5 Questions with Atish

If you live in the Bay Area and you like dance music, you’ve probably heard of Atish. The San Francisco DJ has spent the past couple of years seeing his star steadily rise … moving handily from playing aboard Robot Heart at Burning Man to festivals like Desert Hearts and clubs around the world.

He recently launched his own party, Late Night Tonite, which he’s brought to Public Works and Good Room in Brooklyn, in which Atish hosts a guest for the party — and interviews them live on stage. It’s not your usual party, but Atish is not your usual DJ.

This Friday, July 7, Atish returns to the Public Works Loft for an all-night, open-close DJ set. If you don’t already have a ticket, we’re sorry — it’s sold out. But even if you didn’t snag a ticket, you might get a kick out of this interview with the man himself anyway. Read on!

 


 

Your profile has steadily risen over the years, both at home and abroad. What’s the appeal for you for playing a small gig at the Public Works Loft?

I’m fortunate enough to get to play different kinds venues on tour: big clubs, warehouse spaces, festival stages, afterhours, and so on. Mixing up the kinds of venues I play keeps things interesting for me since it forces me to stay on my toes with respect to the type of music I prepare before a gig and my approach to working a crowd in the moment.

That being said, I still see myself as a “small room” DJ at my core, so the PW Loft fits the bill perfectly. I love feeding off the energy in a room, and that energy helps me navigate which direction to take my set. It’s subtle things like eye contact, the smell of sweat, or even eavesdropping on a few words here and there — these are all imperceptible in a big venue, and they really contribute to me feeling more connected when I perform.

Beyond that, I like doing this event at the PW Loft because it ends up essentially being a presale-only event. This means every person in the room has a strong enough intention to want be there, weeks in advance, as opposed to random party people looking to go “clubbin’” and hook up on a Friday night. This creates a really strong and concentrated dance floor energy focused on the music, which is really important to me as a performer.

You’re playing open-close, a solid six hours. How do you prepare for a six hour set? Thinking musically here but also logistically — do you come packing an energy bar or two?

From a musical perspective, the preparation starts about 3-4 weeks in advance. I start by creating an “Atish All Night” folder broken into 8 sub-folders (if you’re curious, they are: deep/opening/light, housey / BIG groove, mid-melodic, proggy, stripped/romanian, techno, tech-house drivers/club tunes, broken beat/experimental).

I browse through my prep folders from previous gigs over the last few weeks, selecting tunes that worked on the dance floor, and I place them in the appropriate subfolder. Then I go through all music I bought over the last few months looking for tunes that never made it into gig prep folders, and consequently, never made it to the dance floor. These are usually tunes I see as too risky for a short set, but perfect to play around with in an extended set, so I start pulling those tunes into my subfolders as well. Finally, I go through my old play histories from older gigs and mixes (2010-2015) to try and have a nice balance of old and new Atish throughout the night. I’m much more comfortable playing old hits in a 6 hour set than a 2 hour set.

As far as non-music-related prep, this sounds awful, but I try to minimize human interaction as much as possible the day of the gig. I’m a pretty strong introvert and socializing tires me out. I usually take 2-3 naps the day of, and I like to wear a new pair of socks. During the actual gig, I usually end up having to pee by hour 3 (the last Atish All Night, I ran to the bathroom twice during my set), so I am still trying to figure out how much water I should let myself drink over the course of a night. The other option which I have considered, is wearing a the men’s equivalent of a pee funnel (these are popular at sporting events, apparently). But the thought of having a bag of urine tied around my leg while dancing on stage just seems wrong, so I’m nixing that idea…for now.

Do you have any go-to tracks to whip a dancefloor into shape — if the crowd’s just not getting into the groove, what’s a reliable standby to get things going again? (Or get things started, for that matter.)

I’ve beaten this track to death, but Eskimo* – Bushmills always seems to do the trick for me.

On a similar-but-opposite tack, do you have any favorite tunes that you wish you could play to a dancefloor, but you couldn’t — they’re just too weird, or terrible to mix, or bass-less, or something of the sort?

Dark Sky released a pretty interesting album on MonkeyTown recently. Dark, lush tunes which are hard to mix and never really fit within the flow of my sets. It’s great music though, so I guess I’ll just continue enjoying them at home.

Last but certainly not least, if you were required by law to stick with a single Bay Area pizzeria for the rest of your natural life (don’t ask why — laws seem to be getting stranger by the day), which pizzeria would you choose?

I’m originally a Chicagoan, so I am tempted to say Zachary’s in Oakland since they do the best deep dish I’ve had out here. The only issue is that I’ve eaten there once in the 9 years I’ve lived in the Bay Area, so I’m going to go with Del Popolo, the Nob Hill restaurant incarnation of the food truck. Really great pizza!