Naeem and Gusto of Detour (Pittsburgh) mix the fourth installment of A 5 Mag Mix, 5 Magazine’s DJ Mix and Interview series.
I try to keep in tune with what’s happening in the American underground. More and more often, that means keeping in tune with what’s happening in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is the home of Pittsburgh Track Authority, Chase Smith and now two more DJs and producers worthy of your attention: Naeem and Gusto, hailing from a crew that coalesced around the radio station at Carnegie Mellon University, called Detour (Facebook | SoundCloud | Bandcamp)
Detour has released two outstanding records, the first a compilation featuring a number of those emerging Pittsburgh artists and the second devoted solely to Naeem & Gusto’s burgeoning production. I wrote about both of ’em, and I loved both of ’em.
To get in on the ground floor or as close as we can get to it, we asked the guys to follow in the path of Kool Vibe, Zernell and Parris Mitchell and take the reins of A 5 Mag Mix, our new mix and interview series.
And it went like this:
So let’s start with the basics. How long have you guys been making music? Can you give me a bit of background on yourselves?
Naeem: I still feel that I am somewhat of newcomer to making making music. Actually making music came out of DJing more than a desire to outright make music, but I do in generally enjoy creating things. My interest in DJing came about after joining local radio station WRCT, although actively doing it did not manifest until 3 years later. Overall I have been DJing for about 3 years now and I would say the music making aspect came in about a year later.
Gusto: I guess I started making music around the same time as Naeem, a little over 2 years ago. A close friend of ours had hooked us up with Logic and was like “here, now you have no excuses.” After that it’s just been a long journey of just picking up tricks here and there and learning from other Pittsburgh musicians like PTA. I’ve been listening to house/techno since I was a kid but it has only been within the past 5 years or so that I’ve become completely obsessed with it. Going to every electronic/house/techno show in Pittsburgh, just taking in all the different sounds and listening to every transition… I became addicted to listening and playing music, let alone creating it.
Detour has had a couple of great releases now – you had the B side on the first record and all of the second record. What can you tell me about this label? I had no idea who made it or where it came from – just picked the first one up at random at the store and liked it so much I had to write about it.
Gusto: Detour started when a handful of DJs from WRCT (the radio station at Carnegie Mellon University) came together and decided we didn’t want to just throw house parties anymore, but instead bring artists we really wanted to hear play to Pittsburgh. So we created Detour and started booking artist for our parties. Eventually we got so engulfed in the scene that not only were we booking artists for our parties but other groups were booking us for their events. At that point we just kept on pushing to see how far we could take this and eventually decided to start a record label. A lot of it has just been us taking opportunities as they arise and rolling with the punches.
Naeem: Like Gusto said, the label came out of the parties that we were doing. Our first Detour party was in September of 2012 but we didn’t start thinking about creating a label until early 2013. The initial goal was to put out records with tracks from people we knew. Additionally, at that point Gusto and I had been trying to make tracks for a little while and were happy with some of the things we had made (although in hindsight, those thoughts might have been premature). Ultimately, we were still learning how to make tracks and put them together on a record.
The weird thing is that after I wrote about Detour 002, I found out that two or three people I know also bought this record before I ever published it, and none of them seemed to know anything about who made it either. Is this thing just grinding away steadily? Most records these days seem to come and go VERY quickly.
Naeem: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has been a grind, I like to think that we have made a real effort to put ourselves and our records in the right places. A lot of this has been thanks to help and advice from peers on how some things are done. That is not to say that we haven’t put in any leg work, but it’s definitely good to have friends.
Gusto: It’s definitely has been a learning experience for us and in that sense, yeah, it feels like we are grinding away steadily. At the same time, we have our hands in a lot of cookie jars and its hard to just focus on one. We still throw parties. We have a weekly radio show where we showcase a lot of local artists, both DJs and live performances. We still DJ out and have a healthy social life. So a lot of it has to do with going at our own pace and doing everything we enjoy doing as Detour.
I’ve been writing a tremendous amount about Pittsburgh lately, simply based upon the quantity and quality of records and new artists coming from there. I’ve found the people are incredibly grounded and chill. Am I buying a load of hype or is this shit for real?
Naeem: Its pretty real! Based on the size of Pittsburgh it is sometimes feels like a family. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking around and bumped into another promoter or DJ I know. Detour has only been around for roughly 2 and half years, but there are people who have been DJing, doing live sets, producing, and promoting for 10-20 years now. It is really amazing to have this range, because there are people/groups like us who are pretty much just starting out but also the older people/groups who have an abundance of knowledge and experience. But the most amazing thing is that for the most part everyone gets along! Like any family we sometimes bump heads, but in the end it’s always about throwing a good event, putting out a good release, or playing a good set.
Gusto: The Pittsburgh scene is small, but at the same time it’s one of the strongest I’ve ever scene. Like Naeem said, it’s more like a family than anything else. We work together to to get shit done and make things more interesting for everyone. Take VIA and Humanaut for example. If it wasn’t for them paving the way and giving us advice, I don’t think Detour would exist.
Some people write tracks and it’s simply because they have some cool beats, a nice groove, a rare sample they found. Is that what writing music is for you or is there an element of songwriting in it?
Naeem: As I mentioned before I still feel like somewhat of a newcomer to the process of writing tracks and I’m currently focusing on just making in any way I can. I’m little by little trying to push myself into thinking about what purpose this or that track could serve, meaning whether this is something to play out and if so at what point during a set or show would it be good to play it. On the other hand, is this just something I want to sit down and listen to as I go about my day.
Gusto: For me it all depends on the mood i’m in. This might sound corny but more than anything I just try to make something that brings out some kind emotion when I listen to it, whether it’s frustration, relief, anger, anything — but that’s easier said than done.
What can you tell me about the mix you’ve put together for us? This is a dual set. How often do you DJ together? Is this kind of like co-stars in a popular movie and as a fan I’m just forcing a friendship where there isn’t one?
Naeem: We actually DJ together pretty often. Before Detour started I did sets with A.P. (another Detour crew member) a lot. I’m not sure if it has been the production aspect or what, but Gusto and I began doing joint sets sometime in 2013. I’m big on testing things out beforehand to get an idea of what the other person is thinking about playing. At first we did that a lot. We still do that now, but have grown to have an idea of what tracks the other might play. Although, we do throw each other curve balls from time to time.
The set has a mix of a few local artists with some other tracks that I’ve been really excited about lately. As I mentioned earlier Pittsburgh has a wealth of artists both new and experienced, so I just wanted to showcase at least a little slice of that.
Gusto: Like Naeem said, we’ve been asked to DJ together so many times that we’ve gotten used to the idea. I think we play well together and it’s been a great way to grow as a DJ. As for the mix, I just kind of had fun with it, played some of my favorite tracks, some of which I play out all the time and some I never play out at all. It was really nice to be able to play them together in the same set.