DJ Qu (AKA Ramon Lisandro Quezada) didn't start releasing music until the mid-2000s, but the New Jersey native already commands the sort of respect from underground house heads reserved for legends who have been doing it for decades.
That's partly to do with the fact that Qu is by no means a rookie in the house music scene, having first come up as a professional house dancer in the '90s. And it has everything to do with his artistic ethos: staying true to the classic house and techno legacy with a future-thinking edge and maintaining a standard of quality over quantity through his Strength Music label's output.
Ahead of Friday's headlining show at Do Not Sit On The Furniture, Crossfade caught up with Qu to chat about his early dancing days, Strength Music, and the scoop on his new album in the works.
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Crossfade: How did growing up in the New Jersey and in close proximity to New York during the house music explosion shape you as an artist? What can you tell us about your early musical influences during that time?
DJ Qu: Growing up in the New Jersey and New York area pretty much shaped everything about me as an artist. I was able to listen and get inspired by music that was from all over the world without really knowing that the music was from all over the world, as I later discovered that information through digging into the music culture in the Tri-state and wanting to know more.
We've all heard of New York house, but is there such a thing as New Jersey house in your opinion? What do you think characterizes the New Jersey house sound?
The term Jersey house does exist, but New York house is Jersey house and vice versa. A lot of NY-labeled artists are from New Jersey, but get stamped with the NY label for global purposes. The reality is that here in the east coast of the States, house music is a scene more than it is a genre of music. A lot of people think that house is a genre, but I don't agree. Any style of music can have the house name tag, which is tough for people to accept.
What can you tell us about your early days pursuing professional house dancing? What did it actually entail as far as work? Which kind of dance styles were you into?
Yes, I did the dance thing for a while, but it wasn't a pursuit -- it was more of a love, passion, or hobby that naturally turned to business when other countries took notice. I travelled the world through dance before any travels came due to DJing and music. The dance we did is a kind of street dance that later took the house dance title. Work in dance entailed dance show performances, workshops, and dance classes at the time when I was involved.
So how did the experience of being a dancer inform you when you started making music? How important was it as far as learning how to make people dance as a DJ/producer?
It was dance that lead me to DJing and music production -- I was a dancer first. The love for dance and music naturally lead me to wanna purchase music, DJ music, and finally create music. We probably wouldn't be doing this interview if I wasn't a dancer first. [laughs]
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Your production sound has been described as "supremely dark house." Is that an accurate description in your opinion? Are you more drawn to the dark side when it comes to your music?
I would say that describing my music as "dark house" is something I'm more used to hearing or reading on the web than it is my personal description of my music. I personally have no description for the type of music I make, and I actually didn't even notice my music had a dark undertone until journalists started describing my music in that way. If people hear my music and feel that it's dark, then I'll accept that. No loss at all with that description, I think.
What is the concept behind your Strength Music label? What sort of music are you looking to release on it and where do you plan to take the label in the future?
I know I probably sound boring at this point, but there's really no concept behind Strength Music. We basically release music that we find to be interesting, and more so use it as an outlet to release music from ourselves, so it actually doesn't run like a full-on label would. We rarely or almost never look for demos to release. The future for Strength is to keep releasing music that we feel is quality with no gimmicks.
So what do you have going on in the studio at the moment? Any plans for a new album to follow up 2011's Gymnastics?
I actually am working on an album that, as of now, I plan to release in 2015 but that can change, so I'll keep the details secret. There is also a new EP coming later this year by myself, so that is next on Strength.
We're excited to see you throw down in Miami this week. What can we expect?
The crowd determines everything on how the night will go musically, because I'm there for them. So anything goes at this point.
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DJ Qu. With Omar G and Sean Levisman. Friday, June 27. Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach. The show starts at 11 p.m. and admission costs $10. Call 305-450-3809 or visit facebook.com/DoNotSit.