92Jelani & Tap Newo Interview: VAL 017

Passionate Analog and Techno enthusiasts, Jelani Yorker aka 92Jelani and Pat Owen aka Tap Newo have hit their stride on “VAL 017”, the latest release on Ambivalent’s Valence Records.

The duo finds symbiotic balance in their workflow by playing to each other’s strengths and trusting one another. A shared, unbridled love for the underground Techno community in LA brought them together in the most organic way possible. We sat down with Jelani and Pat to discuss their release, the community, and what the future holds next for these rising artists.

DE: Thanks for sitting down with me! I listened to the “VAL 017” release when it originally came out and have re-listened to it over the past few days and really dig it. Cool stuff! Let’s start with what do you each love about LA?

92Jelani: It’s definitely partly the shows happening here. One of my favorite things is Craigslist. There are so many studios in the area, half of the gear in these studios are actually Craigslist finds. 

Tap Newo: I’m actually from LA, born in north LA county. Growing up here, for me, it was a skateboarder’s paradise. A lot of my inspirational years were filled with listening to techno and skateboarding. Sian (Octopus Recordings) has collaborated with skateboarders in the past, and there is a crossover between techno and skateboarding here for sure. 

DE: Where are you from Jelani? 

92Jelani: I’m from DC, was born in Atlanta, and have spent time in Michigan. So I’m from the US in general; I’m kind of an all-American guy. 

DE: What do you think sets LA apart from the rest of the world? I mean, it’s probably hard to find a better place for the techno and skateboarding combo..

92Jelani: It’s kind of like the internet here. Anything that you can think of, any scene you can think of, there’s representation for it, so there are a lot of communities here in general that shake each other’s hands. There is also a lot of inspiration in that: the crossover. In LA, anything you can imagine–every genre of rap, every genre of punk rock–it’s all here. 

Tap Newo: If you look at LA, there are just layers and layers of culture. A lot of what is driving the American culture forward is LA, because everything exists here. Certain cities push certain cultures, like Atlanta with Hip Hop, and LA is the one place where every single culture can be found, and that’s what I love about it. It never ends, and that’s the appeal for me. There’s always something, and you can almost always reinvent yourself.

DE: How did you two connect?

92Jelani: I think it was at one of 6AM Group’s Grounded Events. I remember thinking, “This dude has a good head on his shoulders.” 

Tap Newo: We linked up “BC” (bewere in some of the same circles, so we would run into each other a lot. I think I reached out to you on Twitter about a remix. It’s not that common where you just kind of click with someone. and Jelani is just easy to work with. The first time we met up, I was like why mess with the flow; I don’t need to challenge this. I’m just going to ride this wave and see how it turns out. 

DE: How would you say your production styles mesh? 

92Jelani: Pat is a seasoned engineer. I mean, he’s been at studios for years and can work with ProTools like a wizard, including all sorts of details that I’m not necessarily the best at. Whereas I like to jam on the hardware and make synth sounds and grooves out of machines that aren’t supposed to do that. 

Tap Newo: I also would say we mesh well. It has been really interesting, because like Jelani said, I’m more of a studio engineer kind of guy. A lot of my experience is in the studio, so I use gear to actually finish things instead of to actually make music. I’m very detail oriented. At the same time, I like to structure things and pride myself on arrangements. Getting musicality to come out isn’t always natural for me whereas Jelani will just send me straight up grooves, and it’s a raw feeling. 

DE: Let’s talk about the “VAL 017” release itself some more. 

92Jelani: The label is run by the artist Ambivalent, and we are the 17th release for the Valence label. First time being on his label, and being on the east coast, he was one of the people who I watched while growing up. 

Tap Newo: I love minimal techno; that’s my stuff. Ambivalent is right up there with Richie Hawtin as far as developing the minimal sound, so it’s an honor. Truly crazy to get a cosign by someone who inspired me, if that makes sense. 

DE: So the release came out on June 3rd. How has the reaction been? 

92Jelani: I emailed it to a bunch of contacts on my “DJ list” and friends. One of my friends said, “Yo, this is fuckin sick!” A lot of people had good reactions, so I was like, “Nice, we finally have some good “club” material.

Tap Newo: Some of these tracks started off differently. Originally, “New Metropolis” was way harder. I almost went too hard with it. I put steroids on it and turned it into an almost more Trance-y vibe. I’m glad Jelani gave feedback on it because it was much too chaotic. We stripped it back down, and I was going off Jelani’s vocal, which I thought was incredible. I took an arpeggiator that comes off the main melody, and once I filled out the space while still being minimal, it had enough going to keep the listener engaged without being overpowering. 

DE: Was there a mission going into the release? 

92Jelani: I sent Kevin, aka Ambivalent, some stuff before, and he said it was cool but they’re kind of doing harder techno on the label. And I was like cool, you want hard techno, I’ll give you hard techno.

DE: What are your thoughts on the state of electronic music and Techno specifically?

92Jelani: I like the saturation. I feel like there are so many options now. It does mean you have to spend more time digging, but that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be. So much stuff out there. 

Tap Newo: I love the modern state of techno. And I love going to warehouse parties, but the type of techno I grew up loving was the minimal techno during the mid-2000s. I’ve spent a lot of time digging up anything released from 2002-12; I love that era of techno. 

DE: What about the business aspect of Techno? 

92Jelani: I have no idea about the business aspect of Techno, haha. 

Tap Newo: Right now, I’m making techno out of the love for it, and I’m not too concerned with where I go financially with it. I’m in it for the marathon, so it’s not that I need to get on right now as it’s more for myself and the passion. It’s about passion, and it has to be. If you’re not passionate, your music will reflect that. The people who are in it for the love of it will always be there. 

DE: What are your plans for the future? 

Tap Newo: We are sitting on a lot of music right now and are gonna put out a new EP soon. At this point, I think we are going to do it independently. There will be some remixes on the upcoming EP from LA artists. I also run a series called Techno Mixtape, with the third one coming out this fall. 

92Jelani: I have an EP coming out soon on Force Placement called “Transport” and just need to have mastered. I’m currently recording a lot of new stuff and seeing where it takes me. 

DE: Jelani, I heard you play at the recent Dirty Epic show with DJ Pierre and thought your stuff was dope. What’s DJing look and sound like for you, Pat? 

Tap Newo: Yeah, so last summer I was fortunate enough to open for my favorite artist Sian, which was fun because I got to test out my latest mixtape on the big system. Right now, I’m more concerned about making quality music. The music will speak for itself, and gigs will come with that.

-Jack Plumb

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