Techno from Toronto.
Stuart Li's first album came out on Still Music, a Chicago label where sumptuous deep house thrives. His second album, meanwhile, is coming through Dekmantel, the Dutch label that's known for releasing, among others things, left-leaning techno. This tells you plenty about the way the Toronto artist straddles styles. Aside from those two (and his own Lab.our imprint), Li has jumped from big-deal label to big-deal label, including Mule, Ostgut Ton, NonPlus and Crème Organization, which is reflected in the diversity of his output. Li is a DJ's producer, making all kinds of club tracks that are no-frills yet never plain—just the kind of professional and fully-functional material you'd expect from someone who is a crack selector himself. Behind the decks, he's adventurous and proficient, mixing disco, house and techno. He can sound totally different depending on the night you catch him, or he might just hop from one thing to the next mid-set.
For his RA podcast, Li focusses on his techno side, exploring the rawer influences at work in his new album, Under The Same Sky. Like that record, the mix marries high-octane techno with bright, propulsive melodies, sprinting between tracks by Inigo Kennedy, Regis and [Ø] Phase.
What have you been up to recently?
School has started again so I've been back in "dad mode," walking my daughter to and from school, taking her to extracurricular activities and spending time with my family. Musically speaking, it's been a busy year, with the Dolly 12-inch, the upcoming LP on Dekmantel as well as a couple other EPs and remixes.
How and where was the mix recorded?
In my basement using a combo of Serato and vinyl. Generally I use vinyl and CDJs when playing out, but I can't afford a pair of CDJs at home.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
For this one I decided to do a techno-focused mix. While I do play a wide range of sounds in my sets, there is a difference, say, between playing an opening set for Sadar Bahar and opening the room for Surgeon (both of which I have done). Most of my mixes out there on the internet are more house-focused, so I thought I would take the opportunity to show my other side. But even then I think there is a pretty wide stretch of styles on this one.
How did the hookup with Dekmantel come about?
I had been following their output since Juju & Jordash's Deep Blue Meanies. Then, at one point, they reached out to me, but I didn't have music available at that time. When I put these tracks together for the album at the end of last year, I made a (very) short list of labels I thought they would fit on and that I would want to work with, and Dekmantel was one of these. There wasn't a need to get these out as an album at any cost unless it was on a label I wanted to be on, so if no one took them I probably would've just released them on my own label as EPs. Luckily, Dekmantel liked the music. As an aside, it's also nice that Juju & Jordash and Joey Anderson are also on the label, as we happen to be on the same agency (Uzuri) and we all get on quite well, so there's a family vibe.
The record seems to be more UK-influenced than some of your past work. Would that be a fair assessment?
There's definitely an influence, though I did not consciously set out to push it in any specific direction. When I started producing, it was pretty obvious that Detroit and Chicago were my main influences. As a DJ and music lover though, I've always been into a wide range of sounds. I think as I've matured in my productions I've tried to bring in more of my other influences and fuse them together.
What are you up to next?
I'm back on the road in November to tour and promote the album. On the release front, other than said album, there's also EPs coming on Skudge X and Fred P's label. I'm working on new material too, but it's too early to say when it will come out. We (J-UL and myself) are lining up some releases on our Lab.our imprint. Lab.our 06 from Hermans (no relation to my old Herman alias) is just out, with a BSU vs J-UL remix. The next one is from label regular Maxwell Church. EPs are also slated from new names Aberdeen, R, Jerry Riggs x Krizzli and Benjamin Wood. All are Toronto artists. It's great to have a platform to release local talent!