The Juan Mac Lean – Kaput Podcast

Juan MacLean „ I turned down this gig, I’m going to end up living under a bridge. “

Juan MacLean (Photo: Jonathan Forsythe)


Juan MacLean, today‘s guest on the kaput podcast is an old companion. In the 90s he was guitarist of the highly influential post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite who released a string of remarkable records on Seatle’s Sub Pop label. The band was not always fortunate and struggled often with tragedy – but but as is often the case, when one thing recedes another takes hold; and somehow James Murphy became the sound engineer of the band and nicknamed his PA position: Death From Above. And when Six Finger Satellite were history, the name stuck, with Murphy then naming his new label imprint: DFA. It did not take long and soon Juan MacLean released his first dance music productions. And the rest is history as they say.

Today Juan MacLean is still going strong as a DJ and producer, but also challenging himself with a new path. Together with Ross Ellenhorn, Dimitri Mugianis and Julie Holland he has created Cardea,  a Ketamine space in NYC, that in addition offers psilocybin retreats in Jamaica’s, Treasure Beach. The four offer a century of experience in the artistic, psychedelic, ceremonial, and therapeutic worlds. Their mission is: „to offer an alternative to the emerging co opting of psychedelic healing by the pharmaceutical industry. We seek to honor the sacred and a rediscovery of the sacred originality that we believe can be the basis of transformation.“

We met Juan MacLean at the end of March at 1 OR 8, a lovely small Japanese restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill, just a few days before the big DFA records birthday party.

This episode von „Talking Kaput“ is proudly presented by HAU – Hebbel am Ufer, kaputs favorite Berlin theatre and beyond, the place to be for theater, dance, performance, discourse, music and visual arts.

 

Juan MacLean (Photo: Jonathan Forsythe)


Juan, nice to have you today on the podcast.

Thank you for having me.

I follow your career for a long time, from Six Finger Satellite to the stuff you do for DFA – but recently I also follow your posts regards your new company Cardea. Maybe you can roll out what it is all about.
It is not entirely unrelated to my music career. The shortest explanation: Cardea is a legal psychedelics company that I started after doing underground, illegal psychedelic ceremonial stuff for years. – And now that I say that, should I be saying this? Because I still do with the illegal underground psychedelic stuff… – We’re opening a ketamine clinic in Manhattan and doing legal psilocybin retreats in Jamaica. We have our first retreat, April 21st in Jamaica.

And who is we?
It´s me – now I’m thinking, do I want to name names?

Today Juan MacLean is still going strong as a DJ and producer, but also challenging himself with a new path. Together with Ross Ellenhorn, Dimitri Mugianis and Julie Holland he has created Cardea,  a Ketamine space in NYC
It is a company, it is a legal enterprise.
Ross Ellenhorn, one of the founders is a therapist. He’s written a couple of books and he has these mental health facilities that he’s been really successful with, like an alternative model to working with people in crisis, some kind of psychological distress.
His thinking is pretty outside the mainstream medical sort of thinking in treating psychological disorders.
The other guy is Dimitri Mugianis. He for many years worked with Ibogaine. Do you know what that is?

No.
It is like the African Ayahuasca. It’s a very intense psychedelic, made from a root, it’s like sawdust from Africa. What he was doing with it is: they figured out that you could interrupt opiate addiction with it. So you take someone who’s addicted to heroin, you have them stop doing heroin. And when they start going into withdrawal, you give them a Iboga or Ibogaine, and it stops the withdrawal process. And it goes on for like three days. And at the end of the three days, you’re no longer addicted to heroin.

All right.
But it’s quite an ordeal. It’s like three days of like tripping. You are totally gone. But when you come out of it, you’re kind of miraculously not addicted to heroin anymore. And Dimitri is the one ..

But do you want more experiences of this? Like, are you addicted to something new?
No. No. Okay. Absolutely nothing. If anything, it’s the opposite, it’s something you would not think to ever do again. You might be like, I’m never doing this again all. And that’s not to say that it keeps people off of heroin. That’s up to them. But Dimitri is the one, like for at least a decade, he’s probably done thousands of Ibogaine or Iboga sessions with people. And then he got busted by the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration – and that ended that.

And how did you get connected to that?
I was just into psychedelics in general from a very young age. Maybe the time when people typically get into them, you know, like as a teenager. I also was a heroin addict when I was very young. 

I know. 

And then after, you know, years of being clean and doing all the right things, got super into yoga, which I’m still into, and meditation, all of these things, I was like still incredibly depressed. I mean, like suicidally depressed. And then kind out of desperation went to the jungle in Peru to do Ayahuasca, because I heard it was good for depression. I had tried everything else, nothing worked. So I went down there, it just totally changed my mind. Went down that road of ceremonial psychedelics and knew I wanted to be a part of it.
I don’t know how much you want to get into this now, but so much of it is about sound, an Ayahuasca ceremony is all singing, and generally these traditional psychedelic ceremonies are about sound. So for me,I was already doing it in a way. Even as a DJ, I’m like, oh, I’m in a space with lots of people on drugs. They kind of are entrusting you as a DJ to guide them through the night with sound. And that’s what any psychedelic ceremony is. So it was like really easy to me to make that transition. And I just throw myself into it and had teachers that guided me.

But was it difficult? Cause I mean, you just said that you had a drug problem, you were addicted for some years, then you were like off it. Did you ask yourself: Am I doing the right thing? Am I playing with the fire? I maybe don’t see this in the beginning, but it can be there.
Yeah, a little bit. Like in the very beginning I had that thought, but I was so desperate that it was worth it to me at the time. If I’m throwing my life away right now, that’s a chance I’m willing to take, because life sucks so much for so long. Like I’m just not interested in being alive anymore.

We are talking about like a decade or something, which you were like sober, drug free. and depressed.
Yeah. I drank that first cup of Ayahuasca many years ago. And as I was drinking it I was thinking: „This could be the worst decision I´ve ever made in my life.“

Take it and see.
It was incredible, totally life-changing. I don’t like to put out there too much that my experience that the first time totally changed my life – that’s not an expectation that people should have, you know, it’s more a path, it’s a process. But that did set me off in that process and it was kind of like things I had been doing since I was very young anyway, which was like this intersection of like sound with psychedelic. Which I was always interested in, but I didn’t know there was this kind of like therapeutic benefit to it.

And how fast did this idea grow that you are not just like benefiting as an individual from that, that you also bring it together with your art and you combine it and then you actually do it for other people to help them. Cause what you’re doing now is the next step.
That took a little while because it was a coming together of a whole bunch of things. At the time I was in school for a psychology, cause I thought I was going to be a therapist. And I had studied yoga in India, I lived in India for a little while. I I had worked at drug treatment centers as a counselor. I’ve been doing all these other things. So I felt like I had a pretty good training in kind of like just how to hold space for people and how to manage people in psychological distress, basically.

But would you say, like when you do the sessions – they are long sessions –, that you also do them for you? Are there two paths at the same time in the sense that you also cure yourself?
Totally. Yeah. I mean, you always have to be there for the person that you’re doing the ceremony for, or the group –sometimes it’s group ceremonies – , but at the same time it’s a ceremony for me too.

You mention it to the persons that they understand you are part of the ceremony? You’re not like a doctor or like a psychologist in a classical sense.
Yeah. When someone comes in and we’re doing a mushroom ceremony for them, to be clear, it is mushorooms, we spend a lot of time like talking about it beforehand, explaining what they’re getting into. And part of it is explaining, like what it is that we’re doing with sound basically. It’s an experience that’s about energy. And in that sense, it’s very different than the Western, like doctor / patients – like there’s the doctor, who’s the authority, the patient comes in and then the doctor’s going to cure the patients. This is more like a an interactive thing, like where you’re in it together – I always take a little bit of mushrooms with them so that we can be in that same space together. And it’s learning how to navigate those spaces, which then gets into like a little bit heady kind of heavy territory of what is happening when people are under the influence of psychedelics.

Thomas Venker & Juan MacLean (Photo: Jonathan Forsythe)

That would have been my next question. These journeys are not always smooth and they’re not only just happiness. There’s also coming sadness out and a lot of like troubled stuff up. That’s not your part in the sessions, cause you do the music. That’s the part of your partner that he talks and interacts with the patients.
We’re both kind of doing the same thing. There’s no talking.

There´s no talking?
Unless someone wants to talk, like if they’re having a hard time, then we’ll talk. But it’s a thing that transcends language. Like a lot of people come to us because they’ve been frustrated with talk therapy, which I’m an advocate of. I think it’s really helpful. But I think we’ve run up against a wall where talking doesn’t really put a dent, like in your depression and anxiety, for example, these are real emotional things. And when people have really difficult experiences, usually that’s the most beneficial, because usually that’s like something emerging. That’s not.. that’s been repressed, pushed down and now it’s coming out. From our perspective with what we do, that’s actually a really good thing. That’s what we want.

When somebody has like drastic emotionally things happening, cries or shakes and stuff like that – you always talk to the person. So is it sometimes hard for you to just like, let it go and just look at the person and see what’s going on there.
It’s very hard. I mean, I do it all the time. You know, a few days a week. That’s what I’m doing. The impulse when you see someone having a hard time, the impulse is to go in and somehow change things so that they’re not having a hard time anymore, but that actually is usually not beneficial. I always think of it as like, if you’re in a restaurant and you talk about something very upsetting, like „oh my, my friend just died“ or something. I usually have a really strong impulse to cry. Like I really want to cry, but I stop myself from doing that because we’re in a restaurant and around other people. And you just don’t, you know, you’re ashamed of crying. So we do a lot of like repressing these things, but they don’t go anywhere. 
Like now that you’ve stopped yourself from crying, like it’s in your body, basically like living in your body and that come that stress and all of that, like just accumulates and accumulates. Where I think in other cultures like indigenous cultures, if someone wants to cry, they just cry and they like weep and wail and then people might come around them and support them, cry with them and that kind of thing. But here, and in Western European cultures, especially when someone cries, mainly like people get embarrassed and like might walk away. It’s kind of shameful thing. And yeah, so what I see all the time and the ceremonies are something like that, where someone will be wailing, crying, just crying, crying, and you, the impulse is to go and comfort them to get them to not cry anymore. But really what you want is to encourage the crying because after usually you feel amazing, you feel great.

It’s part of our society. You see and hear people screaming very loud when they make a deal or something positive on the phone. But you don’t really see people … having negative feelings, it’s always something people are ashamed of. People will look at you like, „well, he lost it“.
Right. It’s a sign of weakness. There’s a lot of things about capitalism rolled up in this. If you did something and you’ve just made a lot of money, you can like scream and people are like: „what happened?“ You’d be like, „I just made a million dollars“ – and everyone’s screaming. But yeah, if something sad happens, then maybe someone says like, „are you okay?“ Maybe. But really we’re just embarrassed.

If you say the word capitalism. You are reducing your market value in that sense: „Oh, no, maybe he’s week now“. Or: „What’s going on now? Can we hire him? Can he get a job done? Cause you see, he is not stabile anymore, he’s crying. He’s not there anymore…“ As if that’s really true – cause as you said, sometimes the cleaning factory is important.
But do you after the sessions talk to the person?
Yeah, a long time. And then in the days after too, and weeks, months, if not years. Yeah.

You mind me asking: how expensive are sessions like that?
 Cause, I mean, you are there for a full working day or like a half day, your partner is there, there are talks before, there are talks after.
I mean it’s expensive. Well, but what we do, we have a sliding scale. So people basically pay what they want. Homeless people can pay nothing, we do free ones too. People who legitimately can’t pay, then we do it anyway. We don’t turn anyone away because of their ability to pay. And that’s how we frame it. When we talk to people about it, we say, „you know, it’s this much money. If you can pay the full fee, we’re happy that you can do that. And just know that you’re paying for someone else who can’t afford to do this.“ Usually that really inspires people to pay, but people are pretty good about it. I think it’s pretty fair generally.

People also understand that this is an ongoing thing. It’s not like, you go in for half an hour and that’s the thing. Like, you can’t expect things to be for free. 
When you mentioned you have things you’re doing in New York and you have to, things you’re doing in other countries, is this only because of the legal part of it – versus the illegal?
Yeah. There’s no other reason for that. In Jamaica Psilocybin mushrooms are legal. This is a legal company, so that’s where we have to do it. And I mean, it’ll be legal in the United States, I think within a few years, within five years, maybe, but yeah.

Are you part of lobbyists in the sense that you go and speak out at meetings or political conventions to change things? Or are you concentrating on just what you’re doing.
I’m not too concerned with the legal part, because I’m also a little ambivalent about legalization, because generally the push for legalization … the approach is almost like thinking about it, like a new form of antidepressant, and already there’s lots of venture capital pouring into this. And the way they look at it is like mushrooms could be like the new Prozac or something. And I’m pretty against that. Like this idea that really big money will pour into this. 
It’s always depression and anxiety, that’s what people are always talking about, that’s why they’re always coming in. They’re like, „I’m depressed, really I’m depressed.“ 
The depression rate is like now over 50%. And my perspective is like, if the depression rate is over 50%, then something’s wrong. Something is fucked up. Like something is definitely wrong with our environment that we’ve created. And this idea of using these things as like an antidepressant to sort of patch people up just to go back to work and like go back into the system is insane. I’m more like, I want to tear down the whole system.

It´s also expected to go fast and quick – and that is an illusion. What you were describing, what we all knew: if you want to heal things, you have to invest time.You have to change a lot of stuff. And in a way you have to change society. Because we talked before we started recording here, we talked about rent and gentrification, the costs of living in a city like New York and the pressure happening – all that is part of the problem. As long as we don’t solve that for everybody, not just like for some folks. How should you not be stressed if you are hustling, if you have to spend 70% of your income just for rent and then you still have not done other stuff.
People work now more now than they ever have in human history. Even in like hunter gatherer societies, that like we lived as human beings, it was not like, you woke up and then your whole day was filled with figuring out ways to survive. It is just not true. Like people generally worked a few hours to do whatever they needed to do. And they had a totally different life. I don’t understand why are people working like 12 hour days?

Well, there is a need to make enough income, I guess. I mean, there’s other reasons too. There’s addiction, there´s ambition. There’s a lot of stuff. If you take the regular people who are on the buses to work every day, they are working to get the hustle done – and that’s a pretty brutal realization.
And what kind of life is that, you know. Like you realize, you spent your whole life just going to work. I mean, that’s depressing, it’s depressing.

It is. But most people don’t have the choices even to think about that. I was watching this interview with a person from the Ukraine on CNN yesterday who got a blog going, and that’s why he was invited suddenly to CNN to talk about it.
Besides that the moderator asked these open questions, which are overwhelming for somebody who is not used to talk on TV and open up in public – but in the he stripped it down to what changed and what he realized within a few weeks: „I had a happy life because I shared my life with my friends and eeverything was like connected to like meeting other people, having my home, my family and everything, and suddenly it’s gone.“ I think with all the noise of our societies, we forget that the most important thing is hanging with our friends.
It is the most important thing!

Having a good time together, exchanging our ideas on the world and what we see. That’s something that during the pandemic got a little bit better, because I see a lot of my friends who are not going to an office anymore – I am not going to an office anyway, I run the magazine and everything else from home, except of the university teaching part. So I realized seeing the stress level going down with friend’s not having to go to the office is such a big one. Because you lose so much time on the way, you lose energy.
Yeah. But that to me is the most … I think isolation is the number one problem. Number one. Like the lack of community – and like just social isolation. It’s incredibly depressing. There’s these intersections to me with dance music: you go out with your friends, take some kind of mind altering substance, you’re dancing all night in the middle of the night in the dark, hours and hours – and you have these really like transcendent experiences.I mean that to me is incredibly powerful.

That’s a great antidepressant. 


Absolutely. There’s nothing more cleaning than 12 hours on a dance floor with friends.

But still you mentioned you had ongoing depressions as a DJ being on parties.
Yeah. It’s funny. All of this stuff just reignited my relationship to clubs and djing and music in general. Yeah, but it’s really about that kind of community, being with people.

Are you saying you select the clubs more careful, you select the people you work with. Cause, I mean, a lot of electronic dance music is also an industry – and it’s a lot of bullshit going on, there are a lot of bad places.
I was always taking gigs out of scarcity, I would be out on the road and more offers would come in. I just never go home. I just take everything. And it was really because of this fear of: what if you turn down gigs? I’ll end up homeless, like on the street. Like, I turn down this gig, I’m going to end up living under a bridge.

Did your father go bankrupt or your family at one point or where’s this coming from?
They actually did.

Cause I have the same thing. My father got bankrupt and I always think I will end up on the street if I don’t hustle.
I grew up with this economic scarcity –  it used to drive just about everything. I would take these gigs and they’d be terrible. Like, especially like, for example, at some point I just decided: I don’t want to play to a lot of people. I told my European booking agent. I had signed to this really big booking agency, which was a mistake. It was just a mistake. I was just flattered that they wanted to sign me, whatever. And then pretty quickly they were like, you know, here’s what we’ll do. And they had this whole plan of like, let’s get you to this level. And then this level – and then it was like: let’s get you at the level of Blessed Madonna. I mean, Maria, she’s a friend. I love her. She’s great.
That level of like Peggy Gou or these people. I was like, if I were honest with myself, I said, I don’t want to do that. Like, I just don’t want to do it. Like, it’s not fun to me. Like, it’s not fun to me to stand in front of anything more than like 500, 700 people in a club and dj. It just starts to feel like you lose that connection with what’s going on. And then I start to feel like I’m playing some kind of weird game, like a DJ game.
What I love – I love playing to like 200 people, you know. Share a connection. 

Yeah. And have that connection. And then I told that agent that: „Look, I’m not even interested in that. I don’t want to do that.“ And they were like, „thank you for telling us, we should probably not have this relationship.“ They were very nice about it. They’re just like, „you know, that’s not what we do. And it doesn’t make sense, it’s not worth it to us, cause we won’t make it up.“ And they’re kind of like, „you really want to live that way.“ And I said, „yeah, I kind of do.“

It is a different way of measuring things, like as if money is the only system – of course it’s not, happiness is very valuable.
Well, that was the thing. I had this period of time when I was out on the road more than I was home and I was absolutely miserable, because I was just playing so many gigs. And so many of them weren´t meaningful. And I’m sure I did a good job and all that. But for me personally, there was just a point where I was like, why am I doing this with my life? What’s the point?

Well, there’s this question I asked … I stopped doing it a certain time because I knew the answer. I was asking all these artists: how many out of 10 gigs are you happy, like really happening? There was never more than two, maximum three, if you really have the most perfect set up in a world. The others were like compromises for the good ones or however you come to your decisions. And everybody said like, „well, that’s how it has to be. It’s the deal, it’s a job.“ But then again, I don’t think it has to be that way, but you have to make your decision. You have to say like, this is more valuable than the other thing.
And now I would say – I just got back from this three week, tour of Europe and the UK –: every gig was amazing.

Wow.
I could’ve made more money if I played bigger places or something, but I came home from that trip, like every gig was amazing. And people just got it. Before I walked in here I got this Instagram message from someone who was like, „hey, you know, did you record your set in Madrid? Because that was one of the best sets I’ve ever heard in my life.“ You know, it’s in this like basement club with like 300 people maybe, all packed in there, you know, all night. And it was amazing. But to me getting those messages is worth whatever, the other, the extra $2,000 I could’ve made that night or something. It takes a lot to say that though, you know?

Is it coming easy now? Cause you described like how hard it was to not make those other decisions at that time. Would you say this is like deeply connected to being in a new state?
Yeah. Totally. Because as long as I was operating in that place of scarcity, I will be: it’s like existential annihilation if I don’t make enough money. Like I’ll just not exist anymore, basically. Like you’re just in fear the whole time and you can never be happy. That’s how capitalism is functioning.

That’s how it functions
Capitalism always wants you to get the next job, do the next thing.

Yeah. 

But you also generate income now with the new field, like doing these sound therapies. Which is part of doing the right gigs. It comes from the same idea of measuring: „that is worth doing it.“
Exactly. And I would say the same for for producing music. Like, I’ve never released a lot of music very much, but every time I do, it’s like something I really put l a lot of time into and effort and that I care about a lot. It’s the same thing. Like, otherwise: what’s the point really?

Is there like a master plan that you want to do like 4 dj sets a month and the rest of time you do the sound therapy… do you think in these kind of categories.
Yeah, that’s always been the goal really. It’s like: Dennis Ferrer, the house dj from New York. One time he told me: „just decide on a fee.“ His point was basically like, instead of playing eight gigs a month, play two gigs a month. But because you’re asking for enough money for all those gigs.

Yeah. But then the tricky thing is: you have these nice organizers in whatever Hamburg, Germany, who run a small club and you want to play with them and then you do…
And that´s the problem. Yeah, and I’m the person that wants to play for those people. I mean, that’s generally who I play for. I like playing for people I have this personal connection with, you go and have dinner and your friends, and then it’s an amazing experience. And then you come back and you have this relationship.

Do you have the feeling that – to change a little bit direction of our conversation – the people who come for the sound therapy … are some of those people knowing you as a DJ and want you to be the guardian angel?
Yeah, a little bit.

Which is nice. Cause they trust in your sound, and they trust that your sound also can work on the other narrative, not the dance floor – on the inner journey.
It’s the same kind of thing though, because in the sound ceremony, it’s not really about musicianship. Like you’re playing these vibrational instruments, and it’s not about, like, how well you can play them. It’s about how well you can tap into what’s going on in the room and really feel like where people are at and guide them with sound. And to me, that’s what a DJ does.

But as a DJ, the dance floor also has a certain anonymity, like, in general, you need to love your crowd. But there might be characters you don’t like, but they have a corner or whatever. 
How often does it happen that you would say like, „oh wow, the energies of this person are not working together with my energies, but now I’m a professional in this room and I have to deliver that.“ It’s this like getting a problem. Is that happening?
Yeah, that happens. And then it’s about, you know, this isn’t about me. Like, it’s always about them. I mean, sometimes it boils down to this equation of like, „oh, this person is a Trump supporter sitting in front of me, like a racist Trump supporter“ – and this has happened. And then it’s like, my belief is that I’m there basically to love every one, like the Trump person is not going to end up in a better place by fighting with them. 

No, no. I think we as a society are having a lot of our problems because we have a very clear perspective of whats is good and what is not good. And then we are like, excluding the others. A

At the moment you open a dialogue, you are also trying to change some things. So in a way it’s like, we all have to trust our instincts, but then again, we also have to readjust them. It’s a tough call.
It is, and you’re right. I think right now we’re in this phase where it’s really easy to think of people as good and bad, especially when you’re not sitting in front of them. And the fact is, when you’re sitting in front of like these Trump people, these Americans that you think are just the most awful people – when you’re in the room with them, usually I like them. I’m like, you know what? They’re all right. They like some things, they’r e into some things I think are really fucked up, but there’s this other side to them. And I think that’s most people.
They have reasons, like, we maybe are afraid of living on the street and get bankrupt. They all have their reasons why they build certain walls and things.
It´s mostly fear. In New York, I feel like it’s pretty hard to be… you’re going to have a hard time if you’re a racist. Because you’re always going to be around people that are not of your skin color or your ethnicity, your whatever. So your life is going to be pretty hard here. 
So, it is really these people that are like out in the middle of the country, surrounded by white people, surrounded by people they think are heterosexual people – that they think, little do they know. And then that’s when it’s easy to like become afraid of like brown people or whatever. Yeah, but it’s all out of fear. It’s really fear.

How does your close community react on this new path in your life? Are some of them trying it too, not with you, but like maybe in other constellations. Are they also into that?
Like my close friends? I’ve been doing this for a long time, so they’re all pretty involved. But yeah, recently, like in the last couple of years as I’ve become like more public with it, it’s definitely been interesting.

Yeah.
It’s bringing in people that I think normally wouldn’t be exposed to that kind of thing.

To circle. As we also hear in the week of the DPA anniversary, there’s a party on Saturday: 20 years of DFA records. What would the 20 year younger Juan MacLean think of what your are doing right now.
It’s so interesting. I mean, 20 years ago? Yeah, that would be in that phase where I was really depressed. That was like the peak of my … that´s the thing, when I made my first DFA records, I’d say that was probably the worst period for me, like in terms of just depression and that kind of thing.
And if I saw myself now, I’d be like: „I think it is terrible.“ Like, „what the fuck?“ I had such an aversion to like, even being happy. I thought it was bullshit. I was like, oh, if you’re happy, then you’re just delusional. Yeah. I was like pretty negative, pretty universally negative about everything. Yeah.

Was that your reputation back then. Did everybody tell you like, „oh man, you’re so negative.“
Yeah, that was kind of, … well, people around me, like James (Murphy) would say: I was the guy that was kind of a mean jerk that just wanted to fight people.
We make fun a lot of what we would call hippie stuff. So we’d call all of this like hippie stuff, both of us back then.

Juan MacLean (Photo: Jonathan Forsythe)

But at the same time these were euphoric times. So many DFA records were party anthems, the world was enjoying it. Everybody had like a great time. You must have been really miserable with seeing everybody having a great time.
Yeah, I was.

Did you try to bring in like the negative records on the label?
Yeah. That’s kinda like what I gravitated towards. I was just into things that were super dark and I am now, like, darkness has a place, you know, it needs to be there.
Darkness has a beauty to it. 

Definately.

In those moments when we are sad, we are feeling very deep what life is all about. And then hopefully we are creating a lighter space from that. 
What I wonder, like, as you said: you had this drug experiences while you were in – let’s call it a rock band, even tho Six Finger Satellite were much more than a rock band, krautrocky… but still it was like on Sub Pop Records, it was coming from a rock era. And then you decided to go into electronic music, you started to dj.
Maybe it was not a decision, it was a transition, but still it’s a culture that was always connected with hedonism and – and at least on the facade – happiness. How did you do this decision back then?
That´s the weird thing. Even like when I was in Six Finger Satellite, I hated ecstasy. Because all of us were like: „That’s bullshit, that just makes people like happy.“ Which is so funny to think of now. And it’s also funny because. Like, DFA, ecstasy was very pivotal in the start of DFA. Like all the cliche things about ecstasy, like taking ecstasy and being like … except for us, it was like, instead of taking ecstasy and going to a rave, it was like taking ecstasy and djing post-punk records or something. It gave this perspective of: oh no, this music is really like, you can dance to this music too. Like Gang of Four is almost like a kind of like dance music, you know? And that’s what we did. But even at that time, yeah, those days … the idea of just being happy was bullshit to me.

So what was your most miserable DFA moment in the history of the label and you being part of that?
Oh, man, I don’t know. The thing is, I was just miserable in private. When we do parties and stuff, it was great, but then I’d go home and just my day-to-day life, like, you know, it was like literally suicidal. I didn’t want to be alive. That was the thing, which kind of makes me sad in hindsight, because being a part of this like iconic, groundbreaking thing and then I absolutely did not appreciate it. I was like, whatever, I just didn’t care. And that’s the sad part to me.

Well, you grew from that and learned from the experiences. I think this is not so rare. I see so many people who are like this – if I can judge from the outside objectively. There are so many aspects which make their life happy: You have a family, you even have a home, you have a safe job — but still these people are not happy. So there must be a reason. Right? So, going through a phase, a long phase like that, you also learn to understand there’s not this objective with you. It’s only what you feel. And somehow we have to learn to moderate and get like the perspective on the positive things to understand what is good in our lives, because in the end, nothing is more horrible than to say after 20 years of great stuff, when the shit really hits the van, like, „oh man, I had good times. I didn’t see them. And now I have shitty times.“
Yeah. No, it’s the opposite for me. Luckily. Like it just keeps getting better basically.

That is nice. I like stories with happyends.
It is super nice and it’s still going, it is still going – to throw in another DFA reference. 
And James too; recently we were just kind of laughing about it, you know, he was like, „I just want to say, like, we’ve been friends for like 30 years. I’m just so happy to see … look, where we ended up.

He has the same storyline here. He was always a lot like …
Kinda. All the LCD successes of everything, he was just like, „man, we’re just doing cool shit. So nice.“ We’re just in a good place.

I think that’s the most rewarding thing – same goes for me with writing about music. I never saw it as a professional even tho it is. But being able to share music, culture for so long with friends and somehow having the same path. Because it’s like, you’re going to see that on Saturday, and I see that on Saturday … so many gatherings, how many people you have that your share like 20, 30, 40 years of cultural exchange now. And that’s the biggest reward. Cause, I mean, if somebody would have told me as a 15 year old that the guy I’m standing with at a straight edge concert will drink a gin tonic with me like 40 years later. It’s amazing. Cause these are stories of friendships.
That to me is the most important thing. I mean, truly, nobody really believes this, but it’s way more important than money. Like, no one wants to hear this, but money really does not make you happy. Like a certain amount allows you to be happier. Just the basic of like not being stressed out about if you can eat or not, when you get to that level, after that, it’s all kind of bullshit, like trading in your life for, you know, I have a lot of money, I can get a lot of stuff, I have a nice apartment – whatever, but you work all day and night, and then on the weekend, you’re too tired to really do anything. And now like 20 years of your life is gone by. And you’re like, „what have I done with my life?“ 
To me, this whole thing that you’re talking about, like doing this stuff where you’re really offering something contributing to the culture, makes it so that, you know, you can just sit here in a restaurant and are like: „I have a good life. And I feel good about it.“ I’d rather have that, you know, than a million dollars. I mean, that’s true. That’s true. Yeah.

I could keep talking to you for a long time, but these words were so perfect to be the last words. Thanks so much for opening up here. And I’m curious what is coming up next.
Yeah, me too. Thank you. Ah, that was good, right?

It was really, really nice.

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