Seal Bass is part of an extreme minority amongst Dallas DJs. He plays techno in its purest form. While he's not so well known in the regional DJ circuit, Seal Bass has over 20 years' experience behind the decks. He still plays vinyl and his breadth of knowledge of classic techno is deep and reflected within sets that often sound more like a Detroit techno vet than his Texas locale would suggest.
Seal Bass recently teamed up with local vet Rick Simpson aka R9 to start up a new Techno monthly at Record Lounge in Exposition Park. For this week's Mixtape Q&A Seal Bass digs deep into his long relationship with techno and how Analog came to be.
DC9 at Night: How did you get started DJing?
Seal Bass: I heard this stuff on the radio late at night. I started recording it on cassette tape. I think I was the only kid at school that was into this stuff. I didn't know anybody else into it; all my friends listened to skater/punk music. I got sick of taping it and started buying records and figured out how to make a DJ rig; I then taught myself how to mix in a couple of weeks. I would play friends' parties in high school... I think my first party I played at was in 1995 at my friends party in high school, he got in huge trouble; we wrecked his house... It was a blast. I can't believe I'm still doing this stuff.
Did you play instruments before you started DJing?
Not really. I did however always enjoy playing the drums whenever I could find a set. If I hadn't found electronic dance music, I'd have been a drummer of some sort. My brother now has this covered. I'm a floppy seal, I play techno.
How did you come to techno?
I think a lot of it could be traced back to my childhood when I first heard electronic music in a Jean Michel Jarre Equinox album my dad bought. It was seriously weird stuff. I was only three when I heard it; it freaked me out, it was too futuristic for me. Then I was really into breakdance music in the '80s, and then of course house/techno in the '90s. I guess I've always liked electronic beats and sounds.
Do the house and techno go hand-in-hand for you?
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I attended a lot of Hazy Daze parties where they played really amazing house music, I'd never heard this stuff before. it was jaw dropping. I didn't know music that phenomenal existed. House was my lifeblood for years, then the love for house music later evolved into techno, I got bored with house the past few years, it has to be really really good for me to get into it now. So I transitioned to techno/electro/minimal. But I play everything when I'm out, it just depends on the setting.
Who are some of your favorite DJs or producers?
There are a lot. Dj Sneak, DJ Duke, Juan Atkins, Mark Farina, Johnny Fiasco, John Dahlback, Jeff Samuel, Matthew Jonson, Matthew Dear, Magda, Ricardo Villalobos, Pascal FEOS, Chez D & Ron Trent, DBX, Todd Sines, Wyndell Long, Spencer Kinsey, Jon Ciafone, Kenny Dixon Jr.,Roy Davis Jr., Mike Shannon, Ritchie Hawtin, Anthony Rother and many more. There are a lot of great producers out there.
Which do you prefer, DJing or producing?
I'm definitely a newbie at producing, though I have had record labels offer to pick up my tracks. I'm just lazy and haven't put forth a lot of effort into it. Producing is something I do when my emotions are right, which can be rare. I have quite a bit of distractions in my life. DJing I can do on the fly anywhere anytime. I think because of that if I had to choose I'd say DJing, because I've been doing it so long. Producing is this uncharted territory for me still. But I enjoy the creative aspect very much. It's gratifying and challenging because it takes some effort to create something you want to sound a certain way... DJing is cool, but it can be real douchey and political. People also do a lot of drugs and end up doing dumb things at these parties. But aside from all of that I really love being a DJ, I really love playing dance music for people.
What other genres or artists do you like to spin or listen to outside of dance music?
I really enjoy different kinds of music. I like Getz and Gilberto; the Brazilian Latin jazz sound is great. I'm also into quality hip hop like Gangstarr, Chi Ali, Tribe Called Quest, GroupHome, Eazy E. I listen to classic rock. I like Sir Richard Bishop, Can, Mudeski Martin Wood, Acid Mothers Temple, Boards of Canada, New Order, Dinosaur Jr, Mr. Oizo, Herb Alpert, Christopher Cross, the Smiths, Dr. Ninja/Retard Riot, Wesley WIllis, Andean Folk music, classical music, minimal wave -- just about everything except country and commercial music.
What is your involvement in Analog? How did Analog come to be?
Analog I think came to be from my inner calling out to the universe for "I need a place to spin records at." I kept thinking about it, and then it happened. Weeks later and my friend DJ R9 found a spot we could do this at. It needed to happen. I'm very blessed to have him as a friend and to be able to play music for people. We had people we've never met show up there that were real thankful to find this music there. We plan on doing it every month with a special guest either DJing or playing a live hardware set. We invited Cygnus out last time, he plays an awesome live electro set.
Do you still buy vinyl? If so, do you have a favorite record store?
I like buying records. It's what I learned on, it's what I know best: How to manipulate a record. I like the warm tones of a record. I don't have a favorite record store, but I used to shop a lot at Bills, Core and Illmatic records. Online I used to pick up stuff from Satellite, Groovedis, Nuloop. If I'm looking for something rare I'll try and find it on Gemm or Discogs. Josey Records just opened, I haven't had a look in there yet. We'll see what the Seal can sniff out.
What gigs do you have in the near future?
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Very close, Friday November 28th, 2014 is the next Analog. I don't actively seek out DJ gigs or promote myself. Dallas has a good amount of DJs. It's kind of over saturated, so I just do my thing and if someone would like a seal to come out and play records at their party, then cool. But I'll need a ride. I can't drive, I'm a seal.
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