Hogge grew up just a few miles from here, on the other side of the Hollywood Hills in the sprawling San Fernando Valley. As a 16-year-old he drummed in a punk band that toured the US in an old Dodge van, playing his first gig in Arizona, at a place called The Sugar Shack. While passing through Amherst, Massachusetts, he stumbled upon a pristine collection of Kraftwerk records in a secondhand store. He was smitten by both the music and the ephemera he found inside the sleeves—stickers, fold-out posters, a Radio-Activity perforated stamp set. Though he'd been buying rare punk records from a young age, this was the catalyst for him developing much broader tastes.
It wasn't long before he crossed paths with like-minded people such as Eddie Ruscha and Tim Koh, who he met while studying at California Institute Of The Arts in Los Angeles. Hogge drew inspiration from Ruscha and Koh's mixtapes, oddball affairs that stitched together dub, art rock, krautrock and experimental electronic music. Hogge and Koh played in a band with fellow CalArts student Ariel Pink, but Hogge left after it became "too gnarly," an ill-fated warm-up gig for Animal Collective and Black Dice being the final straw.
In Los Angeles he attended DJ Harvey's Sarcastic Disco parties and, before that, the Wax Records events. Eventually he and Kevin Carney started Blackdisco, a party that morphed into an edits label. The Blackdisco parties helped Hogge craft a DJ style that united his punk era, the CalArts days and his love of house, disco and techno. But he became disillusioned with LA's party scene, finding himself shunned by bar owners who'd rather hear mashups than Italo records. In 2007, he jumped at the chance to move to New York. There he hooked up with a tight community of friends and DJs—Doug Lee, Justin Vandervolgen, Phil South, DJ Spun, Eric Duncan—who propped up the city's scene by attending each other's events.
Hogge plays records as Lovefingers, a name he first used for an influential blog he ran from 2006 until the end of 2009. Punctuated by things like holiday snaps and birthday shout-outs to his son, Hogge uploaded a track every day and made it available to download for a brief time. His approach—no descriptions, just music—transcended language barriers, and the blog gained a global following. By the time he finished, on New Year's Day 2010, he had shared 999 unusual and generally brilliant tracks, starting with Codek's "Tim Toum" and finishing with "Little Dreamer" by Peter Green. He then started a record label, ESP Institute, which has blossomed since Hogge returned to Los Angeles, with a run of records that share a playful, understated sense of melody.
Over the years, two clear sides of Lovefingers have emerged. There's the crate-digging blogger and DJ who spends countless hours trawling shops for weird old records, and there's the label boss with a focus on sharing new music. Hogge's past as a drummer guides these two sides: both his DJ sets and the ESP Institute catalogue are littered with examples of stylish drum patterns. Late last year, I spent an afternoon at Hogge's Balearic garden, in a room crammed with books and records, discussing the music he loves most.
This was the first track on Lovefingers.org. How did the site come to exist?
Tim [Koh] and I did lots of music together, with and without Ariel. We had friends who did animation and film, so we planned to create a little composing studio and make music for movies. We wanted to make a website that was our calling card, our portfolio. We couldn't think of a name at first, and I was looking through records and I saw the Silver Apples track "Lovefingers." I bought the domain, but we thought it sounded like a porn site in the end and that whole collaboration just kind of went on the back-burner indefinitely. So the site sat there dormant for ages until eventually I just started putting tracks on it.
How does it feel listening to "Tim Toum" now?
This track will never get old to me. It's so bizarre and beautiful and also kind of annoying, in a way. If someone came to me with this track I would instantly sign it and put it out.
Has it inspired you in the studio?
Doug [Lee] and I, when we do Stallions, we take a lot of influence from chain-gang music. The clap on "Tim Toum" is straight out of that realm, but there's also this weird background jungle noise, and those vocals almost sound Cambodian. The kick doesn't sound like a kick, it sounds like the speaker's blown. I really like the honest exploration of foreign concepts in music during '80s—not like Peter Gabriel's world music, but music that was super primal-sounding. And if you listen to the other side of this 12-inch, it's not lo-fi [plays "Closer"]. I would actually play "Closer" out more often. You can float to this. But there's a big contrast between the two tracks in terms of production.
How did you find this record?
"Smokestack Lightning" was a centerpiece of one of the mixtapes that Eddie Ruscha and Tim Koh made. There was this thing in the '60s where American blues musicians were sent to London by their labels to record with psych backing bands. It was totally frowned upon by blues purists, it was seen as gimmicky bullshit. You may remember this record Electric Mud by Muddy Waters—well, this is the Howlin' Wolf version of Electric Mud. And Howlin' Wolf hated it, but he did it. And that's why it has this alternative title: This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album. He Doesn't Like It. He Didn't Like His Electric Guitar At First Either. But it has a version of "Smokestack Lightning" that has this delayed guitar solo shit in the middle that is just so good.
I like the pithy text on ESP records—stuff like "Tambien is a Bavarian trio with good taste. This is their first offering for ESP Institute." Was the text on this Howlin' Wolf sleeve an inspiration?
Yeah it's definitely that same tongue-in-cheek, introducing someone in a smart-ass way kind of thing: "Young Marco is from Amsterdam and this is his first record." We put out a record from this kid Ian Blevins, which is one of the more ravey, big-room things I have released. The text on the record was: "Ian Blevins is from England he's quite the dude." And when I do a record for ESP I think it'll say: "This is Lovefingers' record. He doesn't like it. He didn't like his drum machine at first either."
Do you play this out?
Yes, I've played this out a million times. I love this drum sound. It's epic drum production for a live band. It has this dry quality. Nothing has too much resonance. The EQ on the snare is paper-thin, and the kick sounds huge but it's flat. It has that Ginger Baker drum sound—super raw and under-produced. If you put weird delay guitar effects over that, you have this nice contrast and there's this huge space.
You said this was quite a "CBS record." What did you mean by that?
It'd probably be in a third of all the mixes on the CBS forum. All Roni's tracks are cheesy—this is the only cool, dark one. It's kind of like "Spacer Woman." It's super minimal for Bobby-O, it's not bubblegum, and it has this classic minimal synth drum machine.
Was it in your bag in those early days in LA when no bar owners wanted to hear Italo?
Totally. I would play this and then I'd play Yaz, which makes sense to me. This one is still in my bag now. I remember there was this club in LA that was open for a little while, No Filter. Solar came out and played there and—it's a weird thing here—after the drinks run dry, the bar shuts, it's hard to keep people there. His set got cut short, so he played the rest of the night at a house party. But he played "Spys" before things ended that night at No Filter. I was at the bar and I heard this coming in and I was, like, "Yes!" I need to pull this one out again.
Prelude in E minor Op. 28 No. 4
This is a Chopin record, by a vocal quartet called Novi Singers.
You said this one is particularly special to you.
I was in Paris a few years back, my son was like six months old and I was staying in my friend Vincent's house, and his dad's a classical record collector and dealer. He has this garage that's separated from the house and has walls of records. He built his own hi-fi out of wooden boxes that's acoustically amazing. He babysat my kid one night when I went out for dinner, and when I came back he was sitting on the couch, and my son Jasper was asleep in his arms, and he was playing this record, super beautiful, that sounded like lullabies.
I wanted to ask what record it was but I didn't want to wake up Jasper. The next day I had to leave, and the man was gone. I kept trying to get Vincent to find out what this record was, but his dad couldn't remember to save his life. Every time I went there I'd ask, but he didn't speak much English so I'd try to explain but he couldn't remember. And then one day, out of nowhere, this record just came in the mail from his dad. He must have seen the record, remembered, and shipped it to me. I get goosebumps when I put it on.
Maybe a year later, I was in Australia, and I did a party with Steele Bonus, a great digger and selector, and I was telling him this story. I was drunk and I gave him the record. Kind of passing on the greatness of the gift. Then I was back in LA with Kevin (Carney, AKA Nitedog) and I told him the story about how I gave the record away. He asked me to DJ at some gig, and when I arrived he had a copy of the record for me.
Did you regret giving away that first copy?
No. If you really want a record be patient and it will come. Music is meant to be shared, so never feel bad about giving a record away.
Quips & Cranks
This is a library record. It's real goofy. Super Dr. Dre, G-funk style. When I was living in LA, before I moved to New York, Doug Lee sent me a bunch of edits he made—it was all really good screwy disco and psych stuff, and then there was this library record he edited. I spent five or six years looking for this one. Lee knew it was "something Cranks," but he couldn't remember the exact title, and I finally found it: Quips And Cranks. It was at a record fair in Paris I went to with Alexis Le-Tan and we snuck in on the dealer's day before the public.
Library music is a whole other world.
There are people who only collect library records. Alexis has this friend called Jess, and they did these compilations called Space Oddities. Permanent Vacation put them out—it's a best-of library compilation but through a cosmic or disco filter, which is more in line with my tastes. It's a style of music where you find a guy who plays on one thing you like, and you buy every record that guy plays on. Like Sauveur Mallia, this French library legend with loads of releases on Tele Music. He was in Arpadys, they did "Funky Bass," one of the all-time space disco records that's just instrumental.
So Sauveur is a safe bet.
Everything that guy plays on is kind of rad.
What setting do you need to play this record to an audience?
I notice, especially in Japan and Australia, there are some gigs where people just want me to play Lovefingers-y weird shit. It's fine, but—I mean, I love DJing in a kind of lounge way, but mixing that with more danceable stuff is a challenge. Most of the music that would be in a Lovefingers weird set is not always stuff you can dance to. I need to figure out what's weird that you can dance to, or use those tracks as punctuation in an otherwise danceable set. That's where the fun comes in. I always try to shake it up and play something unexpected at some point.
Your set at ReviveHER in London in 2013 is one of my favorite warm-up sets from the past few years.
Hardly anyone was there. I had been playing gigs for four or five consecutive days at that point. I played Paris then Berlin then Lisbon and the last one was London. The guys who booked me said play early then you can get some sleep. I played early, but I still ended up going back-to-back with COS/MES at the end too. At the beginning I just played the sound of crickets and new age records and piano stuff. I really like doing that—taking it from nothing to something. Warming up is a task, but it's a nice payoff if you can get that skill down. It's rewarding.
Dub Big Hurt (Instrumental) [Played at 33RPM +8]
This is one of my girlfriend Heidi's favourites. I play this one at 33 +8. At 45 pitched down it's OK too—at that speed it sounds kind of like Gino Soccio.
It traces a really unique path.
There are so many changes. The quality of it is not really big enough to play out. But you can get away with it in a medium room. It sounds like a camel ride through the desert.
This was on Loverfingers blog too, right? How did you decide what to put up?
I would just throw in oddball stuff like I used to do on mixtapes. I just put all my fuckin' guts on the table with that blog. I wanted to make it go on and on and at some point maybe someone would sense some kind of narrative flow.
Bazar De Los Milagros
This is from Buenos Aires. This guy was a guitar player in a famous Argentinean band called Los Gatos. When I was in Japan, I played a party at this place called Shelter, this tiny little club with immaculate sound. Everything about the turntables and the soundsystem is nerdy hi-fi. No back-cueing, you can't touch anything. You have to clean your records with this organic record-cleaning fluid the guy who owns the club makes from scratch.
So it's fair to say this dude's a purist.
He's into jazz. And he surfs. So he surfs during the day and then comes in and puts on ECM records and sits there and tweaks little bits of foam around the room in this never-ending search for perfection. I stayed for a week at Chee Shimizu's house. Chee does these things, they are like listening parties, they'd decorate the room, lots of people would be lying on the floor. I was the guest; Chee was kind of the maestro. It wasn't necessarily new age, but really esoteric; I mean, he always calls his style "organic music." He does a record shop by that name. So borderline jazz, lots of new age-y stuff, proggy adult fretless bass. It can be a bit challenging.
But Chee has so much knowledge. He's really diligent. He wakes up in the morning, gets a lighter, takes off the price tag and cleans everything with butane, makes all his records immaculate, and every now and then he DJs if someone begs him to. Anyway, he played this record at Shelter when I was the guest and it was the track that blew my mind that night. It ticks all my boxes. I got the record and it came with this awesome little zine and it has all the tablature to play all the tracks. This is from the '70s, and it looks like something you'd see at the LA Art Book Fair this week.
I Can't Sing
This sounds like a very heavy musique concrete record.
It takes you to outer-space and back, right? It's all tape manipulation. Crazy.
What is it about this record that appeals to you?
Everything about it is just a little bit off, out of sync. On "I Can't Sing" it's those snares, those claps. You can never really get into it, where the snare is and the clap is, it's funky in a fucked-up way—it could be Sun Ra or something. The revolutions get further and further away. I'm imagining a band playing and they're really far apart from each other and there's lots of bounceback and sound delays—you think you're in sync but you're standing in the middle of a cacophony.
I wanted to ask you what kind of relationship there is between you as a label boss and you as a digger, because so far you have only released new music on ESP. Have you been tempted to get in the reissue game?
I have looked into reissuing some things but other people have always gotten there first. I started ESP because I got bored of people trying to out-dig each other. It gets ridiculous—ridiculous prices, people just hustle so hard. Music should be cheap and awesome and there for everybody. So I decided to find new music to put out. It's important and difficult to find new music that tells a story in the same way that I tried to do with the Lovefingers website. It's all modular. If you took all the records from ESP and put them on a wall, it would look like a story. And it sounds like that. That was the idea with Lovefingers.org—you can listen to all those songs in random sequence or consecutive order and there's some sort of thread. With ESP it's the same idea but with original content.
Nuno Canovarro had an album before this called Plux Quba, which is this pre-IDM thing, all really weird samples. Really beautiful analogue glitch. Jim O'Rourke ran a side label and he re-released Plux Cubo. Tim Koh and I were really into Jim O'Rourke, so that's how we found out about Nuno. And then I heard about this record, which I think is really hard to find on vinyl. I don't know if it's because it's a small pressing. But I looked for it forever. I can't even remember where I got it from—it was either eBay or I might have got it from Tako [Reyenga].
I made this mix when I first started doing ESP Institute, it was called Golden Age, and it was all really chilled out, almost meditative stuff. I basically only made that mix because I wanted to use "Blu Terra" as a centrepiece, everything before and after kind of hinges on this one track. This is everything I love in production—it's melodic and really uses the whole stereo spectrum. Everything has this short reverb on it, and that marimba is a little bit digital. It's insane, it's so good.
I think this sound kind of trickles into the records you've been put out on ESP. That sense of melody.
I like the idea of dance music with these sounds. [Young] Marco does that really well.
How Does It Feel There?
Richard Schönherz was the keyboard player in Supermax. One of the tracks on this LP features Moog drums by Roboterwerke—that's Franz Aumüller, who was in
Supersempfft. That guy's got this house, like a castle basically, in the Black Forest in
Germany. He's a synth genius, he used to be best friends with Herbie Hancock, in the '70s they'd just smoke weed and make weird music. Peter Hauke is the producer from Supermax and he also produced this. I love the keyboards on this. When I first got into Supermax, I just loved the keyboards—those bendy synths. Very sleazy. I opened Day In The Desert in 2014 with this one. There's a couple other funky things on the LP too. It kind of reminds me of Spiritualized.
It's very calming.
I like really calming music. It has a Topanga Canyon vibe, that jangly guitar in the
background. This could be from a '70s California surf video.