Quad Fifty is the techno/bass alias for Ernesto Ikerd. As a member of the DJ crew The Guild, Quad Fifty has been holding down sets informed by a deep knowledge of electronic and experimental music. His two decades spent exploring the outer edges of the electronic trenches gives him a distinct advantage in his track selections. For this week's Mixtape, Quad Fifty raises an already high bar for Dallas techno DJs with choice cuts that sound more like Berlin nightlife than anything you would expect to hear in this part of the country. He still manages to end his mix with a track from local techno pioneer Convextion.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been at it?
Quad Fifty: I started with vinyl and turntables in my 20s but switched to Traktor when it came out. This was as a lone bedroom musician making mixtapes; I had no concept of actually playing live for anyone. Then in 2010 when I started DJing parties for people, I was technically prepared. From that point on its been learning the psychology of the dance floor, and of party-making in general. Now me and my DJ crew and camp, The Guild, have a weekly residency at the Red Light Lounge in Deep Ellum every Thursday.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This mix was made using tracks that I played last month at our Red Light weekly. I did a tag set downstairs with Ja-mez Mickg where we decided to play only techno. Now techno gets a bad rap for not holding a dancefloor in Dallas, but downstairs at RL is a lot more experimental than playing upstairs. We focused on playing our favorite tracks and lo and behold we had a great floor full of happy people. It was exhilarating. So not a live recording, but these are the tracks I played.
What DJs or producers had a profound impact on you?
For me it starts with IDM so Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre/Gescom. Also Legowelt/Danny Wolfers, Ed DMX, Hyraulix, Mark Broom, Ben Klock. In my mind lately? Stuff like DJ Stingray, I-F, Mark Archer, Wolfgang Voight, Otto von Schirach, Blawan, Shed, Mike Dehnert, Graze, Gesloten Cirkel, Bambounou, Space Dimension Controller, 2562, Go Hiyama. I have to stop or I'll explode; this list covers the basics I can think of now.
What is your preferred genre to operate in?
In the early days I played a lot of house & tech house along with heaps of ghetto bass and electro. I obviously love techno, and here in Dallas I've always identified primarily with the techno heads. There's a house scene too but I don't tend to interact much with them. With my Quad Fifty project, my focus is party friendly bass music, but light on the trap sounds you normally might hear. Instead, I try to veer towards electro. And lately I've been completely infatuated with Miami bass. I've also gotten back into playing Latin bass stuff like cumbia and reggaeton.
What do you see yourself doing as Quad Fifty specifically?
Quad Fifty means to take these mentioned influences and kind of be a no-holds barred banger factory. Man OK, that's hard to say with a straight face, but I'm having good luck playing that for people. They're loving it. I'm VERY lucky that I get to sort of battle test these ideas each week in a nightclub and I'm heavily influenced by what works on the dancefloor vs what doesnt. I'm using all the tricks I've learned - and that's what this Quad Fifty stuff is all about.
Do you buy vinyl?
I do. I don't think that will ever go away, but I don't make it a point to try to perform with vinyl. I admire anyone who does — the immediacy and authenticity is profound — but I'm pretty happy doing what I do in a digital domain. When I start releasing some of my production material, I plan to have some dub plates cut, but only for fun. Also there are still many classic releases that only are available on wax (like cool Italo disco stuff), so I'll always have a turntable or two at home.
How did you get involved with The Guild?
I was actually one of the founding members back in 2011. We all had similar philosophies about music, parties, culture and, frankly, social media. We decided to all camp together and it's been that way ever since. We've been a "sound camp" since day one, dedicated to bringing the best sound systems to burn events, providing a place for people to dance. And now that we have this weekly outside of burn events, the 8 Guild DJs are dedicated towards making that a success, and we are up at the club every week taking the privilege very seriously. In the end, The Guild is just a very tight-knit family, and it raises eyebrows along with rumors of our wild private parties. But I can assure you it's all hype and exaggeration; our private parties are very tame and everyone is in bed by 9 p.m. on normal nights.
What is your relationship with burner culture?
It basically taught me that there were deeper ways to connect with people, and that I've grown a lot as a person by interacting with burner culture. At least twice a year, I spend five days camping with my little dancey camp tribe. We drag out a massive sound system, tents, generators, camp kitchen and bacon and then proceed to play music the entire time. When it's over we take it all down, leave no trace and drop back into reality. It's so shocking people have to decompress at a different party almost right away — then The Guild swoops in and plays that party too.
What is your most memorable music moment of the past year?
Seeing DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist on the Renegades of Rhythm tour at Trees, where they played Afrika Bambaataa's ACTUAL RECORDS on stage. That rocked my world. In other news, when Aphex Twin started to release over 100 demo tracks on crazy Soundcloud pages, I was fit to be tied for days. Also my friend Phillip Washington aka Cygnus is about to go on tour with Autechre; learning about that was nuts. It's been a fun year.
Where do you like to dig for tracks? Any specific websites or stores?
I love Rush Hour, Boomkat, Juno, Clone, Bandcamp. Soundcloud is a rich goldmine, of course. As an older cat I love ripping stuff from my old vinyl stash and dropping that stuff on the young ones. I don't really do any blog stuff. I just catch a lot of podcasts then try to give as much business as possible to the small shops before I give up and do Beatport.
What other genres or artists do you like to listen to outside of dance music?
I love minimal wave, '90s shoegaze and its ripoffs. I like early Pink Floyd and Yes and old Tangerine Dream. I'm super big into ambient and have a mix called Space Rescue Service that I'm mighty proud of. I'm super into Jamaican dancehall too.
How long have you been producing music?
I actually preordered the very first version of Ableton 1.0 (showing my age here) but my first real intro to really learning about real song production (versus just noodling) was 2005's Laptop Deathmatch. Have you heard of this? Laptop Deathmatch was production school for me. So that's about a decade I suppose.
Do your have a preference between DJing and Production?
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The past 3 or 4 years I've focused on DJing more, and now that I'm getting back into production through remixes and redits, some of my original soul is starting to fill up a few new tracks. So I kind of quit production for a while to soak up the DJ approach to music, and now it's informing my production in a very rich and rewarding way. But for now I'm far more confident as a DJ, I'm happy doing mixes and just basking in the dig for new tracks. If I make a cool track of my own along the way to fit in a mix, so be it.
What gigs do you have in the near future?
We have some big and exciting parties coming up which I'm not at liberty to announce just yet, but our residency at the Red Light Lounge has me doing good things behind the decks every Thursday night.
Scruff Box - Randomer
And Both His Sons - Blawan
Sophia 2 Octave (Original Mix) - Roman Lindau & Mike Denhert
Take it out on me - Bambounou
Gneiss - Graze
I like acid (Mike Dehnert remix) - Benny Rodrigues
House of God (D.H.S. Remix) - DHS
Brachbar - Mike Dehnert
The Hole - Gesloten Cirkel
Maximus warlox - Jack Dover
VIOMF! / The Filter - Shed
Passenger - Mike Dehnert
Elevation II (Reprise) - Vainqueur
Rootstalk - Mike Dehnert
Nohouse - Monoloc
Find my mind - Harvey McKay
Masks - Martyn
Careless - Gery Rydell
Umlaut 2 - Mike Dehnert
Culture (Bambounou rmx) - Bodhi
Puissant - Sascha Rydell
Data - Bambounou
Wait & Return - Harvey McKay
Uprizen - Graze
Gelb 3 - Studio 1
Those cracks in your face, do they hurt? - Clouds
Lucky Drawls (Mark Broom's No Rave Stab rmx) - Matt Nordstrom
Trick Baby - Harvey Mckay
Hidden - Secluded
Verna - Convextion