DJ Dissolve is selector and producer from Portland, Oregon, whose proliferate appearances behind the decks in the Rose City caught our eye, as well as his work with Samewave Radio, and as co-founder of Soul House Collective.
When selecting, André combines his deep seated love for RnB and Hip Hop with Chicago and Detroit-minded house and techno, resulting in a soulful blend made to get you moving. As someone who has certainly begun to make their mark on the Portland dance music scene, I'm excited to go a little deeper with André here.
-Feu du Camp
I read that the main influences on your music are a nostalgia for 90s RnB and Hip Hop tapes played by your mom, and time spent in Germany a few years back. Can you talk about what influences you, and how you communicate that from behind the decks?
I draw influence from a range of mediums including fashion, film, and of course, other musicians. When thinking particularly about time spent behind the decks I think my biggest inspiration is the collection of all the moments I’ve watched online or had the privilege of experiencing in real life where the connection between the DJ and the crowd is seamless and the energy is palpable. Those moments when both the DJ and crowd transcend time, space, and culture and quite literally get lost in the music.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience that moment as a party-goer and have caught second-hand glimpses of it watching sets from some of my favorite artists. That moment is highly inspiring and definitely influences the way I organize my sets and approach any sonic relationship with a crowd.
It appears that you've been heavily focused on your own productions on top of DJing lately. Where would you say your musical focus is these days, and what is informing that focus?
I’ve definitely been allocating more and more of my energy toward production and would honestly say that I now see myself as a producer first and a DJ second (despite what my moniker may suggest). There are a lot of factors informing that focus, but the main three are:
1. It’s super fun!
I really enjoy the process of music production, there are moments when I’m in the studio putting a track together and I’ll have a little loop that I will dance my a** off to for like 30 minutes, and that track might never even turn into a full song. I’m also a pretty big technology nerd and working in AbeltonLive, my digital audio workstation (DAW), presents a sandbox of effectively endless possibilities. In a world full of restrictions the opportunity to operate in a realm where the bounds of possibility are only limited by the constraints you apply is truly fascinating to me.
2. It provides an avenue for self-expression
I’ve always been fascinated by DJ-producers with distinctly unique sounds. Whether it be their drum patterns, the way they chop samples, or something more nuanced that they carry through every track. It’s been so fun to develop my own unique sound and I’ve felt that with every production I continually grow into my identity as a producer - with the goal of someday people hearing a track and saying, “yup I know this a DISSOLVE track” and they know because they’ve fallen in love with some element I bring to the production process that is distinctly me.
3. Production is a valuable skill that applies to so many other elements of musicality
I’ve learned so many things through the art of production that has improved my quality of life more generally, and more specifically how I consume music. It has significantly enhanced how I listen to music and what sounds I’m able to separate within a track. I’m now able to pretty finitely call out the individual elements of songs and clarify what exactly it is I like about a specific song or genre. Additionally, it’s turned me into a pseudo-audio engineer in the sense that I’ve gained really good proficiency in my ability to set up the audio (speaker placement, gain staging, etc.) for my events that provide a thoughtful sonic experience for attendees - compared to when I was really new to production and would literally have my tracks clipping.
In addition to mixing and producing, you've served been a member of the Samewave Radio team for a while now, and you co-founded Soul House Collective. Tell us about some of these other musical outlets you've explored.
Big shoutout to Samewave Radio - while I’m not as active as I was originally I think they’re doing amazing work in providing space for people interested in the scene to have a super legit outlet for self-expression and they throw awesome parties, too!
Soul House is my pride and joy and was the collective I created with my dear friend https://t0k4.bandcamp.com/. The music scene and specifically the DJ world is very clout-oriented and my experience from very early on was that it was sort of oriented around gaining access and then shutting the door behind you to hold all the riches to oneself. Soul House emerged with the goal of first and foremost elevating underrepresented voices in the DJ scene and providing the opportunity to play on industry-standard gear for people who couldn’t afford to have a whole pioneer setup in their homes. At the end of the day, all I’ve ever wanted from this project is to create safe spaces for people to move their bodies and discover new music, artists, make new friends, and create lasting memories. Early on, many of the Soul House DJs, like myself, had begun cutting their teeth in the realm of music production and we were even able to put together a 6-track Various Artists compilation called Soul House Vol. 1. I highly highly recommend you check it out and rumor has it there may even be a Volume 2 in the works.
After your recent feature alongside BXRNXRD for the Portland Black Techno Matters event, I'm curious to hear how you feel the call to reclaim music in the way that Black Techno Matters seeks to is being met by the dance music community, locally and at large.
Within music, similar to many things, Black people have been highly under-credited for their influence. So much so, that many people don’t even know the history of electronic music development in the US and globally. I think we’re continuing to move toward a broader cultural understanding of the black experience in America and part of that understanding is the recognition of all the amazing things Black people have contributed to this country despite the country’s continual cold (and often violent) shoulder. The electronic dance community (especially in Portland) is still hyper-white from both the performer and audience side so there is definitely work to be done, but I’m happy to say that even in the short time I’ve been in the scene I have seen improvements and I feel more and more like events continue to diversify and that’s promising.
I will say, there are still a ton of DJs who don’t care about the inherently black history of EDM, and don’t care to learn. Those are the people we need to get out of the scene and stop supporting. It is my opinion that at this point in history if someone’s hosting an event with 3 or more DJs and none are women/femme nor BIPOC, then I’m not convinced the organizers are committed to creating welcoming and inclusive spaces and it’s not an event I particularly want to be.
As someone who was born and raised in Portland, what is your perspective on the current state of the city?
I love Portland and always will but the city is going through a very tough time right now. As I see it, we’re being forced to engage with the painfully jarring experience of late-stage capitalism. It’s sometimes hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of 200 people paying $25 to see their favorite DJ perform at a nightclub while also stepping over unhoused people en route to wait in line, often judging the unhoused for being on drugs while they (the party class) enter the venue and immediately start taking shots, popping pills, and snorting all sorts of powders.
From the electronic music scene perspective - I think Portland is having an absolute renaissance, the city is full of amazingly talented DJs and I’ve been able to see so many world-class DJs thanks to venues across the city securing some very legit bookings.
The city is full of very smart, artistic, and empathetic people and I’m confident that the combination of those attributes will lead to creative solutions that can solve a lot of the problems the city is facing now and make the quality of life here better for everyone.
I truly do believe that at its core, Portland is a place of love and compassion and we need to make sure that always shines through.