Balance Selections 063: Dance Spirit
Christopher Mohn and Reagan Denius aka Dance Spirit have built their own sound with a focus of rhythm, timbre, melody and movement as their driving force – a sound that has lead them to many of the worlds leading festivals, a list that includes Coachella, Desert Hearts, Piknik Electonik, City Fox, Lightning in a Bottle and Sacbe. They’ve been signed to record labels Bedrock, Kindisch, Culprit, Akbal Music, Superfreq and more, and they have just signed an EP to Get Physical. Indeed, the Flying Circus residents are slowly becoming a name you can’t ignore.
This mix showcases the Dance Spirit sound, which is one that is deep, affecting, and stomping, all at the same time. These are proper underground sounds which will impress.
Balance Selections Q+A
Labels affiliated with:
Crosstown Rebels, Get Physical, Supernature, Superfreq, Rebellion, Akbal Music, Tale and Tone, Get Weird
My last 3 releases:
What music did you listen to as a child?
CHRIS: Well my father is really into music and a product of 60s and 70s rock’n’roll, as that was the music of his childhood. Music was always blasted on the weekends when he was home and off of work, however even though I was exposed to a lot of music, it wasn’t until I was 10 or 11 until I actually started connecting emotionally to music, the first song being The Beatles ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. From there I really started exploring music the best way I could and just buying tons of CDs all the time. I went from classic rock, to grunge/alternative, to punk, to rave, and once I found electronic music and rave music when I was 15 I went further into as many sub genres as I could and exposing myself to as much as I could. I love how easy it is to get broad music exposure now days with streaming services like Spotify, for the past 6 months I have been on a huge 90s R&B kick and the new Wu Tang Clan is on heavy rotation in the car.
REAGAN: Well the earliest song I remember falling in love with was Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. After that I remember sitting super close to the TV between the ages of 3 and 4 watching MTV and was always enamoured with Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, I think mostly because I could never tell if she was a guy or a girl! But I also loved the song. And still do! Besides that, I would enjoy sitting at the piano listening and singing with her as she played songs like ‘My Favorite Things’ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. After we moved from Austin to Los Angeles, I remember having a karaoke machine and I would sing along to Michael Jackson and my favourite was ‘Black Velvet’ by Alanna Myles [haha]. Fast forward to 7, and I started digging into my dads massive CD collection. He loves music (my mom too) and I think he always wanted to secretly be a musician. We moved to LA so he could pursue a career as a music attorney, and is still at it to this day.
His CD collection turned me on to electronic music almost instantly as the first ones I seemed to grab were Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and New Order. I would turn the music up super loud and dance my ass off all crazy to it in the living room. Besides that, around the age of 4 I started figuring out the piano — at 5 I recorded a song on a tape cassette for my grandfather on my mom’s side’s birthday, something about cats, dogs, and chickens if I remember correctly (I wish I still had that tape…). Around 5th grade I got my first taste of (cheesy) electronic dance music (Euro Pop) from my friend at school who introduced me to the internet and sent me his mp3 collection. That year at school my teacher even let me keep my electric piano in the class room. I wrote my first song then, from a dream, called ‘By The Big Oak Tree’… The chorus went something like ‘By the big oak tree / A place for you / A place for me / By the big oak tree’ (sappy AF I know…). I ended up performing it with a few girls in the class for our school play in front of all the parents! In fifth and sixth grade I became obsessed with Garbage, and then in sixth grade I discovered NIN. The ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ album was my JAM that year (and the Garbage self titled album too) — I remember having to write a book report on ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and learning the song ‘Something I Can Never Have’, and changing the words to reflect the story, and performing it in front of the class (hahaha).
Besides all that, I took classical piano lessons from kindergarten through eighth grade until I got sick of practicing and just wanted to be on the computer pirating software and music all day in AOL chat rooms, programming mass mailing scripts and designing graphics for the hacker groups. I’ll leave you all with those final images, as there’s so much more to tell, but we’ll save that for some other time.
When was the first time that you realized that you liked electronic music?
CHRIS: It was the Mortal Kombat soundtrack (kidding). The first electronic music I was exposed to was in 1996 when I found a compilation put out on Moonshine called Synthetic Pleasures and there was a Terre Thaemlitz track on there I really gravitated towards, so I bought the album ‘Tranquilizer‘ which is still timeless and beautiful. Around that time I also found the Deee-lite Rare Grooves and Oddities which featured a plethora of world class artists which gave me even more exposure to the art. I finally found Sasha and Digweed in 98 and Hawtin in 2000.
REAGAN: As mentioned above, the earliest electronic oriented music I discovered were Depeche Mode, New Order and Pet Shop Boys. After that, I got in to Euro pop for a quick second. The summer after sixth grade I discovered Sasha and Digweed at a record store, randomly. Somehow I just gravitated to that CD and bought it. Then it was all over. From there I found Moby. Then in seventh grade I got super in to trance. I was constantly on Napster at my high school’s computer lab downloading as much music as I could get my hands on (didn’t matter cheesy it was). At some point I DID actually listen to the Mortal Kombat soundtrack a lot, but really only for that Juno Reaktor cut! I could never really find anything quite like Sasha and Digweed, and I didn’t really know where to look. I was basically the only kid in my entire high school that listened to electronic music, so I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I didn’t even know parties and raves existed until probably around my senior year in high school. I had no idea there was a whole culture behind the music. I just loved electronic music. Over the years my tastes have grown and refined based on my knowledge of the music and learning more about the origins and what not… But man I used to listen to some shit music!
When was the first time you saw a DJ in a club?
CHRIS: My first exposure to the culture was in ’96 as well. It was in my hometown of Escondido at The Old Roller rink and the party was called ‘Crunch-E’. The flyer was Captain Crunch with blood shot eyes eating crunch berries that looked like pills (haha). Christopher Lawrence was playing. I didn’t stay long as I was young with a curfew. I would go to raves once or twice a year but didn’t turn it into a lifestyle until ’98.
REAGAN: I saw my first DJ when I was in CalArts for a semester with my good friend and roommate at the time, who was the first person I started working on music with. This was in fall/winter of 2002. I went to some kind of rave, with not very good music. I can’t remember who was playing, obviously not a very good first party impression! My first memorable experience was a few years later when I was living in Vermont (getting my life back together from a shitty crystal meth addiction… never touch that shit, yo!) and I drove up to Montreal with a friend at the time and we saw Adam Freeland play at Aria (which is no longer around).
Which producers/artists/acts inspire you?
CHRIS: Modern a cts that inspire me is Die Antwoord for sure. They are SO freaky and really know how to entertain and put on a show, proper 21st century rock stars. I have really been into Kelela as well, I can listen to her voice all day, and often do. My dynamics for tastes in dance music has changed considerably in the last few years, mostly because I spent years obsessing on dance music so we could make our own, and just having so much exposure to it as a profession that in my personal time I do not listen to dance music at all. I have really been enjoying this over the last few years and listening to other music gives me tons of ideas for the Dance Spirit project. I also enjoy the moderation because a lot of the time my exposure to new dance music is from a DJ at the club or party and I really like this way of being introduced to new music, right on the dancefloor. We had the honour of playing the City Fox NYE and that whole night was great music. Dixon played amazing techno with dexterity and precision, and Thugfucker’s set was out of this world. That set really inspired us!!!!
REAGAN: This is tough, I love so much music! Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, NIN, Garbage, Floating Points, Ricardo Villalobos, Ryan Crosbson, Cesar Merveille, Mathew Jonson, Sasha and Digweed, Minilogue, Petre Inspirescu…Led Zepplin… There’s so many more too, some I can’t even think of!
What was the last album that you downloaded/bought?
CHRIS: I bought the Bodyguard Soundtrack, The new Wu Tang album, Thundercat ‘Drunk’, and Guns’N’Roses Use Your Illusion 1 on my last record store visit.
REAGAN: Cesar Merveille and Ryan Crosson – Cerulean … so good. I love their jazz influences and minimalism. Quality.
What is your current production and DJ set up like?
CHRIS: I will let Reagan answer that one ☺
REAGAN: Currently, we’re rockin’ Logic X as our DAW, with a first gen UAD Apollo soundcard. As for the super fun toys, we’ve got a Juno 106, Virus TI Keyboard, Roland TB-303 (modded with “The Beast” mod… seven of seven! Bought from a friend who hacks for the DOD!), Elektron RYTM and Machinedrum, Roland JP-08 and SH-01a (that SH-01a is a MONSTER!! Sounds super great…), Roland RE-201 Space Echo, Roland TR-8, Korg Minilogue, TC Helicon Voice Live Touch, and the ever trusty Shure SM57! I think that’s everything…
What releases do you have on the horizon?
CHRIS: We just signed an EP to Get Physical this week, and also have an EP due up on Flying Circus in the near future. An amazing remix for Jay Triwire and Modern Ancient on Superfreq, by amazing I mean the original is gorgeous and I am stoked we got to mess with those parts!
We also started a quarterly magazine for LA art and culture called Space Cadet. We just published and released the first issue, and it has been very exciting and gratifying to see how well received it’s been in the city!
REAGAN: We also have a remix for a newer label out of LA, Gari Recs, of this great song by Mont Blvck. And then an upcoming remix for Droog and Inxec on Cluprit, and lastly a remix of an Armen Miran tune due out in July for a label out of New York City called Earthly Delights!
Where can we hear you perform?
CHRIS: Next up we have a show in San Francisco at Great Northern (my favourite club!), and Miami for Get Lost, as well as a couple other shows that WMC week! We are also working on a EU tour for July and will definitely be out at Burning Man again this year.
REAGAN: We also have a couple other exciting upcoming shows we can’t quite announce just yet, but let’s just say it’s gonna be epic AF. ☺ Also, really excited for Burning Man again. If you want to find us out there, we’ll be camping with our extended family from Dallas at Lotus Ranch, along with the Superfreq family, Mr.C and David Scuba. Needless to say, it’s going to be awesome.
Tell us more about the podcast you made for Balance?
REAGAN: All our studio mixes are assembled in Ableton, then each channel is sent out the soundcard in to our A&H Xone:92 mixer, and then we record and mix it live. It gives us way more control to put something extra special together. You can hear our upcoming remix of Droog & Inxec’s tune, ‘Bodyless’, around 33:33 minute mark. And in LOVE with that Mathew Jonson and Ryan Crosson tune, ‘Templehof’. Hell… I’m in love with all the jams on here! ☺
The top track in my DJ wallet currently is:
CHRIS: I loved Davi’s ‘Kaiser Sose’ track on Kindisch.
REAGAN: Mathew Jonson and Ryan Crosson ‘Templehof’ on Visionquest.
If I could recommend only one of my tracks for you to listen to it would be:
CHRIS: For Dance Spirit I am fond of the ‘Thoughts Like Stars’ single on Bedrock.
REAGAN: Our collab with Audiofly, ‘Angel Eyes’, on Mobilee.
If I could recommend only one track for you to listen to it would be:
CHRIS: The Grateful Dead ‘Althea’
REAGAN: I’ve always been and always will be obsessed with DJ Koze’s remix of ‘Kawaba’ by Mathias Kaden.
My favourite Balance compilation is:
CHRIS: James Holden and Patrice Bäumel, oh and the Jimmy Van M’s are timeless IMO.
REAGAN: That Jimmy Van M one is so great!!
The last movie I watched that I really liked:
CHRIS: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I really want to see Black Panther.
REAGAN: What About Bob. We watched that while we were sick with some kind of vomit and diarrhoea bug in Mexico at the beginning of the year. We had a full on funny movie binge to offset the feeling of “I’m going to die in Mexico”. Airplane… Beverly Hills Ninja…
My favourite TV show:
CHRIS: Beverly Hills 90210
REAGAN: Rick & Morty
If I could choose anyone to compile a Balance comp it would be:
CHRIS: I would love to hear what Oona Dahl would come up with. Her Burning Man sets are epic listens.
REAGAN: Ricardo Villalobos would be a trip. But we vibe great with Oona in the studio (we’re almost done with a collab EP!) so that would be super fun!
01. Merveille & Crosson – Acid Pal (Original Mix) [Visionquest]
02. Marcus Worgull – Seen (Original Mix) [Innervisions]
03. Aleksander Grum, Red Pig Flower – Three Girls (Voxless Edit) [Baile Music]
04. Gel Abril – They Groovers (Original Mix) [Closed Circuits]
05. Franck Roger – Did She Tell U (Original Mix) – [Get Physical ]
06. Francisco Allendes – Caos En La Sangre (Someone Else’s Off-Kilter Dub Mix 2018 Remaster) [Phaze]
07. Pezzner – Love Train (Original Mix) [Get Physical]
08. Robag Wruhme – Wolluwe (Original Mix) [Musik Krause]
09. Droog & Inxec – Bodyless (Dance Spirit’s Hyperspace Dive) [Culprit]
10. Mathew Jonson & Ryan Crosson – Templehof (Original Mix) [Visionquest]
11. Tim Green, The Slow Revolt – Still Not Born (Dub Mix) [Cityfox]
12. Matt Tolfrey – Don’t Ask, Don’t Get [D-FLOOR]
13. DAVI – Kayser Soze (Original Mix) [Kindisch]
14. Mark Allow – White Tusk (Robbie Akbal Remix) [Sol Selectas]
15. Shaun Benjamin – Restless Heart (Wuachuma Mix) [Earthly Delights]