Young Male"I love to see someone who’s halfway crazy doing their thing, whether it’s making dance music using a metal box with some knobs on it, or a guy smashing somebody’s hand with a hammer."
How did you transition from making noise to getting into techno?
Well, it’s kind of funny. Remember in 2006 when iTunes had streaming radio? There were tons of stations, all sorts of genres. Black metal stations, 80s stations, 90s, anything you wanted pretty much. I’d just gotten my first computer and I would always stay up late as fuck listening to the cheesy trance stations. “Trance Around the World” I think was my favorite show. Deep into the night I would be drawing, working on art, and listening to that stuff. Finally I had this thought that it would be cool to make this music that at the time I secretly loved. This slowly led to me doing Young Male.
Where did the name come from?
The name comes from this cardboard sign written in Sharpie that I found in Providence outside of a huge old mill building. It said: “YOUNG MALE WILL PAY YOU $200 TO KICK ME IN NUTS 200 TIMES AND BEAT ME WITH BASEBALL BAT 200 TIMES Come to the yellow door and Holler. ask for GERM”.
I know… So I took that sign. I had it on the wall in my room for a while. Then a friend was putting on a show and asked me to play solo and asked what my name should be on the flyer for the show. I was like, “Uh, I’ll be called Young Male.” I liked that the name hinted at personal ads for sex that you’d find in local newspapers or something you’d see on craigslist. There was a weird feel to it in that sense, and it was also a simple and basic description of me. I am young, I am male, I am a little desperate. [Laughs] Young Male felt like the perfect name.
What was the first Young Male show?
It was at RISD. All I had at that time was a synthesizer and cassette tapes. The cassette tapes had drum loops on them and I would play synth over top of them. Nothing was sequenced, I played everything by hand. It was corny, but it was also pretty cool. It was primitive, but people were psyched.
How did you end up losing the synthesizer and just using your drum machine?
When I moved to NY, no one was interested in what I was doing. The only gigs anyone was asking me to play were back in Providence. So I was going to Providence playing these shows, and I couldn’t bring all my equipment. Eventually I made this decision to just bring my drum machine because that was all I could carry on the bus. That was the beginning of playing live sets like that.
Playing live with limited equipment.
It was cool when I finally just played with the 909. I don’t think that it was that common for people to see some guy with just a drum machine.
But nobody in NY would book you?
The only person who would let me play shows was Alex Field—DJ Richard—at his house on 10 Stueben Street. That was the sickest venue in New York by far in my opinion. I miss it badly.
How long had you been playing at that point?
I’d been doing that stripped down version of Young Male for about a year at that point. I’ve been working on this project for about seven years now.
Did the music you were making change when you moved to NY?
Definitely. That first year in New York, that shit was hard. You can’t get a job. You have no money. Girls fucking don’t give a shit about you because you’re nobody. People do not want to book you to play shows. I just felt alienated. I was making techno in my bedroom, alone, and walking around my neighborhood at night, alone. That’s what I would do Friday and Saturday nights while everyone else was at whatever cool party was happening. I was not at those parties. I was at home, chilling with my cat, listening to alienating music and making alienated music. Somehow that was therapeutic and it did change the sound of what I was doing. It made it way darker, way more dystopian. I was channeling what I was feeling and I liked how dark it was becoming.
I have always felt Young Male was a form of self-expression.
It’s the first musical expression I’ve made where I feel like there’s a good chunk of me in there. Obviously, it’s inspired by a bunch of different things and anyone who listens to techno can hear them instantly. I would never deny it. But there’s a good 70% of me in there, which is a lot. I think most people are lucky to even get 50% of themselves in whatever they’re making.
For some reason I feel like your Twitter helped with that too.
I mean, yeah. My Twitter isn’t about my music, but you’re right. I learned about being myself via Twitter. I use it as a diary for my thoughts, laid out for anyone who feels like reading it. The thing is, because there’s an audience you have to keep it pretty honest. If you’re writing in a way that’s not a true reflection of yourself, it shows pretty quickly. I was expressing this part of my personality that usually only my closer friends get to see. It’s a little depraved, but it’s made me more brave in terms of being who I am.
So it does relate to your music.
It all wraps into one ball. The internet has helped me learn to express myself, not only as a person, but sexually and musically too.
Some people have told me that there are parallels between Young Male and some Detroit techno from the 80s.
Yeah I remember when you mentioned that a while ago. That’s a great compliment. I hope it’s true. Techno was created by black dudes in Detroit that were simplifying house music and warping it into something that expressed the alienation they were feeling. It was being made in this collapsing industrial city that had been forgotten about and left to dissolve. Techno was being made using instruments that no one wanted. I think that Detroit is similar to Providence in a lot of ways and that probably creates some parallels with what I’m doing. It’s an old manufacturing town where all the manufacturing has left. The people are still there, no one has any money, but they’re still making their music in isolation. So I guess I feel like I come from a similar situation in that sense—a bleak landscape of forgotten middle-class and industrial ruins.
And Young Male sounds like that?
I try to work that sound into the tracks I produce. I honestly haven’t listened to enough Detroit techno to be an expert. There are certain producers I love and my music probably sounds reminiscent of that stuff.
I’ve always thought it sounded like John Carpenter soundtracks.
The soundtrack to The Thing inspires almost every musical thing I ever do. I mean it’s so perfect. That entire score is just that one synthesized note with delay on it, echoing sporadically through the movie. So fucking haunting.
And Drive. You wouldn’t shut up about that movie.
[Laughs] I love to see someone who’s halfway crazy doing their thing. Whether it’s making dance music using a metal box with some knobs on it, or a guy smashing somebody’s hand with a hammer. Getting to see someone take it a little bit over the edge is always sick.
I wanted to ask you about White Material records. I love every release so far, but don’t really understand how it has set itself apart from any other label out there.
I don’t totally know either. This is a complex question and I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but I’ll try to answer it. I honestly haven’t thought about this subject too much because the label is still in its infancy and I don’t want to get too caught up in figuring out what it is and what it isn’t. There’s an undeniable magic though. I think with White Material you’re seeing a group of artists and friends who developed together in one place and have worked together over a long period of time. It’s pretty common for record labels to cherry-pick talent from all over the world without having a direct connection to the artist. I also think it’s exciting for people who are into techno to see a record label be created and run by young people. I think there’s a relationship to punk and noise culture as well that’s a little different from other labels, both aesthetically and in attitude. This probably comes from us all being surrounded by so much D.I.Y. and noise culture in Providence. I think that when your audience understands that an actual person is making this stuff they’re psyched. They feel like, “Hey, I can do this too!! I can start something!” There’s nothing I get more excited about than a new track by my friends. I’d always wanted to start something fresh and have the opportunity to say, “This is what WE love, and this is MY vision, here it is if you want it.” I don’t want to just join something that already exists.
I don’t know what anyone else wants. I’ve just spent too much time in my life making someone else money and giving my creative gifts and time to other companies to use. I don’t care about joining something that already exists. I want to do something that’s close to my heart. I think that everything White Material does has a strong feeling of care because it’s ours. We started this thing from scratch.
That reminds me of you playing Boiler Room last week. For me that was weird.
I wish I’d known that the fucking Boiler Room was sponsored by Red Bull. It felt odd man. If I’d known, I might not have played. I know Red Bull does a lot of good things for a lot of artists and they aren’t an evil company. I respect that they want to sponsor good things, but why not just donate a bunch of money anonymously. They don’t do that because these shows act as advertisements for them basically. They are aligning themselves socially with “cool,” “creative” scenes. I don’t mean to be negative, and I know a lot of people disagree, but I don’t want a fucking soda company to co-opt the creative things I do. I’ve worked so hard for so long. That’s not my dream.
You liked it when they did that space thing.
Yeah I loved it. That was a beautiful gesture, especially since our government plans on giving up on space exploration. I told everyone I knew to watch that. But, it’s one thing to sponsor a guy jumping out of a plane in space, where the stunt doesn’t exist without the funding. It’s another thing for Red Bull to slap their name on these events that are organized by, and performed by, self-sufficient, interesting people who have been given this miraculous musical gift. These shows happen without big companies’ sponsorship. Music in general doesn’t need big companies to make people pay attention to it. These institutions blow up artists for a month and then afterwards you’re tossed and no one gives a shit. I make this music for people who love music. That’s it. I want to give this gift to people who want to go to a club and feel free. We don’t need to make some giant company more money by allowing them to pretend that they’re showing us what’s cool. They don’t know what’s good. Their taste is not cool, their taste is not interesting. You’re letting this amazing thing that you’ve worked on for years and years and years be co-opted in two seconds by a soda company. It feels wrong. I want to be a person and not another advertisement. I’m just trying to stand up for what I feel is right.
I think that’s why I freaked out. To me, Young Male is serious, and they didn’t seem to be taking it seriously.
I mean, I don’t care if people take what I do seriously or not. I do hope they get something from it or can relate in some way. I enjoy it. It’s one of the few moments in my life that I feel completely alive and free. When I perform you’re getting to see a little bit of my fucking soul. I know I’m being dramatic here, but you get to see what I do while I’m alone in my room, day in, day out. It’s very personal. So yeah, that’s serious.