Denver DJ Julian Winkler, aka Movesayer, has garnered the support of a who's who of luminary DJs, such as John Digweed, Sasha, Joris Voorn, Armin Van Buuren, Paul Oakenfold, Danny Tenaglia and Above & Beyond. Despite these accolades, he hasn't found much of a following in Colorado's electronic-music scene, even with the aforementioned artists playing to huge crowds locally.
He attributes this lack of exposure to a lackluster club scene and a global culture of recycled sounds and boutique labels that churn and burn tracks like they are a fungible item rather than art.
Instead of falling into the perpetual cycle of releasing stagnant, club-centric music, Winkler has used the pandemic to reassess his ambitions, opting out of the oversaturated club scene in pursuit of greener pastures.
However, before he departs the world of overcompensating cool boys and vapid fashionistas, he released his Open Eyes EP on Poesie Musik, the melodic imprint of globally renowned label Get Physical Music. We talked to him about his current work.
Westword: You were originally the guitarist in a cover band for the Disco Biscuits. What made you decide to switch from playing the guitar to producing progressive house music?
Julian Winkler: The switch was actually not so abrupt. I got into music production as a direct result of not being satisfied in my band, and I needed a means to write music without having to rely on anyone else. My bandmates and I spent a few months trying to write our own original music with the intention of moving on from the tribute thing, but no matter what we wrote, it just ended up sounding like the Disco Biscuits — a problem with many jam bands who take influence from their contemporaries. I had bigger goals than becoming the RC Cola version of the Disco Biscuits.
I quit the band and moved to Denver a few months later and started producing very guitar-centric, mostly post-rock and progressive metal that wasn’t particularly accessible. I did this for about two years before I decided to put down the guitar and start making progressive house music as Movesayer.
Do you see yourself continuing to make progressive house music, or are you looking to change things up again?
My interest in club culture has been declining over the last few years, and then COVID definitely [sped] that up. This certainly affects my direction as an artist. My releases as Movesayer have all been made for the club, and I don’t really have a desire to continue down that path. My love has always been for albums. I think the LP is the ideal format for recorded music. You get this one cohesive piece that is a snapshot of what that artist was thinking and expressing at that time; it’s a true pre-meditated piece of art.
House music labels mostly just want you to pump out singles and EPs to give DJs more material to spin, and at this point in my life, I’m much more interested in making music on my own terms.
I’ve been collaborating on an album with my friend Jimmy Dunstan, synth player of local jazztronica act Photon. We found this really fresh sound that combines deep house with jazz fusion. It sounds as much like Disclosure as it does Snarky Puppy, which is some really cool new territory to land in, and we can’t wait to make our debut.
For my other project, I've picked up my guitar again and am in the beginning stages of putting a rock album together. I do plan on getting back to Movesayer eventually and releasing an LP that demonstrates my full range of electronic-music skills, not just progressive house between 120-125 BPM.
You've got yourself on some good labels and have had support from major DJs. Do you think that once you switch your sound, it's going to be more difficult to get this sort of support?
Landing releases on respected international labels and having my tracks played by massively popular DJs have been huge milestones for me, but the results that have come from that have been fairly hollow. Despite the on-paper success, I haven’t built that much of a fan base outside of the DJs who know my tracks will fit their sets. I’m going to be taking a much different approach with my future projects, one that is more grassroots and organic.
Even with there being tons of labels, promoters, media channels and venues that support electronic music, do you think this sort of music is becoming more homogenized and stuck inside boxes than ever before? Or do new, challenging types of music have a place in these avenues?
There are more DJs, producers and labels than ever before, and I do think oversaturation is starting to become a problem. Here’s my mildly controversial take on it: I think that just because you can learn to deejay or produce doesn't necessarily mean you should be booking gigs or putting out releases. Don't get me wrong: If someone wants to take up electronic music as a hobby and it makes them happy, then by all means, they should pursue that. But there has been a clear cultural shift in recent years where people without any real musical background are getting on bills or getting signed to labels.
Not everyone has what it takes to be a groundbreaking artist, but the bigger problem is that a lot of these people don't even have any real aspirations to be a groundbreaking artist. I think a lot of them just want to be a part of the cool kids' club.
The promoters booking these acts will pitch it as “giving an opportunity,” but what even is the opportunity if they don’t have actual goals to become a real artist? It’s just an opportunity to cosplay as a DJ for a night is all it is.
Personally, I think people should keep their work in the bedroom unless they feel like they’ve really got something fresh to offer. I’d love to get back to a place where releases and shows are curated with top-tier talent and not just anyone who's tossed their hat in the ring.
The Open Eyes EP is out now on Poesie Musik. Get it on Beatport.
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