After spending the last couple of months since the most recent Peace Portal broadcast reflecting on the history of house and techno, and its roots in Black history, culture, and music, we are very excited to be back at it this month, taking a deep dive into leftfield techno and electro with Hünter.
Originally from Seattle, I first met Hünter in the Bellingham scene when he was operating under the name Traffic, playing more pop-focused house music at local events, such as Summer Meltdown. Since then, Hünter has relocated to his home town, Seattle, and has honed a more hard-edged sense of rhythm and melody with selections including the breakbeat and electro sounds of Ilian Tape and their associates.
Hünter and I caught up this week to talk about the affects of COVID-19 on the electronic music scene here in the PNW, the Black history of house and techno, and more, all available for your reading pleasures below.
But first, a note from Hünter on his mix:
“This mix showcases a lot of styles I’m into at the moment but it keeps to a particular sound. The first track was something I made last week and then I go into elements of electro, broken beat techno, and off-kilter leftfield. Generally, my mixes flow through genres, I get pretty bored of playing the same things for an hour.”
With that we both hope that you enjoy this month’s selections.
See you on the other side!
Growing up in Seattle, and playing in Bellingham’s electronic music scene, what have you noticed as the dance community has grown?
When I was first introduced to the scene I think that USC events had a strong foothold on bringing in talent. The more mainstream stuff was big and continues somewhat today. But what I think what happened was a shift in electronic music lovers finding what they enjoy. Bass music and house have always consistently been popular here and I think techno is always this undertone but is starting to be more appreciated. In the last 8 years, I’ve seen more electronic festivals pop up and main festivals like Bumbershoot have added more electronic artists to get more people to those events. Seattle in particular has gone through some interesting shifts of music. Q was really popping off with the ‘trap era’ a couple of years ago and I think Kremwerk is like the closest thing we have to an NYC or European club. That’s pretty much my favorite place to go. A ton of curated nights sprouted up over the years at various venues that are true to specific genres like DNB, Bass, or 4×4 stuff. I’ve also seen several DIY parties and those are honestly the best because the people that are there are for the music. Lately, I feel like the tech-house/bass movement has been a bit of an obsession and I wish people would listen to other stuff, but that’s just my observation. Just happy that before COVID the scene was thriving and moving forward.
With all the adaptations the music and entertainment industry has made in the last couple of months due to Covid-19, what do you think are lasting effects, and how do you see things coming out post-COVID-19?
The sad reality is that shows likely won’t be happening till at least March/April of next year. No one is going to feel safe going to events for a LONG time. Nightclubs in other countries have been the hotspots for the spread of COVID. You pair that with a younger crowd with no financial stability it’s going to be hard for promoters to get people to events. There are massive ripple effects for the live music industry. I’d assume venues are already thinking about that possibility and to be honest, I have no gauge on who will still be open or what that might entail. It’s likely that live streams will still be a popular way to watch/listen to music. I just hope with this time off artists will be creative and work on new experiences, music, and content for when shows do pop up again. I’m personally focusing heavily on getting good at my producing/DJing so that when things are back up I can take on more stuff. I’m honestly still trying to break into the Seattle scene! It’s going to be cut-throat for artists to get gigs.
There has also been a lot of conversation about how deeply rooted, particularly house and techno, are in Black history and Black music. Do you think Seattle achieves diversity in its scene? How can it be better?
Coming from a straight white dude I don’t think Seattle’s scene is the most diverse thing I’ve seen. A majority of the electronic artists here are a lot of white men. I don’t want to discredit all of the other incredible artists in this town but I believe that it could really flourish with more Black artists and other artists of color. Some clubs are better than others in terms of artists they’re bringing in, but in general, the city lacks a diversity of talent. For years the issue has always been ‘let’s get more women in lineups’ and that’s slowly changed. The scene here has also played a huge role in the LGBQT+ community. Now promoters need to put in the time to seek out artists of color and create diverse lineups that value local talent as well. A personal goal of mine is to create a label out of Life Without Doubt and have a diverse group of artists on it. The more we recognize these artists, the more the artists are created saying ‘I can do that’ and feel comfortable in the scene.
How has the Seattle music scene changed since March when venues began closing in response to a pandemic?
I haven’t really paid attention to what clubs are doing, pretty much just focusing on my art. Most things have turned into Livestream events. Generally, I’m working or I’m busy making music when those are on. It’s going to be really interesting to see which venues are still open after the pandemic. Not sure what kind of capital they are sitting on or if they have the funding to stay open. It wouldn’t surprise me if some places shutter. Re-Bar was the first and hopefully the only one in Seattle.
Now that we’re unable to produce in-person events, the number of live streams that have popped up have exceeded the number of events we ever could have had in this time. What role do you think live streaming will play in a post-COVID world?
I think it’s going to be an interesting landscape to say the least. There is genuinity in artists doing one off livestreams. If you’re there you won’t miss it but they shouldn’t be obligated to post it for playback. You kind of have to treat them like live shows and when they are, artists still need to deliver great content. It’s going to be a new norm for sure, the industry is taking a beating but everyone still wants to connect with music. One of the things that is starting to happen are live A/V shows that pair with electronic music, Objekt was one of the artists that comes to mind. That direction would be insane and I bet there’s some money in doing audio visual experiences right at home. Who knows how long we’ll be bedroom raving but artists will keep creating to adapt to the changes.
How have you stayed artistically productive during quarantine?
Right when COVID hit Seattle the restaurant industry shuttered. This led me to be without work for a month. I think it was one of the best things that could’ve happened to my music. Before that, I wasn’t really taking any strides to produce or learn my equipment, but the free time allowed me to bunker down and just create whatever. I challenged myself to a week of beats and looking back on them now after three-four months into quarantine I’ve come a long way. I feel confident to put some of my better tracks into my mixes. Now keep in mind they aren’t the best pieces of art but I’m stoked to be making music consistently now. That month jump-started something I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t had the time. Beyond making beats every day that I possibly can, I’ve also moved my monthly mix series ‘Life Without Doubt’ to KZAX. The show allows me to play whatever I’m discovering in the realm of leftfield electronic music. I like to think of it as my outlet for extra tracks in my playlists that won’t necessarily go into a live DJ set. Personally I haven’t quite broken into the Seattle scene yet so this time for music is critical for my development while everyone is pretty much on a level playing field.
With all of these changes for the music industry, what would you like to see happening post-pandemic?
There are a few things I’d like to see post-pandemic (whenever that will be). Obviously, I hope that we have more people wanting to go to live events and a better culture here in Seattle. People should be willing to pay for events and help artists directly. All the clubs/bars need to think about diversifying the artists they bring in. Lineups should be thought through to have a good night but also including lots of crowds. Honestly, I think Kremwerk was doing a good job of that up until the pandemic hit. The main thing I want to point out is that artists better have a plethora of new content for fans, a full year of no live gigs is going to be a ride. (And who knows it may be longer than that) We need to step away from relying on huge headliners for big shows, there is so much other talent out there! I also hope to see more techno here in the NW and more underground shows, it might be inevitable if places close.
Give Hünter a follow, stay tuned for some upcoming originals, and check out his mix series Life Without Doubt: