Here's our special feature with guests: Oliver Stumm and Domie Clausen who, together make up "A Touch of Class." (link) Having produced a number of world-wide hits and djing countless parties while crisscrossing the globe, they now join us while on tour promoting their new must-have release called "A Touch of Class Still Sucks!" (music: cds) Contrary to what that name suggests, it's far from a confession as the album is definitely worth having for anyone who fancies themselves some good dance, electro, rock, and punk. Whatever you want to call it, it's simply good music.
nightreveler: We have Oliver StRumm joining us now and we're expecting his band-mate, Domie Clausen to join us in a bit. So... welcome! First off, did I manage to butcher your names?
Oliver Stumm: Thank you. Yeah, my last name is Stumm...

NR: (laughs) Perfect, well you know it's important - I think that a lot of people don't get it right, myself included apparently so it's good to get that cleared up. Let's get started with an introduction, can you tell our listeners who aren't as familiar with your work as they should be a bit about yourself and "A Touch of Class?"
OS: Well, we started ATOC in '99. We were tired of all the different beats defining genres and we wanted to start something new, so we started ATOC to create a new style of music that does not have to do with one specific genre and has more to do with an attitude and a substantial approach in the studio to create music that sounds very good and has a new edge to it.

NR: What was the precursor to ATOC, what did you guys work on individually before you formed the band?
OS: Dominic studied graphic design and I studied Mathematics and Computer Science. I always played music on the side and before we did ATOC I was producing music in different kinds of genres - house music, dance music, stuff like that and I earned my chops in the studio that way.

NR: What made you decide to start your own imprint?
OS: Well (laughs) a friend of mine said: "wow, why don't you start your own label?" I had no idea how one does that and he helped me through manufacturing the first vinyl record and gave me some contacts with distributors, stuff like that. It just made things interesting for me because we are in total control of everything, we don't have to deal with other record companies and can release what we like even if the distributors or the industry tells us that it's "unsellable," which we had happen in many instances. The first few Scissor Sisters singles were considered unsellable (laughs) the distributors passed on it and we had to beg them to take a couple of hundred copies and guarantee that they could return everything to us and so forth. It just shows that the industry, the way it's structured is not always necessarily right, our theory is that you don't know what sells, no body knows what sells. If someone knew what sells they would be extremely rich and (laughs) wouldn't be talking to us basically.

NR: On that note, how do you go about finding new music as DJs and producers who obviously want to hear what's new out there.
OS: Living in New York City, we're always out and about hearing new musical styles and stuff like that. The Scissor Sisters was one example - we saw them perform in a small bar with maybe 20, 30 people inside and we liked their attitude, their approach to the music. We were interested and thought they were very talented. We invited them over to our studio and that's how we got the ball rolling with them. You just have to have open ears and whatever inspires you...

NR: Between working on music, running a label, and touring the world, do you have any time left over for anything else?
OS: (laughs) Unfortunately not. We don't have much time for much else. It's a labor of love basically and I wouldn't suggest that anybody do this who wants to make money. It's very exciting, we get around a lot and meet interesting people, but it can also be extremely frustrating. My earlier story showed - you try to put out good music and at the beginning it's very hard to break it so we work long hours and have basically no life apart from it.

NR: (laughs) Well, hopefully it's worth it. I can tell you from the fans perspective like ours, it's definitely paying dividends.
OS: Thank you.

NR: Can you remember the last good live show attended that was and one that wasn't your own?
OS: Of a band?

NR: Yeah.
OS: Let me think... There are always interesting shows, I can't put my finger on it right now, but we always bump into good shows, usually by coincidence. We were at SXSW and we saw The Gossip play and we couldn't get in because we forgot to organize ourselves and we were very fortunate that band came outside to get us five minutes before the show. It was a brilliant show, it's a great band, they are very talented, very exciting to watch. That was I think the last good show I saw.

NR: For those out there who haven't been at your live shows, give us an idea of what to expect?
OS: We have different kinds... Right now we're touring the West Coast doing DJ sets so it's not really a live show per-se, but sometimes we tour with one of our bands and sometimes we organize parties in New York City with different bands and so forth. We just try to keep it interesting and change it around a lot so when people come they don't really know what will happen.

NR: Do you have a single favorite track off your current album?
OS: Well, I can tell you that the track we play most is the one by The Gossip called "Listen Up," that's the first track on the album. I think we play that because we're such big Gossip fans (laughs) as well. Another good track, one of my favorites is called "I Feel Upside Down." That we did together with a band called The Ones. It was a collaboration between them and us - we did all the music and they sang over it. It's just a great rock track that's very dancy but has a lot of substance. You can listen to it 500-1000 times so it's not one of those do-it-yourself, flavor of the moment tracks, it's a track that you will be able to listen in the years to come.

NR: I picked up a copy of the record recently and personally I'm split between "Picture Perfect" by The Ones and your remix of "Listen Up" by The Gossip, which I thought, was a brilliant track as well.
OS: "Picture Perfect" took us quite a while to get it right. There's a lot of information there and it's one of our more electronic tracks. Our philosophy is that we try to make tracks that can be played in clubs and at parties, but also have some sort of what we call "pop appeal," that means it's not just a track that you dance to and can't listen to at home. We like to combine different styles of music so you can listen to it in all environments and also in the years to come. "Picture Perfect" is a typical example of a track like that - it has all the elements of dance in it, but it's still a "real song."

NR: I've been checking your tour itinerary and it looks like you guys are just all over the place, one day in one country, another in the next... Everyone seems to dread flying because of the pain in the ass that the process actually is. Do you have any particularly memorable experiences in that department?
OS: Well, we want to have a good party, we want to DJ at a good party, and one of the problems is that the organizers usually combine too many things so the party doesn't really take off, it can't happen properly. The people want to have fun and sometimes there's just too big of a lineup to make it happen. If you have DJs switching every hour and stuff like that it can get a little bit chaotic as to the whole line of the party going through the night. We've had many incidents where (laughs) there was confusion: just last night, when we got home to the hotel there was a party next door to our hotel room so we had to call downstairs to ask them to talk to the room next door and ask them how long their party was going to last or if we could switch rooms, stuff like that. So there's a lot of things... Sometimes you show up at the wrong party, we once were picked up in I think Barcelona, at the airport and all of a sudden we realized that we were picked up by the wrong crew who were bringing us to a Blue Grass festival (laughs) so we were like "uh oh, wrong party, wrong party," so they had to bring us back to the airport where we had to find the crew that was picking us up...

NR: You know it's funny actually - we were just at the Ultra Music Festival 9 down in Miami a couple of weeks back and it was definitely worth going for the people who are into that kind of music, it was a very, very good show. One of the biggest problems though was that on certain stages, DJs were switching after about 15 minutes and it's a disservice to the fans I think.
OS: Yeah, it's can't work as a whole thing - if you organize events like that you have to kind of stand back and just think from the perspective of the listener and if it's working for the listener or not. They just pack too many things into one event to get a huge turn out, but then it kind of compromises the whole party.

NR: Yeah, definitely... I know you guys are locals to New York right now, it's actually where we're based as well - do you have a favorite restaurant here?
OS: Well, I like La Esquina - it's a Mexican restaurant where you can eat three dollar taco's.

NR: Nice, if there's one suggestion I can make... there's a bakery in the village called Bruno's that's absolutely amazing.
OS: Yeah Bruno's is very good.

NR: So we'll wrap this up... let me ask you this: I've been dealing with some job interviews recently and one rather annoying question that seems to always come up is: "where do you see yourself in five years?" Moving a bit beyond that, can you shed some light on your definition of success? What is it that you guys are working towards?
OS: (laughs) That's a very difficult question - we tend just to be dreamers, we don't really know where we'll be in the future... We're definitely moving in the direction of working on our own album. We've now produced and remixed so many bands in the last four, five years that we've never had time to work on our own material so we want to devote a little bit more time to that and we want to also devote more time to going in new directions, kind of breaking things up between the whole party, dance culture, and intellectual music and pop music, trying to just go in a new direction, away from the general what we call the "tastemakers" and "the lifestylers" (laughs) and so forth, because we're just a little bit tired of that you always get put into one segment and you've got the tastemakers who think they understand and know these directions and a lot of the times they do know, but it just makes things too simplistic so we want to move on and go into new directions. As long as the distributors will say that it's unsellable then we're happy (laughs)

NR: (laughs) Sounds like a good formula - it definitely seems to have worked out well for you and I can understand where you're coming from. I think that as with many music scenes, it does tend to become formulaic and people end up asking for specific things and expecting them. I'm really glad that there are still acts around like you guys to break the mould and bring us something new.
OS: (laughs) Thank you very much!

NR: Thank you! We appreciate your time...
Domie Clausen: Hi

NR: How's it going?
DC: Very good, very good, thank you.

NR: Can you tell our readers who aren't as familiar with your work as they should be a bit about yourself and "A Touch of Class?"
DC: We started out as a counter movement to the boring thing that was going on in the late 90's in dance music. We were tying to make a difference in terms of having more of a focus on bands and not so much just the beats and the project name. We were trying to have a really diverse selection of music that should be interesting to a lot of people, but pretty much just open mindedness and not just strictly dance music, but also music you can listen to at home.

NR: Can you tell me a bit about how you got into it: the scene and the music?
DC: I'm from Zurich, Switzerland originally and I was djing there and studying graphic design. I came to New York and met I Oliver who was already living there for a few years and he had a little one in Zurich as well, but it was very bedroomish. (laughs) I got into more of the production angle of music, but at the time, as I was saying before, it was very confusing: I wasn't really into anything specific anymore that was going on in the late '90s so we decided to try something new and try to keep it interesting.

NR: Oliver mentioned The Gossip as being one of the bands that you guys like at the moment. Can you think of any other contemporaries that you're into right now?
DC: Well, there's a band that we actually have on our label already (laughs) they're called "Services" and there's one track on the CD, I believe it's number 10. It's a remix we did... We saw them maybe a year ago and it's basically two guys who play what people call "electronic rock" I believe. They are real musicians, they can play the guitar and bass, but they decided to go the electronic route. One guy pretty much has a sack of heavy metal samples on his keyboard and he just triggers them, so there's no sequencer - it's all played live, and the other guy has a crash cymbal and sings. (laughs) It's a very boiled down to the essentials set up. They are very dynamic: it's a wall of sound and the silence in the next second. They put on a great live show and we're going to release their next record.

NR: Sounds good, when can we expect to see that on the shelves?
DC: It should come out in the fall probably or at the end of the year, somewhere around then. There's going to be a new single with them which will include a remix by Zongamin. I don't know if you're familiar with him... He's a Japanese guy living in the UK and he had quite a big underground record called the "Bongo Song."

NR: It sounds familiar, but I think I'll have to put that on my list of things to check out. I've been doing some research, listening to your record, and looking up the people that you're related to, which helped me find some interesting music and that's actually a point I wanted to bring up - how do you generally discover unsigned talent, do you just walk into a live show and there it is..?
DC: Usually it's all by coincidence. A ton of people send us demos but we hardly ever listen to them. (laughs) Somebody tells you about a band and you're like "oh, that sounds interesting" and then you go and check it out. I guess most the stuff we put out or produce comes either from friends or just by coincidence, just walking through some random bar and you know? "Oh there's a show, lets go check it out. Oh wow, it's actually really good, lets go talk to those guys," that kind of thing.

NR: Can you remember the last good live show that you attended that wasn't one of your own?
DC: I don't know if Oliver said that already, but the Gossip at SXSW - we saw them there and they're amazing, very very pure and raw, but in a very good way. That was a really good show.

NR: Yeah, he brought it up as one of his favorites as well, that's perfectly fine though, (laughs) I'm glad that you guys agree on that, I don't necessarily need different answers... I was actually telling him that one of my favorite tracks off your new record is your remix of "Listen Up" by that band, which I thought was absolutely amazing.
DC: (laughs) Yeah, that came out really well.

NR: Another question I asked him was about success and what it is that you guys want to achieve in whatever timeframes that you set for yourselves...
DC: Well, it's kind of a confusing time right now. There are too many things that just got promoted in music, type of stuff that in the end is like "no; it's not very good." Most of the stuff that I hear about and read about in magazines is stuff like that. I'm hoping that in the near future that we will be recognized because we work hard and try to make something really good and just that "quick fix" approach. I hope that we will be recognized as that and that our records stand the test of time.

NR: Definitely, that makes a lot of sense. According to several news sources, a certain British singer who shares her name with a flower (laughs) recently canceled her US tour, citing drinking among other issues. How many drinks do you generally need in you before you're ready to face the crowd and what's your drink of choice?
DC: (laughs) I switch between beer and vodka and tonic. Stoli to be specific. (laughs) I usually start drinking after dinner so it depends on what time we have to go on. Here in California it's not that big of a deal because everything ends at 2 AM anyway. (laughs) It can be tough, in Spain where we have to start at 6 AM, we have to try to stay sober or somewhat sober in order to still play records.

NR: (laughs) What sites do you frequent other than our own
DC: Actually not many. There's a website with a lot of good music called - they just post an MP3 a day... It's a lot of obscure, hard to find stuff. I don't even know who it is, there's no explanation just one track a day, so that's what I listen to. Apart from that, I'm trying not to spend too much time on the internet and surf, I'm not so much about information more about when I hear something and I want to know what it is, then I'll go find out, but I don't really scan the internet for information or new stuff.

NR: Could you briefly go into the process that you guys go into for making music, maybe a bit about where your ideas come from or how you begin working on a song? If you have a general idea of where you want to take it or if someone brings a sound in and it goes from there?
DC: When we do other people's stuff, like remixes or produce other people's records we usually start with the vocal and the goal is to make it sound as good as possible and build everything - all of the musical elements around it so it makes sense and it locks in. It's kind of hard to do because there's a lot of remixes out there where the vocals just feel like they were laid over a track and had nothing to do with the music so it doesn't really meld together. We usually do the vocal, then the beat, then the music like the bass and build up from there.

NR: Great, we'll wrap this up and I'll just end by asking you a question I asked Oliver earlier - can you think of a favorite restaurant in New York that you like to frequent?
DC: My favorite restaurant in New York... there are so many. (laughs) There's one that I don't know the name of, it's a Japanese restaurant and it has a name which nobody can pronounce unless they speak Japanese, and I don't. (laughs) It's on 45th st. right off of 3rd ave. it's a real Japanese place, there's pretty much just Japanese people there. It's probably my favorite Japanese restaurant in New York City. I always see the name and I always try to remember, but I can't (laughs)

NR: That's great; I'll definitely look it up and check it out for sure.
DC: You should, it's great.

NR: I want to thank you both for taking your time out. I know your guys are busy as hell. I saw your tour itinerary and I honestly don't know how you survive. Can you even tell when you're in a different place or does it all run together?
DC: It sort of blurs all together after a while.

NR: (laughs) I understand that. Thanks for doing this. We'll keep watching you guys and hopefully we'll be able to check out one of your gigs soon. Good luck with everything!
DC: Thank you, have a nice day.
tour dates
  • April 12: Mezzanine, San Francisco
  • April 13: Surprise Performance, San Francisco
  • April 14: ATOC vs Black Disco Social, Warehouse Party, L.A.
  • April 18: Standard Hotel Downtown, L.A.
  • April 21: $ Dollar $ Disco, Sacramento
  • April 26: Dos Tres, San Diego
  • April 27: Come Back! Chop Suey, Seattle
  • April 28: Double Fisted, Avalon, Costa Mesa, L.A.
  • April 29: Coachella Closing Party for Anthem Magazine, Coachella
  • May 03: Beatrice, New York
  • May 04: Sonotheque, Chicago
  • May 16: Diesel Party, Antwerp, Belgium
  • May 17: Le ParisPairs, Paris, France
  • May 18: Showcase, Paris, France
  • May 19: TBA, Madrid, Espagna
  • May 23: TBA, Toronto, Canada (with SERVICES Live)
  • May 25: I Love Neon , Montreal, Canada (with SERVICES Live)
  • June 13: Vitra Campus, Basel, Switzerland
  • June 15: ART Basel closing party, Basel, Switzerland
  • June 16: Erste Liga, Munich, Germany
  • June 21: Zukunft, Zurich, Switzerland
  • June 22: Roxy party, Zurich, Switzerland (Oliver Only)
  • June 23: Nitsa, Barcelona, Spain
  • June 07: P.S.1 Queens, New York (info)
  • July 29: Kaufleuten Anniversary, Zurich, Switzerland (Oliver Only)
We want to thank both our guests, Oliver Stumm and Domie Clausen better known as "A Touch of Class" for joining us today. I think everyone should pick up a copy of their new record called "A Touch of Class Still Sucks!" available on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever good music is sold. Head on over to, their myspace page, to get more information on the guys and their current tour. A big thanks to Alex M at MSO PR who made it all happen and to our readers for making it this far, later!