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The Demix Takes Some Time for Himself

The dark producer teases a new direction on ‘Havoc Run’

Feb. 2, 2016
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Electronic music series tend to have short shelf lives. Many launch with lofty ambitions then fizzle out after just a couple of under-attended installments, and even the ones that build a following inevitably lose steam over time, as promoters get sidetracked or fans move on to the next thing. If you were placing bets on how long the MELT Milwaukee Electronic & Experimental Music series might last when brutalist electronic producer The Demix launched it in early 2011, then, the smart bet would have been “not very.” The series’ focus on artists typically too weird, loud or difficult for the dance floor made it a particularly tough sell at a time when EDM was growing broader and more pop-minded than ever.

Somewhat improbably, though, MELT stood the test of time, hosting dozens of installments over a five-year run at multiple venues and becoming the flagship event for a fertile but underexposed segment of the Milwaukee music scene that, without the series, many casual listeners might not have even known about. MELT alums like adoptahighway, Stagediver, He Can Jog, Dolor and especially Lorn have all grown their profiles significantly since the series started, and MELT played at least some role in helping them get their names out locally.

It’s bittersweet, then, that after five improbable years, MELT is taking a hiatus. “I wouldn’t say that this is it for MELT; it’s more like it’s hibernating for the winter,” explains The Demix. “I think anybody that’s been doing successful shows in Milwaukee for any amount of time will tell you that if you want them to be successful, you need to put the work in—booking the shows, updating the websites, handing out flyers, the whole grind of putting on a show—and for now I want to put that effort somewhere else.”

More specifically, The Demix is directing it toward his own music, which he sometimes put on the backburner while promoting MELT. This month he released a new EP, Havoc Run, and it teases some new directions from an artist who has previously described himself in the darkest terms possible. Where his nightmarishly noisy early work played like soundtracks to imagined films about nonconsensual dental surgery, this one lets a little lightness in. “Step Fourth” opens the EP with some invitingly peppy instrumental hip-hop, and though things grow gothier and more industrial from there, there’s a hookiness that carries through all four tracks, even “The Turn,” the blustery nine-minute circus suite that closes the EP.

The Demix describes this lighter sound as a deliberate evolution. “When I was working on this music I made a conscious decision to restrain myself a little bit and to not just go all crazy and have everything loud and noisy,” he said. “I made a choice that I was going to sit down and play keyboard and make melodies. I know that sounds like, ‘Duh, of course you are,’ but for the last few years I’ve been stuck in this box focused on loud, crazy noise and being dark and scary and all that. I think that’s still in the music, but I wanted to create something that people want to listen to. I want to draw people in with something catchy before taking them somewhere darker.”

With MELT on the backburner, The Demix has also been free to take on more outside DJ gigs (his DJ sets still usually clear the dance floor a lot, he says, but people know what they’re getting when they book him) and to refine his own live show.

“I recorded Havoc Run different, so I’d like to perform it with a setup that’s more interesting than me and a laptop and a controller,” he says. “I’d like to expand that and bring out the guitar and the turntables and some other live stuff into the performance. Unfortunately, there’s that stigma around electronic music, so it’s important to me for people to realize that, just because you are onstage with a laptop and a piece of gear, doesn’t mean you aren’t a musician, or that you don’t have a studio filled with instruments that you worked for weeks in.”

Havoc Run is streaming at thedemix.bandcamp.com.


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