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In The Spotlight: Slow Hands (w/ Interview)

Post image of In The Spotlight:  Slow Hands (w/ Interview)

All who are familiar with the Wolf + Lamb label, know it to be an inspiring group of assorted personalities with a plethora of talent.  One of the newest members, Ryan Cavanagh aka Slow Hands exemplifies that persona to the fullest.  Having only debuted a year ago with his 2009 release “Fast Tongue”, Ryan has quickly gained recognition with a full head of steam.  He carries with him a fresh approach, having been into electronic music for a short period of time.

While listening to Slow Hands, you’re left to decide whether to make out with your girlfriend or reincarnate as a Rick James loin cloth.  He combines the best of both worlds, incorporating the sexy and cool, the salty and sweet, the blood thirsty and free.  It’s what many DJs aspire to do, and what many people wish to be.

As of late, he’s had a lot going on, which includes touring, producing tracks, and talking with us.

Interview by Scott Ahn

Special Thanks to Audiology’s Gabe Rojas for coordinating the interview

SA:  It’s impossible to find a biography on you, so what is your background?  Where did you go to school?  Where did you grow up?

SH:  Ha! Addressing my lack of internet presence seems to be the theme of the week to all those attempting to promote me!  But to elaborate a bit, i grew up in a small town called Manchester, Vermont, studied jazz & classical guitar and eventually went to University of the Arts in Philadelphia to further my studies in composition and guitar.

After a year spent in a 10 ft by 10ft practice room (of which a grand piano took up most the space), I left due to a peaked interest in the local and international DJ/electronic music scene. Hocked all my guitars the first year to pay rent and taught myself how to engineer and sound design. Eventually i moved to NYC, started writing music and DJing with my friend John (other Worst Friend) and kept practicing my producing.

Eventually bought some new guitars and started basing my productions around their sound as well as other live instruments some more.

Think that brings us roughly up to speed!

SA:  There’s an obvious eclectic mix of different genres and modes of influences in your music.  What were some of your biggest music inspirations growing up?

SH:  Eric Clapton, The Allman Bros, Steely Dan, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Bill Evans, Peter Gabriel, Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin, Coltrane, Santana (pre Rob Thomas), anything on Bad Boy (pre ’98).

SA:  Was there a specific experience that made you want to become a DJ/Producer?

SH:  This may sound so lame, and will also show how long i have listened to this style of music, but when I heard “Heaven’s Scent” by Digweed & Muir (Bedrock) I lost my mind. I think i listened to that track on repeat for nearly 2 months straight. I have wanted to be a musician since i picked up the guitar at 15 years old, but that made me want to learn how to make music for DJs.

SA:  What many appreciate about the Wolf + Lamb label is their wide range of music personas, which gives the label as a whole its own unique identity.  You’re a healthy addition to this mix of talent, but how did the guys from Wolf + Lamb discover your talent?

SH:  I had done a live set to perform (as Addled at the time) for my friends that own More Or Less in Baltimore. My friends Sam Valeniti and Jakub Alexander over at Ghostly International were kind enough to forward this recorded live set to Gadi & Zev. They were looking for local talent, and so we met up at The Marcy and went through my music.

A couple days later Gadi called asking about the stuff I gave him with the name Slow Hands, and that he loved it. I told him that was the moniker I used to produce slower and more live instrumental oriented music . . .  we ran with that!

SA:  Listening to your sets just within the past couple years, there’s an apparent transformation and reshaping of your style.  For me, this is exciting to hear because it’s less predictable, compared to other DJs where you know exactly what to expect.  Is this something you’re going to try and maintain?

SH:  Most definitely. DJing (and being a musician) is a constant learning process, sometimes what makes one audience go absolutely mental makes another audience walk off the floor. But what makes a DJ a great DJ, in my opinion anyway, is their ability to suck an audience in with tracks they know work in an effort to play more obscure (style defining) tracks. This is what i hope i do!

Sorry, but if i went and heard a DJ play, and they played “Without You” (Art Dept.), into “Look Right Through” (Storm Queen), into “Time For Us” (Nico Jaar), into Soul Clap’s “Extravaganza” Edit, I would go home and watch True Blood reruns. All those tracks are awesome, but what’s the risk in playing all tracks you know work? I am not getting anything out of that as an audience member, this DJ obviously doesn’t do his job in researching music, it’s not artistic . . . it’s safe.

SA:  Now that you have made a name for yourself that people are getting excited about, do you notice a transformation in your audiences, compared to when you first started out?

SH:  Well, I play in Europe occasionally now, so there are a lot more people with accents than here in the States.
You get away with a lot more outside NYC, because people aren’t as used to you I think, so they definitely respond to this style of music with more enthusiasm at times. Not to say that New Yorkers don’t, they responded like mad at the W+L Halloween Party! . . . before it got shut down.

But, that being said, I find people to be a lot more aware of me than they used to be a couple years ago, which is really, really nice!

SA:  Was there a particular experience you had playing that may have been either embarrassing or sticks out in your mind as something you don’t want to see happen again?

SH:  Ha, too many to count . . . or account! But i did have one recently:

I play on Serato and vinyl (the debate over what DJs use could go on forever, so we won’t get into that). Anyway, i started a set a few weeks ago after someone using Traktor, and I plugged everything in and it seemed to be working fine, but i started my set by playing records. I played about 6 records, then went to play a track off Serato, and NOTHING was working. The record eventually ran out and I was frantically trying to fix everything, I looked like a total ass, it was really embarrassing.

Fortunately my friend Crazy Larry was there to fix everything, thank god! He is a true technician, not to mention an amazing producer!

SA:  Following that up, is there an experience that happened which you may consider the pinnacle of you career?

SH:  Wow, hmmm. Well, I would say the most defining thus far was my first gig for Gabe & Mo (Jubilee) at Napolean in DC about a year ago.

I am pretty neurotic about my sets, and at least having a plan laid out to start with and get comfortable on is imperative to my playing (when playing solo anyway).

So Mo was nearing the end of his warm up set, absolutely destroying the place, and I went on with the intention of starting my set at 95 bpm (Mo was playing at 120 bpm). I had written a track on the trip down that started out at 120 and ended at 95, with the full expectation of being in the exact situation I was in. And, I absolutely despise the lack of respect DJs often pay to opening DJs by not mixing out of their record, and restarting everything.

The track I was mixing out of my original was Morgan Geist’s remix of Hot Toddy’s “I Need Love”, it was a fairly new release at the time (an absolute bomb!). It was a fairly risky move at the time, to go from 120 to 95 in the middle of a night, and try to maintain the energy. I knew that it would either be a style defining moment of my DJing, or an absolute fail.

People started to feel the bpms slow, and their reactions were quite confused, meanwhile I was biting my nails in anticipation. I dropped the Geist remix, and as soon as that piano came in, people lost it. . . the rest of the set went off. It set the standard for the rest of this past year I think!

You should have seen the initial look on Gabe’s face when I started playing though! I thought he was going to shit himself.

SA:  What do you think you would be doing now if the DJ thing didn’t work out?

SH:  Still bartending and trying to figure out how to be a musician/DJ!

SA:  What should we expect from you in the future?  Any new endeavors, projects?

SH:  2 remixes of Greg Paulus coming out on Double Standard, an EP on More Or Less out of Baltimore should be out around March, a Jan/Feb Worst Friends release on Internajional, a Worst Friends remix of Voices of Black on W+L, and a few other big things in discussion with Prins Thomas about more releases on Internajional.

For more info:

Posted by admin   @   2 December 2010
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