Techno Tuesday: Jeniluv takes us beneath LA’s surface ahead of Secret Project Festival
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Los Angeles’ vibrant underground dance sphere wouldn’t be where it is today without figures like Jeniluv leading the charge behind-the-scenes. The tenured DJ, producer, and music lover has been a prime fixture of both the San Francisco and LA scenes for a combined 20 years, moving back to LA permanently in 2007 to cultivate her Making Shapes events brand into the stalwart it is today.
Jeniluv is a respected figure for good reason; she’s never once compromised her passions, and continues to spend her time helping others up, either through booking, collaborations, or in showcasing the finest below-surface house, acid, and techno records one can dig for. It’s because of her deep understanding of and integration into the LA scene, and her proven history of successful event production, that Insomniac tapped her talents for their debut Secret Project Festival. The festival represents a whole new foray for the brand, pairing up with David Chang’s majordōmo to create an exclusive menu, and Apotheke for a cutting-edge array of cocktails. It’s an event for the more mature dance fans in their base, which is sealed into place with headliners like Carl Cox, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Dixon, Peggy Gou, and more. Meanwhile, Jeniluv and other LA crews have been brought on to not only bring a sense of authenticity, but also to show off just how thriving the city’s music culture is — if one looks deep enough.
We sat down with Jeniluv to quiz her a bit about her musical upbringing, her inspirations, playing Secret Project, and more ahead of the show. Last-minute tickets can be grabbed here.
Let’s get started with the basics: what was your path into the LA underground in the 90s? Did it happen by chance, or did you fall in love with the music and seek it out?
I was 15 years old and went to school in Long Beach, California. I collected classic rock records mostly; we listened to local emo or backyard bands like Sublime. We skated half pipe to punk rock and listened to Dj Drez hip-hop cassette tapes. I had never heard of House music, or dance music beats besides maybe 80s for example, or Everything but The Girl. One day, a latina girl I had a crush on walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to go to LA that weekend and hear some house music. I was like ‘Whats that??”
I jumped into her older brother’s car Saturday night and we headed to Echo Park to pick up a few of their friends. We stopped at a few places so they could spray some graffiti, before ending up on the east side at a warehouse on the railroad tracks. The music was not on yet, but people were arriving. I saw a crew of kids carrying several crates of records into the entrance, following someone. I remember feeling mesmerized by all the movement and the warehouse environment.
We were at an “Unlock The House” party, and once inside, the music started. Doc Martin was the DJ and his record crates lined the wall behind him, about 10 crates total. There were four turntables and a massive sound system pumping out bass like I’d never heard, sounds and rhythms both acid and tribal. “DEEP HOUSE,” they called it — and house music roots are deep in Los Angeles. The crowd was mostly chicano and local to Los Angeles. I was the loco white girl dancing on my first ecstasy that night and no one seemed to mind at all! I fell in love with house music and went “raving” every weekend. I am still good friends with those kids today, 25 years later we share dancefloors.
On that note, what drew you to electronica early on, and what is it about house/techno that has kept the fire alive for you for so long?
I found freedom. The music changed me as a person, the people embrace me as I am, the places I have traveled because of the music — and my global dance music family.
Can you spill a couple crazy rave stories from your time in the scene?
I need time to integrate my experiences but i just keep pushing on into more — it’s all a blur. Good times, bad times — this is a harsh and beautiful lifestyle. Most memories that come to mind are illicit, about death or too amazing to put into words.
You’ve made it on your own successfully as an underground artist for so long. The beauty is that you’ve done this while still keeping your integrity and humility. Do you have any words of wisdom to impart on younger artists about success/what it means, and what they can do to find this in their own careers?
If you love it, it will take everything you have to remain a part of it. To have it be what you do with your life, you will need to carve your own way into a rock. Don’t listen to anyone not worth listening to. Just do you — people respect that. Remain open to all kinds of music and your collection will build in many directions. Develop your own sound and style — people will catch on.
Who have been some of your biggest figures of inspiration throughout the years?
Doc Martin, Solar, Justin Martin, Jennifer Cardini, Juan Atkins, Move D, and DJ Harvey — to name a few for a variety of reasons… along with my current role model underground DJs and best friends in music, Heidi Lawden and Masha.
What is the current LA scene needing now (if anything), and what can we as fans do to help?
Its mayhem here, every weekend there are several parties with big line ups. We are one of the leading weekender hubs for dance music in the world, now. But what we need is a weekday scene.
Let’s pivot now into Secret Project territory – first off, have you ever played any events in Chinatown before? How has this area changed in your eyes over the years?
I have played at local Chinatown bar’s General Lee’s and Grand Star Jazz Club back when heavy disco laden nights like Sunny Side up and Full Frontal Disco frequented them. There used to be this big party in the alley next to the area where Harvey and Guy Gerber do their party — an alley take over as opposed to a block party, I forget who did that. It has a fun history, and promoters are taking more advantage of the unique daytime space now.
How did you get involved with Secret Project?
My partner in Making Shapes, SONNS, called me up and said we were playing together. I think initially we were going to do a back to back set, but now we have individual set times.
Aside from yourself (your set’s going to be awesome), who else should Secret Project fans be looking forward to most on the lineup that aren’t the main headliners, and why?
Octa Octa — live? Peggy Gou — good time! SONNS — LA prodigy and party boy.
What kind of set do you have planned for Secret Project? Are you going to douse us in acid, lay down some hard techno, some grooving house, a mix?
Depends on my set time, I have been buying, downloading, and throwing music in a folder waiting to dissect it closer to date. Probably early day stuff that’s interesting to both listen and dance to, beckoning you to the dancefloor.
What other aspects of the festival excite you most?
A two day line up in Los Angeles that is stacked with these artists just has not happened here before.
Do feel Secret Project has the potential to set a precedent for other large organizers to support local talent scenes?
Finally, what else is coming up for Jeniluv in the near future?
Asia tour in February with Solar and DJ Nobu, also some snow boarding together! My new project ‘Psychicbody’ is a casual label, mix series and after hours event in Los Angeles. Also, The Dusk Festival, Southern California — tba