Techno-Trip 008: Joel West

Techno-Trip 008: Joel West

Joel West has been on opening support for international touring talent like Layton Giordani, MSTRKRFT, MAEDON, D-Unity, Spartaque, Dave Angel, Gene Farris, Ardalan, Kevin & Dantiez Saunderson, DJ Heather, and others in venues such as Vantek, Open Studios, MIA, Gorgomish, The Beaumont Studios, The Hifi Club, and more. Joel has played multiple times at Shambhala, Electric Love Festival, Festivus, and FozzyFest. In 2018, Joel played Melkweg in Amsterdam during ADE.

With upcoming releases on Unity, Space Kraft, and Groundwerk, and has released music on Kneaded Pains, Coincidence, Space Kraft, No Match, Superfreq, Groundwerk, Kiko, Play, Air Texture, RF, East Van Digital, Nuevadark, Cuete, and Woodwork.

We caught up with Joel for an exclusive Interview and Mix for Trip...

Joel West

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to share a mix for our Trip Presents Series, we love it. Where was it recorded, could you share what set up you use for your DJ/Live performance?

Thank you for inviting me to mix for you! The mix was recorded at Northern Haus Studios in the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver, Canada. I used the studio’s 2 x CDJ-3000’s and a Pioneer V10 mixer. And of course my own lovely AIAIAI TMA-2 headphones.

Can you tell us a little about how your passion for and connection to techno came about?

I have always had a smattering of techno in my sets even back in my vinyl house days, but it has become my sole focus in my sets and production in the last few years, especially since a trip to Europe and ADE in 2018.

I am lucky to have two of my favourite techno producers as best friends and signed to my label as well, that being The GOAT and Son Of Magnus. We send each other pretty much everything new we produce, and having that tight-knit accountability group just helps fuel the techno fire. I am in love with the energy, BPM range, and sonic palette.

If you had to describe your DJ’ing style in just three words what would they be?

Dark, Sweaty, and Fun.

Your Label, Groundwerk could you tell us how that came about and what was the idea behind starting it?

Groundwerk started as a monthly meetup for electronic music producers in Vancouver, Canada, in 2015. Since then we have held over 60 monthly meetups and premiered over 1500+ new songs live in the room. The meetups average 40-90 people each month. We have thrown our own events, brought in headliners like Layton Giordani, Mike Dehnert, and Joey Beltram, among others.

It made sense to start a label after realizing we were basically A&Ring a demo process each month, and there was so much quality music coming through. The decision to niche down to techno-only followed my own interest and evolution as a performer and artist, and the need to give a consistent sound to the label’s output.

Who have been your biggest influences in terms of your sound and style behind the decks?

I will always point back to my friends and label mates The GOAT and Son Of Magnus. Other artists that currently influence me are DJ Dextro, Marcal, Axel Karakasis, Lindsey Herbert, Pfirter, Dense & Pika, Vinicius Honorio, Truncate, and so many others.

What have been some of the highlights or funniest memories from the parties you have thrown or played at so far on your journey?

The friendships and relationships that evolve out of meeting people face to face, especially those you look up to.

Opening for MSTRKRFT and becoming friends with Jesse Keeler after he joined me for a surprise B2B at Gorgomish after hours after the main show, having him do a remix for my label.

Flying to Sofia, Bulgaria, to attend a Drumcode stadium rave and befriending Alex (Dense & Pika) and ending up on their label Kneaded Pains.

Opening for D-Unity at Vantek and then releasing two of my favourite tracks with his Unity label.

One of my most vivid memories was from years ago in Toronto at The Drake Hotel…

I had just finished a 5-hr set there during TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and as I was leaving in the wee hours I noticed the then-governor general of Canada exiting beside me with her bodyguard.

As we landed on the street we all came face to face with a visceral scene right out of a movie: on top of a yellow cab, a “lady of the night” had completely disrobed and was in the process of tearing off the taxi’s light-up roof sign and bashing it against the roof of the cab.

She was clearly having a rough night. The juxtaposition of the high-class, cool affair and it’s VIP attendees brushing up against the raw, naked, angry energy of the quickly gentrifying neighbourhood struck me to the core and stays with me to this day.

You are throwing your dream event or party. What is the line-up, where in the world is it and who is attending?

Before the show we go out for tacos and margaritas. Then: an old warehouse space. A too-large sound system. A strobe light. An all-nighter.

At some point The GOAT and I play a 3-hr B2B. Son Of Magnus closes. Any of the artists I’ve mentioned in this interview would be welcome on the bill.

The attendees are people who love to dance all night to music they’ve never heard before. Many of them travelled a long way to be at this show. They have intention and a hunger for raw techno.

We leave when the sun’s up.

After the show we go out for tacos and margaritas.

Can you tell us three producers or DJs you have your eye on for the coming year?

Lindsey Herbert, The GOAT, Son Of Magnus.

Have you any sound advice for new DJs/Producers just starting out?

I’d tell you what Richie Hawtin told me during a masterclass in Calgary at the National Music Centre: find people where you live that are on the same mission as you, do a lot of work with them, and only “move to Berlin” when you are already spending too much time on the plane.

I would also say collaborate as much as possible, even a little outside your main genre: I’ve really enjoyed studio sessions this past year with Bryn Liedl, Techoma, Cameron St Denis, Eddie Santini, The GOAT, Kevin Humphrey, Raul Vargas, Son Of Magnus, and others. I learn a lot from others. Always be willing to learn, no matter how good you get.

Finally, what is on the horizon for Joel West in 2023?

I’m moving to Budapest this fall to be more accessible to my main market, Europe. I have a few releases still to drop including one on my own Groundwerk label that has a Vinicius Honorio rework included.

I’m constantly writing new music. I’m looking forward to going to ADE again and connecting with folks there with an eye on creating the next several years’ opportunities. Always learning. Onward and upward. See you on the dancefloor.

Go give me a follow on IG to keep up with the story: @joelwestmusic

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