A Conversation with DJ Cain MacWitish – Part One

You should read Aaron Swartz’s blog here.

Cain MacWitish is a member of the Aaron Swartz Day Raw Thought Crew. He will be performing at the next RAW THOUGHT (A Dance Night with a Psychedelic Chill Room). On January 11, 2019 at the DNA Lounge, – 10pm – 2am. See You There! TICKETS

Also, since this January 11 will be the sixth anniversary of Aaron’s death, and some folks have asked for a Q & A event, there will be a dinner & discussion event beforehand, at the DNA Lounge, from 7:30-9:30pm. Please RSVP to AaronSwartzDay@gmail.com. 

LR: So the November 9, 2018 show that you performed last month was your first show in three years. How did it feel to perform again?

CW: It was great. I worked on a whole new DJ set for four months straight leading up to the show. So playing that for the crowd and seeing how they reacted to what I put together was really awesome.

For each set I do, I have kind of a specific theme in mind usually. I put together a whole new theme for that performance. I hadn’t played it in a club yet, and when I put things together in my, mind it’s different from actually playing it for people out on the dance floor.

My most successful set I’ve ever put together was my Ibiza set. I did that for a club – it’s up on my mixcloud and it has almost 9,000 plays. So that’s very heavy minimal techno and house set. So that’s what this set will be: minimal techno and house. Mainly for me, Pig & Dan – every time I hear a new Pig & Dan track it’s like “oh that’s such a good song.” They hardly ever have a song I don’t like. They actually produce dance tracks; minimal techno. They would probably label themselves just as “techno” – that’s usually how they label themselves, but every time they put out a new track, it’s just awesome to me.

LR: Aha! I’ve been looking for a descriptive term for your music: “minimal techno.” It’s been killing me trying to describe it; but it was definitely a thing. I’ve been saying “it’s percussion heavy without heavy percussion.”

CW: I don’t even know how to classify what I produce. It’s all over the map. But as far as my DJ sets go – that’s minimal techno. And that one I did, my Ibiza set.

LR: At our show, your set will be “minimal techno?”

CW: Yes. Most of the dancier tracks on Kompakt Records – do you know that label? They are out of Cologne, Germany.

They’re actually the biggest label in Europe right now. They’re bigger than Warner Brothers or anything like that, out there. They have all sorts of genres – they got their start putting out these compilations of minimal techno and house. They called it “The Kompact Total Collection” – every year, starting in 1999, they put one out at the end of the year. So we’re up to Compact 17 or 18 or whatever it is now.

 

LR: Techno is a lot more popular in Europe generally. Wouldn’t you say? I remember hearing it on the AM radio when I was there.

CW: Oh yeah. If you are a techno and house DJ, you usually don’t work in the states. You work in Europe usually. One of my favorite DJs here, Loco Dice. He’s from New York City, but he works in Europe. He’s probably my favorite current American DJ.

Loco Dice

LR: So what does “minimal techno” really mean?

CW: Minimal techno and house. Most people are pretty familiar with how techno and house sounds, right? So you take the techo elements and just strip them way down, to like the rawest elements. And then you add in like an interesting sound here or interesting sound there, but it’s not like, super over done with the production. So it’s just like super stripped down to the beat, right? Like for dance music, the beat’s the main thing, right? And then, any element you put right on top of the beat, you really think long and hard about. How is this gonna sound? Is it too much? As little as you can put on top of the beat and still make it interesting to listen to. That’s basically how I would describe it.

LR: Aha! So my previous description still works: “it’s percussion heavy, without any heavy percussion.” — hehe. And you do everything with your computer — when you perform your show live. Are there any prerecorded elements. Are you playing along with prerecorded elements or is it all prerecorded.

CW: For a DJ set I am just mixing prerecorded songs. I’m not doing a live set of original material – that would be a whole other thing. It’s interesting to me that you picked up that my original stuff is very percussive because I’m trained as a drummer since I was 8.

LR: Aha! No coincidence. 🙂

How long would you say this “minimal techno” stuff has been around?

CW: Since the late 90s. Since about 1999. It really kind of peaked in Europe in 2010-2012

Here’s “Its” from Cain Macwitish:

LR: How ’bout a few more examples of this genre so I can link to them 🙂

CW: Yes it’s interesting how many producers might do a minimal techno track or two, even if it isn’t their main thing. Gui Perano. Pretty much everything that Kompact used to put out is minimal techo. Their big artists are Voight and Voight. They have some really good tracks. Rex the Dog.

LR: You said it has been three years since you performed because you were in a motorcycle accident?

Is this like a “lucky to be alive” kind of thing?

CW: Yes very “lucky to be alive.” I spent a month in the hospital after the accident. I was in a coma for two weeks. The whole right side of my body got trashed pretty much. My lungs were collapsed. They had to reconstruct my face. Just minor things… (Laughs.)

LR: (Laughs.) Just a few scratches.

CW: For me, it’s been about two years of physical therapy. To get back to as good as I’m going to be. So, it wasn’t till the beginning of this year that I really started to feel like I could go out and be a regular person again.

LR: Ok well let’s check out some stuff from your bandcamp page here’s a cover of ACDC’s Back in Black.

(Listen to Cain’s Ibiza set)