|Steve Porter: At the Porter house
Dance music is going places it's never been before. Only a few years ago DJs that just toured the major clubbing capitals now wander far and wide, perking up new ears to the electronic beat. Steve Porter is an example of the new breed who are benefiting from the opening of these doors.
Porter has come a long way in a relatively short time. Hailing from a small town in Massachusetts, he first moved to Boston before inevitably being drawn to the bright lights of New York City. Now his house is a stopover between trips to the airport. The man labels his WMC party and his new mix CD 'Porterhouse' but he doesn't sleep much at home.
Porter's DJ sets and productions are as varied as the stamps in his passport. He builds his sets out of house, breaks, and techno with trancey elements sprinkled in for good measure. Early tracks such as 'The Return' and 'Nordica' are progressive house while newer material such as 'Swanky' and 'Funk Theory' are upbeat jacking house. But as musical boundaries that once seemed so tightly defined have shifted, Porter's music is not so easily categorised. His “Porterhouse” party also has another agenda: it's about fun with friends and the party - a concept that seems to have disappeared in the age of uptight corporate clubbing.
RA rushed around to the Porter house to catch up with Steve before he embarked on a gruelliing seven-week tour of the Pacific Rim.
I've had the opportunity to see you DJ quite a few times. In the last year I've noticed a big change in both your attitude and concentration behind the decks. What's the reason for the change in your approach?
Just getting older, realizing my spot on the planet and that I have to establish myself as an artist, even more so as you mature, because other artists around you are maturing as well.
I think you just feel the need to evolve and really open up the doors to all your roots and let as many sounds fly as you can, express yourself as meaningful as possible. When you start to get older you want to get those thoughts out; you don't want to be conservative. I think I spent a few years being very conservative, and trying to be polite and kind of hover underneath that progressive house umbrella. I've always had deep roots in stuff I used to listen to. It is just coming out now, more than it used to.
I noticed you didn't play that “1984, 3, 2, 1” track, which I've heard every time that I've seen you!
Yeah, that was probably about a summer ago. It was a popular track - girls liked it.
You've kept away from that male-only audience which is a feat in itself.
That's so important I think. You've got to make everybody happy. Not just the guys, but the girls as well. I tend to think that sometimes guys could listen to a metal marble bouncing against the concrete. Men are like monkeys and could get off on a tire iron scraping against asphalt. I think females are more in tune to more sensitive, sensual, sexy-type sounds. Not just the tribal mechanical stuff. So I really try and have some soul. Enough soul so that the fans will come back.
"I tend to think that sometimes guys could listen to a metal marble bouncing against the concrete."
You are about to leave on a massive tour.
China, Korea, Tokyo, Bali, and quite possibly a date in Indonesia, Jakarta. It's going to be crazy.
How are you going to pack for being away from home for so long?
I don't know yet. (Editors Note: This is two days before Steve departs)
I'm just going to have to pack and probably do a little laundry on the road. Manage my socks very carefully, as well as my underwear because the longest I've ever been away internationally is maybe three weeks at the most. This is going to be three weeks and a month, so we'll see how it goes.
I've done extended trips and you need to have stores, like rations. This pair for this day, etc.
Yup. I need flares, a canteen, all that stuff.
Last year your artist album 'Homegrown' contained all original tunes. On this year's 'Porterhouse' mix compilation only eight of the twenty-six productions were your own productions. Why the change?
The concept of the first Porterhouse party came to fruition about a year and a half ago. We thought of doing a party in Miami with everyone that I am friends with, and all of their friends. We wanted to make it a community effort because there really is such a strong community in my crew. So we wanted to exploit that.
The latest CD is a reflection of that strong community. Those are all my friends on the CD. I just put together something that would be beneficial for everybody. Hopefully it is just the beginning for all those people that contributed to the mix. It also gave the album an identity and soul. I didn't just want to make another mix compilation, especially since I hadn't done one. I'd only done an artist album before. I wanted it to be unique and something that represented myself as well as those that influenced me and likewise, vice-versa.
During our interview last year you said that the follow up to your artist album would be finished by the end of last summer. What happened?
It'll be end of this summer, hopefully. I'll have more of a rhythm that I can focus on, another album or more original music. We will see how big a bite of the apple I can bite off. Right now, I have such a big DJing schedule to chew away on, I'm not that worried about not producing too much because I have to play so many times this summer.
I'll have three gigs per week in China. It's very easy to get burned out DJing too much. You don't really get that much new music. You don't get enough new music to kind of compensate the interest in what you're doing. Sometimes you get really sick of what you're doing and you have to do whatever you can to gain perspective. Sometimes you have to just pull through. You're like, "Oh my god, I'm tired. I just played all these tracks last night and the night before. And I'm so sick of these tracks." You pick your head up. You smile and you do it for the people, because even if you are not feeling it, it doesn't matter. The people are there to have a good time, and that is my job.
The date and location of your Porterhouse party at the WMC was moved quite close to the start of the Winter Music Conference. How did the party suss out in the end?
It was supposed to be exactly the same as last year when we had it at State, but they were closed for renovation. So, we were kind of stuck in the mud. We had another option to do it at Opium Garden, but we heard they had some sound issues and we wouldn't really be able to pump it up as much.
Because it's an open air venue?
Yeah. We considered that a threat to what we wanted to do so we switched it. We had an offer to do it at Suite, which is owned by the owner of Space, on the opening night. That was a much harder task because not everyone is there on Wednesday, but we knew it would be good publicity since we'd be on the flyer with Roger Sanchez, Deep Dish, and all these other guys doing their parties on other nights.
It actually ended up being really successful and an awesome party, but it was an uphill party. We are still relatively rookies and throwing our party on the opening night of Conference is not an easy thing. It was packed and we had a ton of girls and people had a good time so we can't complain.
I caught you at the end of the week and your voice had gone. How did you enjoy the entire week as whole?
Every year it gets more and more difficult from a business sense because I'm not able to go out and enjoy it like I used to, as far as going out and seeing other DJs who I wanted to check out. One of the toughest questions I'm often asked is, "So who was the biggest rising talent that you were able to see?". But this year I just wasn't able to go out and see enough. I wasn't really able to see much at all. I got caught up in my own stuff. Plus you spend a lot of time talking and you're up late hours.
Whether it's because I was drinking, or not drinking, or not getting enough water I lost my voice. I did everything and anything that I could to regain it like drinking honey right out of the bottle. At the end of the Conference I was so ready to get out of Miami.
"I think what it comes down to is that I don't like to be boxed into any corners. Maybe I'm schizophrenic or claustrophobic, musically claustrophobic."
Your style is quite varied and your sound allows you to play with a range of DJs. This fact is exemplified by Paul Van Dyk inviting you to play with him and Sander Kleinenberg at his Above and Beyond party this July. Is diversity something you pride yourself on?
Oh, for sure. That's what makes it interesting for me. I think what it comes down to is that I don't like to be boxed into any corners. Maybe I'm schizophrenic or claustrophobic, musically claustrophobic. I just don't like being in small spaces. The only way to avoid that is by having more options. I can deviate from one sound to the next. You know, you kind of cover your tracks and at the same time you're creating a journey for people who go out in a two-to-four hour night. I mean I like creating an interesting journey. Almost in a mash-up sense, in an electronic music sense. Cutting from breaks to techno to different soundscapes. More peaks and valleys than rolling hills.
When Lee Burridge was in New York for two months to do his 365 Project, you collaborated with him on two tracks, 'Raw Dog' and 'Dirty Panty Ho Wrestler'. How did the process go, what are the tracks like, and how intense was the naming process?
It was so much fun working with Lee. He's a good friend of mine. The process was very experimental. We just started throwing in sounds and taking my microphone and recording odd kitchen sounds. The sound of a knife hitting a fire extinguisher. We sampled some looney tunes cartoons and just had a really fun time throwing the paint against the canvas.
As for the names...I think 'Raw Dog' came about just because the track is very raw. It kind of has like a monotone bass that just kind of throbs. The sounds are very clanky, very stiff and raw.
The 'Dirty Party Pantyhose Wrestler' dates back to a little story when I was young and had a babysitter. When my mom went out he would go into my mom's closet and put on her clothes. Then he'd pretend he was a WWF wrestler and jump around on my couches like, like in my mom's clothes.
Did you get freaked out at all when that all happened?
The thing is, at the time, I thought, "I've never seen this before," but it didn't hit me until I was like, twelve, and I thought "That guy was not right in the head." It was funny.
How do you think the U.S. is coming around in terms of dance music? In another interview you mentioned Cleveland and Pittsburgh as two up-and-coming destinations. Do you feel that the smaller cities are starting to catch up with their larger coastal counterparts?
Yes, a lot. Especially considering the digital music revolution and how much easier it is for kids to get a hold of electronic dance music. I think it's building, and fast. If you look back ten years ago, there weren't a whole lot of DJs traveling internationally and now there are quite a few.
The amount of artists has multiplied a lot and there are quite a few new live acts as well. I think the United States has come a long, long way. It has a lot to do with the Internet and the ease of gaining the music. When I first started the only thing I needed to know how to do was how to go and buy vinyl. Only because I couldn't find it anywhere. Vinyl was the only source. Now high speed internet connections have changed everything. It has come a long way.
You find the digital age to be more of a pro, than a con, industry-wise?
Oh yeah. Of course. You cannot knock evolution.
A lot of people have tried to!
I know, I know. It is growing and you'll get stretch marks but you grow with it and become a taller person.
What don't you like about the dance music industry?
There are always things that kind of annoy you. Sometimes cliques - when music gets very cliquey and elitist. When music turns its head on itself...though I hate that about anything. Not even necessarily about dance music - about any music. When it turns its head on itself, and assumes it is the shit of all shit, then that is what annoys me. That is what I hate. I like everybody. I like a techno promoter booking a house DJ. I like a house promoter booking a breaks DJ. That is my kind of mentality.
Or a German trance DJ booking a. . .
Exactly. That is just straight love. That is what is great about playing with Paul Van Dyk - it shows that he comes from the same mind frame as well. I don't play exactly his sound, but he has enough respect for me, that I can come and do my thing. He trusts that I am going to do something that will add value to the crowd, I guess. So, there are a lot of people out there [with that mind frame]. It is nice to know that the people at the very high levels are thinking that too. Music wouldn't be what it is if it didn't have its little compartments. I'm just one of those people that tries to open up the boxes.
"The 'Dirty Party Pantyhose Wrestler' dates back to a little story when I was young and had a babysitter... he'd pretend he was a WWF wrestler and jump around on my couches like, like in my mom's clothes."
Sasha recently said you are a stud due to your bowling skills and hot night moves that you showed during his stag party. Are you thinking of opening a naked bowling alley at any point in the future?
I think we have discovered a talent. When it is all said and done and I am done DJing, I think will open a nude bowling alley.
Do you own, or are you thinking of purchasing a minimal scarf?
A minimal scarf? What is a minimal scarf?
Lots of the minimal guys wear these thin scarves around their necks.
Is that the new trend?
Oh, yeah! You have got to get back overseas again.
Is it like the Dr. Who scarf?
No, more like the Villalobos scarf.
Maybe they need to step up the Dr. Who level. Get the Dr. Who hat. Get the Dr. Who does minimal. I didn't actually know that that was a trend, but sure, I will wear a minimal scarf. I don't care. Bring on the minimal.
And stealing from that annoying guy on Inside the Actors Studio, what is your favorite word?
(Lots of consternation - asks roommate)
Something related to food - grape? Pizza. [laughs] I should say cookies.
What is your least favorite word?
[Loads of thinking] Diarrhea.
What is your favorite curse word?
What is planned for the rest of the year?
Just going to tackle the schedule.
So, are you ready for a nap?
Yeah, after I am done getting all these boxes crushed and getting my studio set up, I will have a nap.
Published / Monday, 22 May 2006