Ah, to be a fabulous DJ, jetting to exotic locales, rolling out of bed after noon, and getting paid to play records for hordes of adoring fans. Isn't it a glamorous life? “Yeah, in the air,” says a good-humored Pete Moss, one of the fastest-rising talents of Philadelphia's house-music scene. “I'm sleep deprived all the time,” he laughs, polishing off a Starbucks caffeine injection.
During the past ten years, the native New Englander has earned the right to tell it like it is. While honing his DJ skills, Moss worked as the house buyer at Boston Beat Imports and played to strung-out ravers at one-off parties, frequently during 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. slots. Since migrating to Philly, Moss's reputation has exploded because of his consistently tight deep-house sets that are soulful enough for the purists yet banging enough for the dancers.
“I like superdeep things with very saturated chords and keyboards, but they can lose their thump and be worse for the dance floor,” Moss explains. “Something has to protrude; it needs to be driven. With a really in-tune crowd, you can get away with that deep stuff, but for the most part, when you DJ anywhere, you have to keep it moving.”
According to the house heads who frequent his Steady Saturday residence at the Fluid nightclub, situated in the depths of the Illadelph bohemia, Moss can get as deep as he wants. “A place like Fluid is cool,” he says, “because it's more intimate. You can play deeper stuff and people still move. In bigger venues, they want to hear more energetic stuff. It's as simple as that. Believe me, I tried for years to get around it.”
Worldwide, Moss's burgeoning popularity is due in no small part to his breakthrough as a producer. He often prefers working on tracks in his home studio to hopping continents for DJ gigs. That work ethic has resulted in many 12-inches for labels such as Ovum, Definity, Earthtones, Greyhound, and Siesta and for his own label, Recline Records. When I met Moss for some vinyl scavenging, he was neck-deep in producing his first album for Alola, a division of Glasgow Underground.
Although Moss rarely shops for records these days and does not belong to a record pool (labels keep him stocked through the mail), he chose to drop in on his friends at 611 Records for some browsing. The shop resides in the same building as Ovum Recordings and is only a short record toss from Fluid. Moss's latest Ovum single, the hypnotic house chugger “In Your Head”/“What We Had,” as well as his remix of the Rurals' “Window Pain” on 611's own imprint, Society Hill, are prominently displayed; he is definitely in his element.
Confessing that he usually takes about three to four seconds to examine a record before saying yay or nay, Moss humors me with longer listens. “I may miss stuff like that, but you get better at it,” he says. “You know where to look in the grooves for the breakdown. Does a carpenter still sit in the hardware store for eight hours to buy a hammer after he's been doing it for ten years? I doubt it.”
Here's what Pete Moss was feeling enough to add to his collection:
Cassady featuring Staci
Esho is a house label out of New York City. Sean Thomas, Moss's partner at Fluid, was rocking this track on CD-R prior to the vinyl release.
Sounds great on 45, but I'll put it on 33. There's a kind of funky Wurlitzer-keyboard thing going on. Awesome female vocal, really good percussion. It's just a perfect, deep, vocal record. It's the classic formula that progresses with a start, middle, and end. There's a great breakdown, the vocal is tight, and the music is excellent. Although it's a deep record, it will still have people dancing and doesn't lose the energy. Then you have the dub mix with very heavy pads and a little more breaky feel. It's not a breakbeat, but it's not as 4/4 driven. It's more like the percussion drives the swing of it. The flip is a really deep mix with heavy chords. There are short little lead blurps, like a Moog. I like the first cut on the other side the best because it retains the energy, but at the same time it's really deep.
“Café Sol (Para Carolina)”
Central Park Recordings, based in — surprise — New York City, is distributed by Satellite Records. Carl Michaels, another popular Philadelphia house DJ, has been playing this as well.
This is pretty original sounding. I wouldn't say it's disco-y or jazzy, but it has a live element going on. I definitely like the B-side better. There's more to the intro. There are bits where it's mostly drums and a little “bip” that brings it all together every four beats. There's a good bouncy groove. Then you have your very low kick drum. It's very percussion oriented, not really kick-drum driven. You hear a lot of that type of style in Spiritual Life, Joe Claussell, Kerri Chandler, and people like that. I like this kind of feel-good stuff, and it's Latin influenced. This gets people totally rocking, no matter where you are in the world. If I had a whole crateful of Latin-influenced, up-tempo party stuff, it would never end. People love it no matter where you go.
Horchata remixed by DJ M3
“Tater Tot (You Don't See Me)”
Green Gorilla Recordings
DJ M3's monthly Green Gorilla Lounge club night in San Francisco spawned Green Gorilla Recordings two years ago. “Tater Tot” is the house label's third release.
This was just given to me by [611 employee] Will Putney. I have no idea who did it or where it came from. If you can't check out stuff like that once in a while, you're going to miss out on a lot. This first mix is excellent. There are some good funk-guitar riffs going on. Swooshes and big cymbals and transitional sounds throughout the measures keep it building progressively. Then it breaks down to a repeating vocal. It's not a full vocal by any means. It's like three phrases that repeat and build out of the breakdown. You have your wind sounds and the whole nine yards. Then the vocal comes back, keyboard stabs come in, another breakdown. That's a perfect example of a rocking West Coast party record. It's pretty moving and dancey yet not out of control. I was in San Francisco last Saturday — they love stuff like that. The B-side has a full-on break with a radio filter on a guy's voice. This is a bit too funky for me, but it's still good.
Eclectic Brits Inland Knights produce the first release for Vista, an offshoot of Chicago label Large. Moss also released his “Deep Desires” 12-inch on Large.
This is cool. It has a nice flute loop going on. It sounds maybe like 125 bpm, your typical mid-tempo. I'd have to play this at, like, +5 to keep up. But this has a good groove. It has a cool live-bass type of bass line, but it sounds like it's probably sampled. It's pretty rocking. You have your Chicago-y track on the B-side, kind of a shuffle. Then a 303 analog bass line, but it's probably not an actual 303. This would be good for earlier in the evening. It's, for the most part, just beats, and then it has a male harmonized Latin vocal toward the end of it. This is definitely a winner. It's a perfect example of a track I would play at Fluid, because it doesn't need to be a mammoth record. It's just soul. It's the stuff that moves me the most, but sometimes you show up at a club or a party and clearly you need to come a little heavier.
Tech-house stalwarts Nail deliver two tracks for Derrick Carter and Luke Solomon's U.K. imprint, Classic, which Moss pronounces a “surefire” label.
This is excellent. Whispery male vocal, cool, bellish keyboard stabs — very light and refreshing. Super groove going on that goes into some raspy pads. The kick drum is distorted but has little static on it, which is very cool. It's just bugged out as a whole. This is like the blueprint for the Classic label. It's kind of techy, a little out there, but pretty driving. Good stuff for the middle of the night. They're not trying to do it the easy way; they push it a little. Sometimes it can go over people's heads. The flip side is a loopy track with a repeating disco loop. Good, quick, choppy analog bass line. This is a winner right here.
Native New Yorkers
“Can't Let You Go”
Old-school label Gossip has been around for years as a prominent part of the Strictly Rhythm stable in New York. It is now on its own as Gossip Lounge.
The word lounge is usually used to describe deep music. If this were just a Gossip release, I would guess it would be very hard, New Yorky stuff with screaming diva breakdowns, like Gossip used to do. But this is kind of like a Naked Music vibe. There's a female effected vocal, but not the vocoder thing — more like an EQ parameter. Keyboard stabs, all kinds of fluttery flutters going on. I like this.
“The South Beach Banger”
Glasgow Underground releases a record from the voice of Daft Punk's “One More Time” Romanthony, who is also a veteran producer. Moss recently remixed Romanthony's classic “Trust” for Downtown 161 Records.
Romanthony is either genius or crap. He'll do something that will completely blow you away, like, “Holy shit!” Then he'll put out something a week later that he probably recorded eight years ago and just got signed — you're like, “What happened?” But I definitely respect him as an artist. This is a good, techy loop with piercing open hi-hats. A great acidy bass line comes in and a really snappy, whiplash type of loop is going on: wow-jinka-wow-jinka-wow. One of those jobs but really groovy. It has a snare roll, though; that's a no-go for me but this is good, so I guess I'll eat my words. I thought this was going to suck just by the way the cover looks. If it came from the States, you'd be, like, “Yikes,” because there's not too much artwork to it; it's kind of bare-bones. That doesn't mean it's a bad record, but in the States sometimes you relate that with bad pressings and audio. The B-side is basically the same thing minus the bass line. It's cool. I like it.
611 South Fourth St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
tel. (215) 413-9100
Check out www.ovumrecordings.com for more info on Pete Moss.