If you’ve been following Art Department’s activity over the past few months, you may have noticed he’s been touring less often than usual. Aside from promoting his No.19 Music label’s 10-year celebrations for parties like their full club takeover with us this coming Friday, much of his time has been spent out in Africa, working on animal conservation with his MAAC initiative. He filled us in on the details of this in a recent interview, as well as some of what No.19 are up to ahead of this weekend’s party marking their decade milestone.
What have you been up to recently?
In short, I’ve kind of been off tour for most of 2018, spending a lot of time on the Mayan Riviera and a bit in Peru. I’ve just been taking some time, for the first time in a long time. I’ve still been doing music and working on my charity organization MAAC, but without the madness of touring. In the last 10 days I’ve been doing a couple of shows in Israel and relaxing before I head to London for the No.19 show at fabric.
Can you tell us about how the initiative started?
We’re just people who aren’t going to sit by and watch all these animal populations diminish at the hands of human greed and ignorance. We’re fortunate to have the networks and fans to facilitate some education and fundraising, so we’re using what we’ve got.
How does your career in music tie into the project?
That’s what I was saying in regard to the networks or resources available to me. My career in music is what gives me the opportunity to do something. At the same time, the project is inspiring my own art by giving a different kind of meaning to the work I’m doing with music.
How did you pick the line-up for 18th May?
With all these 10-year showcases I’m really thinking about the vibe first. I don’t just want artists whose music I love doing these shows; I really want the feeling of a celebration so I’m trying to put together crews who will all vibe off each other and have a good time. Clive, Guti, Martin and Nitin are family, and obviously they’re all amazing talents. We just needed the icing on the cake to make it super special for fabric, and Kevin was an obvious choice after our collaboration. I’m really excited to have him in London with us.
How did your release with Kevin Saunderson come together?
It was a really humbling collaboration to get involved with. I think Kevin’s name came up in some conversation with Nicole from Armada who handles KMS, most likely because I was on about my KMS collection, and what a huge fan I was. Next thing I knew, his people were asking me if I would be interested in a collaboration for the label’s 30-year anniversary series. Obviously I jumped at the chance, and sent Kevin a few ideas I had for the release. He picked one as a starting point for the recording and we went from there.
Have a lot of Detroit artists like Saunderson had a big influence on you?
Yes, in a major way – not only because of my proximity to Detroit after growing up in Toronto, but actually increasingly as the years go on. For me the style of techno that comes from these guys is so authentic and that matters to me so much more these days, in a sea of copycats and “techno” that isn’t really techno. Stylistically it wasn’t what I was doing but aesthetically, the instruments and sounds used really found a way into my production. I have no idea what my music would sound like without Detroit; maybe there wouldn’t even be any?
Do you think your approach to the label has changed over the last 10 years at all?
I guess you go through phases. There were times I was a bit too focussed on trying to stay away from trends that had caught on after the success of some releases, and making sure the label was never pigeon-holed as anything. I think I forced change here and there, and was probably a bit too business conscious at times. Right now, we’re not really looking at anything other than “do we love the record?”, more how it was in the early years.
What are your plans for the label for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year we’re hammering out a ton of releases from a lot of the early players. We’re bringing back some label favourites, and breaking some new ones in like Senzala. We’re also incorporating remixes and releases from friends I’ve not had a chance to work with yet, like DJ Three, D’Julz, Honey Dijon, Cassy and Mr. G… really there are too many exciting releases to even mention, as we pump out nearly 20 more before the end of the year to hit 100 in December.
Finally away from No.19 and the big decade celebrations, what would you suggest to anyone that would like to support MAAC?
I would urge anyone interested to head to the website and familiarize themselves with what we’re doing. Artists and promoters who want to support or are interested in fundraising initiatives can choose from a menu of opportunities. Of course, everyone’s donations are what make a real difference on the ground in Africa, so we appreciate everything that comes in.