There is something decidedly post-modern about Zak DesFleurs, alias SPF666. He seems to sense a certain malleability in everything: no genre is too sacred to be tweaked, twisted and combined into raucous, dancefloor-destroying chimeras. In SPF’s globalized world of Bass Music, it’s not strange if there’s suddenly a Zouk riddim in your Footwork track, or if Vogue gets slowed down to Moombahton tempo. It’s all par for the course; the logical conclusion of our increasingly globalized musical culture.
Propelled by this loving irreverence (or, perhaps more accurately, super-reverence), the Portland-based DJ and producer is rapidly climbing the ranks of the Global Bass music scene, his tracks getting support from the likes of Baltimore-Club.com, Martelo, Juke Ellington, Warrior One, and Westside Schmucks.
I caught up with Zak to talk inspiration, Global Bass, the 7∆∆KLUB, and what the future holds in store for SPF666. He was also nice enough to send along an exclusive re-riddim for Elephant Man’s “Nah Stop Smoke,” which you can pick up below — for free!
TNP: Alright, to start off, tell us a little about yourself.
SPF666: My name’s Zak, I DJ (and just started producing) as SPF666. I’m from a crumbling mill town in Maine, but like nearly everyone else in my generation, I was mostly raised by shitty dial-up.
TNP: Why’d you make the change from east coast to west coast? Are the scenes very different between Maine and Oregon?
SPF666: I originally made the move for school, but there’s really no compare in terms of ‘scene’ or culture between PDX and Maine — growing up in there, we pretty much survived off of trips to Boston, New York, or Philadelphia to see anything other than shitty Hardcore in an American Legion hall. Portland is in a really interesting place in terms of party scenes/certain emerging sounds.
TNP: When did you decide that you wanted to become a DJ?
SPF666: It started with house parties — really ratchet situations — just playing music to my friends, because all of the DJs we knew were misogynist Alt-Bros who played mashup sets. I wound up nailing down club nights a year or so later, but that house party feel has always had a huge influence on what I want to bring to the places I play. I’ll never really lose the emphasis on sets that lean towards accessibility and higher energy. I want to consistently recreate that feel; I don’t want to chill up in some booth, playing out boring shit to weedy Soundcloud nerds.
TNP: Do you try to bring that same vibe to your productions?
SPF666: Yeah. I mean, like… production has, and always will be, an extension of my DJing. The main impetus I have to create a track is recognizing a “hole” in my library/sets. I have more of a practical application approach to production than a creative one, possibly because I’m not incredibly musically inclined: I played drums for a long time, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t call my tracks DJ Tools or anything, per se, but they’re always made with being played out in mind. A lot of my tracks also reflect my DJing style, which generally spans a lot of genres/tempos, resulting in, say, an 108 BPM Jersey Club track.
TNP: It’s interesting that you place such an emphasis on “accessibility” in your selections while simultaneously delving into such tiny, relatively-niche and underground genres — like Jersey Club, Dancehall, Zouk, and Vogue. How do you make this global music accessible to local audiences?
SPF666: Short-ish answer — without going into a long tangent about effects of the internet/technology on culture –“global” or “niche” genres are being scooped up and placed the spotlight, until they’re replaced with something else. The modern DJ, in service of that, is constantly de/re-contextualizing music that has some cultural corollary to it (for better or for worse). I would be highly critical of anyone whom encourages people not to play certain types of music, within reason. It precludes the ability for people to build relationships through sharing portions of their culture. It also treats cultures as monolithic, unchanging, and static.
At the very least, I’d task my fellow producers and DJs to put as much energy into learning about the cultures and communities that underpin these genres and sounds — if not actively going out of their way to build relationships with those folks.
TNP: What tracks/producers/genres are you really feeling at the moment?
SPF666: In terms of contemporary ‘Bass’ producers… Rizzla is probably one of my favorites — his work exhibits an almost scholastic engagement and devotion to a wider variety of musical styles (and the cultures that produce them). Also Murlo, Massacooramaan, Actress, Lenkemz, and Dubbel Dutch.
In more niche scenes: Sugur Shane‘s Vogue/Club stuff, those kids out in Jersey (Mike Gip, DJs Irresistible/Bake/Hook), Dre Skull‘s Dancehall production, Toxic Crow‘s Reggaeton/Musica Negra mixtapes, and Zouklove remixes by Underfaya and DJs Phrase/Dids. I got a chance to hear a few snippets of the new Fatima al Qadiri, I was totally blown away — her approach to music is really unlike anything else I’ve heard.
SPF666: As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest influences on my production is to create tracks that I find myself wishing I had when I was playing a party. Most of the creative frameworks for new projects happens in a half-drunk/pre-sleep state after I get home from DJing at 4 AM. Otherwise, inspiration for production frequently comes from weird, inconsistent places. I work almost exclusively with samples in my tracks, so I rely heavily on recuperating elements from other sources. I also find myself really refreshed by encountering producers that have weary view of Soundcloud culture. Not to sound reactionary or anything, but if you’re not at least a little apprehensive, you can get caught up in the expectation to release a track or two every week, hype microgenres, and awful name puns.
When it comes to DJing, I find myself enjoying sets that are generally higher energy and extremely dynamic in terms of genre and BPM. This comes from that gutter house party vibe — people don’t give a fuck about your smooth transition from 140 to 120 that took six tracks to execute. Sometimes a little (deft) heavy-handedness serves as a tangible reminder that you’re there. I’m not just talking about doing spinbacks and slamming a new track with a different feel; more along the lines of half-timing Footwork to mix with slightly slowed Nola Bounce. Venus X, Total Freedom, Oneman, Rizzla, Massacooramaan, and Commune are all really good at this.
TNP: You’re in a crew called the 7∆∆KLUB with guys from all over the world: Juke Ellington, A-Wax, El Cucuy!, (TNP’s own) Wooferface, etc. How did you all get together to form the collective? Any big things in the works that we should be on the lookout for?
SPF666: 7∆∆KLUB is something that Carlos (El Cucuy!) put together a few months ago as a loose collective of DJs and producers, mostly based in Portland. On the 25th, they’re actually about to release an EP with some tracks from Juke Ellington, Hyphix, and Hood Prisms, as well as a few of my early tracks. There’s more exciting releases coming out in the next few months, too, but I can’t really talk too much about them yet. It’s nice to just foster that sort of close community of support and collaboration.
TNP: Any new EP’s/LP’s from yourself in the works?
SPF666: I’m working on a couple Vogue/Club tracks, at least, one of which is going to be a collaboration with an amazing Vogue vocalist/chanter. Can’t say more than that yet, though. I’m also on remix duty for a couple friends tracks, so we’ll see where those pop up in the next few months. Two of my tracks are on this upcoming 7∆∆KLUB sampler as well. I only started seriously producing/using Ableton in March of this year, so I’m still picking up speed.
TNP: Planning any new residencies or tours?
SPF666: I’m on a couple nights here in Portland right now, but I may be starting something new with my buddy Commune and Massacooramaan pretty soon. There’s something in the works for the West Coast in early 2013, too…
TNP: We’re putting your new Elephant Man remix up for download with this interview. Is there anything you’d like to say about it?
SPF666: This is much less-dancefloor oriented than tracks I usually make, but I wanted to experiment with some new (Bashy) sounds during the last few days of summer. It was just going to stay on my hard drive, but I figured this would be an appropriate give-away for the nature of this blog — so enjoy!
“Nah Stop Smoke (SPF666 FemmeFeel Riddim)” – Elephant Man
“FemmeFeel Riddim” – SPF666
You can find more of SPF666’s tracks on his Soundcloud! Also be sure to keep an eye out for the new 7∆∆KLUB EP, dropping September 25!