ABE DUQUE IS IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.
The name is pronounced “Du-kay”. He jokingly describes himself as one of the "few producers still licenced to use the 303". But with a career that started in the early days of house at New York's notorious Limelight, Abe Duque has been at the head of the acid-house and underground-techno table since his earliest releases way back in 1993.
His first tracks were influenced by the madness of the Limelight's club-kid audience, later publicised by films and books like Party Monster and Clubland Confidential. But despite jokey titles like "Fantastico!!!", "Truckers Choice" and "Vodka, you sweet companion," his early tracks had the sophistication of his serious keyboard skills and a get-in-and-do-it-yourself aesthetic learned as a kid growing up in the suburbs in Hollis in Queens, New York.
From muscular and melodic techno to cocktail jazz and ambient interludes, his early tracks on his own labels Tension and Hollis Haus, his releases under pseudonyms like Kirilan, Super Secret Symphony and his releases on others' labels like Disko B, Rapture!, Morbid, and Tresor captured a particular period of clubbing history bought to a sudden halt when the Limelight was closed down by the cops.
It was, Duque says, a great time for musical experimentation. Each month bought radical new types of music kit - much of which Duque still keeps in use in his underground studio "the Cave" - alongside an amazement of now classic tracks and new acts.
And as techno was almost exclusively made by working musicians, a lot of it was performed live. At Duque’s night at the Limelight night, Abuse Industries, he was part of regular performances with the live techno "chillout supergroup" the Rancho Relaxo Allstars, freeform jams which included now famous techno producers like Duque himself, John Selway and Deitrich Shoenemann. For a short spell, Duque was also the keyboard player for Program2, a techno band signed to Warners for an advance Duque still describes as “insane”.
Abuse Industries itself, meanwhile, was Abe's collaboration with the artist Andy Orel, a night so strikingly visual and challenging that its visuals were exhibited in European museums, given page after page in Germany's Raveline magazine, and used in shows by Helmut Lang.
But when the Limelight closed, that roughly marked the end of New York as a clubbing mecca. New mayor Rudolph Guiliani was determined to drive the freaks, the gays and the wasted out of his town, and he mostly succeeded.
Duque by then had a thriving European and worldwide touring schedule, and musicially he still had roots in the underground. Abandoning the glossy, high-fashion style of Tension and Abuse Industries, Duque’s next sets of releases were on anonymous, vinyl only stamped with catalogue numbers like "ADR40" [Abe Duque Records 40] and etched on one side at the pressing plant with strange, hand-drawn messages from the man himself.
In some ways Duque was turning his back on the New York style, and on his previous successes. As he describes it, "I wanted to prove that my music spoke for itself". It did. Despite the secrecy about who had actually written the ADR releases, this second part of Duque's career was a run of increasingly massive 12" hits like Champagne Days, Cocaine Nights; Acid, Disco Nights, and in 2004 his monster smash with Blake Baxter, "What Happened?", the track that launched Duque and Baxter out of the underground and into the spotlight. That track's call for a turn away from safe, unchallenging clubbing sold 25,000 copies on vinyl alone and in 2009, it was the focus of a rare remix competition on ResidentAdvisor - despite Duque and Baxter's refusal to market the track by signing it to any the 100s of compilations on offer.
Having been dragged out of the underground, Duque found himself feted by the mainstream, delivering hugely successful remixes of acts like the Chemical Brothers and Pet Shop Boys while continuing to work right across the techno world. There, his brutally funky basslines and acid influence were – and still are - hugely in demand for remixes of acts such as Miss Kittin, Remute, Chloe, Savas Pascalidis, Knart IV and Daniel Meteo – as well as DJ Hell, with Duque becoming a regular on Hell's Gigolos label. The two had met having moving in the same German and NY electronic circles since the Abuse Industries days, and so Duque was asked to produce Hell's infamous album NY Muscle in 2003 and in 2006 to helm the well-recieved "American Gigolos II" compilation.
The highlight of this period, though, was Duque's first album under his own name, "So Underground It Hurts". The title was yet another example of Duque's ambivalence about succcess and its trappings, but the album was undeniably a techno event. Reviewed in the fashion press as influenced by Gigolos' German electroclash style, but the album was understood by the music press as something quite separate and self-contained.
Duque was again striking out along his own path. Part wild acid, part dark house and all leavened with Duque's dry, quiet stoner humour, the album also provided a launchpad for Duque's return to wild live performances – a whiskey bottle in one hand and a 303, drum machine, two PCs and a microphone operated by the other.
It was the start of Duque’s second, endless round of watching the world through the windows of a hotel and moving restlessly between a temporary flat in Berlin and his spiritual home in Queens. Several years on the road with his stable of vocalists – Blake Baxter, Tijiana T, Acid Maria, Virginia, and occasional appearances by Abuse collaborator Andy Orel as “Sin” – meant that Abe released only intermittently on his own label, Abe Duque Records. There, new tracks like the darkly funny It Moved Me, Whose Got the Flave, and a singles collection on CD When the Fever Breaks added to Duque’s reputation as the producers’ producer.
Eventually, though, Duque had had enough of continual touring. By 2008 he said he had been doing live sets for so long that he "was thinking about DJing again for a change, just as everyone else was going live”. Returning to the studio, he wrote the album Don’t Be So Mean, its title an oblique reference to the Iraq war and US foreign policy.
The cover? Duque on the front brandishing a machine gun - and the same machine gun pointing straight at Duque inside. Released in 2009, the album offered optimism about Obama (“Tonight is your answer”), let Blake Baxter loose on the dance scene in a response to What Happened? called Let’s Take It Back, and also marked Duque’s return to leftfield electronics with tracks like OFMA and Salute the Dawn, which threw together Debussy with lyrics by 1800s American revolutionary and moralist Thoreau.
Don’t Be So Mean was also the stepping stone to Abe’s three new projects in 2010. The first, due May 2010, will be a compilation LIVE AND ON ACID: two CDs, one of his live show, and one a wrap-up of Limelight acid-house classics. The second, under the broad church of Abuse Industries, is the return of the Abuse Industries night, and a series of sinner-themed Abuse 12”s in collaboration with Andy Orel – see abuseindustries.net for more.
And finally, Duque's third new project is a secret performance project that leaves the dancefloor world entirely.
Last year, Abe Duque was in the mood for love, and he said "Don’t Be So Mean". But as he enters the third part of his long, strange musical career, that’s all going to change…
ABE DUQUE IS IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.