A friend snapped a picture during my set at the 2017 SXSW Music Festival where my lips are pursed, my hands are hovering over the gear… encapsulating that whatever track was playing, boy I was feeling it!
It was in fact the first DJ Aakmael song I had come across and a super deep one, hence my body language in the picture. Big hypnotizing tribal drums, a wicked bassline and sensual pads are what made it stand out and from there I dug into Aakmael’s catalog to find a slew of deep house paired with hard hitting beats. I also discovered he’s a fantastic DJ too! From his first release on a Chicago label, to cracking the top 20 of Traxsource Deep House Artists last year, DJ Aakmael is slowly, steadily making his mark on the lexicon of house.
How did you get your start in music? Who were some of your earliest influences and mentors?
I got started in music in the fifth grade, playing instruments ranging from clarinet, to tenor sax, baritone horn, valve trombone and lastly tuba. Also through those years I DJ’d hip hop, R&B, reggae and house at clubs and parties.
My house music career started in 2004 when I called multiple labels to “Listen to my demo”, and finally landed with Bumpin’ City Records from Chicago! After that, I continued releasing music under my Label Unxpozd and many others.
Some of my influences would include The Art of Noise, Mantronix, John Coltrane, Electro-funk groups, ’70s music and before, way too many to think of.
Would you say you’re a DJ first or a producer, or somewhere in the middle?
Honestly somewhere in the middle. I’m a creative person, so there’s times when I need to create music and build tracks, and there are times when the tables start calling me to come back to them. But either/or – creativity is a must!
Did I see that you completed your first overseas tour last year? How was that experience and were there any memorable moments?
Yes, played in Budapest and Berlin. It was an intoxicating experience, and honestly the entire trip was memorable (shout out to the crews both in Hungary and Germany for taking care of me!)
Also 2017 #20 Deep House Artist for Traxsource! How does that feel?
Haha, it was very cool! I mean, I was honored that there are some who feel my music, and I’m happy to continue to create as long as there is breath in me!
I tend to gravitate toward producers who have roots in making hip hop and I’m always curious what do you think is that attraction to cross genres with house? Does having that foundation add something extra when it comes to making house tracks?
For me the attraction is that they are one and the same. Like during the hip house era in the late ’80s, it was very easy to hear rapping on house tracks. You had opportunities to share with non-house music people that actually liked it for the rap element. House is simply up-tempo hip hop and R&B, and they complement each other well in the spectrum.
For production, it most definitely adds something extra from a creative standpoint. From creating both, it has opened my mind up for many other ideas – trying House techniques for Hip Hop and vice-versa. I think it allows you to be much more open in your approach.
What does it take for you say, ok this track is done?
For me it takes a certain feeling, and until I feel that… it’s not done. I have unfinished tracks from years ago that I visit from time to time and gather ideas. Sometimes it just isn’t the right time and you have to sit on it, forget about it. But saying that, I also don’t like to overproduce a track either. It has to be just “right”, and sometimes that means removing elements from the track in order to gain clarity. This may cause you to want to change the sounds of drums or other things, potentially taking you down a new path for an entirely different sound.
Tell us about your label Unxpozd. What’s the vision and what’s the current status?
My original vision for Unxpozd was to be able to give exposure to artists that don’t have it. What it’s turned into, has been an outlet for my own releases. I’ve had demos sent to me through the years and have heard some really good stuff, but nothing has prompted me to do any signings as of yet. Currently Unxpozd has been on a slight hiatus since 2015, as I have been releasing music and doing remixes on other really great labels. I plan on releasing a new limited pressing project on Unxpozd this year!
You’ve had releases on great labels like Freerange, Scissor & Thread, and Poker Flat. Talk a little about establishing these relationships, maintaining them and who do you look to work with in the future?
Well, each one of these labels are great! They reached out to me via FB for the most part, and I was pleased to hear they enjoyed my sounds. I then stayed in contact with Jimpster and Steve Bug, we spoke about industry stuff, gigs, music, etc., and still speak with them every now and again. Frances and I met online as well, then met in person at TBA – Brooklyn where I was spinning that night, and we’ve become really cool on DJing and production. You may hear something from us in the near future.
In the future, I’m down to work with any artist that takes their craft as serious as I. I’ve had some inquiries but will remain silent on that for now.
If you could pass on anything you’ve learned to the next generation what would it be?
Three things: Contracts (protect ya’self!), Save It or Lose It (always SAVE when you’re working in your DAW or producing a track. Get used to smashing ctrl-S), and Network, Network, Network!
How has this year been so far and what can we look forward to from you as we enter the dog days of summer?
This year has been busy so far music-wise, I have some gigs coming up in NC and possibly a Japan/Korean tour later this year.