Oscillator is a repeating waveform with a fundamental frequency and peak amplitude and it forms the basis of most popular synthesis techniques today; basically without an oscillator your synthesizer would make no sound. Oscillator: A Late Night Synth Party & Freak Control began with LA native, Nicole Berger fusing Los Angeles's after hours scene with some of the most prolific artists in electro past and present. "Electro" music is what most of us would consider the root of Hip-Hop infused with a techno sound and became famous with the 1982 release of Afrika Bamabaata and The Soul Sonic Force "Planet Rock" (produced with Arthur Baker) which sampled Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express." The electro sound is linked to analog synths like the Moog and Roland TR - 808 drum machines; if vocals are present they are delivered often through electronic distortion such as vocoding and talk boxing exemplifying a Sci-Fi, afrofuturist aspect reflected in both the lyrics and instrumentation. The early 1980s were electro's mainstream peak. By the mid 1980s, the genre moved away from its electronic and funk influences, using harder edged beats and rock samples, exemplified by Run DMC. Electro became popular again in the late 1990s with artists such as Anthony Rother and DJs such as Dave Clarke. As everything cycles back we are seeing the resurgence with acts like Egyptian Lover who just released his new studio album, 1984, played Oscillator as well as Amoeba records and another pop up in fall of 2015.
Side Note: Nearly a decade I produced Darkbeat An Electro World Voyage directed by my 3GZ Productions partner, Iris Beatrix. The documentary went on to be an international success winning awards, screened at over twenty film festivals and has even been featured as part of music education in school's curriculums... essentially, Darkbeat was before its time.
So you can imagine after 7 1/2 years in LA when I heard of an After hours night dedicated to electro and then met Nicole Berger I was beyond thrilled. The electro bond is strong, finding another woman that you have it common with is rare and our "global" community is small. Oscillator is expanding and the greats are flocking - especially this Friday January 8th, the legendary Juan Atkins (Cybotron) play's live at Oscillator's first after hours of the year. I sat down with the lovely and exceptionally funny Nicole to find out more about her background and electro roots.
The concept of a synth centric afterhours called Oscillator developed during late night house parties Adrian Dark and I had when we were neighbors at the Victor in downtown. We'd DJ battle between my vinyl and his iTunes and became synth scavengers to the point of madness. I wanted to meet more like-minded people and nerd out on the genre on a fun late nite vibe. So, January of last year, Oscillator was officially born at a loft in downtown off the 10 fwy and has been moving around since. We did 25 parties last year with new live electronic acts and guest DJ's at every one. What separates Oscillator from other Afterhours clubs is the absence of house music. I’m doing my part to bring its reign of thump and organ to an end.
I've gotten a lot of support from Sarah Toon who books the Lash and Remy Marc with Restlessnites. They're two key figures in LA’s synth scene. I started Freak Control: Bronx meets Berlin, to encompass electro-funk, Italo and "freestyle.” The Egyptian Lover played opening night, September 11th. It was huge hit. Double the turnout of Oscillator.
What is your background in the electro scene in LA and how does it compare to other cities?
I’m taking heed to the old adage about finding a career doing what you love ... I've been going to clubs, collecting music and throwing parties since the 1980s and it never gets old. This year Oscillator Recording Artists is on the agenda to produce and book out new synth and electro talent. My Uncle Shelly opened up the West Coast office of Motown for Barry Gordy in the 1960s; it may be in my blood.
It’s kind of the wild-west out here. Unlike Europe and other major US cities that never stopped holding their regional electronica in high regard. There’s not the strong link to synth centric bands even as big as Missing Persons that there should be. I feel it’s important to appreciate our elders and benefit from their experiences and knowledge. It’s incredibly fun to watch a Goth record collector in his 20s go bug eyed when he sees Egyptian Lover mixing “Planet Rock” backwards.
Which tracks really had an affect on you growing up?
The Cybotron song "Clear" is one of those crucial club tracks that I grew up with. For a good 5-7 years it was played at every club night without fail, even in the new wave scene.
Until recently, I was unaware its considered "techno." We called it "funk and disco" on the west coast aka "freestyle." Where as the majority of artists never evolved stylistically, Juan shaped what would dominate the club sound for decades to come.
I've rarely been moved by techno, until it was explained to me by our resident DJ, Daniel Troberg, that its proto electro sound is what many consider "real" techno. Such as, the hauntingly funky Model 500 jam "Night Drive thru Babylon" from 1985. That's the era and style Atkins will be exploring this Friday at Freak Control. As the creator of that funky, dark sound, who better to do so?
How did you get Egyptian lover and Juan Atkins to perform at your undergrounds?
Basically, I prostrated myself before Egypt in a PM on Facebook and it worked! My old dance crew name having been Egyptian Queen, didn’t hurt though. I was mesmerized by his sound at a formative age and remain so to this day. No one has that comanding stage presence combined with his turntable skills: there truly is only one Egyptian Lover. His participation opened up a lot of doors for Oscillator. The week after he performed, TRANS-X of “Living on Video" contacted me to play.
I suspect tenacity had something to do with getting Juan Atkins. The man is a creative genius; he invented techno and then RE-invented it a few years later! I like to think he recognized from my emails that Oscillator is something exciting to be part of, worthy of his support.
Who are you looking forward to having next?
Currently in talks with Strafe "Set it Off" and DJ- come- synth-siren, Loli Lux "Deep Throat.” Dream guests would be Debbie Deb, Treniere, Stacy Q, Gary Numan. Giorgio Moroder, Cut Chemist, Peaches, Glass Candy, ManParrish and the trans-gender Italo genius from Sweden, Tobias Bernstrup. But I’m beyond excited to have the L.A.Drones! and Jonathan Tolliver perform renditions of Clear, Techno City and Cosmic Car before Juan does a Freak Control exclusive Proto-Electro set. It's going to be a special night.
For more info go to Oscillator's Facebook Page: Oscillator
WIN TICKETS TO SEE JUAN ATKINS et al, this Friday!
Plus L.A.Drones! Daniel Troberg and Jonathan Tolliver
OSCILLATOR: a late nite synth party presents an AFTERHOURS event to remember Friday - January 8,2016
FREAK CONTROL featuring JUAN ATKINS (Cybotron/Model500) the "originator" of techno flown in from Detroit to do a rare 1980s inspired electro synth DJ set in DTLA plus L.A.Drones & Jonathan Tolliver live + resident dj Daniel Troberg (Elektron)