Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: AC Johner, Director Of Electronic Awakening

I was given the privilege of speaking to the director of Electronic Awakening AC Johner. This groundbreaking film discusses the beginning of the rave & dance music culture.  Moving through Moon Tribe, Burning Man, psy-trance parties & other foundations of the scene, the music is stupendous, as is the commentary.1. Was this project your baby, or did someone approach you to direct? Electronic Awakening is my baby. I directed and produced the film under my production company Federation of Earth. I began the film in 2006 when I set out to explore the culture under a grant from my university. After my initial fieldwork, I invested to expand the project into a feature film. After 4 years, interviewing and filming, I built a rough cut of the film strong enough to attract finishing funds from a successful Kickstarter Campaign, as well as a production partnership with Keyframe-Entertainment.  Last but certainly not least, Philip Wood and Satsi Jaquith of Ammo played a huge role in getting the ball rolling on production.

My conception of the project began during my undergrad thesis in anthropology when I began researching electronic music culture. Having never been to any events, I was inspired to read that the parties had encouraged so many participants to engage in more conscious lifestyle to the point that some had established a spiritual kinship with the music.

Coming in as an outsider, my perception of EDM was little more than a stigmatized imagery of teenagers with glow-sticks dressed up in fury costumes celebrating a drug-high to obscure music. My perspective broadened after discovering the research of anthropologist Graham St John, Scott Hutson, and religious studies scholar Robin Sylvan, whom all had contributed a wealth of scholarship towards the spirituality underlying the culture.

While the media had reported little on this side of the culture, I set out to explore it first-hand. I sought out events such as Burning Man, Moontribe, Shambhala, outdoor psytrance festivals, and other events now heralded as transformational festivals. When I arrived on site and witnessed the alters, ceremonies, and wealth of participants professing the dance floor in a sacred context, I knew that this religiosity reported by the aforementioned scholars was all very real, real to the point I had questioned if this were some new form of religion rising up through the dance music underground. Continue reading

Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Soohan

(I was delighted to be connected to one of the freshest sounds coming out of the Mid-Atlantic. Soohan’s new album is wonderful, and liberally embedded into this post. Enjoy it, and when he spins in NYC, you’ll know. Trust.)

1. Do you consider this album hip hop? Dance Music? What does a live show of this look like?
I would consider it hip-hop, yes. It’s sample-based and rooted in 808 hip-hop beats. At the same time though, I would call it dance music.

2. What kind of influences led you to this kind of amazing, retro-futurist sound?
I have always made sample based music, but as a DJ, have always been drawn to the 808, due to Baltimore Club Music, which is my favorite genre. I wanted to use the 808 in my own style, drawing from indigenous cultures as well from pop music from the past twenty years.

3. What is the party scene in Baltimore like these days? Is this kind of music popular or do they have no idea what they’re in for in 2015?
The party scene in Baltimore is incredibly unique. We have a large, but close-knit music scene here. The rave scene is huge. The jam scene is huge. The DJing scene is big as well. Maybe this is the first time they have heard my own original music. Seems like they are really digging it. So in a sense, yes, they have no idea what they are in for from me in 2015 ;). I am already three songs deep into my next album, which I am expecting to drop before summer. I think a lot of people would tell me “that’s too soon” to come out with another album. But to me, it keeps people interested and on board.

4. Do you find it’s still possible to do good creative work in a city like Baltimore & still keep the lights on? It’s getting to be almost impossible here in NYC.
Yes, it is entirely possible. I am completely surrounded by creatives and artists trying to make ends meet in Baltimore. That doesn’t go without saying, our art isn’t usually our main source of income.

5. Where do you go from here with this album? Live shows lined up? Any plans on performing outside of Baltimore, perhaps another city on the East Coast?
I am headlining a giant rave this weekend, with 1000 eager youngins. I am incredibly excited for that. As I said earlier, I am already working on the next album, which will drop in four months. I am working on a Northeast tour with an old promo buddy for April. Should be Baltimore, Philly, NYC, Providence, Boston, Bangor. Talks about performing in the Midwest. Honestly my main focus right now is to get “Made in Baltimore” into as many people’s ears as possible while simultaneously creating new material. I think I will find my success through my releases, as opposed to playing live shows.

6. Is there anything happening in your scene right now that you really like and would love to see replicated elsewhere in the underground?
Just the sense of family and support for our local musicians and artists. We all motivate each other and have each other’s backs. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have the support of so many people in Baltimore. It really gave me the confidence to pursue putting out a full album like I did.

7. If you’re willing to comment, what does the drug culture in the parties you frequent these days look like? Or, do you find it’s a predominantly alcohol-fueled crowd?
Hahahahahaha! I will not ignore this because the counter culture and electronic music are closely intertwined. Seems like Coke and Molly are people’s go-to at the moment, which is kind of like “meh” to me. I know personally I am over it, don’t really see the good in either of these. But then again, Ill be the first one to order a round of shots. I am a big time supporter of plant-based psychedelic experiences, although they are very infrequent for me. I think people mistake a seratonin molly blast for a psychedelic experience. My advice to them, go on a journey, and leave the powders behind.

8. If you could open for anyone in the business right now, who would it be?
This is an interesting question. DIPLO first and foremost. Don’t care what people say about him. He will always be my number one inspiration when it comes to any of this music stuff. Also probably someone like Shpongle or my old buddy Alvin Risk.

9. Is there an artist (of any genre) that you’re really digging at the moment?
Space Jesus. I am really into what people are calling “Global Bass” or “Tropical Bass”. 808-heavy dancehall/world music stuff. Extremely hard to find though.

10. Besides the free downloads on Soundcloud, is there a place people can pay for the album or otherwise get you cash for this ish?
Yes, on bandcamp. https://soohan.bandcamp.com/

Bonus: Favorite album or mix of 2014?
Nope! Been too busy working on my own album to know what is super hot right now.

Double EP of the Week! Infected Mushroom’s “Friends on Mushrooms Vol. 2” & Shpongle’s “Museum of Consciousness”

You should be excited. If you’re not. Get excited. This week, I’m bringing you not one, but two psychedelic locomotives for your face.

First up, Infected Mushroom are continuing their fantastic collaboration series “Friends with Mushrooms” off Dim Mak. This time around, 5 tracks, featuring 2 guest artists and a vocalist, really punch up the muscle when it comes to bass, synth and wobble. It seems Erev & Duvdev have really gotten into dubstep, but as opposed to using loops/beatpacks or something, they’re doing what they do best, making the sounds themselves. If you don’t believe me, listen to the first track with Savant on a system with bass. Savant’s a surprisingly heavy choice for the track, but 4:40 into the tune, you find yourself in a very nice trancey place, with the Inf. Shroom vocals teasing you. Make sure to check out Savant’s tunes here (and his video game, which is pretty ill as well).

Now is Gold has the quintessential IM feel, with their triumphant vocals, guitar-driven beats, and everything you remember about Meduzz, Muse Breaks & Becoming Insane. The beat remains on point and there’s an almost groovy feel to the chords that dance along the persistently hard pacing & beat. Definitely a new favorite when it comes to a track to play people when they ask what the hell the Israeli dudes with the crazy mushrooms at festies is. Bomp it. You’ll thank me. Nerds on Mushrooms brings in the Pegboard Nerds, a sound I wasn’t familiar with before. There’s a glitchy, dubby, almost ragga feel to the collab that jives (what? it works.) with the rocking style of IM.

Trance Party is my favorite of the 5 tracks. I know, you’re super surprised. Totes. But their full-on, rock-drenched psy-trance chops come swirling back into view and you wonder why they ever left and for how long they’ll be staying this time around. The answer is almost eight minutes. It’s the dance-y, driving stuff that they melt faces with all over the world. There’s a lot to like here, and I hope it finds its way into a set or two before the end of the summer. The French is a track to round out the EP, focus on the rock side of IM, let them cut loose and confuse the fuck out of us when it comes to titles. The tune has some stabby synth work and heavy guitars to back them up. There’s a signature focus on original sounds and big room sounds at that. The lack of vocals give it a muted feel and it lets you down a bit more gently as the last track. Hit it up in the youtube below, and get at the iTunes and Beatport portals to pick it up.

Next up, I am delighted to present the next offering from Shpongle. The jaw-droppingly talented, well outfitted and completely insane duo of Raja Ram & Simon Posford return to bring you a circus of delight and some creepily gorgeous music. Brain in a Fishtank was released a week or two ago (the days, they bleed together), and less than a minute in, you’re being whisked into a fantastical world with the sounds of Simon and the flute of Raja pulling you deeper into this swirling miasma of sound. The bass drops and you’re off. Top-notch vocals compliment the totally original soundscape, building a lush jungle of harmony and discord. It goes a bit mad at times, but comes back to itself as your mind often does. I’ve been a fan of Shpongle since 2004, and they remain some of the best producing duos around. How The Jellyfish Jumped Up The Mountain both continues the long, storied tradition of Shpongle tracks having superbly surrealist names, but it’s pretty cool too. The bass that it pulls into is barely there but really keeps it hurtling along, like a rock skipping across a lake. As if it slowed down it would sink. The song pushes into more of the wacky universe that is the mind of Simon Posford, and makes me think of a lot of people dancing around a fire. The classical violin, the banging organic drums and the tribal feel will keep you jumping in the night. Plus, creepy-as-shit vocals at the end.

Juggling Molecules brings in some fun world-beat-y & power guitar work. And some wistful, chanty vocals, some bizarrely appropriate…is that banjo work? You really never are sure, at least when you listen to it sober. Oh, and there’s some weird jolly sounds too, so run around and enjoy. Further Adventures in Shpongleland starts ominously, as many of Shpongle’s can, but smooths into the echoic beats that we’ve loved since Tales of the Inexpressible. The more downtempo track throbs along and gives a good background to a nice glass of red wine, if that makes any sense.

The Epiphany of Mrs. Kugla starts off vaguely panic inducing. There’s a surprisingly operatic feel to the tune that reminds of Zimmer, with the same level of swarm as a Batman movie theme. There’s a pull down into some fun bassy string work, with some past-invoking chromatic steel drums that remind strongly of Nothing Lasts to my delight. The vocals combined with some lovely strings swing the track back into this euphoric feel that almost shimmers at times. Tickling the Amygdala (really spell check, you don’t know that’s a word? For shame.) has some fun with tuning bowls and modulated resonance and harmonics in ways only Shpongle can. It almost feels like it stalls and melts into your ears, being replaced by a much more high-powered beat that almost baits you to keep up and rambles forward ahead of you, spouting gibberish to throw off your focus. All the while the actual soaring guitar powers into your mind. There’s a fun dovetailing of a lot of the elements heard over the EP on the back end of this track, as you’d expect from the Impresarios of UK Psy. It glides away and leaves you wanting to go play the Shpongle discography. Put it into your face, and don’t stop rocking.