Lars Warn is something of a DJ and producer wunderkind. Still only in his early 20s, he's lived and performed in places throughout the country, including California, New York and Florida. More important, his wealth of musical knowledge is impressive and would be for a DJ of any age, with a versatility that sees him spinning a variety of niche genres. From the earliest days of proper dubstep to the deepest reaches of techno to Baltimore club, Warn has done a lot more than dabble in the far corners of dance music. For this week's mixtape Warn dives deep into a few subgenres of South African dance music for a mix unlike anything we have heard here in the mixtape series.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been DJing?
Warn: I started DJing when I was going to college in Massachusetts when I was 16, so going on seven years. I am originally from Northern California so during that time I was playing a lot of hyphy. I was also introduced to dubstep then, before it had become a dirty word. Diary of an Afro Warrior was my favorite album during that period of time. I was DJing college parties that are really funny to look back on now but they were always a lot of fun. I took a few years off to focus on production and started DJing again when I moved to Tampa Bay, where it took a long time to develop a rapport with the local scene.
What kind of equipment did you use?
I never owned any equipment because I was pretty transient during that period of time so I was always learning on any equipment I could get my hands on. I had a monthly party for a bit where we would play anything from dancehall to happy hardcore to Baltimore club, and eventually I got involved with one of the longer running weekly electronic music parties in St. Petersburg. By that time I was completely comfortable DJing on anything put in front of me.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix is mostly tracks that I’ve been playing out a lot recently that have a heavy equatorial and summer vibe to them. When I was in Florida I began playing more dancehall and tropical sounding stuff and this mix is a sort of an homage to that. The mix is mostly comprised of Gqom, Azonto and Semba, as well as some Kuduro and Raptor House. I’ve been playing a lot of these genres throughout the last few years but have been recently fascinated most by Gqom, a really spooky sub-division of South African house music that is extremely dark and minimal. Always have to throw some U.K. Funky in there as well.
What DJs or producers had a profound impact on you?
The list of my favorite producers changes quite a bit, but recently my favorite producers have included Amnesia Scanner, TCF, Lit Internet and Kadahn. All of these artists are creating cutting edge music that doesn’t fit within what I see as conventional genre definition. When I saw Rabit play at SXSW he dropped an Amnesia Scanner track which was an extremely important moment for me to hear as a DJ. It really redefined what kind of sound or aesthetic was acceptable within the club. My longest held influence though has always been Suba, also known as Mitar Subotic, who was my introduction to electronic music at a young age.
What interests you about him?
I was really fascinated by his extensive catalog of work as well as being from Serbia and still having an extremely fundamental role in the development of Brazilian electronic music. To me he’s a great role model given the rise in attention surrounding the ease of the appropriation of musical subcultures during the Internet age, as he had a crucial contribution to a specific sub-culture as an outsider without shamelessly appropriating everything he touched.
What is your relationship with techno?
I was going to techno shows in NYC when I was 16 without really having the knowledge of what techno was or even really what house music was at the time. I steadily began to understand the nuances of the genre and its many subdivisions as time went on. In Florida a lot of DJs chose to jump on what I think of as reimagined early 2000s garage that is given the misnomer ‘deep house.' Techno was a really great way to combat that banality. The darker the techno, the better — especially the more percussive stuff... My dream is to see Jeff Mills play with a symphony and ideally it would be in August at this festival in Poland that is held in an abandoned mine shaft. It doesn’t get more techno than that to me.
How long have you been producing music?
I have been producing since I was 14. I had saved up for a Tascam USB audio interface so that I could record myself playing bass and it came with Cubase. Inevitably I taught myself how to work in a DAW through Cubase and migrated to Ableton years later when I realized that my work flow was much faster in Ableton. I used to be a jazz bassist but my focus on production and composition has proved much more fruitful in my [other] musical ventures than with jazz.
What other genres or artists do you like to listen to outside of dance music?
I like to listen to video game soundtracks. I’m trying to delve into the field so I spend a lot of time getting a grasp on the soundscapes involved. Lorn, one of my longtime favorite producers, really proved to me that you can be dynamically involved in commercial projects (with his scoring of Killzone) while retaining your identity as an artist. I also listen to a lot of Tibetan throat singing and Gregorian chant at work. For some reason completely organic vocal work really appeals to me as it’s somewhat the exact opposite of everything I do with electronic music. It’s good to strike a balance between the two.
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Do you have a preference between DJing and production?
I consider myself more of an introvert so I do enjoy the role production has to offer me. I have always treated production as something I need to exercise, similar to the chops that I developed as a bass player. If I don’t at least open Ableton once a day I feel like I’m losing headway in making progress in my productions. The bacchanalia of DJing is a lot more fun but it is a lot less fulfilling for me than production work.
What is in your near future as a producer or DJ?
This weekend I have a few shows lined up in New York City, playing a BBQ daytime party on Saturday with my friends Celestial Trax, Spurz, Knomad, Geng PTP and Mel G Teklife as well as playing an art show on Sunday. I have an EP coming out soon via Guangzhou Underground, a label based out of Southern China that I’m really excited to be working with; previews are going to be posted for the EP sometime this week... Other than that I’m working on getting out to Europe and hopefully out to Asia sometime next year and working on some remixes as well as some audio / visual projects that are very much in the early stages of production.
Celestial Trax - Piece by Piece
Isilo - Master Millz feat. Champ
Puro Wi - Rapido Pam Pisa (Lars Warn Bootleg)
Deejay Yudifox - Quadradinho Remix 2015
Supraman - Headspace
Rudeboyz - Sambuka Dance
Mista Silva - Goes Down (Lars Warn Bootleg)
Akito - Metamessage (Alternate Mix)
Funk Butcher - Ghana Riddim Dub
Spooky - Talkin' Funky
Mo Tello DZC - Sakura (Feat 2Pekes)
Deejay Yudifox - Isso e que e Vida Parte 2
Dotorado - African Scream
Ckrono & Slesh - Hebe
Mele - Dusty
Songstress - Whine (Lars Warn Bootleg)
Clap!Clap! - Tambacounda's Black Magic
Lars Warn - Untitled Azonto
Wen - Swingin' (LDN Mix)
Omar & Zed Bias - Dancing (K15 Remix)
Lighter - Skanker
Lars Warn - Untitled Drum Track 130
Lewis CanCut - Circles
Benga - 26 Basslines (L-Vis 1990 Dubble Step Edit)
X KRAS - Pista 13
Dj Baba - Elegua Remix
Gordovich - El Ritmo del Gordo
Dj Firmeza & Dj Liofox - Numarky
Dj Ketchup - O Babo
Dj Marfox - Radio Oxigenio
Dj Nedwyt Fox - Hino Dos Mil Mambos
Dj Lilocox - Azubayo
Kakarot - Port Harcourt (Shriekin's Orchestral Remix)
Lit Internet - Aeon (Ft. 4bidden)
Lars Warn - Abyssian Lovebird