Darshan Jesrani interview
A feature on Metro Area would not be complete, of course, without taking to the more enigmatic half of the duo, Darshan Jesrani, whose press profile up to this point has been practically non-existent. I rang him at his home in Brooklyn on Thursday the 3rd of March 2005 to get the low down on one half of the best disco act on the planet.
How did you meet Morgan Geist? How did Metro Area come together as an act?
We met because we both finished school in around 1995, and we were both from around the New York area. We were both studying in rural areas but we were both really into music, so we were subscribed to these internet music mailing lists where people would discuss records and stuff like that. I began to notice Morgan’s posts and I thought maybe he was kind of aligned with where I was coming from musically. I just kind of remembered him around, and we would write back and forth to each other. Then a good friend of mine had Morgan’s first EP that he produced on Metamorphic, and I really liked it, so that was another reason to get in touch... We just started hanging out and talking and buying records and stuff like that. Even at the time we were still really into even the older records and older production styles and things that were missing in the records of the day.
Had you put out any stuff on your own before became part of Metro Area?
Yeah I did a few projects under a few different names, with another partner of mine, Maneesh. We grew up in the same area and I did a project under the name SS3 for a little bit, like two records, and then I did a project called Acronym City for two records. But I was just feeling around in different styles. We did a track, kind of New York sounding house, but with a bit of atmospherics, for a Strictly Rhythm comp at one point. Just little things, you know?
And what brought you round to getting into disco and that whole sound?
Well this is kind of like wanting for a lot of the stuff I used to hear on the radio as a kid, like D-Train and Evelyn King. It was sort of like R&B, but it had kind of a spacey, funky edge to it because they were using electronics at the time. So really the interest in a lot of these old styles is kind of like 80’s R&B and y’know, radio dance music. Then from there, there was a whole other underground world of club music which was pre-house. People like Shep Pettibone were playing that kind of stuff so that’s what initially drew me to going back, and it’s kind of re-exploring that stuff. Disco was cool but I only knew the radio disco stuff like Donna Summer and things that got popular. But then I began to really understand and discover a lot of underground disco records when I started to dig back and see that the mood was different and more along the lines of today’s mentality of partying and, like, really rhythmic underground sounds, not so much songs, you know what I mean?
Indeed. Was there a conscious decision when you made the music to sound different ands to sound disco?
Yeah yeah, we wanted to do something that sounded like it could have been an instrumental or a dub track that people unearthed that could have been made in the early eighties or late seventies. We wanted to make something that kind of flipped people out a little bit because the sounds were decidedly taken form an older style. But yet no vocal, so…..
Were you surprised by the success of it? In Europe, anyway?
I don’t know man. I mean, yeah, I think we were both surprised, but it took a little while to catch on. We started putting out Metro Area records in 1999 and then I think that by 2002 people were really into this kind of sound and it’s offshoots. I don't know. In clubland, where time and trends are really compressed, I feel like that maybe, but it’s [taken] a little while. We just kept putting out records, where it was one EP and then another EP and another EP… I guess I am surprised that people took elements of this style and really blew it up into a trend. Almost all new records that you hear have, like, some kinda electro 80’s bassline, or something. That is a little bit surprising to me. Like, people pretty much dropped deep house! At least in Europe, which is strange to me. Dropped it like a hot potato!
When I was speaking to Morgan he was saying he doesn’t really keep abreast of much new music, he leaves that to you…
Even I just kind of pick and choose and stuff, like I used to follow labels. I’m really just a fan of the classic shit like Prescription Underground and deep house from Chicago and shit like that, so I used to follow a lot of those kinds of labels, but now I just check for maybe some of the same producers but [on] different labels, and I try and check for different acts. Things have exploded a little bit and become a bit more fragmented. They are not as set geographically, or as in terms of camps anymore ‘cos in the mid 90’s it was very defined. Like you had Chicago, New York [had] people like Masters at Work and Power Records and DJ Duke and people. Every city had a sound you know, but now it’s a little different.
What new stuff is there that floats your boat?
Lets see, what did I get recently? Well I really like Raiders of the Lost Arp, I think it’s wonderful, really moody and musical and nice. I like Lindstrum’s stuff, that’s pretty cool. I like Brennan Green, I like some of his records. I like some of Danny [Wang] and some of his friends, like Ilya Santana. I dunno, there’s little things here and there. Stuff that’s being made with a little more of an open mentality, that’s not as formatted as a lot of club records are.
How has playing out been going?
It’s cool. It’s really fun and I really enjoy it because I pretty much play the same sound, which is like our influences and styles. Wherever I go I try and present it differently depending on what the vibe is like. Like sometimes I’ll have to play stuff a little bit faster, or work into classics and disco a little bit later in my set. Or sometimes people really prefer if I start off on a slower more organic note, so it’s really interesting to see how different audiences respond, depending on what kind of music the dj residents are cultivating there. But it’s cool, I like it.
How do you find New York, clubwise?
That’s funny that you ask, I was just posting a message about this, but I dunno, in NY I don’t think we have enough venues. All the new venues, because of the really high price of real estate, and because of the licensing we have in the city now, new venues that are opening have advantages like lots of cash, more of a business mentality rather than as a music venue. So it tends to offer people more of the entertainment-nightlife-illusion experience, rather than a place where you can hear music on a really good soundsystem and have some drinks and stuff. Music is not really the focus, so I’ve been sort of whining about that for a little while and hopefully things will change. We might be at that point in a cycle, but if you like it’s at rock bottom. We have a few places you can go; Shelter is one of ‘em, it’s running as a club, but there should be others. It’s almost become really polarized; on one end you have this kind of empty expensive experience which is more commercial, but on the other hand you have this earnest, niche, but really almost lack luster other scene which is existing in venues which are a little bit run down, so it’s like, "couldn’t there be something in the middle?"
And you have been DJing a lot in Europe. Any places in particular that you like?
Yeah, lots of places. There’s a club in Malmo in Sweden, right across from Copenhagen, it’s a party rather, called Art for Pleasure. This guy Matthias runs it, I don’t know the name of the venue. There’s another club in Berlin called Weekend which is great, it’s a new place, I think the owner opened it with a really good mentality, like he’s got really nice soundsystem, a beautiful mixer, a really nicely laid out booth. There’s Plastic People in London, there’s the Robert Johnson in Frankfurt. There’s these guys in Dublin who do really good parties, 52 Funk and Downtown Sounds. I mean I was happy to be a guest for them but the other DJs they bring in are good too, Like Danny [Wang] and Nicky Sciano and stuff like that. They have their eye and their mind on more of a musical thing. A lot of time people don’t even take the chance, you know? And the crowd really likes it and their parties really go off! In Gothenburg also is this really nice club called Nefretiti (part of them do this group Swell Session on Compost, they were doing a party there), that was really good too. I guess anywhere where the DJs are building a crowd on more soulful music. Or more musical stuff. Electric Chair in Manchester, that’s great. [in terms of the States] we’ve played in some of the major cities, but the States is a huge country. Most of my gigs are out of town, and out of the country!
You mentioned that you are currently working on the new Metro Area single. How’s that going?
It’s good, it’s gonna be two tracks and a bonus beats thing and it’s like, one track is more up tempo, kind of dancey and kind of weird, and the other one is slower and a little more thoughtful sounding. I dunno, it’s gonna be a different sound for us, I’m really curious to see how people react to it. It was fun making it, and half the fun about it is feeling ambiguous about it when you put it out, just putting it out and seeing what happens, ‘cos that’s how we felt about our first single. We were like “Ah, are people really gonna like this or get it?” But we didn’t really think too much about it, we just put it out and it was fun.
How did you find the reaction to Metro Area 5?
It was good, I mean DJs checked for it and bought it, and charted it, but in terms of a release it came out with pretty little fanfare. I was wondering if people really caught it. I mean I think people got it. That was another record that was fun making. I’m happy to have all this stuff in my catalogue, you know, whether people really catch it or not. You always hope to connect with people, but it’s also nice to build a good catalogue of stuff you’re happy with and you can say “OK, we were experimenting at the time but it’s all good!”