Beasts of Sound: Tim Xavier & Jamaica Suk of FaceToFace Records
Jamaica, you’re from the Bay Area, and Tim, you’re from Houston — what took you both to Berlin? How long have you been there?
Tim :: Before moving to Berlin I was running Manmade Mastering cutting studio in Brooklyn. I specialized in cutting master discs for vinyl record manufacturing. I also was releasing on my own vinyl-only imprint Limited-400, which caught the attention of Berlin promoters and artists alike. Eventually I landed some sweet bookings at Watergate, Berghain and the original Bar25 in 2006. I fell in love with Berlin straight away and moved my cutting lathe, studio and business over to Berlin in the summer of 2007 and never looked back. Its been 8 years so far!
Jamz :: After graduating from Audio Engineering in 2010 I was focused on finding a new city to live in to focus on building my craft. At the time, I was throwing a monthly party at 222 Hyde, DJing here and there and cultivated some small releases. In 2012 I came to Berlin strictly for vacation and to check out the music scene. After 3 days of exploring Berlin I fell in love with the city and stayed there permanently. I was able to build my music studio there and fully submerse myself into the mecca of electronic music.
What do you miss most about home when you’re gone?
Tim :: Mexican food, family & friends, but my friends seem to make their way over to Berlin quite often these days.
Jamz :: I miss my Bay Area friends and family, the California sunshine, massive amounts of seafood and driving everywhere in my car.
When was the last time you visited the States? What has been the best part about visiting?
Tim :: I was here in Houston a year and half ago. I was doing the same, bumming around, shopping and dipping in & out of Houston for the occasional gigs.
Jamz :: Last year for Burningman. I came a few days early to DJ in San Francisco and see some friends and family. The best part was biking out into the desert during the daytime, and watching the sun go down.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten so far? What’s next?
Tim :: Pfffff. errrrything…. So far I’ve been to Ragin Cajun, El Tiempo, Cuchara, and Uchi… Plus my mother’s home cooking… I’m pretty satisfied! Before departing we plan on a DJ dinner at Goode Co.
Jamz :: Sushi dinner at Uchi! It was absolutely delicious. I have to try proper Texas BBQ so I am looking forward to that.
When I told a friend that I wasn’t too excited about seeing one of the performers at Day For Night, a DJ, my friend said, “Don’t you like EDM?” as if it’s even possible to group all electronic dance music under one term and then either embrace or reject it all. People do the same with the term “techno,” applying it to forms as varied and diverse as acid house, garage house, minimal, techno, electro, you name it. Living in Berlin, one of the two techno meccas of the world, this must not be such a big problem for you, but how do you deal with the way that people misuse and abuse the word “techno,” which means something specific, to refer to all electronic dance music?
Tim :: The term Techno is not misused often in Berlin. I just make it clear to noobs who end up in a good club on accident, that what they are listening to is most definitely not EDM. An old friend from Detroit once told me; It’s all house music no matter how you slice it…… plain and simple. When describing my new 4 on the floor production, I like to describe what I am making as “Grown Folks Tracks”.
Jamz :: I feel that people often over generalize, or misgeneralize genres in the States more so than in Europe. It doesn’t have to be so specific with genre, but more so with how it makes you feel. However, I do have to say that I have found so many different “tastes” of techno music living in Europe… when conversing with friends about it they often ask what type of techno I play…I usually say more, deep, atmospheric, driving but still “Grown Folks Tracks.”
Techno is a pretty straightforward form — it is a certain class of sounds, industrial machine-type sounds — set to a certain BPM. How does techno continue to change and evolve within those limited constraints? In other words, how is the techno coming out today different than the techno of two years ago and twenty years ago?
Tim :: In the late 90’s techno tracks were a bit more simplified because of the sequencing limitations, and at that time tracks were much faster, more stripped down and bolstering at a speeds of 140bpm. The idea back then was to really blend records to come up with unique track combinations…That standard has faded a bit, but still a relevant modus operandi. Nowadays, in 2015, most E.U. and U.S. producers alike have returned to the murky, wild, percussive dark sounds of the late 90’s but not as fast (126 - 130bpm). I think with all the new sequencing capabilities, techno is budding once again into a completely new monster of the early and late 90s’s. In other words, techno is back!
Jamz :: I agree with Tim about techno being a new monster of the early 90’s as well as combining the modern day tools we have now to make beasts of sound. Everyone has a different perception of music as well… to different folks, a “housier” set coming from Berlin can be considered a “techno” set. At the end of the day, I do not like to sub-classify genre so much because I don’t want to have limitations with my music or sound. Techno is speeding up a bit (128-132 bpm) compared to two or four years ago but not as fast as back in the 90’s. I don’t like to think too much about this aspect in the studio, I want to give myself full creative control and the freedom to express what comes out naturally.
Tim, you own a record cutting lathe in Berlin, which must bring you in contact with so many people working in so many different forms — from avant garde jazz to death metal and grindcore to I don’t know, polka and klezmer bands. Bavarian yodelers. Do you have any good stories to share?
Tim :: My business partner Mike Grinser and I collaborated in 2011 and took Manmade Mastering to a higher level of operation. Nowadays we specialize in analog mastering, digital finalizing, restoration and “master disc cutting” for vinyl manufacturing. In the past I have cut Bad Brains, G.G. Allin, jazz, hip hop and other special projects,..but now we primarily specialize in mastering electronic music, techno and audio electronics acoustic projects (experimental). This comes with the territory especially residing in Berlin. Mike and I together and separately have mastered some very prolific projects in our term as engineers at MMM studio,… In 2013 we mastered Richie Hawtin’s “Plastikman Arkives” which was a 10x piece vinyl set, 14x CD fold out booklet along with 250x digital only remixes from the likes of Francois K and Carl Craig. Another claim to fame project is the recent mastering of Steffi and Virginia’s upcoming album on Ostgut Ton. Check us out at www.manmademastering.com
Jamaica — you were trained in jazz from an early age and began your career playing in bands ranging in styles from psych rock to shoegaze and math rock. Why did you shift gears to producing techno and DJing? How did that happen, and how does your training and previous experience with other genres inform your techno?
That’s a great question! I am still playing bass and recording but not playing in a group at the moment. Playing in jazz groups and rock bands really helped me develop my skills as a musician and set the stage for getting into my solo production. I grew up being a big fan of the Melvins, Neurosis, and Godspeed You Black Emperor and started going to raves when I was 16 years old. I always had this infatuation with electronic music as well as bands on the other hand, it was kind of like I was living in two worlds.
In 2010 I graduated from Audio School and was also playing in this band for one year, which was a cross between Queens of the Stone Age meets LCD Soundsystem. So we kind of touched base a bit on the electronic aspect, however I wanted to dive deeper into my solo electronic production. With practice 2-3 times a week and shows once a month this did not allow me enough time into the studio. I kind of hit a wall at one point and realized that I wanted to have more control of sound in general. There is a magic missing at the moment however, I really do miss being locked in with 4-5 other musicians, and being able to really jam together and see what you can create. In the end, solo music production took longer to tackle but is more rewarding for me than playing in a band. This definitely depends case by case!
I love being able to be in control of what I create and being able to only rely on myself. I feel that I am still working on crossing both genres, and really using my band background to make weirder techno tracks. I would say that playing in a math rock & being infatuated with different time signatures and percussion has transitioned a bit into my techno production & DJ sets. I love implementing weird time signature hooks over 4/4 beats or dropping a breakbeat tune into a techno set.