DJ John Tejada at work in Tokyo. Photo credit Ryu Kasai. (Ryu Kasai )
John Tejada is one of the most accomplished Angelenos in electronic dance music. His producing and label-boss (of Palette Recordings) career spans more than 15 years; he’s penned some of the genre’s most reliably show-stopping singles, such as “Sweat on the Walls” and “Mono on Mono,” and cut two albums for the pace-setting German label Kompakt, including this year’s “The Predicting Machine.”
Commensurately, L.A. has been ground zero for the late EDM surge in America, birthing the Hard events and Insomniac empires that made festival raves draw six-figure audiences in the states.
And yet Tejada admits that dance music’s cash infusion doesn’t quite seem to be trickling down, nor is the underground’s creative energy affecting the mega-fests.
“Maybe it’s just me, but things are still just kind of rolling along here,” Tejada said, laughing. “In a way, things were more exciting five or 10 years ago. There was an unpredictability then, and now people have fallen into trendy styles that Internet sites steer people to out of hype.”
Tejada’s burden might be that he’s been so good, for so long, that “John Tejada Releases an Expert, Heartfelt Album” isn’t breaking dance-music news anymore. But that’s a fickle scene’s problem, not his — and his slot atop a heated bill of peers on Thursday at Westlake’s Medusa Lounge might help correct that.
The night is a showcase for the L.A. label Halocyan, the new venture from Tejada’s longtime friend Dimitri Fergadis. Fergadis made his name with Phthalo, the beloved experimental electronica label that put out several Tejada cuts, and Halocyan has quickly matched its reputation with releases from Vladislav Delay, Chrissy Murderbot and Artificial Latvamaki. Thursday’s bill features a Tejada set with the U.K. beat-scene adventurers Untold, Florida’s Sumsun and L.A.’s WMX.
But the fact that this set is filling the Teutonic liquidity den Medusa Lounge and not, say, the Palladium, is a testament to the challenge Tejada is facing as a producer — DJs now kind of have to be pop stars too.
“The Predicting Machine” is actually one of his most melodic and bright-hued releases yet. The crisp, crackling single “Stabilizer” hits harder for its restraint and pacing; “An Ounce of Perception” should be Ryan Gosling’s beat-down music in any forthcoming “Drive 2.” He can nerd out with filter-soaked Basic Channel vibes on “The Function and the Form,” but “Predicting Machine” is a super accessible, enjoyable record built on handcrafted analog sound designs.
In a just world, that would be enough for danceland triumph. It may still be; since signing with Kompakt, Tejada has tapped a young, indie-friendly new crowd with his matchless reputation intact. But if firing bottles in liquor spots that glom onto an EDM “lifestyle” is the key to mainstream success today, count him out of that.
“The thing is, at that level there’s usually a guy-behind-the-guy,” Tejada said, referring to the oft-alleged tactic of DJs ghost-producing for EDM superstars. “I’ve met guys at that level, and they were [jerks], of course. But fans want rock stars and some people are great at being millionaires, that’s a talent in itself. Ten years ago I might have had a juicier answer, but now I’m just like ‘Eh, you made a million dollars, good for you.’”