Storrer's soaring house productions and edits have a distinct yearning for harmony. This is music with a certain quietude, a shimmering quality, like the mixes he's done for the Test Pressing website. But Storrer's peak-time sets in clubs are perhaps the most revealing. Cavorting between disco, dub, house and electro, he weaves intricate narratives that are full of surprises. I met Storrer in a vinyl back stock room in Baden, and later in the privacy of his Zürich apartment.
Why this one, of all hip-hop records?
I love the way they used samples here. And the many, many samples they used! How they started integrating five or six different sources into a track, using not just one source, which was the standard back then. You can really hear the difference between the first Jungle Brothers album and the second. It had to do with the advanced gear they used on Tribe Vibes. I would listen to this for months on repeat.
Was it this album that made you want to pursue a career in hip-hop?
I had no idea I would eventually become a rapper! Though I was really into making music. When the Jungle Brothers album came out, I worked in a hi-fi shop in Zürich. We had this cheap mixer, I don't remember what brand it was, but it had an in-built sample function. If you hit the Start and Stop buttons right you got a nice loop. So I was making loop tapes, in proper do-it-yourself fashion. And the way the Jungle Brothers did it, that was truly inspiring. They were in a massive flow back then. Yeah, a creative overflow.
A prime example would be "I'll House You."
This track was huge when I started going to clubs. And it was typical of the crossover attitude of the period. There was no time for the separatist attitude that came later: "Oh, we're hip-hop," and, "Oh, you're house." We swallowed up everything on the dance floor. Of course when the DJ came around to playing those hip-hop tracks, that was my crew's favourite time.
What was your crew like?
Most of my buddies were black. (Unlike me, of course!) They wore these black medallions around their necks, you know, the ones with the Africa symbol on it. In red, green and black. I became super-obsessed with African culture back then. I devoured everything I could lay my hands on: about Black Islam, about Malcolm X or Louis Farrakhan, the history of the black struggle. The whole cultural context was so fascinating.
Especially for someone who grew up in the comfort zone of Switzerland.
Of course. My background was the total opposite. As for those records, you didn't just listen to the tunes. You read a name of a producer in the liner notes, discovered another name here. And another there. I had a friend of Jamaican descent, who grew up in New York City. He knew about things. So slowly I started putting the pieces together. Like when you realized that De La Soul sampled Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" on their tune "Buddy." And hearing the original for the first time was a pretty mind-blowing experience.
So I have a trivia question for you: do you know which house classic sampled the guitar at 1:23?
I have no idea. Which one is it?
It's the Joshua Iz track on the Foot Therapy EP, another favourite of mine. It's always great when you make discoveries like that. Especially when you establish a link between two musical fields you love. Aswad recorded this track in 1982, I think. They also played in Babylon, which is a film about racism and immigration in the UK.
That track is awash in reverb and delays. It's a kind of hyper-dub.
That's one of the reasons why I love this record: that not so obvious dubbyness. A playfulness that smacks you on the back of your head with a whirlwind of beats. As a personal rule of thumb, I like the reggae produced in the UK or from New York way better. Wackies, Mad Professor, that line. Honestly, there's too much boring dub out there.
It sounds like something that could have been released on Sleeping Bag Records.
There's a lot of what I personally dig coming together in this record. Or take this one. [Sifts through his records and takes Jah Wobble's "Snake Charmer" from the shelf]. You have people like Holger Czukay, François Kevorkian and The Edge jamming together with Jah Wobble. What a fantastic combo! And Arthur Russell, he's in there too: he wrote the lyrics for "Hold On To Your Dreams."
In The Light Of A Miracle
This one is a trip. Rolling, slightly out of time.
This track was recorded in 1982 but was only pressed on vinyl, as a Talkin Loud promo, in 1996. It never got a proper release. It's really one of those ultimate records for me. In the beginning, I only played the Danny Krivit mix. Then, I discovered the clubbier Ponytail mix as well.
These voices keep popping up. As if they were in a radio play for the dance floor. A stream of consciousness of sorts.
Yeah, people like Julius Eastman and Allen Ginsberg. I love the way it fuses club music, the spirit of the New York downtown scene and that Balearic vibe. So much is happening in these ten minutes. There's a levity and it's never becoming superficial. To me this record is—oh well, I don't want to sound too esoteric—but yeah, it feels like the river of life.
What memories do you have from playing this one out?
I played it in Ibiza once. It felt like giving a present to myself. It was one of these moments where you stand back from the mixer and you just start to feel. It's a record that makes me want to hold still, music that strikes a deep inner chord in me. There's something so positive and straightforward in this music, yet there's that melancholy. If you can share this in a good place, somewhere outside, among like-minded people, then it's the perfect record.
Do you get many of these moments when you play in Zürich?
The scene in Zürich is a bit stuck at the moment. There are a lot of clubs, but there are too many Durchlauferhitzer, people who just promote ready-made club fare but contribute nothing relevant to the scene. But I feel like there is a new generation on the way, so there is hope. And you have to keep in mind that Zürich is a small city. Anyway, it's been a while since I had a great time in a club here.
It's the dusty basements where it's happening.
Those parties are motivational. That's where you want to be really good. Where the good crowd is. Where the underground thrives, ha!
Lullaby (12" Version)
That trumpet break is the obvious "ah!" moment here.
Yeah, though my favourite bit is around the middle, where Morgan brings in this tiny sample from "Numbers" by Kraftwerk. There's more from Kraftwerk here, these stompy kicks going chack-cha. In my teens I soaked up everything New Wave and electro: Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, Mute Records. And Kraftwerk. When Electric Café was released in 1986 I was amazed. I vividly remember seeing the "Boing Boom Tschak" video clip on TV. I literally ran to the store to buy the album. Anyway, this is another example of where two of my personal worlds come together: electro and house.
Morgan Geist said it was all about the naïve excitement of those early synth pop records.
It was probably the one track that re-sparked my interest for club music around the year 2000. Well, in a way, house music had always been around after Larry Heard's "Can You Feel It?" In any case, around the corner. In the mid-'90s we would go to these local house parties hosted by Oliver Stumm of H20. And tracks like "The Funk Phenomena" by Armand van Helden—there was a bounce in there that had my floor shaking. You know, being a hip-hop man and all.
Your former partner, Bligg, is the foremost Swiss rapper, commercially speaking. What made you want to split back in 2001?
I was no longer at ease with the kind of hip-hop we were doing. As you know well, Bligg and I rapped in Züridütsch, our vernacular. Actually, this career only got started by chance. One day, I improvised by rhyming in dialect. I meant it as a joke! But it kind of worked. That was the time when I met Bligg and we went from there. We had good times. But it became too much.
I guess I couldn't cope with all the attention and being on big stages.
I take it your interest in more exotic and clubbier sounds was frowned upon?
That transitional phase was difficult. You are part of a certain scene. And then you decide to do something different. Some people see that as a betrayal. When I did my first solo album, in 2002, the crowd at my release party was expecting me to rap. Except, I didn't rap. I sang a bit, but I didn't rap. There I was on stage with my two MPCs and a full band, and we played a variety of styles, some songs leaning towards psych-rock even. The crowd was bewildered, some alienated. Five years later some of these guys would tell me that they really liked my sound, which was kind of rewarding.
She Ain't Nuthin' But A Hoe
This is my favourite acid house track. Have you ever heard it on a club PA?
No. But the bassline is incredible.
It's absolutely crazy! I love how Mark Imperial fiddled around with the dynamics of this track. And the vocals are just over the top. Especially when that guy engages into staccato style: "Hoe, hoe, hoe, hoe, hoe."
You didn't strike me as a ghetto house fan. Even with your hip-hop roots.
That's probably a rap thing I will never tire of [laughs]. That booty-styled explicitness. Plump, but charming stuff. How these ridiculous lyrics ride besides that phenomenal bassline. This track is the essence of what producers nowadays try to recreate: a raw originality. Kevin Saunderson's "Bounce Your Body To The Box" is another example. A hard-hitting, blasting groove that catches you by surprise. Boom! It's the kind of ballsyness I sometimes wish my own productions had more.
This is from James Holroyd, who is from Manchester. Is he a friend of yours?
Yes, you could say so. James used to be a tour DJ for the Chemical Brothers, and he's actually a good house DJ, too. I followed him on SoundCloud since I liked his first EP under the moniker Begin, which was half electronic and half Balearic. When I heard this track I nearly passed out. Simply beautiful. I immediately wrote to him, whereupon he sent me a test pressing. Good man! I still get goose bumps from hearing this one.
What would be the perfect mood for playing it?
In a dark room with nothing but smoke around you. What's so great about this track is it has a house tempo and by way of these bleeps it generates a ravey feeling. It's an endless teaser, it builds and builds, but the kick never comes. Then you have that stretched-out bassline. You can work that record well on a small floor, mixing it with a drumbeat. It's a track to get lost in. Like ecstasy without taking ecstasy [laughs].
How did you get into the Balearica thing?
I had a residency at club Toni Molkerei in 2002. That's where I met Steve Kotey from Bear Funk. Steve wanted me to do a record, which I did, and it was released in 2006 under the name Sirocco. Paul Mudd from Claremont 56 did a remix on this record, and since Paul and Steve used to be roommates the three of us had a beer together. That was that. But I guess it also comes from hanging out a lot in Bill Brewster's DJ History forum during those years. I published my first mix there, which got me in touch with a bunch of like-minded people. And things went from there, I guess.
On Such Favors
Are you a big Thrill Jockey collector? I'm not familiar with that stuff.
Not at all, really. I checked out a couple of other acts on the label, but nothing really hit me. This is Sam Prekop's first album, a bit calmer than his records with The Sea And Cake, his main band. Some of that sounds as if Ricardo Villalobos had gone indie.
How did you find this one?
More or less by chance. At the time I was responsible for buying at a record store in Zürich, and this sales rep from Thrill Jockey put on this record. I was hooked instantly. It's a very intimate sound. I know this feeling, I felt very close to it from the start. A beautiful record. A sound for listening when I feel the need for privacy, turn myself inside down, at home.
Talking about home, why do you have so few records here?
In my apartment I only store 1000 records. It's a kind of rule that I've set myself. I have this urge to constantly organize myself, which is a characteristic of mine. As a kid, I used to collect Formula 1 racecar models. But my aim wasn't to own all the models. I just wanted the three best models. It's my method to keep order in your head. The same goes for digital tracks. Do you really need five hard drives filled with sound? I certainly don't.
What's the story here?
I first heard this track in a mix by Steele Bonus. A mate put me in touch with a Japanese vendor who had another copy. This one is a tough find. It's been produced by Haruomi Hosono of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
You have a knack for a certain Japanese oddball groove.
That barking dog sound in the background is hard not to like, right? And there's that chorus where her child-like voice rises. A typical Japanese moment. Otherworldly. The sound design is amazing. And I really admire Hosono's attitude as a producer. It wasn't like a regular band was recorded in the studio. They were programming all their music, which is standard procedure today. But back then it was visionary. Next level stuff.
Electronic music from Japan has seen a rise in popularity recently.
It seems it's one of the last territories that hasn't been dug out yet, after Italo disco, cosmic and library music. And the record dealers realized that, too.
You work in the second hand record store Zero Zero. What do you go after there?
It's convenient, of course. I have phases when a certain field interests me, and then it's great to have a huge backstock in a huge attic where you can dig your way through that specific genre.
Do you ever regret having spent so much time with records?
The way I did it was extremely time-consuming. It's a bit like spending years at the university but without getting the degree.
Was your own music put on the shelf because of that?
There was a time where I said to myself, you should spend more time making your own stuff instead of checking everything out, all the time, new and old. Truth be told, I'm no longer the field digger I used to be. Like going from store to store and sifting through heaps of records all day long.
It's All In Sound
I just listened to this when I came back from the gym today. Bullion's first album was a mash-up of Beach Boys and J Dilla. I like this artist because he tries out new things all the time. He did an album for Young Turks, very sample-based and collage-like. There's another project called Nautic, they recently made a 12-inch for the Test Pressing label. And Bullion also did an EP for R&S.
Which sounded very unlike R&S.
I have a hard time describing this sound, though. I guess "It's All In Sound."
It reminds me of what people like Godley & Creme did, that '80s avant-garde stuff. I think this young man Bullion is really fresh. And the lightness it has. A unique voice. I mean that also by the way he sings.
FM (No Static at All)
I've been listening to this record all year long, practically on loop. I confess: I'm in an intense Donald Fagen phase right now.
Yeah, I saw that Donald Fagen book over there.
The way these guys handled chord progressions in their compositions. Phew! I admire their jazzy sophistication, a sound that's intellectually charged yet very accessible. "FM (No Static at All)" may sound a bit theatrical at times, but they always steer it back on track. And when the lyrics go "Give us some funked up music"—
—a line notoriously misheard as "Give us some fucked up music."
—together with that wicked bassline. Their whole approach to music is just awesome. Sky-high musicianship. Besides, no one makes saxophone solos sound as bearable as Steely Dan [laughs].
It's quintessential pop.
Yeah, perfect pop music. I like that. "Do It Again," their all-time classic, is also a favourite, but above all I treasure their album Aja. A masterpiece, even though it consists only of seven tracks. Did I mention that Fagens' lyrics bring out the great analyser in me? I can become quite obsessive. Besides, his voice has such a soothing effect on me. As if Fagen was whispering into my ear, "No worries, man. All will be well, all will be good."