ASR is one of the major outfits responsible for shaping the SF techno scene. Founded by scene patron and impresario Jeremy Bispo, Â ASR Continues to carve out a path for the future of techno-house in SF. DEF took some time to interview Jeremy, one of the scene’s most astute observers, to get his thoughts on the state of the SF techno-house scene, the origins of ASR and where the scene may be heading in the next few years.
DEFSF: What is ASR and what do the letters stand for?
Jeremy Bispo: The acronym ASR has represented two things over the years. It’s been years, maybe since 2000, since it’s held the original meanings. Since 2000, I’d say, As You Like It, has been more symbolicÂ to represents what we produce, and ASR has been a larger extended family of friends that grew out of warehouse parties in the 90s.
Originally ASR was a humorous nickname given to me and my friends several members of Cloudfactory, a slightly older collective, also then based on the Monterey Peninsula. We were the “Alvarado Street Ravers,” named after the main strip my friends hung out on downtown Monterey. Several of our friends lived just up the street and many would make the walk down for coffee at Plumes and burritos at Papa Chanos. I thought the nickname was hilarious, probably because IÂ wasn’t down on Alvarado Street much, since I had a job in PacificÂ Grove. We took it and ran with it, but a few of us grew sensitiveÂ to the origins, so I, along with my friend Rose changed it’s meaning toÂ “Always Something to Remember.”
How did ASR get formed? I heard it was just a crew of ravers inÂ the beginning, but what changed? How did you go from just going toÂ parties to wanting to throw parties?
ASR was originally formed in the summer of 1997 by a group ofÂ friends that lived on the Monterey Peninsula. I was a year out of highÂ school and still living in Pacific Grove. But we had members living inÂ Carmel, Monterey, Seaside, Salinas and as far away as Santa Cruz. We’dÂ grew tired of the weekly jaunts to San Francisco and Oakland forÂ warehouse parties and wanted to start producing events that wouldÂ bring our friends from the Bay Area down to the Peninsula.
I attended my first party New Years Eve 96/97 and quickly startedÂ attending parties every weekend. Cloudfactory had been throwingÂ parties on the Peninsula for a few years already and they were a bigÂ influence on me and the rest of our friends. I think it was only a fewÂ month in and I started helping out at Cloudfactory or friends ofÂ Cloudfactory parties. It was almost immediately after that that IÂ decided to do my own events and started asking my friends if they wereÂ into the idea. We did the first ASR event September 20th, 1997, justÂ over nine months since my first party.
There was a big group of us that worked hard on that event, but evenÂ at the beginning I was leading the charge. I’d been working on andÂ producing events since my sophomore year of high school. It was anÂ easy transition for me.
What Â was it about the Cloudfactory parties that wereÂ particularly inspirational? Do you see echoes of that inspiration forÂ what you do now as a promoter?
In my eyes, Cloudfactory was always the roots of the scene I wasÂ involved in. Most of the core members grew up on the MontereyÂ Peninsula and Â that made them accessible. They weren’t some far awayÂ (San Francisco was 2.5 hours away) crew that produced ten thousandÂ person massives. They worked together to produce the lowest cost events, with the talent coming from within, for some of my bestÂ memories ever.
My parties have always been different. I did my best to produce eventsÂ that were as low cost as possible, and ASR did throw free day partiesÂ for several years, but we’ve always been about bringing togetherÂ talent from all over the Bay Area and world. For our second party, weÂ bookedÂ DRC, who at the time was one of the biggest rave djsÂ nationwide. It’s always been important to me to share acclaimed djsÂ with an intimate audience. My drive with ASR has, for me, gone the next step with As You Like It. I want to produce the best eventsÂ possible, with the best talent accessible, in venues that allow us toÂ really feel the experience. That’s my goal right now. This has pushedÂ up ticket prices, but luckily there’s an audience right now in SFÂ that’s getting what I’m trying to do.
I’m assuming most people think you’ve come out of left field andÂ started throwing parties but truth be told, you have been at this forÂ awhile right?
I’m not sure how many people think I came from left field. I’veÂ spent a lot of time over the last year since I started going to technoÂ and house shows in SF telling my story. Who I am, where I’m from, whatÂ my origins in the scene are. Like I said earlier, I’ve been involvedÂ in the electronic dance music scene since 1997 and producing eventsÂ almost as long. I took several years off when I moved to MinneapolisÂ to attend college from 2005/08.
I guess what I was getting at was that the SF scene tends to takeÂ on newcomers from all over the country on a consistent basis. FromÂ some people’s perspective your recent return in ’08/’09 has made itÂ seem like you came out of nowhere to immediately augment the sceneÂ with a strong expertise in promoting… sort of filling in a muchÂ needed gap in the techno/house community. Do you think that yourÂ leaving SF and returning to it has made an impact on you and the wayÂ you identify with your current audience?
Well, leaving and coming back to the scene thatÂ [KONTROL],Â Dirtybird,Â Auralism built was an amazing experience. The audience wasÂ there. I just had to ease in and learn more about the make up, historyÂ and new artists. I won’t pretend it was easy. But what those crews didÂ was the real work.
Do you consider yourself a primarily techno event promoter?Â And why have you chosen it to be a predominant element in yourÂ parties?
I don’t think I throw specifically techno events or that I reallyÂ ever did. It’s true ASR has thrown several with techno being the majorÂ influence in the night, but we’ve done just as many with house musicÂ being the source of inspiration. We did day parties in Fremont at LakeÂ Elizabeth during the early to mid ’00s that featured mostly housemusic.
Techno has almost from the beginning been a source of inspiration forÂ me. Ernie Deaks, a local DJ who had gained some notice after moving toÂ Portugal in the early 2000s, was a huge influence over my taste. ErnieÂ in his prime matches up against any superstar DJ I’ve seen. ThroughÂ Cloudfactory andÂ Friends n’ Family I was exposed toÂ Andy W., Sho, MayaÂ 13, Greg Sandler, Ethan Miller and with those DJs they brought meÂ towards the more heady mixes that took skilled DJs to produce amazingÂ sets. Lots of people can beat match, but through techno the great onesÂ did a lot more than blend the records. That extra level of turntableÂ skills was an important draw.
What kinds of skills do you come to expect from a DJ and what doÂ you look for when you book your events? Is it more the DJ’s skill,Â their ability to promote themselves, their established reputation, orÂ a little bit of all of that?
I don’t look at the ability to promote themselves at all. I can doÂ all the promotion. Skill, sound, and following are all things thatÂ first pull me in. I go out quite a bit. I listen to the sets and theÂ time slots they get booked for. It’s quite often that I hear a DJÂ booked for the wrong time in the night or an artist that I feel isÂ under appreciated by other promoters. We have a strong contingency ofÂ Midwesterners that bring a lot of different influences. We’re lucky inÂ SF that so many people move here from all over the world. We get toÂ hear again the influences through these DJs and producers what theyÂ first heard in warehouses across the Midwest.
You have been traditionally known as an underground event promoter, why haven’t you just gone into a club and taken over? SurelyÂ ASR has a bit of a following.
I’m only interested in producing intimate events. Most of theÂ clubs in San Francisco do not allow for that opportunity. Recently IÂ organized a going away party at my favorite club in San Francisco,Â 222 Hyde. At some point in the future I’d be interested in doing an eventÂ at 222, if the situation was right for me and the club owner. 222 is truly a special place, with the best club sound system in SF and theÂ best intimate club environment for me and my friends.
What was the first “As you Like it?” Why specifically that name?
The first “As You Like It” was in December 2000, withÂ DJ Rush asÂ our headliner. I always understood you needed to sprinkle the best ofÂ the Bay Area djs from collectives and production companies along withÂ the out of town guests. That night Ethan Miller from Fn’F,Â Plateshifter from the Overworld, Andy W. from Viberation andÂ Cloudfactory, and Elias Smith from Vehicle played.
This was my first all techno influenced event and was named after aÂ Claude Young mixtape I bought in Los Angeles the previous summer. I’dÂ found a DJ Rush mixtape at Trance n’ Jungle Factory that blew my mind.
MP3s were starting to grow in popularity around that time and IÂ tracked down as many DJ Rush sets as possible. His controlled chaosÂ was something I’d never heard before. Rush jacked, but at the time IÂ didn’t even know what jackin’ was. Jackin’ is a unique trait to musicÂ that can be found in both Chicago house and techno producers.
The reason we named the party “As You Like It” was mostly ego andÂ secondly to push us in our production. If we were going to tell theÂ audience we knew how they liked it, we better come correct and produceÂ it how they like it. I was growing confident in my line-up,Â organizational and promotion skills, but really I also knew I had aÂ team around me that was damn good at what we did. We’d built somethingÂ special and loved working together.
I was there at that first AYLI party, DJ Rush beat me to a pulpÂ :) Â Why have you chosen to largely represent the SF minimal tech-houseÂ scene rather than the harder techno you were largely known for in theÂ past?
I grew out of the harder techno sounds in the mid-’00s. I stillÂ have an appreciation for some of the harder sounds, Marco Carola andÂ Drumcell in particular both played excellent sets at theÂ Movement Festival in Detroit this year. But the harder edges of techno don’tÂ drive me anymore. They can still be showcased, but under the rightÂ situation and not just because. Each artist I select plays a veryÂ important role both musically and for the direction I want to take myÂ events. Some day, hopefully within the next year, I’d love to bringÂ Drumcell back to the Bay Area. I think he’s doing very importantÂ things right now.
What do you think is different about the people and ideas in theÂ SF today scene as opposed to when you started throwing parties in theÂ bay?
The people and the music matured. I walked into a scene that wasÂ built on a mutual love for techno, minimal and Â deeper house.Â [KONTROL] and later Auralism played a huge role in building thisÂ scene. [KONTROL] by being at the forefront of new sounds and bringingÂ the best DJs and artists to SF and Auralism by giving local artists aÂ medium to release their creations. Â The [KONTROL], Auralism and on aÂ different tip, Dirty Bird Records deserve all the credit in the worldÂ in bringing techno and these styles of house into a more prominent roleÂ in San Francisco.
You can hear it in the sets by Galen and Solar, long some of the bestÂ house DJs in SF. Now you can hear a more techno influence in theirÂ sets and line-ups. The headliners at the coming Sunset Campout areÂ DanÂ Curtin,Â Stacey Pullen andÂ Konrad Black, all techno luminaries. YearsÂ ago the headliners would have been more house influenced.
There are still parties in the Bay Area that community is the biggestÂ motivator. I’m not saying that the current techno scene isn’t aÂ community, because it clearly is, but a shared taste in music is whatÂ pulled us together. I still find community based events, my roots, toÂ be very important to further expand and open ears to new sounds, butÂ right now emerging sounds are my biggest influences.
Would you say on the whole, SF scene has become more tech-centricÂ whereas in the past SF was primarily known as a house town? Or is itÂ that we’ve come to a point where people are feeding off of each otherÂ more freely than they’ve done in the past?
I think the techno in SF that’s exploded is another shade of houseÂ music. It’s really not that far from the nights that were successfulÂ years ago thrown by Staple. Sure there is bigger “techno techno”Â scene, but that comes with finding the music through tech-house.
Tonight I saw Vessel, a club hardly known for real techno, go ape shitÂ for Chris Liebing. It really was a great experience to see how far SanÂ Francisco has come since 2000 when I brought DJ Rush.
You have a really deep understanding of how the underground worksÂ in the bay area, in your opinion, what are the different factions ofÂ the bay area underground scene trying to coexist at this time?
I wouldn’t call them factions. I think more than anything they’reÂ communities that have different influences, mostly social and variedÂ tastes in music. It’s still possible to bring many of them togetherÂ through an understanding of what drives them to an event. One problemÂ is that many events become too focused on sound, driving away anotherÂ community. If you build a nights music around the best the Bay AreaÂ has to offer, you can see, like we did at our party last weekend,Â they’ll all come out. It’s a matter of pushing the preconceivedÂ boundaries that line-ups must include x,y, and z to be correct.
Before your moving to to ‘Com#’ to do regular ASR events, the firstÂ ASR gig you did after moving back from the midwest was at Otherworld. What was your feeling at the time and why did you choose to bring outÂ Robert Hood to the Otherworld?
Robert Hood is known as the “Godfather of Minimal,” and when IÂ heard he’d never been to San Francisco, I was just flabbergasted. HowÂ could this be? How could someone who played such a major role inÂ building creating the sounds that most influenced SF had never beenÂ here. The Otherworld is a very special place that has played a bigÂ role in my roots. The people that live, the sounds that have beenÂ played there, the memories I have because of those experiences. It wasÂ important to me to bring ASR back together for a family reunion andÂ the Otherworld was the only place I considered doing it.
Who do you see in SF as really shaking things up and driving theÂ direction of SF techno/ Tech-house?
JB: Right now, besides the obvious names surrounding [KONTROL], I’dÂ say the name to watch out for isÂ Christina Chatfield. That woman isÂ going places. She has releases out onÂ Klectik Records and more comingÂ out for [Brian] Kage andÂ [Luke] Hess’ Beretta Grey. She’s playing inÂ Chicago next month, and both Detroit and New York in September. She’s got a great sound and presence. I’m proud that she’s committed to fourÂ As You Like It parties yearly. I wish we could have her at everyÂ event, but really, she’s a live act and you can’t expect that to beÂ easy to create so quickly. Plus, she has a day job. I just hope sheÂ stays in San Francisco for years to come.
I totally agree Christina Chatfield really has the verve and alsoÂ the hearts of the community at present. Do you think that is becauseÂ she mostly plays live and why do you feel like it’s important toÂ represent live PA’s at your events now as opposed to where that sortÂ of thing has been mostly unheard of 5-10 years ago?
I think Christina really has a sound and energy that is perfectÂ for San Francisco. Her tech-house connects really well with the houseÂ of yesteryear and the music that Pacific Sound has been pushingÂ recently. She hit the nail on the head directly and the LIVE PA aspectÂ is an added benefit.
LIVE sets have always been a part of the SF techno scene.Â Sutekh,Â KitÂ Clayton,Â Twerk andÂ Safety Scissors all had live sets or liveÂ influenced sets. The problem with most live sets has always been howÂ dance floor friendly they are. These sets are often more experimentalÂ and it’s only recently that I’m hearing more dance floor friendly LIVEÂ sets. San Francisco is lucky we have so many of them. Last January IÂ threw an all LIVE party that featuredÂ Gold Code, Moniker,Â Jason Short, Mutor,Â Sutekh and Christina Chatfield.
Where do you see the scene headed in the next few years?
Right now, house music and deeper shades of techno are the biggestÂ influences. Where it’s going, honestly, I don’t know. I don’t pretendÂ to be a prognosticator or producer. I do my best to try to stay as farÂ ahead along the curve as possible. But I learn things all the timeÂ from friends of mine about music and culture. I just hope to beÂ involved and a player in what happens for years to come.
What’s next For ASR? any further plans in the works? what’s yourÂ next event?
ASR’s last party is coming up in September. We’ll be celebratingÂ our 13 year anniversary with a two room event in the East Bay. You’llÂ be hearing about it soon enough, but we’re bringing Detroit legendÂ Daniel Bell who was a big motivator in my re-immersion into the danceÂ scene and DVS1 from Minneapolis is making his California debut, off Klockworks, Transmat and Timefog.
After the anniversary party, ASR is coming to an end. It was always aÂ group of friends that loved producing events together. Right now it’sÂ just me left from the previous group and it feels strange using theÂ name further. You’ll see a change in our line-ups slightly and moreÂ drive toward different types of events. “As You Like It”Â (www.ayli-sf.com) will continue on and the company is in the processÂ of being built now. I don’t plan on only throwing parties with “As You Like It.” It’s going to be a top-to-bottom event production. Use myÂ skill set for other types of events.