Trying to get a handle on the manic wonderland that is Los Angeles is no mean feat. It’s really a wonderfully confusing place. That’s why we go to people in the know – and who better to give us the scoop on La La Land than, say, oh, an awesome local DJ maybe?
We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with Andrei Osyka, DJ and ‘Chief Smooth Operator’ at Culprit LA, a record label that’s been making waves in the world of dance music for awhile now. Together with Brett Griffin and Justin Sloe, he founded the DROOG Collective – purveyors of some of the most progressive dance music in LA. Andrei’s also behind the ultra-cool Culprit Sessions, a weekly party atop the Rooftop Bar at the hipper-than-thou Standard Hotel. Read on for Andrei’s thoughts on Barcelona, liquor laws and the future of dance music.
How did you get started DJing? What led you to form the DROOG collective?
I was a bit of a late dance music bloomer – was in my twenties when I fully realized what dance music was – got a sense of the whole sub-culture. That was around 1998, post-Daft Punk explosion, funky filtered house was all the rage. “Music Sound Better with You” by Stardust hooked me on – don’t know why but it was immediate and strong. I was 20, coming out of college and totally absorbed myself in it…it seemed European and different to a regular American milieu. Being European-born myself, getting into dance music culture was sort of reconnecting to a different way of life, in a way. Plus it sounded fresh…I picked up DJing very soon after. I didn’t just want to be an observed, I wanted to participate and DJing seemed like the best way to do so.
A few years later, after moving to LA, I met a group of fellas of roughly the same age and with similar dance music proclivities. Brett and Justin were sort of at the same stage of development, maybe Justin was a bit more dance-music-mature. We decided that there was strength in numbers, and if we could see how much fun we could have DJing and throwing parties together.
With the Culprit LA label, you’re promoting dance music “done intelligently” – what does that mean and how does it differ from other styles of dance music?
We all have in-depth and eclectic music tastes, from indie to industrial to all sorts of things less obvious, so it made sense to translate that sensibility to dance music. In the age of dumbing down of pop-music and, now, dance music, it’s a reaction against it…a movement to keep grounded in something more substantial and deeply rooted than the commercialized or “by-the-numbers” stuff out there. There is an audience for it and it’s growing. It’s just a belief that dance music doesn’t have to be purely functional or extremely linear.
The Culprit Sessions at the Standard have become a requisite party in Downtown LA. Do you have any other favourite venues in LA?
LA has had a notorious paucity of quality venues, to be honest. The strict liquor licensing laws and the huge commercial dance music market are to blame. It’s hard to say that there is a dance club we like to go to, frankly. But LA has some excellent bars of all stripes. Some of the favorites are Pattern Bar in Downtown, Harvard & Stone and La Descarga in Hollywood.
Are there any places you like to go after hours in LA?
After hours, I go either to my own or other people’s houses, both because the after-hours scene is sort of weak – again, those 2am liquor laws and because we travel so much more now and don’t have a lot of energy left for after-partying when we’re home in LA. I do most of my afterhours stuff outside of LA :)
You just played Off-Sonar in Barcelona. How do you think the music scene in Europe differs to LA?
It’s vastly different. Clubbing with house/techno music as a soundtrack is much more ingrained in European urban culture. There are just that many more options in Europe, better venues, a bigger demographic and better media infrastructure. You still fight an uphill battle to throw a really good party in the States, LA being no exception. But it’s changing for the better…maybe.
Any favourite spots in Barcelona?
I love La Terrrazza – it’s an old school Balearic club, the way I imagine they used to be in late ’70s and ’80s – the Golden Age. The Poble Espanol space right next to it gives you a really nice authentic flavour. Away from the clubbing world entirely, I love the Joan Miro Museum on Montjuic, it’s fantastic…and just wandering the streets of Raval and Bario Gotico is a real European old city experience.
Back to LA – it can be a tough city to pin down. What do you think is its defining characteristic and what do you love most about it?
That’s the thing – there isn’t one defining characteristic. I suppose amazing weather most of the year is closest to one such thing. It’s a fully multicultural town with so many authentic ethnic experiences. It’s just many things to many people – it’s malleable, that’s what I love about it. You can make your own universe there. And it feels and looks your own private Hollywood film.
We asked Andrei what’s on the horizon for Culprit LA and DROOG in the coming months and he pointed us in the direction of this cool vid. If you’re in LA looking for a good party, definitely hit up the Culprit Sessions at the Rooftop Bar at the Standard Hotel downtown Sunday afternoons ’til October.