(Photo © 2014 Mike Weston – www.thearea.co.nz)
After thirteen years abroad, Matthew “Recloose” Chicoine is coming home.
Since 2001, Recloose has been living in New Zealand, limiting international gigs to brief tours a couple of times per year and teaching at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand.
He’s from here originally – Detroit, to be precise – and you’ll remember a string of great records from the late ’90s onward on Planet E, culminating with the 2005 smash “Dust” on Peacefrog. He’s since released albums, EPs and singles with Delusions of Grandeur, Rush Hour, Sonar Kollektiv and more – but not much recently, and that’s just one of the things he’s determined to change with this move back to the United States.
Living in New York, he’ll also be working for Serato Audio Research – the company that produces the DJ software of the same name. Recloose is both a user and a passionate believer in Serato. It’s a product he thinks can transform the way both digital and vinyl DJs play – and for the better.
So you were living in New Zealand for… I guess it’s been the majority of your career to date, right?
Yeah, I had the opportunity to move to New Zealand in 2001, just to explore some different horizons. I’d visited on tour before so I took a chance and moved down there. I have a family now, kids, a music career as well as having taught for five years. I just got my master’s degree. I stayed pretty busy down there.
Were you teaching there full-time or more as a guest lecturer?
I took it on full time for four and a half years. That was partly because it was hard to earn a living being that far away from the [music] markets. I still toured twice a year, but I couldn’t go for more than three weeks, max. Any longer than that was a real drag for my family.
What subject did you earn your master’s degree in?
Technically it’s an MA in Media Studies, but my thesis was about the way musicians – and I use that term broadly to include producers and DJs – learn from one another. My case study was Detroit and I looked at a 50 year period that crossed many generations and scenes. I sort of traced learning through those generations and scenes, interviewed a whole bunch of people and wrote a 40,000 word thesis at the end of it.
So you’re moving back to the states after 13 years…
I’m here now. I’m back. I’m in New York. I’m kind of pinching myself because we’d been looking at doing this for a few years now and an opportunity presented itself which paved the way.
And that opportunity is…
That’s a position with Serato Audio Research.
They’re employing me to do a couple of things. I’ll be doing artist relations in New York, so that’s pretty exciting in that I’ll get to meet up with and vibe out a bit with some of my musical heroes. It’s also exciting in that I get to reach out to a lot of my own contacts that are coming through New York, particularly House & Techno DJs from Detroit and Chicago as well as New York cats. I’m looking at also being involved in developing educational initiatives for the company which is really exciting.
Then there’s one of my own personal goals: to at least show my friends what it can do. Really, just to have a jam with them and get their feedback.
So are you kind of like an evangelist for Serato?
Not at all, and they haven’t put that pressure on me. I know everyone says this but in my case it’s true: I really do believe in the product. I’ve been using it for six years. Now I still play records. I use Rekordbox. But Serato has really changed the way that I DJ for the better.
I know it’s a contentious issue with a lot of people. They feel that it has undermined vinyl culture in a big way. They say Serato doesn’t sound as good. But I believe these are myths and I am interested in challenging people a little bit on them.
One of them is that it’s taken the DJ from glancing down at the record and glancing up at the floor to staring straight ahead at a laptop – the dreaded “Serato Face”.
I think the laptop angle is a valid point. I think they are working around that with the development of controllers that may, for instance, have displays right on the controllers, much like people are using CDJs.
My argument is that it’s an incredibly powerful piece of software and I don’t know if people really understand just what it can do. Once I get an opportunity to show them the depth and the quality of the effects and the quality of some of the features like Serato Flip, I think DJs – and especially Disco & House cats – are really going to be into it. Serato Flip has a live edit feature that you can do, and then record the edit as you go. It’s pretty dope.
The other thing is that Serato has always had a strong connection to vinyl culture in their pressings and the fact that they are the best DVS system on the market. That’s why so many hip-hop and turntablists use Serato DVS with vinyl.
I love Kenny Dixon – he’s one of my all time heroes – but like with that phrase, “Your girlfriend prefers 12 inches.” If that’s true, why are those cats and their girlfriends who prefer 12 inches also playing these three inch USB sticks at the same time? I understand what they mean by it, but it’s trying to have it both ways. If you want to blend digital DJing and vinyl culture, why can’t we have a conversation about Serato?
I don’t want to call this an “evolution” because I don’t see digital DJing like that either. There is definitely something being lost with this movement toward purely digital DJing. But I think it’s just the nature of the beast. If we’re going to really be purists, why do we use cue systems in our mixers, you know? Why don’t we play 7 inches? Why do we use effects in our DJ sets? These were advances in the technology. Why not embrace them without abandoning what came before, you know? It’s possible.
In the beginning, when you were first introduced to Serato, were you a hard sell?
I was a hard sell. I was a hard sell because I was at one of those gigs where a party fell apart because fools would try to set the shit up in the middle of the gig and the sound would go out. This still happens, but professionals are going to turn up and set it up beforehand, and they’re going to have an interface that allows two people to plug in at the same time so there will be a smooth changeover.
I first tried it in Auckland. You know Serato is based in Auckland, New Zealand?
No, I didn’t know that.
Yeah, that’s kind of how it started for me – they’re a New Zealand-based company. When they called me into the headquarters probably five or six years ago, a friend of mine that was working there did a really quick demo for me, loaded it up and said, “I’m going to leave and you just fuck around with it for as long as you want and tell me what you think.”
Within half an hour, I was sold. It was like, fuck the bullshit – this is going to change everything up for me. And she came back into the room, gave me a box and said, “You’re welcome.” No pressure: “We don’t need anything back from you – just have fun with it.” And that’s exactly what I did.
It honestly has changed the way I DJ. I still love to DJ with vinyl, I still love doing vinyl sets. It’s a different approach, much like you would play differently depending on the type of gig, or you’d play differently if you have a rotary mixer, or you’d play differently if you have a crate of records only, or you’d play differently if you have a computer. Every one of those situations opens up different creative possibilities.
I’ve learned that the music industry is incredibly fickle. You’re hot one minute and the next minute you’re not. I don’t feel comfortable staking the future of my family on those ebbs & flows, if you know what I mean.
You’ve had a lot of successful records and could probably keep yourself booked year round if you wanted to. So it’s interesting to me that you’ve kept a “day job” – teaching in New Zealand and with Serato in the US.
Well, I’ve learned that the music industry is incredibly fickle. You’re hot one minute and the next minute you’re not. The same thing goes with inspiration, if you’re feeling it or not. I don’t feel comfortable staking the future of my family on those ebbs & flows, if you know what I mean. I’m always going to be making music and I’m always going to be DJing. I guess my approach is that as long as everything feeds into music in some way – music, culture, progressing and learning – then it works for me. This job is an amazing opportunity, and so was teaching.
On top of that, of course, I’m more than excited to get back into production. I’ll finally have time to do that for the first time in two years. I’m already getting a significant amount of gigs just because I’m here. I haven’t put very much out at all in awhile, but they’re still interested. That makes me feel good too.
So have you gotten settled in yet, and should I even ask “what else”?
I literally got off a plane a week ago, I found a place to live, I’m starting work at Serato and I’m super hyped to be available for DJing and to make music again. I’ve got my sails up and it’s a windy-ass fucking future.