May 30, 2023

Juheun built a career on pushing boundaries with fresh technology while throwing epic parties via Circuit – he gives us the lowdown!

The desert-dwelling Juheun has become quite an indispensable member of both the techno community as well as the Octopus Recordings family since his arrival on the production front over a decade ago. His music comes ripe with drama and dosed with hypnotic rhythms, offering the perfect soundtrack for soul transcendence under the lasers and lights. Some of his best work materializes through the soundwaves of “Digital High,” “Constant Rising” with Dusty Kid, “Instant Communication,” and his collaboration with Tronic mainstay Drunken Kong, “Open Door.”

One can deduce that Juheun has clever musicality running through every fiber of his being, lovingly sharing his expertise with other hungry industry dreamers through electronic music and sound design education. He pushes the boundaries of creativity each and every time he steps into the studio, and his deep love for the vast world of digital and analog has allowed him to create magic on the dancefloor, MIDI’s in tow, while the audience lurches to the intoxicating bassline. Recently, he kicked down the door of a goal he’s been holding onto, making his CRSSD debut on the City Steps to the elation of all his fans.

Of course, his expertise doesn’t end in the studio or in the DJ booth. He is also nurturing Circuit, an event company that kicked off 12 years ago with co-founder Michelle Sparks. Just recently, they hosted their biggest event to date, Richie Hawtin’s From Our Minds North American warehouse tour. One may ask, “Where does he go from here?” Well, the answer is simple. He will continue to work, train, study, and indulge in everything needed to nurture a fresh underground movement, taking the techno family along for the wild ride. So, continue on to get to know the man behind the music as Juheun ushers a fresh flock of music enthusiasts into his world.

Stream Drunken Kong & Juheun – “Open Door” on Spotify:

Hello Juheun, thank you so much for taking time out to chat! First things first, let’s dig into some Circuit news. Recently your team threw their biggest event to date, hosting Richie Hawtin on his From Our Minds tour. Can you give us the scoop about what goes into preparing an event of that caliber? 

Hey guys! Thanks for having me, it’s a pleasure to be here! 

Oh man, where do I begin? [Laughs] It was a challenge to pull off such an epic event with such a legendary artist, but somehow we managed to make it happen. We couldn’t have done it without such an amazing team. As some of your readers may or may not know, hosting an artist like Richie comes with a lot of logistics and work.

We are used to doing the usual club and warehouse events, but when it comes to an A-list artist like Richie, that has an entire team of professionals working behind him, it really makes everyone step up their game. There are so many layers to events like this outside of just the actual event night. Everything from the initial contact and local politics, to promotions and detailed execution of contracts and riders. With Richie being such a technical guy in general, every single T had to be crossed, and extra special time and care had to go into the production side of things that normally is just a confirmation of CDJs and Mixer for your typical club and DJ event.

The real work was everything leading up to the actual night of the show. I remember waking up every morning to at least 5-10 emails from his team as we were on separate sides of the planet and our schedules didn’t align. Luckily we have such a solid team in place with Circuit and were able to delegate different tasks to separate team members who focus on one specific aspect of the party.

Circuit has been an ongoing project for the past 12 years with myself and partner Michelle Sparks, and most recently Matt Mullen, one of our resident DJs and business partners. We have been working hard to build a team of passionate and motivated individuals to help us achieve our vision. This past year has really been a true testament to that as we have been able to ramp things up and really push hard to bring quality and consistent underground and techno events to Phoenix and Arizona. 

There were definitely some stressful times like when we had to change the venue last minute because of sound concerns as our original venue choice was smack dab in the middle of downtown Phoneix where it was surrounded by Condos and private residences. We also had to play some local politics, as originally, when we were approached about this event, there had already been discussions with other venues and promoters for Richie to play at.

This added a bit of extra pressure for us as we were selected to host him in the end, based on our ability to fit the ethos of the tour, being that Richie wanted it to be a very DIY/Grass Roots type of event, bringing things back to the original days of warehouse raves and culture that he grew up on. Being a DJ and producer myself that started off in the early days in the rave scene, I knew the importance of bringing him and the tour to Phoenix with these vibes. 

This tour was unlike any other as he was also bringing his own openers and artists to share the experience with. Artists Barbosa, Jay York, Decoder, Declan James, and Henry Brooks all joined the lineup, and it was almost like we were hosting a multi-stage festival with multiple artists at times, with all the extra logistics involved for everyone. We truly couldn’t have pulled this off without the amazing work of our team, promoters, and vendors who all helped deliver such a quality night from start to finish. It took a village to pull this off.

In addition, you just kicked off a new series under the Circuit umbrella called Full Circle. Can you talk about the inspiration and vision for this new series?

Full Circle is another project that almost didn’t happen. It was originally meant to be part of First Fridays in downtown Phoenix, a huge art walk that happens every first Friday of the month that showcases all different types of artists and art galleries. We had plans to work with a local art collective and gallery to bring underground and techno to downtown. The original concept was to bring together creative and talented artists, musicians, DJs, and producers as kind of a melting pot of Phoenix creatives under one roof. Unfortunately, the venue had to pull out due to permitting issues and we had to scramble to find another venue last minute which eventually worked out in our favor.

While the art aspect of it had to be reworked, our main goal to expose our music and vibes to some new listeners was still possible in the end. Being that our main project, the Micro series, is an invite-only, limited-capacity party, we wanted to offer something that was more accessible but still kept the same level of production, sound, and talent, but open to the general public by keeping ticket prices low without a limited capacity. We are looking forward to continuing these parties all year and hopefully bringing it full circle for everyone. We have our next one featuring Spanish techno producer Ramiro Lopez from ODD Recordings on May

What is the biggest challenge that comes along with balancing your life on the road as a performing DJ and your commitment to the Circuit brand?

During the pandemic when everything shut down, and gigs ran dry, Michelle Sparks and myself had a lot of time to take a step back and re-evaluate things for the first time in many years. Things have a different perspective when you aren’t going nonstop. During this time, as the world slowly started to open back up and things started to return, we noticed a big absence and gap in the local scene where everything was EDM and Bass House focused, and geared to a much younger demographic. It made us ask the question of why nobody was catering to the seasoned listeners. The waves of people who’ve been listening to this music for years, who were ready for something with a bit more substance and seriousness; without all the flashy neon, over-the-top production, pyrotechnics, and festival vibes.

This is when we decided to commit to changing that and we felt, with all the extra time not being on tour and traveling as much, focusing on the local scene and creating our own bubble was necessary. Looking back now, I’m so glad we made that choice as the global scene seems to be shifting. It seems things are starting to go back a bit more underground as many promoters are only focused on the for-sure bets of booking only A-List artists or talent who have a major influence on social media, and are not willing to take a risk on more underground talent. Not to mention the major backlog from all the canceled and rescheduled shows pre and during the pandemic. This is why you continue to see the exact same lineups we saw before the pandemic in 2018/2019.

Things are currently starting to see light as far as gigs, and I’m currently working on my next live tour, set for later this summer and into fall. Luckily the summers here in Phoenix are brutal and in general, things slow down a bit, so it’s a perfect time to get back on the road. I’m sure at some point we will have to juggle both, but if you think about it, we’ve been juggling both even before the recent success of Circuit so it’s not that different. We also have a great team that I am confident can handle things on those certain weekends when I’m on the road.

Circuit has always been and will remain a main focus and project for us because every city deserves a proper underground and techno scene, and Phoenix is finally ready for something like this. It goes far beyond just the parties. It’s helping to build a community of talented artists who don’t care about the mainstream hype of EDM and Bass House, and feel out of place when they go to festivals and clubs where they cater to a younger demographic and audience. No offense to those who enjoy going out to those types of events and like listening to those genres, but some of us are keen to find a deeper understanding of electronic music outside of the corporate machine.

Now, let’s switch gears and talk about personal production. It has been a while since your last release dropped at the end of 2022, “Open Door,” alongside Drunken Kong. Can you give us any clues as to what may be coming out of your studio next and when fans can expect it?

Yes, glad you asked! I’m in the middle of working on launching a new label with my partner Michelle Sparks. It’s something we’ve always talked about, but never really felt like the time was right until recently. To be honest, starting a label was something I always didn’t want to pursue. My time spent at Octopus Recordings, helping run the label, changed all that. I realized that I wanted to be able to release music that I felt good about without having to conform or change its integrity, and the only way to do that is to start your own label.

Prior to this, I had absolutely zero knowledge of what it takes for a label took to be successful, and I’ve seen so many people try and end up failing. So the experience and knowledge I gained from my time at Octopus gave me insight into what it takes. I’ve been cranking out so much music and have been sitting on so many projects that I started and finished during the pandemic, that I felt like putting most of it on my own imprint was the right thing to do.

It’s one thing when you’re first getting your feet wet and have a few releases scattered… it’s another thing when you’re sitting on a bunch of music and don’t know where to shop it because it’s unique to your own sound. I’m looking forward to working with a bunch of artists with who I’ve been lucky enough to build relationships over the years, and can’t wait to bring all this new music to everyone’s ears. We expect to have the label launched hopefully by the end of summer as long as everything continues to go as planned.

Juheun in studio

You are known to work with quite an eclectic array of analog and digital machinery to develop your beats. Can you talk to us about some of your current favorite studio tools and how they positively impact your productions?

Yes, I do love analog gear and getting my hands on a physical keyboard and pushing buttons and twisting knobs but also love all things digital and tech. For me, it has always been about finding the right balance between the two. We live in a world where technology is progressing at an incredible rate and it’s only going to get more and more intense. So being able to adapt and put these technological advancements into our daily lives is only going to help us get better results in the end.

Unfortunately for me, I was born a little too late to really take advantage of the whole analog synth and drum machine era of the ’70s and ’80s, but I still love playing around with analog gear, and understand the importance of analog from my time teaching electronic music and sound design. With half my time spent in the box with Ableton Live and using digital plugins, I’ve realized that having the best of both worlds is what really drives me in the studio. I think that might be why one of my favorite pieces of gear is the Native Instruments Machine Drum machine software and controller. It’s a software-based drum machine that can be used stand-alone, more or within your DAW like Ableton Live, but also has a physical piece of hardware that lets you interact with the software as if it’s a piece of analog gear.

Lately, we’re seeing more and more of this type of instrument, and even the analog gear that’s been coming out has some sort of digital feature that helps you integrate it easier into modern digital setups like mine. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a sucker for analog gear with these types of features, and two of my favorite synths are the Moog Sub 37 and Moog Miniature. One way I always try and break writer’s block and gain new inspiration is just spending time playing around with one of my analog machines with the computer off. Just me and the machine.

On that same token, give us the lowdown about what a day in production mode looks like for you. Do you have a specific way you like to tackle new projects?

I can’t say I really have a specific mode when it comes to the studio… as sometimes I like to start ideas on my laptop while sitting on the couch or at a coffee shop. I’ll then take these ideas into the studio to further develop them and turn them into actual songs. I do prefer to use the start of my week in the studio to dive deeper into unfinished projects, spending the time finishing them when my ears are fresh and I have a clear head. Later in the week, I’m busy spending time playing around with synths, developing new ideas, learning new techniques, and just nerding out with my machines. 

Translating this to the live scene, you love to perform with your MIDI Controller. What’s the most challenging aspect of this creative choice that unveils itself in real time? 

I’m very particular when it comes to my live sets and most of the time everything is very calculated. However, I have moments in my live sets that are designed to give me the ability to take a different path and improvise parts of my performance, rather than keeping everything completely structured like the original track. I think part of performing live is that bit of unpredictability and the chance that things might not work out as planned.

Sometimes, and most of the time, my best performances are related to these moments as it’s something new that I hadn’t even heard yet, and to share a moment like that, riding and skating the edge with the audience, is another way to really connect with them. It’s something that will never be created or performed the same ever again, and that’s something really special about live performances. Using MIDI controllers to help me interact with the computer and digital space gives me these opportunities to get more on the improvisational tip by being able to control every aspect of the song separately, which in turn opens the door to unpredictability.

Juheun @ CRSSD Festival 2023
Juheun @ CRSSD Festival 2023

Are there any other tools that you enjoy implementing into your live sets? If so, give us examples of how they add depth to your set.

I’m playing around with adding more standalone pieces of gear like the Seymour Duncan “Dark Sun” delay and reverb, and the Moog Minitaur into the live setup. There’s nothing like putting your hands on an actual piece of hardware and fighting the unpredictability of analog gear in a digital-type setup (within reason of course [laughs]). Most of my live set is coming out of Ableton Live from my laptop, so adding these pieces of hardware into the mix results in some truly epic moments that can’t be done digitally.

Finally, what are three pieces of advice that you would offer an artist who is on the path to moving away from typical DJ sets and into the live realm? 

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. When you’re in the early stages of putting a live set together, start with something minimal and develop it over time. Everyone has grandiose ideas they want to pull off when it comes to live sets, but that’s the beauty of it, it’s ever-changing and evolving, so there’s no need to tackle it all at the same time. Just focus on making it all work first and then dive into adding those extra spicy bits of gear.

Sometimes having too much gear ends up turning out to be a bigger headache than it’s worth. If you plan to tour and travel with your setup, it’s always a good idea to make the most of what you have without overloading your setup. Nothing is worse than stressing about your gear before the next gig. Travel light and only take what’s important and necessary. It’s guaranteed that you will run into issues while traveling, whether that’s not enough room in the DJ booth to set up or wondering if you brought that one crucial cable or power plug. Nothing is worse than stressing about gear while on tour.

Don’t forget a backup! Bring a backup for everything! I still travel with doubles of everything, including cables, backup controllers, audio interfaces, and even a USB with music on it, in case your laptop completely decides to take a dump on you and there are no other options than to just DJ. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much prep you put into making sure everything is perfect, those are usually the times that everything hits the fan. [Laughs]

Juheun, Thank you so much! We look forward to supporting your forthcoming label and hearing new music from you soon! 

Thank you!

Follow Juheun:

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