A little house music on the prairie
Corning-area electronic-music producer’s website has become a well-known online techno source
Electronic music is everywhere. Every dance club on the planet and nearly every radio-ready dance-pop song released today moves to an electronic-influenced beat.
But just because your parents might know how to do the Melbourne Shuffle doesn’t mean the electronic-dance-music (EDM) scene has been completely co-opted by pop culture. If anything, the underground EDM scene is stronger and bigger than ever, thanks in large part to the global reach of the Internet and the DIY-friendly nature of digital music distribution—whether it’s being transmitted from the major urban centers in which the form was born (Chicago, Detroit, Berlin) or from the middle of nowhere like, for instance, a farm in Tehama County.
In fact, one of the genre’s hot spots is the home computer of a 38-year-old Web developer living on a 60-acre Tehama spread, near Corning, where Stephen Holland-Chang (better known around the North State by his DJ/producer name of Symbio) has operated 530Techno, an electronic-music website/record label, since 2003. And his just-released Lateral Excursions, a compilation album featuring original tracks by artists from Europe to Chico, is already generating a buzz in the global EDM community.
“When I think about electronic music, the instruments and the production methods used to be looked down upon,” said Holland-Chang during a recent phone conversation. “[But now], in a lot of ways, everything has become electronic music.”
Though he says that he’s not fond of things becoming too commercial, Holland-Chang sees some potential for good to come from the mainstream success of EDM.
“It makes them wonder what else is out there,” he suggested, hoping that being exposed to the sounds will lead some to explore the source material. “The more young people can find music that’s not popular, in my opinion, the better. Finding things they like, rather than what they are force fed.” And, he adds that, thanks to the Internet (and sites like his), “You can find anything you want now.”
Holland-Chang initially created 530Techno to be a sort of online home base for the local electronic- music scene. In 2002, he and his wife, Renee, and their baby daughter (the couple now have two children, ages 10 and 6) moved to the North State from Seattle, and soon purchased their 60 acres in order to build a straw-bale house (which they did, an “octagon-shaped” house inspired by Holland-Chang’s time as an architecture major).
“When I first moved here there wasn’t any kind of Web hub for electronic music at the time,” Holland-Chang said. So, 530Techno worked to bring the scene together by providing a directory of area producers and DJs as well as a calendar of local EDM events. “That went on till about 2007, I guess,” Holland-Chang explained, during which time he was also performing as Symbio and teaming up with fellow promoter Anna Talbott to host the regular Future/Now nights at Panama’s, Lost on Main and the how-defunct Off Limits.
Then, as the “music started to change, becoming more commercial,” he shut the site down for a few months and in 2010 re-launched it as a blog/record label dedicated to house, techno and electronica. “It started out as a blog where I’d be blogging about music I love,” he said. And as he wrote about music and produced EDM podcasts, he started developing relationships with artists from around the world. Those relationships led to 530Techno putting out original tracks and remixes by producer/DJs—some of whom, like Spanish house-music innovator Sishi Rösch, have gone on to become internationally recognized.
But it’s not just the better-known international musicians who are bringing recognition. Holland-Chang regularly releases music by North State artists, and the music by Chico acts like Oilpanic and Daxophonics and Mt. Shasta’s Lady Blacktronika has gotten notice as well. In fact, the distinct personality that Holland-Chang has cultivated with the international/local blending is part of his label’s charm, leading one UK dance-music blogger—Acid Ted—to name 530Techno his “label of the year” in 2011.
Out just a couple of weeks, Lateral Excursions—which features new remixes by Holland-Chang (Symbio), Oilpanic, Lady Blacktronika, Rösch, Stunp (S.F.), Chris Fortier (New York), Ivan Dbri (Mexico), and more—is already gaining notice. Acid Ted says “[It’s] a techno lover’s dream. You should buy it next week.”
And, according to Holland-Chang’s publicist (and friend and partner in hosting the Zocalo family-friendly chill-out shows at Bustolini’s), Sean-Michael Yoder (aka Abstract Terrorist) of VinylJunkie PR, “it’s getting an unusually large amount of support and attention from the international dance music community,” with taste-making DJs from Europe to New Dehli giving the locally produced compilation a spin.