Name: San Proper
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current Release: San Proper & D. will release an Anniversary remix of "Home" ft. Hoshina on Musar Recordings.
Recommendations: I'd like to recommend ‘Kami no kodomotachi wa mina odoru' by Haruki Murakami, for that's a great author. And I'd love to recommend my 3 upcoming releases on the record-labels Dopeness Galore, MUSAR and Bookclub Recordings.
If you enjoyed this interview with San Proper, visit his facebook account or soundcloud profile for everything you ever wanted to know about him.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I got heavily influenced at an early age by a lot of different styles of music. I started with the guitar when I was 8 years old, collecting music, stealing tapes and records, robbing my brother Emile from his musical gems, although my father also hit me hard with the likes of Sam Cooke, Professor Longhair, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus.
My brother at one point allowed me to record my first demos on his 4-track. He gave me a box with a piece of tape which started fading because I was recording and overdubbing that drive until its end. I was simulating drums with an Atari and I was using old-school keyboards to shine up the arrangements alongside my guitars and silly vocals.
Later on, I discovered the underground-sound of electronic music and it blew me away, for at first I was mostly convinced by organic and soulful stuff with 'real' instruments, but I guess in '93 I was modestly presenting my taste and a mix of both. In '95 I was proud enough to admit that I was a DJ, partly because I disagreed with the other disc-jockeys for their poor taste and lame music. Call it youthful oblivious arrogance.
In 1999 I became obsessed and determined and arrived at a realisation: I will be doing this for the rest of life. Jamming hot and presenting this medicine.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I really feel the need to have a reflection with other musicians, also for my solo-productions, but I do love to jam, yes indeed. There are a lot of musicians funking about at the spot where I also have my studio and often I'll be running around, playing a lick, dropping a line of backings or handing out some hand-percussion-shakes. Inspiration comes from the lessons you learn, right?
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
Every DJ has it's signature of course, which is often marked by taste, personality and emotions. And yet, one should realise that it's about presenting music, mostly produced by other musicians who are way cooler than me and you. But a DJ is definitely a messenger and it feels great to get shocked by music you've never experienced before.
Theo Parrish played that trick on me for instance. His selection and his productions changed my life.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Pitching two cassette-decks with screw-drivers before we started trying to pitch turntables on acid?
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
It's important for me to make my machines swing and empathic. But I'll mostly layer electronics with organic instruments and other colours. The flaw of an instrument or piece of equipment can sound quite sexy, and I like to play around with that, but I am not the most technical producer. To each their own.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My life is quite chaotic, though adventurous and dramatised. My schedule usually is based upon studio-sessions during weekdays and performing during the weekend, for that's when people dance.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I love to fill up my record-bag with tracks I rediscovered in my collection while looking for something else. Alongside the latest gems I want to present I'll test-drive some demos.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I let myself be guided by the Love, while I force some power upon the room. Sounds cool, right? But in reality, I just follow my instinct.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
This also comes from within, but sometimes I'll tune the key of two records rather than the pitch, like that you can create changes in the tempo while blending the music very naturally. That's how one lives up to the mix. It's not just about setting the tempo straight.
I do often automatically think of the tracks I'd like to play next, yes, but that's what impulsive inspiration is all about in my opinion.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
I would say it's a combination of all of the above. Diversity is key.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
I think this balance is very healthy. The seclusion of a hermit and the extrovert entity form a sweet recipe for an exotic cocktail.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
All I know for sure is that I am made to do this whether you or I like it or not. I want to play more and I want to release more.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
I really like the limitations of a record-bag. The small amount of music you brought on vinyl will make you make crazy leaps with an adventurous selection. Challenges.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Obviously art and music are healing. I think it's important to touch the soul through the inspiration artists present. It's important to motivate and spread the message. No matter if it's news, sentiment or fantasy.