Q&A and Premiere: Tunnel Releases “Rave / Movement” Double EP on Webuildmachines

Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
February 23, 2017

Q&A and Premiere: Tunnel Releases “Rave / Movement” Double EP on Webuildmachines

Tunnel is a Chicago producer, DJ, label-head and Noisefloor party curator that has been sculpting a new wave of techno in Chicago — a city best known for its house music roots and legacy.

Unlike many other DJ and live acts, Tunnel exclusively performs his own original material or that of the ever-growing electronic music label he launched in 2013, Webuildmachines. The imprint has been the home of some fantastic releases, with support and high praise from established members of the techno community the likes of  Paula Temple, Dave Clarke, Surgeon, Ben Sims, Tommy Four Seven, drumcell, Electric Indigo, and Claude Young. A Tunnel original track was also featured on Richie Hawtin’s Essential Mix recorded live at Exchange in Los Angeles last year.

It is on his label that Tunnel is set to release a double EP comprised of eight originals and two remixes. Rave / Movement‘s composition blends elements of sub-bass, intricate abstractions and ragged rhythms, forming two distinctive yet complete packages that truly showcase the strength of Webuildmachine’s techno soundscapes. You can pre-order Rave / Movement here ahead of its March 15th release.

On top of premiering three original tracks and a remix by Perkussus from Rave / Movement, we also took the chance to talk with Tunnel in depth about the release, his personal story, the techno scene in Chicago and more.

Thank you for giving us the chance to premiere these four tracks from the forthcoming double EP!  Can you tell us why you decided to name it Rave / Movement?

First of all, thank you for taking an interest in the material and offering myself, and the label, Webuildmachines, a chance to share the work. So, speaking to your question, the concept of “Rave” and “Movement” both have multiple meanings. Of course a rave, as an event, can be the social / communal / party that most of us know and love. To rave, the act of dancing and partying within a rave, also applies. But ‘to rave’ can also refer to a kind of delirious anger, which befits our current political climate in the US I’d say. I enjoy words, and language, that lends itself to multiple meanings. Movement can mean dance, the crowd, or even the festival in Detroit that’s become a yearly church for many of us. It can also mean a politically-minded collective. Again, Movement, like Rave, has multiple meanings, all of which speak to where I am conceptually with this release.

How did you discover electronic music? Did you used to go to “old-school raves”?

My introduction to electronic music happened quite young, actually. But to be honest I didn’t take note of the childhood connection until recently. My good friend Anthony Jimenez (Blank Code, Webuildmachines) asked about the first time I remember being ‘moved’ by a piece of music. For me it’s a very clear memory. Vangelis. Chariots of Fire soundtrack. Age 5 or so. I remember the energy and power of the music vividly. Listening to it now, it strikes me as a bit overly dramatic. I guess my musical tastes have evolved since I was five years old! Thank God. But, I suppose from that moment I was intrigued by synthesized sound and sound itself became, for lack of a better term, a creative medium.

Fast forward a few years, and my friend Peter Salzman introduced me to a mixtape by Hyperactive in the mid-90’s. The world of dance music came crashing through my metal/punk/grunge years, musically speaking. The excitement and mystery of the unknown sound, the obscure innovation, was exciting to me then and still is. And yes! I went to more than a few ‘old-school raves’! The art and culture of that time continues to extend itself through most of what we hear today in dance music, no doubt.

What does the word “rave” mean to you now, in 2017?

Rave to me, personally, means nearly the same thing as it always has. It means communal ritual and creativity. It means sharing a collective energy of exploration and discovery. I always hope I’m going to hear something that’s pushing boundaries a bit, extending the art form beyond the expected, the routine, the tried and true formulas. Rave to me is an opportunity to experience creative freedom, and to do so in a collective way.

What can we find in your studio in terms of hardware and software?

I don’t have much in my studio, outside of Ableton software and few pieces of kit. I don’t own anything fancy. No modular gear. I have a few guitar pedals and a synthesizer or two. I decided pretty early on that I wanted to treat music creation like a painter. I wanted to be able to pull out my sketchbook, wherever I was. I wanted to be able to travel light, and create anywhere. I didn’t want to get too ‘precious’ with the environment within which I could create. I also never had the money to buy gear when I started producing music, so I learned on what I could get, which was software.

I love working with hardware, don’t get me wrong! The palette of sounds that come out of hardware can be textural, and beautiful, and one of kind. The process itself is tactile and fun. Everything is a tool for creativity. I find I can find my way towards interesting results using hardware, or software, or samples. The best ‘gear’ within any studio is the desire to create.

Talk us through the double EP, how did you select which tracks would be on it?

A handful of these tracks, “The Gathering,” “Strangers and Lovers,” and “Give It,” were created last year and tested at different performances I had. Given the schedule of releases on Webuildmachines, there just wasn’t a good moment to release the material until now. The others have been works in progress until recently. Spirit Axis was finished in a day just this month. So, all in all, this material encompasses nearly half a year of my creative interests and production. When I had the material curated down to the final 12 tracks or so, I sent private links out to a handful of friends across the musical spectrum to get their thoughts and feedback. A few hit the cutting room floor as a result. I think the EP, like my album Emergence last year, covers a pretty wide spectrum of moods and emotions.

Are they individual moments of their own or do they fit and flow with one another?

I think, again, there’s range in this body of work. I can literally see playing each and every track at a different point of the evening and I arranged the EP as such. The EP builds in tone and emotion over time, the final track of the night “Give It” just has this incredible positive, high-level energy. “Everything Ends” is for that sunrise walk back to the train, or car, or wherever you’re headed once the warehouse doors open again and the sun creeps back over the horizon. It’s an EP designed for the many moments that create a rave, at least a rave according to Tunnel. (laughs)

You released an EP, “Broken Politics” last year in November with an overt political theme. Do you see club culture as an escape from the world or inherently political?

Wow. where to begin with this one! Club culture, and rave culture, are inherently political in their escapism! We go to the club, or the rave, or the party, wherever…to reclaim our humanity. Take away diversity, take away a liberal world-view, take away creativity and art, and well…you don’t have a club, you don’t have a rave, you don’t really have a society worth living in, in my opinion. So, innately, within the very fabric of club culture, and Rave culture, you have counterculture, you have people reclaiming their own personal narratives, which is inherently political – especially in our current mainstream political environment. I do believe that the community found through music is soul food. It’s not everything we need, but without it, we’d be less than.

You launched your own label, Webuildmachines, in 2013. How are you liking the adventure as head of a label?

I love having a label! I love curating material and sharing work from artists that really excites me – whether those artists are from Chicago, Berlin, Bogotá, or Tokyo. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some really talented and amazing artists. Aleja Sanchez’s EP, “Order from Choas” was an incredibly subtle and emotive piece of work. Wk[es] from Tokyo just released his EP, “Chronos,” and I can say that it is, without a doubt, a state of the art creation. Eexxppoann from Seoul is doing amazing things, not only with his music, but his creative community in Seoul. Anthony Jimenez’ track, “Blackground” was the soundtrack for Movement’s first promo of the year. When a festival like Movement selects music from your little aspirational label, it makes you feel like you’re doing something right for once! I feel like I’m giving back to this music, giving back to techno and electronic music culture, with Webuildmachines. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. “Rave/Movement” marks our 30th release. There are many more artists to mention on the Webuildmachines roster, so please, explore their work at our site!

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Releases from Webuildmachines have received support from a lot of heavyweights in the international techno world. What do you look for in a track that may potentially be released through your imprint?

The only criteria I have for Webuildmachines material is: Is it exciting? Is it interesting? Is it emotive?

If it fits any or all of those categories, it’s probably getting released. Of course, it’s being graded through my filter, and my tastes tend towards the experimental, the exploratory, and a hunger to hear something new. But I try to just stay open-minded about the material that we’ll release. I don’t want the label to get painted into a corner creatively. The last release by Wk[es] was very dark, very broken, very detailed. My release has a huge range of moods and emotions. The next release might be DJ tools. Whatever it is, it just needs to be well done. When a new Webuildmachines release hits your inbox, I just want you to be curious. Expect the unexpected, so to speak.

You’re based in Chicago, a wonderful city of electronic music but one with heavier focus on house than techno. How is the techno scene there?

It’s an incredibly exciting time, actually! Like any music scene, it really tends to revolve around who is doing what and where. I’m thankful for the Noisefloor crew that came together this past year – Josh Moseley from Chicago Jaxxx, Mark Galvan aka Therblig, Komprezzor of SecreTechno fame, Frank Payne aka Franktronic, Mark Angel of Format Recordings, Angel Alanis, and our venue Exit. Together, we’ve been able to provide a night for veteran players and fresh blood. I really wanted a way to get beyond what was ‘marketable,’ ‘niche’, and ‘cool’ and just support local labels and local talent. It’s been a team effort from the beginning, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to play in Chicago without their support and encouragement. Our only rule is that everyone gets a solid lashing on the dance floor! 133BPM plus, thank you very much. I’m sort of kidding…but not really.

What do you feel the techno scene there is missing to take it to the next level?

More openness. I think club owners and talent buyers would be well served to open up their closely guarded inner-circle and promote a wider range of talent. I’m excited by innovation. I’m excited by risk-takers. I don’t think I’m the only one. To take it to the next level, like anything, you have to quit playing it safe.

You also throw monthly Noisefloor showcases in Chicago. How have those been?

We’ve been pushing Noisefloor for a year in May. It’s become my techno community in Chicago, and I’m really thankful for it. We’re seeing new faces and old friends every time. I’ve learned a ton about putting together an event and what’s required to make those successful. It’s growing and it’s great to be a part of it.

You play with a characteristic mask. Was that always the case since you began DJing?

Tunnel is my art project, it’s my gesamtwerk, or total work, as far as dance music and techno projects go. I’ve been DJing, on and off, for nearly 20 years. I was very much mask-free when I started! The reason I wear a mask now, don a costume, and present a very specific aesthetic when I play, is because I want my performance to be completely removed from what people think or feel about me personally. The mask I wear is actually known as an actor’s ‘neutral mask.’ It is a mask worn for training actors, in that the observer sees whatever they choose to see. Is he smiling? Snearing? Consoling? Meditating? About to murder me? Whatever the observer projects onto the mask, and my ‘character,’ well, that’s what it becomes. Wearing a mask also allows me to avoid all of those ‘so cool’ promo head shots. I never need a stylist.

What are some of career goals you have set for yourself?

I just want to keep growing in what I do. I don’t want to plateau – creatively, philosophically, or otherwise. I want the label to keep growing. I want the Tunnel project to keep growing. I’d like to ultimately do much more involved and immersive stage performances. All in due time, I hope.

Which do you prefer, nightclubs or warehouse?

If I had to choose, I’d choose a warehouse every day of the week! But, the club, well, I love the intimacy and the finely-tuned sound. Really, any opportunity to play is a good night out!

What is your favorite Chicago club?

My favorite Chicago club is the one I’m in and enjoying with friends! I’ve been to them all! We’ve been really lucky over the past year or so. There seems to be something worth seeing almost every weekend at one of the clubs. There are afters going most weekend with the 312 Audio Crew. That being said, being out is also time away from the studio and that’s where my priorities lie.

Pre-order Rave / Movement here

Connect with Tunnel: OnlineFacebook | SoundCloud | Beatport

Connect with Webuildmachines: Online | Facebook | SoundCloud | Beatport