House is everywhere. The ubiquitous, ever-present sound of the British dancefloor this summer, 2013 has witnessed a surge, a flash flood of interest in the scene, the sound. Amid the morass of bandwagon leapers and cling-ons, though, the originals who kept the flame alive are still doing their thing.
In London for a quickfire series of weekend shows, John MacLean – that’ll be The Juan MacLean to house fans – is in a buoyant mood. “I love being in the city but also the clubs here – for me – it’s probably the best place to play, regularly. For the music that I’m playing – especially now that house music in general has made such a big resurgence – it just seems that the audiences here are just the best. There’s a bunch of different places to play here, whereas in New York, even, there’s not nearly as many places to play as there are in London”.
Flitting between styles, the self-admitted vinyl junkie recently gave up the wax fix. Gradually moving to a CD-J set up, MacLean has been able to produce a broader, at times more direct sound – with plenty of exclusive productions. “I have a whole bunch of tracks made which will probably just never be released – mainly because some of them have really big samples in them which I can’t use. I might just use them for DJ purposes.”
Using the club environment as a testing ground, the producer is gradually piecing together a follow up to 2009’s acclaimed full length ‘The Future Will Come’. “I take a long time between albums, so I tend to have the songs partially written and then I go in for a month and get myself most of the way there. Then I’ll have another big burst at the end to mix it and I’m done. I’m about to go in and do my last big burst of studio time, to get things finished” he explains. “It probably started about a year ago, and then just recently I started doing vocals – especially with Nancy Whang – a few months ago. We just tend to do one or two at a time, then let some time go by. Then I’ll go in and mix.”
A frequent collaborator, the producer admits that Nancy Whang’s is almost an essential part of any project using The Juan MacLean moniker. “With Nancy it’s a couple of things. One of which is that Nancy doesn’t really come from a dance music background – in fact, I don’t think she’s really much of a fan of dance music in general” he laughs. “So I can give her something which is straight up meant for the dancefloor, she often does stuff which is not very typical of dance music tracks and I think that’s really appealing to me. I think that makes them stand out quite a bit. Also, I think there’s something about her voice which people seem to find endearing. It just has a quality which is very appealing to people.”
This use of non-electronic influences is far from alien to MacLean. The aspiring musician was a member of Six Finger Satellite, whose sound crew included one James Murphy. Essentially the launchpad for the DFA community, the two maintain interests beyond the dance sphere. “I always find it really uninteresting – with very few exceptions – people that have come from a strictly electronic, dance music background. All the people that do things that I really like, seem to have come from some other type of musical background. Even people that are big producers in the techno or house world, somewhere back in their history they come from something pretty different. Some kind of live music background, or something. I think it just gives people a better ear for melody and song, what works and what doesn’t work.”
Releasing several 12 inches under both The Juan MacLean and Peach Melba titles, the producer is content to take a slight break as 2013 draws to a close. Studio work is ongoing, while DJ sets are continually exposing MacLean to new music; however it seems that the house resurgence can’t continue forever. “I’m just afraid that there’s a bit of a backlash coming because everyone’s been doing it. It’s so saturated right now, there’s just loads of tracks” he insists. “People just releasing tracks every week because they’re using the same sample packs and it’s all just starting to sound the same to me – I think somewhere down the line there’s a big techno resurgence which is waiting to happen.”
Not that John MacLean is one to pay attention to genre lines, as he readily admits. “I don’t really pay attention to that stuff. I feel like people get really deep into it on the internet, but to me it always seems like it’s all these guys that probably don’t go out very much or aren’t hearing music in clubs and that kind of thing. I’m just such a big fan of music in general, still, it’s why I make music – because there’s so much music that I love.”
Words: Robin Murray
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The Juan MacLean's new 12 inch 'Feel Like Movin' is out now.