When we look back at the era from 2015 to now, we doubt there are DJs whose mixes dominated the zeitgeist as much as CCL’s. Through recordings for Unsound, Honey Soundsystem, C-, Discwoman and Blowing up the Workshop, their distinct vision and ability in creating masterful, story-like mixes has resonated far and wide. That’s not to put a full stop on their reign – far from it, in fact. With their productions growing stronger with each new release they put out, themed radio shows that unite everyone in the comments and chatrooms, and the news of them intending to turn their liquidtime project into a label, the sky really is the limit for wherever their musical journey takes them next.
We caught up with CCL to chat about the blocks they have in finishing music, the self-described “organised chaos” of their Rekordbox playlists, their ongoing photography work, and their thoughts on experiencing music in places other than just the club. Their Truancy Volume, demonstrating why their rise is nothing short of deserved, pushes on the throttle that much harder than their last couple of outings in the mix – yet the charm and imagination that makes their mixes so unique and impactful remains wonderfully intact.
Hey, thanks for taking the time out to answer some questions and for doing this mix for us. So just to start, how have you been? Apart from a few radio shows you’ve actually taken a step back from doing mixes and this will be your first official studio mix this year? Has it been a very introspective sort of year for you? “Hey, thank you, long-time TRUANTS reader and fan since 2010 here! :) It’s an honor and a pleasure. I’m doing a ok, coming out of this winter feeling like I need to shed a skin (or two). At the best of times, my output is glacially slow… but this is the first studio mix I’ve done in over a year, which is a long stretch for me. It has been a reflective year—I have been trying to pull apart some of the ways I was doing things, creatively and otherwise, and take with me the parts that feel healthy and leave behind the many things that weren’t. I’m not going to lie, quitting my jobs, moving to Berlin, and then being faced with the Pandemic prompted me to have a bit of a (probably necessary) identity crisis. I’ve been trying to come back to what makes me feel good about participating in music, and what my contribution can be. This makes it sound like I have figured it all out, still working on that. :) “
Saying that you managed to put out your first official remixes in the form of two for Nadia Khan’s Port Ana remix EP. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about, and the process in creating both? Had that always been the plan between you two? “That came about pretty naturally. Francis, who runs the label, brought it up once and I had never (completed) a remix before. I’m a huge fan of Nadia’s productions, and this felt like this could be the perfect way to start. I wrongly assumed making a remix of an ambient track might be easier, but I found it more challenging. You can go so many directions when there’s no rhythm driving the track, so I plotted out many different ideas based on one or two elements in each. I then left them to sit a bit and finished (god forbid) two. Thanks everyone for your patience while I took my sweet time.“
What are the blocks you find that hold you back in finishing music? “Honestly, this is one of my biggest challenges in life: I have trouble finishing anything, let alone music *grimace*. Concerning music specifically—I think coming to production later in life means there’s always the nagging voice in the back of my head that says I don’t know what I’m doing (true), I should have started earlier, and will probably never be as competent as someone who’s done this for a while… So why bother, etc. I also think having started producing later means I have a very clear idea of what I want to achieve in a production, it can feel frustrating when things don’t come out that way. I started making tracks on my own as an attempt to fill specific gaps in mixes or sets, but I feel like that was limiting me too. Lately, I’ve been trying to let things flow out more loosely, letting things diverge and not get too tied down in a concept, though often I cannot heed my advice. Showing WIPs or working with other people helps push things to the finish line, but I rarely do. Big ups to my studio mates Roza Terenzi and D Tiffany (also Taylor Flora FM and Martyn) for being so generous with their knowledge. It’s helped me so much. “
Have you ever thought about the potential themes and concepts a debut solo CCL EP might have? “Something has been in the works for some time now, and at the risk of jinxing myself, I’m going to leave it at this—hopefully, you’ll see it before the end of the year.“
You’ve recently started a monthly residency with Refuge Radio called Liquidtime with the first show being called ‘Spooky Water’. Have you thought about where you’re going to take the shows? “I started liquidtime in part to get myself out of some unhealthy tendencies re “DJ output” (lol), but also to lean into certain feelings I get from music that feel so impalpable I want to lay in them more, inside and outside the club. There’s a loose theme for every show; these themes are surreal/nonsensically evocative e.g. Spooky Water, Gilded Feathers, Magma Venom. I enjoy coming up with an image for them as well. I plan to turn this into a label soon, and I am making liquidtime into a longer form event (hopefully 12+ hours) where you’re encouraged to trip. ;~) “
Kind of staying on the topic of the previous question but with you having different concepts or inspiration for different mixes and radio shows, I wonder how you feel about the balancing act of not being boxed in when you’re not a genre DJ? Do you think you’ve nailed down people expecting the unexpected from you? “Haha, I honestly really hope I’ve achieved that. I like to keep expectations as broad as possible so I can continue doing what I want, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling boxed in at certain points based on my output or past sets etc. I talk a bit about how I do this logistically with my records and USBs below.“
From your club recordings and B2Bs it seems like you’re quite comfortable playing extended long sets, the 9 hours with Physical Therapy springs to mind! Are your records and USBs set up in a way that makes that quite comfortable? “It’s true; I love playing extended sets! I wish I could tell you about my meticulous and revolutionary Rekordbox/record classification system. In reality, I should be a lot more organized. ;)
In terms of digital files, I would describe my Rekordbox as “organized chaos” . I have a structure that is more or less maintained depending on what’s going on with me. I have Intelligent playlists that auto-populate via tags based on Genre, Situation (anything from “Set Start”, to “Outside”), Mood (anything from Hypnotic, Naughty, etc), and Energy (1-10) + most sets that I’ve played before on my USB for reference.
For longer b2bs, I often will pick out specific things I want to play with Daniel, for example, and organize them based on loose themes I see jump out at me. These can be as specific as “Skeletal SteppersSlow or more general. I then also have more specific BPM-related folders like 90-100, 75-89, but I like to keep them quite general. I also set Rekordox to analyze all double-time files as halftime (even do this with 140s too sometimes), and this opened up a world of possibilities beatmatching-wise, and one of many reasons why I love playing in the sub 100 and over 150 ranges.
I also have thematic or made-up genre playlists such as “Slow-wave”, “Tempo Sitchups”, “Big Bassline Cowgirl Breaks (thank you Roza Terenzi, D Tiffany, Maara etc)”, “Slice – Vocal, Beats, Other –> tracks that I loop and use for layering)”, “Beat Science”, “Percy Chugs” “Drum-Solo Freakout”, “Tears”, etc. All this is helpful and all but sometimes I’ll just sort and scroll an entire BPM section (even though I have over 10,000 tracks on my USB) because things just jump out at me that I wouldn’t see in a playlist or haven’t thought about in a while, or scroll purposefully in a “wrong” BPM section in search of something I can play on Wide. I got into this habit more when I couldn’t create playlists anymore because my Rekordbox wasn’t working this summer.
For my records, I try to label each record with the BPM at 33 and 45, many of my “never leave the bag” records are playable on both speeds. If possible, I’ll also have scrawly notes on a post-it to remember which tracks are which. My record organization system on shelves is called “spill out your bag” in which there’s a few cubes I dedicate to being lazy and clump them all based on recent sets I’ve picked for. I do have a pretty loose “genre” system in my cubes as well, but tbh lots of my record collection is still in my Mom’s basement/garage in Seattle (sorry Mom!).
I guess I’ve realized in the past year that frustratingly, there’s no overarching specific way for my brain to organize music that doesn’t feel too limiting or time-consuming with little payoff beyond what I’ve mentioned above. I’m sure when I snap in a few months and try to think of a new system, but so far, everything I’ve tried that’s been methodical, I end up ultimately scrapping—there’s a graveyard of them in my Rekordbox. Maybe I’m justifying my lack of organization to myself, but I’ve found introducing a bit of organized chaos can help me find things but also stop me from feeling too limited by terminology or schema that I find it hard to classify music in. This also backfires and I’ll be scrolling infinitely while a track ends, but that’s also when I take risks – that feels exciting to me.“
I always get the impression with your DJing and the way you could jump from dubstep, hardcore, house, techno, 90-100 BPM twisters that you could B2B with potentially anyone, haha Do you find that to be an honest take? “I would like to believe that to be true on a good day. Funnily enough, I pretty much categorically avoided them until fairly recently. I guess it was an anxiety thing—fear of not knowing other people’s tracks well enough, or getting boxed into a place I don’t want to stay, or messing up or embarrassing someone else. Embarrassing myself is bad enough! Physical Therapy changed my mind on this topic, it’s so nice to play with someone like Daniel. He is so chill, has a healthy sense of humor about DJing, and is so well-versed in every kind of music. It’s so fun; there’s nowhere I don’t think he couldn’t go and figure it out. He often also saves my butt when I’ve mis-deployed something, or steers things in a direction that always ends up being a good idea somehow.
Some people I would enjoy a b2b with, simply as a thought experiment on what the combined dynamic would be or because I’m a huge fanboy: DJ Marcelle, Simo Cell, Livwutang, Kiernan Laveaux (incoming), adab, DJ Voices, Batu (incoming too :P), Lena WIllikens, Wonja, Carlos Souffront, Sister Zo, Traxx, Perko, Scott Zacharias, Lis Dalton, NAP, Ron Like Hell, Gigsta, DJ Fart in The Club, Abena, SHYBOI, anyone in Headbangers Crew, re:ni, Elena Colombi, aya, Donato Dozzy, Andrew Weatherall (RIP), DJ Storm, Gag Reflex, Upsammy, Josey Rebelle.“
Is the way you approach your DJing the same way you would approach a studio mix? Obviously DJing is something you may do hundreds of times a year, be it in a club, at home, friends house but sitting down to curate and put together a mix may only happen 1 or 2 times a year for you. What changes? “I approach them totally differently, thank god! When preparing for sets I set myself to play things I’m excited about with spontaneity and have lots of cues that allow me to be in the moment and feed off of. I think that connection isn’t replicable in recordings most times. I used to approach studio mixes as DJ homework, use them as a way to explore and create a world solely based on what I find exciting in the pure act of DJing. Otherwise, I would find it too disengaged to play for an hour staring at my wall. Most of my studio mixes as a whole won’t work in a club to make people dance, but I see them as a standalone listening experience. I often spend around 6 months on each and usually I’m trying to figure out something I want to extend to my IRL sets but is a bit too ambitious (for me, still a learning DJ), or wouldn’t necessarily translate to keeping people dancing on the floor. I kind of loath to think the only practical way of experiencing music is to make people dance in a club, even though as many people know I love dancing to music more than anything and I also hate chin scratching. Basically, I don’t really enjoy trying to make people do or feel something too obviously.
I’ve been repeatedly urged to get rid of this ridiculous habit now, but I don’t splice mixes. This means I do them over and over from the top until I’m happy with them. In my early mixes that meant sometimes 20x. I honestly do feel pretty sick of the tracks after but I sure as hell know them well and I think being that steeped is something I find really helpful playing IRL, and it does have a certain ritualistic feeling. I gotta say this does feel like an ordeal now more than anything! “
Is there like an aim or goal you want to accomplish whilst DJing? As someone who’s come from a DJ first, producer second I imagine it’s something you’ve thought about with particular detail over the years? “Cringe but true, I still find DJing to be a really compelling artform. I think being able to connect and convey completely intangible otherworldly feelings is one of my biggest goals. I really enjoy, for example, combining conflicting moods in tracks by mixing two or more tracks that feel so different and come from such different contexts their additive mood is completely bizarre, intangible and uncanny. I’ve had to lay some of this gimmick to rest, I think I enjoy doing it more than other people enjoy listening to it. In late 2019 I was particularly excited about mixing older (sometimes even pre 80s) post punk bands, psych rock, experimental synth wavey stuff, disco or even synth pop with ultra-modern slick beat sciency DnB or Footwork etc, because I find they have at times a similar energy but entirely different moods and contexts they’re usually played in. E.g. Codek – Closer with a Homemade Weapons track.
I’m obviously not doing anything that no one hasnt before here but I find the thrill of the way the tracks interact and what that makes me feel to be particularly interesting/compelling, especially because I can’t really describe it and I want that to be a heavy feature in my sets. In a practical sense the production sounds really different so it can be a little difficult to pull off seamlessly but this is something I went to town on in this podcast.“
Everyone at Truants is unanimous in agreeing that your photography is so good. Your images are so vivid without giving too much of the subject away, and popping with so much colour without ever becoming garish. Where did capturing images start for you? What’s it like balancing it as a hobby and passion versus it as a professional service (it’s become quite a cool stamp of quality almost, having a CCL shot)? “Ahhh! Thank you, I really appreciate it. :) Cameras/taking photos is one of my oldest fixations, but I don’t feel from a technical standpoint I’m as good as I should be considering. I was given a grandparents’ manual film camera and became obsessed when I was 9 or 10, then would buy and sometimes fix used film cameras from thrift stores – at one point I had almost 30. I got into darkroom processing and would print and process my photos/film, I miss having the means to do that especially. I still love taking photos but recently realised I don’t have the patience, drive, or the skills to do it as a job necessarily. Now I mostly take photos of people I feel close to (usually friends/artists I admire) – that level of intimacy creates something at least I find remarkable and is what I find most rewarding about capturing portraits. Generally, I want to know how they see themselves and feel good about themselves (it’s probably a bit cheesy, but I think the ability to center this in the subject’s perspective, when this hasn’t always been the case, is especially important to me). “
Have you got any photographers or artists that you’d say have influenced you in the way you shoot, set up a shot, take in colours? “I’d say Surrealism, in general, is a huge influence on how I take things in but also how I approach things creatively beyond photography as well. Filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai, David Lynch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, authors like Leonora Carrington, Toni Morrison, Italo Calvino, photographers like Una Blue, Eleanor Petry, Guarionex Rodriguez, Jr.
The commodification of identity, the paradox of realism in images, over-editorialising for consumption, etc., are all things I feel a bit wary of. Ultimately my style is a trope just as anything, but I enjoy exploring the emotional, supernatural and otherworldly when I make images, film, or music as a means of reimagining a world that feels and is driven by our own emotions and our dreams of the future.
I worked with two photographers I admire a lot for the photos in this interview, and I wanted to say a bit about them. I think they’re so talented :) – Rachel Israela of (Studio Reyes Israela), and Kasia Kim-Zacharko. Rachel shoots on medium format film and does all of her effects in camera and in the darkroom in her post processing. I love how she also brought out a Surrealist sensibility in these photos she took. Kasia is definitely a photographer crush, the way she handles colour and lighting is sensational and I love how personal all her shots feel. A genius!“
So what can you tell us about the mix you’ve recorded for us? Was there any direction you decided you wanted to go for this when making and are there any particular tracks you want to shout out? “In light of trying to do things differently, I actually didn’t allow myself to re-record this one a silly amount of times! There are mistakes, I think that’s probably good? I wanted to put my usual left turn foolery on hold for this one and practice some patience, sitting in some moodier but funky wild, disorienting rhythms. I imagined this as my Snake Shedding Skin mix, shed the old ways. For good measure, I tried shoehorning some tracks that change bpm drastically as a little challenge. Shoutout to Lis Dalton, Sputnik One, Ciel, 2lanes, Naemi, Enayet etc.“
Last usual question for us, what was the last thing to put a big smile on your face and when was the last time you properly danced? “Hehehe, I think the last time I smiled was when my crush texted me :P I dance in my room by myself almost daily if I can get away with it. The last time I danced to loud music on a dancefloor was in Mexico City where myself and dear friend Daniel Rincon played all night.”
CCL: Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp
Photos by Kasia Zacharko and Rachel Israela
You can download Truancy Volume 290: CCL in 320 kbps and view the full tracklist by supporting Truants on Patreon here. Your support allows Truants to continue running as a non-profit and ad-free platform. Members will receive exclusive access to mixes, tracklistings, and merchandise. We urge you to support the future of independent music journalism – a little support would go a long way.