Francois K has been has been a fixture on New York's topsy-turvy club and dance music scene since the seventies – he’s even spun at legendary New York venues such as Studio 54, The Loft and Paradise Garage - but twenty years on and he's still interested in nurturing a community of likeminded music lovers, hip shakers and even, it seems, RA readers. It's all part and parcel of his search for new music. "It's like an ecology. You have to feed it or nurture it."
For Francois that means finding and playing new music. So how does he find new music these days? "I scour message boards and I try to see what people are talking about, especially people who I know have good taste. I look at other people's playlists. I go and hear other people play. I play with other DJs and I get to hear a fair amount of different stuff.”
Francois' dedication to the cause runs deeper than most. While most of us are turning in for an early night on Monday, Francois is packing his record bags and getting ready to hit the clubs again. His weekly Deep Space party has been turning Gotham City peeps onto dub, funk, disco and even the odd bit of poetry every Monday night at Cielo since 2003. "When I play Deep Space it's all about dub. There's a lot of dubstep, funk records, hip hop, dubby kind of techno, some reggae, all kinds of stuff, maybe even some cosmic disco, obscure rock records. Whatever it is it's just about trying to take a trip."
Deep Space is in part the 00s answer to Body & Soul, the weekly Sunday afternoon New York parties that Francois held with Danny Krivit and Joe Clausell back in the mid-nineties at Club Vinyl. Widely regarded as New York's most famous house party, the marathon sessions united music lovers of all stripes with back-to-back sets that melded each their individual styles. That was back in the day when New York actually had a thriving club scene. How are things today? "There's lots of smaller places but for some reason there's been an incredible upturn in real estate values and people have decided that the spaces were far too valuable to be clubs, " laments Francois. "Unfortunately, little by little, we've lost most of our large-sized clubs or they've reopened as bottle service, bling-bling kind of things where your status and the clothes you wear are far more important than the music you hear."
From big room, crowdpleasing techno in Ibiza to organic, soulful house at Body & Soul to more abstract techno at his Cosmic Twins nights with Derrick May, as a DJ and record buyer, there's something for everyone in Francois' collection. These days, there's even a bit of new rave. "I think Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco, Justice and some of the other Kitsune signings have something going on that you can't just ignore, " beams Francois like a kid who's just discovered a new toy. "I saw Simian Mobile Disco play live at Bestival and I was really impressed. I was like, "Wow! Fuck!"
Just don't ask him about his own twelves. Francois runs four labels (Wave, Wavetec, Deep Space Media and Clicktracks) but he's reluctant to spin or talk about his own records. "Everybody teases me that I never list or play my own records. Maybe I'm too self-conscious but I don't want people thinking that when I play I'm going to constantly try to push my own thing. What I play is an illustration of all the great stuff that I get turned onto and happen to find. Even though I might have made or put out a record I don't need to list it because I think there are better records out there. But you know..." That's okay, Francois. Go on. You can talk about a few today. "Well, you know, it just so happens that this particular batch of records are really great so I've put them on. We're not signing many things these days but the ones we sign are really, really high quality. "
Best of all, in a business where DJs often end up running a good thing into the ground or caving into the commercial pressures, Francois K has managed to carve out a niche doing his own thing. Maybe it’s because his philosophy is to stick close to the music. “Music, for a lot of people, is just a fashion accessory or wallpaper on the soundtrack to their drug holidays,” Francois sighs. So you’re not in this for the free drinks then? “No, for me it’s all about wanting to be close to people and sharing those songs that I really love with them. I made the conscious decision that it was always going to be that I'm doing this because I love it. Because it's in my blood. And I wasn't strictly going to be doing it because I get paid for it.”
“You know, I never really do top tens,” explains Francois. “I think this is maybe the first top ten I’ve done this year. But not ten. You asked me for my favourite tracks. They don't fit a specific amount. There could be eight. There could be twelve. I’m a non-conformist.”
Deadmau5 – Not Exactly [mau5trap]
“I get my music from record stores and distributors, and I even have a drop box where people can upload stuff for me, but this track I just got off Beatport. It just kind of stood out from the rest of the predictable minimal electronic things that I seem to listen to endlessly. I have no idea who it is, no clue whatsoever, but it really grabbed me. And it's not just this one track that's good either. Most of what Deadmau5 has done recently has been really good. It's that kind of electronic house sound.”
MySpace: Deadmau5 – Not Exactly
Phantom Power - Acid Uber Ales [Clicktracks]
“This is a track by Rob Rives, who was the very first artist I signed twelve years ago. This one's on my sublabel Clicktracks, which is for stuff that I consider to be more techno and more minimal electronic music. No melody, no bassline, more like DJ tools. I think this record's going to be a smash. It's really special. I very seldom play my own label's records, but this track in particular has worked exceptionally well for me everywhere I've played. It has spectacular breaks and build-ups and whenever I play it, people rush to the booth to ask what it is. That's how I can tell something's really special.”
Benga & Coki - Night [Tempa]
“I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from Laurie at Tempa, who's been taking care of me because she knows I'm really blown away by a lot of dubstep. It's been the big thing this year for me at my Deep Space nights. There are very few dubstep specific parties in New York, but this year I've been getting incredible reactions to it. This particular track has the same kind of appeal that Skream's early single 'Midnight Request Line' had. It's the kind of record that crosses over beyond the trainspotters and can work with more mainstream people. Like two weeks ago, I played it at Bestival in the middle of a more techy set and it worked great. I don't usually play dubstep for techno crowds or when I'm doing bigroom type sets, but when I do it does manage to connect with a lot of the younger audience. Actually now I'm in the middle of making a record with Mala from Digital Mystikz.”
MySpace: Benga & Coki - Night
NSI. - Dual [Non Standard Productions]
"I bought this on vinyl and while I was reading the liner notes, I realised these guys were working with a lot of analogue synthesizers with electronic music purist kind of aims. I figured that was interesting so I wanted to know what it was all about. I have to tell you I'm really blown away by the production on the whole EP. It has this really gritty analogue synthesizer that's kind of dirty. Not quite like Omar S but more electronic. I love that. I'm a real sucker for those kinds of records so I've been testing this the last few weeks and it's fierce. When that analogue sound is done well, I just love it. This track is really easy to work with. You can layer it on top of other things. You can do all kinds of fun things, and it has a nice sort of futuristic vibe. How could I not play this record? In the second half the beat just drops and it's really great."
Buraka Som Sistema - Yah [Modular]
"This is from a remix EP that the label Modular released. I just found it by myself and it was a really pleasant surprise. Buraka Som Sistema are a very big act in Brazil, but I didn't know that until I got this record. Each song is great and again I was blown away by the whole EP. I couldn't figure out if I should look at this as breaks or as tribal but it's just good music and I love it. I don't know what the original version sounds like but it's probably something worth checking out. I play this in techno sets when I want to add live percussion or tracks that have more of a tribal feel. I also play it within the trippier Deep Space sets to pick up the pace after all the downtempo stuff. This is one of those records that everybody will like and that I'm always on the lookout for."
YouTube: Buraka Som Sistema - Yah [Modular]
Sygaire & Defcon - Always For The Breaks [Raw Fusion]
"I don't know anything about these people. This was something that was brought to my attention by my good friend Danny Krivit because we are constantly turning each other onto new things. It has like a continuous drum break for nine minutes and again it really stands out. It's a pretty remarkable track, a party track that you could even play in hip hop sets because it has that kind of old school breaks vibe. You could play it with almost anything because it has so much energy. I'm just like, 'Wow'. Definitely a very unique record. "
Beroshima - Horizon (Pig & Dan Remix) [Cocoon]
“I know very little about this artist but I have liked the Pig & Dan sound for several years now. Again this is a thing I picked up at Beatport. I've been playing it steadily for at least a month now and it has this crisp and clean powerful sound with a very dreamy sort of behaviour to it. I like the way Pig and Dan make electronic music that's more like a crossover between techno and minimal. They also have a couple of outstanding songs on a new EP on Cocoon which I almost listed instead. ”
Jephte Guillaume presents Erol Josué - Papa Loko [Kalé]
"This is a track which I've been playing for quite a long time because I got an advance copy. Well, actually my wife and I did the artwork on the jacket, but that's not why it's listed. It's an Afrobeat track and it's a killer. Again, it's one of those records that when I start playing, people run into the booth asking, 'What is this? You've got to tell me now!' It's quite relentless, powerful, like electronic Afrobeat. But it's really good. This is really bad ass. I've put this on my new compilation because I just had to have it on there."
MySpace: Jephte Guillaume - Papa Loko
XDB - Decap (Live) [Deep Space Media]
"This is a record which I found in Berlin. It was originally released on a label called Metrolux Music but they only did a really limited pressing. I was at Hardwax and ten seconds after I put the needle on the record, I was on the phone to my office. I was like, 'We gotta pick this up'. It has this dubby element to it, like the very best of Basic Channel and those kinds of things that cross over, that kind of organic sort of techno. I've been playing this relentlessly for the last six months. We remastered it, but it's from a great producer who I actually had no idea about until this track. I didn't know of anything else he'd done before this, but it's really powerful."
Cobblestone Jazz - Put The Lime In Da Coconut [Wagon Repair]
"This just destroys the floor. It has groove, but it's not pretentious or anything. It's like a party record that fits really nice with techno records just as well as house ones. I quite like these kinds of jams because you can bring them in any time you want. They're effortless. They just fit. This has a groove and a quirky bump that's easy to get into. This never fails!"
YouTube: Cobblestone Jazz - Lime in Da Coconut
Digitalism - Jupiter Room" (Erol Alkan's Simple But Effective Edit) [Kitsuné]
"This is one of those French electro records. Lately, I've been playing a lot of that sound - Justice, Digitalism and so on - because there's a freshness about it that the crowds react to. It's wild. This particular track, which has been out for a while, has been massive for me. Again, it's futuristic and has a discoish kind of vibe without going into the whole revival, beardo cosmic thing. It's also edgy and now. What I like about these kinds of records is that they have an immediacy to them, something that's really now, an energy level which is hard to ignore. I also really like the way they use rock chords as the peaks in the records."
YouTube: Digitalism - Jupiter Room (Erol Alkan Edit)
Scuba feat. Lisa Shaw - Love For You (Nova Dream Sequence) [Wave Music]
"This is something by King Britt. It's in the same vein as the Nova Dream Sequence album on Compost, which I really fell in love with. It's definitely more towards the techno end of things, but it's also sort of melodic and groovy and hypnotic, which I'm really fond of because it's so rare. This is just amazing. I play it for techno people and they want to know what it is. I play it to house people and they want to know what it is. That's a good illustration of a record that will do well. I've had some amazing reactions to this so I've been playing it for quite a while. It never fails. Never!"
MySpace: Lisa Shaw - Love For You (Nova Dream Sequence)