Music In Conversation
Lauren Flax is the kind of person that people crowd around because she’s a shining light—there’s no other way to describe her. She’ll tell you she’s just a person, she’ll talk like she has no idea how talented she is, but secretly she’s some kind of Brooklyn Seraphim. I met her in 2002 at a house party in Boston through a mutual friend of ours who, as I’m writing this, is in jail for ripping out the sink at the Levee in Bushwick during a drunken rage last night. It’s been a long seven years for all of us, and Lauren, more than anybody else, has bloomed into the person she might have become. Her single “You’ve Changed” featuring Australia’s Sia (who has worked with Beck, recorded songs for Six Feet Under, and recently appeared on Letterman) was released at the end of March.
Lauren has been a DJ for ten years, though she says she only started to take it seriously three years ago (very humble, considering that she had a remix on a Le Tigre comp back in 2002). When she let me into her house recently to talk about her new single, I was having a bit of a rough month. We ended talking about old times, about the way things are and where they’re going. When she opened the door, the movie March of the Penguins was playing via projector onto a wall in her loft, and I knew my instincts were right. Homegirl is by default just who she is—a truly great kid. She let me begin at the beginning like we didn’t know each other at all.
B-Squad (Rail): Why don’t we start with how you got into electronic music?
Flax: I was born in Detroit, home of techno, so I think when I kind of came into my own in high school, I was listening to a lot of industrial and Front 242. I graduated and started taking guitar lessons, and all my friends started to DJ, and I started going to parties (raves). I was seventeen. This club called Motor, which was like the only club in Detroit, it had the biggest best DJs in the world, so everybody would go there and hear all the best electronic music when I was too young to get into clubs.
Rail: Did you always know that you wanted to be a DJ?
Flax: No, I never took DJ’ing seriously until maybe three years ago. It’s all about production, it’s all about the music you put out. You can be a DJ forever, but you’re not going to be a successful DJ unless you’re putting out amazing records and amazing remixes. So I was like, “I’ll DJ, and this is fun, but I’m not taking it too serious. I need to learn how to produce.”
Rail: How did the Le Tigre remix come about?
Flax: You know Reid Speed? She’s been my friend for many years, and Le Tigre approached her because they were like, “My favorite DJ!” And Reid was like, “You really should do something,” so she sneakily got me all the parts of the songs and I sat in my room and cranked out two remixes. I worked on the first one for twelve hours and I worked on this remix which was a techno-ish piece of shit that I don’t have anymore, and I overnighted that one in the hopes that they would pick it. Then the next day I started working on “Much Finer,” and it just clicked for me that I was getting the instrumentation right, and in twelve more hours I had it done.
Rail: Sia, “You’ve Changed”—what’s the deal?
Flax: She’s pretty big worldwide. She’s a superstar in Australia. If people have ever seen Six Feet Under [they’ve heard her music]; she worked with Beck, her record came out, she’s on tour now. Everything that goes on in the world seems to happen around friendship right now. So I wrote the song and I sent it to her, and she liked it a lot and said she wanted to do it, and I was like, “Holy shit!” So she came to my house, and in twenty minutes—she wrote the lyrics in five minutes, and we recorded all the vocals in twenty minutes. So she came over, banged it out, and I spent the next four hours editing it down and went from there. She nailed it.
Rail: You did a remix of Telepathe, who I love. Talk to me about collaborating with local Brooklyn.
Flax: That’s what Telepathe is to me. Melissa lived across the street from me, and I’ve loved her music since the first time I heard it a couple of years ago. They asked me to do a remix, and it totally became my world for four days. They gave me the a capella, and I didn’t even listen to the music around it. I just took the a capella, which is what I normally do.
Rail: Let’s talk about the “Hug Life” tattoos. What is that about?
Flax: “Hug Life” started between me and Nikki Sneakers on a bus to Philly. We wanted to get “Hug Life” with a heart on the middle of our fingers [half on each finger], so when we put our fingers together our heart becomes full. And we realized if more people got them we could connect our hearts together, and it kind of grew. It’s a good message.
Rail: How many people have them now?
Flax: I know at some point there were thirty, but I have no idea how many people now. The more the merrier.
Rail: Coming from the punk/DIY scene also, it’s interesting to me that you’re into house, which has a stigma of being so much more commercial.
Flax: I play what I love. I don’t think that house music is underground anymore at all.
Rail: Do you feel more productive inspiration-wise now, too? You seem so much more positive as a person now—the new single is even called “You’ve Changed.” How do you maintain that kind of positivity as an artist?
Flax: You start with yourself. It’s like, if you’re not a positive person, other people aren’t going to make you positive; you need to figure that out first. I wasn’t always like this; I had to figure out my own problems before I could actually come to terms with the way I am now.
Rail: Do you dance? Remember that “DJs aren’t supposed to dance.”
Flax: DJs should be sweating as much as people on the dance floor, I’m constantly dancing.
B-Squad is a retired party kid. This article is in Memory of Craig Murphy, who was killed on his bicycle on Union Ave. a year ago last October, friend to Flax, Squad, and everyone else. A good dude is missed.
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