The name "Rex the Dog" carries a certain connotation among electro heads. Any mention of him among seasoned clubbers tends to be accompanied by words such as "banger," "massive," and "stomper," with fond remembrances of throwing down to his music often following not too far behind. Both through his own songs and his prolific remix work, Rex the Dog, the artistic pseudonym of British producer Jake Williams, has rightfully cultivated a reputation for forging techno-tinged tunes that demolish dance floors.
But unless you’re the sort of person who makes pilgrimages to Berghain or saves money to travel to European electronic music festivals, you’ve likely never actually seen Rex the Dog in person. Despite the perennial popularity of songs such as his remix of the Knife's “Heartbeats” and “Do You Feel What I Feel” in Miami clubs — as well as his connection to native son Danny Daze via shared releases on the beloved label Kompakt — tonight will mark Williams’ first time performing in the Magic City.
“I came to Miami once in 1997 or ’98,” Williams says. “It was pre-Rex the Dog, so I wasn't going clubbing, and I don't know what the club scene [in Miami] is like at all. I'm really excited. From what I've seen, it seems like it's going to be up my street, as we say.”
And tonight will be only the second time Williams has brought his live show to the United States. Building upon a lifelong love of the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, and other acts that produced dance music with analog equipment, Williams has traded in turntables for a modular synthesizer. Although accompanied by a laptop running digital audio workstation Ableton Live software, the bulk of the heavy musical lifting is done by Williams’ home-built synthesizer; this has become integral to the artist’s process and presentation.
“What I'm doing is using this equipment and kind of getting ensconced in it and the electronics of it,” Williams says. “It's my real passion, so it just seems logical to try to kind of integrate that with my performance at the club.”
It’s a passion in which Williams has fully immersed himself, for better or worse. Though he can proudly boast of having built his own synthesizer and a complementary wooden case, he has also had to endure the indignity of lugging it around when traveling.
“It's heavy, and because it's fragile, it can't have wheels — because towing it through an airport is just going to rattle everything loose inside — so you have to carry it like a briefcase. And it’s horrible,” Williams says with a laugh. “All it does is damage you 'cause it's like a weight, but it's a weight on one side; all it does is depress you.”
Even with the recurring aches that come with carrying one’s musical pride and joy through airports, Williams relishes the creative possibilities offered by his live approach.
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“If you've got an audience that's really off its face and zombified, they don't give two shits about the equipment. They might stare at it gormlessly or try and knock it over,” he chuckles. “But then you get other places where everyone is kind of really watching what's going on... I actually prefer them filming that machine for an hour than filming me.”
On top of traveling, performing, and fine-tuning the follow-up EP to April’s Crasher, Williams still somehow finds the time to immerse himself in the raving masses. According to him, clubbing is as important an inspiration as any of his gear.
“I've found that when I go out and I participate — or follow new DJs or find a new record shop or learn about a new label, any of those things — it just inevitably feeds and sort of fertilizes my creative output. It's a truism of any sort of creative endeavor: If you're not putting anything new in, you're not going to get anything new out.”