Based in LA but with a sound that’s firmly rooted in European house and techno, Saturn Drive is a label making a keen start to life courtesy of some very impressive records. Helmed by Alain de Saracho, the label is one that does the simple things right, with great artwork, a fierce DIY aesthetic and of course, killer music at the heart of its undoubted appeal. Merely a few releases in, the label is already turning heads thanks to timeless sounding cuts by friends of the label such as Christian Bukhardt & Daniel Roth, Lauhaus and Federico Molinari.
Indeed, de Saracho is a man who’s been at the forefront of LA’s active underground scene for some time, and alongside Saturn Drive, he runs another similarly space-influenced label, Out of Orbit, with that one showcasing a more indie/dance crossover sound. An undoubtedly eclectic individual, his own recent production, Electric Koolaid, also came backed with a remix by none other than iO (Mulen). With so much going on, we thought it a good time to put some questions his way…
How would you describe what you do to someone you’ve never met?
Simply put, I’m a dj/producer and run 2 record labels: Saturn Drive and Out Of Orbit.
Let’s start by talking a bit about your native Los Angeles. The city seems to be really enjoying a renaissance of sorts when it comes to house and techno these days. What do you attribute this to?
Agreed, I think a combination of factors have helped the scene flourish in the last few years.
Credit must be given to the hard work and great curation of local promoters. I think the explosion of EDM in the mainstream has exposed many new audiences to dance music, which has trickled down to the underground. Slowly, dance music is becoming a part of general nightlife culture in LA, and the US, which previously was heavily dominated by hip hop, pop, and rock.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in establishing yourself over there? How did you overcome them?
Although the scene has grown in the last few years, underground dance music events are still mostly specific to illegal warehouses and a few clubs with a specific style and booking circuit. It’s hard to break through to these events as a DJ, unless you’re part of the “crew”, and even then, you have to wait patiently for your turn to be booked.
I spent some years living in Europe where it is common for DJs to have weekly residencies; I always found this important for DJs to develop their craft and sound. This has been difficult to find and achieve in LA as it is not so much a part of the nightlife culture in the underground.
My way of tackling these issues has been to put on my own label nights at local bars around town such as: The Lash, Gold Diggers, and Grand Master Recorder. This strategy has brought its own set of challenges; mainly that house music isn’t particularly the go to sound in the dance music scene at large. It has been challenging to keep artistic integrity in my dj sets while remaining digestible for the mixed audience. It has felt limiting at times but this has also pushed me to be more dynamic and creative in my music selection.
You’ve ran some great parties recently, featuring the likes of Federico Molinari, Politics of Dancing and more. Can you talk us through them and how they went?
Yes, I had these two great artists, labelmates, and friends come through! These warehouse parties were a great way to showcase the vision of the label. Although the response was very good, I personally find organising warehouse events from the ground up very energy consuming. I prefer to spend my time working on music production, djing, and my labels; but I do plan on continuing to put on these bigger label shows, periodically, partnering with other established event promoters.
Who are some of the promoters and artists we should be watching out for in LA right now? Essentially, if we’d a weekend to spend partying and record shopping there, what would we recommend we get up to?
Dialogue (Also cool record shop), Midnight Lovers, and Lights Down Low are my go to for warehouse parties on the bigger side. Stellar Remnant is another great record shop.
I’ve been playing a lot at new Hollywood after hours spots, Spankys & Calico, with my bud Lucaz; which has been fun and promising for the development of the house music scene in Hollywood.
For LA based artists, I have to plug my recent remix collaboration with “Warbly Jets” on my label, Out of Orbit, who are reimagining their previously more brit-pop sound and going a direction more reminiscent of Soulwax/Chemical Brothers; with amazing 3-D visual mapping to go with their live act, exciting stuff. Also, our next release on OOO will be from my dark disco, Madchester vibey brotha “Lord Fascinator” and will feature remixes by Simple Symmetry, WJ’s, and myself.
In the house music scene, I would keep an eye on Connar Mikami who has been consistent in putting together solid events and releasing interesting jams.
The artwork on your latest release is really striking, and is clearly something you’re very conscious of. Can you talk us through some of the designs and who’s responsible?
The art direction behind Saturn Drive is inspired by Neo-Psychedelic artwork such as Tame Impala album covers and the artwork from the LA based psyche rock festival, Desert Daze. The musical aesthetic of the label leans to the trippier side of house music, which I feel makes these inspirations suiting.
This particular design was created by Jules from Warbly Jets.
You also drafted in iO (Mulen), a long-time favourite of ours, and a producer whose sound we really, really dig. Why was he the perfect fit to remix the release? And what did you make of what he did with Electric Koolaide?
Honestly, I think iO (Mulen) would do a great job with any track. He has his own style and groove that never lets down. The original is slower and more spaced out, I think he did a great job of beefing it up with a more percussive drive, while maintaining the original tripped out concept.
Let’s rewind a bit and chat about Saturn Drive. What’s in a name? And what prompted you to start a label in the first place?
I took the name from an Alan Vega (From the band Suicide) track and found it fitting to describe the musical direction of the label; a combination of spaced out musical elements with driving house grooves.
I started the label for a couple reasons, first because of my friendship with Frankfurt, Germany native, Meat. We share a love for house music that comes from that region which is the scene he grew up in. I thought it would be interesting to push this sound, with his help, in my side of the world.
I’m also a big fan of psychedelic music in general and of banging house music; I think the combination of these elements is worth pushing. Another reason is to put out my own music without comprising timelines and musical direction.
You also run Out of Orbit, a label with a similar space/galactic theme. How do the labels differ? And how do you decide what goes where?
The galactic theme ties them together in that they are siblings but nothing else. I started Out Of Orbit to explore diverse musical styles without having to fit into a particular niche (as the name infers). While Saturn Drive leans more into dancey, trippy house, “OOO ” navigates more freely between various genres such as: Post Punk, Industrial, Electro, Disco, House , Dark Disco. The main concept of OOO is to cross genres by pairing eclectic, band leaning, singles with diverse dance music remixers. The vibrant band scene in LA makes for a good base for this concept.
Are there other labels that you look to as particularly inspirational? What makes them great do you think?
For Saturn Drive, my main source of inspiration is 2000’s German label, Oslo Records. I discovered this label and fell in love with the infectious grooves around the time I met my labelmate, Meat; who happened to be close with those involved in the label. Saturn Drive is in a way fueled by the spirit of this label; we share a lot of the same roster, namely label heads: Federico Molinari & Nekes.
My main source of inspiration for Out Of Orbit is 80’s/90’s Manchester labels: Factory/Creation Records. I love how they mixed different rock-leaning genres with acid house, particularly Andrew Weatherall’s work with Primal Scream.
You’ve had Federico (who we mentioned earlier) on the label alongside Lauhaus, Christian Burkhardt and more. Would you say your tastes are mainly European in that way? Or will you incorporate US acts in there soon also?
I would say my taste is mostly influenced by the European scene but I do have a lot of North America based producers on board for upcoming releases: Sakro, Louie Fresco, Cris Herrera, Jesusdapnk, Sonoma (MX), Mejia, and Federico Daiup.
Does pushing vinyl to a (mainly) European market from the US come with its own challenges?
Yes, although Saturn Drive is pressed and distributed in Germany, it’s limiting to not be able to have more label showcases to promote in Europe. It’s also challenging to promote the label in the US, considering our target market is in Europe.
What do you see as your most important role in music: as a label head, DJ, producer or promoter? Or do you treat them all like one job, basically?
I would say they’re all important. For me, the core is djing; it is the front line in expressing the passion for the music directly to the audience. It’s also gratifying for me to provide a platform to curate different artists and push towards impacting music culture via my labels. Producing, I would say, is my most personal long term goal. As I hone in my skills and vision, I hope to inspire others creatively and bring unique experiences to the dance floors.
I mentioned this being a ‘job’. Does it feel like that for you? Or is it always genuinely a labour of love?
It’s both but there are definitely times I need a break but have previously committed to dj sets I must see through; this can be exhausting. There are also times I’m not in the mood to deal with the mundane processes of running my labels and producing, in these moments it feels like a job.
What else have you got coming up – musically and personally – that you’re really excited about right now?
I’m happy be to currently touring Europe to promote my latest single “Electric Koolaide”. I just had a couple great shows at Yellowhouse in Amsterdam with labelmate, Lauhaus, and at Macarena Club in Barcelona with upcoming Saturn Drive artists, Sarabar. I’m really excited to release Sarabar’s debut album next year on SD, which will also be the first full length album released on the label. I would describe their vision as a housier version of Kraftwerk with a live act that will evoke the German collective, visually and sonically.
I’m also soon to release my debut EP on Saturn Drive titles “Acid Love” with a groovy remix by my brother Politics of Dancing and Djebali!
Currently, I’m working on a single from my new solo side project “Echoes from the Future” (which will be more band oriented: Post Punk, Industrial, Shoegaze) for Velvet Bikini Records, but that is a whole different conversation…
Check out the premiere we’ve ran of Alain’s latest track, the awesome ‘Electric Koolaide’… on our Soundcloud channel.