In the Magazine: Jeremy P. Caulfield
Nocturne 3 @ Metropolis - May 30th, 2008
Shaun Ellis - April 17, 2008
by Shaun Ellis
As founder of one of Berlin’s finest electronic music labels, Dumb-Unit, and as a DJ of international repute, Jeremy P Caulfield has been surfing the cutting edge of minimal techno for some years now.
Originally from Toronto where Dumb-Unit was also conceived, Caulfield joined the long list of artists who moved to the nurturing environment of everybody’s favorite city Berlin; there, he met Ingo Gansera with whom he started a new chapter in the life of Dumb-Unit.
After a steady start for both the label and Jeremy in the sometimes shark infested waters of Berlin, the inimitable label maestro soon found his feet and began to see the fruits of his labor. Dumb-Unit and Caulfield hit their stride and began to blossom; a slew of acclaimed releases spanning the scenes of his adopted home soon followed – from the thoroughbred minimalism of Butane and the man himself, through to the groove -laden driving techno of label heavyweight Jake Fairley.
As we enter the business end of 2008, Dumb-Unit is going from strength to strength with the labels second full-length set to drop from the very capable hands of Seph. And as Jeremy is about to embark upon a frenetic tour of North and South America, we find him in fine fettle and eager to talk about the dilemmas of running a label, the life-changing impact of Mike Huckaby, fellow MUTEK performers Underground Resistance, and all things Berlin.
When you were growing up in how did you first come into contact with ‘electronic’ music and what did you make of it?
I lived in Hong Kong for about 3 years when I was 15 or so. There was no real drinking laws so if you could push the door open, you were in... I went to clubs that played a lot of Manchester rock and a bit of rare groove sort of stuff, as a lot of the DJ’s were expats from the UK. Every so often the DJ would either drop a cool dark electronic track (KLF, LFO,) or a cheesy house anthem and I loved them both, just such a contrast to the guitar music. I had never heard that in Canada. You were on one side of the fence or the other... In a suburban school in Canada the musical boundaries are drawn quite heavily to the point of race or background coming into play.... So having this UK sensibility in Hong Kong was a very exciting thing.
What did you grow up listening to? What were the artists or records that really made a big impression on you and perhaps influenced your own music?
It was only when I was a bit older in HK that I really paid full attention to music and what I was really listening to... So when I was younger I knew music more by feeling or just sitting there listing to my moms records. Just looking at the gatefolds, graphics, weird fashion etc. and then in my teens it was typical Teenage thing... Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction etc...Really only around 16 while living in Hong Kong did I really start to define my own musical taste, the Manchester sound and the dance tracks that would sometimes crossover. So when I returned home to Canada I was already getting into electronic music and listening to UK ambient etc by the time I was 17 or so... and then I began going to Detroit, to Record Time, and Somewhere in Detroit. Mike Huckaby worked at Record Time and he basically picked out everything he thought was essential. This was a defining moment for me. I basically got “the Idiot white kid’s guide to techno”. But he was amazing and just took the time for me, he saw that I was 17 and drove from Toronto and he set me up. I was and still am today still inspired by my first electronic records: Teste, Acacia, Underground Resistance, F.U.S.E, Galaxy to Galaxy, Pentatonik, 430 West and a lot of UK Chill out music...
Tell us the story of Dumb-Unit so far...
Bored DJ and Designer starts label in 2000 to escape the monotony of the air conditioned nightmare of which he inhabits.
Describe the Dumb-Unit / Jeremy P Caulfield sound....
My sound and the labels sound are miles apart in many ways... My sound now is predominantly from my DJ sets, which is based on a lot of heavily edited tracks put together to in a dark rolling warehousey kind of vibe... I work hard to hold on to a room within a certain frame and context... As for the label I think its music I see working well in this context while still maintaining an identity... A track that might challenge me etc but still fits right into the kind of set I play. But it needs to have personality and nuances that are indicative of the artist. It needs to hold its own ground.
Can you tell us about any forthcoming Dumb-Unit projects?
Musically, for the next few months we are just focused on releasing solid 12inches and tracks. The market is so fucked up right now it makes no sense to do much else... So focusing on choosing good releases that are worthy to be on vinyl while developing our digital microcosm... Additionally, this past year was about more Dumb-Unit nights on the road. We organized a lot of nights through Europe and I did Japan and Australia and next I’m doing South America with Seph. The Label itself is going through changes and the design will be taken on by someone other than myself finally, and together we will begin developing more art / design / and collectors projects and shit we can sell to you too ... Ha!
I feel I need to release something into the physical realm these days; that it has to be special and I want to get more into “collectors” items. Yet I no longer have the energy to develop the graphic identity myself... I want to think about bigger projects for the label and so we will collaborate more. In terms of the internet machine: we are starting D.U.D.E. Dumb-Unit Digital Enterprises (YUP!) which will focus more on a developed digital online magazine and archive similar to what Mutek has done. Finally, Ingo my partner and I will be bringing in some more people to assist us with a lot of the new things we want to do. So I’m hoping all this internal re-structuring will result in a lot more exciting projects in the next year or so. Oh and also an Album from Seph!
Are you working on music all the time or is it stop and start? How do tracks come together?
The last year has been difficult with music. I’ve been bogged down with label related things that have unfortunately taken on more importance because they are essential to having Dumb-Unit run. So it’s start and stop, much more than I would want to. But I realize I’m someone, say similar to Mathias Kaden who does 2 or so productions a year and it’s enough. There is a glut of music out there and I don’t feel like being part of it. Recently I have begun a new stage of production and back to tracks with an overt sense of identity; which I find quite refreshing. As for tracks coming together: even when they are done I often have no idea how I got them to where they are... that’s the beauty of it I guess...
Do you ever feel limited by technology? Where you have ideas that you\'re imagining, but because of the tools you have, can\'t be realized?
Yes and No: I don’t realize something technically unless I feel it’s in my resources to imagine it. So in a sense sadly technology often limits me way before the process of creation. It can limit you at a fundamental subconscious level of imagining. So I think I often imagine moods or feelings and that way they remain somewhat detached from these constraints... I never think “I want to do an edit like this “etc or get disappointed that I don’t know how to do something.
You’ve been living in Berlin for a while now, how has the city impacted on your work?
Berlin is like the ocean, sometimes it’s flat and grey and filled with sharks and other days you can lie lazily in it for hours... It can be a difficult town to keep your moods up, and already a lot of people that have moved there are moving away... For me it has made me realize that charisma is an important part of being a DJ and an artist, because otherwise you’re just another face making something not unlike everyone else. So it has taught me that there has to be a gusto or energy behind what you do if you want it to be noticed. And so I feel much more attached to my work and output to ensure it will have an audience and have an energy level that will inspire and not just get heaped into a pile of mediocrity.
How do you see music developing?
Again, music itself is always changing faster than I could forecast. But within this scene I would say again that there will be more personality to music. More recognizable figures making more recognizable music, in the sense that it can gain a wider appeal. Yet within this context I hope that it will continue to remain firmly rooted in some form of “minimalist” aesthetic. But there is a dire need right now to overcome this glut of faceless post minimal void we are currently inhabiting.
Would you say your DJing style has developed or changed in the last year or two?
Yes. It changes all the time... My sets are much more charged by the edits I make...They are more bespoke in the sense of their fit and they satisfy much more of my personal needs as a DJ. I remove things, loop things, mix random parts from other tracks to create more signature selection of tracks to choose from. My sets are more technical and work intensive from a back end point of view, yet more flowing and complete as a presentation. Mutek will be an even bigger step for me as I’m pushing the concept of my DJing / Live a bit further I hope.
How does playing a festival such as MUTEK relate to a club scenario?
Well I specifically asked Mutek to put me in the side room so that I could focus more on creating a flowing, moving set rather than a main stage spectacle. So I would think this time I want to bring a bit of an advanced clubbing feeling to my set at Mutek. Often a set that makes people move is deemed or dismissed as utilitarian. Only there to make people move ... But I think the ubiquitous nature and the seamlessness of these kinds of sets is an art in itself if you keep it stripped and lacking of obvious hooks.
It looks like you’ve got a seriously hectic tour schedule coming up. How do you intend to stay sane?
I stay sane by trying to get back into the normal life as much as I can when I’m home. I’m a bit of a hermit, I cook, eat, read, go out for dinners with my girlfriend and just try to recharge. It’s often not for long but every little bit helps. Then I get pumped for a weekend early too. I get to listen to my new music, start preparing etc... Monday is the DJ’s Sunday... I stay true to that adage.
Most memorable gig of 2008 so far and why?
Hmm. I’d have to say our nights at Watergate in Berlin... I feel comfortable in the club, friends are around, there’s really good energy and at the after party I know the name of the persons house I’m at.
Which artists/producers/labels are bringing something new to the table in 2008?
Right now upcoming: New stuff from Donor/ Truss. Elon from NYC, Lee Curtiss; Seph and Pablo, and me...