[Interview] Treasure Fingers talks Psycho Disco, an Oversaturated Market, and Expanding Musical Horizons.
One of Atlanta's favorite local yet internationally known DJs and producers, Treasure Fingers, has been steadily rising over the years, but has recently kicked things into high gear. He has begun playing more local shows via his bi-monthly "Psycho Disco" parties; became the label boss of his very own label, Psycho Disco Records; and has begun releasing music on a more steady basis, keeping fans of booty-shaking house music happy everywhere. As if to flex his increased power in the scene, he invited Night Bass head AC Slater and also Jack Beats to Atlanta to headline a show with him at Terminal West, along with support from another local favorite, Double Nil. We sat down with him to learn more about what's been going on behind the scenes with him, and to get his read on the future of dance music and his own personal plans.
The electronic music scene is always changing. How do you feel about its current state and the tension that’s evolving between festival culture and club culture?
Yeah, it’s really interesting to see. The biggest change that I’ve seen is once corporate America and investors, and dudes that wanted to make money jumped in on it. It’s similar to how it happened in the late 90s, early 2000s, when they passed crazy laws against raves, and it just disbanded. Companies that used to do really good events, if they even attempted to do one, they got shut down. Their stuff was seized, like all their money taken, it was crazy. I haven’t seen it to that degree now, it’s more the over-saturation of the market between all the festivals. It wasn’t meant for that many. It just got really bad to where there wasn’t room for it. I’d seen it start years ago in Australia. They had a really bustling festival market, and it started to get over-saturated, and then they weren’t selling out like they used to. Artist fees were going up and it made it dive down and take a hit, which I guess is what’s starting to happen in America now.
It’s funny now, because probably a lot of the younger kids that have just gotten into EDM in the past few years did so through a festival or through some bigger event like that. A lot of them couldn’t even go into a proper club, like a 21+ club. With regards to festival vs. club culture, I’ve got a story actually. I did a club tour in Australia, during festival season. Which… I guess some people can pull it off, and a lot of shows were really good, but some of them were just bummer shows if they were on a weekend. Why would you pay $25 to see one guy when you could pay a couple hundred to see eight stages. So, it’s weird. It definitely fucks up club culture to a degree, but it also benefits it in giving it new audiences. It turns people on to the music, and then they get deeper into it and realize there’s a whole club culture. It just got way more aggressive once bankers decided to be festival promoters, and they didn’t care shit about the music. They hit it at the top, they’re behind the curve.
Where do you feel about where you are in that mix? You have your label, your new alter ego, and you’re hosting bigger shows like tonight.
I think I hit a point to where for years I could put out releases and get booked. It was different even from my agency side, how they would book me is clubs would reach out, and the bookings were every single weekend. For years, just steady out, traveling like crazy. And then it kind of flipped to where the market got so saturated, that… say I’m a club promoter… at this point I don’t even have time to think of people that I like, that I want to book because my email is just filled with aggressive agents. So, it turned into a thing to where, even if you were killing it, the promoters kind of stopped reaching out because they were getting slammed with requests constantly, to where that filled their calendars up.
So, talking to my agent, I was kind of asking what can we do to get some bookings, or book some tours again. And, it just comes down to the fact that you’ve got to be constantly either promoting something like new releases or a tour, but you’ve got to have something extra that you push out there to secure those new tour bookings. Because before, I would make music, but I didn’t even have paid PR or marketing, and I would get calls from my agent. That slowly faded, and I could sense it, so I needed branded tours and specific other things. They were things I’d wanted to do, but just hadn’t done, like the label and the radio show I started recently. All that is just putting myself out there more and working my ass off, because I definitely got lazy for a few years there. I would say the past two years, I’ve worked harder than I have done since before I had a lucky break and kind of “made it." I took it for granted for a while, but I hit a point recently where I realized that if I treated it like a day job, the payoff would be way better than me just fucking around. Now I just put the work in. I treat it like a job. I have a strict schedule with my calendar filled out. Like, even for the radio shows, on Mondays I go through every single promo I get, and most of them are so bad, but there’s usually enough there to make a radio show. The next day I’ll record the radio show and do the design for it. Doing the weekly show, by the time I go out on the weekend to play shows, I’m ready to go.
Let’s talk about The Treasury. Why did you create a new name instead of expanding the Treasure Fingers brand?
It wasn’t like a conscious thing. When I’m in the studio, I tend to just write whatever I’m feeling rather than what I should be making. Like, I know I should be making the next Treasure Fingers EP because I need to get something out around February or March on the label. But, some days I’m just not feeling it and I’ll just make something wildly different. For years I’ve been doing that and I would put them in a folder that I just called “The Treasury” because I thought it was a cute play on names, like Treasure Fingers keeping shit stocked up. Kind of like the Treasury Department. But, I started to notice that the songs in there had a unique yet cohesive feel to them. Like, if they were all an album, it would kind of make sense because they’re all on the same vibe. That’s where I kind of started forming the idea in my head to just make a new project and see what happens.
Will you be playing any Treasury tracks tonight?
No, they don’t work at clubs. It’s just not club music at all. Even the things I’ve played so far. I’ve only played two shows. One was Boiler Room, where you can kind of get away with weirder stuff. The other one was Sloppy Seconds here in Atlanta which is kind of a turn-up party, but I even told them, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. It’s really chill, not club music, but it went over well. They were into it. I basically played 45 minutes of stuff they’d never heard, just weird shit, and then I finished it off with some classic Atlanta rap. If I put it out as Treasure Fingers, it would just confuse the shit out of everyone. I’ve been developing my sound a lot more, which has been hard, because I feel like I’m mostly known for “Cross The Dance Floor” which came out 2007 / 2008, and my sound has changed so much. I think a lot of people still expect me to play hipster disco house stuff, and I’ve been playing more techy house music for a while now. I decided to just keep driving that point home, which is part of the reason for starting the label and doing the radio show.
Why did you start your own label, and what advice do you have for other indie labels when they start up?
Well, I still release on other labels, but one of the reasons I started it was just to have complete 100% control over everything. Even down to release dates and artwork, and who we do premieres with. Actually, a lot of it was release dates. A lot of artists will tell you this, their stuff rarely comes out when it’s supposed to. You make a track, you’re super excited to get it out there, and then it gets locked up in contract negotiations. Once that gets sorted, it still takes a while for the label to get it out. I figured, if I had my own label, I can get turn shit around in about a month. To me just having that power is kind of cool. That was one of the big reasons, but a lot of my friends shared the same things, so I started the label, and when they send me stuff, I’ll ask them when they want the release date to be or send them several artwork options and let them have more control than a usual label situation. As far as advice for new producers or new artists that might start a label, I think it’s definitely worth it because it’s really easy to get your music out there now. Again, the bad part is saturation. The saturation on releases is insane. Something you definitely have to account for is some sort of PR or marketing budget just to get your stuff out there in front of people or else you’ll just slip into the sludge of the million Beatport releases that came out that week. But, the cool things is that if you’re killing it, and all your friends are fucking with it, and they’re telling their friends, if it’s a good product it’s going to spread. For a non-DJ type artist, if they’re just fuckin’ incredible, then they don’t need a label at all. They don’t need any of that. Where the benefit comes in for a DJ or producers is it gives you a support system. Say I sign ten people to my label, when anyone releases something, nine other people are going to post it.
Cool. Do you have any upcoming releases or anything else you want to talk about?
Right now I’m just pushing the label. We’ve got the first compilation coming out next year, maybe in February. We’ve got a couple big releases where we’re still waiting on sample clearance, but we’re going to go really big with that. I have a tour sometime in the late Spring next year as well.
After our conversation, the packed out Terminal West crowd enjoyed lively performances from all the DJs. Double Nil played a nice warm-up set of chill house music, straying into soulful and almost disco territory at times. Treasure Fingers brought things up a notch with some booty house and energizing tracks, but still left room for the headliners. Jack Beats played a solid mix of bass house and started to stray into some hip-hop territory. AC Slater brought the house down with his signature style of house with driving basslines and aggressive beats. Towards the end, things went into full ghetto house territory and even a couple trap bangers made their way into the last five songs.
For more Treasure Fingers, be sure to attend his upcoming Psycho Disco party at The Music Room on December 17th, and to hear more from his label, check out the guest mix that Codes did for us here at Bullet Music.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music