By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Detroiter Carl Craig is not only one of the most popular techno DJs/producers, but he's also an architect of the genre. Under his own name as well as aliases like Paperclip People, Innerzone Orchestra, and, recently, Tres Demented, Craig has set the bar for accessible yet forward-thinking dance records since the early '90s. He fetches a far higher fee playing at his pick of international hotspots than anywhere in America, where DJs aren't treated like royalty. Now Craig has his sights set on San Francisco for a new club night, Demon Days, which will hit town four times this year.
The choice to come here is a nod to our eclectic electronic music scene, but it's also an emotional selection, since it's where Craig first met Demon Days partner Gamall Awad. Now the proprietor of Brooklyn-based Backspin Promotions, Awad previously lived in San Francisco for nine years, where he studied jazz with Don Cherry, joined experimental band Psychic TV, and worked at Reflective Records.
Craig and Awad aim to encourage escapism from our grim times with Demon Days. "More or less, the idea is to party like it's 1999," says Craig, juggling his cellphone with oceanic bites at a Detroit Red Lobster, "to forget about these demon days that we live in and let yourself go to crazy music."
The club night focuses on getting revelers loose, but the DJs keep things educational by mixing classics with tunes too hot to download. Craig and Awad have access to music that other DJs could wait forever to own, while Craig is also known to try out his unreleased songs and remixes live.
"I'm so sick of hearing how great clubs in Europe are, and that nothing good is happening in America," says Awad of his goal with Demon Days, which also hit Chicago, Detroit, and New York. "I remember when everyone looked to America for the parties, and we want to try to redress that balance a bit."
With a sincere local audience for Craig and Demon Days' unique programming, coupled with its 4 a.m. closing time, the pair shouldn't have a problem attracting bodies for their inaugural local event. The question is whether they can draw throughout the year at one of the larger nightclubs in town. It's a problem that all promoters, homegrown or otherwise, face here.
Awad is honed on a key to survival, though: "We're not here to repeat the same thing over and over," he says, "We're here to surprise people." To that end, Lindstrom, a touted modern disco producer from Norway, will play live at this first event, and Awad hints that his and Craig's extensive international connections bode well for future surprise guests.
As for his own music, Craig says he knows it is "past damn time" that he released a solo album; the last under his own name, More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art, came out in 1997. He makes music in his studio and not while on the road, hence the delay. Craig's precious downtime has also lately been taken up with producing key players from legendary '70s Detroit jazz collective Tribe, which doesn't help the prospects of a new album from him this year.
So it's a bittersweet proposition if Demon Days really takes off. Such extended time away from the studio could mean longer waits on other Craig projects. Alternatively, it might give the techno icon a greater outlet to road-test new ideas and fuel his creativity, leading to a higher caliber of output.
Either way, San Francisco reaps the benefits of the devil's workshop.