Damon Eliza Palermo is a man who embodies tranquility, a quality that perfectly translates into the ambient and new age outings he’s made under his own name. Making homes on Vancouver’s 1080p and Relaxer’s Lovers Rock, these immersive ethereal sensibilities also feature heavily on his monthly NTS show, Inner Realm, hosted out in his home of Los Angeles. But this is just one dimension of Damon’s abilities as a producer. Under his other moniker, Magic Touch, it’s a completely different story. Using his trusty Yamaha SU700 sampler – the same sampler he’s had since he started producing at university – he’s cultivated a vibrant disco house sound that’s seen him become a mainstay on LA’s 100% Silk imprint and Tensnake‘s True Romance.
Alongside an interview with the man himself sits a mix of 100% original unreleased material, showcasing his productions from the last 15 years under both monikers including a plethora of collaborations.
Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?
When I was seven or so years old my parents drove my brothers and I from Detroit to Los Angeles during the summer. I remember listening to my father’s cassettes in the car and also my brothers music. After that trip my brothers and I would borrow a VHS recorder from his school and sort of make fake band music videos. From there I started collecting CDs, listening to my parent’s vinyl from Cat Stevens to Motown, and eventually started buying more records around Detroit.
Have you had any professional musical schooling?
Nothing professional. I played percussion in the middle school band in sixth and seventh grade. My older brother was in rock bands and my father bought me a drum set for Christmas. I spent the summer practicing with some of my older brothers friends and alone then started a band with some friends and quit the school band. I was also playing football and basketball at the time and didn’t want to have to play in the marching band during the half time show! I never took lessons but had friends give me some tips here and there. I’m still playing drums but not as much, I’m more focused on production.
What first led you into music production?
During high school I was getting in to Electronica and later into Detroit Techno thanks to my older brother and his friends. Before going to university for a year they advised me to buy a sampler rather than trying to form another band. I bought a Yamaha SU700 sampler my senior year of high school and am still using the same model to this day. When I went away to university I was making ambient music, noise, etc in my dormitory. I had a friend in a nearby dorm who was really into the CD-R era and convinced me to send out demos. Nothing really came of it but it was a good introduction to DIY Electronica. I ended up dropping out of university and moved to Vancouver for a year then later to San Francisco where I continued to produce all types of music.
Can you talk us through how you might construct a track? How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?
I don’t really have a particular ways of constructing tracks. Sometimes it stems from a jam, or I construct around a loop that I like, start with a melody or start with drums. I’d say the majority of my tracks are sample based, though I do have a handful of all original tracks.
Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio? Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?
Often I go into the studio trying to finish an old song wether it’s arrangement or mixing. There have been times when I go in with a destination in mind but lately I’ve been enjoying going without anything in mind and seeing what happens.
Are you the type of producer to work and work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?
With the Magic Touch stuff I’m never happy with first takes or sketches. I work on the arrangement and mixing of the track for ages and sometimes let it sit for months. With the ambient stuff I let it flow more impulsively and spend little time arranging the original material.
What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Magic Touch track? And a Damon Eliza Palermo track?
For both projects I heavily rely on the Yamaha SU700 sampler for it’s ability to loop and manipulate individual tracks, and also for the internal FX and LFO.
Your productions as Magic Touch take in disco and house influences while under your own name, Damon Eliza Palermo, you veer into ambient and new age spheres. Why was it important to have different aliases to define each project?
I decided to use two different aliases because the styles are so vastly different, though I have been working on some new stuff that can possibly combine the two.
Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your productions?
Phew, that’s a tough question as there are thousands! I’m very inspired by my friends around me and from afar. Lately I listen to more mixes or full albums on youtube vs individual dance tracks. I’ve been listening to a lot more laid back stuff like Chee Shimuzu, Harold Budd, Sanpo Disco mixes, Fergus Clark and Phil Stroud to name a few.
What kind of stuff do you reach for in your DJ sets? Name three records that are firmly in your bag at the moment?
My DJ sets vary depending on the time and vibe. If it’s a club I like to play more house and have it feel like more of a ‘party’. I also play daytime gigs or bar gigs which can range from reggae, new age, rock, jazz to boogie. I’ve been finding myself playing a lot of Italo lately and three records that haven’t left my bag are: Asso – ‘Don’t Stop’, Gazebo – ‘Gazebo’, and Looky Looky – ‘Flamingo Beats’.
Release wise, we’ve heard talk of new material on the way. Could you tell us a bit about what’s coming up?
I’ve just had a track come out on Acid Camp “All Stars Vol.1”. Then I have a Magic Touch EP coming out on Spring Theory, an EP on Acid Camp and an ambient cassette on Jacktone Records, which is a collaboration with my friend Evan Stalker.
You’re based over in LA. Could you tell us a bit about the scene there? Is there anyone – parties, DJs, producers, venues – doing good things locally?
Yes, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for about five years now. There are a lot of warehouse parties on the weekend, but not such a bar/club scene. There aren’t too many venues I’m super fond of but there’s a handful of DJs, producers and parties doing great things. As far as producers go I’m a big fan of Benedek, Secret Circuit, Moon B, Mndsgn, Nathan H, Santiago Salazar and Dam Funk. My favourite party is Moony Habits ran by Alex Ho who has booked Sadar Bahar, Ge-Ology, Jex Opolis, Intergalactic Gary, Powder, 5five and many more.
This mix is comprised of 100% original Damon Eliza Palermo and Magic Touch material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?
These are all originals but mostly collaborations from throughout the years including everything from ambient noise to house. I wanted to represent the genres and time periods I’ve crossed rather than attempting a seamless mix of house or techno. All of the collaborations are really special to me because they mark a time period in my life and remind me of all the close friends around the world. The tracks range from 2003 to present.
Anything else on the horizon we should know about?
I will be touring Europe in late September, Australia the following year and in the meantime working on music and continuing my monthly NTS Show Inner Realm here in Los Angeles.
Dzang & Maria Minerva – C’mon (Damon Eliza Palermo Ambient Mix)
Damon Eliza Palermo & Ican Harem – From Bali w/ Love (Interlude)
Damon Eliza Palermo & Jacob Felix-Heule – Untitled
Damon Eliza Palermo & Maya Bouldry-Morrison – Brooklyn Friends
Magic Touch, Benedek, Dyami & Colored Craig – You’re The Only
Damon Eliza Palermo – Bird Art
Magic Touch & Bobby Browser – Bobbys’ Touch
Damon Eliza Palermo & Christopher Rau – Plants
Damon Eliza Palermo – Rail (Interlude)
Roche – Without Chlorine (Magic Touch Acoustic Mix)
Damon Eliza Palermo & Ican Harem – Untitled (Interlude)
Damon Eliza Palermo & David Scott-Stone – Sun Valley
Damon Eliza Palermo & Sage Caswell – Untitled
Damon Eliza Palermo & Jason Letkiewicz – Chicago
Magic Touch & Octo Octa – You (Vocal Sample Mix for Newbody)
Damon Eliza Palermo & Ican Harem – Really Repetition (Interlude)
SPF (Damon Eliza Palermo, Brian Foote & Evan Stalker) – Untitled #6
Insides – Sweet Tip (Damon Eliza Palermo Edit)
Sea Cruise – Dancer (Magic Touch Edit)
Damon Eliza Palermo – You Can Fly
Damon Eliza Palermo & Afterhours – Untitled
Damon Eliza Palermo & Evan Stalker – Untitled
Alex Ho – Steven Montebello Demo (Damon Eliza Palermo Mix)