Since the early '00s, Philly DJ Apt One has been known for his expertly crafted disco edits, his record label Young Robots, and his keenly manicured facial hair. As a producer and DJ who has never restricted himself to just one alias, he explores the nu-disco genre as RCMP with Relative Q, and exposed his audiences to moombahton with Skinny Freidman as the Philadelphyinz. He recently debuted his newest solo moniker, Michael the Lion, with a remix of Todd Edwards' and Robert Lux's "I've Still Got Sunshine." We spoke with Apt One about his Philly pride, the defunct Hollerboard DJ forum, and his search for a Cutty Bang. He plays Saturday, April 5, at The Stud for Go Bang! and Monday, April 7 at Madrone for Motown on Mondays.
You've always been associated with the town of Philly. How has living there influenced your career?
Philly has a really amazing musical history and it is one of the few places that has had "DJ culture" going back 40 years. It shows there -- the party-goers are pretty demanding and the DJs are good as a result. Being in a fairly affordable city in the middle of the Northeast corridor helps, too -- you can go play shows in Boston, NYC, or DC without a lot of fuss and you get to meet a lot of people that way.
Tell us a little about your newly released vinyl out on Young Robots
I just put out a limited edition 12-inch EP with three great Philly bands -- Nicos Gun, Instamatic, and the Downtown Club. I remixed all three groups, and the result is a super diverse record -- loft disco, dark electro, Italo disco, post-punk, '80s pop. I silk-screened and hand-numbered the units myself so I'm really proud of these. I'll be bringing a few copies to Go Bang!, because they aren't available in S.F. stores. You can mail order them from Turntable Lab, though.
Now you've also recently acquired a new alter ego, Michael the Lion. What's the story behind its creation?
My friend Cosmo Baker called me once out of the blue a year ago to say, "I've been thinking, you need to change your name to something more grown-up." He meant that my work had matured and I needed a new name to match this newer phase of stuff. I have a few EPs worth of material under the new moniker and some remixes as well. With all the Michael the Lion stuff, I play lots of instruments in my productions and do a lot of sample collage stuff. A bit like I did with my old group, RCMP.
What did you try and bring in your newest remix for Robert Lux and Todd Edwards?
With the Lux and Edwards record, I tried to really emphasize the acoustic guitar, which is a seriously underused instrument in dance music. Put that with a bass groove and you get in the vibe tank. The song is called "I've Still Got Sunshine," so I really tried to go for that Balearic vibe.
You were an early member of the famed DJ forum the Hollerboard, whose members included Diplo, A-Trak, and the late DJ AM. What did that membership mean to you as a DJ?
That was a really cool group of people that self-segregated into that forum. I came to it as a Philly guy who knew the core people in real life, but then I made a lot of friends on there all over the world. The fact that you're asking me about a message board that has been dead for a half-decade kinda points to how important that place was.
Do you think there was something unique about belonging to a forum, versus today's popular social media such as Twitter and Facebook?
Absolutely. Twitter and Facebook suck -- it's not really where you hang out with your Internet friends. I think forums may come back, though -- I am part of some invite-only forums and email chains where people talk shop about engineering and critique each other's demos. You can't do that on Twitter.
On the side, you interview DJs in a cooking column for Vice. Which has been the most popular dish so far?
Dieselboy's 48-hour short ribs were crazy popular, because that dude is legendary in all aspects. My personal favorite was Detroit's Frankie Banks' Slim Jim linguine. I'm trying to set up a DJs-only potluck type dinner party in S.F. this weekend with some local legends. I'm writing it up on the column if it happens, obviously.
What are you looking forward to playing at Go Bang! and Motown on Mondays?
Last time I was at Go Bang! I tried to do a whirlwind Philly disco odyssey. This time, I wanna get a little more on the funky block-party vibe. I am gonna play a lot of my new Michael The Lion stuff alongside a giant grip of classic disco vinyl I'm hauling out special for the occasion. At MOM you can certainly expect to hear a lot of my funk edits, and if things go right, I'll play Stevie Wonder's "As" from start to finish and sing the whole thing.
Where are some places we can catch you hanging out in S.F.?
I've been told that S.F. liquor stores will sell you pre-packaged collections of little airplane liquor bottles and mixers called Hook-Ups. I'm gonna see if I can't track down the elusive Cutty Bang and drink it out of a foam cup while I watch sailboats on the water.