L-Vis 1990 Talks The End of the EDM Bubble, ‘We Are Your Friends,’ and More at Nocturnal Wonderland
The British producer has some predictions for the future of dance music...
L-Vis 1990, real name James Connolly, does not look entirely at ease in the crush of neon, pasties, and kandi bracelets that surround him at San Bernardino’s Nocturnal Wonderland. It’s not just because he’s wearing an oversized white t-shirt rather than shirtless and covered in glitter. The truth is, none of the DJs I encounter over my three days at the festival seem to be — especially those, like Connolly, who don’t play the highly commercialized sound of the superstar acts on the main stages, remixing familiar radio hits to include brain-rattling drops. The London-bred, Brooklyn-based DJ plays house music, pure and simple, although for his set on the main stage of Nocturnal, he leaned more towards “rap and reggaeton, at like 80 bpm, 90 bpm.” I caught up with him backstage after his set on SPIN’s stage in the Downside Up Twisted by Toyota tent, to talk the EDM bubble, how festivals have changed over the past five years, the difference between the London and New York club scenes and more.
SPIN: When was the last time you played a large-scale festival like this one?
L-VIS 1990: This is my first desert festival. I played a few of the bigger ones back in the day – more like 2009 – but I haven’t been to these parties for quite a while.
SPIN: It seems like at these festivals many of the artists play the same songs — it’s all DJs remixing Calvin Harris.
L-VIS 1990: I heard a DJ on the stage over there play like four different tracks but on the breakdown of each track was Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now,” just in a different style of the breakdown and repeating in a different way. They’re kind of just hyping the tracks up in different ways and then just dropping into a more basic bitch beat every time.
SPIN: Why do you think that’s happening? Do you think playing for these giant crowds means you have to make the music more accessible?
L-VIS 1990: I don’t know any of these people. I don’t know where they come from. I think it’s booked off soundcloud plays or something.
SPIN: So, you moved from the UK to New York. How is the New York scene different from London?
L-VIS 1990: When I left, the scene was kind of moving towards this deep house vibe. I just wasn’t feeling it and I needed to get out and get new energy. When I’m DJing in New York, I feel a lot more free to do whatever I want to do. People dance and get excited for whatever you want to play. I feel like in London, when I was there, it was very much based on the trends. But I think London is kind of changing now.
SPIN: Do you feel that having rap and particularly trap music as staples of what people listen to when they go out in New York changes the DJ culture?
L-VIS 1990: Yeah, totally. I find myself playing a lot more rap music when I’m here. It’s just around me and I enjoy it and enjoy playing it. I find that when I go back to Europe and play that music, it doesn’t go down the same way.
SPIN: People don’t dance to it?
L-VIS 1990: They don’t. I suppose there’s something there that’s so inherently inset in New York culture. I’m not saying the rest of the U.S. — just in New York — it’s in your body and you’re hearing it all the time. In Bordeaux, France or something it’s not the same thing.
SPIN: Is running you label, Night Slugs, from the states still like running it in the U.K.?
L-VIS 1990: Yeah it’s just me and Bok Bok. The way we run it hasn’t really changed much. Me and Bok Bok chat over emails and stuff and that’s the same way it was when we were in London. I pretty much see Bok Bok more now than I did when I was in London because the east London and south London divider is kind of far.
SPIN: What do you guys have coming out in the next few months?
L-VIS 1990: At the moment we’re working on developing major projects with our artists, I’m working on a new EP, Bok Bok’s working on his stuff. We’ve got a few younger guys developing but mainly we’re not just putting out random tracks. We want to develop and make sure all of our projects are really solid.
SPIN: Do you think putting out an EP is more valuable than putting out piecemeal stuff at this point?
L-VIS 1990: Yeah, I think so. I think in this day in age we need to be bringing out stuff that’s really important and concise and relevant to what’s happening in society right now and not just putting out tracks for the sake of putting them out.
SPIN: So, what are you working on and how do you make it relevant? What are the influences you feel like are relevant for putting records out?
L-VIS 1990: At the moment, I’m mainly working on production work for different people but over the last year I’ve been working mainly with this girl Lafawndah. She’s with Science of War. We’ve got our first EP coming out in January. We’re working on an album now. We just had a solid month and a half where we were solely working on the album. No one’s expecting anything so we really just went into this little hole writing this record that’s not related to anything else in the world right now, so it’s super exciting.
SPIN: What do you mean? Tell me more about that.
L-VIS 1990: We’re not referencing anything that’s happening right now. Our references are coming from the weirdest places, like Japanese fourth world, new wave shit. Artists like John Hassell – he’s playing trumpet on the record. It’s really tribal and earthy but in a different way. It’s like new world music but it’s not ‘world’ music in the cheesy sense of the word.
SPIN: Yeah, it’s a problematic category.
L-VIS 1990: It is a problematic category. But La Fonda comes from Tehran, she lives in Paris, and has travelled the world. She lives in different places and I’m the same way, like, all over the place. We’re just kind of harnessing what we’re taking from the world into our work.
SPIN: So it’s like global music?
L-VIS 1990: It’s global but we’re not appropriating anything. It’s just taking in this sense and energy from these places but not appropriating it in a fucked up way.
SPIN: What do you think the difference between absorbing those influences and appropriation is?
L-VIS 1990: I think with appropriation there’s a lot of producers out there that are listening to grime and ballroom and the stuff that’s come out like that and just taking the signifiers and the surface aesthetics of that and putting on salt and pepper on any track that they make. It’s been happening for a while – you hear a little bit of a wily fucking beat, you hear a high, you hear a Brazilian beat and its like no, I’m not down with that. But I think you’ve got to just suck in that energy and do it in a way that relates to you.
SPIN: So how do you think more thoughtful production and thoughtful overall vision relates to this gigantic culture of DJ rave festivals? Do you think that the more thoughtful production will have a home here within all the fire and lights?
L-VIS 1990: I don’t know if it will. I feel like this whole world is gonna come crumbling down pretty soon. I mean, I was laughing at the trailer for that movie that just came out, “We are Your Friends.” It comes out as this Zac Effron, big EDM movie and then it was like the most unpopular movie in history. Almost 3,000 cinemas and it brings in a couple million dollars. It’s just a sign that this whole thing is going to come crumbling down. I’m very conscious of what I’m putting out and I think more people should be conscious about what they’re doing.