As half, along with Morgan Geist, of seminal NYC production duo Metro Area, Darshan Jesrani helped spawn some of nu-disco's most timeless groovage. With its sleek, modern interpretation of vintage disco and boogie sounds, the pair's eponymous 2002 debut long-player is widely considered one of the decade's best dance music albums and remains a favorite among heads today.
As a solo artist, Jesrani's sound continues to stand for timeless quality and universal dance-floor appeal -- hear for yourself when he throws down at Do Not Sit on the Furniture. But first, find out what he had to tell Crossfade about his creative process, some exciting new releases on his fledgling Startree label, and why we shouldn't completely discount the possibility of new Metro Area material.
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Crossfade: You're a native New Yorker. Did the NYC dance music scene shape your musical sensibilities growing up?
Darshan Jesrani: As cool as that may have been, I actually missed NYC's clubbing heyday. I started hanging out in the city a bit in the mid '90s, during college, but didn't actually live there until 1997, which was well into Rudy Giuliani's mayoral term. It was the beginning of most of the trends in New York that are still playing out today, like gentrification, expensive real estate, strict cops.
How did you get into making music? When did you first try your hand at production?
I had always been so fascinated by the sound of synthesizers, but didn't get one until I was a junior in high school, after a lot of lobbying of the parents. It was only that one piece of gear, but it was a sampler, and I learned how to split the keyboard into different sections so that I could get a bit more out of it. I sequenced patterns with a superprimitive piece of software and a desktop computer!
How did you first hook up with Morgan Geist? And how did your collaboration as Metro Area come about? What do you think glues the two of you together in terms of chemistry and creative outlook?
We met over these email music discussion groups, which were sort of like early versions of Internet chat boards where people would reply to each other's posts. I guess we just picked up on what the other was saying -- we were both interested in exploring what we had considered "lost" sounds and production techniques from the disco and boogie records we were into at the time.
We noticed that this was something that wasn't being done in productions that were coming out around then -- people were mostly opting to sample whole sections of older songs and just loop them with a kick. It was fresh territory to explore and it let us get inside those older tracks a bit more to see what made them work, and to try to do them in our own, modern way.
So would you say that what Metro Area was doing in the early 2000s was reinventing vintage disco through a modern electronic sound as opposed to producing straight house?
Our references had more to do with late disco and electronic R&B and boogie records, like rollerskate-style stuff, than they did with house. Our whole arrangement and mixing approach, though, was totally shaped by house and techno, so our stuff ended sounding like a mix of those things -- kind of minimal, empty disco tracks.
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As both a solo producer and half of Metro Area, you're known for a lush, organic sound. What can you tell us about your creative process in the studio? How do you typically approach writing a track? And which production tools do you most favor?
Thanks. It's hard to say because I'm always trying new approaches. I guess if there's anything constant, it would be that we both tend to start with a sketch of the basic idea so that we can see if it's worth doing before we spend time filling it in. Another thing is the idea of contrast -- trying to counter the sweet with something weird, for example. In terms of tools, I think we both really value hardware instruments and sound sources, but the computer and suite of software tools we use allows us to really pull it all together.
Metro Area's recent performance at Detroit's Movement Electronic Music Festival was very well received. How was the experience for you? What's it like playing with Morgan after all these years? Is the chemistry still the same?
It was great to play in Detroit for so many music lovers. That actual set was pretty hectic, to be honest, with us having to set up our gear and test right up until the minute we were supposed to start, so it wasn't too relaxing. I'm glad people were into it.
So is there any hope for new Metro Area studio material in the future?
We're not sure. We spent a lot of time preparing that live set last year and are really trying to stay on course with our solo projects. Who knows what the future will bring?
What's the concept behind Startree? Where do you plan to take the label moving forward?
It's an outlet for all of my solo ideas. The idea is to build a catalog of music which shoots for a little bit more than temporary club tracks, even though most of the stuff will be rooted in dance music. Our first release, "All-Night People" by Funn City, came out last December. It's a disco jam, kind of manic and upbeat in a confrontational way. A reply to ketamine house.
What's next for you on the production front? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?
Yep, I have a new project called Siren with my friend and party-throwing partner Dennis "Citizen" Kane. Its first single is coming out on Compost in September backed with a Ray Mang remix. Also working on a techno-influenced, more electronic vibe called "Cylinder," also due out in the fall, and a new Funn City single is in the works.
What can Miami expect at Don't Sit on Saturday?
A fun, mixed bag of jams -- new and old and in between.
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Darshan Jesrani. With Omar G. Saturday, June 14. 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.