Fresh Kicks 143: Alex Falk
With an hour of animated rave cuts and tough, trippy techno, Knoxville, Tennessee DJ Alex Falk’s Fresh Kicks mix locks into the DIY energy of the TEKNOX party he co-runs
Alex Falk’s Fresh Kicks mix is brilliantly wild. Tough grooves tear at the seams of techno, house, breakbeat and ballroom, embodying the raw, unbridled energy of the rave. His own music, which has been released on labels including Allergy Season and Mister Saturday Night, is similarly uninhibited. With propulsive beats, psychedelic loops and relentless momentum, Falk’s sound is forever pushing forward.
Since 2012, he has co-run the DIY party, TEKNOX, in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Held in The Birdhouse, a two-story, Victorian house-turned-community centre, the bi-monthly free party has become a focal point in the Southeastern underground scene. With a proudly grassroots ethic, the TEKNOX crew, co-founded with DJ Dialectic Sines and completed by Nikki Nair and Saint Thomas Ledoux, are part of an ever-evolving network of DJs, producers and promoters projecting Tennessee club sounds onto a global stage.
“Our goal with TEKNOX from the start was to facilitate a free and accessible community dance,” Falk tells us. “Simply sharing the music we love with people without them having to join an insular music scene or attend ticketed nightclub events.”
By 2016, TEKNOX had earned its reputation as an essential gathering for those on the hunt for underground sounds in the region, where the grittier strands of house, techno and electro still exist well on the fringes of popularity. Word of mouth ensured that parties were always packed, and gradually they started booking out-of-town guests such as Jacktone Records co-founder Doc Sleep, Chicago DJ sold, Atlanta’s Stefan Ringer, Russell E.L. Butler, and Allergy Season’s Physical Therapy. Since, TEKNOX has evolved to incorporate live performance events in local independent venues, as well as summer rooftop parties where “resident DJs can cut loose”.
There’s an openness to the way TEKNOX operates that can be traced back to Falk’s earliest experiences of dance music. Upon finding techno and Miami bass compilations in local CD stores as a teen, he became “immediately obsessed”, and soon he was programming his own beats using tracker software on his PC. Before long, he was sneaking out to parties in Knoxville and further afield, searching for the dancefloors that appealed to his techno and d&b tastes. “A lot of what I heard in Knoxville wasn’t doing it for me,” he says. “[I’m] not a big fan of Florida breaks or progressive trance. So every chance I had I travelled to nearby cities in search of weirder, edgier sounds.” That youthful hunger for discovery and adventure encapsulates the TEKNOX ethos, which has endeavoured to create an open space for all, much in the same way those halcyon warehouse raves did for Falk before police crackdowns crippled the scene.
From there, it was the nearby Goa trance rave scene in Asheville, North Carolina that directed Falk’s sonic trajectory. At those parties, which took place in “cow fields and forests as well as warehouses and nightclubs”, he learned how to DJ for crowds of “trance dancers who often utilized psychedelics”, and discovered the joy and freedom that can be found in gathering “a community of like-minded freaks”.
“Goa Trance was a blend of my interests,” he says. “Acid, techno, rave [and] industrial… Behind the heady atmosphere I also learned the nuts and bolts of organizing events. Particularly how to work with sound systems thanks to my friend Lou Rawls. Everything is DIY when you organise parties in the woods: generators, lights, sound, deco and all the rest. So those skills have carried over directly to the events I organise now.”
Falk left that scene, however, after becoming “bored with the dogmatic, narrow music focus and cult-like culture”. It prompted him to relearn his process as a DJ, producer and promoter, and within a couple of years he had released music on nearby labels such as Memphis’ Proper Trax and Atlanta’s CGI Records. On those releases you hear an artist developing his sound, pulling the elements he loves from techno, acid, electro and house, and warping them with curiosity, delight and humour – ‘GF’, from his debut EP on CGI, takes a vocal loop from Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’ and welds it onto a fierce warehouse techno beat. His sound has evolved in the six years, adopting a trippy, full-throttle trademark. In the coming months, he will return to Rhythm Section’s International Black sub-label and Allergy Season for second outings, as well as making his debut on Nashville producer Oliver Dodd’s Konstructure label.
‘Movefast’, Falk’s new EP on Allergy Season, captures his frenetic process in full-swing, its whirlwind beats and distorted loops fitting perfectly with Physical Therapy’s febrile catalogue. “Daniel – Allergy Season – is pretty good at making sense out of my piles of unreleased tracks,” says Falk. “This time he picked mostly recent recordings: the title track is a break-driven UFO chasing, while ‘EBE’ may detail a subsequent close encounter. ‘HG12’ is meant to sound a bit like a DJ mixing techno records, ‘Know’ is a vocal looper with a big boom, and ‘U Wont’ explores some shifting harmonies coaxed out of layered samples mined from YouTube.”
Falk has played some prestigious parties across the US, including Honcho Campout festival and Honey Soundsystem’s Labor Day party in San Francisco. His focus remains firmly in the Southeastern scene though, as he points to producers and labels like Oliver Dodd, Max Watts, Limited Network and TEKNOX’s own Nikki Nair. Recent years, “have been unusually active in Tennessee”, he says, with parties popping up across the state, particularly in Nashville. “Memphis hosts the Sauna series of underground queer parties,” he adds. “And Chattanooga's Flavorless throws down in some seriously sick warehouse [parties].”
The coronavirus pandemic has left huge uncertainty in the scene, however, with some of its crucial venues unlikely to survive lockdown. “My hope is that folks in each city will be ready to get back to work [once it’s over],” he says. While TEKNOX’s last party, with Ohio’s Residual Recording founder Titonton Duvante, was in February, Falk is holding onto the dream that, before too long, they will be back bringing the unifying sounds of the rave to their growing community of dancers.
In the meantime though, you can hear Falk’s Fresh Kicks mix below. With an hour of animated rave cuts and tough, trippy techno, lock into the DIY energy of TEKNOX. “I included plenty of tracks from friends as well as a couple of my own from upcoming releases,” he says. “Listening to this makes me miss big soundsystems and seeing my friends.”
Check it out below.
Nikki Nair 'clluubb'
Helix 'Bring It Up/Down'
Walton 'Cowbell Riddim'
C Powers 'Ride Swerve Drumapella'
Yaleesa Hall 'Third Leyland'
Tino 'Monster Dub'
Byrell The Great 'NY to UK ft. Neana'
Alex Falk 'Fuchsia'
Surgeon 'Aqua Marina'
Oliver Ho 'Natural Selection'
DANNN 'Ride On Out'
DJ Overnite 'Boom Boom'
Oliver Dodd 'Cycle 2.1'
Max Watts 'Direct Drive'
Max Watts 'Low Rider'
Alex Falk 'Word'
DANNN 'Let's Go ft. Miss Parker'
Kush Jones 'Reso'
Sir Rah 'Leonard'
Dialectic Sines 'L Danz'
DJ Slip 'Sketches Vol 1 Track 5'
Oliver Dodd 'Serapeum Three'