Gregor Asch, aka DJ Olive, is the co-founder of The Agriculture record label based out of Brooklyn, New York. For many years, he has been active in the underground music scene of NYC contributing in numerous musical projects from chillout ambient to more upbeat danceable rhythms. This year Olive released Heaps As, Live in Tasmania on The Agriculture which displays the aural architecture of his sound that he calls “roof music.” He spoke with Slackline Radio and answered a few questions so that you can become more familiar with “The Audio Janitor.”
Slackline Radio: I heard that you got your nickname, The Audio Janitor, because of your ability to work with audio equipment. Can you tell us about something that happened that caused this nickname to stick?
DJ Olive: Actually, in the early 90’s I had a collective called Lalalandia Entertainment Research Corporation dedicated to building sensory immersive environments, or in english, warehouse parties. Me and once11 would make mix tapes in our club when it was closed. I would write “dj olive the audio janitor” on my tapes. I think he was putting “dj arugula” on his. This was so other members of the collective and random friends wouldn’t recycle the tapes as was constantly going on. Most of these tapes were Radio Shack answering machine loop tapes. 3min, 2min, 90sec, 60sec, 30sec, 20sec and were in high demand for places like the toilets or stairs or door jam…someone was always tryin’ to scrounge one up for their fresh moss bar or fountain erosion simulacrum or whatever. I would come in in the morning only to find last night’s work had frog burps over it. Naming the tapes didn’t stop folks recording over them but the name, it stuck on me. A few years later, I did an installation at an event in Bill Laswell’s loft studio in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I put 9 tape decks hanging along a huge wall with loops from Dub Factor and some sound [effects]. They would all randomly cycle being different lengths. And that’s what got me on the first Word Sound release Crooklyn Dub Vol 1, and later on some compilations [that] Bill put together with my band We.
Slackline Radio: Tell me a little bit about how the Audio Janitor created the sounds on your latest live release, Heaps As.
DJ Olive: That was from two live shows when touring in Australia last year, but the sounds were rounded up over four years or more. It’s one huge Ableton Live session. I try to make kind’a one long funked out gutter dub spiced with random ideas. It’s like dancing with your friends around a fire pit under a massive old tree in a beat wooden fenced urban backyard. Heaps As really grew out of playing Bodega Live.
Slackline Radio: Describe your audio setup during your live performances in Australia. What was your equipment? Computers, instruments, etc. How did you layer all of this to create these bouncin’ sounds on Heaps As?
DJ Olive: I use my own dj mixer Vastex pmc55, two SL1200’s and my laptop bussed through the dj mixer. I use outboard FXs as well. The pmc55 has aux send and return. I love Ms Pinky http://www.mspinky.com/ and am working on that for my live set but haven’t got it to a point comfortable enough to play out with it yet.
Slackline Radio: It seems you have a connection with Australia. Not only did you record Heaps As while on tour there, you are also involved in some other cool projects like the Liquid Architecture Sound Arts Festival. Tell me a little about how your connection with Australia developed.
DJ Olive: I have had a fantastic time in Australia this trip. Tasmania was super nice. All the folks were sweet. Went hiking in the rain forest and saw lots off small padamellon kangaroos and three huge waterfalls. The trees are so big and tall. Stopped at a vineyard and got buzzed tasting Champaign and wine. Played a big event in Hobart with lots of art students doin’ visualsâ€¦really good vibe. The air was maybe the freshest I ever tasted. My gig in Sydney [was] off the hook!. Everyone was dancing. A big positive vibe. That made me feel good about my beat sounds. In Cairns, I went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef was more then words could ever describe. The fish were really friendly and the coral was beyond beautiful. Coral is alive and feels like an alien being. Though it is fall there, the water was super warm and all the deadly jelly fish (stingers you call them) were gone for the season. Went hiking some in the rain forest and swam in some water holes in a cascading river. It’s really a kind of paradise. I almost feel guilty when I read the Guardian weekly. Under the palm trees on a five mile beach with not one person to be seen. I try to think that music can bring people together and that dancing is a positive political action but I also [felt] so lucky on this trip. All the folks who I have met and who have invited me into their homes are so sweet. It’s good for my soul yet I feel my place is on the front line of the American culture. Its hard to explain. Perth was really fantastic and I got to get to know folks I had met on the last tour better. The light out there is so different. Green or something. The Indian Ocean is beautiful, and I was jumpin’ around like a dolfin. I played a jumpin’ party with 8ball & MC Munchie kikin’ butt and got the crowd moving. Can’t say enough good things about the Perth scene. I did two workshops out there on producing, label start up, and tour booking. [L]ots of folks from the scene showed up and were all on the ball. Wicked! Oz is alive and exciting. I don’t find it jaded. There’s a lot of humor and folks seem willing to support across genre lines. I am a bit falling in love with Australia. I lived in Australia from the time I was 13 to 16. My mother and brother are still there. This was my third tour of Australia organized by Lawrence English whose a sound artist and runs ROOM40 from Brisbane.
Slackline Radio: How would you describe the Liquid Architecture Sound Arts Festival and your work there?
DJ Olive: L.A. is wicked! I love the posse that runs it. It’s a festival to see electronic music in a sit down atmosphere where you can hear a pin drop on a huge system… so, that can be fun to play with. During sound-check, I found out that it would go out live to Australian national radio. This made me freak out and reconsider my whole approach to my set. I went back to the hotel and worked like mad picturing what it would sound like coming out of a radio in some random house. But, when it came time to play, the big room was so full and intimate and silent, that I forgot totally about the radio and tried to feel the room. They were edgy hardcore sound art and street wise. I threw them a combination of “vinyl scores” and laptop cinema; a story, a voyage. I felt really good in Melbourne. Felt like home to me.
Slackline Radio: Let’s talk about some of your other releases. After several years in the making you put together Sleep on Room40. What is the style and motivation for this release?
DJ Olive: I did allot of ambient parties in the 90’s. Some were sleep over events with dj’s playing all night. I really liked that. “Your set was so good. I didn’t wake up once” was a favorite quote. I make sleeping pills. I like the idea of function. Music to dance to. Music to sleep to. Music to make love to. Music to eat to. Music to clean to. Music to…bla bla bla. I’m making three sleeping pills for Room40. Sleep and Buoy are already out.
Slackline Radio: You sound like a busy man with all of the projects you have been involved with over the last few years. I have read a little about the Phonomena Audio Arts Multiples that you co founded with Toshio Kajiwara. What is this project all about?
DJ Olive: We had an electro acoustic improvisor night for over 5 years and started a label to put out the kind of music that was evolving there. It’s been amazing.
Slackline Radio: How did you come to meet Kim Gordon and Ikue Mori and develop the idea for the creative sounds on Olive’s Horn?
DJ Olive: The SYR5 project was Kim’s idea. It was super laid back and just calm. Ikue is so cool, and I had known here from the underground multimedia warehouse parties. Thurston had got me on some gigs, and I had been playing a lot with William Hooker so Kim called me. I shat a brick. I had spent a lot of time outside S.Y. Shows grinding around with my skate back in the day. Jim O’rourke mixed that record and really pulled the toons out of hours of free jams. After that he joined the band and it became “the sweet ride”. We toured in Japan and Europe and have been doing Kim’s project, Perfect Partner, more recently.
Slackline Radio: What future projects are on the horizon for you?
DJ Olive: Lunchbox will make a new record and is forming a band to remix our first record Anyways live. I have a project with Luc Farrari that I hope will come out on Zadiyk. I have a new record of chilled out beat ballads I’m finishing for the Agriculture. It’s been over a year in the making and at one point I was robbed at my studio when I went for lunch and both laptops were taken with the only copy of the record. I caught the dude two blocks away and held a shovel to his throat and said “I just got to have my fuckin’ computers!” So, I feel lucky I got it back. You can check some of the rough mixes on www.myspace.com/theaudiojanitor. I will work on a project with the Berkley Symphony. I will continue to play with Uri Caine on his new Mozart piece and that record will come out on Winter&Winter soon.
Slackline Radio: Mozart? Incredible! Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with this classical project?
DJ Olive: I have been playing with Uri Caine for 10 years. I played on his Mauler record and his Bach record. Basically, he is a jazz composer who is fucking with classical works reinterpreting them and rearranging them as jazz. I am the wild card and get to do what I want adding atmospheres and scratching sound FX’s giving the sound a cinematic feel. He likes it when I sabotage those clapping moments after a long jazzy solo. It’s really fun to go on the road with jazz cats and its so different than writing beatz.
I will tour with Dave Douglas’s Keystone group after his first Keystone record on Green Leaf recordings. I’m on there. We remix We for The Agriculture. I will tour with John Paul Dessy. We released a record called Scorries on Sub Rosa last year. I will play in Lee Ranaldo and Alan Licht’s Text of Light project. Will play with Billy Martin and work on his new record. I am a guest on Oke Young Lees new record. There’s much more too, but I’ll leave it there. I am now trying to put together a round the world tour. I have gigs in NYC in October. I have a tour in Europe in November and December. Then, in Australia in December and January. New Zealand in February. Then, in China. I got a lead on Hawaii. Then, in Montreal in mid March. Then, back in NYC. Alaska?? Anybody got a gig for me?
Olive clearly feels comfortable sharing his music in a live setting and Heaps As showcases his ability. Hopefully, we can get Olive up to Alaska so that he can display his musical creations to the North Country. Given the chance, he will surely find another place to expand his “roof music” sound.