Playing for the Crowd: An Interview with Anthony Attalla

Playing for the Crowd: An Interview with Anthony Attalla

by Michael Maryanoff
07.17.2008

As time passes, the role of the DJ continues to change. Once starting off as the person whom supplied the music but was never seen, now the perception has changed and evolved into a role and image that must be highlighted in the venue. Many who have embraced this change have been wrapped up by the fame that comes with it, affecting their egos which in turn affects their selection, at times becoming selfish and playing for themselves rather than for those who pay the covers and ticket prices to fill up the space. However, this isn’t the case for the majority. One DJ/producer who acknowledges this is Detroit’s Anthony Attalla.

Instead of glorifying his role as the “DJ,” Attalla opts to focus his energy on the movement and feelings of the crowd, rather than himself. His tale doesn’t start off like the typical ‘I got turntables at a young age.’  Attalla picked up his love for techno much later in life, as he did a set of turntables. Opting out of the corporate world and into a life of music, he’s managed to create a successful profile for himself that’s only beginning to take shape. From his seven residencies around the nation, to his production work on pop hits, Attalla’s reach doesn’t seem to have an end.

He recently spoke to Clubplanet on his thoughts on his career thus far and what he thinks about Miami’s electronic music scene.

Clubplanet: What have you been up to lately?
Anthony Attalla:
On the DJ side of things I have residencies at Circus in Montreal, Guvernment in Toronto, Blue in Detroit, Rise in Boston, Avalon in LA, Dream in Miami and Swerve in Atlanta. I just went to Seoul, Korea to play at Volume, this brand new club that just opened up. It’s unbelievable. I’ll be going to Taiwan in a couple of months and I’ll be going to South America this winter. I’ve been traveling everywhere. On the production side I just released Obsidian which has had a lot of buzz around it. Next month I’ve got a big release on Proton Records. There will be bunch of really good people remixing it. I just got commissioned to produce a track with Christopher Norman, someone I produce with a lot. He’s a badass, brilliant young producer who has taught me a lot about production. Josh Gabriel is starting a new label called Different Pieces and our track is going to be released on his new album. We’ve also been commissioned by Capitol Records to remix Katey Perry's “I Kissed A Girl.” Me and Chris work so well because I’m more concerned as to what is going to work on the floor, while he studies a lot of music theory. Basement Twins in launching a new label, and our remix of Dogs will be one of the first tracks on their label. The response has been great.

CP: How did your DJing career come about?
Attalla:
After I played my first conference, I got a residency at Guvernment. It was unheard of to have a regional guy as a resident. I was in between keeping my job at AT&T and pursing DJing full time, and my dad, who is a really serious businessman, was like, “What are you doing, quit your job and make a living out of this. Fuck it, just quit.” The president called me and told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life. It was scary at first, but now I’m getting booked overseas, so things are going good. It’s easy to work hard when you love what you do. I could make millions as a CEO, but I’d be miserable. There is such a solace in doing what you love, I’m so thankful.

CP: What kind of influence has Detroit had on you?
Attalla: Huge, so huge. After college I got a job with AT&T and moved to Detroit. There was a lot of techno in Detroit, but it was all underground. I didn’t know a lot of people there, so I would go to the clubs alone. Even though I do play a lot of techno, the funny thing is that I’m more into German techno than Detroit techno. Detroit has subconsciously shaped my sound. It’s not like I went out and saw Richie Hawtin and decided, “Oh I want to be a techno DJ.” Being around techno prompted me to develop a more mature sound, to look for something deeper, grittier and grimier.

CP: Do you like it when people try to classify you?
Attalla:
No, I don’t. I’ll do a gig for a house crowd and I’ll play a straight up house set. But then I’ll go to Toronto and play strictly techno. It’s a case by case situation. I decipher the crowd, see how they move and play what works. There is good shit in every genre you just need to find it. You get better by being able to decipher crowds. If I go to LA and they want to hear a rockin’ electro set, I’m not going to play minimal. My job is to make people fucking rock. Sticking to one genre is a defeatist approach to music. I think people like that are a figment of their own imagination. It’s not about you, people are here to party and have a good time.

CP: How did you get in to music?
Attalla:
I never played an instrument, I just love music. My family was always playing all different types of music, everything from blues to Kraftwerk. My siblings were a lot older than me, so when I was younger I got into a lot of industrial and stuff like that. I used to fuck around with DJing in college, but afterwards I decided to take the dive. I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and she got me a beautiful bracelet for Christmas, so I said to her, “Don’t be mad, but what do you think about returning this bracelet and getting me a pair of turntables instead?” Little did she know it was the end of us from then on. (laughs) From that point on, I would practice every day, four to five hours a day, even on lunch breaks. After a year I got my first gig.

CP: What are some of your bigger influences?
Attalla:
Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. In the early 90s they were on the forefront and easily accessible. I also like Marvin Gaye, Smoky Robinson and Little Richard, I loved him when I was a kid. A lot of rock stuff like Def Leppard, old school Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Orbital. As far as DJs go my biggest influence unequivocally is Steve Lawler. I love how he has changed and adapted. He was playing electro house two years before the electro wave, but he never played anything cheesy. He was the one DJ I would listen to and say, “This is how I want to sound.” I’ve bonded with some DJs, such as Ferry Corsten and John Digweed. They’re the coolest motherfuckers in the world.



CP: What are your thoughts on Miami’s music scene?
Attalla:
Miami is very house oriented, which might have something to do with the Latin influence. Techno and tech house events don’t do so well because there is a small scene for it and it doesn’t seem like people want there to be a scene for it. They’re okay with the routine that they have. What it’s missing are the cool little clubs. Miami has one of the best scenes in the United States, but there doesn’t seem like there is a lot of progress.

CP: What’s next for you?
Attalla:
Traveling and the studio. I’m in a really pivotal stage right now. For the next couple of months I’ll be everywhere; Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Taiwan, LA, Atlanta. I’m looking forward to the next six to 12 months, they should be incredibly interesting. This is the time to grab the bull by the horns.

Click here to hear more from Anthony Attalla

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