Interview: (The) Juan MacLean

Juan MacLean has been one of the most critically acclaimed dance musicians/producers of the last decade. The Juan MacLean’s albums, Less Than Human and The Future Will Come both received stellar reviews from the likes of Pitchfork Media, Allmusic, and NME. His latest album is his first full length DJ mix for the DJ-Kicks series. I had a chance to talk to MacLean about DJ’ing, DJ-Kicks, and the future!

How did you get into DJ’ing?
I had never dj’ed outside of bedroom before making my first 12,” By The Time I Get To Venus. My dj’ing experience at that point consisted of having raves in my underwear, alone, in my apartment. After Venus was released, it blew up a bit, and I started getting offers to DJ. Everything just sort of went from there.
You just released a DJ-Kicks compilation how did the opportunity come about?
I think it was mostly a case of my getting in touch with them. I had never released a commercially available dj mix up to this point, mainly because I was waiting to see if I could do a DJ Kicks. It was my all-time favorite mix series and I was really holding out for it. It’s sort of liking saving your virginity for your marriage to Kate Moss. Maybe she is a bad example.
You chose to be credited as “Juan Maclean” rather than “The Juan Maclean” for the compilation, any particular reason?
Yes, there is a conscious decision here. In terms of bookings, when it is the band playing it is billed as ‘The Juan MacLean.’ When I am dj’ing, I am billed simply as ‘Juan MacLean.’ James Murphy gave me the ‘the’ a long time ago, he said it would make me sound more important, and it really has. It seems like girls are really impressed by it.
How different is organizing a DJ-Kicks type mix than a traditional album?
Remarkably, there are some important similarities. When organizing and sequencing an album, I put a lot of thought into the album flowing in a way that makes sense. The goal is to make something that is a listening experience as a whole, not just like one or maybe two great singles surrounded by filler. THe same is true with my DJ Kicks. It’s a bit trickier because it’s dance music, but I tried to make something with peaks and valleys, with themes that repeated, and somehow held the listener’s attention over time. DJ mixes can be quite boring if they don’t change very much. Mine is pretty much at the same tempo, all 4-on-the-floor House beats, so right off the bat there was the potential for it to be monotonous.
How did you decide what tracks would go on your DJ-Kicks mix?
At first I just made a list of anything that came to mind, things I had been imagining I would use over the years. It was a list of about 100 tracks, and it featured House, Techno, Post-Punk, Disco, just all kinds of stuff that I had been influenced by over the years. IT was very comprehensive. From there, I narrowed it down to about 50 that I submitted for licensing approval. Only a few were denied at that point, mainly for licensing issues with samples. So I was left with 30 or 40 tracks to choose from. I tried out endless variations of mixes, at first with this idea of wanting to b as all-encompassing as possible. What I found, however, was that the mix felt more like a history lesson than something that could be enjoyed. So in the end, I ended up with a pretty genre-specific compilation of House tracks. What I realized when I had settled on the tracks I had is that they mostly sounded timeless. IT’s hard to tell if some of them are older or contemporary. But in general it made for a more fun, coherent mix, at the risk of being monotonous. BUt I think I pulled it off.
Are there any songs you wish you could have squeezed on your DJ-Kicks mix but did not make it?
The big one was this track by Joris Voorn, ‘We’re All Clean.’ It had a lot of samples to it so we couldn’t get clearance, but that was one of my favorite tracks of the year, I still play it nearly every time I dj.
You’re on tour now in promotion of the compilation, what can people expect from your current live show?
Mostly my dj sets sound pretty much like the DJ Kicks compilation. Maybe I get a bit tech-ier, harder or whatever when I DJ live, depending where I am. Like in Berlin I have to play pretty dark. In London I can be more upbeat. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I think the Germans are still bent of shape about the war or something.
After the tour, what’s next for The Juan Maclean? Are there plans to record a new record?
Yes that’s exactly it, I will be working on a new album. No idea what it will be like at this point. It could go in a couple of different directions. Either an album of Happy Houses or an album of One Days.

Catch Juan MacLean at one of his tour dates below:
3rd June The Moct, Milwaukee
4th June Green Dolphin Street, Chicago
5th June Fixed Party @ Public Assembly, Brooklyn
8th June Beauty Bar, Austin
9th June Square One, Jacksonville
10th June Makin’ Time @ Voyeur, Philadelphia
11th June Wrongbar, Toronto
12th June TBA, Los Angeles
13th June Days Inn @ Camelback, Phoenix
20th June La Santernera, Playa Del Carmen
24th June PM, Dallas
25th June Boondocks, Houston
26th June Respectable Street, West Palm Beach
30th June W. Lounge, Salt Lake City
2nd July La Rumba, Denver

MP3: The Juan MacLean “Happy House (Cut Copy Remix)”

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