Joshua Kit Clayton and John Mendez (DJ Jasper) on the
California's Cytrax label has been winning over both DJs and critics with its brand of quality techno since its inception three years ago. The year was 1996 when the Cytrax seeds were first sown and friend and fellow Orange County resident Marcus Miller was turning Cytrax's John Mendez (aka DJ Jasper) on to techno from the likes of Kenny Larkin and Basic Channel and labels such as Belgium's R & S. Mendez had grown up in Westminster, a suburb of Orange County about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles, with Miller and Tang Tran. The three were working at the Cosmic Flux label in San Francisco with Ali Goss. Mendez was doing screenprinting and helping out, but was losing interest, along with Tran, as Cosmic Flux shuffled styles from trancey breaks to trip hop to jungle.
As Mendez puts it, his and Tran's meeting with Joshua Kit Clayton and John Santos egged them on to consider striking out with their own label. "We really didn't know that many likeminded individuals in San Francisco," Mendez remembers, "and a friend of ours introduced us to Joshua [Kit Clayton] one night--Joshua and my friend John Santos. And we just realized that we liked a lot of the same music, we had a lot of the same records like [the Basic Channel classic] 'Phylyps Trak II'. We went out to dinner and ended up talking about music all night because we were really stoked that we had met people that liked the same stuff out here. Joshua had a couple of DATs laying around and he played us some material that he had and it was just exactly what we wanted to do. So after that, we started hanging out, coming out here more often and it turned into more of a friendship between the four of us originally--myself, John Santos, Joshua, and Tang; we'd just hang out, listen to records, and talk about stuff, and that's really how Cytrax got started."
Before severing from its parent, Cytrax initially began as a sublabel of Cosmic Flux. "It was an outlet for us," Mendez says, "as opposed to the other label [Cosmic Flux] not being a good outlet." As Clayton puts it, "He was already involved with doing a label, so it's like 'well, if I'm going to be doing something along these lines and putting a lot of work into it, I want it to be something I enjoy.' He wanted to start a techno label as opposed to just helping out with Cosmic Flux." And the name itself? Basically, Clayton explains, "Cytrax, you know. Side", he emphasizes the word, "tracks."
With six hours travel separating Mendez in Westminster and Clayton in San Francisco, they make an effort to meet up at least once a month. They're calling from Clayton's home in San Francisco where they've just spent a weekend planning future releases and working out ideas. Mendez will be flying back to Westminster right after our conversation. Though Tran was one of the creative minds that decided to start the label, he hasn't had that much time to work in the studio because he was studying at the Southern California Institute Of Architecture. And as Mendez puts it, he's more shy and introspective, preferring to stay behind the scenes when it comes to the label. As DJ Tang, though, he does a lot of DJing, and the label's sounds figure prominently in his sets.
It wasn't that easy in the beginning, Clayton admits. "The first release there were some mastering problems cos as they were just getting started they put too much music on each side of the record; the cut was really so quiet that it was unDJable." Mendez picks up the story. "Where we took the record to be mastered didn't really do dance music; they mostly just did rock and roll and punk music, so they hadn't done any techno music. The mastering guy really didn't know that records for DJs need to be loud and cut a certain way." A few copies were sold, but the majority of them are sitting in Clayton's garage. The first record featured tracks from Tang, Mendez as DJ Jasper, John Tejada, Goss, and Miller. Now that they're working with National Sound, a more reputable and knowledgeable masterer, the first Cytrax record might be rereleased in the future. "Maybe at some point we'll unarchive the stuff and repress it with fewer tracks on it," Clayton says.
As the response grew, Cytrax birthed a sister label in 1998. "With Cytrax, we started going in a certain kind of direction, more techno and minimal house, but we also wanted more harder stuff cos that's kind of how we DJ sometimes," Mendez says, "so Tang and I decided to start Delay. The emphasis is on post processing with someone constructing the music and someone [else] actually deconstructing it, which we have Joshua do along with some other friends who are going to start helping us out."
Also new to the fold is The Mimic And The Model label, a series started by Clayton where releases consist of an electronic music record with an accompanying artpiece included as a poster.
Sutekh's "Of Sarcasm And Exhaust" EP is out in June on Cytrax; a fourth label, Orthlorng Musork, is also in the works. For more info, check out the Cytrax website
THE MIMIC AND THE MODEL