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Interview : ALLAND BYALLO

 Alland Byallo is an electronic music producer and come from San Francisco. His music, a blend of old and new elements of techno, house and minimal, is regularly charted and has been licensed to CD’s released by Universal, OM Records, Proton Music and Airdrop Music. He agreed to answer some questions...

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WAS : To begin with, can you introduce yourself ?
Alland Byallo : I am Alland Byallo. I be 5’10”. I recently moved to Berlin from San Francisco, living in Kreuzberg on a beautiful street named after the Brothers Grimm, or so I’m told. 31 years young at time of inquiry. I am obsessed with music, art, good film, bad film, travel, cooking, eating, meeting people, introducing people, Jameson, Bukowski and dogs. I’m a club and underground DJ, electronic music producer, graphic designer -- mostly print -- and a partner in two dance music events based in San Francisco. I plan on playing at them a few times a year. I’ll be heading back in April to play [KONTROL] with Steve Bug and again in June for our six year anniversary.


 WAS : Alland Byallo is your true name, I guess. You are not afraid to be hunted down by thousands of fans ? ;)
A.B : It is indeed my true name. It’s a weird one. People often mess it up. The most recent reinterpretation was Adam. My favorite is Almond. Fans? It’s a bit too cold in Berlin for fans. Heaters are more welcome.  I’ve unsuccessfully tried to stick with monikers for my production thus far. But I have a release coming out as The New Elastics on one of Coyu’s My Cup Of Tea label. The release is a bit of a rock/disco/electronic hybrid. It’s quite fun. But in general, something in me won’t let me stick with the monikers. I do have another I’m humoring for the harder and darker techno stuff I’ve been making. But that wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t a secret. Shhh... 



WAS : I have read in your biography that you have been DJing and producing electronic music for 10 years. How did you end up in this field ?
A.B : I’m trying to think which cliché answer would be the best for this. Somebody should collect those and write a... pamphlet. It’s been about 11 or 12 years now, I guess. I had been playing around with some programs like Audiomulch, Acid and CoolEdit, making some random bits of music here and there. But it wasn’t house or techno I was making. I was mostly making drum & bass and weird, sample-based instrumental Hip Hop stuff. I was collecting music. Mostly rare CD’s. Lots of money spent on Japanese imports. I knew a few DJs and found myself at some raves and underground events in Los Angeles. There was quite a wild musical spirit there at the time. I was quite inspired by the music I heard out and learned a lot more about house and techno, though I had been listening to it on and off since 1989. I think the first time I became obsessed with it was around ‘92 or ‘93. My friend Alfredo would bring mix tapes to school, and I would record the Power Tools radio show and cut out all the commercials on my fancy double tape deck. We’d swap tapes all the time. But back to the point. I ended up getting a quick beat matching lesson from my friend Matt Matulevicius one day. A few weeks later I decided to drop an entire paycheck on my first turntables, and that was that. At first I was playing hard techno records from labels like Drumcode, Tresor, Skunkworks, SLS, Primate, Purposemaker, Cytrax, Force Inc., and Pounding Grooves. But I soon found my way to minimal house, tech-house and some more funky and soulful house sounds. I think it was around 2007 when I quit working full time to pursue this as a profession. I have something of a lousy memory, but that sounds about right.

WAS : I have also learnt you started playing the piano at 5, and trumpets at 11. Was this knowledge an asset for your career, and does it still appear to be useful currently ?
A.B : You know, for the longest time I felt like I kept saying this, including it in my bio, but not really representing that in my music. I mean, sure, I have a little bit of an easier time with chords, melodies, harmonies than some. But I mean I’ve still been making “tracks.” I think many have been complex enough to keep me happy, but lately I’ve been a bit tired of it. Not over it, just tired. I love making clean, classic tech-house cuts. But these days I want to express more. Lately, I’ve been working on more musical and artistic projects. I’ve been working on some more complex melodies, recording and creating my own sounds, singing a lot, thereby crafting songs that are still four to the flour in structure, but may be considered less dance floor-oriented and more concept-driven. It’s allowed me to be more expressive and to really unleash the beast, as it were. I’ve had quite a breakthrough and I’m devoting most of my energy into this new avenue. I’m seeing a bigger picture because of it. For my career and for this vehicle of self-expression. Sometimes I feel like it’s happening on it’s own. Like it’s a living and breathing thing, albeit still in it’s infancy.
 
    

WAS : What is the musical style you find the nearest to yours ? Which artist(s) inspires you ?
A.B : I think the easy go-to term is tech-house. One could say that I make house with a techno vibe and palette, etc. One could also say that I make techno with a house vibe and palette. This new stuff, however, rides with more variety. Some songs are up-tempo and bluesy, while others are slow, creepy, sleazy, sexy. Some are even on this epic, droney, shoegazer techno trip. It’s all coming together in strange and beautiful ways. But defining it will be a challenge. I’ll leave that to the pedantic journalist types. There’s many artists that inspire me lately. Thelonious Monk and Arthur Russel are my greatest inspirations as creative, musical souls. But as far as contemporary dance music artists go I’d say Koze is one of my greatest inspirations. The sounds he makes, the stories his music tells... It’s something out of this world. It’s like the man has put a giant wedge into dance music and built a house on it. Other artists that make creative sparks in my mind are Wareika, Aera and Goldwill, Bruno Pronsato, dOP, Jin Choi, Caribou, Matt Dear, The Revenge, The Mole... The list goes on and on. But I feel that these are the some artists who are among the most noteworthy at the moment.

WAS :  Do you remember the first time you played ?
A.B : To an audience? My first gigs were at a local coffee shop in Newhall, California. Some friends and I got together to throw a party called Communication. I’d play deep house music and we would invite people to bring their instruments to play over it. It was wonderful for a little while. The first event I organized was at a place called Wonder Bar in Culver City. That was a great learning experience. It was one of the few places you could go in LA to hear minimal techno. Few people in LA played that stuff back then. Most people called that stuff “the weird German shit.” This was around ‘01 or ‘02... Something like that. But we had some great talent roll through. Kenneth Graham, Jasper (now going by Silent Servant), Dean Decosta, Robin Porter, Maetrik, Rithma, Cle Acklin and many more. Was quite cool!

 

WAS : You have travelled worldwide and played quite a lot, which date is your best musical memory ?
A.B : That’s pretty tough to answer. Every gig is special. I have the best job in the world! There’s a few places that stick out simply for the fact that they’re landmarks, some that stuck out because I was treated quite well by the promoters. But all in all, every gig and every crowd has a place in my heart and my memory. Honestly the best part is getting to travel to places I might otherwise not get to visit on my own. I’ve been far and wide and when I get to spend a few days being a tourist, that really makes all of this -- the struggle -- well worth it.


WAS : Can you talk to me about [KONTROL] ?
A.B : I sure can. June is our six year anniversary. We’ve hosted an endless list of the world’s finest house and techno dj’s. I work with four other guys. Greg Bird, Sammy D, Craig Kuna and Nikola Baytala. Greg and Sammy came to me one day and asked if I wanted a residency at a new event that focused on techno. It was at a small space called Rx Gallery that a promotion crew named Blasthaus operated. There really was hardly anybody pushing techno in SF at the time. You’d get your occasional one-off shows with Rich, but all in all it was quite poorly represented. The infamous minimal techno “laptop jocks” from San Francisco were much less active around the time than years prior and we just felt that somebody needed to bring this sound to the people. It was doing so well over in Europe. So we did. We booked Galoppierende Zuversicht, a duo from Switzerland, as well as the owner of Bruchstuecke, their record label. Honestly we had hardly heard of these guys but the opportunity was there and they were being touted as one of the best live acts in Europe. Well, they were definitely one of the best live acts we’ve ever witnessed, and the party was slammed. We had a line down the block. The people were hungry for this whole thing. Since then, a lot of events have taken off in SF and done quite well pushing this sound and what’s evolved from it. I personally think San Francisco has become one of the strongest scenes in the US for techno over the last six years, and we’re honored and proud to be a part of it. We’ve since moved to a new venue, The Endup, which has been open since 1973 and is truly an SF landmark, as much as it’s a landmark of culture in America. But my favorite part is getting to work with my partners. They’re amazing people who I hope I’ll know for the rest of my life.    


WAS : Do you have any plans for the future you would like to tell us about ?
A.B : Aside from what I’ve already mentioned about my musical projects, I’ve got some fun stuff coming out on labels such as Moodmusic, Room With A View, DJ Three’s Hallucination Ltd imprint, a label called Beef, an ep for Sirius Pandi, and some remixes for Opossum, Limikola, Seta, Deeper Shades and my own label Nightlight Music. I’m also working on a catalog mix CD for Tonality, which is Jay Tripwire’s excellent label. Quite honored to do that! It’s my first commercially available mix. Pretty cool stuff! I have some fun gigs around Europe coming up, in cities I’ve never visited, which is quite exciting. Seeing as much of the world as possible is one of the greatest things a person could do. What else? I’m sure I’ll think of a few things as soon as I click ‘send’.


WAS : Do you have any resolutions for 2011 ?
A.B : Well, I’m going back to Yoga in March but I wouldn’t say that’s any resolution. I just don’t feel as great as when I was going a few times a week. I try not to make New Years resolutions. They usually end up broken. If I have changes I feel I need to make, I should do them without any kind of silly pressure like that. People should take the time to know, love and better themselves on a daily basis. But in general I have a few things in my life I’m working on. I would like to host some more dinner parties. I like to cook for people, and I like trying all of the fun bottles of wine people bring to those! Oh, I told myself I would have my first art show this year. I really want to make some art for the sake of art. I have yet to do this and I feel I’m missing something big since art has been such a huge part of my life for so long. I have some concepts marinating up in the skull! I have a friend in San Francisco who owns a gallery, and we briefly talked about working together this year. I’m doing my best to make something happen without forcing it. A first show isn’t something one should rush.


WAS : The last but not the least... Anything to add ?
A.B : Well if that’s not a cue for some blatant, shameless self promotion, I don’t know what is! We just released the debut EP by Dead Seal, titled Koo Koo Mind, on my label Nightlight Music. It’s packaged with a great remix by the legendary Q-Burns Abstract Message. The next release consists of a series of remixes of this one, by Anthony Mansfield, myself and Dead Seal himself. Our label night, Nightlight, is 2nd Fridays at 222 Hyde. While I’m not there myself, the residents that hold it down in a special way are Clint Stewart, Mossmoss and Dead Seal. They’re three of SF’s best underground house/techno DJs. So honored to work with them and call them my partners. Clint and I talk almost every other day and the support I get from him and the boys is a wonderful thing. Of course, [KONTROL] is every first Saturday at The Endup. We go until 6am! One of the few places you can legally party all night long in California, if not the only.

Thanks for this opportunity. It’s a pleasure chatting with you guys!

WAS : Thank you so much Alland :)

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