Bells and Whistles at Harry Denton's Starlight Room
(somehow our original post was lost and we had to repost the interview without the music and video links and all the formatting, but at least the content is correct… without fixing the spelling mistakes that is.. enjoy Bells & Whistles, these fellas rock!)
Zack and Yanick of the dj duo Bells & Whistles have played all over San Francisco’s deepest dancefloors opening for various prestigious artists. They are also known for throwing the Dresscode events at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. No need to explain why that is so cool if you know this San Francisco landmark spot
We recently caught up with Zack and Yanick of the local dj duo Bells & Whistles over an email.
Hijak- I recently saw you guys open for Adultnapper at Vessel. Not only was the music on point but you guys looked like you were having a lot of fun up there. Your chemistry as a dj duo is obvious. What events lead up to you guys deciding to team up become Bells and Whistles?
-ZACK; “well shortly after moving to San Francisco, Yanick, me, and a couple other friends all got a place together. We knew eachother from San Diego, and both were djing, and had two little dj setups right across the hall from eachother. In the beginning, we would dj from our seperate rooms, sometimes overlapping and turning into a volume battle. Slowly here and there, instead of playing from two different rooms, we just started joining the eachother. With a little spark of friendly competition, we started tagging at the house a lot, showing off the latest song or technique. Trying to one up the other, Every track became “OHH SHit!, what is this? Where did you get it? Not saying a word, we started a friendly battle that kept pushing us to find better and better music. Watching each other track by track, we hooted and cheered on awesome mixes, and made it clear when the other fucked up. After each playing some seperate gigs in SF, I got an offer to play a warehouse party called “SOMA-Tech”, and we decided this would be a good opportunity to finally play out together. Walking up to the booth, we were confronted with some seriously hard techno, banging somewhere around 140 beats per minute, and knew the crowd wanted something else. Looking at them repeately banging their heads with little emotion, we knew what had to be done. With a tranisition that I can still remember, we masterfully brought the tempo down to about 112, a slight vocal was uttered, and then the slow deep pumping bass came in. Everyone lost their shit. The whole front row started popping and locking like it was a hip hip show. Instead of shaking their heads, people were now actually dancing. The next hour and a half was probably one of the best experiences I’ve yet to have, and from that moment on, we knew we had something.
YANICK: yeah thats pretty much how it started. i still remember the look on the 3 girls faces that were in the front row when that first track dropped.
Artists become inspired to produce great work in various ways. As a duo act, tell us a little about the creative process leading up to making a Bells and Whistles dj set come together.
ZACK: Hmm, creative process. Its actually quite interesting. While we dj together, and are constatly on the search for new and old music, we rarely end up purchasing the same songs. While we both go for a very similar sound, we somehow end up always getting different music that somehow just works together. Before a Dj set, we always have a quick chat and discuess where we see the night going. Getting on the same page about what we were going for that night, usually using very weird and visual descriptions, we get a sense of how the set will progress from start to finish. Other than that, were mostly just winging it. While we have tried planning sets out, its seems we do much better, and have more fun, when we just both agree on a feeling for the night, and just go for it.
YANICK: Yeah, for dj sets we’ve worked out our own little system and language. we communicate quite frequently throughout a set, talking about what we think the mood of the party is, and where its going. then select the right tracks to take it there. In the studio we are still working on a system, but its starting to come together. We’ve found that if we approach producing a track the same way we do a dj set, tag teaming, letting each person add their own flavor, we get the best results. so stay tune for some upcoming tracks.
Since you guys have the duo-dynamic going are there any songs or artists that have mutually inspired you guys or directly influenced your sound?
ZACK: Yanicks going to make fun of me because I always bring him up, But Gaiser would definitly be a major influence on me and my sound. While I have gotten out of my strictly minimal phase and moved on to a much housier sound, I can still sense a little bit of the gaiser in me. HIs percussion, basslines, and ability to create so much with so little is something I subcounsiously always look for and appreciate.
YANICK: HaHa.. Yep, I think Zack has the whole Gaiser discography. Mutually we are both inspired by.. Hmmmmm….. if i have to choose 1 person, it would have to be Mr. Barry White. He makes sexy music and we love sexy house music so i think that translates well.
If so, how did you realize both of you where simultaneously inspired by this?
YANICK: I think it was when Zack and I danced around our roommate myles’s room, blasting Barry White on the speakers we both knew realized the power of Barry.
What was your first live concert, first recorded music you bought and first the dj act to blow your mind.
YANICK: The first concert i can really remember making an impact would have to be Steel Pulse in Del Mar. Sun shinning, weed smoke in the air and some reggae, now that’s heaven for a 15 year old. First recorded music….Hmm.. Oh yeah, on my 11th birthday i got $70 dollars from my family and i went and bought 4 Snoop Dogg CD’s, Doggy Style being my favorite. and the first dj act to blow my mind was James Zabiela.
ZACK: I have no idea what my first concert was, might have been a weird opera thing in Russia where I was born. My first recorded music that I specifically remember buying and listening to over and over as my first cassete tape of Micheal Jackson. I thought I was the shit moonwalking around the house. And for the first time my mind was blown, I dont know who the djs were, but it would definitly have to be at my first rave in Los Angeles before I even really knew what electronic music was. I went with friends not knowing what to expect, and I had no idea what I was seeing. I remember just standing there in complete awww, the bass just roaring, and asking my friend (actually it was Yanick) every 3 minutes “What song is this? Who is this? What song is this?” I got annoying fast. Couldn’t stand that music today but back then, it was unbeleivable.
How did you come up with the name Bells and Whistles?
ZACK: I wanted a name we could get made fun of and not be taken seriously, at all. I think we nailed it.
YANICK: most frequently asked question. who’s the bells? and whose the whistles?
It seems like you fellas have played a lot of great parties and venues in San Francisco. Which venue do you love playing at most and why?
ZACK: For me, Im going to have to go with 222 Hyde. While its an amazing club for the patrons, its even better for the DJ. With 2 cdj-1000’s, 3 1200’s, an Allen and Heath V6 rotary mixer (same one at Fabric), and Function I moniters, I cant think of a better booth to be in. 222 Hyde spared nothing when it came to the sound, and it definitly shows. Apart from the amazing sound and the booth, there is nothing better than playing at a packed 222. Everyone is on the same page, mashed together in a barely lit underground encavement, when it goes off, there is nothing like it.
YANICK: Yeah i agree with zack on this one, 222 is top notch. also the end up and vessel are super fun booths to play in.
Each of you admit one of your favorite yatch rock songs and tell us what it is about it that has you hooked.
ZACK: ha. Im going to have to go with my boy Phil Collins, “In The Air Tonght” Love it
Share Our Post
Share this posts through social bookmarks.