With his Deep Tech Los Angeles label, Jason Trevor Miller is at the heart of a thriving local scene
Born and raised in Chicago, these days Jason Trevor Miller resides in the City of Angels. And with his Deep Tech Los Angeles label, which launched in April 2019, he's helping to put the city on the international house music map.
There's always been an underground dance music scene in Los Angeles, of course. But if you say "west coast house," most people are probably more likely to think of San Francisco and its world-conquering deep and soulful house labels like Naked, Om, Salted and Transport, or perhaps San Diego, home to the West Coast Weekender, than they are of Los Angeles.
Now, though, DTLA and a clutch of other labels such as Desert Hearts and Understated are establishing a house sound of LA's own – one that sits somewhere between tech-house, deep tech and the more melodic 'playa tech' touted by Lee Burridge's All Day I Dream et al. And Jason and DTLA have certainly got a lot going on right now, what with a new livestream series that starts tomorrow night (Friday 5 June), a new compilation album and a new Redux Saints single (A.S.R collab All Night) just released on Roger Sanchez's Stealth Records.
So here's the man himself to tell us all about it…
Your new single All Night has just dropped, so tell us about that! It's a collaboration with Malaysian producer A.S.R – how did the two of you come to hook up?
"Ali and I meet several years ago in a previous role I held with another label. Over the course of several years we would bounce ideas off one another and give each other feedback on tracks. Then we worked on a project for Shanghaied Records in 2019, where we both did remixes for Sonickraft. The release did extremely well and during that time we agreed we would do the collaboration together."
The single's coming on Stealth Records – how come you didn't want to release it on DTLA? It's noticeably a bit more house-y and a bit less tech-y than your last single Suckin' Up, was that a factor?
"For me, the vibe of vocal leads you to the style of the track. In this case the vocals were soulful, but a bit softer than what I would typically use in a tech-house track. I’m originally from Chicago and I love house music, so when opportunity presented itself as a house idea, I ran with it."
Rewinding a bit now, where did the name Redux Saints come from? After all, there's only one of you… has that ever caused any confusion or hilarious misunderstandings?
"Well, when I first started Redux Saints it was a duo. However, that didn’t last very long due to us not being on the same page regarding our goals. So people do get confused with Saints being plural, but I can say with 100 percent confidence that Redux Saints is one person, and that person is me.
"As for the name… I met my wife in New Orleans, and it was her who originally suggested 'saints', but I didn’t like her other suggestion (I hope she’s not reading this) to put something like 'marching' in front of it. Then one day I was gazing at Ableton stock plug-ins and I was like, 'What the hell does this Redux plug-in do?'
"I actually still don’t know exactly what it does, except that it adds a bit of grit to your audio samples. But after saying 'this sounds cool', and then remembering a marketing class that said anything that ends in 'X' tends to do well in markets, I researched the definition and found out the meaning of 'redux', which is 'brought back' or 'revived'. My thought then was that that applied to me, because learning music for me was the fulfillment (creative side) I was missing in my life, and it was bringing me back to where I needed/wanted to be."
You were a graduate of the Toolroom Academy, I believe – how important has that been in getting you where you are today, do you think?
"Toolroom Academy was essential for me progressing forward as a music producer and label owner. I graduated from Icon Collective here in Los Angeles at the end of 2016, but felt I needed more education to reach my aspirations and goals.
"When I first saw the Toolroom Academy program back in 2017 on their website, I didn’t believe it was real, as there really wasn’t anything like that available at the time. But after meeting with the Toolroom team, I enrolled in their master program.
"A lot of people admire Toolroom for their music. However, I’m most impressed by how they run and have sustained their business over 15 plus years in an unforgiving industry. I learned not only tech-house production but also how to brand, run a compilation, the A&R process. etc. So to say my education from the team in Maidstone has shaped me as the producer/label owner that I am today would be an understatement!"
You've got a series of livestreams called Loft Party about to launch… so tell us a bit about that?
"I live in a loft in downtown Los Angeles that has seriously thick concrete walls, and I've always said to myself, 'This would be a fantastic place to do a Boiler Room-style party'. But due to the circumstances of the pandemic, the Boiler Room idea is temporarily on the back burner, and replaced with a live stream party concept.
"Since March, my label partner and myself have been studying how DJs have been live streaming during lockdown: observing and taking notes on what works and what doesn’t. We invested in some HDMI splitter equipment (Roland V-8HD) and I'm really looking forward to making it an experience vs just seeing me dropping tracks ad smiling into the camera.
"The party is called Deep Tech Loft Party and we're doing it monthly, starting on 5 June from 9pm-10.30pm PST. Once we’re able to go out clubbing again, DJs that come into town will be invited to stop by before their gigs to drop a quick set."
And there's a summer Lockdown Sessions compilation coming in June as well, is that right?
"Yes, usually we do our annual Ibiza compilation for the opening parties, but we decided to go with a more fitting compilation title for the times, so now it's Lockdown Sessions.
"I have my pandemic theme song Stay Home! which has had some massive support so far. We also have five new additions to the Deep Tech Los Angeles family dropping some fire, such as Tone Troy, Husko, JollyJ, Kristone (UK) and good buddy Shayne Fontaine, who I collabed with on my last Toolroom release."
Speaking of the DTLA family… there's something of a tech-house backlash going on in the UK at the minute, but I'm led to believe that in LA that's not the case, and that the scene where you are is thriving?
"It’s common when something becomes popular or mainstream that more people are trying to emulate the sound, which leads to more quantity rather than quality. However, our goal is to put out quality so I’m not sure the backlash is applicable to what we are achieving. We’re looking to set or raise the bar for any genre we are promoting."
So what other Los Angeles tech-house/deep tech artists, labels and clubs should I be looking out for?
"Lots of positive vibes here around the underground house scene in Los Angeles. Labels like Desert Hearts, Slightly Sizzled and Understated are three that come to mind who are highlighting the underground sounds of Los Angeles and doing it in proper style. It's harder to say about clubs right now, because we’ve been in lockdown since mid-March. But 6AM group throws some very cool techno warehouse parties."
Traditionally, LA has been more associated with gangster rap and hair metal than with dance music… do you think the current tech-house/deep tech wave could change that?
"Well, the concept of Deep Tech Los Angeles was that the city of Los Angeles was going through a development metamorphism, and in parallel so was the music scene. But one thing I want to be clear about is that underground music has been here for years. This isn’t something new. It’s just getting a bit more notice and approval from my perspective as Los Angeles is full of super-talented producers and DJs. I’m glad to be able to help shed light on the City of Angeles and its scene."
Finally, what else is going on for you at the moment that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I've got a new release coming on DTLA in June called Stay Home!. It’s already received some major support from DJ Chus, Gorgon City, and Seb Fontaine to name a few. And I just signed a track to Don't Blink’s label Low Celing, which will be out 10 July. They are one to keep an eye on as they’ve been having massive success, release after release. I’m also doing a remix for my buddy Brotech for Deeplomatic.
"And one super-important event is that I have a haircut appointment this week. It'll be the first one since March, so I'm super-excited to get my ear and nose hair trimmed!"
Words: Russell Deeks