Hiroko Yamamura and Justin Cudmore question each other about all things clubbing, COVID, the Chicago dance scene and more…

“Sit down and improvise. When you’re feeling inspired, open your DAW or turn on your machines and start making sounds. Follow your ear. Whatever patterns and rhythms begin to perk your interest, follow them. Don’t be afraid to mess up and there are no rules.

Recently, Hiroko Yamamura and Justin Cudmore combined forces for their enthralling EP entitled Midwest Panic coming on American record label, fashion label and queer party HE.SHE.THEY. The renowned H.S.T. family favourites followed up some killer releases on The Bunker NY, Honey Soundsystem and Phonica Records respectively, now delivering a four-track acid-tinged record and jacking ode to the Midwest rave. The record perfectly encapsulates their shared queer scene experiences and formative years growing up in Chicago, with Justin becoming a regular at queer parties such as Wrecked, Queen!, The Carry Nation, Horse Meat Disco, Honcho and Club Toilet, in turn gaining a huge international following across the various clubbing circuits. Heralded by XLR8R as one of Chicago’s top 10 DJs, Hiroko Yamamura has also toured the globe spreading the sounds of her city within a plethora of established spaces such as Amnesia, Databse and Radio to name a few, whilst becoming a key component in Chicago’s revitalised underground resurgence.

Having played B2B sets in Brooklyn and Chicago, the pair share a deep connection evident in Midwest Panic, as the EP is kickstarted with a raw, dirty and rugged textbook warehouse track, followed by ‘I’m Not A Trip, I’m A Journey’ – another visceral, full-body workout with more manic acid, angular drums and freaky synths that grow increasingly wild. Techno mainstay Heartthrob is on remix duties for a stripped back roller, followed by a Please No Acid Dub containing elastic drums and lithe metallic synths. We had the pair interview each other about a range of topics.

First up, Hiroko Yamamura questions Justin Cudmore:

Which DJ / Producer has been most influential to your sound?

Justin: My obsession with rhythm and drums was cemented early on because I was a drummer growing up, but I would say it wasn’t until I met Mike Servito in 2013 that I was able to condense the all ideas I had in my head into a singular focus that was applicable to New York and the worldwide clubbing sphere.

What was your first clubbing experience in the midwest?

Justin: Outside of barn raves and warehouse parties, my first real clubbing experience happened in Oslo, Norway when I studied abroad. We loved to go to Sunkissed at Blå. This is when I was 19-20. For “clubbing” to happen in America, you have to be 21, so that happened for me when I moved to Chicago in 2011 and began going out to Smart Bar religiously.

What’s the importance for LGBTQIA+ representation at events, and safe spaces?

Justin: Representation is hugely important in a culture that was birthed on the backs of marginalized peoples. The club was an escape for them from regular society. A place where everyone feels welcome, no matter what color your skin or your sexual preference.

Which is your favourite plug-in and why?

Justin: u-he’s Satin Tape Machine has been my go-to favorite plug-in for many years. It gives the much needed extra harmonics on top of usual dull computer sounds. I love bringing sounds to life.

How do you think clubbing has changed post COVID?

Justin: It’s been tough to not try to compare the before times to now. Before, we were partying with a bit of ‘ignorance is bliss’ sort of attitude when it comes to health and safety. Now it’s something we have to consider at every turn. I feel there’s a huge excitement among clubgoers to be out and at the party now, especially since it was taken away from us for such a long time.

What advice do you have for new producers?

Justin: Sit down and improvise. When you’re feeling inspired, open your DAW or turn on your machines and start making sounds. Follow your ear. Whatever patterns and rhythms begin to perk your interest, follow them. Don’t be afraid to mess up and there are no rules.

Switching sides, Justin now asks Hiroko the questions:

Favorite non-electronic band?

Hiroko: Wow, that’s a tough one that kind of changes depending on the day. If I had to choose it’s a toss up between Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. The shoe gaze era and everything that came with it was a huge influence on me, and began my obsession with hardware and studio effects.

Why do you think there’s been such a revival in the Chicago Acid sound?

Hiroko: I’m surprised that I hear that sentiment lately quite often. I guess in my social and musical group, the acid sound never went out of style. I’m lucky to be around some of the folks that gave rise and honed the sound. Maybe the fact that there are quite a few cheaper 303 style bass synths on the market may have added to the opinion. I dunno, I just don’t get sick of it.

Feelings on “business techno?”

Hiroko: I think I’m going to get some flack for this one, but I don’t mind it. I think it’s important to accept that “festival techno” is a thing, and just because it has the word “techno” in it, doesn’t mean it has any relation to what others consider techno. If a song is good, it’s good. If you don’t like it, move on. Sure, what many folks consider techno in a different age group from me might not match up, but it was the same story when I was a teenager. What celebrity DJs are doing in front of 50,000 people have as much to do with me as what Keanu Reeves is listening to on his walkman.

How does the New York scene differ from Chicago?

Hiroko: There are just more people going and on the dancefloor. New York can have multiple events within similar styles and crowds, while Chicago suffers if there are two on the same night. I think the age of the average party goer and the average amount of disposable income in the cities is also a factor. New York has also just been a bit more of a destiny city for entertainment and travel, so I think there’s just more to do per square inch. I don’t have a long history of playing in New York, but the recent local support and love for their own artist is amazing to see. Chicago could learn a few things about being proud of their own team, instead of competing with it.

Hardware vs software?

Hiroko: I personally gravitate towards hardware mainly for the instant gratification aspect of it. I’ve always been a huge fan of robots and especially anime-mecha. Having a cockpit of synthesizer and drum machines is pretty much as close as one gets to piloting a robot. You get to interface with technology in a way that’s tactile, has pretty lights, and gives you back pleasantries. I tend to get lost in the minutiae of daw tools with infinite possibilities and prefer simple solutions that do one thing quite well.

Over lockdown, the conversation shifted towards scenes focusing on their own local talent. Do you see this happening? How can we help?

Hiroko: This is actually pretty important to me. During lockdown there had been talk of everyone really supporting their own local heroes and innovators instead of focusing on major touring artists. While I think you should listen to and support the music you like, take this moment to look at the amazing artist that’s from your neighborhood. Also, the folks that swore up and down to support clubs again are the same ones asking for a VIP guest list for their friends. As an artist with a platform, it’s important to continue to share the music of up and coming talent. Also, don’t be that person. The night life industry has been hanging on by a thread, by a ticket, tip your server and appreciate what we have.

‘Midwest Panic’ is out now and available to purchase here.

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