I have to say that for a long time, house music just turned me off. I started off listening to rave-style house music in the early 1990’s, but as the standard yet freaky synth anthems started to become more popular, the music started taking a back seat to the drug culture. This switch really pushed me away, because unlike a lot of people who were in attendance at many of the raves and parties I went to, I was more into the art aspect of music.
In order for me to feel in tune with dance music, I had to resort to finding other styles beyond house, eventually discovering jungle and IDM, which fewer people were into at the time, and it still seems that way today.
To be honest, when I received this assignment to interview the duo Saeed and Palash, I was a bit skeptical. Although I knew of their reputation as house headmasters, I hadn’t heard these guys yet. Liking to be a man of integrity so I kept my mind very open, and after I listened to their recent double CD release, Addictive Beats, I was hooked – they turned this jungle fan back to house in a heart beat – one that lasted for a few hours. I realized even more that any style of music that combines the right ideas and taste is worthy of appreciation. To sum it up, these guys not only have taste, but also have THE taste for what it is they do, and the skill to perform in a manner that is nothing less than professional.
I got to speak with the duo one at a time last night, and they broke it down to me like this…
Kaffeine Buzz: How’s the DJ life?
PALASH: (laughs) Oh, hectic, crazy, man – we were in Dominican Republic and Panama over the weekend, and then starting Wednesday we do four more cities – I think Vegas, Denver, San Fran and New York, and we go off to Moscow next weekend, and then Portugal – it’s just crazy.
KB: Wow, that’s huge – and that’s all this month, right?
PL: That’s just the next two weeks, and then we’re off to Asia for two weeks…
KB: That’s an awesome trip – I’m not entirely familiar with the international club scene, though. What’s it like for you guys over there, what’s the response like?
PL: Well, we’re playing Tokyo, Singapore, all the major clubs – Asia the next big place – it’s new over there, and they’re just eating it all up, just like America. Although it’s happened later than Europe and London, it’s taking America, and in the same exact way Asia’s been exposed to it, and now they’re eating it up, and I think it’s going to explode soon…
KB: I guess they weren’t kidding when they said that you guys get around. So tell me, how was it, coming up as a house DJ in D.C.?
PL: Well, you know, it’s had its ups and downs – everything goes in cycles, you know what I mean? Saeed and I started playing out in the late eighties, and some of the time it’s been just awesome, and then there were times that I remember in the mid-90’s that the music scene wasn’t going anywhere. It just seemed that everyone was into the euro-trash music and stuff like that. I’m the kind of DJ that would rather not play than play something I don’t want to play – that’s the beauty of doing what we do, you know what I mean? DC – they’re starting to crack down on the clubs, and it seems that those kind of things start happening in DC first, and it also seems that things like that are starting to turn around.
KB: What about the international club scene? Are you guys feeling any direct effects from “Rave Act” type laws elsewhere?
PL: Not yet – I mean, America is definitely going to be affected. But internationally, the laws are not that strict. I think that the stricter you make it, the more people abuse it. In Eastern Europe the laws are somewhat lax, and people don’t really abuse anything. In Europe most places don’t shut down at 2am, it just goes 24 hours. Over the weekend we were in two countries where there was no last call or anything like that…I think the media makes more of a problem out of it than it is, and if they didn’t the problem wouldn’t be as big.
KB: I agree with that entirely…speaking of the media, what happened with the new record? I know it got released early…was there some pre-release file sharing happening or what?
PL: You know, what it is just our label trying to beat that – every single record that comes out nowadays, when it gets into promo hands, somebody eventually puts it out on the internet and it just goes into rapid-exchange. We wanted to release it a little early as a surprise before it gets into the hands of the press or anyone else, so we could at least try and cut off some of the bootlegging.
KB: Tell me, what do you think about some of the large companies like Sony that are losing money on CD sales but are still selling the tools that everyone uses to steal music, like CD burners and MP3 players?
PL: The thing about that is this – larger companies don’t get affected because as you said, they have other avenues for making up for it. Who suffers is the small to medium sized record companies. The thing is they don’t have any other avenues. Their main thing is that they sell records, and with the bootlegging and the file sharing, they’re the ones that get affected. You look around and labels are going out; Nervous is out; my friends in Europe had the Fluid label, and it’s out; others are going into bankruptcy. At the end of the day, it’s not only the labels that are going out, but the producers are getting affected. The money for new tracks is not that great anymore for the new guy, because guess what, it’s not going to sell that well because of file sharing.
KB:I definitely wanted to get your opinion on that, because it seems as though it’s something you guys are really feeling deeply.
PL: My end view on it is this – there’s got to be a way to figure out that makes everyone happy. File sharing is fine if the producer gets something for it. I think once a model can be figured out where everyone makes a little money, that everyone will be happy. The Internet is here to stay, and people aren’t going to stop file sharing. We just have to find a way to it worthwhile for everyone.
KB: So about the new stuff: there’s a new double CD and an artist album on the way.
PL: We have an artist album coming out on Distinctive Records next year, which is a lot more experimental, and not just strictly dance music…
KB: I do love to hear that artists in your genre do come out with their own full-length productions.
PL: Well, we come from different parts of the world, and a lot of what we came up with had a lot to do with percussion, so you’re going to hear more percussion come out. I think that no matter the tempo, as long as the groove is there and the percussion…it’s going to be great.
KB: And that’s something else that I noticed, that you take house music away from it’s rave-style roots and keep it sort of minimalistic, more beat and bass oriented – it really comes out on the new Addictive Beats double disc. So what about your style – how does it come together, how did the CD come together?
PL: I think it’s really just the way we feel – like I said, our background is very percussion oriented, and we’ve always really concentrated on the drums and bass in everything we do. I mean, you go anywhere, you see a crowd react, and they react two times. They get up when the bass comes in, and they follow the drums, and our music is based around those 2 elements…I think a lot of the minimal, percussive, tribal the we’ve been using since the beginning, it’s being accepted now, so that’s good.
KB: What was the first house record that you bought?
PL:(Laughs) Well, actually, it was Royal House’s “Can You Feel It”, or “Can You Party” – it was old, came out around ’87 or ’88 – that was my first house record.
KB: How old are you guys?
PL: I’m 33 and Saeed is 32.
KB: And so who first turned you on to house music?
PL: You know, the first time I heard house music was this DJ Reggie Wilson. I don’t know where he is now, but if I saw him on the street I’d let him know. It’s funny, because Sharam from Deep Dish and I were talking, and it’s like this guy had a huge influence on both of us. It was the mid 80’s and this guy was the first DJ to play house music to our crowd. There were others, but Reggie Wilson was the guy that started it for us.
KB: What was your first DJ gig?
PL: In a club, it was this place Anastasia, in Georgetown and I kind of got it on my own really. I knew the owners phone number so I called him up and talked him into giving me a job. I wasn’t old enough to get in to the clubs at the time, but I showed up and played good, and it worked!
KB: That’s very inspiring – something else I find inspirational is how you’ve blown up in the last couple of years, even though you guys have obviously been at it for a long time. That says a lot about sticking to it and not giving up on what you love.
PL: Exactly, and see, the thing is we’ve always done it because we liked it – as we doing it we still had normal lives: we both went to college, both got degrees, had local jobs, but always pursued music at the same time, so now it’s really good that we’re able to do this all the time.
KB: So what about your last job?
PL: I worked for a consulting firm, which treated me well and had a great career track. But I had to follow the calling of music, you know?
KB: You have to do what makes you happy.
PL: You’ve got to be happy.
(At this point, I wrap up the first half of the interview and call his DJ partner Saeed, who just landed an hour previous due to a flight delay – he was cool, calm, and collected, as professionals are, and happy to speak with me about the upcoming show…)
KB: So you just got back from Panama – I didn’t realize there was scene down there. What’s the scene like, what’s the response like?
SAEED: It’s a scene, and it’s a fresh one, too – they scream, they jump, they know when a mix is coming in, and with the breakdown they know something’s up, and when the beat comes back in they’re all yelling with their hands up in the air, sort of like what Twilo used to be like back in the day.
KB: So I was talking to Palash earlier about your schedule – you guys really do get around. Do you even sleep at all? How much are you out on the road?
SD: Let’s put it this way: we do pretty much every weekend, Friday and Saturday, and then some weekdays. Like next week we’re doing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. How many weeks are in a year?
KB: I think 52.
SD: So multiply that times 2, plus a few weekdays, so it’s kind of crazy – the planes have been our beds recently.
KB: I also spoke to Palash about the file sharing issue, and it’s something that you guys are really feeling – care to elaborate?
SD: Josh Wink said it best in one of his interviews, and it’s like this: Imagine you have your house, and all of your windows and doors were open, and random people are just coming in and taking things out of your house. All of your personal things are getting taken and you’re not getting any money. Imagine this is all you do for a living and that you count on it, and when people are stealing the stuff and you’re not making any money for it, how’s the artist going to survive? There are ways you can get the stuff on the Internet, purchase it, support the artist and support the music. Now for the people who want the unreleased stuff, you can contact the record label. I could name so many people who have just called us up and been like ‘I’m a DJ, I play here and there, and I heard someone play one of your tracks, and I know it’s not out – is there any chance you could send it to me?’
I’m always like, ‘Yeah, we’ll have test pressings in a week. Send me your info and I’ll send you some vinyl.” I can’t stand when kids go online and just download our whole compilation, or download track that they can easily purchase at a record store. It’s all going to trickle down: first the artist, then the DJ, then the audience will get hit – the whole file sharing thing is just a bad idea.
KB: Too true. Listening to the new Addictive Beats comp, it’s obvious that there’s a hip-hop influence, because a lot of the music is beat and bass oriented.
SD: Yeah, to be honest with you I started out as a hip-hop DJ before I went to house. I used to play hip-hop for about 3 years because that’s all the music I could play. In order for me to DJ I had to play what people wanted. At first they didn’t want house, they wanted hip-hop, and so I would do school dances, school parties, and I was in high school – scratching and ripping and all that good stuff. But my love was always with house, and so I tried to do what other DJs were doing, incorporating house with hip-hop. It worked, but slowly I got more into house, and that’s got me to where I am now. I can understand how you would hear the hip-hop influence, not so much the beat, but the whole bassline, the grinding – it’s not all sped up like you know, some house is, none of that, but it’s nice to hear that people are hearing some of the influence, that you recognized that.
KB: So what was your favorite remix that you’ve done?
SD: It would have to be “Punchers The Wall” on Star 69 records – it was always a favorite track of mine, and when Peter Rauhofer of Star 69 approached us, I was just blown away with the opportunity. He didn’t even know how much I liked that track, and when I heard that he signed it and that he had told our management that he wanted to remix it, I jumped at the opportunity. I was like ‘Palash we gotta do this, it’s my all time favorite tune.’ But I liked the original so much that we really didn’t change much, we just sort of gave the track a facelift, only adding a little bit…you know when you have an original track that’s so good, you just don’t want to change it a whole lot, I just wanted to give it a little facelift.
KB: So the tag team situation – What’s it like?
SD: It’s a lot of fun. If the crowd is feeling it we’ll split the set in half, and sometimes we’l just go record-for record. He’ll tease a little, I’ll tease a little, and we’ll throw in samples, stuff like that. We try to go with what the crowd is up for. We never really have a set way of doing it, no plan, we just go with the flow, and 99.9% of the time it works out the way we wanted it to, so it’s really cool.
KB: So what’s it like getting support from the big names in the biz, like Danny T. It seems as though he’s been one of the people you guys give credit to for your support, and even though you aren’t new, it seems as though you guys have really shot to the top.
SD: Yeah, Danny’s always been really supportive of us. He’s been with us since the get go, like a counselor to us making sure that we don’t fall into the same traps that he did coming up. He’s always directed us to the right people to work with and if we ever wanted to do something, and he knew that it was something that didn’t work out for him, he always called us up and let us know…never really telling us what to do but telling us what happened to him and encouraged us to make our own decisions. Every time we go to New York we go stay with him, hang out in the studio for 6, 7 hours at a time, we go out to dinner…he’s got the best music selection of anyone I know…the guy’s just like a genius, really.
KB: That must be awesome to hang out with people who are on top that are still aware of what’s going on around them, that they aren’t forgetting where they came from. So many times I see DJs and they just show up, play, and then split immediately without trying to relate to the people that are supporting them. It’s great that you guys have that influence, and are still down-to-earth, even with international stardom.
SD: Yeah I know a lot of DJs like that. For people to meet us, to meet people they admire just makes the experience that much more. What I can’t stand is meeting DJs who look at it just as a business. Their heart and souls aren’t into it. They just want to show up at the gig, play a few records, pack up and just be like ‘I’m ready to go to the next gig.’ They don’t appreciate it as much anymore, and I can’t understand it sometimes. When people like Danny who I look up to so much, who has been doing it for so long, you can just see it in his eyes that he still has the same love for it as he did from day one, and people like that need to be respected and recognized for that.
Retaining that sense of loyalty to the fans is definitely something that makes Saeed and Palash fans more than just fans, but like family. Everyone who speaks about these guys not only speaks highly of them and with an immense amount of respect, but boasts about their performances as a truly great party. For more information about this duo, go to their web site www.saeedandpalash.com or www.addictiverecords.com. And make sure to catch their party at the Church this Thursday, September 18.