The Madison DJ crew loves throwing parties in whimsical settings, but also has great taste in house and techno.
Welcome to Residential, where Tone Madison meets the best acts holding down regular gigs on local stages and decks, from sturdy weeknight house bands to excellent and under-appreciated DJs.
Whether they're doing hardware-powered live house improvisations as Ucarri Maze or slamming tastefully functional house and techno jams at their many DJ residencies and DIY parties around town, it's been hard to deny the refreshing presence of the Foshizzle DJ crew here in Madison over the past few years. The young crew has a penchant for whimsical settings: mellow, low-key outdoor parties at James Madison Park, nocturnal freakout train-car nights, and DJ nights at downtown bars like The Bayou. But what’s consistent across all these gigs is a musical sensibility that abandons the blunt force of electro-house, EDM, bro-step, and yip-yip bass music tailored for a post-Diplo world in favor of something more in the tradition of classic house and techno—something that feels a bit deeper, less immediate, and unquestionably funky. I sat down with Jordan Ellerman (DJ Umi), Kyle Carrick (DJ Carrick), and Garrett Ohrt (Maze) to speak about creating their own version of what's happening in the rest of the world here in Madison, outgrowing EDM, transitioning from DJs into producers, and why it sometimes pays to stick it out when you're disillusioned by DJ culture. Upcoming Foshizzle-related events include the upcoming This Ain’t Chicago night on December 12 at the Cardinal and the crew’s residency on the first and third Thursday of every month at The Bayou.
Tone Madison: How'd the whole Foshizzle thing materialize?
Kyle Carrick: Me, Max Wangzoom, Lodo, Niki Kitz, and Devin Inabinet were the start to this Foshizzle party. We were friends with the guy that used to run Dobra Tea on State St and Garrett started playing our parties that we threw there. We've been kind of growing as DJs ever since. It always kind of happens the same. We meet a new DJ that we really vibe with, they hang out and play some records, and it just doesn't stop happening. We already have this crew, we started playing some parties, and then from that we began getting invited to play out.
Garret Ohrt: We all had the same idea for what we wanted.
Kyle Carrick: There are so many publications and so much social media coverage now, especially with things like Boiler Room. Now that we're all plugged into what's going on internationally, it felt weird not having our own version of what's going on around the world here in Madison.
Jordan Ellerman: We all met at a Tornado Wallace show.
Tone Madison: So were you all DJs before it started?
Jordan Ellerman: I started in 2008 when I moved to Madison from Illinois. The only person I knew here was my buddy Nile and all of his roommates were DJs and had a round-robin going all the time. If you wanted to hang, you had to get up and play some tunes and shit, so I just joined the rotation and learned that way. I did house parties for a while and then I got a residency at the Cardinal Bar. It was a Friday night party called Bounce. A bunch of DJs in town were residents for it. It was Vinnie Toma, Wyatt Agard, Max Ohm, Samurai, and my buddy Evan DeWan—who was probably the person that inspired me the most to take DJing seriously and want to do it every weekend. When I moved in with him, I started going to shows every weekend and going out. He was a resident at Jolly Bob's, then he passed away in the fall of 2012, and I took over his residency. At first it was really weird for me and extremely emotional and honestly it still is whenever I think about why I'm playing at Tipsy Tuesdays at Jolly Bob's. Not just because the spot opened up because he's gone, but because he inspired me so much. There was a point where I was just not really feeling DJing or the culture surrounding it, it was back in 2011. I was ready to give up and Evan made me stick it out. Thankfully I linked up with these guys and we made the scene that we wanted.
Garrett Ohrt: When I was 12 years old, my cousin from Iowa city was a DJ in the early-2000s acid-techno rave scene, so I first got introduced to electronic music through that shit. Like, psy-trance and stuff like that. It wasn't until I got out of college that I started getting into techno and house, and then deep house. Then I started buying more records and I've been DJing for five years now.
Kyle Carrick: I started getting into dance-floor electronic music in 2007 and before that I was into some ambient stuff. At first I got into mainly EDM and stuff like that. I was playing electro-house and dubstep until 2010 and 2011, then I stopped DJing. I moved to Madison from Milwaukee in 2010, did some parties around here, and had a lot of fun. But I was getting really sick of what I was playing, you know? So I took some time off DJing and was searching for a while, but then I met Niki, Max, and then Lodo and we started this whole thing.
Tone Madison: What were a couple tracks that pulled you away from EDM and dubstep and into straight-up house?
Kyle Carric: [Laughs] I don't really remember. There was so much going on at the time. I probably heard some Skrillex track where I was like "OK, no more."
Tone Madison: So it was your displeasure with the music you were playing alone that pushed you away?
Kyle Carrick: I'd just had enough of bass drop after bass drop. I was sick of it. I knew everytime I put Flying Lotus on or something else outside of that realm, my ears were much more pleased.
Tone Madison: Which residencies are you currently involved with?
Kyle Carrick: We kind of all have different ones. I'm doing one with Matt Funkenstein and Max Wangzoom and we have rotating guests. It's every second Friday at the Cardinal and it's called "This Ain't Chicago."
Tone Madison: What drove you to that title?
Kyle Carrick: Our buddy Lodo that helped start the Foshizzle thing was from Rockford and hung out in Chicago a lot. He moved up here for a year and helped start things up with us. He loved the differences between Madison and Chicago, as far as the scene and how it was. He liked how it isn't stuck-up here and it's kind of open and you can do what you want.
Tone Madison: So he felt like the Chicago scene was kind of snooty?
Kyle Carrick: When you go to Chicago in general, it's all split up into these different cliques.
Jordan Ellerman: The Smart Bar crowd is more like the Madison community.
Kyle Carrick: A little more open. People love to dance.
Jordan Ellerman: And no one's trying to flaunt their wealth there. When you're making fucking $30,0000 for one night's show, you're an elitist.
Kyle Carrick: In addition to This Ain't Chicago, I'm at The Bayou every other Thursday with these guys.
Jordan Ellerman: All the Foshizzle DJs go on this night. It's a Foshizzle family night. The main five, anyways. Us, Wangzoom, and Persona.
Tone Madison: So the Bayou night is the only regular family night?
Jordan Ellerman: Yeah, I mean, This Ain't Chicago's kind of a Foshizzle thing because it usually fell on days where we had our Foshizzle Fridays, so they were usually our afterparties. This is the one where we never have a guest, we don't post who's playing when or anything like that, and we all show up. When we wanna get up and play, we get up and play. We do a lot of tagging. We usually do twos or threes, depending. That night is kind of the headquarters and home base for us. I also play at Natt Spil once a month. That's a cool spot. I try to play not so much straight house for four hours because it gets boring for me. [Laughs] At Natt Spil, I like playing downtempo beat music, hip-hop instrumentals,and hip-hop too. Recently I played the whole Flying Lotus record because it came out on Tuesday and just started DJing after that.
Garrett Ohrt: I just have the Bayou residency with these guys and occasionally play at The Cardinal.
Tone Madison: Do you have a specific or separate vibe you try to maintain for each residency?
Kyle Carrick: I try to play what I like to hear most recently and whatever tracks I've been digging. I guess I guide it a little bit toward a certain end of the spectrum depending on where we are or what's going on with the crowd. Maybe how early it is in the night.
Tone Madison: So there's a lot of crowd reading?
Kyle Carrick: A little bit.
Tone Madison: So you don't really set up a hard playlist? You just kind of feel it out?
Kyle Carrick: I show up with a crate, a general pool of songs to pull from. Mainly house, tech house, and techno.
Tone Madison: Is it mostly contemporary stuff? Or, are you pulling from the classics, too?
Kyle Carrick: Mainly contemporary stuff.
Jordan Ellerman: I've actually been playing a lot more techno lately, but I'm forever a house head. That's where my heart is. I like the vibe at Natt Spil because I can play whatever I want. I feel like the reason people don't care about the music on Natt Spil is because it's pretty much always on point.
Kyle Carrick: It's just the place to be. Natt Spil is the spot.
Tone Madison: You three have been doing live sets with synths and a drum machine as Ucarri Maze and Jordan has been producing tracks as DJ Umi for a while, do you ever sneak your own tracks into your DJ sets to see what happens?
Jordan Ellerman: At Tipsy Tuesdays at Jolly Bob's, I'd sometimes preview my new tracks on that system when it was slow, I was always disappointed. [Laughs] It was good because Wyatt Agard is such a hard-ass and he'll just give it to me straight, so it was good to get his opinion.
Tone Madison: When did you get started on production?
Jordan Ellerman: I've been producing since freshman year of high school and I was in a band, so I started recording my band and experimenting with that. I started making house music in 2010 or 2011 and we didn't get the Ucarri Maze thing going until I bought some actual hardware. I think it was March when I bought my Machinedrum.
Garrett Ohrt: I just remember we were at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and Jordan was like, “We've gotta play live in three weeks, we should probably start practicing." [Laughs]
Jordan Ellerman: Yeah, so we started taking it seriously. We had already committed to a show. Then I bought a synth and we bought some more stuff so that we could play live.
Tone Madison: What's the process for working on tracks together? Do you have to bring specific, independent ideas to the table? Do you just jam?
Garrett Ohrt: They're just improvised jams.
Kyle Carrick: It just kind of happens.
Jordan Ellerman: Yeah, we don't have a method to writing songs. Sometimes I'll start a song.
Garrett Ohrt: A skeleton or something.
Jordan Ellerman: Sometimes I'll start tracks in my bed. I do my best work in bed. I'll start a track, maybe just have chords and a bassline. Then these guys come over. Kyle does most of the Machinedrum stuff, he probably knows it better than I do, and it's mine. I can't use it in my bed, so it's like whatever, I just don't end up using. Garrett does a lot of percussion also. We take turns on fleshing it out. Garrett kind of mans the Dave Smith Mopho synthesizer. We'll often write tracks together and then we'll record the Mopho with the MIDI in, then we'll just set the sequences up for Ableton Live.
Kyle Carrick: Then we just modulate live.
Tone Madison: Any favorite tracks to drop in as of late?
Jordan Ellerman: I've been playing this track that's a couple years old, but it just had a rerelease. It's called "Things" by Mark Broom. It's techno, but it's got some really intense chords and when they decay, the pitch decays too and it gets a little warbled. It's a little off. I also just got this new record, I think it might be one of the best songs I've ever heard. It's called Kyodai, which is Japanese for brothers--it's two dudes. It's on Local Talk, a Swedish label. They put out some really dope acid. Also, who's that one acid dude? His name starts with an "A”?