Justin Cudmore, the Brooklyn-based DJ-producer and host of the Balance party series at New York club Basement, has teamed up with Hiroko Yamamura, an XLR8R favorite and staple in Chicago’s electronic music community, on a sharp, acid-tinged EP for HE.SHE.THEY. Records. The pair have shared a friendship for over a decade, having played back-to-back several times, but with the freeze on touring prompted by the pandemic, this is the first time they’ve been able to collaborate on original music. They recorded all the beats independently before whizzing files back and forth until they had three original tracks, and then roped in Heartthrob, the alias of Berlin artist Jesse Siminski, for a remix.
As its name suggests, the pair’s Midwest Panic EP is in part an ode to the Midwest rave scene that unites them. Cudmore, whose bold, acid-flecked distillation of house and techno has landed on The Bunker New York, Detroit’s Interdimensional Transmissions, and San Francisco’s Honey Soundsystem Records, was raised in Illinois and found himself DJing college parties as a youngster. He followed his intuition all the way to Chicago, where he first met Yamamura, who at the time was still just carving her name into the local electronic music landscape. Her jacking Chicago techno is inspired by the windy city’s house, acid, and straight-up techno parties, but she flavors it with her love for classic science fiction and dark animé.
Recorded in the same way as their EP, which is to say through online file exchange, the pair’s mix brings the best from both worlds, fusing Cudmore’s snaking acid lines and offbeat rave melodies with Yamamura’s more hefty beats and industrial techno. It’s both feel-good but dark, comprising a selection of the tracks they’ve discovered through lockdown and can’t wait to play out. It’s rare that we do back-to-back podcasts, especially when they’re completed remotely, but we promise this one is well worth your time.
01. What have you been up to recently?
HY: Finally getting back to gigs and touring, and trying to reintegrate into society. As a rather anti-social human by nature, the pandemic and lockdown just kind of pushed me deeper down a ridiculous well of isolation. Luckily I have some great humans in my life, and music in my corner, and I can confidently say that I’ve turned a corner and I am looking forward to trying to live my life again instead of hiding behind drum machines and video games!
JC: I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends and family through the pandemic. I’m happy and grateful to be gigging again in New York and around North America. I am looking forward to a few gigs in Europe in October.
02. You’ve just come together for Midwest Panic. How did the EP come together, and what can we expect?
HY: Justin and I have always had ideas, loops, and lots of discussion on projects and tunes we wanted to get done, but we’ve never been able to actually get it done. When we have the chance to hang out, we end up going dancing or eating Chinese food. The stars really aligned for this release, where we suddenly had a bunch of time, a whole lot of things to express, and an activity we could enjoy remotely via the wonders of the internet. Soon after the amazing guys from HE.SHE.THEY approached us about some ideas, and we all just vibed right off the bat, and it was shocking how much all of our passions were lining up. The EP definitely challenges a few standards and expectations that both of us can sometimes fall into. We wanted a release that was about more than making a dancefloor burner, and hopefully conveyed some of the emotions and conflicts we were going through at the time. With the resurgence of the acid sound we are deeply involved with, it’s important to flip the script once in a while and challenge existing conventions. It was also super important that we brought in the person who actually introduced us, Heartthrob, into the project, because his sound and production were so incredibly formative to ours.
JC: Hiroko and I have been friends since I lived in Chicago almost 10 years ago. Since we met, we’ve shared similar music tastes and tried to find the optimal time to work together and collaborate. When the pandemic hit in 2020, it provided a break for us to slow down and be creative. We were able to work together and share files and jam sessions remotely, then build upon each other’s work. Almost like remixing each other’s files until we liked the end result.
03. Where did you record this mix together?
HY: Justin and I actually recorded this mix by passing blocks of mixes back and forth over the internet and yelling at each other over FaceTime. It’s the first time we’ve tried to do this, but I think it nicely emulated the way we switch off in back-to-back sessions when they’re live.
JC: Yes, we did a remote back-to-back! This was the first time I’ve attempted it but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Hiroko and I have done some back-to-back sets together in person and appreciate the same style of mid-western, hypnotic, raw body music, so I was not worried.
04. How do you think your back-to-back sets differ from your solo sets?
HY: You always want to respect the direction the person you’re playing with is going, all the while making sure you move the dancefloor the way you want! Over the years, I’ve learned that I can only play back-to-back with friends and colleagues who play similarly, understand the ebb and flow of a mix, the appropriateness of when to play things, and how to read the crowd. Playing with friends is always going to be the best as simple nods and eye contact can let you know where to take things. When you’re playing yourself, you (most of the time) can tell where you want to go pretty quickly after a set starts. If you’re going back-to-back with someone, it’s best when the combination makes a whole new experience for everyone, and it’s even better when you enjoy the company of the person you’re sharing the booth with!
05. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
HY: For me, I kind of chose songs that have been on my playlists for the last few months from a wide array of genres. I’m a DJ that likes to ignore genre labels and I don’t even know if a song is being overplayed at big festivals by celebrity DJs because I’m not at those events! I just play songs that move me, and pick the next track based on how it’s inspired by the previous one. I tend to play songs from friends and heroes, because this adds a sentimental attachment to them, and illustrates how they’ve become part of me.
JC: When we were compiling tracks for this mix, the news of Paul Johnson’s death landed. Both Hiroko and I have come up in Chicago, so the loss weighed heavy, and we wanted to include his music, especially with the tone of the music and our EP focused on the Midwest. Also, when choosing tracks for a back-to-back, I always find it very improvisational, going off of what the other person is playing to keep the vibe going but slightly change it up a bit each time to keep it interesting, especially for a studio mix.
06. What setup did you use?
JC: Three CDJ-2000 Nexus 2s and an Allen & Heath Xone 92 mixer.
HY: My setup is actually DJ Hyperactive’s swanky new Pioneer CDJ-3000 and V10 rig he let me use to record.
07. What can the listener expect?
JC: We really wanted to have a feel-good party mix that celebrated a variety of sounds and vibes. There’s a little darkness to complement the feel-good moments. I hope folks enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it. Let’s move past these microcosms and elitist structures that have been plaguing the underground dance music scene for years, and get back to just enjoying music. Good music.
08. What’s next on your horizons?
JC: I am hoping to turn this rekindled inspiration post-reopening into producing more music and continuing to play shows. I’ve been wanting to finish an album so that’s something I’ll be continuing to work on over the next year. Also, I’m excited to bring Balance back to Basement this fall.
HY: I am really looking forward to working with HE.SHE.THEY on projects, and you can expect a few more fun things from Justin and me in the future. Right now I’m trying to figure out what to do with the hundreds of loops and ideas I’ve recorded over lockdown, to see which will be developed into songs. I have some fun festivals and shows over the next year and I am cautiously keeping my eye on how to proceed responsibly. It’s important to look back on the friends and family that won’t be joining us in these moments, and it’s up to us to continue their story and pass on their contributions.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Maher Daniel “Orbatar B” (Creature)
02. OSCAV “Marcel Prosed” (Bunk A Ball)
03. Paul Johnson “A Little Suntin Suntin” (Peace Frog)
04. Harvard Bass “Techno Nights” (Bump City Records)
05. Chuck Daniels, Shaun J. Wright “Feel You” (Planet E)
06. IPSE DIXIT “Feel the Bassline” (Bank A Ball)
07. Paul Johnson “Acid Makes Her Want To Play” (One Love Records)
08. Mono Junk “Electric Chair” (Skudge White)
09. Boys Noize “Xpress Yourself, Pt. 2” (BoysNoize Records)
10. Viers “I’m Gonna Get” (Turbo Recordings)
11. Trike “Nachtfahrt” (BPitch)
12. Heartthrob “Woody” (Unreleased)
13. Hauswerk, Gene Farris, Doorly “Put Your Back into it” (Get Physical)
14. Robert Hood “Low Life” (M-Plant)
15. Marc Houle, Claude VonStroke “Fly Guy” (Dirty Bird)
16. Eric Sneo, DJ Rush “Body Control” (Truncate remix) “Tronic Music”
17. Justin Cudmore, Hiroko Yamamura “I’m not a Trip, I’m a Journey” (HE.SHE.THEY)
18. DJ Hyperactive “Soul” (4track Recordings)