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What's new in iJamming!...
Sat, Aug 3, 2002
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE WHITES
Featured wine region 4:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE ROSÉS
This week's FEATURED WINE
Previously...
FEATURED Wines 3
FEATURED Wines 2
FEATURED Wines 1
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
The Geography
The Villages
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.

Now with updated reviews
Featured wine region 1:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
Featured wine web site:
HONIG
WINE AND MUSIC:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
Featured wino: TIMO MAAS
Featured party wine:
CLINE's Cotes d'Oakley
And how Cline does it
Featured wine web site: VIGNOBLES BRUNIER
The full iJamming! Contents
the iJammming! featured wino (and muso):
John Acquaviva
CONTINUED FROM PART 1

-You must know a lot of other Djs.

I hang out with a different level of DJ, I don't hang out with the rock star DJs, I don't relate to them. It's more of a case of hype or marketing. I have a great relationship with the resident Djs or the national ones, the ones who still buy records. I make a living out of playing other peoples' records and it's hard for me to think it's all about me. And I share the passion with people who have similar feelings. I'd rather go to the shop than sleep. I'm always buying records, playing records from all over. Not just promos or one genre, or just my buddy's records or my own records, because I find that too narcissistic. Sometimes producers get caught up looking into the mirror and going, who's the best producer of them all? That's a mistake. I can't hang around with narcissistic producers.

-Is that a general diss to the whole superstar DJ thing?

Yeah. Let's admit it. Even if you do have a hit record, great. But you're going to play for three hours. You're going to play 100 records, or maybe only 25 if you're lazy. But even so, you're still playing 24 records by other people, so how can it be all about you? When I got into clubbing in the disco days, it was all about a sense of community, it was an antithesis to rock'n'roll. Techno has held out for the most part, it's kept evolving and morphing. People have stayed independent, they've been on their own course, on their own track. But lately in America, the money is there now and people have started to forget their roots. For me, the perfect relationship is really a triangular thing. You need a great venue, you need a great crowd and a great DJ. But the DJ shouldn't overshadow the club or the crowd.

-Are there Djs who have phenomenal mixing talents that render them the actual attraction?

Yeah, sure, I get that as well. But I also like to slap people in the face or pour some water on them, going, well it's great that you respect my talent but I want to entertain you. I make my living out of music, but some people work all week, and even the trendiest club on earth, most of the people actually do other things to make their money, and they want to escape. And these people work all week and give you their money to be entertained, to be taught, whatever. Just because I can put records together in a neat and special way. I don't do it so I can be worshipped. I do it so I can be respected. I'm totally against icons.

-Does that come around as to why you are not one of the household name Djs, because you refuse to be so?

Absolutely. I know what it takes to become a rock star. If I spent less time buying records and more time taking photos, I could be that extra level up. It's all Spinal Tap at the end of the day. I could have been more cynical and I could make an extra zero every year. It doesn't really matter. I'm happy with who I am.

-It seems like only recently that you have emerged from the shadow of being Richie's partner. Is that a fair comment?

I have had enormous success in the non English speaking world. Vicariously, I've had success in England through Rich, but they don't know who I am. But for ten years, I've still made half the money. So why do I need to be on the cover and be recognized? And I don't say that cynically because Richie and I are very close and we've done very well by each other. I always loved Europe, I loved going to Germany and France and Spain. I was turned on and motivated, and I went there and whether I had press or ot, people couldn't read the laguage, so they had to judge me with their ears, and not the marketing. And I take great pride in the fact that my success was founded on peoples' tastes or my ability to relate to people. Of late, coming to north America. I have a family, and I wanted to slow down. I was going to Europe 2 or 3 times a month.

-Which is great for the frequent flier miles.

For sure, my family vacations first class. But it does take a bit of a toll. And I decided to slow down in Europe. America wasn't focussed but it was starting to happen. So four or five years ago I said to my wife, well I'm going to semi-retire, and whether America happens or not, I have to start playing in America. So I started playing more in America, and taking on a bit of press with Rich. In the last few years people have noticed me more in America, so instead of semi-retiring I have actually kept my pace.

-I think people have a perception that you were more behind the scenes, whereas in fact you were in Europe.

My wife was running the label. Richie and I answer to my wife Carla. Richie and I grew into our roles as directors. I was older so I grew into the role before Rich. He often deferred to me, but we were both active in the decision. As long as we get the job done. At the start Rich and I thought we were any two guys but as we grew together, at different phases and at different levels and in different ways, we still grew enough never to let each other down. We've never had an argument. And in the music business, it's always strife with people at each others necks about petty things. Richie and I, whether pushing each other to the limit in a work sense, just traveling, or getting on each others nerves as tourists, even though we've pushed each other so much, we've never crossed the line. And so in retrospect it is a rare thing because not all the people you meet turn out to be so deep... I am motivated doing many things, and I don't want to get in the trappings. We went on the very first big tour in north America that was meant to break this shit wide open. It was Cybersonik - me and Richie Djing, and Dan Bell - some guy called Moby and some band called the Prodigy.

-The NASA tour?

Something like that. And if you look at it now, all those people are where they want to be. I'm here because this is who I want to be. The Prodigy are where they are because that's who they want to be. And Moby is where he is becasue that's who he wants to be. They knew what it took after that tour, I knew what it took. Normally I walk down the street with Richie and people would say, Hey Rich, who's your buddy? But this CD is the first CD I think I ever put my face on the cover. Here I am talking about not being a pop star and I got talked into putting my fucking face on the cover. So I've had to take a lot of grief.
"I know what it takes to become a rock star. If I spent less time buying records and more time taking photos, I could be that extra level up. It's all Spinal Tap at the end of the day."
-Let's talk about Finalscratch. Give me the full history.

Three guys invented it. One of them's a hardware guy and the other two are computer guys. The hardware guy is quite famous for inventing an important and lucrative wireless technology. He's a multi-millionaire. They all met in the hacker community in Holland. And about four years ago they went to a hackers convention in the middle of a field. And there were 4,000 people in tents, hooking up their laptops to a generator. These guys that weekend noticed that a few of the hackers brought records and turntales and played music, and being totally naive to the Dj culture, they went up and said 'what are you doing?' 'I'm playing records.' 'Play records? We're all on computers, why don't you just play MP3s?' 'No, you don't understand, the best way to play music is turntables. Djs love turntables. Fuck CDs, fuck mouse mixing.' So the guys said 'Well why don't you just make something that lets vinyl control a track on a computer. ' The DJs said 'Great idea, but who can do it?' So these guys left this convention and got to thinking,why don't we do it? So there was a huge buzz about these guys who were going to do this thing about 3 years ago. A huge underground buzz that Richie and a few of our computer guys alerted us to. I sent these guys an e-mail that said, Hey we've heard about this, do you have a prototype.... When you do, call me.

-You heard through the grapevine?

Yeah, basically.

-And other people didn't contact them?

No, they did. There was a buzz. With technology there was a buzz on anything. But dot com never turned me on, really. We were always pretty progressive - we had our own server in the mid-90s, so a few of our guys were very hip to technoloy rumblings. Even so, it's funny that I was the one who contacted them. Rich blew it off at first. I said well I'll stay in touch because it sounds so amazing, because I like to have so many records this technology would be so amazing for me.

(The Percebes arrive. There's no rock attached, no shell to break off either.) Oh man, they've already done them! Half the fun is doing it yourself. Like shrimps. These ones are too peppery and too stewed. They're usually much thicker and much shorter. They may be cultivated, they're too long...

So these guys called me two years ago and said we have a prototype. They called a few people. I flew to Holland, met them, saw it, scratched with it, and said, 'Oh my God, I want to be the first guy to buy it.' We became friends and decided to work with it.

-Are you ambassadors? Or do you have a stake in it?

Personally, I have been involved in the whole process of bringing it to market. And then I obviously enlisted contacts from the music business, so I tried to bring in a group of music people, and that's sort of my role, to act as promoters and ambassadors. And again, I don't even want to be the ambassador, I'd rather leave that to someone else like a Richie. I showed it to a bunch of Djs. Richie showed it to Luke Slater, Luke loves it, Carl Cox loved it, I think he's ordered it. I know Jim Masters ordered it. The invitations were just sent out a week ago. The Pro version is coming out in September, and it's limited. Just so the pros can have it, give some feedback, but a consumer version will be out in about six months. Not as good a quality.

-How do you mean?

Consumer versions are more price sensitive, probably not have the best A to D converters. Like a Pioneer mixer - you really want to travel with that, you think it will last longer than a month? You get what you pay for.

-How did theygo about doing the vinyl part? I understand that the file is an audio file: that's easy. I can even understand the idea of the box. The vinyl part of it blows me away.

You know old recording techniques, with tape, how you link smpte to tape? Same thing really, It's some kind of time code. Just as you use one channel on your 24 track to lock the grooves, that's what the vinyl does. The vinyl locks everything. The turntable slaves the computer.

-What really got me was when you picked up the needle, dropped it halfway through the vinyl, and it dropped halfway through the sound file.

CDs still can't do that! After 15 years, CDs can scratch. But can you lift the tone arm and drop it? Case closed.

-One of the beauties about Djing is looking at a piece of vinyl and looking for the heavy groove, because you can actually see it. And you can do that on Finalscratch because you can see that within the audio file.

People will say, who wants to carry a computer around? Good point. Who wants to carry a case of records around? And if you buy a CD scratcher, not every club has a CD scratcher, so you have to carry 2 Cd scratchers and CDs. I have 2500 tracks on my hard drive. Would you like to carry 250 CDs with 10 tracks each on them and then try to find them?

-One of the only drawbacks I can see is that someone might get lazy. People will come up and say 'Do you have that record?' and chances are, with so much music on a hard drive, that you will say yes. Whereas in the past, one might have been inclined to only bring what you want to play.

Well I'm inclined to say that Djs are lazy in general. Most of the top DJs think they're so famous that they don't buy records any more. And they sound stale. That's why I think the residents tend to be better than the guests. They make a fraction of what the guests make, but their hearts are in the music and you can hear it in their sets.

For new Djs, you can play your productions, you don't have to cut acetates. I've done some remixes of songs on an editor, I can do a mix today, play it tonight, and if I don't like it, I can reedit tomorrow and play that new edit tomorrow night.

-And the alternative would be to burn a CD, except then you have to mix the CD in, and CDs are anatheama to Djs anyway.

CDs are really inefficient. Pioneer is throwing a great deal of money trying to kill turntable culture, with their new scratcher. And I could still find more holes in that than in Finalscratch. For DJ culture, the question is, what is the best joystick for your music? Is it a mouse, is it a CD player, or is a turntable? So, if the turntable can now play everything you want the old way, but now with a little box hooking up to your computer, so you add the digital dimension, now does the turntable have an equal footing, can it compete with CDs and maybe more? And when I pose that question, I say, damn right. Turntable rocks.

"People will say (about Finalscratch), who wants to carry a computer around? Good point. I have 2500 tracks on my hard drive. Would you like to carry 250 CDs with 10 tracks each on them and then try to find them?"

-I understand that the computer is slave to the vinyl. But can you explain, does the length of the groove automatically figure out the length of the sound file, so that when you drop the needle half way through the record, it's actually half way through the sound file?

Yeah, because the information on the record is linear. 1-2-3-4-5. So when you put it in the middle.

-So when you open the sound file, the groove on the record automatically figures how long it is?

Yes.

-What's the retail price on this?

The Pro version is invite only, but any top DJ is welcome to contact us. It's packaged with the computer. Everntually the consumer version will be like a video game, you'll buy the program in a box, and load it into the computer that should have the right specs. The Pro version is satisfaction guaranteed, so it's packaged with the brand new Sony Vaio computer because those are the best. The Pro version is on a Operating System called Beos. It's a french company that just got bought by Palm. It's the best real time operating software until now. So the Pro version comes packaged with the software, with the computer, with the hardware, a carrying case, all for $3000. But you're basically paying $2,000 for the computer. And the laptop has a 20 gig hard drive.

-Have you ever had a computer crash while spinning?

Never. Finalscratch comes with the computer, so essentially it's a dedicated laptop.

-Can you do other stuff on there?

Yes. The Vio comes with both a Dos hard drive and a Beos one. I get email on Windows, I can access both parts of my hardd rive from Beos. So I can get an email, or I can take a song, and edit it, and without even burning a disc, I can just copy it fropm my Dos hard drive to my Beos hard drive and play it.

-It comes with USB?

Yeah, and that took a long time to do. USB is the ultimate consumer thing. But the USB is the weakest link. There's so much informaton that the USB is strained. It's heavy heavy mathematics.

The wine's tasting good, It's still young and tarty.

-I didn't get to ask whether wine pushes the same buttons for you as music.

It does. And some of the nice sound bites are: Wine is the best drug for a number of reasons. First of all, it's legal. So you don't get into trouble crossing borders. And because it's legal you get what you pay for. If you're into drugs or something illegal, you can pay a lot of money and still get burned. If a wine is corked, you get your money back. And you get what you pay for. Alcohol, you can get a cheap buzz if you drink draft beer, or you can get a very educated or expoensive buzz whether it's champagne or a profound wine. It's the best buzz. Some people smoke joints; red wine does it for me.

-That's a sound bite. Cos I can't smoke joints and function.

Just like some people smoke joints and perform, I drink red wine and go to work. We're only having one bottle between three of us here. In Barcelona there would be three or four empty bottles on this table, then we'd move on to some calvados - and then I'd go to work.

-DJing and being a live musician are probably the only jobs in the world where it's not only okay to drink on the job, it's almost encouraged.

I know, we have it hard!


FURTHER SURFING:
FINALSCRATCH WEB SITE
A NEW YORK TIMES FEATURE ON FINALSCRATCH
A WIRED FEATURE ON FINALSCRATCH
PLUS 8 RECORDS SITE
JOHN ACQUAVIVA WEB SITE
RICHIE HAWTIN's MINUS RECORDS WEB SITE
SHADOW RECORDS WEB SITE
PIONEER Pro DJ SITE
SPANISH WINE
WINE WRITER OZ CLARKE on VEGA SICILIA (with links to Spanish wine atlas)
CHAMPAGNE SALON
TAKE ME TO THE TOP
TAKE ME HOME
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