An interdimensional transmission from 2000.
Carlos Souffront comes from the same generation of Detroit selectors as Patrick Russell, Mike Servito and the Interdimensional Transmissions crew behind No Way Back. Raised on a diet of homegrown dance music, fed through underground parties and astoundingly good radio programming, they emerged with an elastic definition of techno and a fearlessness DJ style. While Souffront's peers moved away to places like New York or burrowed deeper into the Detroit underground, he ended up in San Francisco, where he's led a kind of double-life as a cheese monger. House and techno connoisseurs in the US—particularly those in striking distance of parties thrown by The Bunker, where Souffront has played increasingly often—have long known he's a supreme talent with a deep and varied record bag. This summer, though, Europe will get a taste when he makes a swing through Panorama Bar, Dekmantel Festival and Zoo Project in Ibiza.
For the uninitiated, RA.474 is a window into Souffront's classic style—quite literally. As he explained to us over email, this mix dates back over a decade to his radio show on Ann Arbor's WCBN and features "all old tracks that I still love and play today."
What have you been up to recently?
Recovering from Movement 2015, mostly! I just finished a mix The Bunker folks proposed I do of those 200+ AFX SoundCloud tracks. I don't keep CDJs at home so the guys at Underground SF welcomed me to record the mix there. Being alone in a bar trying to mix those dense, insane tracks was an incredible experience. It's been overwhelming listening to all of that stuff—up until I recorded the mix, that's primarily what I had been up to. Now, I'm looking forward to some travel and playing a lot more gigs than is usual for me, and in higher profile venues. I'm excited!
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was mixed live on my radio show in the WCBN-FM Ann Arbor studio and recorded over the air onto VHS tape on January 20th through 21st, 2000 during a total lunar eclipse.
Radio was a big influence for a lot of Detroit DJs—especially freeform radio, right? Do you think that shaped the way you play records?
Detroit radio was hugely influential to me. I think everyone in Detroit "of a certain age" will say that, too, not just DJs. I would tape my favorite mix shows and songs off of the radio and re-record my own "master mixes" that also included the records I was buying. The shows weren't exactly freeform, though—they were dance-mix specialty shows on commercial radio. The freeform radio influence came later, during and after college, when I volunteered at WCBN as a music director and DJ of freeform programming and a dance mix show I inherited from Brendan Gillen.
Yes, there are a bunch of ideas that come from my experiences around Detroit radio: play just the best part, fidelity comes second to content, vinyl records sound better even when they don't, play like no one is listening, play like everyone is listening, eclecticism honors diversity, or that occasionally there's nothing better than a deep dive into a very specific style. I could go on, but I won't just now.
I once heard another DJ say, "Carlos can play anything." Do you consciously try to mix things up and throw in curveballs, or is it just something that happens?
I just play records I really like, and while I definitely fixate on certain artists and styles, I like a lot of different stuff. I recently did another interview where I was asked this question about curveballs, and I don't really think of them that way. There's always a clear connection to me between the songs I'm mixing. Maybe it seems oblique or maybe even arbitrary to the audience, but it isn't. I definitely have less and less interest in a linear style of set programming. I spend a lot of time picking what I think are going to be the right records for the party and in my head, all of the tracks fit together into the sound I'm going after. And I most definitely can't "play anything"—I'm super picky about what I play, so much so that I have a really hard time finding new songs that I want to play. So I tend to play older stuff.
Speaking to a layperson, is there a lesser-known cheese you'd like to recommend?
I've worked in the cheese business for over 20 years now. The cheese community is just like techno: a small global village of wonderful and obsessed folks who all know each other, surrounded by vultures with bad taste who think it's about money. The lesser-known cheeses I love can sometimes be difficult to find in the condition or version that would merit the recommendation, so I tend to avoid naming something specific unless I'm familiar with where a person is buying cheese. Instead, I would rather recommend finding a cheese shop near you where they give you a sample before you buy and select and/or cut your piece of cheese in front of you. Ask them what they think is really great right now, or what's in perfect condition, or what has just arrived. Other advice: avoid snobby cheese mongers and crap service. Understand that great cheese is expensive but a totally affordable luxury. And lastly, be nice to your cheese monger—they work hard, don't make much money, often have very good taste in more than just cheese, and they're sexy and amazing. When you see them next, you should totally give them your money.
What are you up to next?
I'm about to eat this whole pizza.