A veteran San Francisco selector brings the heat.
Though he's been DJing for two decades now, until recently you would have been forgiven for not knowing who Solar was if you lived outside California. Now you'll find him touring Europe and recording mixes for respected outfits like Beats In Space and Dekmantel. It just took a little time for him to get there. A Bay Area staple since the mid-'90s, Solar played a pivotal role in the region's clubbing scene. With close friends like Galen and Conor, he's thrown outdoor events and camping festivals under the Sunset Sound System banner as well as a host of other parties, including No Way Back. Over that time spent honing his craft,in opening slots and Sunday night residencies, Solar earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues, including Justin Martin, who called Solar his favourite DJ: "he never ceases to blow my mind," he said.
Like other local heroes we've featured in the series—Dusseldorf's Lena Willikens and Amsterdam's Sandrien come to mind—Solar has used his residencies as a platform to perfect an adventurous yet streamlined DJing style. His sets pull together techno, industrial, EBM, electro and house without ever sounding too obscure or reaching too far left-of-centre. His RA podcast traverses decades and genres, starting with a German post-punk record from 1980 and cycling through the frazzled electronics of Beau Wanzer, a Baby Ford classic and some more recent techno bangers.
What have you been up to recently?
Working in the studio. Trying to get together my first release. Finished a couple podcasts for Dekmantel and Hugo Ball in Chicago respectfully. We just had an amazing night at our last Hostile Ambient Takeover event. It's a fairly recent project that Tasho (It's Own Infinite Flower) and Brian Hock (C.L.A.W.S., Kit n Claws) and I have been putting together at the compound where they live. It's kind of the last space like this left in SF unfortunately. We focus on live electronics and left-of-center music, whether it be noise, psyche, drone, new beat, krautrock—whatever really.
How and where was the mix recorded?
My bedroom setup consisting of two 1200s, a mixer and an old CDJ to play the one unreleased track on the mix.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
There was really no concept behind the mix. I had just bought a really cool old German electronic post-punk 45 that I really wanted to put on there somehow. So I basically started it off with that and let it unravel from there.
Do you feel like there are characteristics that are unique to the San Francisco club scene? How does the vibe compare to other US cities?
San Francisco has changed a lot over the last few years. It seems to be in a weird transition period, so I find that it's hard to define any solid characteristics at the moment. I do believe there are still some ghosts floating around from the "wild west," psychedelic '60s, early punk and disco days that were a crucial part of San Francisco's scene, and I try to conjure them up every time I play! When the undergrounds are strong—meaning not getting shut down or thrown by money hungry promoters—the vibe can be thick, with a wide variety of people with different backgrounds getting down, which I think is the same in most of the US cities where there is a scene.
In 2012 Justin Martin told us that you are his favourite DJ. Who is yours?
Off the top of my head I would have to say Traxx for his fearlessness, passion and total dedication to what he does. Mick Wills blew us all away at last year's Campout! I definitely have to mention some people bubbling under the surface here in SF: Mozhgan, Tyrel Williams (Secret Studio), Jason Greer and Conor (my partner in the No Way Back parties).
What are you up to next?
Getting ready to head back over to Europe a few times from April through the fall. Playing some cool festivals. Really excited to be invited to play Dekmantel this year! Gearing up for two mini-festivals I do with my partner Galen and the Sunset Sound System here in the Bay Area. Sunset Island on Treasure Island, and our annual Sunset Campout in July, a few hours outside of SF on a beautiful river in an old gold mining town. And last but not least, moving into a new space for our We Are Monsters monthly with fellow cohorts Mozhgan and Jason Greer.