Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 | 2:02 p.m.
They’re baaack! EDM heroes Gabriel & Dresden return to Las Vegas tonight to kick off a yearlong residency at Marquee in the Cosmopolitan. The recently reunited duo will be playing new remixes and mashups, along with classic tracks that earned them recognition in the early 2000s as the group Motorcycle.
Singer and Motorcycle collaborator Jes also will be in house for the gig, which marks the first time the trio has performed together in seven years. I spoke with Dave Dresden and Josh Gabriel via Skype from their respective homes in Oakland, Calif., and Amsterdam to get the scoop on their reunion, the residency and why you won’t ever hear them play a remix of “Wonderwall.”
Andrea Domanick: So you reunited last year after taking time off to focus on your solo projects. How did that lead to a residency at Marquee, and what can we expect from it?
Dave Dresden: You know, we went away for a few years, but the fans didn’t. So when we got back together last year, there was a lot of interest in us. And I think Marquee felt that the music that we play, because it’s a lot more song-oriented, was a good fit for them. So we’re gonna make our show there into something that definitely feels like a Vegas night, but nothing too overstated or overdone.
Josh Gabriel: We’ve always tried to downplay production as a part of a performance. In general, we keep things simple. And Vegas is a chance to experiment, since there is this whole production value focus on the shows here. It’s a chance to go a little bit over the top and figure out what that means for us, because I think we might have a different definition than other artists who’ve played here.
A.D.: As artists, what makes Vegas a good fit for you?
J.G: With dance music finally blowing up in the States, there’s this energy where people are going out and really getting that full club experience for the first time in their lives, and you can really feel that in Vegas. It’s different than playing to a room of people who have been brought up on dance music like we’re used to. So it’s exciting to see other people now getting a chance to get exposed to it. And it’s nice to be a part of the group that’s showing people what’s what as far as dance music is concerned.
A.D.: How has your sound and style evolved as a result of the explosion of EDM into the mainstream?
J.G.: There’s definitely different ways of thinking about DJ’ing in a club. It used to be, how much new stuff can I play? How tricky or groundbreaking can I be? And now it’s a different world out there -- people want to hear something that’s familiar to them, even if it’s in a new context. So now our focus has brought us to doing a lot more vocal tracks, remixes, bootlegs. And what happens is that the sound ends up being a lot more approachable.
D.D.: There aren’t that many people who say, “You know, I was out last night, and there was a song, it really changed my life, and it went ‘bloop, bloop ,bloop, bleep, bloop.’ That’s just not how it goes down!
J.G.: It’s like training wheels on a bicycle -- they need music they know in order to relate. We’ve been concentrating on doing messed-up things with things that people know. So we do a bootleg of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” We have a bootleg of the Beatles and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”
D.D.: We even have a bootleg of one of Skrillex’s biggest tracks that we just dropped, and it kills it every time.
A.D.: But it seems like every time you go out to a club here, you hear remixes of the same Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis songs. How do you avoid falling into that?
D.D.: It starts with a song and how we feel about the lyrics and the vocal performance. For a case like [Oasis’] “Wonderwall,” it’s like, we’ll leave everybody to that one. We do have a Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” bootleg that we do. But we stay away from cliches as much as we can.
A.D.: But where’s the line between cliche and something that’s conventional and palatable enough for a mainstream audience that’s just getting into EDM?
D.D.: It’s a very fine line. There were three weeks where we could’ve just played Adele, but then everyone had their own mashup or bootleg of it, and then it became cliche.
J.G.: It’s a feel thing. It’s a checks-and-balances system. If one of us vetoes something [because we think it’s cliche], it doesn’t get played. We just sort of know when we listen to something whether or not it’s gonna work for us.
A.D.: What do you personally enjoy about Vegas? What else do you plan to do here?
D.D.: Making music in the hotel room.
A.D.: Really? That’s your go-to thing to do in Vegas?
J.G.: [laughs] That’s what we do anywhere. We used to be wilder.
D.D.: Because we live on different continents, the road is a really good place to get these ideas down. … If we’re not sleeping, we’re making music or doing something musical.
A.D.: So what’s that process like?
D.D.: We get behind our laptops and start playing with sounds. I’ll be in Logic on headphones getting a drum beat together while he’s building a synth riff, and then maybe an hour later, we come together and go over what we’ve got. It’s a flow thing. It’s really unspoken, we have no plan. We really strive to have fun. When we’re having fun, that’s heaven to us.