Interview By Terry Gotham
1. How’s 2016 been for you two so far? Any wild party stories from touring or festival sets you’re looking forward to?
Omni – 2016 has been great. So many great things have happened but I think being an official artist at sxsw for the first time takes the cake. That whole week was just overwhelming in a good way.
James – Yea SXSW was nuts this year I feel it was a tie between that and Magfest. Magfest was giant convention with a 24 hour arcade (pretty much our heaven) and SXSW we were official artists so that was pretty crazy.
I promised you that I’d dig deep to find the best emerging talent from all over the world, and floatinurboat is exactly the artist I created this blog to promote. The smooth, effortlessness of his production jives with a sonic aesthetic that would be right at home in a Porter Robinson or Madeon set. Someone tell Porter we’ve found a new opener for him, at least, once he’s old enough to get into the club!
1. When did you start producing? Did you play any instruments before you started?
I first started producing when I was around 14, my dad got me FL11 and I just completely fell in love with the program and producing. I wasn’t completely new to music though because I had been playing piano for 10 years at the time (now 12).
(This week, I’m breaking my rule of focusing on NYC based artists for a good cause. A friend is raising money to fund music programs for at-risk & underprivileged youth in the Seattle-Tacoma, Washington area. She’s a drummer/musician extraordinaire, so I wanted to get the scoop on punk, live music & the scene out in SeaTac. Hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!)
1. What’s it like being in the minority of lady drummers in Seattle?
It’s both intimidating and exhilarating. Intimidating in the sense that since the vast majority of drummers and rock bands in general are male, I have experienced my share of patronizing comments and extra scrutiny from ensembles I’ve played in that were all male. Throw in the fact that I’m older, and have not been playing drums for very long as compared to the guys who have been playing in bands since their teens, I can say that for someone who is very confident in most other aspects of my life, coming into this scene certainly forced me to develop a thick skin. On the other hand, since there are so few female drummers, I feel like I’m in a very elite club – a unicorn of sorts. I’ll be honest, I also came into this knowing that people find chick drummers to be extremely bad-ass. I suppose that’s due to the fact that drums have tended to be considered a “guy” instrument. There are many female vocalists and guitarists. Drummer chicks, not so much.
2. Were drums your first musical love, or have you hopped instruments over the years?
My musical experience started when I was 5. I started out playing piano, because my mother is an accomplished classical pianist. I learned to sight-read music at a very young age. But I remember, when I was 6 years old, for the first time hearing a song on the radio by Aerosmith, and from that moment, I fell in love with rock and roll. Growing up in a home where rock was considered garbage, it was tough to stick to an instrument. My parents finally let me learn guitar, as long as it was classical guitar. I had the skill to play, but the passion wasn’t there for me because I wasn’t playing the music I wanted to play. Growing up in NYC in the 80’s and 90’s I also spent a lot of time at dance clubs, and my ear and body gravitated towards rhythms. I became really fascinated by percussion and in awe of the musicians who were able to coordinate their 4 limbs to do different things at the same time and create a single groove. Eventually I ended up dropping piano and guitar while I was in graduate school – which is something I have always regretted. The desire to learn drums was always there though. And finally, 4 years ago it dawned on me – I’m all grown up, I have my own house, my own space, my own income and my husband’s old drum kit sitting in storage. I found a Groupon deal for 4 drum lessons at a local shop in Bellevue WA, bought it, and now 4 years later, I’m still with my same teacher, and still taking lessons every week. The drums are where I belong.
I was lucky enough to speak to some emerging talent by the name of The New Tarot recently. Always a fan of lady-fronted acts, this one took me by surprise. There’s a bit of melancholy, a bit of indie, a bit of alternative and a whole lot of rock here. Take a listen, you might be surprised when you see them on the lineup at Gov Ball 2017. If you can’t wait for that, head to Le Poisson Rouge on March 26th to catch them live. )
The New Tarot – Interview by Terry Gotham
1. How is Brooklyn treating you? Are the reports of the death of the borough greatly exaggerated?
Brooklyn is awash with the prickly pine cactus leaves of February’s desert – chewed up pine needles, sticking like burrs to the bottom of bored, lavished tongues lashing out
2. Now that you’ve got a supporting cast of musicians, do you ever mix up performing/production duties, or are your roles pretty fixed from tune to tune?
Our roles are pretty snug, but there’s plenty of room to grow. I hope we’re a great production team one day; right now recording the shit we hear in our heads is our music school and every time we walk in the studio or into a gig, we’re there to grow and to learn. Maybe that’s why we haven’t released a full length yet; we’ve been focused on the quizzes, and, yeah it’s about time to take the test.
Thrilled to bring you the debut album from a stupendously talented Brooklyn producer. This effort is a departure from his previous work, so I’m delighted he spoke to me first about his new project, that drops TODAY, Escher Beat.1. How did Escher Beat come about? Escher Beat has been this nebulous concept in my head for a long time now. It’s hard to define when it was born- It’s like how some cultures consider the birth of a child to be when they first had the thought of creating one, as opposed to copulation, or the release of it into the real world. A lot of the stuff on the album has been in my head for ages but only now have I had the skill to get it written down and expressed in a somewhat proper form.
The album (and thus project)’s “copulation” began in 2012, when I was shying away from “23” as a project. I made the intro of the opening track (“Inter-Universal Transmission No. 2”), trying to make music that I thought I truly should be making. It was a good start but I found I did not have the skills to keep going forward. I also had a busy life finishing school and starting my career in NYC. But in the 2-3 years since then, I’d practice sound design, practice alternate forms of music, small things to up my skill set.
About 9 months ago, I said “alright, it’s time to actually try this again”. Over the course of 8 months, I wrote the album in a concerted effort. The last thing I wrote was follow up to the intro in the first track, which I thought was a nice conceptual way of completing the circle/journey.
2. What is it like being a closet producer living in Brooklyn right now? Depends what you mean by closet producer! Technically I work in a DIY-level dedicated studio. The room isn’t huge but it is covered in a professional level of bass traps with a properly set up and calibrated monitoring system, instruments, synths, etc. But in the sense that I just sit down and woodshed production for hours on end alone without telling anyone, you could say I’m a closet producer. It’s hard not to talk about what you’re working on. But it’s for the better because the more you talk about it, the less likely you are to complete it, I think. Less talk, more do.
Brooklyn is great because of the sheer number of musicians and artists around. I hope to take advantage of that in future work!
3. You had some success a couple of years ago producing dubstep under the alias 23, why did you decide to switch projects? I’ll try to keep it concise. I think 23 blew up faster than I was ready for. I was a one trick pony, and I painted myself into this dubstep corner. I began to become disillusioned with the progress of dubstep, and came to hate it. What happens when the only music you can reliably make is music you hate? That’s where the track “Fuck You (If You Like This Song)” came from; it was a frustrated irony.
I still consider my name to be the person named 23, but the work associated with it, I no longer identify with. It was a natural progression to make a new project for a more evolved sound.
4. What would be the ideal setting for listening to your music? Any altered state is a good start. The album isn’t just sound. There’s multiple layers of head-fuckery going on. I’ve used psychological setups and traps to influence the effect of sections of music based on the previous sections. There are sounds that bend and morph, and some things are so subtle, you need that altered state to obtain the perspective necessary to perceive it. These are some of my favorite moments in music, realizing the album you’ve been listening to for years had some hidden aspect to it you hadn’t unlocked.
I think a good stereo setup with a sub, with a bed in the center is a nice way. The album has very danceable moments, but they’re never too intense, so I think they’re still relaxation-worthy if you’d like to do home listening.
For dance purposes, I really want to see how it does on a big sound system with people who are really into dancing. There’s some funky grooves and heavy syncopation that, at least from my perspective as a dancer, lends its self to some really fun times dancing.
Without a doubt though, the album is best listened to all the way through. When you take the songs out of context, you begin to lose some of the “magic” so to speak.
5. How do you produce these incredible tracks? Can you give us any peaks into the method to your madness? I constantly have general ideas in my head about stuff I want to try. For example, in the second track (“James Brown…”) there’s this build up to this complete breakdown of the sound all together that then filters up and becomes a completely unique element of a completely unrelated beat. THAT kind of stuff is the essence of an “Escher Beat”. I had that concept in my mind for a long time, and that wasn’t even my first attempt at it.
After a concept is decided on, if any (sometimes things begin with a sound test or a jam) the writing process its self can be very…. automatic. There are times where I feel more like the music is written through me, or that I’m merely writing down what was already supposed to come next. My best music just happens, it becomes obvious to me. Sometimes, especially with long studio sessions, I’ll come back in a week later and forgot I wrote entire sections of music.
I guess that’s expected when you stay up for 24-48 (on rare occasion, 72) hours in a room with no windows. Definitely gets weird by the end of a session.
6. Do you have any preferred medium for performing live or strong opinions on the whole vinyl/laptop/cdj wars? Right now I work off Traktor cause that’s what I’ve always done. For someone who produces music, it can be a bit limiting, but I’m so familiar with the limitations and how to get around them that it’s a good old standby.
In the future I’d like to do Ableton live stuff. But I’m busy as fuck so that learning curve has kept me at bay for now. I’d really love to be able to re-fuck, re-mix, and re-contextualize things on the fly.
As to opinions on live mediums, I don’t think the medium matters at this point. Does the music sound good? That’s all that matters to me. I don’t go to shows to watch guys idly spin knobs or pretend they’re busy looking through a record bag. If the music is good, it’s good.
7. Are there any cool things happening in electronic music that you’re really into at the moment that our readers may not be aware of? A sub-genre or a new party or thing the kids are doing under the cover of darkness that you’re into? Honestly I hear good, new music every damn day. I love some of the more down tempo neuro stuff going on like Aio – Steam Prism, and also a lot of chill wave, and other really trippy beats. People are constantly putting out cool shit and a lot of it gets little to no attention.
I’d like to see this more progressive music at events. You’d think in such a forward city (when it comes to things like art and fashion) you’d see more interesting music at big events, and it certainly exists, but not at a reasonable scale. Like anywhere else, it seems most people in BK and NYC want that familiarity. Few people REALLY get into dance (dance, not dance music) and I think that’s a big reason why. When you have a strong dance vocabulary, new kinds of music means more ways to express yourself, as opposed to non-dancers who want to jam to familiar tunes (typically).
8. If I could wave my magic wand and get you a headlining slot anywhere in the world, where would you like to spin? I’d want to spin somewhere that has both a dancefloor, and places to relax, with lots of interactive and immersive artwork. Maybe something like DJing to people wandering a technological hedge maze/hall of mirrors that leads to different dancefloors with different art installations. I’m not sure it exists, at least all in one event. What I’m trying to say is the idea of me headlining a big crowd isn’t what I’m after. I’m about unique experiences and immersion, which have functional limitations in regards to scalability. I hate the idea of exclusivity, elitism, etc, but practically speaking, immersion isn’t possible when you have too many people. Except immersion in a crowd, but that’s why Big Room House came out. No thanks.
9. Any favorite plug-in’s, programs, pieces of hardware, or other music creation tools that you couldn’t have created the album without? A lot of the edits are by hand, and just layers upon layers of sound, with pretty basic plugins most of the time. When it comes to synths, if I didn’t have one, it’d be another. Most common VST is probably just my EQ. It’s less about the tools and more about the vision.
10. Are there any sonic influences that you couldn’t have arrived at this point without? Favorite producers, musical teachers, life-changing parties, etc? There have been a lot of nights at Burning Man where I heard music that I have never heard again that just blew my mind. I didn’t know how to classify it. But it was groovy. And when the DJs were done, they disappeared. Only recently have I been seeing music *similar* to this hitting the public sphere. Maybe it’s there and I just can’t find it. In a sense, this album is my version/interpretation of that hard to classify, but groovy vibe.
More often than not, people have been comparing the album to people I never listen to. A lot (not all) of my strong musical influences either have little to do with modern electronic music, or aren’t even music related at all. I’ll leave it at that because I want the album to be understood personally, not directed by me. I’ve done enough direction by writing the music its self.
(I was lucky enough to chat with the mad scientist behind one of my favorite acts of all time, ph10. A force of nature in NYC back when the word rave meant something, ph10 has taken up residence in Denver, giving his fans an epic show this Saturday at The Oriental. Here’s to hoping everyone who reads this will help me convince him to keep the brutally majestic live d&b train going.)1. How have you been preparing for the show? What can Denver attendees expect? Mostly focusing on promotion, it’s a tough town to get more than a couple hundred people at a show like this and we’re shooting for 400 at the Oriental. Beyond that, Pete and I have a brand new track to debut and I’m bringing some older tracks, some unreleased tracks including some hot fire from Clark of Saturn as a tribute. There’s a handful of people coming all the way from NYC and I’m trying to make it worth the trip.2. For everyone who missed your performance in 2013, Do you think you’d ever put out a set online? Brutal drive that was. I was stuck in Kansas for two days because a snow storm closed I70. You know what’s funny about Kansas? As bad as you assume it’ll be, it always finds a way to be worse. Sure I’ll put out a set online. You want to help set that up? Let’s do it live. (ed. You bet your ass I will)
3. Have you kept up with drum & bass these days, are you a still fan of what’s going on in the space? Honestly, I wish I could say no. I wish I could say “oh i’m way past that, I listen to Hungarian pan flute music exclusively now” but i still love DnB and it still gets me going when i need it to. My favorite artist right now is Amit – especially tracks like The Hunted / Killer Driller / Survivor / Daaku and Human Warfare. Brilliantly simple, minimal, dark and just so well produced – pretty much the opposite of pH10.4. Right now, it’s all about the DJ and the fireworks. What is it all about for you when you’re up there? Really? Fireworks? That’s cool. I love pyrotechnics. I used to have a helmet with two flash-paper guns that i fired at the audience. People hated it. Venues really hated it. What’s it about when I’m up there? Sound. There’s nothing more important to me than filling the room with a full, rich auditory experience. Secondarily I mix everything live and like to tweak all the synths to give a semi-live experience to the fans that might know the records. Beyond that, I just bang my fat head up and down and try to have fun. 5. Do you partake in the Denver scene at all? Would you ever consider showing up and mixing records or messing around with some live production somewhere just for your local fans? Not as much any more but when anyone i know ask me to get involved in a show – even if that just means showing up with a computer and dropping samples into a metal set – I rarely decline.
6. Do you keep in touch with your fans? Are they clamoring for unreleased tracks? I’ve never had anyone clamor for anything from pH10 to be honest. If anyone wants unreleased tracks (and there are a few good ones) just ask.
(ed. – You bet your ass there are a couple I’ll be asking for :D)
7. As someone who was there before, any thoughts on what Brooklyn & the NYC party scene has become? I go back to NYC a lot and I stay in touch with the promoters that I used to work with – what I hear is that shit is pretty flat right now. I can’t confirm as I’m not in the scene every day but the guys that I looked up to doing parties every month just seem burned out on NYC and have moved on. Having said that, the last time pH10 played there was the aforementioned show at House of Yes in 2013 and it was an incredible experience – so emotional for me. Many of our NY fans came out to greet us, the venue was very well run and the sound was incredible. I do miss NYC.
8. With the explosion in commercial festivals, where do you think we go from here? What’s a club kid to do? Yeah those parties look terrible to my jaded eyes but if those kids are having fun, good on ’em. What I hope happens is that they are inspired by that scene and start to find indie spots to throw their own parties. All we had in the 90s and 00s in NYC was about 5 good crews, filling venues like Wonderland, Rubulad, Frying Pan, Lunatarium etc. That’s all it took – one of those crews throwing a genuinely good party every week and lighting up the city. I hope we get back there some day.
9. Knowing how it all turned out, do you have any nuggets of wisdom or insight for people just on the precipice of what you created? You know what, It’s finally been long enough to look back and be proud of what we accomplished rather than wonder would could have been. Regardless of the fact that some of the stuff with Pete Miser did pretty well on college radio and commercially with licensing and placements – we’ve sold a couple thousands records total, across our entire catalog over our entire history. Not exactly setting the world on fire. But the shows that we’ve performed – putting us in a position to look down off of a stage and see pleasure and pure joy in someone’s face because of the goofy shit that we’re playing – that’s what I’ll always treasure about this project. pH10 is silly but we fucking rock at the same time – that’s a great combination and all too rare these days. I like to think of pH10 as the electronic Murphy’s Law. 10. No chance we could convince you to keep it going huh? Even maybe just mastering some unreleased material or mixes of your favorite classic tracks? I didn’t expect anyone to bat an eye at the ‘last show’ declaration but it seems that there’s more interest than I expected – especially in doing live shows. The show hasn’t even happened yet so it’s a bit early to renege but fuck it. If someone in our family comes along and asks us to participate in something good, I might not know how to say no. As for releasing new stuff – that’s inevitable. I just need some help making it happen. Hit me up.