Phreak Power Podcast Vol. 5: Alex Burkat – “Heatwave”

Guest Mixes

Phreak Power Podcast Vol. 5: Alex Burkat – “Heatwave”

A 96-minute guest mix from Alex Burkat featuring a euphoric blend of breaks, deep house, half-step drum & bass, techno, & more…

For the fifth Phreak Power Podcast, Philadelphia DJ/Producer Alex Burkat delivers a guest DJ Mix featuring 25 diverse tracks, including one of his own productions. Over the course of an hour and a half, Burkat brings the heat, expertly navigating between various genres and styles in a smooth yet unpredictable manner. “Heatwave” contains an eclectic selection of tracks, including a couple of cuts by Philly producers, Deeper Kenz and Fhloston Paradigm (King Britt). Stay hydrated when listening to this one, fellow phreaks! 

Phreak Power Podcast Vol. 5 was recorded live by Alex Burkat.

Tracklist:

  1. BXHXLD – I Think New York Is Trying To Kill Me
  2. Deeper Kenz – K & A Shade
  3. Kauf – Through The Yard (Fort Romeau Remix)
  4. Premiesku – Gajey
  5. Kassem Mosse – 578
  6. Nautiluss – Lonely Planet
  7. Bulgari – I Was On
  8. Trus’Me – Dark Flow (Andres Mix)
  9. Basement Floor – Night Shift
  10. Kraftwerk – Expo2000 (Underground Resistance Mix)
  11. Anthony Naples – Fog FM
  12. Bicep – The Game (Catz N Dogz Interpretation)
  13. Tom Trago, Awanto 3, Alfabet – Lap The Music
  14. Rick Wade – Feels (LK Remix)
  15. Quavius – Composure
  16. Olin & Company Processing – Compton
  17. Move D & Justin Carter – Leaves
  18. Nikolajev – Plasticine
  19. Alex Burkat – Actualize (Don’t Wait)
  20. DJ Qu – Do This Here
  21. Tornado Wallace – Paddlin’ (Linkwood Remix)
  22. Paul Woolford – Father
  23. dBridge & Instra:mental – White Snares
  24. Fholston Paradigm Ft. Natasha Kmeto – Light On Edge
  25. Brian Jones Town Massacre – Anenome

Shantih Interviews Alex Burkat:

Thank you for the guest mix! Is there an idea behind the mix? Any specific inspirations?

I wanted to collect all of the sounds I’m currently listening to and translate them into a cohesive journey. I have a very “feelings-based” memory, so I was trying to capture the feeling of the more euphoric moments I’ve experienced at day time underground dance parties in Philadelphia and New York. Not necessarily the exact music, but the feel of it.

The first track, BXHXLD’s “I Think New York Is Trying To Kill Me,” seems like it might hold some feelings or memories for you. You fast-cut into the next selection, so it doesn’t appear to have been chosen as an intro track to ease into the rest of the mix. Is there a personal meaning behind this one?

When I heard the track, I had moved out of NYC 3 years prior. I felt it captured a unique energy of the city, and has a relatable love/hate relationship with the Big Apple. For anyone who doesn’t live there anymore and frequently visits, you forget what an energy vortex the entire place is everytime you visit. There are so many different New York’s happening for everyone at all times, and it’s easy to be swept up into any of them without warning without a personal compass. When I go to New York now, it’s usually for a gig or spending time with close friends, so I don’t get lost in a lone journey within the chaotic, exciting zeitgeist.

Got it. How did you select the rest of the songs?

I keep a large Google Doc of all the tracks I’m into. There might be some tracks I heard at a record shop that I didn’t buy, something I Shazamed, a track a friend sent me, etc. Then every 3 months or so I amass this big smorgasbord of varied music. Next I go through that list and pick the top tracks I’m currently feeling, especially ones that capture my current mood, and put it all into Rekordbox. Finally I mix them altogether based on key. Mixing them based on key gives some order to an otherwise all-over-the-place taste selection. It also keeps things interesting for me when I’m mixing. I happen upon unique blends that I wouldn’t have picked out myself just by ear.

I’ve been relying more on Rekordbox’s key analysis to organize my sets too. I wish I started doing so earlier. How long have you been DJing now?

13 years!

You mentioned to me before that your uncle was a DJ. Do you credit him with your initial interest in it?

It was actually my Dad. 

That’s right. I remember now…

My Dad is responsible for giving me the gift of “how to listen to music,” especially when it comes to audio gear. At a really young age, he would take me to a family friend’s business where they sold high fidelity sound system equipment. We’d listen to the Beatles and Kraftwerk on high fidelity systems. I loved the sounds Kraftwerk made the most. After that, it’s like going from eating gourmet to fast food… There’s no turning back!

Sure. As the saying goes, once you go Kraftwerk… I’m sure these early experiences with such quality sound had a substantial influence on your selections.

Yes, I always aim for my selections to have a sonic reward when played out in a club. Each track should have a unique sound when played on a big system that sounds different than just in your headphones. My Dad also DJed middle school dance parties when I was a teenager… I’m really grateful for growing up in a music appreciating household.

Definitely, not everyone is lucky enough to inherit good music genes! I’m curious how this had an affect on your overall DJ philosophy. Many of the DJs I know hold firm beliefs about music and the art of DJing. What is your DJ philosophy? 

There has to be a personal story. I feel like the “something for everybody” approach ends up sounding generic, unmemorable, boring, and random. Human beings have a very sharp ear for authenticity. You can hear if a DJ or performer is really feeling what they’re playing versus playing what they think other people want. When you’re really in the zone, you’re playing what you feel and the crowd is with you. It becomes an instinct after a while. I’d rather hear someone with a personal conviction play something new or outside of my immediate interests than a generic set of house and techno, or especially a Top 40 set with no cohesive or progressive mood.

Amen to that! Who are some of your biggest influences as a DJ?

Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin of Mister Saturday Night and Dave P are my biggest influences. I’ve just clocked in way too many hours seeing all of them to not be heavily influenced by them.

Dave P is one of mine as well. What a legend! I definitely hear the influences of Mister Saturday Night on your sound, but I suppose that is a bit obvious since they put out your first release. “Shower Scene” was actually my introduction to your music. Any other major influences?

Detroit greats like Carl Craig and Theo Parrish, of course. Rich Medina and King Britt are my Philly Phavorites. I love the groove and journey of Cassy’s sets. Mala is incredible live. Maceo Plex is inspiring. The Body & Soul DJs… But honestly, I love seeing young DJs just starting out with eclectic tastes of classic and up-to-the-second track selections.

That’s a solid source of inspiration. What are your thoughts on digital vs. vinyl DJing?

Whatever tells a story… I like vinyl DJing at home with friends when there’s less pressure and expectations, so I find it very fun for house parties, and going back to back with another DJ at a house party is its own unique type of fun. But usually when it comes to gigs, I always end up DJing digitally. I want a lot of options, the ease of mixing digitally, and not having to haul hundreds of dollars worth of records for a low paying gig! But if you’re just starting out, do whatever you want that rocks the party! I’ve seen people kill it with YouTube at a house party when no one else was controlling the music!

You have to work with what you got! So what is the best set you’ve played?

That’s a tough one… I would have to say doing an all original set with Lapalux and Natasha Kmeto at Glasslands in Brooklyn was a career highlight. It was the first and only time I did an all original set to a large audience, and it felt incredible to see people responding to all this music I had put so much hard work into. The crowd, the venue, my friends, and other artists on the bill… Everything clicked that night. 

That sounds like a great time! I wish I had been there. Can you tell me a little about Ancient Puzzle Arts?

Ancient Puzzle Arts is a periodic party I throw basically whenever I feel like it. If I haven’t DJed in a while, I think of an immediate guest(s) I’m into at the time and see how a night DJing together would sound. The first ever APA was actually at a Brooklyn loft party where I played 12 hours… The energy, vibe, and ethos of that DIY lifestyle is what fuels APA. It’s a constant progression from that starting point, and how things evolve through my life experience and relationships. 

What an epic way to start things off! I can appreciate your organic approach to it too, and how it has evolved over the years. Do you have any plans for an Ancient Puzzle Arts event soon?

Mostly local Philly DJ lineups of people I admire and would like to hear all on the same night. Two are in the works, but I’ll announce them closer to the dates.

I’d like to steer the conversation towards your productions now. Who are some of your biggest influences as a producer?

I would say J Dilla is my favorite producer. His simplicity and originality is unmatched. He makes such “timeless” music. Outside of that, Maceo Plex is my favorite big room producer. I don’t know how he gets things so epic sounding!

There’s lots of range in that answer despite it containing just two producers! I think that is exemplary of your eclectic style. What is your production process like?

It’s predominantly sample based. It takes me a while to accumulate new sound banks and sample libraries, but once I do the grunt work of compiling them, I slap a bunch of samples together like abstract painting and see what sticks. I like blending organic and synthetic sounds. I make everything in Ableton. I usually produce to a part where I build to a “peak moment,” then arrange the piece based on that peak moment. I then send rough cuts to friends who are session musicians, who jam over it, then I cut it up further. The best example of this process was how “Pay The Rent” came about. Zac Colwell’s contribution was incredible!

“Pay The Rent” is one of my favorites of yours! It’s such a euphoric tune. Do you have any projects in the works?

I recently jammed with a coworker in the studio where they recorded Big Willie Style! I’ve been very lazy with producing lately, so it was good to dust off my boots and get back into it. It ended up sounding trancier than expected, but you know what? I’m going with it. 

Sick! I look forward to hearing it. Send a brother a promo! What are you most excited about music-wise right now?

Artificial Intelligence taking over every DJ booth and creating grotesque music.

That sounds par for the course in 2019. The War Against The Machinedrums is upon us! What do you think about the rise of music curation algorithms through services like Spotify, YouTube, etc? Do you see it as an extension of automation, just another example of robots taking human jobs?

People certainly use these services and do so out of convenience, but after a while, they will be wanting more. I look at it like customer service. How many times are you on the phone with your cable company and press zero just so you can skip immediately to talking to a human? Companies have automated most of customer service, but every top business still needs some humans on the other end to help other humans. We are social creatures. Not needing human interactions or connections would be some sort of next evolution. I’m extremely introverted, but even too much time alone with the machines is completely maddening. Humans will always want DJs and chefs. People simultaneously want people at the top of their art to curate masterpieces for them, but also want to dabble, experiment and put their own fingerprint on the process.

I hope you’re right. That’s enough about of the impending robot apocalypse… What’s next for you? Any exciting prospects on the horizon?

I want to get back into producing this summer. I also have an outdoor gig in Philly in August, plus I’m DJing with Thievery Corporation at the Fillmore in Philly in October. I’d love to spin in NYC again—last time at Good Room was epic—but that’s a hard town to get booked in! I don’t plan too far ahead, so new things keep up coming up each month.

Well best of luck my friend! And thanks for the mix contribution!

Phreak Power!