The “SFV” in Zane Reynolds’ chosen moniker stands for San Fernando Valley, a suburban sprawl just outside of Los Angeles.
Where many might be desperate to escape such a place and ensconce themselves in the nearest metropolis, Reynolds’ entire aesthetic – a gently fried West Coast take on AFX-style acid – seems oriented towards evoking and celebrating his home town. Sure, he’s had a taste of LA – he used to co-run the now defunct Grown party with Total Freedom – but you get the sense that Reynolds isn’t the sort to slot neatly into a readymade scene (in the past he has hit out against what he calls the “white-boy fucking house movement”).
Instead, the Waldorf school-educated producer and illustrator has made the Valley his own. Reynolds’ intriguing lifestyle was documented earlier this year in a film by Tyrone Lebon, as part of the New American Noise series. In it we see Reynolds pounding pavements, visiting a varied cast of friends, drawing and making music incessantly – all soundtracked by his lugubrious, sun-baked productions. It’s an excellently evocative portrait of a person and a place, although Reynolds maintains that the film was “slightly cute and largely skewed” in its representation of his life.
Whether Lebron approached Reynolds for his promise as a producer or simply his idiosyncratic habits isn’t clear. But either way, Reynolds – who has been putting out CDrs and cassettes for some time, and last year released EPs on UNO and 100% Silk – looks set to make a splash in 2013. The Dwell, the first SFV Acid LP proper, is the producer’s most accomplished work to date: a glossy, well-proportioned jaunt through acid styles, trippy and humorous in equal measure. The album was made exclusively in a Starbucks in The Valley, Reynolds lugging his equipment there to work every day for months. It’s tempting to read this as satire – a press release-friendly form of consumerist critique-lite. But Reynolds appears genuinely enthusiastic about the humble chainstore coffeehouse and the people that inhabit it – part of a passion for the small-scale, low-intensity bustle of suburban living that seems to permeate his work. FACT caught up with Reynolds to discuss the inception of the album, the influence of the Valley landscape and “people with agendas.”
Acid doesn’t seem like an obvious thing for someone on the West Coast to get into. How did you first discover that sound, and what appealed about it?
I got into it through various things, my father getting me into The Residents at a young age, picking up records at garage sales. The appeal was it had a nice sound, a strange one. Acid has been in California in the light of happy hardcore since forever.
Do you think your music is retro, owing to its use of vintage gear often associated with acid house? Does nostalgia play a part in it?
I’m not too sure. I can’t compartmentalize what is and isn’t retro at the moment. I can gauge retro when I see a Ruby’s and Chili’s side by side, but not with my music. Nostalgia doesn’t have much to do with it.
Your music often has a specifically suburban feel to it. Do you have a lot of experience of going to clubs, experiencing dance music in that environment? Or is it strictly a home listening experience for you?
When I was doing Grown with Total Freedom I was experiencing music in a “club” type of environment. I was playing out a lot then. I like stuff in private a little more now than in public because I’m in control of what I’m hearing, but the club can be a great place to be introduced to things. I rarely go out to clubs though, I just go out to the local bars, and end up having to hear Yelawolf’s ‘Marijuana’ every time I’m out.
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It’d be good to talk about the New American Noise film you starred in. How did that come about? And do you think it’s a good representation of you and your lifestyle?
I did a interview for i-D, and somehow the writer got in touch with Tyrone Lebon, the director. That’s how it happened. The representation in the film came out slightly cute and largely skewed, which was great for the film, but not a clear representation of me or my lifestyle.
Your music in the film is a very fitting soundtrack to the San Fernando Valley – and you draw your name from the place too. To what extent do you try to evoke that landscape in your music? Has that always been a driving force behind the SFV Acid project?
Yes. Almost everything I do has to do with my idea of the Valley landscape, my own landscape. It evokes me and I evoke it as much has humanly possible.
Talking to The FADER recently you set yourself against the “white-boy fucking house movement that’s absolutely disgusting” – what exactly are you referring to there? Do you feel an affinity, in general, to other American producers of your generation making dance music?
I’m just talking about people with agendas who have seen something and mimicked it without any regard to the value of what its true expression is. It’s not about whether it’s house or dance or what. This type of question can’t be asked anymore. It’s really all about what’s genuine and what’s not, and certain people understand what I’m saying and some don’t. I just don’t see many people truly representing their world and ideas. I just can’t understand what most of these “producers” are trying to represent. It has to be somewhat overwhelming and powerful to stick with me, and most people just don’t do that kind of thing I guess.
The Dwell was made entirely in a Starbucks, on hardware. Presumably that took up quite a lot of space, and you must have required power sockets etc. How did the staff and other customers respond to this? Did you have to override an initial sense of discomfort before you could focus on making music?
Well I would sometimes take only a couple pieces of gear at a time, sometimes just an MPC and keyboard. The staff and customers don’t really care. Sometimes the customers would take interest. Like rappers wanting beats would always want to talk. There was no discomfort to override, the place is air conditioned and has a toilet.
How long in total did you spend in Starbucks working on the record, do you think? How frequently did you have to buy a coffee to retain the goodwill of the staff?
I spent six hours everyday at one point, for months. Drawing and making music, but mostly drawing. I would always get a black iced tea, no H20.
What was the appeal of this approach? Are coffee shops places you naturally spend time? Or are you making a specific point here – about consumerism, or gentrification perhaps? Is there an ironic or satirical aspect to you doing this?
Me and my friends would naturally spend time at these places, because it was a good place to sit and talk, kind of. Sure all the specific points are made about consumerism and all, that all goes without saying, but there is much more to it than that. The connection to this place is real and the way people run through each location of certain chains is phenomenal to say the least.
This music was made in a Starbucks, but was it made for a Starbucks? Is it intended as coffee shop ambience? Would you be happy to hear it in that setting?
A part of it is most definitely made for Starbucks in feel. It would be great if it was playing at the ‘bucks!
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