Since acquiring his musical education in Florida in the company of Chris Fortier, Jimmy Van M, Medway and Kimball Collins, Sean’s career has spawned a residency at New York’s legendary club Twilo and an impressive list of remixes and tracks on labels like Stress Records, Flying Rhino, Hallucination and Fire.
Sean’s blend of deep dark house, tech-house and techno is progressive in every sense of the word, both innovative and forward-thinking; his tracks and remixes finding favour with John Digweed, Doc Martin and Lee Burridge among others. With forthcoming releases on Bedrock, Shaboom, Viscous Disc and Saw Recordings it seems we’ll definitely be hearing a lot more of him in the future.
RA caught up with Sean Cusick at the second anniversary of Tokyo’s monthly progressive house event, Astral Zone at club Womb.
Your track ‘Consider The Ravens’ was released on Viscous Disc earlier this year and is featured on Dave Seaman’s Global Underground Melbourne compilation. What inspired you to make the tune and how did you come up with the title?
I was really inspired by some old Detroit techno. I took elements of that kind of old American techno and incorporated it into today’s sound.
I saw the title when I happened to open up The Bible. I thought it was so perfect. “Consider the ravens. God in heaven takes care of them, why would he not do the same for you. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" I thought it was very Edgar Allen poetic.
What other releases can we expect in the future?
I’m half of a recording project called Second Hand Satellites. One of our releases that originally came out on Hallucination has just come out on Shaboom. We’re also in the midst of doing a remix of a Bedrock breakbeat track called ‘Forge’. It’s going to be a retro SHS interpretation.
I’ve also recorded a 2 track EP with Medway on Saw called Columns of Cloud. It’s a sort of downtempo breakbeat melancholy track that I’m really proud of, and the B-side is called Graffiti.
There’s also an EP forthcoming on Bedrock under my own name featuring a Philip Charles remix. I’ve also done a remix of a track called Earshot for two producers from Florida, Robb and Skinner.
It sounds like you’ve been pretty busy. What style and sound are you aiming for with each of those projects?
Not anything specific really. I just let the project answer for itself. I don’t generally go into the studio with a real clear idea of what I want. I believe the majority of electronic music is a series of lucky accidents so I go into the studio in the hope that many accidents will happen in a row until I get to where I want to be.
I think each project sort of has its own sound. With SHS we adopt a very experimental retro feel. For the stuff I do on Viscous it’s more of a hybrid, sort of in between progressive and tech house. We’ve done one track ‘Out in the Shed’ which is a sort of funky house track, not as serious as some of the others.
On the inlay on Jimmy Van M’s Bedrock compilation you wrote about the period early on in your career back in Florida. Can you tell us more about those times?
I think everybody involved in the club scene has had those types of experiences somewhere, sometime. Friends will always want to hang out and listen to music together and that’s what I was trying to get across.
At the time I think we really believed in what we were doing. There are a lot of producers and DJs from Orlando. I’m really proud of the accomplishments of people like Jimmy, Medway and Chris Fortier, people I grew up with in Florida.
Kimball Collins should be given credit for a lot of the clubbing culture in Florida, if not all of it because he really pushed it from the beginning. Even though he’s since gone his own direction he really got the ball rolling and is a real inspiration to me, even to this day. Were it not for those experiences, not just with Kimball but also at Jimmy’s house I wouldn’t be here now.
So how did Kimball Collins influence you when you first started DJing?
Kimball was a really big influence on me, both musically and as a DJ. He had a sense of ebbing and flowing. His music didn’t just beat you to death endlessly. Instead, you really got the feeling that he came and went. He didn’t always move seamlessly either. Sometimes it was just a cold cut to a different style. And to me, that was what the nature of dance music and psychedelic house music was all about from the beginning.
It shouldn’t have to be a seamless flow from start to end. Kimball usually played the whole night and at the end of the night you felt like you had been to many different places. Even if you’re playing for an hour and a half, I think the dance floor should feel like they’ve been a few different places. It’s fine to drop them off right where you started but in between, there should be something else going on. Unfortunately in this day and age dance floors don’t always understand that type of ethic.
Musically speaking, what influences your DJ style? How do you define it?
I have been a fan of music my whole life so it’s not that easy to pick out one thing and say that has influenced my style. I simply try to do what I do as best I can every time, just try as hard as I can not to fall back on formula or rely on things that I know work. With the type of music I play if I don’t mix with any form of energy or enthusiasm or creativity then there is no formula and it doesn’t work anyway. I think it’s about trying to have conviction - answering honestly to yourself what it is you are musically, each and every night. To be honest I’m very hot or cold as a DJ. When I’m good I think I’m really good and when I’m not good I’m really hard on myself.
So with regard to that, what do you think makes a good DJ?
Someone who’s trying hard to play the best music they can get their hands on, with conviction. The type of music I play doesn’t always lend itself to that. A lot of the records I play are hard to mix in or out at the beginning or end. Some of them are structured in such a way where they have to have their own space. I think the tracks you play should be good enough to breathe on their own. You shouldn’t have to work on top of them the whole time.
I prefer music programming over turntable olympics although a little bit of that is fun if the mood is right and you’re playing that style of music. Your style of DJing should match the style of music you’re playing. If it’s not then you’re not reacting to the music you’re buying and the music you like in an honest way, in a way that the music deserves to be answered to.
Some DJs think that in the future DJing will be about remixing and re-editing tracks on the spot using effects and samplers essentially creating a new and individual track each time it is played.
I think there’s something to be said for that style of DJing but I think the art of making music is so that it’ll have a certain effect even though the idea of mapping out a song might be a little contrived. Certainly it’s a DJ’s prerogative to rearrange a song or do something different with it but when it all becomes about changing what was created to begin with, as music, it starts collapsing in on itself and you have to start wondering whether it is sustaining any meaning whatsoever. Maybe dance music isn’t strong enough to sustain meaning. I don’t know but I’d like to believe it is possible to make and play tracks that do so.
What are your thoughts on the present state of clubbing culture?
I think the problem with clubbing culture is everybody goes out all the time and it’s no longer a departure. There’s no sense of a transformation. They don’t enter a space where they can suddenly be the person they want to be. There’s no feeling of emancipation or any of that. All of it has just become this regular event of people going out all the time. I wish they’d stop and start going out less and making more of it when they do; not just partying or whatever, but trying to go out and feel that what they’re doing is in a sense, a release. It should be a transformation from your normal life and your normal character.