Photo: Presse (Stimming)
“It is that diversity of both artistry and audience that defines the Honey experience for me,” says Rishy Kashyap, who works as a promoter for the San Francisco-based collective Honey Soundsystem. “we are being exposed to DJs on the cutting edge of dance music and the sheer range of the bookings mean that you could be plumbing the depths of a warehouse to the frequencies of Rrose’s “Waterfall”, and then an hour later you’ll be taken to church on the wings of Sylvester.” The aforementioned diversity is also reflected in the labels that were founded by members of the collective such as Honey Soundsystem Records and Dark Entries. Robert Yang joined Honey Soundsystem in 2007 and released his first records as Bézier on fellow Honey member Josh Cheon’s Dark Entries. Before he returns to the collective’s own imprint with his Cosmologist EP, he explores the Dark Entries back cataloge in an hour-long mix for Groove.
Your new EP Cosmologist will be released on Honey Soundsystem Records, which is dedicated to release records by gay artists. As one of the co-founders, can you elaborate on the concept of the label?
Initially, the label started as a compilation called Brotherhood started by our founder Jacob Sperber. The concept was simple: there are many people from the underground and/or gay, who have the same taste in music as we do, walk the same shoes as we have and perceive our culture in a highly specialized way. The comp was a way for us to weave together the many threads that connected our tastes, values and aspirations. It’s comprised of music from a lot of friends we came into contact with and also an opportunity to seek out new friends. The comp saw early submissions from artists like Discodromo, Ben Aqua, one half of Stereogamous and Chuck Hampton / Gay Marvine. Over time we started exploring more with this project but still kept the spirit of that initial release top of mind. After the comp, HNYTRX saw a 7′ from Alexis Blair Penney (who also collaborated at some point with Miracles Club and Teengirl Fantasy) and then we co-released with Discodromo’s label (of the same name as their party: CockTail d’Amore) Shaun J Wright and Stereogamous’ single “Face Love Anew”. That was our first real foray into releasing an actual 12” single. A little known fact was that Jacob Sperber and I along with Ryan Smith of Wrecked NYC and Jon Shanks from London ran a short-lived record label called Discaire that saw releases by Discodromo, C.L.A.W.S. and Alien Alien.
Honey Soundsystem Records has released a mix of re-issues – by Patrick Cowley, for example – and new releases. What is important to you in terms of curation?
I think like booking our headliners for our parties, we don’t look at whether you’re gay or straight, man or woman, cis or non-cis. We look for diversity and talent that tells a rich story of the experience we try to present, to connect the dots with a variety of styles and people who all have the same aspirations as we do. All these different individuals, we are looking towards, help enhance the
music and culture we’re trying to build.
Honey Soundsystem Records itself is the offshoot of the DJ collective Honey Soundsystem, which you have joined almost a decade ago. Your sound as well as your aesthetics are heavily informed by the dance community’s roots in the US-American queer scene of the 1970s. When you say yourselves that “Honey are constantly meditating on the historical past in order to inform the future”. What exactly does that entail?
Timelessness of sounds and our collective queer history are very important. The four of us didn’t experience the up close tragedy of the AIDS death tolls or the euphoria of 70s to early 80s revolutionary hedonism. We sort of observed and are exposed to the aftershock of this period of time since most of us were born in/after the tail end of the late 70s. With the fear surrounding 80s to early 2000s a lot of vital, special moments shut down because of immense paranoia and expediency from politicians and the news media. The environment was just a lot darker. When I watched TV in the early nineties I used to remember a lot of association between gay men and death whether through HIV, drug abuse, external violence or self-inflicted pain like suicide. Because of this extreme focus on safety and the health of individuals the bridge between the music from the 70s to today has been rocky (the Catholic record, by Patrick Cowley and Indoor Life’s Jorge Socarras, took five years to perfect but three decades to release because of Patrick’s death from AIDS in 1982). Today it’s a different story, there is a shift towards more tolerance, people are living more healthier and longer and stigmas are starting to deconstruct or fall apart due to newfound rights for this queer generation. People can be productive. You can think in terms of freedom again. There is immense pleasure to be experienced through music, dancing, socializing – but there is a cautionary tale that we respect. This respect is what feeds into our output whether through the music we, as a generation, produce and the club events that we throw which is inclusive, doesn’t focus on selling sex but of the experience visually and sonically. Timelessness comes from maximizing these efforts through a lens of reverence for those who sacrificed to keep us alive and to reflect a history of struggle that is fundamental to great art and expansive thinking.
You play a variety of instruments and have also worked digitally. However, in 2005 you have built an analogue synthesizer studio in San Francisco. Which are the synths that you with the most and why? What draws you to analogue synthesizers in general? You have talked about improvising a lot in the studio, do those synthesizers make it easier than the alternative digital solutions?
Analogue synthesizers to me form a clean basis to construct a framework for a song. A lot of early machines merely operated via voltage or digitally controlled oscillators with no frills, but has limitations and are often pre-midi. The sound from these machines is very meaty and primitive in that you can manipulate to your heart’s content without degrading the sound too quickly. Also, you have to learn how to play each instrument and figure out its unique features. So when I’m recording I’m improvising on the fly to see what melodies or sound effects I can generate which in turn helps me become more intimate with the machines I own. I don’t really like to look at a computer screen all day. I’d rather listen to what I’m playing than stare at a musical spreadsheet.
How are you involved in fellow Honey Soundsystem member Josh Cheon’s Dark Entries label?
The founder Josh Cheon and I have been friends since 2006. We have a shared affinity for synth music and underground/vintage dance music. Josh has even played for a party I started pre-Honey called Bailando. He’s kind of seen me go through the stages in honing my sound and direction and totally gets it. I used to go to his apartment every Saturday (we always live a kitty corner away from each other in San Francisco) and he would play all his new record purchases for me which I would go back home and try and replicate those sounds on my machines. At some point once my studio was up and running I was sending him music as it came along. By 2012 he heard enough music and asked me to release an EP of songs that i was just uploading to Soundcloud. He always had a plan to release new contemporary artists alongside reissues. Previous to me was Death Domain and then after my debut, Figure Study, Linea Aspera, Max and Mara (of Brotman and Short and Group Rhoda, respectively), RedRedRed and Bill Converse. As time progressed we started touring together in 2012 with either me performing as a live act or us djing as part of Honey Soundsystem.
The mix you have recorded for us comprises Dark Entries records. What was your idea behind it, how did you pick the tracks?
The mix is comprised of all Dark Entries releases (and unreleased material) where I sorted through all the tracks I could find in my collection. I pieced together a story of how these tracks relate while
showcasing the extreme diversity of styles in his catalog. For the newcomer trying to grasp the universe of music in Josh’s catalog, I wanted to connect seemingly disparate genres of Post-Punk, industrial to electro to ethereal synth pop, acoustic-electronic experimental music and even Techno via a common thread of the songs, which is, the drum machines that glue all the tunes together.
Lastly, what can we expect from Honey Soundsystem, HNYTRX and of course yourself in the near future?
For Honey Soundsystem we are taking a little breather this month but firing up the engines again with the full collective making an appearance at Movement in Detroit. Then a slew of tours taking us to various parts of the US and Europe all summer. The HNYTRX label is working on two new releases that will be come out in the second half of this year. As for me, I’m fine-tuning my live set for the next round of shows as well as recording new material for future releases including some remixes that will be announced in the near future.
Stream: Bézier – Groove Podcast 57
Unfortunately, the download is currently only possible via Soundcloud with a registered account.
01. No More Drums of Algir (DE084)
02. Opera Multisteel Rien (DE067)
03. XRay Pop La Machine á Rêver (Red Axes Edit) (DE029)
04. Die Form ReSearch (DE082)
05. Moral Trees in November (DE087)
06. Quiet Room Yangtze River (DE013)
07. Nu Sound II Crew The Speed of Light (DE081)
08. Series A Evolution (JTC Remix) (DE126)
09. Carlos Peron Breaking In (Instrumental) (DE092)
10. Shoc Corridor Artificial Horizon (DE100)
11. Phantom Forth I Don’t Know You (DE121)
12. Human Being Men Human Dub (DE075)
13. Kirlian Camera News (DE073)
14. Starter Victim (DE016)
15. Van Kaye + Ignit Goin Thru Life (DE083)
16. Opera Multisteel Massabielle (DE067)
17. Those Attractive Magnets Nightlife (DE005)
18. Thomas Leer Saving Grace (DE088)
19. The Frozen Autumn This Time (DE108)