Robert Taylor has been a key figure in the Dallas DJ scene since the 1990s. As one of the core members of the legendary Hazy Daze Collective, he helped set the bar for underground dance parties. Then he went on to a fruitful partnership with DJ Red Eye as Cold Comfort Farm, before heading into well-deserved semi-retirement after two decades of full-time deejaying.
Taylor is best known for house music, but he also has encyclopedic knowledge of other genres including punk and shoegaze. That knowledge is on full display in his mixtape this week, which focuses on deep cuts from the early '90s club scene, when "Madchester" was a buzz word and Andrew Weatherall was remixing every decent band coming out of the U.K.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started deejaying?
Robert Taylor: I got into music at a very early age. I think I bought my first record when I was about 7 or 8 years old. From then on my school friends and I would throw parties and I was always the one to bring music. As I got older this kept happening and I made some new friends with similar interests. We started a mobile DJ company in Wichita Falls. And from there, at the age of 15, I got my first professional DJ gig. And I've been doing it ever since.
You're pretty much the definition of a veteran DJ. What is your take on how deejaying has changed over the past two decades?
I've had many discussions on this topic with many different people. When I was 15, if I'd had the technology that is available today I would've used it. Some people give me a hard time for embracing technology and new tools. It doesn't bother me much. I still know I'm a good DJ, so who cares what tools I use. Don't get me wrong, I have a huge vinyl collection. I love it, but I also have Serrato, effects and controllers, and even music software. I use them all.
How did you get involved with Hazy Daze?
I met two fellows from Colorado named Ian and Sean in the early '90s. They had heard that we had a pretty great electronic dance scene in Dallas, so they came here to be a part of it. Cle, Hipp-e and myself were already throwing underground parties under the name of Good Vibe Tribe. Hipp-e moved away and Cle and I became the main Hazy Daze DJs. From there we just kept adding more and more people, and finally became the Hazy Daze Collective.
How did you get involved with Red Eye and form Cold Comfort Farm?
When I moved to Dallas from Wichita Falls, I really didn't know many people except my roommate Mike. Mike and I went to a weekly guest DJ night at the bar next to the Inwood Theater. That's the first night I met Scotty [Canfield, aka DJ Red Eye]. We hit it off like we had known each other forever after just a few minutes. He's been one of my best friends, roommates and working partners since then.
Cold Comfort Farm is something we came up with to try to break the established rules of what people expected from Dallas DJs. We had weekly club nights, we released DJ mixes, and we've even done remixes for other people. The whole idea was to mix things up: no genre, no pretense, no telling what we would do. Cold Comfort Farm had a certain chemistry that I think we might've enjoyed more than other people.
Scotty and I are always crazy, and usually get up to no good when we are together. Regardless, it was always good tunes, laughing and dancing a lot.
I think we might've been ahead of the curve a little bit with that project. We may do something in the future together; I'm not sure. Scottie is still one of my best friends though.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
Yeah, this is a set of mixes. They are a trilogy. I made them actually for people asking for music I played mostly at my hometown club, 724ad in Wichita Falls. This is the music I played there.
I was about 19 years old when I started there and left right before I turned 21. There will be another trilogy of all the house music I played from that era as well coming soon. I was in several record pools, on quite a few mailing list for major record labels, and of course I did a lot of record digging and shopping. There are a lot of selections on these mixes that may be different or unreleased versions of tracks that never got publicly released.
I also edited every song to put my own personal stamp on them. I converted many of these tracks from my own personal vinyl collection. I had to do a lot of cleaning up and editing the music with software. The mix was polished up and rendered on my computer as well.
How big is your vinyl collection nowadays?
There came a point quite a while back when I just lost count and I couldn't even give you a guess. I will say, before I moved, my collection took up a whole, good-sized bedroom. I trimmed some of the bulk down before I moved and got rid of about a third of it. The rest I still have here with me — mostly in storage, but coming home crate-by-crate. I don't recommend trying to move it by yourself, and if you want to keep your friends, don't ask them to help move it either.
Where do you like to dig for new music?
A funny thing about me: I'm not a musical purist in anyway. So the places I find music can be almost anywhere, from the chain music stores to your indie dance shop. I've even found very rare or collectible records at places like resale stores and pawn shops. If I see records anywhere I'm going to dig, no matter who's with me or how much time we have.
You are largely known for house music. Are there other genres you would like to play more of?
I have played a lot of house music for sure. I was also a major part of the landing pad hi-fi crew under the DJ moniker of Eyeseedreams, which was the chill-out department of the Hazy Daze Collective.
I like really obscure and weird stuff too. I collect and make mixes of that music under another moniker: U-GENE. And anyone who knows me knows I have my rock 'n' roll side too. I even had a rock 'n' roll weekly DJ gig in Dallas for a while. That was actually one of my favorites.
What non-dance music has been catching your ears lately?
There's a lot of music that I have been getting into that I referred to as too hipster to be hipster. It's just really artists on independent labels that you don't hear on the radio. There again, no particular zone, just anything that seems interesting to me. There are names for all these genres and sub-genres, but I really don't care about that, just as long as I like it.
Is there a track that you always come back to as a DJ?
I guess there are probably several. This list is as crazy as I am. One might be "Hypnosis" by Psychotropic; strangely enough "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division; and a lot of the early Todd Terry stuff like "A Day in the Life" or "The Circus."
As far as more house music, I guess the original def mix of Robert Owens' "I'll Be Your Friend" ... and believe it or not, "Blue Monday" by New Order and "Numbers" by Kraftwerk mix well in modern house or techno sets.
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Just a personal note, if you're new to deejaying, being successful doesn't happen by yourself. Keep a support system of friends and never burn bridges when you're working — especially out of ego. Also talk to, share information, and get involved with as many other DJs as you possibly can, even if you have very different taste.
Sinead O'Connor - "I Am Stretched on Your Grave (Apple Brightness Mix)"
Promised Land - "Something in the Air (Blood Brothers Mix)"
Stereo Mcs - "Connected (Future Sound of London Mix)"
Juliee Cruise - "Rocking Back Inside My Heart (Tibetan 12’’ Mix)"
St. Etienne - "Only Love Can Break Your Heart (A Mix of Two Halves – Andrew Weatherall)
St. Etienne - "Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Original Mix)"
BBG - "Some Kind of Heaven (Elevation Mix)"
BBG - "Some Kind of Heaven (Heavenly Mix)
Happy Mondays - "Step On (Twistin’ My Melon Mix)"
The Orb - "Little Fluffy Clouds (Tenaglia's Downtempo Groove)
Sheer Taft - "Cascades (Hyonotone Mix)"
Botany 5 - "Love Bomb (Slam Mix)"
The Sun Electric - "O’Locco (Kama Sutra Mix)"
Happy Mondays - "Bob's Yer Uncle (Perfecto Mix)"
The Mock Turtles - "Can You Dig It (Steve Proctor Remix)"
The Mock Turtles - "Can You Dig It (Steve Proctor Dub)"
Primal Scream - "Come Together (Hypnotone Brain Machine Mix)"
My Bloody Valentine - "Glider (Andrew Weatherall Remix)"
Westbam - "Alarm Clock (Original 12”)"
Blur - "There’s No Other Way (Move Mix)"
The Fall - "Telephone Thing (12’’ Extended Mix)"
if - "Saturday's Angels (Mr. Monday Mix)"
L.U.P.O. - "Keep It Up (Bongo Rework)"
L.U.P.O. - "Keep It Up (Guitar Mix)"
L.U.P.O. - "Keep It Up (Extended Club 12’’)"
Massive Attack - "Unfinished Sympathy (Paul Oakenfold Mix)"
Mr. Fingers - "What About This Love (Even Deeper Mix)"
The Stone Roses - "Fools Gold (Top Won Mix)"
Raw Unltd. - "In My Heart (Apollo 440 Dub Mix)"
Raw Unltd. - "Kinda Groovy (Psychotropic Mix)"