It's not often, if ever, that you hear of a reggae and dancehall artist crossing over into underground house and techno.
But it's not as random a makeover as you might think. After all, electronic dance music has big roots in Jamaican sound system culture and dub reggae. In the end, whether dancehall or techno, it's all about the interplay between space and bass.
For Berlin-based producer Aquarius Heaven (AKA Brian Brewster) crossing over was just another step in his organic journey as a relentless sonic innovator. And with a heavy, brooding signature sound that gets right under your skin, the hype was unavoidable.
Crossfade caught up with the man himself ahead of a live performance alongside Jozif at the Electric Pickle on Thursday to chat about his musical roots and the personal story behind his 2011 breakout hit "Can't Buy Love."
Crossfade: What are your earliest musical influences and when did you begin producing and performing for the first time?
Aquarius Heaven: I would say it all started with my uncle Dice, who was a five-time calypso king. Seeing how he could make everyone dance and have a blast on the dance floor really pushed me to the music. But I chose my own path, starting out with the hip-hop ride. Then my trip to Jamaica sure made me want to go further. It's at this point I started producing reggae dancehall beats -- this was like 10 years ago. And sure, jamming live sessions was part [of it.]
What made you transition from reggae and dancehall to the deeper tech-house sound you have been exploring over the last couple years? How do you think your Jamaican musical roots permeate your current sound?
The question is more who -- and I would say straight-up, dOP. I am sure you heard about them by now: a French trio who have been rocking the electronic scene for the last five years. The dancehall vibes bring a kind of tropical flavor to my sound -- it's like taking a trip to Jamaica.
"Can't Buy Love" was a big breakthrough for you. How did the concept for this record come about? Are the lyrics autobiographical in any way?
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I was surprise to see how the people fell in love with that track. Me being in love with a girl and her friend being in love with me. This friend did all that she could do to keep us apart, buying me stuff, taking me places, etc. And one day, we went out, had a superamazing time, got superwasted, and what do you know, we got intimate at the end of the night. Waking up in the morning with this friend on my side, my exact words were "you can't buy love ... I am still in love with your friend." Later on, at the studio, I just couldn't get this story out of my head and decided to do a track.
How did you hook up with Matthew Herbert's longtime vocalist (and wife) Dani Siciliano for "Can Buy Love"?
We actually met in Paris. Sharing the same studio, we would often bump into each other. We eventually talked about doing a collaboration after listening to a bit of my work, it was just a matter of finding the right time. I just finished recording the first part of the track, and Dani stepped in, heard the track and was totally down for the duo. And that was the birth of "Can't Buy Love."
So what can fans expect from you next on the production front? Any forthcoming projects or releases?
Things don't change -- I am still the crazy lil' freak kicking 'em sexy slow beats, so I'm gonna give 'em just that. Got my new EP, which is out in a few days -- three new tracks and a duo with Miss Kittin. Got also Signal Flow who are launching their new label and the first EP Dirty Hands. I am working on quite a bit of projects at the moment. My album is also just waiting to take the flight to Earth, so be on the lookout.
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You're known for a formidable hands-on live show. What can Miami expect during your performance at the Electric Pickle on Thursday?
I missed the Pickle last year. So this year, it's kind of catching up. I am gonna play a bit of my past projects with Wolf + Lamb and Circus Company, but mostly my upcoming projects. So most of the tracks are gonna be unreleased stuff. Looking forward to breaking some rules.
Aquarius Heaven and Jozif. Presented by Sub-Motus. With Baez. Thursday, January 24. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.