If you live in LA but still missed out on the Repopulate Mars show taking place on February 16th, all I can say is I am sorry, because it was an absolute 12-hour madness – well, it could have been longer if LAPD had not shut down the event because of the hype it created.
Without any doubts, Eli Brown was one of the highlights as he probably spent at least 4 hours behind the decks that day. "It was just wicked," says Eli Brown, who generously adjusted the interview time on the spot as Daylight Savings messed up the time we had scheduled. "Being outside was wicked. Watching the sunset just made it really interesting, very different from your typical LA club shows. I think that's what's good with what Lee [Foss] is trying to do with the Repopulate Mars shows, creating a sort of unique vibe."
Just for the purpose of demonstrating how thrilling the afterparty was, I will just lay down the facts that Pasquale Rotella was there, and Ja Rule was there. The latter even got so excited that he started dancing on the speaker to tech house at 3 A.M. "I didn't really know what to expect, other than it was some warehouse, but when I turned up, all you could hear was the warehouse vibrating. It felt properly like you were going to some old school raves back in the 90s. You know… in a proper warehouse. For me, that's what clubbing is all about – dark, dingy warehouse vibes, underground dance music, and just people having a good time. That afterparty definitely encapsulates that vibe," Eli Brown says.
He is surely no stranger to the 90s rave landscape in the UK, specifically, Bristol. Since the 90s, the multicultural city has always been on the map of the dance music demarcation, associated with the underground culture of its bass music scene and graffiti arts. It has nurtured numerous artists in different realms, such as Massive Attack, and Banksy. "Bristol has been a massive part of my musical heritage," says Eli Brown, "It's got strong roots in underground dance music, mainly coming from the bass music scene in the 90s, and that's what got me into electronic music when I was a kid. My older brothers and sisters, and friends, used to give us rave tapes and things like that. That's what really turned me onto electronic music at a very early age. Ever since then, I've always listened to it. That sort of comes across in my productions. You can definitely hear the sort of the rave influences and some of the bass music influences. A lot of sounds and influences from drum and bass. It's totally been a massive driving force in my career as Eli Brown. "
In less than three years, Eli Brown has put out records through several landmark tech house records, such as Toolroom, Sola, Relief and Repopulate Mars. He has also provided tech house remixes for the likes of Tchami, Gorgon City, and Fisher. However, despite the fact that he is mainly known as one of the most burgeoning tech house producers in the scene and has been drawing inspiration from the culture he grew up with, Brown refuses to be constrained by the current definition of the genre and past experience. In fact, he has always been actively searching for new elements to work with, a characteristic that sets him apart from most producers. Such a unique feature can be best exemplified by his releases "The Guru" and "Eastern Jam," which both have Indian ethnic sound samples. "I am just trying to, permanently, be inspired to write new music," Brown explains, "The best way I have found to do that is to look for interesting samples. I am not one of those people who draws from samples packs everyone else uses. I like to find samples from anywhere, really. Those two tunes came about at a similar sort of period of time – I was just trawling through Bollywood soundtracks and I found those two samples. As the scene moves forward, I will keep drawing influences from various places."
Through our conversation, I realized that this is not only part of the creative process Brown does regularly, but also something Brown has been pushing the boundaries on as he experiments with various global musical elements consistently. The motivation behind his upcoming collaboration coming out next month with Lee Foss, "Brazil," is also an ethnic sample that inspired them to create naturally. "We just found this Brazilian sample. We decided we wanted to write something summery and that's what came out. It is just one of those ones that just came out quite naturally, quite fun without much real thought behind it. The reactions to it have been really good so far. Lee [Foss] has played it out a few times and the audiences seemed to like it," says Eli Brown. Such practice also manifests his reminiscent of the old school era – "I think producers need to go back a little bit and hunt for samples like what producers were doing back in the day," Brown emphasizes.
When tech house was first introduced by the famed London party Wiggle back in the 90s, it was celebrated as the bleeding-edge of the underground sounds, blurring the boundaries between house and techno by meshing the prime elements of each together, featuring punchy percussion, unapologetic basslines, and hypnotizing repetitions. Flash forward to 2019, the genre is transitioning from something super underground to something accepted by the mass population. Such movement has resulted in not only a surge of listeners, but also an influx of self-claimed tech house records drenched in a formulaic je ne sai quoi. Hot take of the day – you can't call your release tech house record simply because you throw an overly straightforward bassline, four-on-the-floor beats, random vocals murmuring about who Jack was and your disinclination to hooks together.
However, it is exactly because of these ubiquitous mediocre records, Eli Brown’s output is especially genuine and fresh in comparison. When looking for quality tech house records with diverse influences, one needs to look no further than the work of Eli Brown. Besides using strong ethnic samples, the prolific producer has already constructed a rich repertoire of tech house sounds with distinct features – If you like acid synths, check out "Our Love;” if naughty tech house is your thing, listen to "Sumatra." Brown's groovy basslines and sparkling tech house beats have always managed to find the sweet spot between soulful and rough while never forgetting a sense of intimacy and exclusiveness too.
When asked to comment on the current tech house movement, Eli Brown actually seems optimistic – "With any kind underground dance music, it's quite good when it starts to open up to more of the general population because the more people would get turned on to this kind of music, the better really. I don't think it's a negative thing that it's getting more popular. I personally like the more underground side of this music. That would always have its place but I think it just makes the party, the scene, everything better the more people get into it. So…long may that continue! Obviously the more popular it gets, the more people jump on the bandwagon. You get other people from other genres wanting to have a piece of the pie, but that doesn't necessarily negatively impact the genre as a whole, because there are countless good producers out there driving the scene forward and that will always continue. Having more people listen to it just benefits everyone involved."
Looking forward, he will be playing six shows in the Miami Music Week this year, including Catch & Release, Sophat, Black Book, Repopulate Mars, Dirtybird and Toolroom. Considering the craziness of his LA performance and the significance of Miami Music Week, fans can rest assured that Eli Brown will put out dancefloor killer sets at these events. "It's not very often that you got all these DJs in one place, so everyone is trying to play the freshest, newest tunes and showcase what they've got for the upcoming months in the summer. It's definitely really important in that respect. If you have a big track out there during that period, that all translates over the summer," says Eli Brown. He also shared with us that he and Lee Foss have various forthcoming collaborations that will drop between now and the end of the year, I cannot think of a better place than the Repopulate Mars Pool Party in Miami to get a sneak peek of these upcoming releases.
Buy tickets to Repopulate Mars Pool Party 2019 here.