We are back with The Under The MEOKO Microscope feature alongside a very exciting name – Clovis. Born in Los Angeles, now venturing Berlin and Europe’s scene won our hearts with his deep and hypnotizing grooves. His wide sound variety expands into deep explorations of the tones, forms with soulful elements and complex patterns making sure to move the peak-time dancefloor to the max. His hardwork and tirelessly spent hours in studio bagged him a lovely catalogue of labels such as Lessizmore and Body Parts. Being a resident at Berlin’s Club der Visionaire as well as Los Angeles’s Standard Rooftop gives you an image that his sound is going to places. Clovis can be seen playing alongside big names as Rhadoo, Petre Inspirescu, Magda to name a few and debuted in one of the biggest festivals in Europe – Sunwaves. We caught up with this talent in an interview, so let’s get into this and check his exclusive MEOKO mix.
1.Hey Clovis, thanks for taking time for us. Was really looking forward to this. How did you get into this music and what influenced you most throughout your musical journey so far?
By far the main musical influence in my life was my father. He was a music aficionado his whole life, and when I was growing up there was music playing at home during almost all waking hours. He liked a huge range of music, though he was most knowledgable and deep into jazz. He would always be playing something to fit the mood or the time of day, which taught me very early on that music can accompany you through almost any situation in life and enhance the mood or experience. There is appropriate music for the full spectrum of human emotions and something for almost any moment. So, in the mornings with breakfast, usually classical works or even church choir. Afternoons were freestyle...rock, alternative, jazz, peruvian or andean music,...anything. A rainy day could be married to some solo piano or Philip Glass. When I first moved out to live with different family for a year I was surprised and confused that music was something they only occasionally listened to on weekends, or only in the car. Though I do love quiet at times, it still feels to me that a day spent without listening to music for most of it is somewhat of a waste.
As far as dance music is concerned, I slowly began to gravitate towards more electronic sounds in the early teenage years, via Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Moby, the usual late 90s suspects, and then began to discover DJing and club music, progressive trance, house, and the journey of exploration has continued for more than 15 years to where I am now. I started to DJ when I was 20, in my bedroom in Los Angeles, while going out to see Sasha & Digweed or Danny Howells with a fake ID. (you have to be 21 to go to nightclubs in the USA). I don't remember exactly when I decided I wanted to try and earn a living from it, I keep doing it because it's fun and the exploration of music never ends.
2.As being a Los Angelian, how it’s scene shaped your music? Tell as more about it’s underground scene, clubs, records shops, parties.
The scene in Los Angeles was rather exciting when I became a part of it in the late 2000's. It seemed like it had continuous potential to grow and flourish. Some good friends launched a label, Culprit, and we had some great intimate rooftop parties at the famous Standard hotel in LA where we invited a lot of great international guests, and had wild after parties which allowed me to DJ long sets in more intimate settings, often b2b with the guests we would invite. But with the economic crash of 2008 things changed somewhat, and this seemed to coincide with my own evolution towards music I was hearing in Europe and less in the USA. Around 2008 I heard a Rhadoo record for the first time and became interested in the Romanian scene, little by little. They still did not play in the US so much except a few small appearances on the east coast. I travelled all the way to New York once in 2011 to hear Petre Inspirescu do an open to close set in a loft in Brooklyn, which I still remember clearly. I knew this was the style and approach to dance music I loved the most. I began to order records from Europe to Los Angeles because a lot of the music I wanted to play was vinyl only and not carried by the few local record stores in LA. Everything I wanted had to be ordered from european shops or discogs. I never had the usual record store experience where the shop owner understands your taste and can suggest things, I'm super happy that I now have this in Berlin with black.round.twelve!
I think the best impact that coming up through the dance music scene in Los Angeles had on me was to give me a broader appreciation of dance music. We have quite good disco house and techno scenes, and I used to go see DJ Harvey's famed Sarcastic Disco nights in which he played open to close by himself which were extremely educating and also probably the most fun nights I had in a warehouse in LA. With Culprit we invited a range of artists for smaller, more intimate parties. Losoul, Craig Richards, Shaun Reeves, Dyed Soundorom, all played an important part in informing my taste and DJing in the earlier years.
3.You were travelling in Europe for a while. How was the experience in comparison with Los Angeles? What was the most exciting/craziest moment, people you met?
I have been traveling and living in Europe on and off since 2012. I spent 7 months in Berlin one year, did 3 months of summer in Ibiza two years ago, and now finally after so many long back and forth trips to Los Angeles I decided in February of this year to move permanently to Berlin. Most of my best friends live here, most of my musical connections are here, and I cherish the strong feeling of community I have with all the people I love here, mostly based around Club Der Visionaere, which is definitely my musical home in Berlin.
The parties you can experience here in Europe are unlike anything possible in Los Angeles, simply because of the restrictions we have to deal with in the US. I have had many special nights in Los Angeles, and some of my favorite party characters and friends live there, but there is simply a much higher degree of freedom in the night life in Europe and the party culture is much more advanced because of it.
4.You have shaped a really original sound, do you have any plans on making your own imprint as a label?
It has become kind of cliche now for everyone to have a label...there are so many new ones popping up in the shops every week, it's amazing. I would eventually like to start my own imprint, if nothing else for the freedom it brings to release whatever you really like, and those beautiful gems from certain friends that have not found a home. Right now I have no plans to do so and lack the financial means to start anyway. At the moment I'd like to concentrate more on making my own music and studio collaborations with friends.
5.Seen you play alongside some great names as Ryan Crosson, Rhadoo, Fuse guys. How did you guys meet?
After close to 10 years in this music with a bit of travel, an open mind, and (what I think is) a good sense of humor you can meet a lot of people and make some amazing friendships. I think it is actually one of the things I love most about DJing and music: the interesting and great people you meet along the way and lasting friendships that come from that. I have known the visionquest crew since around 2008 when they came to play in Los Angeles. Shaun Reeves, Ryan Crosson and I have now played a few times together at Club Der Visionaere and this always entails a few long b2b sessions, and since we've known each other for so long those are always welcome.
Meeting Rhadoo was a fluke occurrence while in Mexico for BPM festival in 2013. I was opening a very big stage around 10 in the morning for just the bar staff at a beach club, and he came with a few friends and asked if we could play some music together so we had our own little party for just us. I'm not sure why this happened but this moment changed the course of my life as I decided from then to follow more intensely the music I really love and push myself deeper into the craft. This also led to an invitation to play at Sunwaves which opened all kinds of new doors and opportunities for me in Europe.
6.You were playing during sunwaves festival this year. How was the experience? Was it the first time you performed there? Would you come back again?
The first time I performed at Sunwaves in 2013 I had no idea what it was really, apart from seeing a few short video clips on youtube and listening to a few sets. I was completely unprepared for what I stepped into, the party is intense and does not stop! It requires serious stamina and a bit of planning and calculated decision making to enjoy fully. It was a very eye opening experience for me the first time and I witnessed some magic moments. It was also probably the most nervous I was to play anywhere in my life. Happily, since then I have gained much more experience and confidence in those situations, and coming back to play this year after enjoying last year's edition was so much fun. Of course, still a bit nervous before playing, but if you can relax and focus on just DJing and the decks you have in front of you everything is fine in the end, and I was able to do that and really enjoyed it. I am so grateful for the invitation, and to play on that beautiful beach front stage on the opening night was very special. I will definitely be back for each may edition, because it's one of the best places to hear many of my favorites.
7.You seem to be working really closely to lessizmore and body parts labels. What triggered this relationship?
As usual, a consequence of making good friends who like your taste. I have never released a full EP of my own, and so remixes and single tracks on compilations have been my main output over the years, and both lessizmore and bodyparts were always interested in some of my music. I met Jessica from lessizmore in Mexico in 2012 and we have had a long friendship since then with many fun party adventures, and playing quite a few showcases for the label. I met Denis from BodyParts at my first sunwaves in 2013, and after a great time in Moscow at the old Arma together, another great friendship was born. I have many friends running cool labels and asking me for music, so now I just need to make more!
8.You obviously spend a lot of time in studio crafting your sound. Talk us through your favorite gear. What is your opinion on never ending discussion between analog vs digital?
Actually, I have not had my own studio in years, I have always had to rely on using spaces of friends and whatever gear they would have at the time. I use ableton live for almost everything, and though I have some favorite plugins, namely Trillian for bass, and a variety of reverbs and effects, I strongly prefer to source sounds from analog gear. I don't really care about the analog vs. digital debate because I have always been of the opinion that ideas and creativity are more important. However, to me it's a lot more fun to use actual stand-alone electronic instruments in the studio than do everything on a computer, and analog machines can have very unique characters that simply can't be replicated. Two synths I used a lot when I was working in Los Angeles were the Moog Voyager and Roland's classic and simple Juno-106. I also spend a lot of time working with samples. I have an extensive library of jazz and classical music recordings that I got from going through my father's massive CD collection. Almost all my tracks contain samples from acoustic music, but mostly used in ways that would make them indistinguishable from their original form, and many tracks contain samples from 5-6 completely different sources, working together. In absence of having a full studio with acoustic instruments and musicians to play them, I find this is my favorite way to bring some of that color and texture to the music I make, and also makes for happy accidents as you go along.
9.Aside DJ things, give us few highlights of the year, your favorite clubs and artists you enjoyed the most.
I had some great adventures in Romania this year, Sunwaves, playing at Guesthouse in Bucharest, and the wonderful 3 Smoked Olives festival down on the Danube in the summer. Two other parties stood out most for me. In Los Angeles, my friends at Cyclone, almost out of nowhere, began bringing some of my favorite DJs to LA and pushing the sound that I enjoy. For the first time in years I found myself able to comfortably play exactly what I wanted when doing opening sets for some of my favorite DJs, and people more receptive to this style than ever before. Cyclone has curated a great list of artists that were strangers to LA before, last year we had Rhadoo, Pedro, Nu Zau & Sepp, and this year we've seen a bunch of diverse names, among them Stefan Goldmann, Lamache, DJ Masda, Leo Leal, and Akufen. In February Herodot & Gescu visited us in LA also for Cyclone, and it was one of my favorite parties I've played in the city so far. It was also really fun to host artists that I really respect and are good friends and show them around my home city.
The second party I felt an instant bond with is in Prague, for my friends at Wildt. After over a month touring in the US and dealing with all the issues and different rules we face in America to have parties, like the overzealous and constantly intrusive security in clubs, I was excited to go back to Europe and feel free to have fun, to dance and enjoy music as long as I wanted to, and most of all be silly, and laugh and have fun in unconventional ways. Wildt is a small bar with a beautiful green, tree covered backyard patio in the center of Prague, owned and operated by some of my best friends. It is also bringing a bit different music to a city that isn't quite used to it yet, but with a strong group of friends and local DJs to support it. These kinds of new scenes surfacing are always fun and exciting! In July I played there with my good friend Audio Werner and we had a great time. Recently they hosted TC80, and also Timur Basha from Closer in Kiev. I am fully supportive of this lovely place and I will be some kind of resident next year most likely. Already planning another visit in November, each time is too much fun!
10.Thank you very much for creating mix for us. Top notch. How do prepare for a mix series? What’s your inspiration and ideas behind it?
For this mix, I was trying to record something for over a month in the summer during my tour in the USA. At each stop where someone had a nice DJ setup I would give it a try. I had only picked out the first two tracks, and from there each mix was kind of a different adventure, which is what I usually do. I don't like making studio DJ sets on the computer at all and I can't really plan beyond a couple tracks what I feel like playing, it's more interesting to just follow how you feel and your intuition. In the end I came home to Berlin and wasn't really happy with any of the recordings I made, but after further consideration, this mix, recorded at my lovely friend Paulo's place in San Diego on a cloudy afternoon, actually seems like a very good representation of my DJing right now. It goes from a bit more minimal, deeper sounds, to more house and breakbeats. A good encapsulation, in around an hour, of the music I'm playing these days. After testing it out in some chill afterparties with friends, I decided I could use it for Meoko. I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope others will too!
11.All in all, thank you for your time. Any last words for fans about exciting new releases, collaborations or dates you would like to share?
My Cyclone friends in LA are starting a vinyl label, (they already have one called KNIFE), it will be called Cyclone to go with the party series. The project has been in the works for a while but hopefully it will be up and running soon, and I believe I will be the 2nd release with my own EP. I also have some new podcasts to do, after a year with very few, one for Fasten Musique in Japan and one for my Bodyparts friends. It's difficult to find good places to record as I don't have my own setup and I'm still trying to find somewhere comfortable in Berlin. I have some nice dates coming up, Mioritmic Festival in Cluj October 5th-7th, Moscow at Rodnya on October 14th. Berlin with Round The Corner at Katerblau on Sunday the 15th. Then in early November, it will be lovely to return to Guesthouse in Bucharest! And as usual...I will continue my TrackOfTheDay routine on my facebook page where I share stuff I'm playing and enjoying, new and old. People seem to enjoy it a lot and I am always happy to share music I like in whatever way possible, that's what music is for!
Again thank you so much!
Thank you Meoko for documenting our dear little music scene!
Words by Matas Balta
Press shots by Marie Streikt & Karim Rosati
More Clovis; Facebook / Soundcloud
More MEOKO; Facebook / Soundcloud / Youtube