DJ-production outfit Visionquest and its eponymous label are pretty much the biggest thing in underground EDM right now.
But as the foursome told Crossfade ahead of WMC 2011, it all started with four friends from Michigan who shared a penchant for psychedelic mind expansion, esoterica, and Berlin techno.
Now Lee Curtiss is the most prolific producer among the Visionquest boys, and he might also be the most versatile, straddling techno, house, disco, and electro-funk -- a sound with the imperative to make you jack.
In fact, his latest Lunatic Fringe EP promises to "make your body twitch", as the sleazy vocal on the namesake track asserts.
Crossfade: Out the four Visionquest guys, your production sound seems the most inclined away from techno's dark side and towards lighter shades of house, disco and funk. The Lunatic Fringe EP even has a straight-up Prince Minneapolis touch. What sort of ingredients or elements do you look for in dance music and what do you think is the formula for a dance-floor weapon?
Lee Curtiss: I didn't realize the Visionquest dudes had such a dark side? I think it's nice to hear you say that my music is lighter and housey, since a few reviews said it was too dark for them. Art is indeed in the eye of the beholder, but I'm happy to hear my music being compared to Prince in any respect -- he is one of the most talented musicians/producers in the game.
I have always loved the funk in music, from rock to soul to hip-hop, and don't personally dance to songs without a melody. I am a music lover and appreciator, and take producing extremely seriously. Dance music has always been a favorite outlet for me, but I know that I have to attribute much of my creativity in making it to the fact that I listen to so much more music, and have a good sense of humor.
Given your constant DJ globetrotting, especially on the other side of the pond, what keeps you living in Chicago of all cities?
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I think Chicago is one of the most amazing cities in the world. We won best food in America this year. The architecture, Lake Michigan, the ease of navigating such a big city, and my beautiful apartment are a good start. But in the end, the people are cut from the same Midwestern jib that I was cut from. Aside from that, I don't understand why everyone assumes I still live in Europe. Yes, I've spent loads of time there, but I'm a true-blood American and even though I love playing in Europe, I feel that the dance music scene in America is more than worth the time.
2012 was a big year for both yourself and Visionquest. What were some of your personal highlights and most rewarding moments?
I'm happy to say that with everything that's happened this year, it's really hard for me to pick just a few moments. Wavefront Festival in Chicago was my favorite, probably because I was able to have a BBQ at my house after the festival every night. Our party at DC10 earlier this summer and the BBQ we did there 2 weeks ago were pretty next level. We've really done some great festivals this year, and seeing our label and artists grow and excel has been extremely satisfying for us as well.
What is your day-to-day involvement in running the label? How is it sharing creative control with three other dudes? Is there any head-butting going on?
We all have creative control and don't have specific titled roles. The four of us trade duties when necessary but tend to have our strong points. We've actually hired a brand manager and further defined the roles we feel we're gravitating to. I think the ship will be sailing even more smoothly and steadily in 2013. Big things on the horizon.
You're no stranger to Miami's dance music scene. Outside of WMC, how does it compare to the scene in Europe? Is there hope for us yet?
WMC is pretty out there. It's a deep cross-section of every facet of the dance music world, from the best to the ... well, let's just say "less educated". I always find the non-WMC shows I play in Miami to be great. The people there truly love the music, and over the years I've amassed a great group of friends that I always love to see. There's more hope for Miami than almost any other dance music scene in America. Besides, if all else fails, the weather's amazing! Throw an outdoor party and people can't help but come!
So what's in store for Visionquest next? Any forthcoming releases or new artist signings we can look forward to?
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The long-awaited Footprintz album will be out soon, with a Visionquest remix. Our remix of David Lynch has just come out, and we're very proud of that project. I myself will be putting together a Lee Curtiss and Friends double pack for the turn of the year. And we've just released another amazing EP from Benoit and Sergio.
There are going to be too many big releases in the near future to list, but trust us, we're ramping up the release schedule to end 2012 with a bang. Aside from that, we have an amazing team together with enormous plans for touring as a group next year. Fully immersive environments, crazy production, big venues and festivals. I don't want to give too much away yet, but trust me, it's going to be a game changer.
Lee Curtiss. With Ambivalent. Presented by LINK and Miami Rebels. Friday, October 19. Treehouse, 323 23rd St., Miami Beach. The party starts at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Call 305-614-4478 or visit treehousemiami.com.