DOZE JOCKEY?

JUAN MEN­DEZ, AKA SILENT SER­VANT, HAS DE­CIDED TO PUT DJ LIFE TO BED FOR A WHILE.

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - MUSIC - AU­GUST BROWN FINDS OUT WHY

Afew weeks ago, when Juan Men­dez re­turned home from a long week­end play­ing Berghain, Ber­lin’s fa­mously deca­dent techno venue, the pro­ducer and DJ known as Silent Ser­vant got back to his down­town L.A. apart­ment and snapped a photo of the sun­rise. Men­dez was used to see­ing them in his line of work: writ­ing and per­form­ing mus­cu­lar, Gothic elec­tronic mu­sic for crowds of leather­clad nightcrawlers.

But this one felt dif­fer­ent. In­stead of an end­ing for a big head­lin­ing set or the start of a jet-lagged hang­over it felt like a new be­gin­ning. Men­dez, now 41, had de­cided to put the DJ life to bed for a while.

“My book­ing agent asked, ‘How are you feel­ing right now?’ And I just sent her a photo of this sun­rise,” Men­dez said. “When you’re around nightlife peo­ple all the time, you can show up at bars at 2am be­cause you know you can stay there and go to some­one’s house or an af­ter­hours (club). It’s fine once in a while. But your so­cial be­hav­iour gets skewed. You’ve got to be cog­nizant of those things: do­ing things I don’t like, be­ing a per­son I don’t like.”

That’s not to say he’s giv­ing up on mu­sic.

Silent Ser­vant’s new al­bum, “Shad­ows of Death and De­sire,” out this month on the ac­claimed noise and elec­tronic im­print Hos­pi­tal Pro­duc­tions, is a bold and emo­tional dis­patch from the small hours of the L.A. un­der­ground. It’s sav­age in sound but of­ten ten­der in tone and reck­ons with the toll that a life in club mu­sic can take on your spirit.

Men­dez is one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in the cur­rent flow­er­ing of un­der­ground techno in L.A. Since the early 2000s, he’s co-founded two in­flu­en­tial record la­bels. Rather than ul­tra-pre­cise min­i­mal­ism or fes­ti­val-ready crowd-pleasers, Men­dez’s vi­sion drew from the Cure’s Goth-rock mood­i­ness, the hands-on ana­log synths of 70s acts like DAF and Tan­ger­ine Dream, and a kind of scraped-up, post-punk glam­our that re­jected Hol­ly­wood gloss but rev­eled in its un­der­belly.

His 2012 al­bum, “Neg­a­tive Fas­ci­na­tion,” was a land­mark for the city’s techno cul­ture and helped set the prece­dent for the scene to come.

“I grew up with KROQ and Rod­ney Bin­gen­heimer, and at the end of day, I’m re­ally just a new-wave nerd,” Men­dez said, re­fer­ring to the in­flu­en­tial DJ and tastemaker long as­so­ci­ated with L.A.’s largest mod­ern rock sta­tion. “I’m re­ally into Smiths and Echo & the Bun­ny­men, and I love Detroit techno be­cause it’s a re­sponse to all that, with strings and soul. For me, put that in a blender: Sui­cide, New Or­der, Tan­ger­ine Dream, that’s my brain.”

As L.A. be­came a global cen­tre for EDM, Men­dez was at the fore­front of a sub­ver­sive un­der­ground scene that ex­isted in par­al­lel in the fringes. But over the last few years, the un­der­ground got re­ally pop­u­lar. Fans started re­ject­ing cor­po­ra­tized EDM for more chal­leng­ing sounds, and L.A. earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a hub for them.

Sud­denly, an artist like Men­dez, who had years of good­will and cred­i­bil­ity at his back, could make a se­ri­ous liv­ing as an un­der­ground DJ in L.A. So two years ago he tried it full time, jet­ting be­tween Europe’s most es­teemed venues and fes­ti­vals, of­ten sev­eral in a week­end, be­fore head­ing back to Cal­i­for­nia or his part-time base in Ber­lin, the genre’s cen­tre.

What­ever there was to do in techno, Men­dez did it.

But it left him ex­hausted, un­well and un­able to write his own mu­sic, the craft that brought him into this world in the irst place.

“Some­thing that isn’ t talked about much in nightlife cul­ture is how hard they push you,” Men­dez said. “You’re run­ning your­self ragged, the hours are un­godly. Our jobs are open bar with any­thing at your dis­posal. I don’t have heavy anx­i­ety, but some­times you just don’t feel like do­ing it, and you get into this headspace where you have to fake it to not bum peo­ple out.”

Even when he gave him­self time off to write, after years in that life­style, the well ran dry.

“I took two months at home to write the record, and I just failed. So I kinda fell into party spi­ral in L.A. and did a lot of things that I’m not happy about,” Men­dez said. “It’s a cliche, but I am sen­si­tive per­son, I’m af­fected by things. I was in a bit of de­pressed headspace, but I tried to turn that into a pos­i­tive thing on this record.”

Over its seven tracks, “Shad­ows” fol­lows that arc of frus­tra­tion and re­lease. It starts fu­ri­ous “Harm in Hand” and “Dam­age” rank with Men­dez’s most ag­gres­sive work yet, with de-tuned synths and in­dus­trial drum pro­gram­ming throt­tling the A-side of the LP.

But the flip finds him more melan­choly, in­tro­spec­tive and back in touch with all the mu­sic that in­spired him as a kid .“Loss Re­sponse ,”“Glass Veil” and “Op­ti­mistic De­cay” edge into real beauty and con­tem­pla­tion, the sun­rise after a long night where you prom­ise your­self you’ll do bet­ter.

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