Steeped in the rhythms and cultures of downtown New York, Eric Duncan and Liv Spencer aka Still Going produce music that oozes warmth and soul. R$N catches up with them for a chat taking in the duo’s formation as Still Going, their musical processes, early nineties NY house, Hip Hop, seafood and religion.
First up, how did the two of you meet and when did you decide to form Still Going?
Liv: We met about 10 years ago here in NYC. Spent a lot of time out in the same scene -Passerby, Rui's Loft - general downtown mayhem. I engineered several Rub n tug releases. We then made a 12" with DJ Spun, Daniel Wang, and Stephen Hall under the name How & Why. It was titled "Cruising" and was released on Rong Music. That's more or less when when we starting discussing working together.
When you’re in the studio, who does what? And is the process set, or do you apply a fluid approach for each new production?
Liv: The process is fairly straightforward. I spend my days writing music. I'll have Eric listen to jams that I feel might be right for us and we move forward with those we collectively vibe on. Other times Eric will bring in music for inspiration and I write using bits of those for inspiration. We then move forward with lyrics and arrangements. A proper mix down and voila!
How did the collaborations with Lizzy Yoder come about?
Liv: We both knew Lizzy from the downtown NYC scene. Once the last two singles were in written, I felt she'd be the perfect match given the feel we were going for. We got together in my studio over 2 or 3 sessions. It all happened rather quickly and organically.
What is the core production/musical gear that makes up the Still Going sound?
Liv: More or less described the process a couple questions up. Gear wise, I use a collection of vintage synths and guitars coupled with a solid recording front end (API mic pres, EL8 distressors and outboard EQ's). I work "in the box" using Ableton Live though most productions get summed in the analog domain. Coming back to the synths, the pieces I rely heavily on are the SH101, Siel DK600, Nord Lead, SCI Drumtraks coupled with a Simmons analog drum machine. Good workhorse units. Nothing too fancy ;-)
In regard to the Still Going label, what is the ethos behind that - are you doing A&R for new undiscovered artists, or will it be a vehicle for more established names?
Liv: In its inception SGR will principally be an outlet for our own music. Be it Still Going releases or other projects we're individually involved in. We're open to releasing music by other artists but feels important to have a real connection with the music we release.
When you’re writing music, does it stress you out or are you having the time of your lives?
Liv: I tend to write alone which is fun but also an involved process. The fun part happens when we move into arrangements, lyrics, etc. That's a fully collaborative endeavor.
Why is D117 called D117?
Liv: Well it was actually the song's working/production title. When we actually got around to naming the release we realized we'd built a soft spot for this mundane name. It just title just kinda happened. Then grew on us.
You’ve done a fair few remixes, if you could get your hands on the masters of any track from the history of music to remix, what would it be?
Liv: I actually wouldn't want to tinker with anything that has to much personal cultural or emotional significance for me. Some things are too good to be messed with. As a writer, I derive more satisfaction from creating new works. That being said I'm starting to think about covering songs that have special meaning for me.
Eric, I’ve read that before you got into dance music you were firstly into Hip Hop. What kind of stuff and what would you say were the three Hip Hop tracks that left the greatest impression on you?
Eric: Yea I was really into the whole NYC rap scene from an early age, 12 years old(1983). But I think the golden era which was about 1986 to 1989 is the time for me. I started going to shows at 16 and saw everyone you can think of from that time, if they came to L.A. Then me and my crew were at the show. My favorite then was Ultramagnetic MCs and the obvious ones like Public Enemy, BDP, Big Daddy Kane and a bunch of one off underground acts.. I could go on for days on this subject and can't really single out just 3 tunes. It was a lifestyle.
And Liv, I’ve also read that the early nineties NY/NJ house sound was very important to your musical development. What are three tracks from that era that really nailed . the sound you like so much?
Bobby Konders "House Rhythms EP" (Nu Groove)
Kerri Chandler "Atmosphere EP" (Shelter Records)
Kim Beacham "Trouble" (111 East Records)
Money is no object here at R$N. We’re throwing a party, you’re playing and also booking the other acts - who’s on the bill and where is the party going to be held?
A full day/night affair on one of Portugal or Corsica's epic beaches.
Lineup: Carl Craig, Grace Jones live, Daniele Baldelli and Richie Hawtin.
What’s on the rider?
Seeing as we'd be beaching it: seafood on the grill and copious amounts of rosé!
I’ve asked this next question a couple of times, and it’s always been swerved. Maybe it’s too earnest, I don’t know. Anyway, I’m going to try and ask you and see how we get on! The Paradise Garage was famously known as Church and early NY clubs such as The Loft were seen as intensely spiritual places. As well as this, legendary pioneers of club culture, such as Mancuso, Levan and Ron Hardy are now looked upon almost as deities. Do you feel that clubs have filled a spiritual void for a generation that has largely shunned religion?
Ok we're getting academic here ;-) I agree with the concept of the club as a church of sorts. Particularly those 80's and 90's NYC establishments which catered to a black, latino, and gay audience. I spent a fair amount of time at The Sound Factory Bar, Body & Soul and Shelter. You felt that the culture was permeated by a very real sense of religious worship. As socially marginalized as much of the audience was, most were actually "the church going type" and the line between worship of God and the worship of music was often quite blurred. Take Timmy Regisford who's Shelter sets were heavily steeped in gospel house. At the height of the night, you could easily imagine yourself in the midst of a Brooklyn congregation's praise break. The spirituality was tangeable.
Finally, what next for Still Going?
This is a big summer production-wise. Countless studio hours aimed at finishing the next round of releases.
By Joe Evans