanks for taking a peek. This is going to be my attempt at live-blogging the events that take place on the way to, as well as at, ULtra Music Festival 2012 in Miami. Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week are winding down as the anticipation for one of the world’s largest electronic music events is starting to build. Ultra Music Festival sold out in record time, with an estimated 165,000 attendees on the ground each of the 3 days at Bayfront Park. This blog entry will likely continue to evolve over the course of the weekend as Jonathan Keith (my old Planet X partner-in-crime) and I compile photos and video footage to sprinkle throughout the piece.

Remember, Ultra Music Festival has partnered with Google to offer a live stream of the event. Highly recommended. Watch it all unfold at www.youtube.com/umftv

Day 1: Transit, Arrival, Ultra Day 1

Thanks to a last-minute solid from a good friend, I got a ride to the airport well before my 6am departure time. When I say “well before”, we’re talking 2am. I didn’t know what to expect, but I think I was the only non-employee in the entirety of the airport that was awake. I also discovered that TSA doesn’t open the concourses for security check and terminal access until 4:15am. So, I found a nice, quiet corner and “went native” by taking a quick disco nap.

Soon enough, I was boarding in Indianapolis and departing for Chicago. A lovely 3-hour layover at O’Hare is enough to do your head in, and by the time they announced boarding for the flight to Miami, I was past ready to get it overwith. With the flight overbooked, the thought of getting stranded for another second was almost more than I could bear. Luckily, the travel gods favored me and I was awarded the very last seat on the early flight. So far so good. Three hours to touchdown in Miami.

The inbound flight was uneventful, and even arrived ahead of schedule. After airport pickup and installment at “BaseCamp”, I looked for word on Jonathan’s flight in. Where I was lucky, he got boned, and was bumped to a later flight. This gave me an opportunity to settle in, confirm interviews with Richard Dinsdale and Carl Cox, and game-plan some after-festival parties and the like. Jonathan finally made it, and after a short catch-up and strategy session, we crashed so that Ultra Music Festival Day #1 would get the attention it deserved. Performances by New Order, Kraftwerk, Skrillex, Woldgang Gartner, Groove Armada, Stanton Warriors, Krafty Kuts and Pretty Lights were all very high on the agenda.

Something to consider when attending Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival is transit from your lodgings to South Beach and Ultra iself (in this case, Bayfront Park). Renting a car is convenient (you get to set your own schedule) but parking in both places can be (1) dicey and/or (2) wickedly expensive. Fortunately, Miami/Dade County Metro Transit is both cheap and convenient. We were lucky enough to be within 5-minute walk of a Metro-Rail station, and decided that day passes on the Metro would be the best way to get back and forth. Purchasing a card and day passes for 3 days of transit came to $17 per person, which equates to the split of one one-way cab ride around South Beach.

Our first tactical error of the week started innocently enough. Walking back from lunch, we passed said Metro station and chose NOT to buy our Metro passes then, thinking that we wouldn’t have problems at 4pm. WRONG on so many levels. At 4pm, there were 4 lines with at least 30 people queued in each line. At this point , we’re looking at timetables and realizing we may miss part of New Order’s set. Not amusing.

An aside: New Order is a really important band for me. Their emergence from the tragic history of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, Bernard Sumner reluctantly thrust into the “front man” role, and their subsequent success was always been a compelling story. They were one of my first exposures to electronic music, and an introduction to the history of modern dance music. Factory Records and Manchester’s Hacieda nightclub are arguably the birth of rave culture, and to see a band that carries so much gravitas playing at a celebration of this culture that has its roots in those primordial days of DJ culture was a primary reason for attending Ultra this year.

Looking around at the crowd gathered to catch the train, I was struck at how many young people were attending Ultra. Best guess – the average age of the group gathered to take the train from this particular station was near 17. I’ve had many discussions with other DJs, artists, and promoters about what we can do in the Indianapolis scene to get younger kids interested in electronic music and events and develop new fans at a younger age. Perhaps it’s the rave scene in larger cities or quality all-ages shows that are giving the under-21 crowd a chance to immerse themselve in electrominc music culture. Whatever the reason, it was heartening to see so many faces eager to experence everything that, arguably, the best electronic music festival in the world has to offer.

This is the point where the Metro ticket tactical error started to rear it’s head. The extra time spent getting ticketed added to the travel time and check-in at the venue meant that there was the distinct possibility that I would miss New Order’s set. My anxiety continued to build as the press line stalled, and the steady flow of SUVs to the artist entrance unloaded Miike Snow and his band, Groove Armada, and Skrillex and his entourage. After what seemed like an eternity, access to the grounds was granted and it was a full sprint to the Live Stage. We caught New Order roughly 10 minutes into their set. They were playing “Ceremony”, a Joy Division tune that was recorded as a proper New Order single in the transition period for the band. The full weight of this moment I’d been waiting half a lifetime for came crashing down right then, and it was a bit overwhelming. Smart visuals and a set that featured many classic tunes (“True Faith”, “Blue Monday”, “Bizarre Love Triangle”) built the energy up so that by the time they broke into “Temptation” as their last song of the set, it became a full sing-along with Bernard as conductor.

And this was jus the beginning of the day.

Press assignments at 8 (Carl Cox) and 9 (Richard Dinsdale) meant a quick check-in at the press tent to scope the layout and amenities available to the press corps. Set up right alond the bayfront, there were plenty of power outlets to recharge phones and other devices, as well as WiFi to stay connected as the cell networks downtown caved under the weight of the added traffic from 165,000 festival patrons. I sat back-to-back with Andy Cato of Groove Armada as they did na interview with a Brazilian music magazine, and chatted with their manager to see if we could get some comments either on-site or after their set at the OM party on Saturday. With a new interview possibliity in hand, we set out into the festival chaos to catch a piece of Miike Snow’s set. Jonathan managed to catch a major piece of “Silvia” near the steady-cam rig that was shooting for UMF TV’s youtube live-stream.

Things happen quickly when you’re on the ground, and not all of them work in your favor. I receiving a text that Carl Cox’s press time had been canceled and moved to Saturday, the first full day of the festival. This brings a harsh reality to attending festivals of this magnitude, whether as press or pure fan. You’re going to miss things you want to see. There are 7 stages running concurrently throughout the day, and you cannot hope to make it from one end of the venue to the other in a timely fashion, nor can you be in two places simultaneously. You just have to hope that with some decent planning and a lot of luck, you can be in the right place at the right time to experience the moments everyone will talk about for the rest of the weekend. Around this time, it became apparent that Richard Dinsdale’s interview wasn’t likely to happen, as his on-site contacts had international cell phones that bounced every text I tried to send them. For those keeping the box score, that’s 0-for-2 in the interview department for day one. Such is life at Ultra.

With Richard Dinsdale missing in action and Carl’s interview moved to Saturday, we decided to try and make our way to the main stage so Jonathan could catch the Skrillex set and “see what all the fuss is about”. Again, plans are never set in stone once you’re on the ground, and as we were making our way past the Live Stage, electro pioneers Kraftwerk were running through their set. Armed with motion-capture suits, projected robot images on the LED screens behinds them mimicked every maneuver. Visuals that paid homage to the album art of past Kraftwerk releases worked extremely well as the band ran through a set that included “Computer Love”, Trans Europe Express”, and “Radioactivity”. One moment that sticks in my mind was the crowd reaction to the rhythmic breathing from the first bars of “Tour de France”. There was a collective “holy shit” gasp that bubbled through the crowd as the hoopers, breakers, and liquid dancers fed from the energy of this electro classic.

Now it was on to the Main Stage for Skrillex, or so we thought. We were making our way through the crush of people near the main gates when we saw it. You couldn’t help but be drawn to it. Multiple levels. Lasers and fog. Some shit I’d never seen before. This was Carl Cox Arena, and the maestro himself was delivering the goods.

Carl Cox and Friends has always been a destination for me when attending Ultra. The roster for the arena is always on point, and this year’s was no exception: Jon Rundell, Dubfire, Loco Dice, Richie Hawtin and the closing set by Carl Cox. You will see the pictures and videos, and they will give you an idea of content and context, but there’s no way to capture the scope of what the set designers and visual artists did to create Carl Cox Arena. In a few words, it is the most immersive and well-crafted club experience I have ever seen. In past years, the visuals and elaborate designs were confined to the stage area. This year, these elements were extended the length of the arena, with a large main dance floor and VIP sections raised a good 25 feet on each side and in the rear. Gogos, flying spark-shooting robots on stilts, and acrobats all became part of the presentation, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, the production team would unleash the nitrogen showers as a peak-time record would release and push the energy to ludicrous levels. The sound system was loud and full, but not uncomfortable. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

In order to avoid the mad rush out of Bayfront Park, we decided to bail a little early and make our way to the Windish Agency party at Grand Central, a cozy and swank club that (thankfully) is walking-distance from the park. We arrived as Jackmaster was putting folks through the paces, and I finally got to catch a full Nadastrom DJ set. Not what I expected: Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom started with some BANGIN’ house tunes before delivering the goods with some filthy moombahton rollers at the end of their set. Open bar was prvided by Remy Martin, so you know the crowd was having it. By the time Drop The Lime took charge and blasted the room with his “N*ggas In Paris” bootleg, the place was ready to come unglued.

With a long day approaching on Saturday, it was time to catch the train and head back to BaseCamp. The tl;dr version: New Order still got it, Miike Snow is dope, Kraftwerk (!!!) still making future music, and Carl Cox is an evil genius in the best possible way. Not a bad start. Back tomorrow with the Day 2 recap and updated content for Day 1. You can follow it in near-real-rime on Twitter and Facebook if you’re so inclined.

Day 2: Pursuing Carl Cox, Madge Shows Up, Questionable Decisions

The second day started with a practical demonstration in the hazards of improper diet and hydration. A pretty restful sleep was interrupted with the sensation akin to an alligator trying to tear my right leg off. A case of (quite literally) crippling leg cramps had set in due wo lack of water, sodium and potassium in the previous day’s diet. After a good 20 minutes of swearing and nearly falling into the pool, the cramp subsided and I was able to resume normal human motion. Two full 20-oz. bottles of water and a full breakfast later, and I was ready to enter the fray for Ultra day 2. Highlights included Justice live, M83, 2manydjs (aka Soulwax), Avicii, and a reset on the interview with Carl Cox. Big day ahead.

We arrived at the train station for our ride in and proceeded to load into the train. As we walked into press check-in, the sweetheart taking care of press accommodations whispered, “Make sure you’re at the main stage for Avicii later. Big surprise planned.” Intrigued, the new game plan became: catch Little Dragon at the Live Stage, then make our way to Carl Cox Arena to meet up with his people for the interview, then hustle back to Live Stage for M83, sneak by hook or crook over to the Main Stage for Justice and Avicii. Lots of running around, but definitely do-able.

After catching the tail end of Little Dragon’s set, we were on a sprint over to Carl Cox Arena. Even after seeing the arena under full peaktime power, the structure was impressive in the fading daylight as Magda was tearing through some seriously funky techno jams. Word came through via email that Carl was in transit from another part of the grounds, and that the interview chances would be slim. The music was great and we were posted up in a pretty good area, we decided to hang out for the remainder of Magda’s set and take a chance on getting a few words from Carl backstage, if we could get the attention of his PR people. That meant missing Metronomy and M83, but talking to Carl Cox about his set, in this setting, was worth the sacrifice. Carl and his people whipped past and I couldn’t get anyone’s attention before Carl made his way backstage. It was looking like I was screwed.

Carl started his set and an opportunity presented itself. Security was looking the other way, and Jonathan gave the head-nod and BOOM! – quick sprint and the next thing we know, we’re backstage in restricted space, trying to look inconspicuous. There would be a slim chance to catch Carl in transit from stage to his trailer, and we were in prime position to catch him, as a parade of acrobats, gogo dancers, stagehands and various guests milled about. Carl’s set finished, Sven Vath took control, and my luck turned to shit as Carl’s personal security guys took control and expertly escorted him to his trailer. So, for those keeping score, it was an 0-for-festival box score on the interview front.

Dejected, we took a short detour to the OM party at Villa 221, about 15 blocks from the festival venue. Villa 221 wasn’t much more than a beatiful open-air courtyard, with a deck, two bars, and small stage where DJ Sneak was playing funky as hell. After making contact with the Pioneer reps present, I was introduced to Marques Wyatt, OM artist and deep house DJ/producer currently from LA. A genuine and sweet man, Marques and I exchanged information and small-talked about the conference for a bit before we were due to roll back to the festival.

it was time for Jonathan and I to make our way back to Bayfront Park. The short list: hit the press tent to perhaps sneak a beer, recharge phones and cameras, and figure out what the hell we were going to do for Justice and Avicii at the main stage. As I was unloading the various bags I was carrying, a friendly Brit asked “who are you with?” I gave the standard IndyMojo/X103/Hit The Decks intro, and before long was doing a rather impromptu interview with RAM Recordings Andy C, who had just finished laying waste to the UMF Brasil stage. Animated, friendly, and with that biting British wit, the interview went swimmingly and we began to talk about all things Miami. Then the bombshell dropped.

“Yeah, we’ve got some off-site things to do tonight,” said Andy, “but we need to make out way over to Avicii and Madonna.”

BWHAAAA!?!?!?

At this point, that information was strictly under wraps. My immediate though was to hit Twitter with the information, but wanted at least one other confirmation before going with the story. One of the biggest names in the music industry was making an appearance at Ultra, making concrete what many of us have felt for the past year or so: electronic music is mainstream now. I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and electronic music has had moments where it’s bubbled up through the corporate machine to pop music status, but watching 70,000 people crowd the main stage for Tiesto one night prior, and singing along in full voice to every big record, validated the struggle I’ve been fighting for this music that’s meant so much to me for such a long time. We had finally arrived, and Madonna herself was on-hand for the occasion.

The Madonna news item was officially confirmed by Ultra, and anticipation started to build as Justice was taking the stage. Flanked by what looked like a mountain of Marshall speaker cabinets and perched atop a booth crafted from what appeared to be an assortment of audio equipment, Gaspard and Xavier launched into a controller-based set with “Genesis”, and the capacity crowd began to rock. Personally, I was slightly disappointed that Justice had not adapted the material for a live band, but the further away I get from the performance, the more I enjoyed it. Playing more as a mash-up set consisting solely of Justice material and remixes, the tunes were simultaneously familiar yet fresh. Fist-pumping and chanting accompanied “Civilization”, and a crazy section of the performance saw the guys weave between the original and remixes of “Phantoms” (the Soulwax version causing burst of cheers), “Waters of Nazareth”, “On & On”, and “We Are Your Friends”. By the time the band was swiftly shifting through the myriad remixes of “D.A.N.C.E.”, I was fully won over. Wicked performance.

A quick refueling at press, then back into the chaos that was Avicii on the Main Stage. Madonna introduced the 22 year old prodigy and an over-capacity crowd at the main stage let loose as the set started with Avicii’s remix of the Madonna single “Girl Gone Wild”. Set highlights included “Seek Bromance” and “Fade Into Darkness”, which turned into as 70,000-strong sing-along with a fervor and energy that reminded me of the connection young people had with the foundation artists of hip hop. As his set closed with “Levels”, stage pyro and a huge fireworks display lit up the harbor behind the main stage. Fitting climax to an outstanding day 2 of entertainment.

However, this night was just getting started.

Jonathan nudges me and says, “We’ve been invited to a boat party.” Well, shit! Let’s go do that!

Jonathan got a text from his friend Summer, film producer and old friend, with details on a smallish party on a yacht that was moored in the harbor adjacent to Bayfront Park. After finding the boat, introductions are made all around. I meet Bear, the man responsible for the boat, and it turns out he’s from Indianapolis and used to run a record store in Broad Ripple. Small world. Then there’s Gregory, another hilarious free spirit currently in NYC, but very well-traveled. I met TJ from iamtechno.nl, a youngish event promoter from Amsterdam who was a laugh a minute. Sitting in this crew of people and listening to them talk about their favorite places to eat in Amsterdam, catching cabs in Paris, and how different Europe is from both the east and west coasts really made me feel a bit like the “ugly American”. Several items were added to my bucket list, and I was told that if I ever find myself in Amsterdam, TJ and Gregory would have the hook-up on all the cool spots. I’ll definitely be tucking that card away for future use.

Long about 2:30 am, the party starts to break up but we’re nowhere near done with this evening. Jonathan and I have already missed the last train, so we’re in for the long haul. Summer, Gregory and TJ hop a cab and say “meet us at the Shelbourne”. Bear, Jonathan and I hop another cab and we make what would be our only trip into South Beach proper.

After offloading at the Shelbourne Hotel, we find out that Summer and crew had already been there and turned away due to TJ’s footewear (apparently, flip flops aren’t approved attire for Shine, the 400-or-so capacity nightclub inside the hotel). They are on a mission to retrieve acceptable shoes for TJ, and we’re to try to get in the club and wait for them on the inside.

Now, I have a little history at the Shelbourne. The Shelbourne pool parties have become legendary, and this is the venue where Paris Hilton’s security crew got the flat crap kicked out of them by Steve Angello’s security force, prompting Angello to don an “I Heart Paris” t-shirt the following day at Nikki Beach Club. That very same year, I contacted the events promoter for the venue, a kind soul named Dennis who comp’ed the Hit The Decks crew (5-deep that year) for everything going on at the Shelbourne pool parties as well as the nightclub events. It crossed my mind to reach out to Dennis and the Shelbourne to see what could be arranged for this year, but figured that after three years without any contact, it would be a lost cause. This decision will be revisited very soon.

So, to set the scene: Jonathan, Bear, and I are rolling up the queue to find out if we can get into the nightclub. We find out that Sasha is playing and that tickets are completely sold out. Dejected, we headed back to the lobby to wait on Summer, Gregory and TJ, hoping that Summer had some stroke with the venue so that we could get in, or at very least an alternate plan. That’s when we met Phelps.

Phelps was a piece of work. Drink in hand, trucker hat, colorful geometric t-shirt, blazer, board shorts, multi-color shell-toe Adidas. And Phelps was WASTED. As we were sitting out front, Phelps came staggering down the hallway, made some great realization, and turned around to go right whatever wrong he’d just remembered. Only problem was the rather attractive brunette in the cocktail dress standing right behind him at the time. The collision was monumental – half of Phelp’s drink went down this girl’s dress, and Phelps staggered back like he’d been tagged with a Tyson right hook. The brunette was most upset, and proceeded to berate Phelps at the top of her lungs in front of the whole bar. Phelps’ reaction: “Eh – I’ve still got half my drink so fuck you”. All of us were stifling chuckled, and Phelps took notice. He came over and struck up a conversation with Jonathan, and proceeded to tell us he was connected and would sell us some REALLY dodgy-looking passes into the event for $10 each. Eye contact was made by Johnathan, Bear, and I and we politely declined with the excuse that we were waiting on Summer to sort this whole thing out for us.

Phelps was having none of it. “Okay, okay, okay. Five bucks. Five bucks. Doing you a favor. Five bucks.” Another round of polite “no thank you”‘s. “Fine – free. Fuck it. Free. Come on – you guys are with me”. So, we take the bracelets and await Summer, Gregory, and TJ. A quick text shows that they’re en route, and Jonathan and Phelps head outside to smoke a cigarette (at Phelps’ insistance). A few minutes later, I hear Jonathan yell.

“RUDY! GET OVER HERE!”

“What?” I respond, pretty confused at this point.

“IT’S DENNIS!”

Sure enough, there’s Dennis, the event coordinator that had taken such good care of us three years earlier. Still here, still putting together some of the best parties of Winter Music Conference and Miami Music Week. What’s more, he remembered me, gave me a huge hug, and asked how the week was progressing. I gave him the quick run-down, and he asked what we needed. Next thing I know we’ve got six bracelets. “These should get you anywhere you need to go”, he says with a nod and a wink. Then, as quicly as he appeared, he’s off and back into the club.

Turns out Phelps was attached to Sasha’s entourage, and had called Dennis over to prove his creds. Dennis recognized Jonathan, asked about the rest of the crew and was really appreciative of the coverage we gave Shine and the Shelbourne the last time we were there, as well as the thank-you note I sent upon returning home. There’s such a sense of entitlement with many of the people that Dennis deals with regularly that something as simple as a thank you note made a memorable impression. That’s a lesson I need to remember more often.

We made our way into the club and Sasha was playing tech-ey yet soulful. The place was packed to the rafters, and there was nary an open space on the dance floor. Phelps lead Jonathan up towards the booth to get some photos while Bear, Gregory, TJ, Summer and I posted up by the dance floor bar. The music was fantastic, Sasha was technically on point with his mixing, and the crowd was definitely having it. It seemed like half an hour had passed, when all of the lights came on and we were being shuffled towards the exit by security. It was 5am, and cabs were hailed for the ride back towards Bayfront Park.

Now we are in a connundrum because neither Jonathan or I had any cash for a cab. “Dude, the trains stopped running at 2am. How are we gonna get back?” Then it dawns on me that we’ve powered right through the dead spot for trains and the next round (for Sunday morning) will start running by 6am. A short walk back to the train station, routine train ride, a stop at CVS for “breakfast” (chips and a soda), and we were ready to knock off for a few hours, cowboy up and do it all over again for day 3. The realization that in a few short hours we’d have to rally to catch Fedde le Grand, Steve Aoki, Knife Party, Magnetic Man, Chase and Status, and Bassnectar was a tough one to swallow, but the random craziness and results of day 2 made it all worth it. I’d do it again in a New York minute.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “HIt The Decks“, Sundays at 10pm on X103, and can still feel the sun on his back and bass in his face.

Full disclosure: I missed the boat on Audrey Napoleon.

Let me explain. These days, there seems to be a recent trend in electronic music where labels and promoters trot out a pretty face to front a record, claim he/she is a DJ, and build a slick-looking press kit and send it out into the world, hoping the style of the presentation triumphs over the substance of the artist. So, upon first glance at Audrey, a raven-haired beauty of Sicilian descent, it was really easy to pass on “Foxy Boxy”, Audrey’s first single, as yet another attempt to use a pretty face to cash in on electronic music’s sudden hip factor with mainstream audiences.

Thankfully, something told me to come back to her material when her latest single, “Bitchy Queen”, was released. A tech-ey electro stomper, “Bitchy Queen” established that Audrey has some SERIOUS production chops. Further investigation lead me to jump into her “Sex Tapes” mix series, where lush soundscapes and tight grooves meet to create a signature style that can best be described as “moody tech-funk”. As much at home in the booth as she is walking runways at Europe’s largest fashion events or impromptu modeling sessions with the hottest designers in fashion, Miss Napoleon is quite a renaissance woman and force to be reckoned with in modern dance music. I had the pleasure of speaking with Audrey not long after her return from London Fashion Week.

RK: Where are you right now?

AN: I am in Los Angeles…

RK: You kind of made your bones in LA and are based out of Los Angeles which seems to be the epicenter of dance music right now. What do you think it is about the LA scene that makes it such a creative hotbed?

AN: You know, I think it’s the sunshine, to be honest with you…

RK: (laughs)

AN: the sunshine seems to make people very creative as well a very dreary day. I think people have come out for the sunshine unfortunately (laughs).

RK: It’s kind of interesting because you think about sunshine you think of happy times and happy days, but I have listened to some of your original material as well as the mixes you have put together. There is certainly a moodiness and a very distinct European influence in some the material, particularly Bitchy Queen. Are they any specific artists that have influenced you to make music in that mode?

AN: It is not necessarily that I am influenced by any specific artists; it’s just that I am a very moody person (laughs). The European electronic scene has always been a huge influence of mine and I’m always in Europe doing tours. It’s the people mixed with the weather, and I am mostly influenced by different sounds that you hear walking down the street, like pots and pans. My family’s from Sicily, so the sounds of pots of pans in the kitchen are things that inspire me musically. As well as the cars on the street and the people in restaurants, things like this.

RK: Aha. You just recently returned from London. Was that a business trip, pleasure trip, tour?

AN: I think London is always pleasure (laughs). It was business; I was there for London Fashion Week. I attended a few shows, the PPQ show and the Mark Fast show. I attended a few meetings and then did the clothing party for Elite Models in London, which was a blast. I also did a photo shoot with Rodnik.

RK: Oh, Wow.

AN: Yes, Rodnik is a really fantastic clothing line. It is pop art on clothes, it’s really brilliant. I was very pleased to an off-shoot with them. I meet the designer the night before at his party he asked me, “Hey, want to do a shoot together”, and I was like yeah, ok.

RK: Yeah, twisting your arm, how can you say no to that? The video for “Bitchy Queen” is being billed as the second chapter in a 4 part series with started with “Banana Soda Es Muy Loca”, how did that project come together?

AN: Well my management team wanted me to do a series of music videos. I just don’t like music videos especially with dance music. I find music videos very 1980’s (laughs) and I just don’t think its conducive to dance music so I decided so I wanted to make a film and cut it into chapters. I meet with 4 or 5 directors and basically I sat down with Nicole, and she just got it. She got me, she got the direction I wanted to take the films, and how I saw them. She gave me a lot of perspective on my ideas and I found inspiration in that. She sent me a gorgeous treatment and she was a perfect match for it [the film]. Nicole Macdonald did Marilyn Manson’s Dopelhurz, so immediately I wanted her.

RK: Excellent.

AN: With a dark side, and glitchy aura…

RK: It’s fantastic. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t ask do you want to hint at anything that is coming in the final 2 chapters of this or should we just wait and be surprised online?

AN: I think you should just wait and be surprised, absolutely (laughs).

RK: Booooo! Ah, ok (laughs).

AN: A lot of unveiling starts to happen in the last few chapters, and in the last one you will get a full, 5-minute long video with all the pieces put together… Just give it a couple months, let it simmer.

RK: We were fortunate enough to be able to run part of the “Sex Tape” mix series as a guest DJ set. It was one of the more well-received sets that we have run in a long time. I am just curious, was there any particular inspiration for you to start doing that series and when and where did it start?

AN: I decided to do Sextapes when I was releasing my mixes. I was sitting with my management at SQE and that they wanted to keep releasing these mix tapes every month. Of course, with my mouth, I made a kind of joke that turned into “Hey, you know what, I am going to release a sex tape every month”.

RK: (laughs).

AN: Then everyone kind of looked at me in the room and I was like, “Ah, that’s the name, that’s the name I am going to go with”. So I release Sextapes every month. I do the artwork for them, I make the collages. I cut all the collages and put them on a 6 by 6 paper and I turn them in and they make the cover. The artwork is by me and the mixes are by me, so that is how the Sextapes came about.

RK: Now, it’s got to be at times to be trying, or challenging, essentially hearing the words “one of the best FEMALE DJ’s”. I have seen that all over the web and all over the press releases for you. Does it bother you to hear that in relation to your male peers? Because to me, if you are a good DJ it shouldn’t matter if you are a dog who can spin…

AN: (laughs)

RK: As long as it sounds good, you should be considered. Particularly in Europe, where the techno scene seems to be so male dominated, do you get any pushback when you play places or have you kind of overcome at this point in your career?

AN: There is always going to be pushback when a woman grabs men by their balls…

RK: (laughs).

AN: I don’t pay attention to any of that, I just go and play my music and if people love me, they love me, and if not, then I am not bothered. It is a male dominated industry at the moment, and I think being a female is a positive which is why they put female in front of it. Maybe they are putting as a negative, but I prefer to think of it as a positive statement.

RK: I am guaranteeing that three tracks in, people don’t care. Like I said, after listening to both “Sex Tapes” vol. 2 and 3, you are hooked immediately. It sets a mood and it sets a vibe and if you’re down with it, you’re in it for the long haul, if not, it’s just not your thing. But our fans seem to be really into it so Kudos to you on that. We seem to be in a renaissance for dance music here in the US, which we haven’t seen for 10 or 15 years. What do you think is the state of US dance music and where do you think it’s headed?

AN: I am really excited for everything that is going on in dance music for the states, it’s about time we caught up (laughs). The predictions of electronic dance music, I try not to think too hard about these things. I tend to just follow my own creative flow and I like not knowing where it [the music] is going.

RK: You have “Bitchy Queen” that’s out right now, you have “Sex Tape Vol. 3″ which is out now, and you have Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival in Miami coming. Do you have any plans to be in Miami?

AN: I do, I’ll be in Miami for Ultra with Heineken. I’ll just be enjoying the music this year round and I’ll be there next year and for the rest of my life (laughs).

RK: As a fan and a performer, that is a great way to be.

AN: I definitely think that artists should stay fans, and just go out and do events, festivals, and clubs and be in the crowd and be a fan. We all started out fans so that I feel that if you lose that than you will lose part of your soul, of your creative genius.

RK: And a connection to the people who will ultimately be fans of yours.

AN: Exactly.

RK: Personally, what is next for you? What do we see in the future of Audrey Napoleon?

AN: I am Heineken’s 2012 Ambassador, so I will doing tours and shows with them and I plan on touring…the planet Earth(laughs). I am in the studio writing an EP which is due on April 1st which will be released on June 1st. Also, a monthly SexTape, I will also have another single with Carlos Martinez coming out next month, as well as another chapter to the short film. I will be doing everything humanly possible (laughs).

Audrey Napoleon’s “Sex Tape” mix series can be obtained at audreynapoleon.com, where she will also be premiering the next teasers in the 4-part short film based upon her music. You can also catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks”, Sundays at 10pm on X103, and is attempting to extend a face-to-face apology to Miss Napoleon at this year’s Ultra Music Festival.

Once again, the international dance music community is converging on Miami for the 2012 edition of Miami Music Week and Winter Music Conference. For 9 days, fans of dance music can sample a plethora of events ranging from technical expos, industry panels, posh club events and dirty basemet raves.

After a less-than-acrimonious split from Winter Music Conference last year, Ultra Music Festival returns to its true home as the culminating event of Winter Music Conference. This is fantastic news not only for fans and festival attendees, but for the labels and artists that want to showcase their talents during one of dance music’s most heralded events. As if this news wasn’t big enough, Ultra Music Festival made a major announcement last month, outlining details for Ultra Music Festival Worldwide. UMF Worldwide events in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Warsaw (Poland) and Seoul (South Korea) will augment the already popular Ultra Brasil, making UMF a worldwide brand. Ultra Miami 2012 hopes to set the bar for this year’s upcoming global events.

Following in the tradition of recent lineups, this year’s bill of fare ranges from the hottest of the hot (David Guetta, Skrillex, Kaskade) to the toast of the underground (Richie Hawtin) to some of electronic music’s foundation artists (New Order, Kraftwerk). Sporting 3 stages and close to 100 acts, Ultra Music Fesival promises to transform Miami’s Bayfront Park into dance music’s mecca March 23-25.

As with other festivals of this magnitude, smartphone apps for iPhone and Android are available that contain maps, custom scheduling, freidn groups, multimedia content, and much more. This yearr, specialty stages and arenas include:

  • Carl Cox & Friends (w/ Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice, Dubfire, and Jon Rundell, 3/23)
  • Carl Cox presents Cocoon (w/ Magda, Seth Troxler, Cassy, Yousef, and Maetrik, 3/24)
  • Armin van Buuren A State of Trance 550 (w/ ATB, Gareth Emery, Ferry Corsten, Dash Berlin, Sander van Doorn, Cosmin Gate, Tritonal, Jochen Miller, Marcus Schossow, and Eco, 3/25)
  • SPACE Ibiza (featuring John Digweed, Steve Lawler, Gui Boratto, Adam Beyer, Joris Voorn, Nic Fanciulli, Layo & Bushwacka!, Popof, Remo, and RioTGeaR, 3/25)
  • Annie Mac Presents… (w/ Busy P, Dillon Francis, Switch, Tensnake, Brodinski, Gesaffelstein, Nadastron, Sinden, and Jackmaster, 3/24)
  • UMF Worldwide (featuring Seth Troxler, James Jones, Damian Lazarus, Art Department, Lee Foss, Maya Jane Coles, Tale Of Us, Deniz Kurtel Live, REnato Ratier, Ammie Graves, and Christopher James, 3/25)
  • UMF Korea (featuring Wolfgang Gartner, Dada Life, Groove Armada DJ set, Dirty South, Porter Robinson, Madeon, Chris Lake, Michael Woods, and Tommy Trash, 3/23)
  • UMF Buenos Aires (featuring Nobody Beats The Drum, DJ Muggs, Camo & Krooked, Treasure Fingers, Alvin Risk, MiMOSA, Paper Diamond, and Kissy Sell Out, 3/23)
  • UMF Brasil (featuring Borgore, Datsik, Andy C, Pendulum DJ set, Flux Pavilion b2b Doctor P, 12th Planet, Zed’s Dead, Skream! & Benga, Mt. Eden, Big Chocolate, and High Contrast b2b Netsky, 3/24)

These are just the on-site activities, with nearly every hotel, club, and tucked-away hotspot in South Beach vying for top talent for the many afterparties that push the feeling well into the daylight hours. We’ll be providing on-site reports throughout the weekend in our exclusive coverage for Indymojo.com.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks“, Sundays at 10pm on X103, and is amped to put the band back together for one more run at Miami this weekend.

Ultra Music Festival 2012 Full Lineup

Friday, March 23 Saturday, March 24 Sunday, March 25
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Fans of bass music are well-advised to keep an eye on producer/performer Alex B., also known as Paper Diamond. His material seems custom-fit for the upcoming festival circuit, running the gamut from glitchy hip hop to dubstep rollers. That doesn’t mean his material and performances don’t translate to more intimate settings, as those that attended his bombshell show at the Bluebird in January can attest. Whatever the musical playground, Paper Diamond tunes are brilliantly crafted with equal parts groove, hook, and melody (a welcome change from the drop-heavy bass/beat tunes of the past couple of years). With dozens of releases under his belt (most freely available online) and a new batch of material poised for release, Paper Diamond is poised for a large 2012. We had an opportunity to chat during his travels to Miami for Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival to discuss his methods, live shows, and the thriving Boulder, CO music and arts scene.

RK: Let’s talk a little bit about your current material. There is something different going with Paper Diamond material compared to the current stuff that is coming out of the US, dubstep or bass/beat genre. What kinds of artists are influencing you to compose these kinds of pieces lately?

PD: I have been making music for a really long time and I am inspired by everything around me. That includes all the new music that has been coming out. I still listen to current music, but I love listening to all kinds of music including old soul and jazz records to the new dubstep records. All of my stuff (music) is a big conglomerate of my influences that are constantly changing. Then I infuse it (the music) with a sound that you can tell is mine. I like to have fun at the shows, I definitely make music that is fun for me and I can’t really control it. It (the tracks) comes out as is, and I pick out all the tracks that fit the Paper Diamond sound. I make all kinds of different music from rap beats, electronic music, hip-hop stuff, Indy songs and other types. For Paper Diamond, it’s a collection of all of the stuff that is very cohesive and makes sense to put into records. Not only are we representing with the records, but visually we are representing Paper Diamond. We have different artists and illustrators that do certain pieces; it’s bigger than just me, it’s a team working towards a common goal.

RK: That leads in perfectly to the next question. Your breadth of work does not center on one specific genre or area of music, is there a place that you feel more comfortable working more than any other?

PD: Nope. I grew up being a musician since I was 4 years old. I can play a multitude of instruments and have played in bands and done different styles of music all my life. I have done some offbeat stuff for a mix for Flying Lotus’s label and all kinds of stuff. It is all the same time to me. I make all kinds of music every day and I am constantly making music. I don’t know how the track is going start at any time. It might start with synth or on my drum machine. It may even start on the plane with my QWERTY keyboard, and then I go back to the studio to finish it. With the availability through technology and all the mobile processes how music is made now, it’s just crazy.

RK: Your live shows are starting become things of legend. You mentioned how you have a team of folks working with you to inform this live show, how has the show evolved over time?

PD: Currently it has changed in that we are building a new LED rig, which we will unveil after the new video content is done. Anyone who looks at the Paper Diamond stuff can see that I use a lot of really cool visual imagery that is custom done for the project. A lot of this imagery will be intertwined when you come to the shows and you see the video content that is being created. It shows that I am not making random content; it’s not screensaver-looking or anything like that. This is content that we are working specifically to coincide with the music. With the way that I perform currently, I use an iPad. I made a layout so I could control Ableton Live on stage, just like I would with another midi-controller. Since I am constantly traveling and flying so much, it’s a constant movement from place to place. If your midi-controller gets lost or broken you have to find a Guitar Center, but if my iPad gets lost or stolen… I can just go buy a new one, plug it in and I am ready to rock the show… It is out of necessity, but I also enjoy it because I am able to move around on stage. I don’t have to be hunched over a table. I feel like its slightly innovative and it is certainly more fun for me. Right now that is what I am doing, so we move into the next stage of the show. We are always on the lookout for new stuff. I am always trying to push music forward and still try to keep a melodic background and still have nice concepts and ideas that go into the music. It’s really all about intentions.

RK: That actually spawns into a couple questions, the creative process that you have with the video artists: Is it two-way, are there times when your video artists provide material to you that you compose to and vice versa?

PD: Sure, There are times when I have made sound effects. That is something I could certainly do when I get older and I ever decide to work in sound design that is something I could be good at. Right now we are focusing on making music videos. So when you ask what is coming in the near future, right after Ultra I am going to head to down to New Orleans and film a new music video for a new single that we have coming out. I have a couple new EP’s in the works. We have couple new videos coming out with Elusive Media that does stuff with Eclipse, Kanye, Pharell and Lupe and they are going to be shooting the new video with me in New Orleans. We have all that stuff going on, including some new remixes. We have a really big announcement about the next release coming up soon. I will be at SXSW, Ultra, Hangout festival, and at a festivals all over the country.

RK: Coming back to the other question that I had, there seems to be this movement towards more song structure in a lot of the bass-beat music. I have particularly noticed this in your material, where it is not all about the build, break, and the bass drop. There seems to be a lot more traditional song structure, with more focus on melody and lyrical content. Could you speak to that a little bit?

PD: It’s all about change. Everything is changing and right now and for me personally, I am enjoying writing songs. For my new EP, I have been singing the lyrics, concepts, and melodies to the singers and having them reproduce that onto the track. I have been working with some singers where they actually write the lyrics, but some of the songs I am just directing these singers with their voices and instruments, which is awesome because these singers I have been working with are amazing. It has been fun, as oppose to previous groups that were instrumental bands or doing beats under the name Alex B., etc.. I am really getting to write full songs. I spent several years learning how to make melody with music without lyrics on it, so now to be able to do that like it’s the back of my hand and then to be able to put that extra layer of another concept on top of it is really fun for me right now… It also leaves room for collaborations. I was just down in the studio in New Orleans working with Mannie Fresh for a little bit.

RK: Oh wow…

PD: We are going to do more stuff. I was tweeting back and forth with him the other day. He just signed with Good Music, Kanye’s label. So I don’t know, we will see what happens. I am definitely going back to New Orleans and trying to work some more. I am really excited with the collaborations that are about to start happening.

RK: Now you are working in New Orleans, do you find that there is a specific “vibe” that you tend to adopt based on where you are trying to create some of this music; does the location really influence what you are doing?

PD: Well yeah of course like I said before, everything inspires the music I am making. Like I said, I make all kinds of stuff. When I was sitting in the studio with Mannie, I was playing some rap stuff and some of my electronic stuff. When a couple of my rap ones came on, one of Mannie’s people said “you sound like you from down here”.

RK: (laughs).

PD: I can make all kinds of different stuff and it’s exciting to do all those things. I think a lot of where electronic music is, there are no boundaries so we can do anything so it’s pretty dope.

RK: Some of your recent material has come out on Pretty Lights label, are you still based out of Colorado?

PD: Yeah I have a house, and my other record label, which I co-own, and gallery in Boulder, Colorado called Elm and Oaks.

RK: Wow that I was not aware of. The crossover between music and art is probably stronger now that it has been in a really long time.

PD: Yeah, I did release Levitate on Pretty Lights label and I am good friends with all the people on Pretty Lights music and it’s really awesome. Besides that there is a group of young artists that I am helping push through Elm and Oak, and Elm and Oak (makes) exclusive limited merchandise and one-of-a-kinds. So that acts as sort of a management company and a booking agency and a record label. We are just helping these young artists. For Example the band Two Fresh, they just went out and did 40 shows with Skrillex. We co-managed them, we put out their music, and I helped master their music. With bands like Cherub, who are going down to SXSW as we speak, and are doing shows internationally. We have a lot of stuff going on with Elm and Oak as well, and it’s really exciting. We are having an art show in the gallery this evening. When people come to Colorado or Boulder, it’s definitely a destination spot. It has become a centralized place where people can see the new clothes and hear new music. Usually there a lot of artists and producers just hanging out in the shop, so it’s a place where when we were talking about the Colorado music scene, we also doing Colorado art and combining it and giving people a place to see that kind of stuff.

RK: Two-Fresh played here on the Mothership Tour and definitely turned a lot of heads. They were one the acts that definitely surprised a lot of people. Kudos to you for helping push them and helping get them out there they way that you have. Being in Colorado and being around this very vibrant music scene there in Boulder, and being close to Denver which also has another very, very strong electronic music scene. It’s obviously had a great effect on what you have been able to do, how has been around so many talented artists kind of pushed you develop your skills and push your art form forward.

PD: Because everyone has cool ideas, and that’s the thing with all the Colorado musicians is like we generally feel that there is room for everybody. The guys in Big Gigantic are out doing their thing and they are really close friends of mine. I started making music with Dominic when he was starting that group.

RK: Wow.

PD: With Big Gigantic and Savoy who are in a different kind of world of things and they are killing it also. All of us are just friends and so we are talking about collaborations and all this stuff. I think Colorado has a lot to offer musically. You find all these little pockets of musicians, and they all start supporting each other and then music gets out because these people all know that their music is really good, so they start supporting each other as a team. That is when things really start happening.

RK: Big Gigantic played a show here last Friday at the Vogue Theatre, and people are still talking about it. It was absolutely fantastic. They are great representatives of the Colorado music scene…

PD: Thank you sir.

RK: You are certainly a great representative of the Colorado music scene. We are glad to support and glad to see the new material. You are going to be at Miami music week, as well as the big summer festival season. What’s your most recent piece that you are actively promoting?

PD: We have a slew of new singles that came out, and literally I just finished two EP’s back to back, so we are making release plans for those right now.

RK: The PROLIFIC Paper Diamond.

PD: Yes sir… You can check out all my stuff at paper-diamond.com, orwww.facebook.com/paperdiamond, or www.twitter.com/paperdiamond. I am usually really good at hitting people back on Twitter or Facebook, I generally like to interact with people so that’s where you can find all my music or elmandoaks.com, and I look forward to coming back.

Paper Diamond is currently on the road, with appearances at the Lift Festival on 3/17 and at Ultra Music Festival on 3/23.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer for “Hit The Decks” (Sundays @ 10pm on X103), and is grateful for the interns that handle the heavy-lifting on interview transcription.

Paavo Siljamaki, Jono Grant, and Tony McGuinness have had quite a year. As British trance act Above & Beyond, they saw their most recent album, Group Therapy, get tagged by Mixmag as “artist album of the year” for 2011, broadcast their milestone 400th episode of their “Trance Around The World” radio program, and collected 4 International Dance Music Award nominations, including Best Trance Record (for “Sun & Moon”) and Best Artist/Group. Not content to sit on their laurels, they also launched the Group Therapy Sessions tour, which emotively integrates visual and song to create DJ-set-as-theater.

Longtime fans and newcomers alike are in for a treat tonight when Above & Beyond load into the Bluebird and present their Group Therapy Sessions, as the tour swings through Bloomington on its inevitable trek to Miami for Winter Music Conference in late March. We got a few minutes to chat with Paavo Siljamaki ahead of tonight’s show to talk about the album, the creative process and the effort at bringing the Group Therapy Sessions to the stage.

Rudy: Congrats on the success of “Group Therapy”. Mixmag gave it 5-stars and called it “artist album of the year” for 2011. It peaked at #49 on the UK album charts. What was your first indication that you were working on something special with “Group Therapy”?

Paavo: There was a moment a month or so before finishing the album that it suddenly started making sense, but really it was when we started hearing how the music had become part of people’s lives around the world that it really sank in.

Rudy: You worked with some fantastic vocalists – Richard Bedford (Sun &Moon), Zoe Johnston (Love Is Not Enough), Miguel Bose (Sea Lo Que Sea Sera). Is it black magic, or did you try to surround yourself with talented people for this project?

Paavo: Vocals have always been so important in our music that we want them tosound not only good but distinctive, and people like Richard, Zoe, Miguel as well as Justine Suissa all have truly magnificent voices andsing with so much emotion.

Rudy: Your label, Anjunabeats, has been really busy lately. Talk a little about the label’s recent releases.

Paavo: It’s been a really interesting year at Anjunabeats as the sound of themusic we release keeps evolving and more and more of our artists are working on albums which gives them more freedom for expression.

Rudy: Any new material (remix or otherwise) forthcoming from Above & Beyond?

Paavo: We’re going to continue releasing artist albums and compilations inthroughout 2012: look out for an artist album from Mat Zo, Anjunadeep 04, and the club mixes of the songs from Group Therapy.

Rudy: You’re back at Marquee Dayclub in Las Vegas with a monthly residency in 2012. How was that first show on the 29th?

Paavo: We were really happy we managed to bring our show to Vegas and the Marquee Club is really starting to feel like home now.We’re looking forward to coming back for some more Group Therapy at the Cosmopolitan that just the right amount of wrong to make it special.

Rudy: The Group Therapy Tour is being described as “concert theater”, due to the pairing of song and visuals to tell a story. Who did you work with to bring this experience to the stage? Any particular technology issues that have proven challenging?

Paavo: We quite quickly realized that we wanted the visual side of the show to feel like extension of the music and help the impact of the music.Having formed a clear idea of what we wanted we found a video production team to help visualise our show for us. At the same time we were working with our lighting and production designers to improve our stage designs and light show so it would be as effective as possible.

We wanted a show that would help people connect with the music and us better, and are thrilled with the result, but are still continuing improving it every time we play a gig. Technologically our biggest challenge was to find a way we could synchronize our visuals with a set that keeps changing without having to produce bespoke visuals foreach track. We ended up using a highly customized setup that’s now able to do this for us as well from small venues to stadiums.

Rudy: You’re on the road with the first leg of the “Group Therapy” tour. It stops at the Bluebird in Bloomington on Feb. 7. How does the new show translate from big stage to small?

Paavo: We’ve worked really hard with our show to make sure that regardless of the size of the venue we can still give people a show that touches them in some way. The bloomington show will be one of the smaller productions but we’re coming with a trailer full of toys to make the night as special as possible.

Rudy: You may have some first-timers at that show – do your best to sum up the Above & Beyond live experience in a handful of words.

Paavo: A Group Therapy Session is all about sharing our love for the same music with likeminded people.

Rudy: The Group Therapy Tour stops in Bloomington on Tuesday and continues through March and WMC. Congrats on your 4 IMDA nominations, including Best Artist. Hope to see you down in Miami.

Paavo: Thanks, see you in Miami!

Above & Beyond are at the Bluebird tonight. Tickets available through Ticketmaster or the Bluebird Box Office.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks” on X103, Sundays from 10-midnight.

For Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, founding members of the downtempo collective Thievery Corporation, juxtaposing sexy, slithering beats and melodies against strong political and social commentary has become second nature. Don’t sleep – this isn’t your run-of-the-mill raging against the machine. Thievery Corporation more subtle, and in some ways, more dangerous than that. Six studio albums, remixes too numerous to mention and a keen ear for finding the groove have made Thievery Corporation one of the foundation bands of the lounge and downtempo genres.

For the past 15 years, Thievery corporation have been creating electronica-as-art, deftly gliding from musical style to musical style to create rhythms that make you bob your head as well as check it. The Washington, DC-based crew is set to light the night on fire this evening when they take the stage at North Coast Music Festival, in support of their latest album, Culture of Fear, out now on ESL Music. Rob Garza was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to talk about touring, politics, insane shows they’ve played, and the Thievery Corporation live show in this exclusive interview for Indymojo.com

RK: It’s been 15 years since the release of your first couple of 12″ singles, “Shaolin Satellite” and “2001: a Spliff Odyssey”. Do you recognize the band that recorded those singles, since Thievery Corporation’s sound has evolved into such a complex entity now?

RG: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy to think about that. We started off as just two guys in the studio with, kind of very minimal equipment, making this records. I don’t think we ever intended to really have a career making music. We’re still here 15 years later and we travel around now. We’re like a 15-piece band when you consider all the singers and everybody, so it’s really grown and snowballed into something that we never expected.

RK: Wow – 15 members on stage at one time has got to be a bit hectic when you’re trying to put travel schedules together and such.

RG: It is, but it also makes it fun because it’s like a circus, you know, and there’s so many characters and people… from different parts of the world, different ages. It’s like a big family and it’s a lot of fun.

RK: You guys are from the Washington, DC area. As DC natives, your proximity to the seat of power in this country has had an obvious influence on the messages in your material. Talk a little bit about the creative climate in DC and how politics has affected the way you guys work.

RG: Well, I think we grew up in a time where the DC punk rock scene and bands like Minor Threat and Discord Records were very popular in that region, anyways. They sort of rubbed off on us. We always… want to take advantage of the fact that we own our own record label and can talk about issues that are socially conscious and kind of get people to reflect on what’s happening in the world. So, I think that we take the opportunity to present that throughout our music but that’s not the whole thing about our music. There’s so many different messages and styles and genres and things that people can jump into.

RK: Certainly. Thievery Corporation’s sound has evolved. You’ve taken some pretty strong political stances, beginning with “Richest Man In Babylon” through “Cosmic Game”, “Radio Retaliation” and now with “Culture of Fear”. Of particular interest is the IMF rant after the Vampires performance at Lollapalooza 2009. What was the catalyst for you and Eric to start making such bold statements through your music and continuing on to the social commentary present on “Culture of Fear”?

RG: Well, I think the catalyst was after 9/11 we started questioning why , exactly, are we going to war in these particular places and what is all this extra security about and who does the war on terror benefit? The military-industrial complex and things like that… Living in DC, you kind of get to see what happens behind the scenes. A lot of people think that all these big organizations are about doing great deeds for the world but there’s a big bureaucracy behind all that and a lot of money that comes into weapons and creating havoc in other places.

RK: Not to mention monitoring of our own populace, right?

RG: (laughs) Yeah, exactly. So, I think that just seeing that and being there, you’re more focused on what’s happening throughout the world. If you’re some place like LA, you’re probably more media-focused or if you live in other parts of the world – different cities have their attention pointed towards different things and in Washington, it happens to be towards politics and policy.

RK: As we talk about Thievery Corporation’s music, it’s really difficult to try and categorize or pigeonhole what you do because there are elements of boss nova, dub reggae, hip hop, jazz and funk sprinkled throughout your material. The question, as a DJ, that I have to know is how deep is your record collection and what artists do you tend to turn to for inspiration when you’re creating new material for the catalog?

RG: (laughs) Our record collections run pretty deep. and we have a big love for vinyl… I think we look towards a lot of older music for inspiration and I think that, probably in the late 60’s-early 70’s, you had a lot of cross-pollenating of ideas, and people were mixing styles and genres. Rock bands exploring eastern music, jazz, cinematic soundtrack writers experimenting with all these different sounds. For us, that open-mindedness has permeated what we do.

RK: Now, with the influence of technology in electronic music, do you feel like a certain amount of that is being lost because you just can’t get some of those big band sounds and live band sounds any more, or has it made the artistic process a little bit easier for you?

RG: I think it’s a combination of both. In some ways it makes it easier because, now, you don’t have to actually have an orchestra to do that. But, in a way, that’s also a negative thing because you used to have these orchestras that would just create these beautiful sounds – I’m talking about things that were in movies and soundtracks and things like that – that are just really triply and people don’t really even think of making records that way. So, it’s a lost art… Electronic music has enabled us to express things that we never would have been able to do without the technology, so it’s a plus-and-minus situation.

RK: You’ve collaborated with a number of very famous artists in the industry, such as Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Perry Farrell, and most recently Mr. Lif and Femi Cuti on “Culture of Fear”. How have you managed the process of inviting or granting these collaborative efforts that you’ve put on so many of these great records that you’ve done?

RG: Well, you know, it just kind of happens really randomly. Like, I think the first time we met the Flaming Lips, we were doing a festival in Iceland and we were all snowmobiling on top of a glacier. We kind of just met each other there, and then played some shows together. We just asked them one day if they’d like to collaborate on a song and they were into it. David Byrne is someone we did a remix for back in like ’97. People like Fem Cuti, we reached out to him, and he was totally up for it. Mr. Lif – someone who’s work we admired and we’d played with before, and so we just decided to give him a ring. You know, it can really come about any possible way.

RK: Yeah, that Mr. Lif track just lit that record on fire… I now you’ve done some really big shows, some of the biggest festivals n the world. One show in particular that comes to mind is, back in 2009, you opened for Sir Paul McCartney at Fedex Field in DC. How did that come about and what was that experience like? That had to be a bit crazy…

RG: That was a DJ gig and they called us last-minute and were like “would you like ot open for PaulMcCartney?”

RK: (laughs)

RG: You don’t even have to think when someone asks you a question like that. We were like “uh, YES.” (laughs)

RK: “let me check my schedule and see if I can pencil you in”

RG: Yeah. “uh, maybe not” (laughs). So, we did it but they were like “the day before, Paul McCartney is going to be there and he wants to meet you and say ‘hello'”, and we were like “uh… OK?” (laughs) We went, we met Paul McCartney. Never, when we started this, did we ever think that, you know, you’d meet a Beatle by doing this, much less opening for one. So that was a really… INSANE experience. It was very surreal.

RK: That’s some heavyweight shit right there (laughs).

RG: TOTALLY heavyweight shit.

RK: So you’ve got a big weekend this weekend, with a set at North Coast Music Festival in Chicago, and and after-party at the Congress Theater. You mentioned the 16 band members on stage, and that leads me into this question. How do you translate the Thievery Corporation sound from recordings to the live setting?

RG: Well, with a lot of the music, especially in the past 10 years, we’ve played a lot fo the instruments ourselves and it’s a very organic side of the music… It’s actually quite easy to translate that and you have all the electronic aspects and it’s just a way of making things even bigger and fuller and more explosive and energetic when we’re onstage.

RK: Is it more improvisational in the live setting, or do you try to stay pretty strict to the recorded material?

RG: No, it’s become more improvisational… During some songs, for instance, our bass player might drop in the bass line from Chuck Brown’s “Busting Loose”. On an instrumental jam we have, the band just might go off in a completely different direction, so it’s really fun… We have a drummer with us now, which is making it even more tight.

Thievery Corporation are touring currently, playing North Coast Music Festival this evening and the Congress Theater after-party with Lyrics Born featuring Lateef.

Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks”, airing Sundays at 10pm on X103.

Video from the title track to the new Glitch Mob EP.

If you don’t have your tickets to Identity Festival (Indianapolis) yet, GO HERE and get them for $20. The special [...]

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