On the Inside looking In at Quality Control
Michael R. Taylor interviewed Quality Control for NCM recently. Michael, an entrepreneur and DJ who goes by Huex is a transplant from Chicago who's interested in supporting the dance music scene wherever possible. You can find him on any given dance floor when he's not ruling the sales floor at Nordstrom in downtown Salt Lake. Photography courtesy of David Arellano, DA/AR Photography.
The Salt Lake City underground scene is thriving and it's getting better by the month. From regular happenings at chic places like Zest Kitchen and Bar and The Red Door, to private art galleries and even churches; there seems to be no lack of places for dance music to call home in this fair city. One unique venue in particular plays host to one of the hottest parties in SLC. That place is the Fallout, and that party is Control Room.
I was introduced to Control Room for the first time on November 14, 2015 on a mild early winter night. I had heard a few things about the party, but had no real idea of what to expect. The first thing I noticed upon entering the Control Room for the first time was the attention to detail shown to the sound and stage/booth set up. It had a Boiler Room feel, but the vibe was uniquely intense. With the DJ set up in the middle of the room, people danced around the stage as though they were dancing around a campfire. The sound was fantastic no matter where you stood or danced in the room. The evening was headlined by the up and coming tech-house stalwart Jaceo, who dropped bombs like the Riva Starr edit of "Sante Sansone" and Roland Clark's "House Nation" which threw the crowd including myself into a frenzy. It was a booty shaking good time to say the least. I was hooked, and so are many people who frequent Quality Control's now monthly party series, "Control Room".
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jake Bergeson and Gabe Arellano, the masterminds behind Quality Control and Control Room, at the Fallout recently to discuss how they got started, what they love about dance music, and what inspires them.
Can you tell us how you initially met?
Gabe: I was thinking about this. Was it Benny Benassi or that DaDa Life Show?
Jake: I think it was the DaDa Life Show. We met at the DaDa Life Pajama Jam at the Salt Palace. I recently found the flyer online still.
Gabe: Yeah, It was a KI event, a company that’s no longer in business that thew parties at the Salt Palace Downtown. We met through a mutual friend from Utah State. This was about 6 or 7 years ago? I remember that we first started really talking after a Benny Benassi show though. Jake went with a mutual friend. I didn't go because I was DJing that night, but I think we started talking when our mutual friend brought him back to the hotel after the show.
Jake: I remember talking to him about the Traktor S4 he was using to DJ with. I was like, ‘I have one of those too!’, and we just started talking about music. I don't think I had played out at that point, and that was Gabe's first time playing out. So we just bonded over similar tastes in music and equipment.
How did you guys get into the dance music scene, and what were your "eureka" moments that made you want to get more involved in the scene in a more serious way?
Gabe: For me personally it seemed like I was the last person of all my friends to get into dance music. This was amongst my group of friends up at Utah State. At first I thought dance music was all BS. I was into Indie stuff at the time, but eventually my friends convinced me to go to a V2 party, which is how most people get introduced to the scene around here. So we went to, I think it was Paul Van Dyk, back in like 08 or 09? That changed me and opened my eyes to what it was all about. I wasn’t a really big Trance fan or anything, but I saw what the party was all about, I felt the energy. As far as a Eureka moment goes, I think that party was it for me.
Jake: For me there have been many moments, but I think as far as Gabe and myself getting into the scene are concerned, it occurred after a party at Circle Lounge. We had a friend, Mad Mike Ledesma, and Gabe knew this guy DJ Jeffery B, from up in Logan at Utah State. I was like, ‘maybe we should start talking to this guy?’, so we did something stupid like hung around after the show and helped Jeffery B load up his car. It didn’t really go anywhere, but Gabe and I walked the streets downtown afterwards, and we decided to think about doing something with Dance Music.
Gabe: Yeah, I think we had been searching for good music all over, and it felt like we kept coming up short. In retrospect I think we were looking in all the wrong places, but the lack of what we found inspired us to do something of our own.
Jake: I think if we had known about some of the parties that were going on at that time, we never would have decided to throw our own parties. We never would have even begun.
How long have you been throwing dance related events? Where was your first party?
Jake: (Proudly points to a framed flyer on the wall of their first party.) It was on May 10, 2014 here at The Fallout.
Gabe: Two years ago we threw our first event. We went up to our friends, most of whom DJ'd at our first party, and told them we have this cool spot we want to throw this Boiler Room like party at. We expected 50 people for our first party, and around 200+ showed up. I think it kinda blew people’s minds a little bit. I can't even believe it's been two years.
Jake: It was totally surprising. We seriously only thought maybe 50 people would show up. There had been one or two events thrown at the Fallout previously, but the turn out for our party was amazing. This was actually the first successful event The Fallout ever hosted. I remember the next day Darin, (the owner of the venue The Fallout), coming up to us all excited asking, ‘When are we going to do the next one?’
How did the idea of Quality Control and Control Room come about?
Gabe: Originally Quality Control had a different name. We had a company including a logo mocked up and ready to launch, until we showed it to a friend who was like, ‘Yo, you know there's already a crew in town that's similar right?’. We had no idea! We definitely didn't want to step on anyone’s toes, so we went back to the drawing board. We had the idea of calling the party Control Room, because we knew we would be streaming the party and it was a nice twist on Boiler Room. The funny thing is that the Control room isn't really where the dance floor and booth are. It's the room that holds all of the equipment needed for broadcasting.
Jake: I remember that we studied Boiler Room videos, and let's be honest, the idea was totally inspired by Boiler Room. I mean c'mon, Boiler Room - Control Room? We studied the lighting and payed close attention to the vibe in a particular Boiler Room video from Berlin. We knew sound would be paramount. At the same time we had been trying to put words together that we felt worked well with Control, and Control Room. I remember getting a text one day from Gabe telling me he came up with the perfect name.
Gabe: We went over a lot of different names, but I think we finally settled on Quality Control because of the standard it set for us. We hold ourselves to a high standard. We don't take the name lightly. Quality is our number one priority for all our events. We constantly strive to make our parties better.
Jake: I think sometimes people think that we're snobs because of our name and our brand, but that couldn't be further from the truth! Our number one focus is just to present a quality event.
What are each of your roles with Quality Control?
Gabe: I think the reason that this works is because it's a ying-yang relationship. Jake is very technical, he handles a lot of the execution and deals with sound and design. I do marketing, booking, stuff like that as well as staffing and managing. But we discuss everything with each other.
Jake: Yeah we discuss all the big decisions with one another. I focus on sound design and handling the streaming etc. Gabe has a marketing background and handles all the social media stuff.
Gabe: Luckily we have a pretty similar vision. We nit pick over details at times, but we always come together on the big decisions.
Jake: We're both focused on providing the best customer experience we can at the end of the day.
You're known to be passionate about sound. What got you into sound design and pro audio?
Gabe: Jake definitely has more of the technical background, but for me I think it's about the experience. When you go to some of these clubs around the country and experience first hand what a good sound system can do to people, you start to understand it's importance. Good sound creates an immersive environment. My passion for sound comes from a craving for an immersive experience. That's why you're there right? To experience the music. Bad sound is the easiest way to kill a vibe. That's why I think sound should always come first.
Jake: I've been in music ever since I was a little kid. I took piano lessons for 8 years, then guitar and I was in choir all throughout school. I studied guitar performance at Utah State, until my professor told me there was no money in it and I dropped out. I've always been intrigued by music and sound quality. I started getting into some of Tony Andrews videos, the maker of Funktion 1 sound systems. He has done some T.E.D. talks about sound and how it's perceived. I've always been interested in sound quality, and for me it's on a personal level. When sound is bad and you hear distortion, I think it physically makes you feel uneasy or wrong somehow. It creates stress or disharmony inside of you. Good sound on the other hand creates beautiful harmony. I feel like my brain relaxes when there's good sound. It's almost like you go into a meditative state. Good sound makes you relax, and bad sound creates disharmony within yourself. Our events are not perfect, but we strive really hard to provide good sound at our parties. A lot goes into creating that experience. Things like speaker placement, room acoustics, and so many other things. The reason our room is set up the way it is, is because I've talked with Tony Andrews about improving the sound at our parties. We've sent him pictures of the room and said, ‘Hey we're thinking of doing this.’ And he was like, ‘No do it like this!’, or ‘Do it like that!’. We try to learn from people who have done it before that know what they're talking about, and are constantly striving for that nearly unattainable goal of perfect sound.
What is your dream sound system comprised of?
Gabe: I'll let Jake take that one...
Jake: I don't think there's any one particular brand other than maybe the obvious Funktion One. I think any good sound system that gives you that metaphysical relaxation, or a natural high. You only get this when all the pieces of the sound puzzle come together, like the room acoustics, speaker placement, and things I mentioned before.
You have been to quite a few clubs and festivals. What are some of your favorites that you've visited, and which artists have played some of your favorite sets?
Gabe: We have been to quite a few festivals like EDC, Holy Ship, BPM and this year we're going to Movement for the first time. When I go to different places, I want to go and see their clubs. I want to see how people interact with the lighting, and how everything is set up. I take that experience and incorporate it into to what we do here. There's a club called Flash in Washington D.C. that's like a miniature Output in New York. I think the sound was done by the same company at both venues. It sounds like a vacuum inside of the club, you can almost hear a pin drop. There was no reverb. I remember walking into the place and just saying wow! It was dark with no light, and I just remember the sound. I think Chris Liebing was playing, and I think that was my first legit techno experience. This is one of the reasons we focus so much on sound at our parties, because of experiences like that. For festivals I would probably say BPM was my favorite festival. More recently, one of my favorite sets was when Nicole Moudaber played a sunset set at BPM. The set fit the time of day perfectly. The sun went down and then the techno got dark. She nailed it from top to bottom. I’ve never experienced a journey quite like that.
Jake: I think Output in New York is my favorite club. There's plenty of places that I’m sure I’ve never been to that are better, but so far that's my favorite club. We went to see Fehrplay there after the Eric Prydz EPIC show at Madison Square Garden. Eric Prydz is one of my top favorite DJ's, but seeing Fehrplay at Output was almost better for me. Completely different production levels, but for me I prefer a club because of the intimacy. I don't know, it just kinda feels like a house party to me in a smaller club. I just really love small intimate clubs. My favorite festival that I've been to is BPM. There' a club at BPM with beautiful sound and great intimacy, and then of course you have the beach parties during the day. One of my more favorite recent sets had to be that Scuba set at BPM at like 5am. He came on and started playing this other worldly techno. That was special.
Gabe: I think that for both of us our favorite sets had to do with environment and the music fitting the vibe perfectly.
Jake: I think another really cool set for us was Richie Hawtin at Marquee in Vegas. It was amazing. The way he manipulated the bass on a big system was insane! He played until like 7 am. It was another turning point for us I think.
How would you say your music tastes have evolved over time?
Gabe: Very drastically. When I jumped in the scene I absorbed the stuff that was easy to get. The mainstream stuff like Tiesto, David Guetta, then DaDa Life and Electro. The eureka moment for me came on Holy Ship. They had such a diverse lineup. Our friends were like, ‘Let's go check out Dirtybird!’. I had only ever heard Dirtybird when I listened to Claude VonStrokes Essential Mix on my little ear buds, and I wasn’t that impressed. My friend was like, ‘No, you're coming with me to see Justin Martin and that’s that!’. Honestly Justin Martin's set on Holy Ship changed me. I had never heard Dirtybird live, and that set sucked me in. I went in with a hater attitude and left inspired. It completely changed my musical direction. Dirtybird introduced me to tech-ier and house-ier stuff than I had never heard.
Jake: Coming from a guitar background, I started out with a lot a classic rock like Jimi Hendrix and Metallica. I was into making a lot of noise. I didn't even know about electronic music at the time. Then I distinctly remember driving in the car back in high school, and hearing Benny Benassi's Satisfaction come on the radio. I was like, ‘What in the hell is this?!?’. I had never even heard anything electronic before. I remember saying, ‘I need more of this!’. I went on iTunes and found what little I could. Mostly more Benny Benassi stuff. None of my friends were really into electronic music so I kinda let it sleep. Then I got into David Guetta and Tiesto, but liked it secretly until I found some friends that liked it too. I started to go to shows and the mainstream stuff lead me to go to EDC, which lead me to discover other music like Justin Martin and other stuff I didn't know about.
Gabe: Our taste just went down a rabbit hole.
Jake: It seems like our tastes changed really quickly, and I just can’t get enough of the underground stuff now.
Do you guys have anything you want to say to Salt Lake City?
Gabe: We just wanted to do something to give Salt Lake City a place to go for house and techno. If you come to our party with an open mind and your dance shoes on, even if you don't know who the DJ is, you will have a good time.
Jake: We actually considered leaving Salt Lake City several times. We decided to stay so we could help build the scene. We are super passionate about this kind music and we were like, ‘Hey we're still kids and we don't have kids or wives, so fuck it!’. But thanks for all your support and enthusiasm. We wouldn’t be anywhere without you guys!
Gabe: We've had a great response so far from the community. We wouldn't be where we are today, about to celebrate our 2 year anniversary, without the support of the great local DJ's and people that support house and techno in our city.
The underground music scene in SLC is flourishing because of people like Gabe and Jake. When my wife and I moved to Salt Lake City from Chicago 8 months ago, we had no friends or family and we had no idea an underground music scene even existed here. Thank you Jake and Gabe for deciding to stay in SLC. Without people like you and parties like yours, my wife and I would be homesick. And thank you SLC party people for making this outsider feel welcome in your beautiful home!
Catch the Control Room 2 Year Anniversary Featuring D-Unity (Toolroom Records / Unity Records) on Saturday, May 7 from 9 PM - 2 AM at The Fallout 625 S 600 W, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101. Follow, friend, watch or listen to Quality Control at Facebook.com/qualitycontrolslc and Soundcloud.com/qualitycontrolslc