It was one of those messages that make you walk faster – “Hurry up! He’s here, dancing in a crowd with us!” – where “he” stands for Brawther and “here” for Closer club in Kyiv on a winter’s night in 2017. Long-awaited and first-ever Ukrainian gig for Brawther along with his My Love Is Underground partner SE62 in the line-up. It was a really nice day, as Brawther recalls, so dancing was inevitable and just a matter of time. His set that eventually turned into the morning b2b with SE62, started off with a little unusual for him pumping oldschool acid track (and it was from the ’90s, as he told me later) eventually evolving into his regular sounds. With tracks of Derrick Carter, William Caycedo and Gemini inside, it is among the Closer’s best guest recordings of 2017 – you can hear it in full below.
Since we didn’t have a chance for a proper talk that night, it was music to my ears when I found out that he is going to play in my hometown, the opportunity just not to be missed. So…
The story of Brawther is to be started with another alias of Alexandre “Sammy” Gouyette. It was in the late 2000s when he was making his debut on the scene under his Izmo name. You can still find some records and CDs on Discogs (with quite high prices though). After only a couple of releases and one album, Izmo became a part of history. Why? Sammy explains right away: “I signed an album exclusivity deal at the time which prevented me from using the alias for original productions over a 5 years’ period.”
No way back, the choice was made and it didn’t leave too many hard feelings at that time: “Some of it kind of flopped as it was right in the middle of the vinyl sale crisis of the late 2000s. The “Where Is Eddie?” EP didn’t sell well due to the distribution problems. I don’t really rate some of my Izmo stuff, I’m not really attached to them, to be honest, other than they represent a period in my life which was very exciting, full of friendly memories and discoveries.”
Yet throughout those years, the “Izmo stuff” became a rare gem and delight for diggers and house lovers – 40 pounds is now the minimum price for his first EP and the second one starts from 55 euros. And it is only logical that prices would rise. “Funny how things work, right?”
If we go even more back in time…: “I think my relationship with music starts at a very young age by being bathed in music at home thanks to my father who used to play classical music on every occasion. I also learned the piano from his own childhood teacher between 6 and 11 but sadly forgot everything later on. I’ve always been passionate about music and dancing. I owe it to my father for exposing me to music throughout my life.” What is also worth mentioning is Brawther’s acquaintance with the music of Aphex Twin during his teen years, which influenced him strongly and for good.
But, enough with the foreplay. So, this is 2009 and Brawther is introduced to the world through one of Balance’s sub-labels – Balance Alliance…
Almost instantly followed by two more releases on Ron Trent’s & Chez Damier’s Balance family labels and after that… he moves away from Paris. Pretty ironic, but one of the key persons on Parisian and French scene wasn’t really at the place when the whole thing was happening. Why? The answer is simple – Sweden, Leeds, and Lisbon are much affordable for living than one of the world’s most expensive capitals. Please mind that we’re talking about the underground artist. Successful, no doubts – yet underground. And he nearly missed out on that burst: “I left France in 2011 to move to Sweden. It was a time when the club culture and the electronic music scene in France were pretty depressing. I had no clue that there was a whole new generation of French kids that would literally resuscitate club culture. This also meant that I have managed to play in France (especially Paris) regularly ever since I left it.
Now I try to stay in touch with what’s happening in France but I also consider myself an outsider. After 6 years in Leeds and now Lisbon, I feel that I’m drifting even further from it but I also feel the need to try and stay in touch with my musical family as much as possible. A lot of them who have kept on with their craft are doing great things. It’s a beautiful thing to see and I’m very happy for them.”
Now we can see that Brawther left Paris that was a little different in a musical way than the city we have now. It could be easily found in his interviews back then – answers to the question “how do you feel about French house scene?” asked in 2010 and in 2015 are very different. VERY. So, when the “click” was felt? Who made it hearable even in Sweden? The answer was rather obvious: “I like to think that Concrete, which was led by Brice Coudert, was at the root of the renewal of club life. They stuck to their guns and did their own thing against all odds. Clubs used to follow what was happening abroad and were very weary of trying new things. Punters used to go out to clubs to drink and get laid, music was the least important factor. What clicked is when the younger generation embraced it and it was like a big bang explosion with ripples slowly felt across the whole country. The epicenter is Paris obviously, and Concrete was one of the most important movement spearheads, thanks to their larger scale and following. I find what’s happening in France fantastic and I wish I had lived it during my late teens. There is a lot of amazing music coming from France right now. It’s like the seeds planted in the minds of the once adolescent ravers have sprouted into creative and super talented producers and DJs.”
During our talk, he’s always trying to keep himself away from the lights of glory, saying something like “I don’t actually feel responsible [for that “click’]. I was already abroad when the “revolution” happened. A lot of French people still assume that I am English or American. It’s funny when I get picked up from airports and talked to in English with a strong French accent.”
But before his departure from Paris he left there a bunch of records that were distributed through My Love Is Underground label under the number mliu02 and the name “Paris Underground Trax” (yes, it’s time to have a look at the title of the article once more). Anonymous at first, it made a huge noise in clubs or even offices (if we’re talking about the office of Juno – who were the first to discover that it was Brawther’s work). The release instantly became a solid brick in the wall of MLIU’s huge legacy…
Legacy, that comprises not only newly presented tracks, but also those great findings from the past. Now, Brawther manages his own Negentropy label along with Courtesy Of Balance and Dungeon Meat. Moreover, he could be found at the “management” section, when looking into MLIU discography on Discogs, especially on releases by Jerzzey Boy and The Nathaniel X Project. The story behind those two is nearly a detective one: “In 2007 I released my first record under the name Izmo “Where is Eddie?”. My friends and I were obsessed with Smack Productions and Mentalinstrum (Eddie Perez) in particular. I searched hi and low for him and the research was quite an enjoyable process as most people had lost touch with him and it was proving quite a challenge. By the time I had found him, I was ready to test my detective skills further and that’s how I ended up locating Nathaniel X and later Jerzzey Boy!
As for Jerzzey Boy, I ended up randomly talking to his father after calling up most George Locketts in the NY/NJ area using the online white pages. It turned out George had become a police officer who resides in Pennsylvania. Jeremy actually met both of them’ not long after. I’ve only met Nat so far but I’m hoping to meet George soon.”
That was a part of MLIU classic stuff. Now let’s talk about their “new” bangers that already became classic stuff. After “Paris Underground Trax” Brawther landed on mliu11 release along with his friend that we already mentioned here – SE62. Not too long after another “city” EP on MLIU – “Kiev Underground Trax”, made by Yura (real name of SE62). And it was just like a rehearsal for them before another huge appearance on wax – mliu15, killer EP with 2 enormous tracks (or should we say “trax” here?). “True Force” by SE62, that immediately became something very close to radio hit, and “Fuck Off Track” by Dungeon Meat – the project of Brawther and Tristan Da Cunha. The track, perfect fitting for almost every house set in the world those days. The insane degree of attention that Brawther received after that EP and because of that EP was somewhat unwanted: “This tune was a jam that Tristan Da Cunha and I did in Leeds (in the presence of our buddy Washerman actually). The inspiration behind it was to create a track for DC10’s terrace and the next year I actually dropped it there. It was picked up by a lot of DJs that played there and supported by superstar DJs like Jamie Jones and Hannah Wants which resulted in getting the attention that wasn’t expected at all. Having a successful tune can be a curse as it can attract the wrong kind of attention and people just want to hear that tune. I used to play the track before it came out to test it. But when it was out I played it maybe a handful of times only.”
From one of the previous paragraphs, you already know that Brawther has a great talent for finding people. Experiencing at least one of his sets is enough for you to be sure about his no less great talent for finding gorgeous tracks. What about both at once? It came with a compilation “Once Upon A Time In Japan” that Brawther and his Japan-based friend Alixkun did in 2015. Guys had to rush with that masterpiece, partially due to the craze on the scene triggered by the Rush Hour’s compilation of Soichi Terada early works that appeared sooner that year. At first, they started their work on a documentary about Japanese house scene. That is still in progress by the way… “After years of collecting obscure early Japanese house and traveling to Japan, we realized with my buddy Alixkun that there was no real resource available that shed light on those early formative years. Moreover, most of the locals we spoke to didn’t know much about it, and the newer generation had pretty much no clue about it. We did about 25 interviews with most of the actors of the scene and everything was starting to come together but Alix’s and mine’s increasingly busy lives meant the project had to freeze.
A few years after we’d started shooting, we decided to bring out a compilation and that’s when “Once Upon a time in Japan” came out. We licensed 15 tracks and presented a wide range of producers from across the country. The programming was done in a chronological order spanning from 1989 to 1996. Some of the records presented are very scarce with the Jazzadelic’s “I Got a rhythm” being one of the rarest Japanese House records ever (50 copies according to Manabu Nagayama). The track was later on remixed with Pal Joey and released under the Beautiful People outfit on Cabaret in 1991.”
“Busy lives” … It’s time to talk about all those things that are keeping him from finishing the movie. His Negentropy and Dungeon Meat labels, for example: “[as for Dungeon Meat] We are back with two new records: VA with Honey Dijon, Desert Sound Colony and Danielle Temperilli as well as an EP from William Caycedo. Also, in the next year, we will release our second EP on the label with Tristan. Watch this space!”
I was always wondering how owning a label can affect your music search and maybe even taste. In Brawther’s case – not too much as it seems (at least, THIS is not a real problem): “I actually don’t look for music for the labels. I’ve got more music to release than I can or want to. I try to keep a low profile and keep things organic. Negentropy is my very own label but I also manage Courtesy Of Balance and Dungeon Meat. Having labels and keeping on top of them takes a lot of time and I’ve often contemplated abandoning one of them to free up time in the studio. With two kids, three labels, DJing and producing myself or with Tristan, answering messages and keeping a small presence on social media, time flies and sometimes I wish I could just lock myself up in the studio without a phone or the internet for months and be left alone!”
Now we came to REAL worries – one family, two kids and three labels… is rather challenging, right? “DJing is a very precarious job. You have no assurance to bring X amount of money at the end of the month and there is an oversaturated market globally. I never purposely tried to make a living from it but now I have to really think about how to go on about it because if I don’t I might just fade away and I can’t let that happen to my family. So yeah there are ups and downs but that’s only down to how you approach it. It’s hard but it’s worth it. If you care about your craft and you don’t give up against adversities, then you will see the benefits one day.”
Craft talk – since he’s DJ that tours a lot, it was natural to ask about moments of practicing at home (or another good place for it). “Another good place” turned to be a dancefloor. Any possible dancefloor that could fit all Brawther’s magic inside. “I never really practiced at home like a lot of other people did. I did but not obsessively. Playing out regularly is the best way to get better actually. Shaky vinyl setups, drunk people and a crowd staring at you and expectations are thrown in the mix. You gotta make it work for 5 or 500 people or more…
I think that mixing in a club environment means that you are playing to people and that without you the music stops and people stop dancing too. You can play records, perfectly beat match and make smooth transitions but that’s just the basic requirement that anybody can learn and that isn’t actually what makes a good DJ. Taste is a personal matter and that’s what will make you pick the records that are in your bag. Wisdom is what will help you program records based on what is happening (or not happening) right now in the club. What I learned over the years from playing with my peers is that there isn’t one way of playing and if I see things that ID not seen before or tricks that help do things I had never done before, then I try to incorporate that in my arsenal and strive to master it. On a CDJ I really don’t use much more than the looping functions to extend mixes, it’s super useful.”
Interviews with Brawther usually feature names like Chez Damier, Ron Trent, Aphex Twin, Alixkun, Garrett David and Jeremy Underground as they relate to him somehow. Our talk is not an exception. But I was also wondering about some other names as well…
For example, his favorite b2b partner: “B2Bs only work with DJs that understand how to flow together. Impromptu B2Bs can be likened to Russian roulette. Tristan and I form a single unit when we play as Dungeon Meat, I love playing together. I had the pleasure to play twice with Fumiya Tanaka b2b in Osaka and Tokyo and that was also very special, I had brought more minimal and techy jackers and he had more housey jams, it just worked.”
DJ who threw the most interesting performance recently: “Mmmm, that would probably be Sweely live at the NYC Downlow this year at Glastonbury. This man is on fire and does it with such cool and class. I highly recommend him.”
DJ, with whom there will be a collaboration soon (or not very soon) – and it turned to be Steve O’Sullivan (and not very soon).
And some most promising newcomers on the scene: “There’s a lot of people that are coming up that are worth watching out for but I’ll name too right now: Zweizig & Saudade. They’ve got their own blend of minimal and house and it’s great to work with people that I knew before I had heard their music. I like to work closely with them and give them guidance.”
Also, after his DM partner, Tristan Da Cunha’s lately presented new project under the Freakenstein name, I asked about possible new alias for Brawther. Nah (For now). “Brawther is house music through and through. The core is house music but the stylings and shells can be of many flavors/subgenres. A house has many rooms to explore. I’ve always ventured into UKG, broken beat and tech house that stepped into the breakbeat worlds but I wouldn’t play a whole set of it. I am definitely tempted with using a new name to make a whole new style but it’s still in its infancy.”
Brawther now lives in Lisbon – place that recently became home for plenty of international-size DJs – you can meet there DJ Honesty, Tini, Steffi, Virginia, Dyed Soundorom or Dan Ghenacia if you are that lucky of course. It seems that a lot of DJs would share Brawther’s point of view: “I love it here – it’s beautiful and relaxing. There’s so much to do and it’s affordable enough to live a decent life. It’s quite a big capital city so I don’t bump into people [from the start of this paragraph] that randomly. There is definitely a vibe here that I have not seen anywhere and that’s why I was attracted to it. It’s a subjective feeling but it was shared by my wife and after a year of preparation we did it and aren’t looking back.”
We started our article with dancing and will finish it in the same way – for Brawther dancing with people is a sign of a great party (and one of the best ways to check the soundsystem in the club). “Don’t trust a DJ who does not dance” goes the saying. I like to go in the crowd during my sets sometimes to check that the sound is right and when it’s a special party and I’m closing I like to go in the crowd and enjoy the last song. It’s great to be able to dance without staring at the DJ. Some DJs hide behind the booth and cordoned areas but I’m chilled, I like to give a bit of my time to those who want to reach out.”
So, if you receive a message “Brawther is dancing with us in the crowd, hurry up” someday – make sure you hurry up – the party you are about to miss, is definitely good.