Over the years, has been written about and interviewed many times. Here's a few of our favorites articles:
Read the "dancefloormayhem" blog:
KK: I've read that you first got into electronic music in the 80s. Who would you say influenced you the most when you were first starting out and in addition where do you find your inspiration now?
GSP MAGAZINE (click to read/enlarge)
WESTWORD (click to read/enlarge)
How long have you been doing your thing and how did you get into it?
Who and what influences your music, where does your inspiration come from?
If someone was to hear you at an event, what could they expect?
What gives you motivation to keep doing what you do?
What advice do you have for up-and-comers?
I really like what you said about not making dance music a career unless you love it. Anything else you want to say about that?
What is the best party you have performed at?
Who are your favorite producers?
What are your plans for the future?
In your long history of music making, you have seen many things come and go in electronic music. What seems to be the state of affair of electronic music today?
Tell me more about your experience in the early 80's. Where were you living? Where does your musical heritage come from?
So is a typical day for you when you are not traveling basically producing tracks and talking to labels and promoters?
As a producer, how do you feel about what's been happening with mp3's lately, and the concept of the unlicensed mix cd that djs so often put out? Do you feel cheated by the wide spread use of unlicensed mixes by DJs, or do you see that as a basic component that producers must accept?
Home: was NY then UK, now LA
DOB :the sixties!
Years in the scene:
Your thoughts on 2003 and what can we expect from you in 2004?
Your thoughts on the upcoming Winter Music Conference?
Your most memorable WMC moment?
Who were some of your earlier influences?
Who are some of your favorite artist's you prefer to work with and why?
What elements have contributed to the success of your career? How did you get into Deejaying?
In your opinion, what makes a good Deejay?
First time playing out?
First Rave Attended?
Most memorable personal performance?
Most memorable event you attended?
Your favorite venue you played at?
Advice for younger generation who look up to you?
Top pitfalls for Deejays?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Where do you see the scene in 5 years?
Up and coming talent/artists to keep an eye on?
Favorite promoter(s) to play for and why?
Artists you would like to see perform for the first time?
One word that describes yourself?
If you had to put the following in the order of importance in your life how would they go. Work.Play. Family. Spirit. Health.?
Personal message/final thoughts for your readers?
I can remember the first time I saw skylab2000 perform live back in the summer of '98 at a festival in Fort Lauderdale Florida called Electrolyte. One of a number of live acts that played that night, skylab2000 stood out among the list of other top-notch "electronica" bands on the bill. The press had recently labeled this new style of underground music, and I was a self-confessed "late-bloomer", an otherwise "newbie" at this thing the newspapers had called a "rave". And the music changed me.
Fast forward four and a half years later. skylab2000, as well as myself, is still standing and taking a tight grasp in a scene that is today cemented just as much in Nissan and Mazda ads, as it is in clubs around the world and the record boxes of their DJs. Countless trips across the US and around the globe, and dozens of releases since that ground-breaking performance in a massive South Florida parking lot, Dennis (aka skylab2000) has made it full-circle. His favorite brand of hard-hitting techno and trance has made way for a secure attitude and a soft-spoken demeanor, which he will be bringing to the Tri-Plex (333 Hamilton St., Allentown, Pa) on February 28th. This was evidenced in our conversation when I spoke with him recently by phone from his "Brainforest" headquarters in Costa Mesa California.
The tide quickly turned the topics of discussion towards the economic situation within the music industry today, 9/11, Iraq, and a little bit of everything else that is affecting each and everyone of us. Everyone that considers themselves a "raver", a "club head", a DJ, or otherwise, all seem to listen and open up when topics such as "money" and "war" are mentioned, because those are two things we all genetically crave. Health and prosperity.
What's your latest release?
SKYLAB: It's a 12 inch on Genesis Project called "Ten". A few months ago, I was working on something with RCA, and its strange, but one day, that person no longer works there and I have to start all over again.
On that same note, Mixer Magazine, Ministry (UK) and DMA stopped publication, Global Underground filed bankruptcy, and so many countless labels have begun scaling back operations. I went through the same ordeal when dealing with Moonshine Music recently, and found the publicity department was non-existent from one day to the next. Do you think the events of 9/11 had such an impact on this country, economically, that we are still feeling the effects from it today?
SKYLAB: It seems like it affected so many places, not just music, but so many parts of society. Air travel has gotten much trickier and a lot more expensive, generally. A lot more people don't want to fly, which means that it is affecting people. Much more so than people should let it, which means terrorism was so effective. It's had a large effect in a lot of places.
Should the U.S. go to war with Iraq?
SKYLAB: I can never see how war can be good, unless there is a very specific, obvious, committed threat to our shores. It's very strange, especially the younger you are, because you have no experience with anything like war. I don't know how people think killing someone else can be good. In the end, I don't think there will be much support for this.
Has terrorism and the 9/11 attacks change the way you look at touring, or touring for you in general?
SKYLAB: It hasn't changed the way I feel about touring. It hasn't changed my feelings towards it at all. I would have been on a plane the next day after that. I don't think you can let terrorism change you, but, the reality of it is, things like security have changed. The weight of bags you can take has changed. The affect of people not traveling has had a complete ripple effect. Less bags means it now costs me more to bring the tour to town, which may or may not lessen my income. I try not to let it effect me, but the whole world around you is affected. Some of the things around you, you can not change. And I can only imagine how it has affected larger touring bands, the ones that have to have more equipment with them and have no choice in the matter, like Rabbit in the Moon. I'm sure it has had a dramatic effect on the bookings of big productions like that.
Speaking of Rabbit in the Moon, you played with them in New York City last July 4th. I was there. Did you happen to stay all night and witness the way KRS-One ruined the show?
SKYLAB; I don't know. What did I miss? I left right at the beginning of that. What happened?
I don't know. I feel, in general, a whole different mentality took over the venue and completely changed the vibe of the party. I didn't know KRS-One would have to resort to using a baseball bat-yielding posse to force people to dance and listen to what he had to say. And that wasn't much. He kept repeating the same line for about twenty minutes. "The real hip-hop is over", over and over again, while posse members cursed at people in the crowd and threatened them with baseball bats if they didn't dance. Very evil.
SKYLAB: I left the party to drop my stuff off at the hotel, and came back to meet my friends on the dance floor. The second KRS-One came on, it felt WRONG. We all left. I don't think Hip Hop belongs in the Rave scene. We have discussed that amongst ourselves recently, my friends and I, and we all agreed; we won't perform at any Hip Hop shows and Hip Hop performers should not be at raves. I don't have any problem with it - I LOVE Hip-Hop. I don't think it's the same world, the same field. They don't mix well to me.
Have you ever found that being labeled as a "West Coast" or "L.A." act has limited you, or that people have expected you to be something you're not?
SKYLAB: No, actually. Not at all. Never.
Is your trip to Allentown part of a tour? Have you played here before?
SKYLAB: Not really. I am playing in Pittsburgh two weeks before that, so I guess February is Pennsylvania Month. I've never played in Allentown. This will be my first time. All I know is from the Billy Joel song.
Oh, no. Boo. That song got him banned from performing live around here! (All laugh) When I first saw you perform live, it was back in 98, in South Florida, in a huge parking lot, at a festival called Electrolyte. You performed as a two-piece. Since then, I've seen you half a dozen times as a solo performer. Can you elaborate?
SKYLAB: Yeah, in Hollandale, Florida. David was a live performer with me. He never wrote with me. Initially, it was three of us. Stewart, myself, and a girl called Alissa that was singing. We did that for a couple of years and did a couple of records that way. They had different musical ideas, so we all went off and did our own bands. And David had replaced Stewart, basically, as a live performer. I used to have more people on stage. I think it's more fun to play with other people, and it's more fun for the audience then, too. I just think the problem is, within this scene, it's just too hard to incorporate a big production.
And you now have dancers that you have incorporated into your live show, correct?
SKYLAB: Well, sometimes I have dancers, sometimes I don't. They come and they go. At the New York City show, I did. I thought it would be cool for a big show like that. They're called Velvet Crush and they will be there in Allentown for that show. They all live in the New York/Pennsylvania area and it's so much easier, for me, than having them living in somewhere like Texas.
So many acts have come and gone, especially in the EDM (electronic dance music) industry, and the whole music industry in general. How have you lasted so long? What inspires you and makes you want to keep getting on that plane?
SKYLAB: I think it's just "in my blood", and I really enjoy doing it. I guess some people just decide to work in an office after a while. I really don't know what motivates some people to continue to go to clubs they no longer find entertaining. I that's still exciting, and that's what keeps people creative. They truly WANT to be there. The other thing is that I've had good support from the rave scene. People still come out and make me feel welcome. It's very easy to come back when people are asking you to come back! Feedback. Feeling welcome to do it. And still WANTING to do it. I still think it's amazing that at every single show you meet someone that has never seen you perform before. And you get an email from someone saying how you've inspired them or whatever, and it makes it pretty hard to resist.
Have politics, and the things we spoke of earlier, been an influence in your writing?
SKYLAB; No, not at all. Those are two totally separate things to me. There is no message.
Then does your music tend to be more of a release, something to take you somewhere else without having to rely on any deep messages?
SKYLAB; There are some people that like to write from their heart and soul. I'm like the entertainer with the lamp shade on!
OK, Mr Entertainer. A or B:? Word association:Boxers or briefs ??
SKYLAB: Hmm. (pauses). I'm thinking of the right situation. On a girl maybe.
Ha! Good one. (All laugh)
Brunettes with dark eyes or red hair and freckles?
SKYLAB: I'll have to say brunette.
Top or bottom?
SKYLAB: Top sounds good.
Beer or wine?
SKYLAB: Again, depends on the situation, but I'll have to say beer. My girlfriend and I just spent a nice weekend together in the Napa Valley doing some wine tasting, but when I get home from working and being out, I like to relax with a beer.
(And just at that moment, his girlfriend comes home, front door slamming closed in the background on the phone, and we say our good byes.)
Dennis will be bringing Skylab2000 to a city near you soon. Please check out www.skylab2000.com for more information or www.bfreed.org for more. information about his Allentown, PA date on Feb. 28th.
If being the number one downloaded act ever on MP3.com isn't enough, his unrelentless dedication to an unforgiving scene and the people such as myself he has helped inspire and enrich will guarantee his success for a long time to come.
skylab2000, Who are these guys? Two computer geeks with way too much time on their hands. First off they don't spin discs - they play a combination of analog and digital mixers, keyboards, computers and beat boxes. These guys ROCK. I jumped on stage to get a better look at the crowd and everybody was bounce'n. Bounce'n to the perfectly timed, n' sync, pure brain crushing, ear bleeding vibes coming from speakers the size of garage doors. Did I mention they do this gig live? And the equipment, what a combination of stuff. Stuff is the only word I could use to describe it. The best part was, this guy is up on stage playing, bouncing, jumping, foot tapping and checking his laptop computer and the screen keep flopping closed. Without missing a beat he pulls out a roll of duct tape and tapes the computer screen to the keyboard so it stays open. Now he can see the screen and it doesn't flop over. Did I say he did this without skipping a beat? Wow! For an hour and fifteen minutes, skylab2000 had the Ravers bounce'n, rock'n and kick'n. Even DJ FUNK was digg'n it.
"I was forced to learn how to play the accordion" starts David. This lady would come over to my house and she would get out a blank music book. She would scribble out a whole score to like two songs that I was to play at that lesson. I don't know why she didn't make my mom just go out and by a book of songs because they were all popular songs you could buy anywhere. She would write them all out by hand, painstakingly.
Thus begins my interview with skylab2000. Dennis and David are a couple of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, but they're a bitch to interview. Unlike most of the pretentious wankers making electronic dance music, they're far more interested in having a good laugh than explaining the meaning in each snare build. Too bad good laughs don't make for much of an article. After two or three failed attempts to set up an interview, I finally pinned them down in Dennis' small Newport Beach house, less than a minute from the beach. After a few beers in the salty pacific air, we sat down to some shrimp pad thai and told way too many jokes about long nails and mexican food. With our stomachs full and our minds blank, we settled into the living room. It wasn't cold, but Dennis insisted on lighting a fire, his friend Christina citing this was the first time the English-born musician had ever lived in a house with a fireplace.
After a few failed attempts at lighting the wood, and a few more beers, I showed him my secret for a good fire flame, and we got down to business. Skylab2000 was founded in the early 90's by Dennis Barton and Stuart Briedenstein. "I worked for an electronics store, and Stuart came in and applied for a job" says Dennis. "I was doing Paperboy2000, and he was doing a project called Chia Boy. We worked together, talked about music and exchanged ideas all the time. We thought maybe we should just be in the same band so we joined up and formed skylab2000." A KUCI DJ introduced the duo to vocalist Alissa Kuecker, and skylab2000 was born.
Naturally, it followed that their first ever live performance was on KUCI's legendary Friday night DJ mix program, Riders Of The Plastic Groove. Dennis, Stuart and Alissa gained a reputation as one of the premiere underground live acts in the early southern California rave scene. The trio played to thousands at Circa '94 and played two years in a row at the San Diego Sports Arena Playscool, but tensions within the band grew. "I think Stuart was just frustrated of playing in LA all the time. I had a plan of how we should proceed and he had a different plan" remarks Dennis.
Then the whole world fell apart. Just weeks before the release of their second American single Auburn, Stuart left the band. "He was unhappy with a lot of things" says Dennis. Alissa was around for a little while, but then she split too. Stuart joined up with Alex Xenofon of Deep Squared and formed Bassland while Alissa moved to Amsterdam, where she's working on a drum n' bass project. "I didn't think we should throw everything away" says Dennis.
"There was some confusion, Stuart was still playing shows and so was I. Flyers would come out saying skylab2000, so I had to do the show and those guys wanted to play so all the sudden we were all playing at the same time. It took us a couple of months to sort it all out." The ironic twist in the skylab2000 story came when Auburn was huge within the underground, with remixes by Taylor and Gearwhore. Keoki even chose to use it on one of his mixed CDs, Disco Death Race 2000. Auburn was a big success, remarks Dennis. "I wanted to capitalize on that success and keep things going. The problem was that within skylab2000, Stuart did most of the writing, while Dennis handled the most of the business side. We each had our roles in the band. Stuart is an obsessive prolific writer. He'll write seven days a week and do nothing else. It was very hard for me when he was always coming up going 'I've got a new song, I've got a new song, I've got a new song.' So when he left, he had a whole bunch of songs and I didn't have that many ready to play live. At the same time I was trying to pick up the pieces and continue from the success we had."
In an attempt to fill the gap in live performances, Dennis enlisted the help of longtime friend David Ewing, who had played in punk and fusion bands in the late 70's and mid 80's. "I met Dennis at clubs we'd be playing where he was doing sound and engineering. Bands started asking him to do sound for them when they'd play other places because they liked what he did" laments David. "We became friends - my joining skylab2000 happened more out of friendship." Instead of burying himself in the studio, Dennis instead concentrated on what skylab2000 was best known for, it's powerful live performances. "The problem was that we played out of town, so our energy wasn't in writing new songs" remembers Dennis. "It took a month or so to set up another live set. We had been doing a vocally kind of thing, but with Alissa going to Amsterdam I had to write things that were more appropriate."
With Auburn and it's many remixes bouncing from continent to continent, Dennis and David expanded skylab2000's status a local band to one of the country's premiere live acts. They re-invented themselves and have joined the ranks of other southern California acts Uberzone and Electric Skychurch that play raves around the country almost every weekend. Dennis spends his weekdays writing tracks and arranging shows, while David works as an architect. Actually, in live performance I would wear a cape today, but Dennis kind of nixed that idea, David smirks. He doesn't just stand there on stage, David's a vital part of skylab2000's greatest asset, it's awesome live energy. "David's a live performer" says Dennis. "There's a million things you have to do on stage. You can just stand there and make music, or you can do a whole mix, entertaining the crowd, experimenting, and screwing around with things. It's nice to have someone there to keep a groove going."
When skylab2000 plays live, they don't take the safe route by merely tweaking effects over a DAT, they are generating everything live on stage. "Me and Dennis are some of the few that do play live" says Q of Uberzone. "They do it just like I do, they bring out the laptop, synths and samplers."
There are a lot of technical dilemmas when they rely heavily on vintage analogue gear, but Dennis and David believe it's worth the effort. "There's a lot of people that really appreciate it" remarks Dennis. "Sometimes we get an amazing response. People say they love us and want us to sign their clothing.."
Sometimes though, lugging all that equipment can get tiresome, whereas their DJ counterparts only have to bring a record crate. There's a certain amount of jealousy in that sometimes DJ's just show up, play, and then leave.
A lot of acts want the recognition of a live act, but are incapable or unwilling to play live. Most live acts like "The Chemical Brothers", BT and "The Crystal Method" improvise a little over a pre-recorded tape. On the extreme opposite end, performers like "Sky" follow in the footsteps of "Milli Vanilli" and "The New Kids On The Block", pretending to play instruments that aren't even plugged in, insulting their audience with kinder-rave puppet shows. "I've never seen Sky play live" states Dennis. "Those bands dig their own grave by doing that. If you want to do it right you have to bring all the stuff. I've never seen a band that plays to a DAT that was very impressive, because they can't respond in any way to what the audience wants. When we're playing, we can change all over the place."
Recently, skylab2000 broke what appeared to many to be a retreat from recording by releasing the single "Rollergirl" and the CD EP "Daybreaks" on the newly established Phatt Phunk label. "We did some stuff in between there", reminds Dennis. We have twelve or thirteen singles out now. We did a lot in the UK and a lot in Germany, it's only some of them that are available in the US. It's really weird because stuff that you've never heard of has this whole other market. You put all your effort into something and it only sells a few hundred copies. Then you throw something out there you're not too crazy about, that you never hear anybody play but it sells a couple thousand copies. Then there's things like the track on the "LA Hardcore" compilation that sold like 30,000 copies." I suggest to Dennis that it may have something to do with the naked bondage chick on the cover, to which he laughingly replied "yeah, for whatever reason, chicks mean checks."
Don't expect any nudity gimmicks on their forthcoming releases, the duo primarily view their singles as a compliment to their live performances. Unless a single's selling a hell of a lot, you're not going to make any money on it. A record's like a business card, I don't worry about making money on them they just get you shows.
Our interview was interrupted when someone from Phatt Phunk came by to play the Doran mix of skylab2000's next single, 'Shak'. The remix was engineered by Brian of Moontribe, and really has a "full moon over Mojave" feel to it. Doran and Brian forgoed almost all of the original source material for a more subtle, desert trance approach. "It's nice to hear that someone has taken something you've done and created some new thing with it", says Dennis records He records a lot of material for himself that doesn't sound much like a typical skylab2000 performance. "There's tons of music that I write that has no outlet at all - I just write it because it's fun to write" confides Dennis.
Occasionally he still works with Stuart on an ambient project called "Mushroom Nation" and donated a Jungle track called "Smile" to Lorraine, the 2xCD KUCI benefit compilation. "I started out writing hard music, so in a way, writing jungle is very easy for me. 'Smile' was just something that I threw together the night before a show at Metropolis and I though it would be something cool to end with. The response was pretty good, so we've played it out plenty of times since then."
Skylab2000 deserves everything they've earned. They've worked hard to build and then re-build themselves while keeping true to the underground that spawned them, without succumbing to the whims of major labels or other corporate interests. Their home is on the stage, playing for the crowd. On an ending note, I asked Dennis if he had any advice for the many fledgling artists who would like to emulate their success. "Just know that there's a whole lot of business involved. You not only have to write good music, you also have to be a good business person. And even if you can do all that, there's still very little money in it", reminds Dennis. "If you're making music because you need to, then it doesn't matter what the advice is, you just need to do it. Just have a job too.". "So anyway, I really sucked at the accordion", laments David.
ORANGE COUNTY WEEKLY
If you've been around the southern California Rave scene during the past few years, chances are you've heard skylab2000. In 1994 and 1995, they earned a reputation as one of the few electronic groups that actually performed live.
The original lineup consisted of Dennis B, with Stuart Briedenstein and vocalist Alissa Kueker. Briedenstein left to form the group Bassland, while Kueker pursued her singing career in Amsterdam. David Ewing soon joined Dennis and the streamlined duo play events throughout the country just about every weekend. If you've ever been fortunate enough to catch one of their rare live appearances in L.A., you'll understand why they're in such high demand. Their blend of hard acid lines and wicked breaks sends crowds into a frenzy. Check out their web site at www.skylab2000.com for incriminating photos.
With their hectic concert schedule, they seldom seem to find time for recordings, but that appears to be changing. Their "Auburn" single has just been re-released on JDJ Productions in the U.K. and they have a new track on Egg Records' God's Eye compilation stateside. But if you want to experience them properly, look for their next live performance.
The dance floor is swirling with a nearly capacity crowd dancing to some gritty, pulsing, syncopated sounds emanating from the speakers. As the next song builds in, the crowd yells in excitement. Many edge closer to the front to get a look at who is making these sweet sounds. No turntables are in sight. But, somewhere among the flashing lights, in rows of synthesizers and a maze of computer cables stationed in the front of the room are the focus of all this excitement, the acid/trance power duo of skylab2000.
Skylab's Dennis Barton and David Ewing make up one of the few electronic groups that actually perform 100% live - no DATs. They have come to Topeka, Kansas, this particular night as part of a year-long focus on getting out of the studio and playing live at rave events around the country.
As David's curly head and Dennis's darker hair bob and dart around back there, their hands are manipulating the music using an impressive arrangement of electronic equipment. Sequencers, MIDI, computers, software, it's all the stuff with which with skylab plays on a daily basis. They use a laptop with specialized software to trigger the music they make and set up in their synthesizers. Before they play an event you can receive a tape with four of their own tracks on it, but as it says in their press materials, there is just no beating the thrill that comes from the live aspect of their performance.
Dennis and David live near the beach just south of L.A.. They have played together for about 2 years, since 1995. Playing their melodic style of Acid Breaks, they represent "just one" of the Cali-style "sounds". The thing is, skylab2000 work the musical components of that style in fresh ways that light up the dance floor. Who could have predicted the Topeka crowd would connect so strongly, when their normal fare is more strictly house oriented??
According to the guys, they are from an era before "DJing became an art form" so they feel that it was a more natural progression to become composers of their own tracks rather than DJs. They were both playing electronic music previously, back in the 80s, so techno was a logical evolution.
"I never had the choice of whether to DJ," explains David. "I was always making music, when I was playing in Electro-Pop bands back in the Depeche Mode days, so this is just a new way to make music." Dennis concurs, "I.ve always played records for my friends and forced my tapes on everyone I knew. So, I sort of learned how to mix records together. But you need dedication to whatever you do and DJing just wasn't something I was into enough to give it the proper amount of dedication."
What accounts for the high energy level of their sets? Dennis tells me, "We kept getting put on at prime time in the night when the energy was highest and so we always had to reflect that energy with our music. Possibly because of this ability to "rock the house," promoters seem to find Skylab "ready for prime time" and they can often be found playing in the company of DJs like Frankie Bones, Thomas Michael, DJ Pierre, the Hardkiss brothers, and other techno luminaries.
Skylab2000 have played all over the US and Canada in the past year or two, from Phoenix to Ft. Lauderdale, Vancouver to Seattle. They will have touched down in the Midwest once more on Nov. 7th at a party called "Fix-It." When not on the road, Dennis has a project called Mushroom Nation that David plays in, that produces "more chilled-out, trippier stuff." Much of their reputation was earned in the studio and the duo feature a large discography on their web site.
Before the show Dennis told me, "Our job is to help people have fun and that's what we try to do." By the time their show is over, it is clear; these guys love the music and love dishing it out to the appreciative crowd.
Sitting on a balcony of a friends house in the Hollywood Hills, watching the Steelers hand the game to the Dallas Cowboys (can anybody deny that the game was fixed?), Dennis Barton of skylab2000 and I discussed the various facets of living and raving in LA. (It was a good thing as I was two days past my deadline and deeply involved in figuring out how to get around that little hurdle.) There's no pretension, no attitude and no stress about skylab2000. It's all about getting people to dance. They come t o make people dance and have fun. Nothing could be simpler. Musically they provide a funky fresh acid sound while maintaining their focus of having people dance from the start of their show till the finish.
Skylab2000 plays frequently around Los Angeles and can be seen on a regular basis at parties - even when they are not playing. The first opportunity I had to see them came this summer at a free afternoon party at Dockweiler Beach - though typically their shows do happen in more indoor and nocturnal environments.
The music produced live is actually created live; the band does as much as they can individually, bringing in plenty of flex and improv; unpredictable things do happen.
Being in LA has been important to the musical development of skylab2000. - all the various influences of the LA underground contribute to their sound. Because Dennis does go out and experience the parties, he has seen exactly what it takes for a night to go off; this is the energy he puts back into the creation of skylab2000's music. Skylab2000's "Auburn" is featured on Taylor's "In the Mix I" CD which showcases the best music coming out of the west coast. The track is a bit funky, a bit squishy and a lot of acid. Chances are, unless you have been joining the social hermits under that proverbial rock, you've heard it spun at more than one event.
Trivial bits. Dennis has no favorite color. His favorite sound is the TB303 or the sound of someone saying "I love you". Fave trashy 80's bands? The Smiths, Bad Seeds and Joy Division. "They built these epic landscapes, epic songs, time after time."
On groupies.. "It's great to meet people who appreciate what you are doing".
On the illegitimacy of electronic music.. "It doesn't matter how you write the music as long as people respond to it. You could use a spatula as long as people respond..."
Based out of Los Angeles, California, skylab2000 has proven to be a top contender as a live acid/trance band. Early performances, such as the "One Roof" party with Frankie Bones, helped earn them great respect in the west cost underground. Other shows including "Circa '94" and "Playscool" introduced them to many thousands of ravers.
Capturing the live energy in the studio yielded remixes by Gearwhore and superstar DJ Taylor, which resulted in rave reviews by top DJ's, including Pete Tong of UK BBC1, Keoki and Sasha. Whether being compared to Hardfloor or The Chemical Brothers, skylab2000's relentless beats, nasty acid lines and hard trance rhythm is what keeps the dance floor moving. Take a look at what Dennis Barton had to say about the past, present and future of skylab2000.
STICTION: What do you guys have going on at the moment?
SL2K: We have a couple of singles coming out in England, some remix stuff and a track coming out on a compilation as well. Lately we've been concentrating on playing live.
STICTION: Who do you have doing the remixes?
SL2K: They were done by different people, actually they are in promo right now. Sol Brothers did one. Tomislav from Journey's By DJ's did one. Mostly remixers that are better known over there than over here.
STICTION: You seem to have a lot going on overseas?
SL2K: Yeah, well record wise we do. Like I said we have been concentrating of performing live and haven't really recorded anything for a while now. We are away a lot playing all over.
STICTION: Really? Mostly gigs on the West Coast?
SL2K: Not much on the coast, but we play Los Angeles a lot, obviously. In two weeks we are going to Vancouver, then over to Madison, Wisconsin, and after that on to Chicago, Florida, New York.
STICTION: Are you doing a tour or something?
SL2K: No, we just fly out for each individual show. Generally we will fly out on a Thursday night spend the weekend somewhere, perform Saturday night and come home.
STICTION: That sounds expensive.
SL2K: Not really, because all expenses are paid by the promoter. Plus we get paid to perform on top of that. Things are going well, we are quite popular lately, booking wise. We have been getting a lot of calls, so we are really happy about that.
STICTION: Do you have a booking agent?
SL2K: Yes, out of New York, they book strictly dance stuff.
STICTION: Have you had any big time gigs?
SL2K: We have done stuff with Resistance D. Also did a party with Dee-Light at the San Diego Sports Arena, there were a lot of people. Performing there was a lot of fun.
STICTION: Do you sell any product at your live show?
SL2K: Every now and again we will bring some records along. But it seems like a lot of the dance stuff comes out and is around for a little while, then it's here and gone.
STICTION: Yeah, the amount of vinyl that comes out every week is enormous.
SL2K: Yes, exactly. We will have something out for a while, that will sell out and that's it. Only a few are kept around as promos. But we don't really sell stuff at the show.
STICTION: As far as visibility, I know that before Nervous Records put out their first single, they had their mascot (cartoon character with 12" cutting off his hair) on clothing which put them visibly on the map as far as who they were. From there they branched off into subsidiaries. Being that most artists are faceless, it seems that the label is what defines the music.
SL2K: That's true. Definitely artists are faceless if you just put out a record with your name stamped on it. For us playing live gives people the chance to see who we are.
STICTION: That's one of the things that interest me about skylab2000, being that you guys are a live band performing music having the difficulties of capturing that feel in a studio. Similar to how rock bands are.
SL2K: Yeah, well it is definitely easier to record at home and make records then going out and trying to do it live. But it is easier to get attention when you are out there performing live. I mean it is the same amount of work to drag along a couple of keyboards as it is with guitars and drums. There is always a piece of equipment that doesn't, but it is still fun.
STICTION: So what happens in the studio?
SL2K: We write specifically to be able to play the songs live, so to record we just set up in the studio and play. Not everything is sequenced, we do play a lot of the parts live and we do have a singer at times. A lot of the energy you get from playing live can't be created in the studio. The way you start to change filters and stuff is basically responding to the crowd, watching what they are up to. The studio is much more conservative, I think. We did make one record the more traditional multi track layered way, and even though the sound quality was really nice, the track turned out quite dry and boring. A lot of the power got lost in the whole process. I like to just run a tape and keep playing till we get a version we are happy with.
STICTION: What gear do you use? Are there any pieces of equipment that are used live that don't work well in a studio setting?
SL2K: Nothing special. typical Roland stuff. tr909 / tb303 /juno 106 / s770 sampler etc.
STICTION: The 303 is definitely an evident part of the Acid sound, is this piece of gear always the focus of each track?
SL2K: I don't intend for it to be the focus but I really like the sound of a 303. I've found it usually adds a lot to a track. I can write a whole song and when the 303 get added it adds a whole new dimension. Vocals do the same thing in more traditional types of music. They are the magic ingredient. In techno the 303 is the magic ingredient.
STICTION: With artist like "Chemical Brothers" and "The Prodigy" getting such visibility, do you feel that the underground is developing an identity?
SL2K: Hard to say. These bands certainly are developing an identity, but I think it's outside of the underground. they've climbed out and are looking to the masses. The Chemical Brothers played at The Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. Not very underground.
STICTION: Who are the members of the band and what functions do they perform?
SL2K: Me and David. I write all the music. David performs live and records with me. Sometime's Alissa joins us to do some live vocals.
STICTION: Does anyone have any musical training?
SL2K: Yes, I took piano, guitar and drums, though not much of each. David is self-trained and plays guitar as well.
STICTION: Do you have your own sound person?
SL2K: Everything is mixed by me live on the stage. We supply the house sound with a two channel stereo mix.
STICTION: Wow, that's cool. Do you have anybody doing your lights?
SL2K: The lighting company that is hired to do the show always does lights. We never really get involved with the lights.
STICTION: In what way does the live show enhance the sound of skylab2000? Is there a theme or journey to the performance?
SL2K: There is a journey, hopefully a different one for each person. It's music for people's trips. We basically keep everything high energy.
STICTION: Does skylab2000 generate enough cash flow to support all members in the band?
SL2K: Nope. Enough to take some nice trips around the country, but not enough to live on.
STICTION: What is your relation to Superstar DJ Keoki?
SL2K: We've met and hung out a bit on a few occasions. We have mutual friends. He seems like a decent guy despite all you've heard. It was Keoki's idea to get the track "Auburn" on "Disco Death Race 2000".
STICTION: Having had releases on compact disc, cassette and vinyl, what medium to you think is the strongest sell?
SL2K: For us, vinyl. It all depends on the style you do. Ambient stuff written for compilations will do better on CD. A straight dance track usually can only do well on vinyl.
STICTION: Do you think compact disk ever outweigh vinyl as the DJ choice of mixing?
SL2K: Not unless the machines get more like turntables. It's still too weird for most folks to mix with CDs.
It's 9:25 on Saturday night. But really, what am I in such a rush to get to? Bowling? Thousandairs at play? Actually, this once peaceful suburban playground is for the evening is being transformed into a kind of guilty pleasure driven video scrapbook set to music; a thank you party for the Dune crew after a hugely successful third year anniversary party in 29 Palms. But I'm not just here to score free drink tickets and succumb to the highly competitive nature that is the sport of kings. No, I'm looking for skylab2000.
The opportunities for me to actually sit in the same company as an interviewee are far and few between. Mostly, it's a twenty minute phone call to the UK and a month of chasing down the record company to recoup the cost of the phone bill. But far greater are the hazards of speaking to an artist in person, particularly when you have no idea what he or she looks like. In a genre of faceless, anonymous synth wizards, it's reassuring to see a few of them leaving their bedrooms long enough to put on a proper live show.
So, who are skylab2000? Like a bad opening to an essay, I commence with the next cheesiest cliche to quoting Webster's. I consult their web page (http:skylab2000.com) for the answer. "skylab2000 is a trance/acid band based in Los Angeles (well, close enough). For the last three years skylab2000 has performed at clubs, raves and events throughout Los Angeles. skylab2000 is a live performance act. We are always looking for quality events for skylab2000 [to] play at, and are able to travel any distance from our base here in Los Angeles."
Three years? Where the hell have I been? Listening too much to house music, I guess. I enter the vast, echoing chamber, grab a beer and start making laps around the ball racks. Somewhere amongst the Luster King buffer, the 50 year old cocktail waitresses billowing smoke, and the surreal presence of ravers dancing and bowling in front of a giant projection screen casting computer graphics and photos hides an acid/trance powerhouse named Dennis.
As I scan the glossy lanes, I try and deduce who among this motley bunch looks the most like a half of skylab. Shaved hair, wearing a silver jacket and night vision goggles? Who isn't? How about someone who looks travel weary from the weekly events he flies off to so often, he routinely brings his girl and plans a few extra days to soak up the local culture? Maybe someone with a huge skull whose brain has mastered his beloved 303 to the point of virtuosity? Well, how about the most `Dennis' looking of the bunch. No good. Wait. I know just who I'm looking for: someone who has remained at the center of the rave scene long enough to know he doesn't have to look like one, who enjoys playing out so much that skylab's ever evolving live set has become the primary method composition, the last studio track nearly as old as the band, and most importantly, the guy Simon Lamb [Fix editor] is pointing me out to.
Dennis looks like he could bowl a pretty good game. We start talking about skylab2000, double checking his memory to the bio I've already read on-line, and it's pretty consistent, a little too easy if you ask me. Like a lot of electronic musicians, Dennis is nonplused when discussing skylab2000. Where does it all come from, the desire the energy? It just does. I get the feeling that I really need to interview him while he's on-stage to generate the same amount of charisma that is obvious from the demo tape I listened to on the way to the bowling alley, but he is cordial and loves to talk about his favorite pieces of gear. None of the aloof, `oh, we just use a Roland something or other and a kit we built from our scouring pads.' No, he is on top of the gear, for a new synthesizer in his capable hands is a new avenue for live experimentation. And that is the fundamental concept of skylab2000. They are a band. A band that performs.
In a few days, skylab will be performing at a benefit for Step Up Magazine. [In Phoenix, AZ] Things don't go as planned, and the party is given a 12:30 curfew, but rather than complain, skylab2000 take the stage and make the announcement telling everyone they better make the best of this last half an hour. The five hundred people on hand go crazy and make what could have been a disastrous event a memorable one. And once again, their work is done.