One of the first things you notice when you talk to Joseph Manumaleuna is an easy-going way of speaking that belies his DJ name, Hyperactive.

With over twenty years in the business, over a hundred releases and a busy tour schedule, you’d expect an energy level that matches the pace Hyperactive’s living at. As accomplished as he is and as much as he’s contributed to the underground, it’s a testament to his character that he more closely lives up to his nickname, “Brother to the Humble.” I had a chance to get his perspective on a number of different topics, from vinyl to audience differences across the world, for this long-awaited 5 Mag interview.

Do you have any gigs that stick out in your mind?

Madison Square Garden was pretty crazy, a big park rave show. I mean there’s a lot of crazy – there’s just as many underground warehouse raves in comparison to a lot of the clubs that I’ve played around the world that contribute little pieces of time and experiences that all collectively are my prized memories. With different people, conversations, different weird things that have happened in my travels. So you know, it all is relevant. It all has a dear place in my heart, so to speak.

I live for the chase. Chasing what’s going to happen, always hoping for the best, without a doubt.

Before each party I go through this evaluation like, “Alright, what am I feeling, is it somewhere I haven’t been, what is this going to be like, what are the people going to be like?” And I go through this process of feeling out, just kind of envisioning it. “Alright, is this going to be a good party? Is it gonna be wack? Are there going to be people there? Is it going to be dead?” And I do this every party I play. Sometimes I’m dead-on and sometimes I’m surprised and those are always the good ones, when you’re caught off-guard.

I live for the chase. Chasing to see what’s going to happen, always hoping for the best, without a doubt.

How did 4 Track Recordings come about?

Well it started with the first record I had with a P&D deal with UC, which was part of Sony. It was a pressing deal. These guys out of Chicago, they owned the Hip House and they gave me a P&D deal to do this label called Contact.

And then I cooled and I kind of lost interest in it. Just the challenge of the moving, heading west. It was super expensive man, it was kind of a shock. But even before I left Chicago, I knew I was gonna stop Contact. I wanted to just full-on do my own label.

So 4 Track actually started in Chicago, at least the concept and overall design. And then right when I got to Cali, the first releases came out. I felt like I had to keep the momentum going. I wanted an outlet to do more of my own stuff and not focus on other labels.

What’s your process when you’re writing?

I’m always a percussion-first guy. I always build around that, whether it was using traditional outboard gear and analog synths that set if off or whatever I’m using. Now it’s kind of a mix of outboard gear and stuff in a box. It’s always percussion first, though, and then I work on all the accompanying stuff. It’s really that simple. It’s a feeling thing, just like anything with music. I don’t tend to hang onto things that I don’t like or that I’m on the fence about. I just delete ’em and move on.

A lot of people ask me, “Do you have a lot of stuff laying around?” I really don’t. I will keep some unfinished stuff and finish it eventually. I’ve tended to take longer to get stuff done but that’s just because of time more than anything.

It’s a pretty simple formula. I usually will have an idea in my head, I can get it down pretty quickly and I can spend hours on auditioning stuff that’s kinda “in progress.” That’s maybe where my minimalist nature can be to my detriment a bit. Some other people might not be able to stand just sitting in a groove for minutes not really getting anywhere. Some would so say, but that’s just me.

 


 

All praise to DJ Hyperactive: Chicago’s techno godfather is back and he’s on the cover of 5 Mag issue 171 with Red Rack’em, Manuel Tur & more. Help support 5 Mag by becoming a member for just $1 per issue.

 

 

What do you think about the current state of the music industry compared to when you got in?

I don’t get too hung up on the vinyl-versus-digital thing. As a creative person, I worry about the things that I can control and I just hope and pray for things that will keep the fire burning. That means connecting with positive people and – I don’t want to sound corny or cliche, but being involved and being part of things that are gonna inspire me. I’m a social guy, I like to go out and go to parties even when I’m not playing, to support, and be a part of it all. I’ll always be in the middle of that. I spend a lot of time in my social life in that regard around music and family as much as I can.

What are your thoughts on the sound being more ubiquitous than it used to be?

I got mixed emotions on it, really. There’s a lot more of it, but not a lot more great stuff. You have to dig a bit harder right now. I get hammered with promos and I put a lot of time and effort to try to support what is being sent. I think I spend a disproportionate amount of time on that instead of really cratedigging or searching for stuff. It’s definitely out of balance. That, I’m not excited about.

I’m looking for another wave of inspiration, another wave. I’m interested to see how this evolves. Regardless of the genre, it’s always the thrill of the chase to find something great again. That definitely keeps me pushing.

So I’m wondering about Chicago. The majority aren’t playing vinyl anymore. Only a couple of clubs really have the set up to support it anymore, which is sad.

You’ve played to a lot of audiences all over the country and in other countries too, do you have anything that you’ve gleaned from seeing that, any big differences in audiences?

Yeah. In Germany, you don’t hear very many breakdowns, not a lot of idle space and time and beats. And sometimes I feel like I come in and impose my will with a bit longer breakdowns. There’s some emotion I’m usually feeling and I’m trying to translate that. It’s something different, like a different dialect. I don’t mean language-wise, I mean musically and my interpretation of it. So, it’s always interesting to see that.

Do you have any thoughts on Chicago specifically and how things have changed out there over the time you’ve been involved in it, or the scene?

I was just talking recently with someone about vinyl – they made a comment about how much Chicago cares and I’m like, I don’t know man… Getting digital stuff and playing on CDJs or XDJs can be a convenience. I don’t know if I know the music any better than I did when I was playing vinyl and I’ve said this before.

So I’m wondering about Chicago. The majority aren’t playing vinyl anymore. Only a couple of clubs really have the set up to support it anymore, which is sad.

I still feel compelled to buy vinyl. I still have my turntables. In fact, I’ve got a turntable in my car right now, I’m taking it to the shop to get it tuned up.

So you still do vinyl sets?

I still do when I can. That’s the magic word – “can.” What club has turntables? I can only think of a few places for sure – there are two or three that could support it, but really only one that does it sorta regularly. I’m not gonna name names, but people here will know it and they’ll know what I’m talking about.

Party-wise, I don’t know, man, seems like there’s a bigger kinda mainstream scene here, which if fine. I think it exposes to a younger generation a music that – I don’t know what’s on the radio so I’m gonna guess that some of it might be – but if it introduces them somewhere down the road to a different style or genre, I think it serves its purpose. Because I know that when we were playing back in the day, whether it was here or anywhere in the Midwest, a lot of the people would never have heard that stuff if we didn’t do those parties. If raves didn’t happen, a big part of the scene wouldn’t have developed.



So much is different than back in the day. Just the rawness – you don’t feel that anymore. I don’t know if you feel that anywhere. Maybe Europe can speak for themselves. I don’t feel the fire burning as much on the broader scale here.

But I gotta tell you man, I did a gig in Phoenix this past Friday. When I’m talking to promoters, I don’t have this preconceived notion about anyone, who they are or if they’re new school guys or whatever. One of the promoters was still in college, and they were really excited and they felt like they were the underdogs trying to promote this techno culture and scene.

So we got to the first club and it was a decent crowd, a very spirited crowd. We played techno and then we got to the afterparty and they were banging it out and I was like, “Wow! I wasn’t expecting this!” We were gonna play house, and here they were playing at like 145. I was impressed with that. That was nice. /////

Vis a Vis is out now on 4 Track.

✯ ✯ ✯ DJ HYPERACTIVE ✯ ✯ ✯

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Tristan Dominguez has been DJing in New York City for the past 16 years. His popular radio show Oscillations is broadcast all over the world and available on all major podcast outlets. His music has been published on Kynatix, System Recordings, and 3Bridge Digital. In addition to organizing various house music events, he’s worked as a content curator for Satellite Records, operations manager for Sullivan Room events, and is a contributing editor for 5mag Chicago.