Jeff Samuel: Swing in That Minimal Thing

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The schaffel swing that has infected minimal techno first broke out in Germany, but you’ll also find it in the bouncing funk of Seattle’s Jeff Samuel, who brings a distinctly upbeat swing to minimal techno’s dour outlook. But he’s not just biting the latest style from Europe–back in his native Cleveland, Samuel hit the techno parties that shaped the sound he displays on numerous 12” singles and the new Poker Flat Volume Four compilation. “Dan Bell’s ‘Losing Control’ was still being played in ’95 when I started going to these parties,” says Samuel. “The whole minimal thing was just sweet. [Like] Morgan Geist, a lot of people don’t know his early stuff was super Detroit and still melodic.”

Samuel literally blends these influences on his mix for Poker Flat, skipping seamlessly from updated Detroit sounds from Patrick Chardronnet to his own melodic 8-bit bytes on the exclusive “Glurf.” If that track title sounds like a lost Colecovision banger, don’t be surprised. Before techno took hold, Samuel rocked the consoles, absorbing the chip music that later influenced his current gig as a videogame sound effect designer. “Videogames were a huge part of my life growing up,” he enthuses. “Commodore 64 all the way through [the first] Playstation, I was doing it nonstop. Some of those composers were super brilliant.”

While fellow Nintendo-raised techno producers usually bury their heads in mounds of tech gear, Samuel’s minimal ethos carries over to his production setup as well. “I’ve been using the same program all the way through–Fruity Loops, now FL studio,” he explains. “I have that, a MIDI controller, and a keyboard and that’s it. A lot of people don’t want to say that they use it because it has a stupid-ass name, and had gotten this reputation as a toy and not a serious program, but who cares? There are a lot of really established techno artists who are using it. I hear the kickdrum that’s in the blank template when you open up the program all the time.”

Between DJ gigs, Samuel is looking to train his Fruity-powered studio on the LP format next, but not without some reservation. “The techno album is still fairly virgin territory. There haven’t been a lot of albums that really do it for me. I grew up listening to albums all the way through, so I have too much of an expectation on myself to make it something I would want to listen to all the way through.”