Factory Sounds Pittsburgh: An Interview with Elias Menninger

Published On October 29, 2015 | By Leah Kennedy | Interviews
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Pittsburgh transplant Elias Menninger relocated to our city from D.C., craving a concept of which he thrives upon–a new experience. Shortly after, came the birth of his radio show, Factory Sounds: a Saturday night installment created by Menninger to capture the “harder side of house music,” and what he hopes will emulate the steadfast endurance and persistent strength our come-up city represents.

Although he’s a newcomer to Pittsburgh, Menninger is not quite a newbie to the electronic music scene. While in D.C., he made a name for himself as a trance DJ, having opened up for and playing alongside some of the biggest names in trance music. Later, his best friend, Michael Cignarale, introduced him to a whole new world of house music and they dove into the world of production. The duo was even successful enough to have records released on heavy hitter labels, like Todd Terry’s InHouse Records and Josh Wink’s Ovum Recordings.

I was deep in a Soundcloud rabbit hole one night when I stumbled upon Factory Sounds. Menninger’s style and sound immediately captured my attention… He was mixing music from so many of the house and techno artists I’ve grown to love. And as someone who actively seeks and discovers new music, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t yet heard about his show. So I had to find out more…

Recently, I had the chance to stop by his show, and indulge in a new experience, myself. If you haven’t yet heard an episode of Factory Sounds, we can assure you that it’d be in your best interest to tune in.

“When I first moved [to Pittsburgh], I was constantly asked: “Why here?” I thrive on new experiences. Whether it be traveling alone through Europe, or deciding to learn Chinese, I crave and yearn for something new, something interesting. And as someone who was born and bred among the hustle and bustle of the East Coast, I felt Pittsburgh would be the perfect change-up from the uptight culture of Washington. From what I heard prior to moving, who wouldn’t want to live in a city with cheap rent, cheap drinks and a new revitalization movement that hopes to propel the city to new heights? The opportunities here in Pittsburgh are abundant, one just needs to look in the right place…”

Menninger assured us that he’s found that “right place” at WRCT (88.3FM), the birth place of Factory Sounds, and where he improvises his sets and track picks completely on the fly.

“I remember driving around one Saturday afternoon when I first moved to the city. I was scanning the radio and stumbled upon 88.3. And for those who know 88.3, it doesn’t matter what time of day you tune in, there’s going to be something awesome playing… Something very different than your typical Pitt radio stations. Someone was spinning live vinyl on the radio… I thought, “Oh my God, this station lets you spin vinyl? Who is playing right now, and how do I get a show?” Unknowingly to me, the show airing was Pittsburgh mainstay, DETOUR. So, I emailed the station and explained to them my history in radio and music. Fast forward a couple months, some training with radio mentor, SuperSlovak, and the first episode of Factory Sounds with DJ Alias hit the airwaves.”

Consequently, this wasn’t Menninger’s first rodeo with radio. He’d previously joined his college radio station and quickly developed a love and appreciation for the craft.

“Whether I was playing music for people tuning in, or just spinning tunes for myself, I always knew I loved the feeling of reaching out to people through music. When I discovered that WRCT allowed DJs to spin and play whatever music they wanted, I knew I had to have a spot on their station. After I moved to Pittsburgh and dove into the scene, I discovered that the type of music I really enjoyed was not being spun at local venues or by local DJs. There was no outlet for the harder side of house music… My view has since changed since I’ve met the people behind Obvious Productions and Hot Mass.”

Upon his idea to create an outlet for underground house music, Menninger also hopes to grasp a deeper connection with Pittsburgh in regards to its history and residents–particularly those who represent and appreciate where we’ve come from and how we’ve grown.

“For me, Factory Sounds is also an embodiment of Pittsburgh’s history. Just like Pittsburgh was once the City of Steel, Factory Sounds tries to encapsulate that time period. I do this, hopefully, through the music that I spin–a lot of it is grimy, dirty house music. I also hope to educate. I want listeners to hear something they won’t hear out on the town. It is time we move away from the cheesy EDM that plagues every bar on the South Side. It is time we bring it back to the underground. There are some many young listeners in this city that know nothing more than what they hear at bars and on the radio. And this is the reason why I wanted to create my own show.”

As Menninger looks to the future, he’s hoping to expand Factory Sounds to the point where he can host parties around town and bring in some talent. Right now, he’s focused on bringing in great local talent, and potentially, some major acts in the future, as well:

“My hope is to have at least one guest mix every episode. So for all those bedroom DJs or established DJs out there, this is your time. Please, please reach out to me–I would love to have you on the show. Currently, I am working on bringing a very well-known DJ and producer to Pittsburgh. I can’t give any more info yet, but I am working with some local Pittsburgh production companies to make it happen. Look for something in the spring time. In the meantime, I am just working on the show. As a newcomer, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I want to develop my show and my sound. I want to bring in local talent and give them an avenue to promote their music and themselves. And what better way than through traditional, terrestrial broadcasting? I also hope to start my own night at a local venue, but I still don’t know very many people. So if you’re interested in helping out, do not hesitate to reach out to me or WRCT to get involved: just shoot me an email at factorysoundrecordings@gmail.com.”

Menninger also elaborated on what types of sounds and styles you’ll hear on Factory Sounds, as well as what’s on his radar at the moment:

elias2“Currently, I am loving the UK bass sound. The music hits so hard. People like Shadow Child, Kry Wolf, Hannah Wants and Gorgon City have all been killing it lately. If you can’t dance to some Hannah Wants or Shadow Child, you’re doing it wrong. I also really like deep house. It’s sexy and groovy, but also dirty and dark. I am pretty unbiased when it comes to dance music, except I can’t stand big-room progressive house… I find that it has no soul. You lose the intimate feeling of house music, and for me, I just want to lose myself in it. I don’t care what I look like when I dance… if I want to just stand there with my eyes closed, or if I want to lose control and go absolutely mental, I think the style of music I play on my show allows for any individual to do just that. In the show, I try to play a bit of everything… There is this Italian duo, Newbie Nerdz, who’ve been making huge waves in the scene lately. I’ve never come across a bad release from Above & Beyond’s Anjunadeep label. Jody Wisternoff, Yotto and Lane 8 have been some of my favorites. I also love some banging techno from Marcel Dettmann and Dense & Pika. For those of you who want a real taste of what I enjoy, check out Sidney Charles, Cristoph and Hot Since 82.”

It’s quite clear now that music is a perpetual motivator in Menninger’s life, from his current inspirations, to his future goals, and what he hopes to facilitate and accomplish for people in Pittsburgh; intertwining great music to human connections.

“Like every musician, you hope to make a career out of it; you hope someone will pay you for something you enjoy whole-heartedly. But one must be realistic. My current aspirations are to create a Factory Sounds following. I want people to tune in every Saturday from 8-10pm before they hit the town. I want to introduce my love of house music to people in Pittsburgh.”

You can tune in to Factory Sounds Pittsburgh on the radio or online, every Saturday, from 8-10PM. Menninger also assured us to let local and aspiring artists know that they can reach out to him for a guest spot on the show. Be sure to peep his latest episode (35) and our guest appearance below:

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