C.L.A.W.S. for Alarm

Brian Hock cracks techno codes

Finding visual images to represent techno music is tricky. That's why the genre's record label logos favor sleek, vaguely futuristic text on monochromatic backgrounds. For his techno-leaning project C.L.A.W.S., San Francisco producer, DJ, and promoter Brian Hock chose a psychotic-eyed tabby clenching a bloody woman in its teeth. "It pretty much looks like what the music is," Hock observes.

He's right. Hock's DJ mix Can't Live Anywhere Without Sandwiches (C.L.A.W.S. is an acronym that constantly changes) rides bouncy dance tracks through a tunnel of weird laughter and metallic buzz, ending with a plunge into steel-tipped disco. His songs suggest the same dangerous recreation as the grindhouse movie posters he sampled the murderous feline image from.

Hock extends this spirit of illicit play into his Gentlemans Techno parties, underground dance events gaining notoriety for their warehouse grit amid San Francisco's glossy clubland sheen. Kid606, one of the Bay Area's best known exporters of electronic music, counts himself a Gentlemans devotee. The Tigerbeat6 label owner and musician tours Europe often, keeping clear of the "handbag house" he believes plagues San Francisco. "[European] parties are so amazing, just beyond description," says Kid606. To illustrate the point, he takes his friends to "[Gentlemans Techno] and I tell them, "This is what those parties are like.'"

Kid606 signed Hock to his new dancefloor-aimed sub label Tigerbass, and he relishes the irony Hock's project represents. "It's so funny that it took a guy from a totally different scene" — Hock was the drummer for neo-goth band the Vanishing — "to put on the best techno party in the Bay Area."

The European nostalgia Hock inspires isn't coincidental. In 2004 he uprooted to Berlin to make a full-time go of the Vanishing. But the city's frenetic warehouse scene quickly romanced him into DJing at a techno party that ran from midnight Sunday until 3 the following afternoon. "It was very East German after hours, very much dudes with their tops off wearing tool belts, and East German prostitutes doing lines off their biceps," Hock says.

His new nocturnal musical identity resulted in the Vanishing, well, doing just that. After the "emotionally violent" split, Hock returned to San Francisco in 2005, where he spent the next two years tinkering with analog synthesizers.

His new vinyl debut, C.L.A.W.S. Theme, straddles electronic music's long-contested border between classy reserve and indulgent sleaze. Favoring a kitchen-sink aesthetic, his production strides through utilitarian dance music of all sorts, with occasional wallows in thick patches of dub.

Hock will present this new music in a context faithful to his year of downward drift in Germany. His record release is incorporated into the fourth installment of Gentlemans Techno, his tribute to late night Teutonic hedonism.

"Clubs in Berlin were mobile and so full of creativity," Hock says of his inspiration for GT. "People there will take over a building and put so much design work into fixing it up, installing crazy video art, and throwing a sound system and a couple bars in. With so many old industrial buildings lying around, people throw a few parties and then move on."

Having held the first three GT parties in the Dogpatch warehouse he inhabits, Hock is now hoping to make his operation nomadic as well. This week's event is tentatively slated for a virgin location. He also takes a peripatetic approach to GT's lineups and his DJ sets, which wander a wide swath of electronic music. As such, the party tends to attract the hard partying set rather than the cerebral techno purists. "Almost no one is standing around scratching their chins," Hock explains, referring to the stoic lot who frequent American techno events. "I've been really lucky so far — most people who come want to dance their asses off."

 
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