The Aaron Clark Interview
Now that I’ve grown more accustomed with Pittsburgh’s bustling electronic music scene, I find myself encountering a lot of nostalgia. The music has a deep history in Pgh, but like all scenes, it has encountered some bumps in the road. Local techno collective Humanaut is gearing up for their first edition of a new monthly, Out Of Order, in which they’ll highlight “quality music from the best local, regional and international talent”. Primarily focusing on house and techno genres, each event will be curated by either Humanaut members or the occasional guest. In order to gear up for the kick-off party, we dropped by a special gathering in which the boys decided to get together, play some jams and record our very first NakYouOut podcast! As if we weren’t excited enough to start a podcast series, we’re even more pumped that the Humanaut boys have opted to do the inaugural one. They were excited to have the opportunity to spend some relaxing QT with each other, as they don’t get to play records together as much as they should. We had a chance to sit down with member (and VIA Art Director) Aaron Clark to ask him what’s in store for himself and for Humanaut in 2012. It was a nostalgic and encouraging conversation, to say the least.
I opened the conversation by asking Aaron about his early influences and how he started deejaying. I unexpectedly dove into a brief history of the Pgh rave scene circa the early 2000’s. “It (my music taste) was really bad at the beginning – the first time I heard electronic stuff. I grew up in a very religious family and we weren’t allowed to watch MTV. It was all blocked. My parents made us listen to Christian music. Eventually, they eased up and it was fine. I remember hearing big beat stuff in commercials, really mainstream stuff. Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, things like that were used in commercials all the time. Then you had the P2P come around, you had Napster, so I would type these people in. I slowly started downloading and over time, based on who did remixes, I went deeper and deeper into it. My first phase of actual DJing junior year there was a quality deep house phase. I’ve actually held on to some of those records and those are some of the best I’ve got. That was when it began, and I’ve had phases of music since then. I realized OK there’s a whole culture that goes along with this and it revolves around parties.”
Excited at the prospect of moving from a mid-western Ohio town (which I can totally say is about as mid-west as you can get having spent a good portion of my youth there as well) to the new frontier of Pittsburgh, Aaron attended his first parties and was met with a sense of disappointment. “Back in 2001, 2002 when all the giant electronic music blew up and had a nuclear meltdown and then went away – up until that point everyone in Pgh was doing it previously. All of a sudden when that meltdown happened, it was a dirty word and nobody would go anywhere near it.” Unimpressed by Pittsburgh’s attempt at a scene, Aaron subsequently went home and started deejaying for the next year and a half, honing his skills and developing his ear, which he’d started doing as early as sixth grade.
“When I got to Pittsburgh it was a little ravier here. I got more into really crappy, filtered disco, but that was where I picked up the funkiness. I carried that house element with me a little bit, and then there were the progressive days when I met Paul. I’m influenced by a lot of the people around me, especially when I was soaking everything up. Progressive then turned into techno. Then, I started pulling into deep house again and I’ve taken a mixture of the two and that’s where I’m at now.” Aaron cites fellow Humanaut member Paul Fleetwood as a key inspiration to stick with the electronic music scene here in Pittsburgh, as well as Electrasoul. This relationship helped to foster what we know today as the Humanaut collective.
As cheesy as it is now when we look back on it, it had to go to a club format, something familiar, in order to get reintroduced to the city. People were used to doing this nice, dress up club thing. Clubs and bars were where they were at. The only way to get people to forget this rave scene was to do this club stuff. So you got them back into it again, but this time in a place they’re familiar with, and since then, Humanaut has slowly crept more underground and underground. In the years since, Humanaut, alongside other respected and well-known deejays and musicians have been grooming the city for something larger. VIA is one indication of how poised Pittsburgh is for attracting talent in terms of electronic music and art in general, however, Humanaut believes there is a lot of fantastic local talent that is just as deserving of a larger stage. It’s not just about attracting quality artists, it’s about fostering the talent of those who decide to call the Pgh home. “There’s really good talent in the city and this momentum in Pittsburgh lately has pushed it all to the top, but we need to start exporting people now.”
Speaking of exporting, Aaron cites Humanaut’s relationships with crews in other cities as a big help in upgrading Pittsburgh’s reputation. “It’s such a small scene that with the internet now, everyone’s in touch with everyone. You get to know everyone in every city. I know that everyone in our crew travels a lot. We just end up in their places and then there’s always Detroit where all of these people come together in parties. The minute you talk to people, if you’re hearing a good DJ, the person next to you that you’ve never talked to in your life, you’ll turn to them and go â€“ can you believe the shit that you’re hearing right now? And there’s this bond there. The internet extended that across the globe instantly. So you get to know these people and you can’t help but go visit them and get to know them.”
The relationships Pittsburgh has built with other cities and music fans in general is finally gaining momentum. It is an exciting time to live here, and Humanaut has set themselves up to take full advantage of that. This cultural resurgence has inspired them to start a new monthly, Out Of Order, which will often feature guest curators. “It’s the people locally that we feel would really be strategic in knowing how to program a night. We are not looking for people who program like us, Humanaut will handle the techno. There are other people in the city who have really amazing music tastes and they know how to take advantage of a room with a giant sound system in it and put the right people in the right place.”
By holding a monthly, Humanaut hopes to grow their audience a bit and raise the funds necessary to take their events to the next tier of awesomeness. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We need to start slowly growing a bit. At the 300 mark we can afford things that we’ve always wanted to do, which is a huge goal for us. We need to bring new people into this. There’s a lot of people in the city who would appreciate what we’re doing but they might not know about it, so it’s hard to get those people in there. We’ve gotta figure that out.” One way to do that is to expand their crew. “We value people who play exciting music. We are pretty diverse. You have Revy who touches the minimal and the glitch. You have Rob who goes into the stripped out house. Cuban dives into acid and he’s really eclectic. Zyla (Relative Q) is all over the place. He’s from 132 BPM mental techno to slow disco with his RCMP stuff. Paul’s always been the chunky, driving techno and I fall somewhere in all of the middle of that. A lot of times deejays – it doesn’t matter what setting they’re in – will play what they play no matter what. I think that’s the biggest thing that we care about. We’re involved with people who know where they fit in the larger picture of a night.”
Couple Humanaut’s reputation as taste makers with their dedication and you’ve got one hell of a crew. Aaron’s make-it-happen attitude has enabled him the opportunity to dive into some new ventures, such as his recently-launched agency, Eighty, in which he manages Detroit techno legend Claude Young. Some problems arose on Claude Young’s tour, which included the recent Humanaut booking, but Aaron took the reigns and pulled it off flawlessly. “I kept thinking – I don’t think this party will go off properly unless I control the whole thing. There were five cities involved so I stepped in. I was like what can I do, how can I fix this, I’ll do what I need to do, I’ll make this tour happen. So I ended up getting in touch with all of the different promoters and pulling all their money, bought the plane ticket from Japan, re-booked Claude, booked a make-up date. I ended up doing that job because I didn’t want our party to fail in Pittsburgh.”
This experience has opened Aaron to an entire new realm of possibilities. What began as a passion for electronic music at a young age has blossomed into him becoming a respected deejay, Art Director and Humanaut member. He plans on taking this experience and applying it to future endeavors. “We have this amazing talent in Pittsburgh. Finally it has happened. I love DJing, but I’m never going to produce music, I’m never going to be a huge DJ. I don’t care about that stuff. I still enjoy it but the background, the logistics side of things – people have to do those jobs too. I would rather help when someone is really crushing it musically, they’re an amazing DJ and the best thing I can do is help fill the other role of organization and logistics. Those guys, if they’re doing it well, they need to focus on that and someone else should take care of the other things and we’ll all get better. They’ll get out there hopefully. We’ve gotten to know everyone, there’s a nice family network of techno in the US that we can leverage. ‘We’ll see, it’s an experiment.’“
The Out Of Order Kickoff Party is this Saturday, December 10th from 9PM to 2AM. Lineup includes:
Aaron Clark (Humanaut, VIA)
Paul Fleetwood (Humanaut, VIA, Ultrawizardsword)
Relative Q (Humanaut, RCMP, Young Robots, Ultrawizardsword)
Revy (Humanaut, Bleepsequence, Slant Records, Ultrawizardsword)
Jason Cuban (Humanaut, Full House Productions, Basic: State College)
– Four-corner Impact Audio sound rig.
– The beat drops at 9pm.
– $5 cover starts at 10pm.
– The night ends at 2am.
$2 Yuengling 10-12 $3 Well drinks all night
Listen to the impromptu exclusive mix the Humanaut DJs put together for us!