An hour of funk-infused music for your next living-room dance party.
Turtle Bugg brings a little funk to everything, even when he's playing techno records. It's part of what made him stand out in the New York scene he called home until last year, when he packed up his turntables and moved to Detroit. He is seemingly impervious to trends—while the other DJs are stuck in the endless cycle of cool genres, Turtle Bugg keeps doing his thing. He attributes his style to growing up in New Jersey, where he had easy access to New York City as a kid, and to a musical family that passed along the cultural heritage of black American music. He also chalks it up to years of working at The Thing, the Brooklyn secondhand shop that houses hundreds of thousands of used records. Being surrounded by other people's unwanted music nurtured in him an ability to unearth diamonds in the rough.
His mix for Resident Advisor embodies that ethic. Rather than overanalyzing it, he picked records from all the different sections of his collection, then turned on the recording device and let it rip. It's unpolished, off-the-cuff and laced with humor, which makes it a nice option for your next living-room dance party. It's also a fair representation of what you're likely to hear him play at Sublimate, the Brooklyn loft party he throws every few months with long-time collaborator Sagotsky. From chunky drum machines to disco basslines, acid synths and bongo breakbeats, it paints a lively portrait of who Turtle Bugg is as a person.
What have you been up to recently?
I moved from Brooklyn to Detroit a year ago this month, so the past year has been interesting. My entire life has been spent on the East Coast, so settling in with my girlfriend while simultaneously raising my first pet has been a pleasant challenge. It has been weird to be away from familiarity and family, but the change was necessary and for the best.
On the career side of things I traveled for gigs more than ever, resulting in the most traveling I have done in my life. The Sublimate team threw our first weekender/festival called Smangtasia in July and I released my first physical mixtape on cassette. Shoutout to Steve Mizek of Argot and Savile, the mix was well received and let me express myself in a way that you can't get from just a digital file.
How and where was the mix recorded?
This was done at my apartment, in my record room-studio-library. My setup consists of an Ecler Nuo 2.0 mixer, one Technics SL-1200MK5, one Technics SL-1200M3D and the Dilla Donut slipmats. All records, I don't really know how to use CDJs.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Before being asked to do this I had committed to releasing a mix a month for this year. While mapping out what order they would be released I was asked to contribute here. This was pretty unexpected, as I like to liken myself to the black Rodney Dangerfield (no respect!), so it threw a wrench in my plans. My mind became preoccupied with this mix so this is technically my first mix of the year recorded, but my second to come out.
The original plan was to use a record from every section of my collection. If possible when I DJ, I try to mimic that old-school style of "telling a story" and every record having, not necessarily a message, but some type of reason for being played in that moment. Intros and outros are the only things that are ever planned for me. I try to picture each set in waves that can cause different moods, hence why I like to move through genres. Plus I get bored, honestly. So I picked out these records, ran through them four times, then picked out the best recording. This is a fair representation of what you can expect from me on the dance floor.
You spent a few years working at The Thing, the legendary New York thrift shop where records go to die. How do you think that affected your sound and DJ style?
The core of my style is funk in a broad sense and it comes from my general upbringing. Being raised in the part of New Jersey that I'm from is interesting because we share a lot of the New York media. You can get from my childhood home to Harlem in 15 to 20 minutes. General old-school Northeast black people stuff: the tail end of great NYC radio, family owning a jazz club, first concert was George Clinton & P-Funk, fake ID to get into corny parties as a teen, yadda yadda.
What I learned from The Thing is what is dying from DJ culture and that is the art of digging. Many people disagree but I think there is something indispensable about record store culture. There is something special about finding tracks that no one else is playing. Developing your own style is becoming harder in the internet age, but being around records forces you to do so.
Your tweets are mostly criticism of the US house and techno scene. What are some of the changes you want to see in the scene?
I have to disagree somewhat. My entire persona is drenched in sarcasm, skepticism and criticism across the board. I don't think I focus on just the US house and techno scene, I think that is just what people in our circle want to discuss. A lot of those problems are connected to deep socio-economic and political issues that go beyond most of the complaints I see people lamenting about on Twitter. There is a lot of real simple surface-level criticism going on, which is good but people don't really want to delve too deep.
Here's a game I have been playing recently: compare any of the black artists of my generation that are somewhat known to well-known to the white ones. You can see the disparity between the number of bookings pretty clearly. It's rather appalling really because there is no way to explain it besides institutionalized racism, 'cause it most certainly is not about who is a better DJ.
The changes that need to be implemented won't be solved by people who like to party and listen to tech house on the weekend. But here are just a few: less relying on foreign talent to drive nights, actual residencies, an inclusive and affordable club, serious drug and alcohol discussion, better soundsystems, less part-timers taking up space from actual artists, actual constructive criticism which is severely lacking. Lastly, what I see as the biggest problem in the American scene: the severe disconnect between the generations.
What are you up to next?
Next up is finishing all these other mixes for the rest of the year! Going to release some more cassettes, a CD or two as well. Hopefully some other peeps will take some so I won't have to just post through my SoundCloud. Right now Chung and I, AKA Soul 2 Seoul, are collecting the dough from our last release to plan out the future of our label, Basement Floor Records. Sagotsky and I are working on Sublimate stuff as always. We got a kool party in Brooklyn on March 22nd that I'm excited about, working on our second edition of Smangtasia in July and hopefully getting the label side of things started this year. Teaming up with the homies that throw Freakish Pleasures in Detroit, currently working on a joint party for Movement weekend. Trying to settle into Detroit more is definitely a high priority. I was in and out a lot last year, definitely trying to kool out on that tip. Also struggling to make some worthwhile edits, tracks, remixes or something so people keep booking me. It's all economics at the end of the day, whoever tells you otherwise is lying cause I know they ain't playin for free.
PS: I'm back in Europe in April. Still got some dates open so holla atcha boi.