Conversations with Jimmy Maheras

Jimmy Maheras Plastic Love Before When it was NewBrooklyn-born, LA-based Jimmy Maheras of Plastic Love Records sat down to chat with 6AM about his roots, his current roles as a DJ and record label boss, and give us his candid take on the ever-changing dance music scene that he’s been a part of for over 15 years.

 

You started clubbing in NYC in the late ’90s, then moved to LA, so you’ve been able to experience the music and culture on both the east and west coast. How would you describe the difference between the musical taste and the crowd in New York and Los Angeles?

There was a vast difference for a long time, but LA has caught up quite a bit since then. When I first moved here most of the DJs were niche DJs – the progressive house guys only played that, deep house DJs only played deep house, etc., but now a lot of the DJs, especially the younger ones coming up, are much more open-minded, which is nice to see.

I’m not sure there’s a huge difference in the crowds except for knowledge, but I’d say people in LA are friendlier.

What were some of the sounds and who were some of the DJ’s that influenced you early in your career and do you still feel that they influence you currently?  There are so many more artists and genres that exist today than there were in the late ’90s, who would you consider to be currently influencing your sound the most as an artist and a label?

Early on I was heavily influenced by local NYC talent – legends such as Danny Tenaglia, Erick Morillo, Masters At Work, Roger Sanchez, David Morales…And labels like Strictly Rhythm, Subliminal, Tribal/Twisted. Outside of NYC I was really into Josh Wink, Green Velvet, Carl Craig, Armand Van Helden, DJ Pierre, Murk and Deep Dish (you could almost lump those last two into NYC, even though they weren’t from there).

I don’t know if someone would hear an influence in my DJing from my history, but it’s definitely in my production.

I’d also say Mount Analog, one of our dope record stores here, as well as Amoeba, have a bigger influence than any artist or label. And I suppose buying more records in general helps shape what I play. Then again, I’ve always played a bunch of different sounds, so who knows.

You started your own record label, Plastic Love with your DJ and label partner Bas in 2010 and just released your second four-track EP from Michael Walsh, which includes a remix from yourself of “Before When it was New”.  What kinds of projects are in the pipeline and what can we expect to be coming in the future from Plastic Love?

We always had a label in mind when we started throwing parties under the Plastic Love name. It’s been really great and exciting. I can’t wait to get the next few releases out!

I have a new project called Cazion, which is collaboration between Eli Epstein, aka Photocall, and me. He’s put out music on Clone and Ghostly in the past. We started working together after he mixed a few of my tracks. We have two releases ready to go, which I think will both be on Plastic Love Records. I have a solo EP ready to go for the label, as well. These will all be for 2015, I imagine. I also have to finish up collaborations with Bas (as Plastic Love, of course) and Michael Walsh who produced the second release for us.

We are still searching for more LA-based artists to bring on board and work with, because that’s the main mission of the label. Finding people making music we want to release has been tougher than we envisioned, but it’ll come. As I see it right now, though, we are forming a solid core group of artists, which is very important long-term. I think LA is on fire right now, and getting more music out of this city is paramount.

With all of the new technology available to DJ, including mediums like CDJ’s, Ableton and Traktor, do you see yourself always spinning vinyl?  If so, what keeps bringing you back to the original?  Besides vinyl, what do you like to use to spin, and do you see any platforms or programs that you might use to make a switch permanently?

I don’t foresee ever giving up vinyl completely. It’s more fun to play and there’s no comparison between record shopping and looking for mp3s. I like the feel and there tends to be better quality control with labels that press records. There’s also something to be said for owning something tangible and the value people place on music. There’s too much of a disposable mindset these days and I see it more with digital DJs…and it’s probably why most of them are wack. 

Anyway, I continue to play on vinyl and CDJ’s, just as I always have, though I have finally given up on burning CDs and switched over to USB, which has its positive and negatives. I feel like it takes away from the spontaneity a bit, to be honest. I was never much for planning sets. I like to wing it.

I hate laptops for DJing; they’re not for me. I hate seeing DJs stare a laptop screen. It makes me think they’re chatting with someone or working on a fucking spreadsheet. That said, in the future there might be a Cazion live show…We’ll do our best to be all hardware, but who knows. KiNK was just here using his simpler, laptop-based live setup, and he was awesome.

You have a few big shows coming up this month in October, including Roman Flugel headlining your own record release party, and being part of Minimal Effort’s Supernature Halloween Show. How do you feel about the quality of events in and around Los Angeles at the moment?  Do you feel there is still room for the underground scene to grow in Los Angeles and finally can you name a few DJ’s that you would like to see brought out to perform in Los Angeles?

I think the scene is a bit weird at the moment. Undergrounds have been getting consistently shut down for months and the LA crowd doesn’t like legal venues as much because everyone wants to drink all night. The music doesn’t seem to be enough for people here. 

There’s absolutely a ton of opportunity for the scene to grow, though. I can’t believe I’ve been here this long and nobody has opened up a proper small venue that’s based around a sound system and music policy.  There’s just a lack of venues in general, but we really need something small like Cielo or the Electric Pickle, where you don’t have to compromise to fill the place. Hopefully someone with the means to open such a place reads this. 

I suppose if I could get them to stop hating the US, I’d love to bring out Andrew Weatherall and Shed, but where the fuck would they play?

You’ve been in the underground dance music scene for over 15 years and I’m sure you’ve had a few incredible experiences along the way.  We’ve all had those memorable and sometimes unforgettable moments in the club that will stay with us forever.  What has been your most memorable experience as a DJ and as a club goer?

As a DJ I’d probably have to say Halloween a few years ago at Avalon.  The whole place was slammed. We had our Plastic Love thing going in the smaller Honey Lounge. It was really packed and the vibe was nuts. I think we played around five hours in there before getting a text that we had to go on in the main room. We ended up playing another 3 hours until 8am. I’d guess there were over 3,000 people there that night.

As a consumer/raver I’d say Aril Brikha’s live set at Movement in 2011. The music was amazing and it started raining, but we all kept dancing. There was a great mix of people: old and new friends. And we’re in fucking Detroit, which is special in and of itself.  It was really just magic, and I don’t use that word lightly. It was the kind of moment you wish you could recreate at will.

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