Many have felt Khutoretsky's first steps as a producer, ever since his first 12-inch for Ben Klock's Klockworks emerged in August of last year. With the arrival of a new release on Derrick May's Transmat, Klock's inclusion of two DVS1 tracks on his recent Berghain mix CD and a host of new material ready to see the light of day, it's clear that plenty more will soon feel it as well.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Khutoretsky's work hardly sounds like baby talk. There's a reason for that. He's been involved in techno for nearly two decades now. He first found himself going to clubs as a teenager in Manhattan in the mid-'90s, partying at legendary haunts like Palladium, Tunnel and Limelight. He says the moment that he saw Electric Indigo, it was a turning point. "I had been hanging out with a group of people that were into really hard stuff, and the way she played wasn't American. She had a lot more up and down in her set. I hadn't heard a DJ play like that before."
Khutoretsky was already interested in the art of DJing, inheriting turntables from a hip-hop fan from Japan at the boarding school his parents shipped him off to as a teenager. "Nobody ever really sat down to show me how to do it. I made a lot of mistakes in my bedroom.... I was always that guy at the parties that would go up to the DJ and watch them. I was always enamored at the power that a DJ had at their fingertips. Watching how they could manipulate music and sound. I was lucky enough to watch DJs that worked the EQs a lot, that definitely shaped my approach to things."
Khutoretsky had been trading time between Minneapolis and New York for many years, but eventually found himself full-time in Minneapolis starting in the late '90s. Far from being some backwater Midwest outpost, it had a vibrant techno scene centered around a number of key DJs and promoters. There was no shortage of parties and, crucially for Khutoretsky, there was no shortage of sound. "Since the mid-'80s, there were people setting up ridiculous, massive walls. As many boxes as they could fit. Minneapolis became known for this actually. I became really interested in that, and started to work with sound companies myself and ended up running my own for ten years….whenever I go somewhere I'm always asking what the soundsystem is like."
DVS1 at the end of a Future Classic night, the monthly party he currently runs in Minneapolis.
Yes, Minneapolis wasn't New York: "We had a great record store, Let It Be Records, but they didn't have a listening station. We knew someone who would let us bring a turntable in once a week. We had to convince them back then that we'd buy a lot more records if we could hear them first." But it wasn't Oklahoma either: "I threw a party pretty early on when I went back full-time to Minneapolis with Electric Indigo, Neil Landstrumm, Heiko Laux, DJ Slip, Dave Tarrida and a few other international people as well as some locals….There was a huge audience at the time for it."
Helping to build a local scene was always an interest for Khutoretsky. For a long time, he threw parties around the city before trying unsuccessfully for a number of years to open up a legal nightclub in the city in the early '00s. When it finally did open, it only ran for 18 months before the cost became too much to bear. "It had its ups and downs. We specialized in old-school hip-hop and house and techno. We had everyone from Jeff Mills to Rolando to Mixmaster Mike and Afrika Bambaataa. It was the wrong time, though, and when the club went down, I went into a lot of debt. I'm just now finally paying it off….
"In 1998, I bought this soundsystem, and was taking it to different parties throughout the city…. I eventually brought it into the club. I always thought running soundsystems and owning sound and throwing parties was my only identity, even though I DJ'd a lot and DJing was my love and why I got into this. I ended up selling the soundsystem to pay off some of the debt, but it was a weird twist of fate because I then realized that all of this was a distraction from doing something for myself. When I'd get home after a party, I'd never want to do music. Losing the club, going into debt, getting rid of the sound, it allowed me to refocus my energy."
The energy has since been poured directly into music-making, something that Khutoretsky had been doing on-and-off for years, but had never seriously devoted himself to. As a result, there were plenty of ideas, small loops, themes, melodies and beats created in Reason that were locked away in his computer, but no full-fledged songs. Until Ben Klock came to town. The Berghain resident was playing a gig in the city on the same night that Khutoretsky's live set was dragged out of retirement. "I have only played two live sets in five years. That night was the second one, but I was pissed because I wanted to see Ben play." He convinced the organizers of the event—the same people that had bought his soundsystem, oddly enough—to allow him to play late enough that he could see Klock, then race over to play his own set afterward. Klock, inadvertently, did the same thing.
"The organizers of the other party brought over Ben after he was done. My set was short, but he obviously liked what he heard. The thing that I do with my live sets is I set up two computers running Reason at the same time, two controllers and a DJ mixer, but I don't sync anything. So I'm doing live loops on the fly, mixing them like records. You can hear them breathing kind of, because nothing is in sync." Klock immediately wanted some of the ideas that he heard for release. There were no tracks to give, however. So Khutoretsky asked Klock to listen to the live set again, and isolate moments that he thought might be worth expanding into full songs. "Searching" and "Running" came together easily. "Floating" was a bit harder: "We went back-and-forth I don't know how many times. It was unique for me to get these ideas into full-length tracks."
It's obvious that Klock and Khutoretsky share a certain kinship, not only in production but in DJing as well. As you can hear in the many sets that are posted on his own Hush Sound website, DVS1's sound is rooted in both house and techno equally, similar to the surprising wide range of Klock's sets at Berghain, a place where many believe it's all techno, all the time. Khutoretsky's outlook is something he thinks was borne out of being based in the Midwest. "In Minneapolis, we take influence from everywhere. In New York, you start to realize how many people are doing what you do. In Chicago, you have this weird underlying pressure to live up to what the city has meant and has become. There's no pressure in Minneapolis. You manipulate all of these influences into your own thing. It's a Midwest sound."
The mixes that you'll hear at Hush Sound are all live. That's no accident according to Khutoretsky: "Decks skip, people get crazy, sometimes capturing that is more important than a perfect start-to-finish…. My favorite DJs make mistakes, when I hear them put it back together is when I scream, when I cheer, when I feel that energy." You can hear it in his music as well. Khutoretsky's tracks are considered and well-thought out, but they're also alive with human imperfection. "I don't cut-and-paste... I take a loop, then I create all the elements and I sit on my controller and map them out on the mixer portion of Reason, and then I basically just jam. I try to get in the zone, do three or four takes, take my favorite one, tighten, edit, but everything flows freely. I don't time things."
Timing. It's an interesting choice of words. For Khutoretsky, it's been all about timing. "I missed a lot of opportunities to push myself outside of Minneapolis. I look back now, though, and I realize it wouldn't have been my time. I always used to tell my friends that I thought I was too late. But I'm realizing that now is my time. I have experience, I have know-how, I have a history. I have all the things I didn't have ten years ago.... For the first time ever, I'm focusing on myself.... I don't feel like I'm too late."