Some people are recognized for having good taste, but it’s those who make taste that are most commonly remembered. There’s a fine line between being a music fan and being a true enthusiast. The latter is constantly learning and sharing for sincere and earnest reasons. While popularity-chasing fans are widespread—especially in this modern era, one marked by an obsession with “the DJ”—the few rulers of the taste-making craft outlast the hype and sit respectfully amongst their crate-digging peers. Andrew Hogge—whom you might know better as Lovefingers—is a member of this rare breed. Most DJs within (and beyond) the this unique and compelling scene—where disco, house, and an “anything goes” mentality cozily cohabitate—owe Lovefingers a lot. And one thing’s for sure: if it wasn’t for his countless hours of relentless posting on what some audiophiles consider to be the finest MP3 blog to ever grace the Web (lovefingers.org), we wouldn’t be nearly as interested in record-collecting today. But Andrew is much more than a man with an eclectic library; he’s a full-time father and husband, musician, and the face of ESP Institute, a record label he start nearly three years ago. While juggling all of the above, Lovefingers can be found traveling the world and collaborating with his best friends, something many hope for and few ever achieve. Luckily, Anthem was able to connect with the man and discuss everything from his beginnings to the present as well as what the future holds for him and his label.
Hey Andrew, how’s it going? How have you been spending your days as of late?
Good I think? My days are split many ways between music and design, as they have always been, but now more than ever since I’m on the west coast again and further away from Europe, there are fewer travels at the moment and more focus on the local projects.
Let’s go back in time to your true musical beginnings. You came from a music loving family, didn’t you? When and how did you get into drumming?
Yeah my mom was a multi instrumentalist, so we always had a home full of things to play. I latched on the idea of drums around 6 years old.
When you were old enough to actually buy your own records, what were you into at the time? Did you play in any bands when the classic teenage hardcore and punk phase kicked in?
My first records were from my parents. My dad had a pretty decent 45 collection of R&B and rock, and my mom had a lot of classical. The first vinyl I bought myself was JJ Fad’s Supersonic? But before that I was into tapes like every other kid. It was Def Jam stuff I got into first.
I was an OK guitarist, but my first love was drums and that’s what I’ve always played in bands. When I was in 6th grade I started a metal band with this other kid, called Alchemy. We played at this kegger in my neighbor’s backyard. We could only play Slayer and Megadeth songs so we played the same 2 songs 4 times in a row, and then I think we did a Zeppelin tune for good measure. It was funny; we were like 10 years old playing at some high school kegger in the suburbs.
What lead to you digging for more obscure and dance-oriented cuts? Did your parents’ selections play any role in shaping your taste for the future, or were you mainly replying on friends to show you new stuff when you were younger? Did you attend any parties or shows that kind of opened your mind to the kind of music you like to play today?
The first “shows” I really went to (aside from Iron Maiden in ’88) were punk and hardcore shows. That’s just what we did then‚ bum rides from the older kids to the local spot where the punks had shows. The underground spirit was so amazing then, bands all crammed in vans driving around the country to play in shitholes. I later was in a few bands that did that too. I guess the first thing that got me interested in something other than metal was Dischord stuff like Minor Threat, or the local band Ill Repute. And then there was skaterock stuff like Excel. I first became interested in dance music through breaks. I was heavy into funk, Northern Soul, and loads of psych and beat records. My first DJ gig was at a Northern Soul club, I played for free for about a year in return for the promoter buying me a couple 1200s. From there I got into techno somehow and eventually backtracked into disco.
Was it a combination of your expanding taste and your friends turning you onto new things that you became interested in the world of disco, house, and beyond? Would you consider yourself lucky to have grown up open minded with eclectic influences?
I would have to say that within my group of friends, I was always listening to the random stuff. I still know people that solely listen to punk and hardcore, which is really a shame because whilst they’re preaching these open-minded politically correct messages, they’re really not so open to new things themselves. I fell in love with 4AD records when I was in high school. I guess that was an open door to a lot of things, in both music and design. I was a big fan of Robin Guthrie and My Bloody Valentine, and also I was obsessed with the aesthetic of 4AD and Vaughn Oliver in general.
Do you think that growing up in LA and being in the midst of a music community helped mold you into who Lovefingers really is? How did you meet Ariel Pink and begin playing in the early formation of his band?
Growing up in LA and being from a suburb definitely makes you search really hard for interesting things, because nothing around you is stimulating. Although I was really into girl bands and 4AD and shoegaze stuff, I’d say going to an art school and meeting new people (away from my hometown) was the most important thing in terms of taste-shaping. I was heavily influenced by a few mix tapes made by Eddie Ruscha (aka Secret Circuit) around ’96. I went to CalArts with Ariel and Tim Koh. Ariel used to grow weed in my dorm. Tim is one of my closest friends and released Ariel’s “Worn Copy” on his small label Rhystop, and soon after we both started playing with Ariel as Haunted Graffiti. It was a great but chaotic time. I had other things to do, so I moved on. Tim is still in the band!
Tell me a bit about the parties you began throwing with your friends in LA when your Blackdisco label project started? What was the main idea behind that label, and how did it play into the parties?
Blackdisco was a party Nitedog and I threw from around 2003 and we still do them once in a while. I met Kevin around 2001 when we both were designers for Freshjive, an LA-based clothing brand. We got along musically, both being super into Italo disco and post punk NYC stuff. I was super into collecting minimal synth records at the time too, but we mainly played disco and house records at those parties. The label just came about from the edits we made for the party. We just wanted to put a few of them on wax, but later I just kept it rolling because with the enormous amount of cool heads I met through doing lovefingers.org, there was no reason not to. Its the same as everything else I, if I want to hear something that doesn’t exist, I will just try to make it exist. If we wanted to play this amazing weird track at the party and wanted it to last for 8 minutes instead of 3 minutes, we’d just make it happen, pretty simple.
So were you already DJing and producing under the name of Lovefingers prior to starting the website / podcast archive? Or was that name originally intended to be a website?
I was DJing for years under different names, I’m way too flighty to stick with one name, and to be honest, names are obviously not strength of mine. The site was originally meant to be a portfolio of commercial compositions, but it never got off the ground and it just sat there for a long time. Then I started to do a 1,000 song mix, and it stuck.
Perhaps the best part of your site was the fact that you never wrote, just simply posted quality music. I guess you never wanted the title of a blog, so can you explain why the internet usually sucks when it comes to posting music on a daily basis? What can you say about the slow death of mp3 blogs over the last handful of years?
It’s like anything else. Over-saturation results in complacency. I felt like when I did the site, what made it interesting was the connections between the songs, whether it was obvious or personal, there was always a narrative, and the selections came from somewhere genuine, this you can feel when you listen to the mix because it can work either linearly or randomly.
But it must be a love / hate relationship at the same time. Do you give credit to the internet for a large chunk of your discoveries from the past and present? As long as a website is a platform for sharing, I don’t see much harm unless it’s an ignorant writer inventing mindless sub-genres. At the end of the day, if people are gonna leave their home and buy more vinyl.
It leaves something to be desired, which is physical. The excitement of finding something because you were there at the right time in the right place, that is never true of the internet. It’s all there all the time. Love and hate, yes. I love the idea of a library at your fingertips, but convenience makes for laziness and lack of originality. On the other hand, I don’t believe that intentionally limiting your means makes for better art. I do believe you can make something extravagant out of sticks and tape; it just depends on your craft. I don’t agree with people making things poorly on purpose.
Are there any other sites besides yours that provided a similar experience, or blogs you were once a fan of for the same reason?
Bumrocks and Dream Chimney. People sharing music for the right reasons.
Your site accomplished something pretty cool and its legacy cannot be replaced. Do you feel that ending it when you did was a healthy thing for you? Could you have seen it continue for years to come, or was it just getting boring?
I think about that often. I have thought of doing it again, but overall I’m glad it’s a closed book. It tells a story of a part of my life, and my interests at the time. I’m beyond thankful that so many people appreciated what I was saying, even though I didn’t “say” it. It proved a point to me; that music communicates in a way unlike any other language, it’s absolutely transcendental.
When did you make the move to NY, and how did you like your time there? People often believe that it’s a disco-wonderland, yet in reality it’s just made up of a small pool of great DJs who play each other’s parties, which is a lot like LA’s core scene. But what were some of the most personally beneficial aspects of living in New York for you?
I really dig the community vibe. I’ve made some of my closest friends during that period of my life, and I got married and started a family out there. I love New York, and I wish I was there all the time. But I started a family and what was best for the family was to be out West, for now at least. Of course that’s a priority to staying out all night in disco drug-den.
And a couple of years ago you began your label project, ESP Institute. I’ve always admired how you never let the label’s sound get too comfortable, and constantly strive for another unique sound to keep things evolving. What did you have in mind as far as the types of releases you’d be running upon beginning the project? Does ESP have a set criteria of sorts?
There is no specific sound (although others might disagree) to the label, much like the selections on the Lovefingers site. It’s completely open to shift at any time, but in the end, it’s the context and aesthetic of the label that makes it all “feel” connected. It’s all given our “touch.” The music must be beautiful in some way to me to be worthy of a release, and most importantly it must feel like it stands on its own. There are so many people producing the same old shit these days, it all sounds like one guy at one computer, so boring. That kind of thing will never get through the door here!
While you surely love all of the records out on ESP, are there any that are particularly special to you for any reason? And what can we expect next in the near future? Any new signings or info in general to share?
They are all special, honestly. Most of the artists on the label are people I have known for years before the label’s inception, so I feel entitled to work “with” the artists on the label rather than dictate. Being a selector is important in creating a body of work that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The Land of Light album is the newest release, and it took them 3 years to make, and both of them went through quite a bit of personal turmoil during those 3 years, so that album has an honesty to it that I feel every time I listen. The newest things on the horizon are an EP by Pharaohs (a live act from LA) and an EP by Tornado Wallace, both are fantastic. Soon after that we’re proud to unleash the debut full-length by one of the label’s staple figures, Young Marco.
I just received the promo for Land of Light’s latest 12’’ which I’m really enjoying. How did you come across this duo? One of the members has been featured on ESP before right?
Jonny Nash from Land of Light is a long time great friend of mine. The first release on the label, Sombrero Galaxy, was his collaboration with Tako, another old friend (who is compiling Concentration Vol 2). I’ve been waiting for the Land of Light album for a long time.
Do you find it more challenging to run a record label in this era than if you were to do it when you first started DJing? Does this digital age strike you in any way, or is vinyl truly forever?
I believe in spreading beautiful music to as many people as I possibly can. Of course I am a big vinyl enthusiast, but its just not reality to assume that everyone can be. Like I said before, its not so much the tools but the result that counts. In this same way, I can’t condemn every person that doesn’t have a Class-A soundsystem in their home. I do however have an issue with people compressing music digitally to the point it sounds like tin foil crap. That’s just not enjoyable for anyone.
You’re at a point where you’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world several times to play some of the finest parties around. If you could design your own perfect party spot, what would it be like?
It would be all my friends at once!
What keeps you inspired today? Who are some other DJs or artists that you can always count on for mind-expanding taste and unforgettable experiences every time?
Tako or Chee Shimizu.
And what are some new records of any style that you’ve been putting on rotation lately? What are a few recent discoveries that you suggest we check out?
The reissue of Dariush Dolat Shahi is great! And everything on my brother Ron’s label L.I.E.S.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young crate diggers just getting into the game? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned on your journey thus far?
1) Never leave your records in the car. 2) If you are patient, any record will show up eventually.
Before we wrap this up, what’s next for Lovefingers? Anything from your studio we can look forward to? What will 2013 bring? Any updates on your Stallions project?
Stallions is working on our album, due in 2020. I’ve got a couple more solo remixes out in a bit. And there is a cool project for ESP called Exquisite Corpse on the way, but it’s a beast so its gonna take a while.
Alright man, thanks a lot for chatting! See you around.