Interview & Giveaway: Voltaire Records’ Randy Ellis on his label’s upcoming releases, hosting Chrome Canyon and Peanut Butter Wolf at Mezzanine, 2/22/13
February 15, 2013
Written by Mike G.
San Francisco’s Voltaire Records is throwing one hell of a show on February 22 at Mezzanine, with none other than “chameleon-like” DJ Peanut Butter Wolf opening up for space funk maestro Chrome Canyon.
Voltaire founder Randy Ellis, whose label has put out albums by Tussle, Loose Shus, and a bevy of other danceable, electro, krautrock, and analog synth-based bands, has been promoting shows here in SF for the past few years. Next Friday’s gig at Mezzanine, which also features performances by Jonas Reinhardt, Shock, and Chautauqua, is Voltaire’s first of 2013, and then Ellis heads down to L.A. to host a show with a nearly identical lineup the very next night.
I recently caught up with Ellis via email to find out why he decided to start a series of shows featuring bands not on his label and what he’s got coming up in 2013. Below, listen to the title track from Chrome Canyon’s debut Elemental Themes (tell me it doesn’t sound like the soundtrack to a lost Flash Gordon sequel), check out the interview, and find out how to win tickets to next Friday’s show at Mezzanine presented by Voltaire.
The Bay Bridged: When did you start promoting shows in SF?
Randy Ellis: I began with doing shows here in San Francisco in 2009, with the monthly Grow Up party, which started in the Tenderloin. I mean I’d done some one-offs here and there earlier, but that was my foray into doing a consistent thing with a defined musical concept.
TBB: What are some of the more memorable shows you’ve put on?
RE: For me the most memorable shows have been the ones that were put on recently or sponsored by Voltaire Records, featuring our artists. So lately, the Shock record release party with High Places, which was done in collaboration with Epicsauce, holds a special place for me. Yes, the place was packed, the vibes were good, and people got down. But for me personally, I felt like a proud parent. It’s always affirming to see a group that you really believe in just destroy it live, with a new record on the wall.
Also there was a show we did for Grow Up with Party Effects (who are no longer together) and Pat Les Stache playing. The club owner had told me when we arrived that he’d received all these noise complaints from neighbors, and that we had to keep everything turned down as low as possible. Party Effects showed up with a bevy of gear, including a huge subwoofer, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them not to set it up, since they were sort of known for having a really bass heavy show (among other things). I figured we’d just go for it until hell broke loose. So they set up the sub under a table, in an attempt to hide it, and I spent the whole night trying to convince the owner that it wasn’t loud, and that the club system normally had that big low end which he must have never noticed, and that nobody upstairs could possibly hear it. It didn’t exactly work out, but it still ended up being a great party, even though I caught a lot of flack for it.
TBB: Not all of the artists on the Feb 22 show are on Voltaire. Is there a guiding principle or sound you booked the show around?
RE: We were definitely looking for a unique, genre-specific vibe that isn’t often explored: a very new-agey, psychedelic, and yet still totally danceable vibe. Chrome Canyon, to me, is a culmination of all the things that I’ve been digging lately. There are so many elements to his latest album: Sci-fi Soundtrack/Cinema, Cosmic Disco, Prog Rock, 80s Cheese and Boogie Funk, all coming from this highly analog place. So we really wanted the rest of the show to reflect those elements. Peanut Butter Wolf, obviously is one of the most legendary and chameleon-like DJs in the biz, and was totally behind the concept. I’ve been a fan of Jonas Reinhardt for a while now, and only seen amazing live shows. Jonas recently came out with an especially strong release (Foam Fangs) on 100% Silk, and has a full length slated for Spring ’13 on Not Not Fun. Shock and Chautauqua, who are both Voltaire artists, also embody the same vibe. With Shock representing a cosmic dance and pop angle, and Chautauqua being a new-age, sci-fi, dance-floor experiment.
[If you're wondering what "chameleon-like" means in reference to a DJ, here's a 50-minute mix Peanut Butter Wolf put together for a Stones Throw Records podcast. –MG]
TBB: What shows do you have coming up in the future and/or what shows are you hoping to put on in 2013?
RE: Firstly, Loose Shus, K-Maxx, and I will be playing a show or two at SXSW this year, with the Pendletons (Boogie alter- ego of Stonethrow’s artists Myron & E), B. Bravo & Teeko (Frite Nite), and Doug Shorts, Benjamin, and Cermakk (of Cherries Records/Chicago). The next show that will be coming up here in SF will likely be a record release party for our forthcoming comp, “Private Function,” which should be out in early April. It’s a four-track boogie 12” compilation, featuring XL Middleton & Eddy Funkster, K-Maxx, Loose Shus, and Night School, and we expect to have everyone featured playing live. But Voltaire is generally looking to put together quarterly-annual shows of some sort, featuring artists that we think are really going for it, whether or not they any affiliation with our label.
TBB: What else is coming up for Voltaire this year?
RE: Outside of the “Private Function” compilation, Shock is currently recording some new tracks, Loose Shus is working on a new EP, and we’ve been working with Timothy J. Fairplay and Jonas Reinhardt on a few new things. We are also starting an imprint label that will focus specifically on the current crop of modern funk and boogie producers. The “Private Function” compilation is going to kick that off, so there are a few things brewing.
If you want to win a pair of tickets, email me at email@example.com and tell me which dance move you’ll bust out at the show. I’ll pick a winner who I think is most likely to bring the funk.
Chrome Canyon, Peanut Butter Wolf (DJ), Jonas Reinhardt, Shock, Chautauqua (DJ)
February 22, 2013