Papa Lu on EDM vs. House and the Pleasures of Burning Man
As a promoter who often DJs his own events, Luis Reader, aka Papa Lu, is involved in every aspect of his parties. He began his career in 2002, promoting hip-hop shows. But his latent passion for house music was awakened after attending a local party called Remedy, which featured regular sets by the likes of Mark Farina and Derrick Carter. He educated himself by collecting records and producing underground house parties. Then he began to entertain the idea of DJing on his own: With hard work, and a seasoned veteran as a roommate (DJ Umami), he developed his craft to such a level that today he's the head of his own record label. He also promotes and DJs two parties, Night Moves and Pacific Disco. We spoke with Papa Lu about Night Moves, the house vs. EDM debate, and his Burning Man camp The Kazbah. He plays this Friday, April 11, at Monarch for Night Moves, with Dennis Ferrer headlining.
Tell us about Night Moves, the party you started at Monarch.
I try to produce Night Moves so that we are showcasing artists with some of the newest and innovating sounds in house music today.
The event is primarily focused on house artists. What misconceptions do you think people have about house, especially with the influx of audiences equating EDM with house music?
I think that sometimes the younger audience tends to have a misconception that EDM is house music and house music is EDM. They are not the same. I think that big artists like Swedish House Mafia are partly to blame for that. Kids think that they play house just because of their name. They are completely EDM. House and techno music has been around for 30 plus years. EDM is a spinoff of Vegas mash-ups, trance, and electro. It has only existed for maybe ten years.
What type of education do you hope to bring to the crowd with the artists you book?
I'm keen to book artists that may be underground to the masses but are well respected and known amongst their peers. The kind of people who have amazing productions and whose DJ performances are skillfully crafted. They are underground, but, at the same time, can also rock a party just as dope or way better (in my opinion) than your typical festival headliner.
Can you share one of your most memorable nights at Night Moves?
My most memorable moment actually happened after a Night Moves. We had Jimmy Edgar headlining a party that we did at Mighty SF, and after the event I was scheduled to play an underground event that The Kazbah had going on the same night. After Mighty, Jimmy decided to roll with me to the party, and I was more than happy to give him my slot, but when we got there, he asked if I would like to play back to back with him. I was way more than down; Jimmy Edgar is one of the few artists I see being a huge part of house music's future. His productions and DJ sets are very advanced. Needless to say, I had a great time playing with him, and I was also super honored.
You are also working on launching a record label called La Boîte. What kind of releases will be coming out of it?
I see us releasing everything from disco to techno. But in the meantime, we are focused on releasing tracks from the group Pacific Disco first, and if I could name the genre of music that they are currently producing, I would call it deep disco.
What has been a challenge you didn't anticipate running into?
Booking talent that's more popular in Europe. There are a lot f artists touring Europe and South America that have yet to take a solid tour through North America. I hate to say it, but it's because we are kind of behind in the States when it comes to underground house. The demand for those artists is not as high as I would like, which means it's not quite as lucrative for them to come all the way out here. But it's happening now, slowly but surely.
You're also part of a Burning Man camp called The Kazbah. Is it refreshing for you to book acts and DJ without all the politics of the music industry?
For me that's one of the best parts of Burning Man. When it comes to big DJs playing our camp, or any camp for that matter, there are no contracts or agencies involved. It's just like "Hey, it would be really cool if you came over to DJ at our camp! We would all really like that." And if they feel up to it, then they do it. That must be amazing for those DJs too, because at some point, for every DJ, it wasn't about the money -- it was about the love of DJing, and the chance to share amazing music. Burning Man provides that opportunity, and I think that's why it has become such an influential part of the house music scene today. The Kazbah randomly ended up having Dubfire of Deep Dish play our camp on the final Sunday afternoon at Burning Man. I also watched Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler play back to back sets for about ten consecutive hours hopping from camp to camp. If you are really into dance music, this type of surprise is really special.
Do you think there's been an influx in nightlife politics as dance music has become more mainstream?
Nightlife politics will always be present. I don't think anything has really changed too much there, but I do see some of the mainstream venues becoming more involved in booking underground artists, being that their audience/ scene is getting tired of the same mainstream dance music.
Lastly, what's the atmosphere going to be like this Friday at Night Moves with Dennis Ferrer?
Dennis Ferrer is a house music legend. He has always been one of the pioneers that has evolved and set new trends in production. Recently he has been gaining a lot of recognition for his DJ sets: Dennis was the #1 vote in IDMC / WMC Best Deep House DJ 2014. I don't think we can expect any specific type of sound coming from him this Friday, which to me is great. Also, it's really great that I was able to book Deron Delgado of Stompy to open for him as well. A bunch of promoters in SF, including Stompy, have recently been trying to book Dennis Ferrer, and I was really just lucky enough to land the booking. So it's great to have Deron involved in the event because I look up to him, and I knew he would be a great addition to this Night Moves. Overall, the music will be stellar and that's the most important thing to me as the promoter of Night Moves.