Techno producer Modus’ new label, Operandi, has recently launched and with it welcomes a delicious dark techno compilation. Born Joshua Garcia, the Los Angeles-native artist and now label head wasn’t always about the synthesizers, hi-hats or drum machines. Coincidentally enough, “Drum Machine Love,” aptly named, is his featured track on the label’s debut compilation. Before going down the electronic rabbit hold, Josh admits he was more into rock, emo and underground hip-hop. However, that all changed at the ripe age of 20 that all changed. After attending his first rave, he knew it was love at first sound. The rest, as they say, is history.
Congrats on your upcoming release as part of Operandi, a new Los Angeles techno label, debut compilation! You’re one of seven featured tracks. How did you get involved with this project?
Hi there! Thanks for having me, and yes, thanks. I’m excited for the future of Operandi! I actually started the project.
So, what’s behind the meaning of your label Operandi, and also curious, why Modus?
So both those tie together. Have you heard of the phrase “What’s your M.O.?”. Well back in 2011, I didn’t, and I was grabbing lunch with my old friend and ex-roommate, who I hadn’t seen in a year since she moved out. She said, “you’d be happy to know that I live in your M.O. still.” I look at her confused, and ask what does the mean? She’s like, “You know, you’re MO?? You’re Modus Operandi. It’s like your Mode of Operation. The way you operate.” She was referring to our party lifestyle haha.
To give you context, we lived in this insane spot in Hollywood. It was in a strange location with no neighbors and every night and weekend we hosted after-parties. Club sound system, turntables, DJs and lights. We never got a single noise complaint. It was nicknamed the “Compound.”
So when she told me that I was like ah ‘Modus Operandi’….I like that. I’m gonna be Modus Operandi. But all my friends said the name was too long to remember. So I stuck with Modus. And that’s been my DJ name ever since. So I always wanted to tie in Operandi and thought that’d be perfect for the label and the events brand. Stoked on how it came about.
“Drum Machine Love” is your track’s title. Can you share your creative approach to this track. Was this something you started from scratch specifically for the compilation or was it already a work in progress?
To be honest, this track is pretty old! I made it over a year ago when I got my Elektron Analog Rytm. It was the first beat I made on my lovely new machine (hence the title), and I just added the vocal sample and synth pad on top. So simple.
For you, what structure is essential to keep in mind for a good techno track?
I like having long, extended intros and outros, with short looped based grooves and not much going on so it’s easy for the DJ to layer. I like tracks that aren’t busy and perfect for looping and layering. Yet, at the same time, you gotta keep the track interesting. So that’s always a bit the challenge. Keep simple, yet interesting and complex. Love me a good oxymoron.
As mentioned, the compilation features seven songs that highlight each artist’s signature sound and style. Are all of these artists founding members or who is behind Operandi?
So I started Operandi to have more control over my musical direction as well as provide a platform for other artists emerging from Los Angeles. The techno scene is booming here, and as a result, there’s great young talent producing quality tracks. I’ve been in the scene for a bit now and decided it’s time to give back to my community and push local artists I believe in. Let me quickly highlight the artists on the compilation.
First is Stephen Disario, who is excelling at his craft right now, and by far the most consistent and talented techno producer in LA at the moment. He helped me while going through this entire process acting as Operandi’s A&R.
Amnesiac Host creates music all on hardware and has a hammering, stripped back, and powerful style that I love. We actually met at Grounded, a monthly event in Los Angeles. Community supporting community.
“Strength in numbers. We hit various tempos and styles within the genre. There’s something for everyone one on this release” – Modus on Operandi’s Launch & Its Debut Compilation
ERROR is a perfect example of the younger talent to be coming out of our city. His track is big, and prime for peak time in an Insomniac tent once those festivals make their return.
Next, we have our German friends, Allan Feytor and vince weyn. Stephen introduced me to these two, and both have an established discography and impressive list of labels they work with. I’m happy to have them on board and look forward to their future EPs with Operandi. Both their tracks are heaters and received early positive feedback from DJs. It’s important for me to bring artists and their sounds from abroad. Much of my own inspiration comes from my travels and time living out of the country.
Our last signing is Nate Lowpass and Elijah from Salt Lake City. My buddy Gabe Arellano sent me their track and I knew it’d be perfect to wrap up our first comp. Another goal of the label is to spread techno through our artist and through our events. Our style is underrepresented in the States and we will change that. Hopefully, we’ll be bringing a party to Salt Lake City once the lockdown is over.
What inspired the compilation as a debut rather than individual artist EPs?
It just made more sense. Strength in numbers. We hit various tempos and styles within the genre. There’s something for everyone one on this release. Now, each artist can follow up the compilation with their own EP. Let’s just say the compilation is Operandi’s grand introduction to the Ball.
Tell us about the moment you first got hooked onto electronic music.
I wasn’t really into electronic music growing up. I was seriously into punk rock, emo, screamo and underground hip-hop though. In 1999, I got my first drum kit at 10 years old and was hooked on being a musician from that point on. I practiced every night and started my first punk band with neighborhood friends in 2001. I was a bit of a drum whore and played in many bands all the way up into college.
While at school, I attended my first rave in 2007 and after that party, everything changed. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I understood and felt the music in a way I never knew possible. I had one of those “ohhh I get it” moments. It taught me to not judge something you don’t understand.
DJing came first for you, right? With now more than 10 years behind the decks, looking back at your career’s growth, what are some moments that you can now see as stepping stones?
Yea DJing did come first. My journey started in 2007 while living in Barcelona. Even though I wasn’t djing quite yet, this was critical in the development of my style. This is where I fell in love with House and Techno. When I arrived back in LA, I applied for a Guitar Center credit card and bought a sexy pair of pioneer CDJ-800’s plus a DJM-500 mixer off [of] Craigslist.
Next, I started throwing house parties in Westwood. I created a little movement and moved my party to the local bar, BrewCo, in Westwood. The turnout for the party was immense and I did it weekly in 2009. Back in then, I called it BrewCo Electro, I cringe at that name now.
2013 is when things really started to take off and a large part of that was due to me winning one of Insomniac’s first Discovery Projects. Insomniac being the biggest promoter in the states, it established a level of legitimacy to my career. I flew to perform at EDC New York. This is also when my productions started to flourish. It was the first big step. Insomniac then invited me to play at EDC Las Vegas in 2013, 2014 and in 2016. I also played Splash House in 2013 and twice in 2014. In between all the festival dates, I was playing consistently in clubs in California.
“I created a little movement and moved my party to the local bar, BrewCo, in Westwood. The turnout for the party was immense and I did it weekly in 2009.” – Modus on his early beginnings
In April 2014, I launched my podcast Operandi Radio to push my sounds and techno on a weekly basis. This is also the first instance of using Operandi! I’m actually gonna bring this podcast back this year but make it monthly.
Also, in February 2015, I had my first single break the Beatport 100 chart. It was called “Volume On” on Funk’n Deep records. After many years of dreaming about being on the charts, I finally made it! The first time is always special, right?
In 2016, I got to open the CRSSD Mainstage and Nocturnal Mainstage. This was especially cool when I took my dad to Nocturnal w/ me to see what the scene was all about. He absolutely loved it, and had more fun than me or any of my friends haha.
In 2018 and 2019 I started playing more warehouse parties, and definitely started pushing the heavier and faster style of music I like. [I] was still in the opening slot, so I could never go out. That changed when in August 2019, I got to close for Randomer at WORK, and boom I had so much fun during that set. Randomer finished at 155 BPMs, so I casually selected a track at 145 and went from there. It was such a powerful experience. It revitalized my passion again.
Coming off of such a high from previous years, 2016 through 2019 took a different speed. Anything in particular happen?
It’s funny that you say that, because yea, I actually started to get a bit burnt out. I never thought would ever happen, but it does. So many years in the scene can get to you. I also got lucky and was invited to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) in 2016 and thus began my career as an “actor.” I was Taft-Hartleyed because I DJed on the Late Late Show with James Corden and because of that I was allowed to join the union. I’m represented by A3 Artists Agency and started booking tons of commercials. These paid well so naturally my focus kinda shifted towards the entertainment industry. It was so much fun and still is. I just flew to San Fran last January for three days to film a Modelo Especial commercial so be on the lookout soon!
What made you get into producing and how long have you been doing that?
I’ve always loved music and wanted to make a career from it. I thought I was gonna be a big hip-hop producer like Kanye West though. But yea, listening to a lot of underground hip-hop growing up, I became fascinated with producing beats. Throw on top of that my history of drumming, I just felt like this was the natural progression.
Would you say your sound has evolved from when you first started DJing? If so, can you explain how you’ve fine-tuned your sound?
Oh yes, it’s always evolving and changing. It’s definitely gone from house to techno with myself fine-tuning my sound more and more every day. I’m constantly learning more about production, more about music, and more about myself as an individual too. Little by little, I’ve become more satisfied with the music I’m making and relying less on what other people think. Being confident in my original productions has always been a struggle.
“I will keep myself occupied by continuing to produce and build up my label’s catalog. I’m actually a very independent person who is comfortable alone so I oddly enjoy the isolation.” -Modus on COVID-19
We are living in some surreal, sci-fi times with COVID-19 taking bites out of the global economy and impacting industries worldwide. We’re seeing the music industry braving the storm and coming together on a united front to fight its effects.
As an artist who has spent time mastering your craft, in what ways do you want to continue growing? Especially during these times where playing shows has come to a standstill and that can be such a great way to level up for other opportunities.
Yea, it’s pretty crazy. We had to cancel Operandi’s label launch party that was supposed to happen a couple weeks ago due to it. I never imagined I’d see the global economy shut down like this. It’s really sad to see my friends and people I love struggling from this. But I’m confident we will come out stronger from this.
I will keep myself occupied by continuing to produce and build up my label’s catalog. I’m actually a very independent person who is comfortable alone so I oddly enjoy the isolation. I just wish I could do a big night out every once in a while then go back to hibernation.
We take our lives, democracy, and freedom for granted. Hopefully, people will realize our way of life is fragile and needs to be protected. Before the virus, we had another plague in the executive branch whose influence was continuously putting a darkening cloud over our country (and still is). November will be important and we need to do everything we can to take back the country.
How do you define success?
I feel like I’m supposed to say “when I’m completely at peace with where I’m at in life”. I’m a big dreamer though and will probably always be striving towards a new goal or venture. I enjoy it and I am happy with how far I’ve gone in life. I definitely have more to accomplish and am looking forward to the future even if life seems grim right now.
Alternatively, my version of success is when a person comes up to me and tells me my music has moved them, helped them through a troubling time, or simply inspired them to keep going. As Kobe said, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.” That’s success.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to aspiring artists–whether DJ or producer.
It’s a long road. Don’t be too tough on yourself and don’t quit. If you really want it, you’ll put in the hours. Also, be consistent with your content. That will help in the long run.
What can we expect from you in the coming months?
Definitely more staring at the walls while I’m quarantined. We’ll be looking to put out Operandi’s second release in May and hopefully, by then we’ll be able to go outside! The second we are allowed to rave again, I’ll be throwing Operandi’s Launch Party.