Interview by Chris Zaldua and Photo by Vuki Backonja.
In January 2013, Aaron Davis launched a podcast series. By the podcast’s second iteration, he had given it a name — Acid Camp. Two years after that, in 2015, he threw his first Acid Camp party, cementing Acid Camp as an underground mainstay in Los Angeles nightlife. (Er, “daylife,” perhaps, since most Acid Camp parties take place on Sundays, running from the afternoon into the early evening.)
All along the way, Davis has been burnishing his career as a DJ — first as an Acid Camp resident, then at parties throughout Los Angeles, and now up north in San Francisco and even across the Pacific in Asia (more on that below). He’s a versatile, broad-minded DJ, with roots in disco and acid house, but as his AYLI Podcast demonstrates, he also has a gentleman’s taste in techno.
This Saturday, May 20, Aaron Davis teams up with As You Like It to bring Acid Camp to San Francisco, hosting the Loft at Public Works with Marcellus Pittmann, Zernell, and a B2B from Davis himself and AYLI resident Mike Gushansky, while downstairs the Hessle Audio crew (Ben UFO, Pearson Sound, and Pangaea) go back-to-back-to-back all night long. We caught up with Davis to learn more about the Acid Camp saga. Read on —
CZ: When and where was the Acid Camp project conceived, and how did it begin?
AD: “The Magic of Dorian.”
CZ: What is Acid Camp all about? What makes Acid Camp parties special?
AD: It’s about having the time of your life. If you go to a party without that intention, what’s the point? “Searching for paradise on the dance floor” is the sentiment I continue to come back to when describing Acid Camp.
CZ: You’ve always used unorthodox locations for Acid Camp parties — and you specialize in the afternoon-to-evening day party, too. How do these dynamics change the way your parties feel?
AD: To create the proper aesthetic for a successful Acid Camp it requires full control of the space. This is really difficult with any traditional venue, especially in Los Angeles. Bars and venues here mostly aren’t interested in what I’m trying to accomplish. I want to pull people out of the traditional experience they are used to as much as I can.
CZ: How’s the LA party scene these days? What’s got you particularly excited — and what do you wish were different?
AD: There’s a ton of promoters here, which is a blessing for the city. I’ve never lived anywhere with so many options to see amazing lineups every weekend with the majority being underground, illegal and un-permitted. The risk is really high for these promoters and we’re lucky to have so many people putting their neck on the line to try and create something cool and meaningful for Los Angeles. It’s not always in a safe space, sorry to twist the knife, but it’s hopefully a wakeup call to try and make all spaces safer and open to all individuals.
CZ: You recently launched an Acid Camp record label. Tell me more about the label — what’s your vision for it, and what do you hope to achieve?
AD: I’ve forever been interested in music and how it moves people. The moment felt right. I had met a ton of producers through the Acid Camp events and I wanted to give them another outlet to show the world what they’ve got to offer. I’ve been fortunate to be able to share my friends’ music in so many ways; the podcast, the party, and now the record label. My focus with the label is to offer up a small taste of what you might get to hear at an Acid Camp party and to help all of my talented friends get their music into as many hands and ears as possible.
CZ: Tell me about yourself as a DJ — your profile has been steadily rising in LA and beyond. What do you think makes for a great DJ set, and how do you attempt to channel that in your own sets?
AD: DJing has always been an obvious path for me. I remember organizing my parents records and CDs alphabetically, reading the inserts, and dancing and crying to all my mom’s R&B records — shout-out to Bloodstone’s “Natural High.” I was always crashing my parents’ parties when I was supposed to be sleeping. My mom’s friends all played music and were singers for off Broadway productions. They all tried to get me to learn piano and sing. I never really picked it up, but I was totally hooked on the music and how it made everyone immediately happy and carefree. It was like cutting butter with a hot knife. I learn something new every time I DJ. I can’t ask for much more than that.
CZ: Tell me more specifically about your AYLI Podcast. It’s a lot more techno than I was expecting — which I’m totally okay with.
AD: I just got home from a 4 week-long trip in Asia. First, I visited Vietnam to attend Equation and play at an adorable club there, Savage. Then onto Taiwan to host an Acid Camp Night at Smoke Machine-affiliated club Korner and to attend their yearly beachside festival Organik, one of my new favorite festivals. I got exposed to a lot of techno on this trip. I think that’s largely inspired by Organik and my set at Korner alongside Faso and Perlin Noise. It’s taken me a longtime to get comfortable playing Techno records.
CZ: What’s next for Acid Camp? Any particular goals or accomplishments you’ve got your sights set on?
AD: This is by far the most demanding and most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on. Getting to work in music has always been a dream of mine. It’s really amazing to see the opportunity arise and have the ability to work with so many friends and get to make many new friends along the way.
CZ: What is some new music you’re really feeling — dance music or otherwise?
AD: It’s nice to be surrounded by so much music. I listen to a lot of music, and I share a lot of music with friends and visa versa. I love knowing that I will never listen to everything – that someone can turn me onto something new or old or in-between. There’s always something new to hear, something old to rediscover — even new ways to hear music, new spaces, new experiences, new revelations. I recently re-listened to Steely Dan’s Aja in its entirety while making breakfast. Young Marco’s Welcome to Paradise (Italian Dream House 89-93) compilation while poolside in Palm Springs for my friend Dan’s birthday party and Agoria – Speechless feat. Carl Craig right before sunset just as the wind kicked up. Some music is made for certain moments.
CZ: Last but not least, when will you be releasing Acid Camp sunglasses?
AD: Spring/Summer collection 2018 — just wait for the embroidered sashes.