Lauren Flax – Groove Podcast 408

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Photo: Danny Roche (Lauren Flax)

Lauren Flax describes her contribution to our Groove Podcast as “clean and jacking,” and this is hardly surprising who has followed her work in the past 20 years or so. However, the New York City-based DJ, producer, and composer’s musical interests and talents have always gone far beyond laser-sharp, rhythmic and acidic dance music. Flax, who has worked with and remixed music by a broad range of artists and whose solo productions have consistently been versatile, is currently working on an album that will likely sound different from what you’ve ever heard or expected from her. She goes in-depth about its concept and her working process with people from the world of contemporary composed music as well as children, in our interview.

Your discography includes numerous remixes that saw you working across many different genres—from Le Tigre to They Might Be Giants or Truncate. How would you generally characterise your approach to remixing?

When I’m remixing a dance track, I like to keep the structure it already has in place to start off. Layout is half the battle, so having a basic layout helps me move quickly. I will probably make my own rhythm section, so I may not use much of the original drums, especially if they want that particular style of jack that I love so much. Whether it’s a dance track or a band I’m remixing, I’ll try to keep the main components of the original so there’s that common thread between original and remix, and just add more textures from the Prophet 6. And if it calls for a 303, she’ll get the treatment.

In recent years, you have increasingly focussed on refining hardware-based live sets. What does your set-up look like?

It’s always changing. I would use the Beatstep Pro as my centrepiece to kick out all the MIDI information to my Prophet 6, TR8S and TB03, have my effects units and be pretty structured. No loops or computer. Now, as I am in the process of finishing my album, I’ll most likely fluctuate between playing live myself to sometimes having string players, a drummer, singers, and choir, so I will need to be more flexible. This means I’ll have to incorporate a computer in the mix now, which I was adamantly against before. Computers can be not super dependable. But now, I’ll have all mastered stems and the MIDI files of each stem together. This way I can change up what I want to play live via MIDI and what will be played in the background. I have multiple Prophet 6 parts on songs and won’t be traveling with multiple Prophet 6’s, so I have to use stems. Having mastered stems will also allow me to mute cello parts when I get to play with live strings, a drummer, etc. I have to plan for multiple versions of a live performance now, not just how I was able to do it before. I guess that’s because the style I’m writing has grown and I’d need to reflect that in my live performance.

You have progressively started putting out more solo releases in recent years. How did that come about?

It’s how I started out, so I feel I’ve more just returned to that. Only now, it’s more of a lifetime of writing and enjoying different genre’s to create whatever this thing is that I’m creating now. Which is an amalgamation of what I listened to as a teenager all the way up to now. I’ve always tried to stay true to whatever needs to come out, and what comes out hasn’t always fit into a specific genre. It’s a scary thing, but I’m really proud of that. Because it’s exactly who I am, people can take it or leave it. I write music for myself, I’m just lucky enough that it happens to resonate with some, which I’m grateful for.

As you have mentioned, you are currently working on your solo debut album. It will not feature club-oriented material, but will instead be “a church record for the queer community.” What is the underlying concept of the album?

I’m not unique when it comes to being a queer kid raised in a religious family. Like many, I suffered—a lot. I really almost didn’t make it through high school. I am incredibly grateful that I eventually came to my senses and understood all of that as blasphemy. But when you’re groomed into religion from a young age, you can’t just switch it off even after knowing the teachings are wrong. It’s like it’s threaded into your DNA. I had to work through my deep issues of low self-esteem and self-worth into adulthood, which lead me to drinking pretty heavily most of my life. But I had to dive deep within my psyche to undo all of that drama through plant medicine, meditation and sobriety (I’m seven years sober now). Last year was a huge turning point for me. I had a benign tumour removed from my pelvis. This tumour was discovered around the same time that I discovered some things surrounding my childhood. It felt like a blessing to know that this tumour, this thing that I felt was a physical manifestation of some terrible things from my childhood, was about to come out of my body. I felt like I was getting to start over. So March 8th, I had that thing removed and not long after that I started this album. It all poured out of me. I started using church organs and incorporating so much of my musical journey that it all just snapped into place. This is a church record for the queer kids, my “fuck you” to organised religion. It’s a very sad record, but it’s a very healing record. I think it might resonate with other queer kids in similar situations.

For the record, you work with a string ensemble and a choir. How would you describe your working process as a composer and what does your collaboration with those musicians look like?

For me, the music always comes first. That is what I focused on through 2023, getting the music pretty much finished, including composing all the string parts. I am in a place now where I’m finishing all the choral arrangements for the kids to sing. I met with some of them recently and they seem to be excited to go on this journey with me. For recording strings, I work with my amazing friend and cellist, Adele Stein. She’s come into the studio and written cello parts for me as well as re-recording cello parts I had written already. She’s incredible. I am also in the phase of sending music to singers I’d love to work with. People I really adore that have signed on. I’m really looking forward to hearing what they come up with.

Collaboration has indeed always been an integral part of your work, for your latest EP you have worked with Liz Wight of Pale Blue. What makes a good collaboration, in your opinion?

I love working with people that just take my music and run with it. It’s always great to hear what my music brings out of these artists and Liz is the perfect example of that. I send her music, she writes the lyrics, records her vocals and sends me a bunch to work with. She’s incredible and my ideal collaborator. You’ll be hearing more from us, and we will perform live together.

You also regularly go B2B with other DJs for your Lot Radio show Dammit Janet. What’s important to you in terms of programming the series and whom you invite into the booth?

Honestly, it’s more just friends coming to town and wanting to play! I’m always happy to give up my hour to them but friends usually want to do a cute B2B. I’m always down for that.

What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?

I wanted this mix to be something you’d want to hear in club or at home. I’m very particular about the type of dance music I like to l listen to at home, so I tried to ride that line. It’s very clean and jacking!

What are your plans for the future?

This album is pretty much everything to me. Along with finishing it, I’d like to perform it start to finish in a church by the end of the year, complete with live strings, the choir, drums, church organ, and, of course, the singers. I want the whole falafel for this one and to release it as a live album. So I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me this year! You’ll see me on the road DJing as well. My double life in music, I couldn’t be happier.

Stream: Lauren Flax – Groove Podcast 408

01. Sweater On Polo – Courts of Jack
02. Chip E – It’s House (Jamie’s Basement Edit)
03. Neil Landstrumm – Too Much to Do
04. Neil Landstrumm – DS ATTACK
05. DJ Assault – Do What I Say (Flaxy Dub)
06. Lauren Flax – Acid Jacker feat. Jason Burns (Truncate Remix)
07. Garrett David – Mike Experiment
08. Armando – Don’t Take It (Remix)
09. aNaloG – pH3
10. Manny Cuevas aka DJ M-TRAXXX – Jackin Tha 707
11. ???
12. Sweater On Polo – Fresh Squeeze
13. Aleksander Erdmann – Mind Games
14. ItaloJohnson – 12B1
15. Lauren Flax, DJ Slugo – Get Up
16. Jesper Dahlbäck – Mega Signalizer
17. DJ Swisha – Juke-A-Later
18. Adrian Forciniti – Communication Problem
19. Armando – DISSIN’ YOU (Armando’s Original Dis Mix)
20. ???
21. Sharif Laffrey – Turn It Up (Acid Dub Not Dub)
22. Johnny Dangerous- Beat That B*** (Mystic Bill Rework)
23. Ashtar Lavanda – Opulence

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