Assuredly one of the most up and coming heads in the West Coast to date, Justin Pennell aka Milkplant is possibly the one to watch as one of the West Coast’s rising stars. His label, From 0-1 is starting to garner a following amid the international techno community as a true West Coast techno phenomenon. Very pleased to have producer, Milkplant in this recent offering for DEFSF.com’s interviews. As one of the key players in the Northwest scene, Milkplant has recently stepped up his production schedule after moving to Oakland and has been releasing a string of remixes that are definitely no joke. DEF stops up the busy producer, DJ and From 0-1 label owner to ask a few questions….
You grew up in the Midwest and made your way out to Seattle then eventually Oakland. Describe what was the reason for moving out here originally and why you have chosen to make the East Bay your home today.
I’m not sure if you’ve spent any time in the Midwest but the attitudes of the general populace are remarkably conservative and somewhat difficult to deal with, it’s a bit depressing sometimes. I always saw the West Coast as a utopian escape of sorts, from what I considered a restricting environment for creativity. That, and I absolutely hated the winters. I prefer the sun and palms trees, and relaxed attitudes. The standard of living out here is higher. I love it.
Can you say what influences led you to techno initially and who still inspires you to DJ and make tracks today?
I’d say being into Punk Rock and Industrial at an early age had a large impact on me. When I was a kid growing up outside of Milwaukee if you were into punk you were probably into techno to a certain extent as well. I was an angry kid and into anything dissident and loud. When I discovered techno I considered it the height of dissidence. In regards to current inspiration- I have been into stuff a lot of underground producers on the West Coast have been doing lately… a lot of artists I work with… The Automatic Message, Sone, Let’s Go Outside, John Massey, Cyanwave, Aaron Nesbit, Ctrl Alt Dlt, and Jonny Romero’s mad theramin skills. I think it’s the people I work with that inspire me most but outside of my crew; producers like Drumcell, Audio Injection, & Bryan Zentz are a few guys that show how potent American Techno can be. That’s inspiring to see. There are many more that I’m not even mentioning, American Techno is on a huge rise right now. I think this next decade we’ll witness immense growth.
Your label From 0-1 features a lot of artists from the West Coast. Is this something that you’ve chosen to do or do you see the label encompassing more than just the west?
I’ve chosen to because they’re all amazing producers and happen to be good friends as well. The West Coast has a lot to offer when it comes to raw talent, really only a matter of time before it blows up in my opinion. Droid obviously has a major roll in regional exposure, they’ve almost singlehandedly brought a lot of attention to this area of the world paving the way for other artists and labels to become exposed. But we do work with artists from other areas of the world as well, just not as frequently. We’ve had artists work with us from Estonia, Finland, Japan, Berlin, Pittsburgh, and Michigan as well.
Who in the West Coast do you see as really stirring things up as far is techno is concerned at the moment?
I think Drumcell, and Audio Injection are no brainers. Bryan Zentz in Portland of course, Let’s Go Outside as well. The Automatic Message from Vancouver just produced a video for Tommy Four Seven’s new album on Chris Liebing’s label, CLR in Berlin. They’re a multimedia duo, extremely talented, close friends of mine. Here in the Bay Area Rodrigo Quinonez and Simon Moore are starting to really get some cool stuff up and running. Excited to see where it goes. Tons of other artists as well, some of whom I’ve already mentioned, some of whom I haven’t met yet. I’m also working on my debut full length album slated for release on From 0-1 fall of this year which I’m stoked about.
What do you look for most when looking to release a track for your label? Do you have any specific sound in mind?
Dark, moody, tough, weird, unique, not trendy, anything that has an attitude and an edge usually works for me. Historically we’ve had a fairly wide range in terms of the style of tracks we’ve released, but within the next year you’ll probably start noticing that the type of tracks we release will be decidedly more ‘techno’.
What are your favorite tracks off your label right now?
How long have you been doing your podcast and what was the main inspiration for starting it?
Funny thing is that it only recently became a podcast. We started it as a mix archive in the spring of 2008, so three strong years thus far. We used to invite artists into our Seattle studio to do the recording (hence the name), but with my moving, and our expansion into the international realm that became impossible. We just wanted to use it as a platform to expose a lot of amazing talent from the Northwest not getting recognized by the larger global techno community. It’s since turned into “just another podcast”, but it’s a little different in that you can go to our site and check out the archive and listen to how techno has evolved over the years.
You produce tracks as well and you are definitely no slouch when it comes to banging out techno. Can you share what sort of tools and workflow you use in the studio to make your music?
I will be the first to admit, my workflow in the studio is odd. It doesn’t make sense much from a traditional engineering standpoint, but as an artist it works. I rarely use a controller when working on tracks, only when I absolutely need to. I don’t exactly know why but I think it’s simply because I haven’t found one that would make sense to incorporate into my flow. As far as tools- I am a hardware and a software guy. I try to keep a relative balance. Lately though (since moving to CA), I have admittedly been using way more software due to the fact that I have limited space right now. Software- Ableton, Reaktor, Battery, AraldFX DKS Pro, Arturia Moog Modular, Minimoog, & CS-80; Waves SSL 4000, Abbey Road Studios Chandler Limiter/Compressor & Brilliance pack amongst many more… Hardware- Dave Smith Mono Evolver, Roland SH-201, Roland SH-101, Arp Odyssey Mark 1, Allen & Heath System 8 console, Avalon vt-737, Alesis Qverb II, Moog MF-101, Redsound BPM FX Pro, etc…
Where would you like your music to be heading in the near future? do you foresee any radical shifts in techno as we’ve seen over the last decade?
I’ve been working on several projects with Moe Espinoza (Drumcell) in LA the past year or so. I can’t say too much right now other than basically there’s going to be a new outlet for more experimental techno on the West Coast very soon and we’re both hoping to see a radical shift in how people define the genre. Stylistically, I have been producing a lot more experimental techno tracks over the past year or so. I’m definitely trying to redefine what is possible in a techno track for myself, and for others. Techno really got stale there for awhile, and I think people have really started to buck under it. I was thinking about a year ago that techno would begin taking a major shift. At that time most tracks coming out had the same shuffle, the same dry percussion, and the same white noise hiss (the trance drumroll of techno as my good friend Jon would say). Over the years you notice trends and patterns in the way techno evolves and it is usually at the point when it seems like everything sounds the same that it all breaks down and begins to change. Xhin came along a little while back with his radical sound, Stroboscopic Artefakts got big, then Tommy Four Seven put out his latest album on CLR. These are all genre defining moments in my opinion. Techno will likely continue to become more free form and avant-garde in this next phase. Equally though, I am enjoying the comeback of the harder techno sound. This is the stuff I started with in the late 90’s and definitely has a place in my heart. When I’m not going for an experimental sound, I’m usually making harder tracks.
This last one’s random.. If there would be the most radically awesome thing to happen to you techno wise, what it be and why?
I think it’s pretty simple for me. I am just working to get to the point where I can make a living off my music. That’s the pie in the sky for most producers. I’m not trying to be a rockstar, I just want to make music that challenges people to open their minds and ponder their existence while flailing wildly on a dancefloor. If I can accomplish these two things effectively then in my opinion, “I’ve made it”.