Lush techno from a seasoned selector.
In his RA exchange from 2013, Eric Cloutier described himself as a "record digging psychopath" who spends as long as six hours a day on Discogs. That may have been only a mild exaggeration. For just shy of 20 years, Cloutier has doggedly pursued one goal: to find the most mind-bending techno records possible and mix them together flawlessly. His tastes lean toward heady, timeless sounds, and his delivery is obsessively meticulous—this is a man who takes the art of mixing very seriously.
Cloutier's sleek sound was born in Detroit, where he grew up, and honed over many years there and in New York, where he became a resident at The Bunker in 2010 (today he remains a "resident abroad"). Now based in Berlin, he's getting his feet wet as a producer, with EPs on Mosaic and Wolfskuil Ltd and another in the pipeline for Patrice Scott's label, Sistrum. But the sourcing and playing of records will always be his main obsession. On RA 502, he gives us 84 minutes of techno with a depth and nuance that can only come from years of fiendish dedication.
What have you been up to recently?
Currently I've been putting the finishing touches on a track that will be appearing on Sistrum later in the year, and submitting some other works to labels I admire with the hopes they might also think highly of me. Primarily, being so close to the New Year, I've spent the last few weeks getting my goals and standards set for 2016 and lining myself up to achieve some stronger, loftier challenges for myself.
How and where was the mix recorded?
This mix was done on two Pioneer PLX-1000 turntables, two Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS decks and a Pioneer DJM-900NXS mixer, all used at, obviously, the Pioneer studio here in Berlin, who generously let me crash their setup for a few hours to get the mix done.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I'm having so much fun when I play these days, and personally I feel I'm playing some of my best sets. I've been pushing myself and have been finding new ways to make my sets more dynamic, but I'm also really focusing on properly cementing my sound as a DJ. Since moving to Berlin in 2013 I took advantage of the surrounding inspiration and exceptional record stores to rekindle my love for the techno that I initially was playing back in the late 90's and have been going full-circle with my sound in performances. While I still love all sorts of deeper things, and I recently have been digging out more of my house records again, this one definitely is more of a tribal, jacking, tripping techno set, which is more attune to what I've been playing out this last year—bit of older, a bit of newer, some unreleased, and even something of my own.
As a DJ you seem to take the art of the recorded mix particularly seriously. What is it about the format that does it for you?
When I was young and the illusion of the mix CD was lost in my naiveté, I would listen to mixes and be fascinated with not only how flawlessly they were performed, but the track selection and structure was so smooth and seamless that I would spend hours a day trying to be equally fluid with my playing. After I finally came to grips with the concept of studio tricks, I realized that I was possibly over-thinking things, but obviously it helped me exponentially and inadvertently pushed me towards a solid skill set when it comes to playing. In the end, I really felt that I was putting out podcasts as just some random bedroom DJ that were equal to some of the mixes I was buying at the store and at raves. It's definitely something that's stuck with me to this point. Those who have followed me for years know that I pride myself on my podcasts and have used them as a way to document where I am and archive my progress.
That aside, I've always been impressed with a studio recorded set from someone more than a live one simply because it allows for deeper digging and more eclectic direction. People seem to take more chances when there's not hundreds or thousands of people staring at them, and I don't quite understand why that should hinder or alter the approach to playing. I'm also intrigued by the concept of someone blurring the lines between the two—I pride myself on digging for something new and interesting that works both in the podcast and in the club, and I make a strong effort to make both coherent and consistent.
What were some highlights from 2015 for you?
One of the biggest things for me was to finally complete an EP with my name on it, which I did for Wolfskuil over the summer. Being a DJ first and foremost, producing my own music has been a major learning curve that I'm just now beginning to feel comfortable with, but I'm quite excited about my sound that's forming. But the year was also filled with some amazing gigs, including being surrounded by my favourite people at The Bunker NY showcase at Berghain last February, supporting my home team for that entire day, as well as a really enjoyable tour with my good friend Peter Van Hoesen down in Australia, including a blast of a time at Strawberry Fields Festival, and opening up for one of my heroes, Jeff Mills, at the The Bunker NY 12-year anniversary last January.
What are you up to next?
I foresee lots of time spent at my studio desk over the next few cold weeks of winter so I can hopefully set myself up for a prosperous summer and beyond. I'm feeling much more comfortable and confident when it comes to production, so I feel like I can probably contribute something of merit to the musical world this year. I'm putting down some firm plans to get my EP for The Bunker NY finished, as well as having scheduled an EP for Les Enfants Terribles and focusing on a second release for Wolfskuil and possibly even Mosaic. I figured it could maybe also be time to attempt an album, since I'm pretty sure I've got the whole mixing records thing down pretty well, so also I'll be focusing on that—when I'm not hunting for new records.
But as a whole it's really about pushing myself more when I'm in the booth, as that's the one thing that I truly love the most. I'm taking more chances and reaching further left and right these days and I want that rekindled drive to translate when I'm on the road. I'm feeling exceptionally good about this year and I'm feeling like that will continue for me and trickle down to everything I do musically.