Marea Stamper connects the past with the present for our 600th podcast.
"I feel like I won the life lottery," Marea Stamper told us back in 2014. At that point she was the creative director of the Chicago club Smart Bar and already a popular name on the American dance music circuit, although nothing could have prepared her for what was to come. Stamper became a festival headliner seemingly overnight, crisscrossing the globe so much that she finally left her beloved Chicago for Berlin and then London, as larger and larger gigs piled onto her itinerary.
As we wrote in that 2014 feature, there are plenty of reasons to admire Stamper. She's an uplifting presence in the DJ booth, and she's an important voice online, tirelessly championing dance music's core social values and its marginalized communities and people. And then, of course, there's the music she plays, which is where Stamper's long relationship with dance music is immediately obvious.
Stamper has been in love with dance music ever since she was a teenager selling rave mixtapes in Kentucky out of the back of her car, and she's got the record collection to show for it. Blazing techno? Laidback Balearic? Thumping disco? Classic Chicago house? All of the above? You never know what you're going to get when you hear Stamper play. But you can usually count on her to play uplifting, raucous music,
which is probably how she found her way atop so many bills. She always has a good time (even when she's sick) and she makes sure you do, too.
With this in mind, Stamper seemed like an obvious choice for our next milestone podcast. She's delivered something eclectic, even for her. "I am really interested in music from periods where a genre maybe hadn't become super self-aware," she says. "In this mix there's, for example, some of what we might call post-punk, and there's some stuff that borders on EBM, new wave, hi-NRG." It's a set that shows the true breadth of dance music, reminding us that there aren't actually any rules to this thing.
What have you been up to recently?
I was on tour for seven months straight. By the end of it I didn't know what continent I was on, much less what country I was in. I went through an extended period of insomnia and accompanying narcolepsy, which made me fun on the road. But that passed and I'm back in the land of the living. I also moved to London. I hadn't originally intended to, but when I came here for my XOYO residency I just fell in love with this city and with the UK at large in a way that was undeniable. My husband was ready to pack it all up. So right now I'm looking for a house to buy here. The dog is happy with all the greenery. Past that, it's been a wonderful year that exceeded all my expectations in every way. From swimming in a giant geothermal spring in Iceland to playing for some heart-stopping sized crowds, 2017 is wild as hell. I've been able to bring my family and best friends out with me on a lot of shows, so that's a blessing. It's been an insane schedule, but I'm useless when I'm not working so it's probably for the best. You can only watch so much Riverdale before the depression sets in.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I went back to the booth where I did my residency in London, at XOYO during the day when they weren't open, and just brought about a trillion records in there. It was recorded with two turntables, an F1 mixer and two CDJs straight off the board. I had an ice-cold Coca-Cola. I quickly sketched some notes on two record sleeves and hit record. It took a couple of whacks to get it right. Stay in school, kids.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I am really interested in music from periods where a genre maybe hadn't become super self-aware. Before house music was house music it was a collision of a lot of things. The crossing zones between movements tend to yield some of the most interesting sounds. In this mix there's, for example, some of what we might call post-punk, and there's some stuff that borders on EBM, new wave, hi-NRG. I'm always interested in distilling those components of dance music, figuring out what the alphabet or the elemental bits were that smashed into one another and became a larger idea. I like going one step back and seeing what's there and then drawing a line between the past and what's current. So we hop pretty quickly from Was (Not Was) to Errorsmith. It's all one thing.
We're getting towards that time of year... are there any particular tracks or albums that have stood out for you in 2017?
It was clearly Cardi B's year. And Honey Dijon. Her new record is amazing.
And as you've mixed our 600th podcast, do you have any favourites from down the years?
Robert Hood's is unreal. That moment when he drops his remix of Carl Taylor is something that I refer to a lot in my mind. Just punching into disco from techno like a lock and key. Sadar Bahar's mix was just genius. He's incredible. My brother DJ Nobu's mix is genius. Ivan Smagghe's is fantastic. There's just so many. And sorry I gotta be corny, but I was mostly on the outside looking in until not so terribly long ago, so these podcasts are something that for a lot of time I have listened to religiously, trying to be connected to this world, even if it was just in my mind. It's a tremendous honor to be answering these questions because I've spent so much time with these recordings as a listener. I'm still mainly just a fan.
What are you up to next?
Somehow between shows I've been managing to work in the studio. As I mentioned, I moved, but my studio still lives in Chicago. It feels good to go back home and work. My tour manager and partner still lives in my house there and he is the caretaker. Chicago will always be the North Star. There's also a wonderful space I work in while I'm on the West Coast and I occasionally borrow the studio here in London at Red Bull. I have a very large project I'm working on with Jamie Principle, a small orchestra and a ton of other players like Shaun J. Wright, Jyroscope, Kiddie Smile and my friend Chris La Barbera on keys. Lots of other people to be named! The single this year was a little taste of it and I have a follow up with Jamie on the way.
So basically every second I've had that wasn't on a plane or sleeping has been spent in one of those three studios or a couple of satellite spaces with recording booths, etc., stitching together sessions for this project with Rupert. I love recording people and I love writing music for all kinds of instruments so it's been a lot of fun. I also started releasing a techno project with the aforementioned Rupert under the name Throwing Shapes. Our first track came out on Argot just recently.
Other than that, I'm of course continuing to tour and also taking my party, We Still Believe, on the road. We're starting in London in a boxing hall and going to some select locations for really unique shows. I say all this and it sounds like I'm in a crazy rush, but it's all a mad adventure and I can't think of any better way to spend a life than this, so I'm trying not to fuck it up.
If you're in LA on December 2nd come see Marea in conversation with K-HAND at Navel as part of our RA LAX event series.