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Devin Culham

Legend John Acqauviva Talks Techno and New Film Project 'The Red Man' [INTERVIEW]

John Acquaviva has plenty to keep him busy.

As a DJ, label manager, businessman, and now executive producer, John Acquaviva is always pursuing new endeavors that help to inspire his creative mind.

For John Acquaviva, the music journey began in London, Ontario and has grown to encompass all part of the globe. An early friendship with a young Richie Hawtin led to the formation of Plus 8 Records in 1980 which capitalized on the minimal sounds of the era hosting early releases from the likes of Kenny Larkin, Cybersonik, Speedy J, and Hawtin's alias, Plastikman. That wasn't enough to keep Acquaviva busy however, who soon founded a second label imprint in 1993, Definitive Records.

Between juggling an impressive DJ career and heading Definitive Records, John Acquaviva has recently branched out into the film world as the executive producer of The Red Man. The new indie film is a psychological thriller that details the story of a troubled DJ whose world begins to fray from personal addiction and mental illness. The art-house mystery offers larger commentary on the glorified lifestyle of DJs and the personal struggles that plague many members of the dance music community.

We had a chance to chat with John about the growth and transformation of dance music, and the balancing act of managing multiple career trajectories. Read the full interview below and check out the trailer for The Red Man, and grab your copy of the Extended Director's cut on Blu Ray!

As someone who played such a pivotal role in the rise of global techno, what is your current impression of North America's response to techno?

From what I have seen, this is a robust and perhaps best ever effort. I think it makes sense that since electronic culture is bigger than ever, there is a sizeable cohort that wants more, be it an edge or simply deeper or more underground culture.


Are we gaining on Europe's fascination with the genre? Or is techno still a relatively grass-roots phenomenon?

Not sure we can say we are gaining on Europe as it goes pretty long and deep, but I would agree, and it is safe to say it is a grass roots phenomenon that is to be reckoned with.


Have you noticed a significant shift in either the type of events you perform at, or the crowds at your events? Has the mass popularization of electronic music because of large festivals exposed you to new audiences?

I definitely notice the shift that lots of people want a deeper more underground experience and that Techno fits the fill. As I mentioned before, the mass popularity only helps deliver that group that wants to dig deeper.


Daniel David Diamond as Evan Gough in The Red Man


Historically, people tend to cite Detroit's influence in the development of techno. How was the scene throughout Ontario similar or different to Detroit, and how has that been influential in the creation of more minimal and tech-house sounds?

Detroit drew many of us across the river. Toronto was great for clubbing, but not for music as many of us saw it. Detroit just had that pull, and of course with Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson having some global success and attention, I guess we just thought that there was something in the water there, that we had to check for ourselves to try and find and build upon it.

...pushing the limit is part of that eternal quest. The journey for me is not fatiguing since there is always a reward if you keep your wits about you.


You've kept busy throughout the years as both an entrepreneur with several label imprints as well as a traveling DJ – what do you do to stay and inspired and keep yourself from getting burnt out by "the game”?

I love connecting with new and old friends. Finding new music or a great new club or restaurant. So pushing the limit is part of that eternal quest. The journey for me is not fatiguing since there is always a reward if you keep your wits about you.


Do you see any shifts beginning to occur within the industry as the "underground" slowly begins to cross over to larger American audiences?

We live in the best of times as electronic culture has taken root, and in its maturity, many people are looking for more and understanding it much better and as ever before


What exciting projects are you working on for 2017?

For me, we just released the film The REDMAN. This is quite a proud moment and story about the dark side of it all. We released it on Video on Demand and also are doing a few select screenings. In addition, putting together some select gigs and planning some studio time, most notable with Olivier Giacomotto now that the movie is in the bag, we are going back to the dance floor.

Tags John Acquaviva
Devin Culham Staff Writer

Born and bred with the Detroit techno scene, I pledge my allegiance to the underground.

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