Interview by Chris Zaldua.
If you go out regularly in San Francisco, you’ve probably met Steven Feiler. You’ve probably seen him fluttering about at Public Works — doing any number of different things, all at once — or on the dance-floor, chatting and dancing like he was born to do both.
Lately, he’s also making appearance on the other side of the floor, behind the decks. As nonsuit, he mixes up out-of-bounds techno, heavily percussive club music, and acid house, all laid over with queer flavor and intent.
He’s making his first appearance for As You Like It this Friday, March 1, at The Great Northern, as AYLI celebrates all things Pisces with two of the heaviest hitters in the biz: Omar S from Detroit and DJ Nobu from Tokyo.
He also mixed up an excellent AYLI podcast (his first!) and gave us some insight into his background and practice. Read on below, tune in, and make sure you catch Omar & Nobu.
CZ: Tell me about where you’re from and how you landed in the Bay Area.
SF: Well, originally I’m from San Diego, but I definitely identify much more with the side of myself that developed when I eventually moved to LA. I had been living there for about 5 years when I graduated from college and was having a difficult time finding where I fit in within the highly competitive & often frustrating world of dance music. I had been part of a group of folks throwing warehouse parties at the time (Perpetual Dawn) and through those people was able to put myself in touch with a few people from San Francisco. I had come up a few times for parties and really enjoyed everyone I met, which led to a somewhat spontaneous decision to move — which turned out to be one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
CZ: What was your first introduction to DJs or DJ culture? What got you hooked?
SF: When I was about 16, I started going to all-ages kandi raves in San Diego. Thinking back on that time, I sometimes forget how fundamental that entire scene was for me — that’s what got me ‘hooked.’ The parties happened in a somewhat ‘oldschool’ renegade fashion, taking over air hockey arenas or weird parking structures. The music was pretty bass-y and trance-adjacent stuff. Eventually, in college, I was introduced to UK dubstep & bass music and that’s when I started getting really into tunes.
When I was probably 20 or so, I was appointed the ‘artistic director’ of my college radio station, KCIA, where I hosted a few differents shows: “The Dad-Rock Power Hour” where I would bring in local dive bar cover bands to talk about whatever nonsense they felt was appropriate. “Big Drone, No Dancing” which was, exactly as it sounds, a weekly 6 hour drone show. And “This Is Not Tekno!! With DJ Cool Dad ft. MC Ravemum + Bottomless Mimosas!!” which was a show where I’d basically teach myself to DJ on air with a few friends in the studio doing dumb crap. It’s been all downhill from there.
CZ: What do you do here in the Bay Area? I know you work at Public Works — what else are you involved with?
SF: Public Works is pretty huge for me, booking more and more shows there. The 37-hour anniversary party we did last year was the biggest project I’ve taken a lead role in ever and really solidified that this is the type of work I want to do for a long time. I have a few new concepts I’m working on right now outside of Public Works — folks will start seeing those pop up mid-spring time.
I also recently started doing production work for one of my favorite venues on the planet, The Stud. I also work with a San Francisco-based record label and I’m learning about how that entire monster operates, with the intention of started a label in the distant future.
The whole logistics side of this community is something I’m pretty passionate about and it eats up most of my time, energy, and mental bandwidth. I’m so thankful for the people around me who’ve been so instrumental in getting me to where I am now (where ever that is). What ever part of me is left over is 1000% dedicated to taking in as much music as I can.
CZ: What kind of DJ are you? Another way of phrasing this question: What kind of music compels you to play it out? What makes you say This track is hot fire?
SF: I’m still learning about myself as a ‘DJ’ every time I prepare for a gig. I like so many different kinds of music and often feel as if I get lost in the seemingly endless amount of information I’ve retained about various things that I find it really difficult to categorize myself or tunes. My DJ playlists are either organized in some really asinine way like “Vibe” to “V!B3ezz+” or are (more commonly) completely chaotic. I like to think this leads to “interesting” sets. So I hope.
What makes me think a track is “hot fire” is something I’m still trying to figure out myself. As someone who is ultimately not producing any tunes worth mentioning, it’s difficult for me to articulate exactly what makes a tune stick out to me. I like to think I have a good ear for “it” but I’ve been wrong before and will be again. My taste also changes so frequently I feel like I’m in a constant state of learning, finding new amazing tunes every day.
CZ: Tell me about your AYLI podcast. How’d you put it together? Is it typically representative of the sets you play out?
SF: Well, this is my first podcast (!!) and it definitely was a challenge for me in a lot of different ways. The mix is filled with club-oriented tracks both “old” and new inspired by my head-first dive into Lisboan & South African tracks, so you’ll find a fair amount of bassy-techno & upbeat percussive club tracks. This was also the first time I’ve ever recorded myself using vinyl in a mix, which presented a set of challenges itself.
While digging through mixes from other DJs I found that tracks I thought had been “played out” or too challenging for most American dancefloors, when recontextualized, carried something new to a different demographic of people. For example, Jasmine Infiniti played the infamous Blawan track “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” at The Stud a few weeks ago. A tune I thought had been played to death, but when she recontextualized it as a club track and in a queer setting, it completely changed the song for me. Finding new ways to present things is something really new to me, and I consider it essential to keeping the traditions of house, techno, d’n’b, etc. alive.
There’s been a huge resurgence for American queer (and beyond) DJs beginning to take previously heteronormative music like d’n’b, dubstep, and the like and presenting it in a way that feel much more inclusive and exciting. The popularization of Eris Drew‘s mother beat, crews like In Training’s take on non-4×4 oriented tracks, and Mina in Lisbon are all evidence of this. Not to mention the entire dancehall x techno bubble that is still going strong in a post-Fade To Mind world. Using their examples, I tried to do something I felt was along the same thread.
This isn’t a totally accurate representation of a typical set from me as most of the tunes in this mix are far outside the comfort zone of the typical SF dancefloor (which is something folks are actively trying to change!! <3). It is representative of what I want my sets to sound like going forward. I feel this mix is an accurate representation of my current taste and my take on what people in subcultures far from myself are trying to do.
CZ: What makes a good party for you? As a partygoer, or as a DJ, or both.
SF: Good music. Lots of dancing. Inclusivity. Fog machines.
CZ: What’s next up for you DJ-wise? Any interesting gigs you can share, or just anything new in your own DJ practice that’s got you excited?
SF: Next up on March 22 I’m on over at Public Works with Huerco S & DJ Python. Two artists I’ve been suuuuper into for a bit now. Glad to be playing a role in DJ Python’s SF debut! I’ll be putting the party on with some of my favorite people to work with, Brouhaha.
I have a few more cool things coming up including playing at my first campout festival in April, but nothing has been announced quite yet.
Trying to tackle vinyl has been a huge undertaking for me as well. Something that I feel will become a lifelong learning process.
CZ: Last but certainly not least: What are you listening to lately?
SF: Club music: DJ Lag, Dj Polo, Poté, Taso & Siete Catorce, Lsdxoxo, Byrell The Great, Orj, M.E.S.H., Ariel Zetina, Jasmine Infiniti, Slick Shoota, Agrippa, Piezo, Errorsmith, Violet, Tzusing, Giant Swan, Flora FM, Facta, Laksa, Nkc, Calibre, Batu, Toma Kami, Metrist, Lapien, Gaunt, and rRoxymore.