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08 Jun 2017

Flexing MSCLS: Austin's Josh Vela Brings Underground-DJ Cred to Splash House

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MSCLS, aka Josh Vela. MSCLS, aka Josh Vela.

MSCLS is not a typical DJ/producer—instead, he’s out to challenge listeners and make them experience dance music in unexpected ways.

See for yourself when he performs at the June edition of Splash House, taking place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11.

From Austin, Texas, the former multi-instrumentalist played various genres of music before becoming a DJ. During a recent phone interview with MSCLS (Josh Vela), he explained that his hometown is a great place for music.

“Austin is the live music capital of the world, but there’s a pretty healthy electronic music scene as well,” Vela said. “I’d say Austin and Dallas are the best in Texas, in my own opinion, and there’s a really good house and techno scene in Austin as well. One of my favorite clubs of all time is this underground club in Austin called Kingdom. It has an incredible booth, a great dance floor and great lighting; it’s a nice, mid-size, intimate venue. I really dig it. The scene has also been very supportive there as well.”

Vela’s techno and house music tends to be on the darker side, and he’s received accolades for his sets. While his success has led him to perform at festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, he said he’s going to continue to do what he’s always done.

“My target demographic is underground. I don’t really do EDM or anything like that,” he said. “My bread and butter is underground markets, but (festivals) have been really positive. I went on this Twitter rant the other day about how artists start making some noise, getting good releases and start getting booked for festivals—then they begin to water down their sound, because it’s a mixed audience at these festivals that are dominated by EDM. They naturally feel they have to dumb down their set or be more accessible to reach a bigger fan base. I understand that; however, you got there in the first place by doing what you do, even if it’s underground music. So you’re doing a disservice to your crowd and the underground scene that supported you and got to where you are. … I’ve done the opposite and tried to challenge more of the crowds at these festivals and push the boundaries further. Of course, you don’t know how they’re going to react, but in that sense, I don’t pre-plan a set, and I have folders full of tracks I’d love to play. At any given time, there’s 80GB of music on my flash drive, and I do things on the fly based on how the crowd is reacting.”

Vela recently acquired a Moog Mother-32 synthesizer, which he has uploaded videos of himself playing. When I brought up one of these recent videos, he got excited.

“I want to get a Minimoog like a Model D. Those things sound pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m really big on hardware. I’ve been building up what I think is an awesome hardware setup so I can write hands-on. ... I came from being in bands when I was younger, like hardcore bands, metal bands, and screamo/emo bands. I play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all that stuff, so I learned how to produce, but I miss playing instruments, and hardware lets me have that feeling again. It gives you a totally different dynamic in the writing process that I enjoy, and it sounds way better.”

Many DJs, like punk-rock musicians, are independent: They give away remixes and original material online for free, taking it directly to the people.

“It absolutely does have a punk-rock appeal,” Vela said about what he does. “I don’t think anybody would disagree with that statement. It has a very DIY punk-rock mentality to it, and especially when it comes to the underground versus mainstream part of it. There’s definitely the big-label and big-suits deal, but that’s at a different part and level of the scene. If you get into the crossover acts and pop-driven electronic, and you’ll see a lot of that stuff. But it’s still independent for the most part.”

Vela said his Splash House set list won’t be much different than what he typically does.

“When I played Beyond Wonderland, I don’t know if it was my management or the record company guys who were like, ‘Wow! That was a great set!’ but they asked if it was different and made for a festival,” Vela said. “I was like, ‘Nope, this is just like my club set. I just try to be me.’ At a pool party, I might play more vocal-style records and fun stuff like that, bur I always just try to be me and do my thing.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

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