JP Sears says: “Ultra Spiritual has nothing to do with being spiritual, and it has everything to do with looking spiritual. And looking spiritual is exactly what makes you more spiritual. What you wear has something to do with it, as long as you’re wearing purple or yoga pants that reduce your circulation to dangerous levels due to their tightness.”
Need more LOL from His Enlightenedness The Ultra Spiritual JP Sears in your life? @awakenwithjp, a YouTube sensation with 100 million+ hits, is our extremely special guest for
“To the average YouTube user, comedian and life advisor JP Sears’ videos might come across as 75 percent comedy and 25 percent coaching. The red-locked, flower-wearing guru and satirist has accrued a faithful following from his Ultra Spiritual Life series, a tongue-in-cheek take on the current uptick of new age beliefs (and some baloney).
But to Sears the whole process a bit more complicated than that.
“They’re typically 100 percent comedy and 100 percent life coaching within the same video,” Sears says. “In the videos I use the language of comedy to convey concepts intended to coach people towards better lives. They’re two parts of the same whole.”
Flip through his YouTube channel and you’ll find scores of his Ultra Spiritual Life episodes discussing (read: poking fun at) veganism, gluten-free fads, aromatherapy, and meditation. There’s enough here to write a book, literally — How To Be Ultra Spiritual: 12 1/2 Steps to Spiritual Superiority dropped earlier this year.
– original text by Victoria Waslyack for for Vanyaland.
It’s hard to take a guy who wears a lace headband and a purple orchid in his hair seriously, especially when he’s telling you how to become gluten intolerant and “ultra spiritual.” And if you’re confused whether JP Sears wants you to believe him or not, that’s just the way he likes it. The soft-spoken, ginger-headed, Youtube self-help guru is such a master of dry, deadpan comedy that it’s difficult to tell when he’s poking fun at the culture of life coaching versus when he really wants you to connect with your inner child—but, as he’ll tell you, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do both at the same time.
Sears, a veteran “emotional healing coach” with a legit clinical background, is redefining what a granola, gluten-free, hippie can be, using humor to (in his words) “till the soil for a more sincere seed to be planted in [your] heart.” The 36 year-old star of such viral videos as “If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans” visited Onnit HQ recently to talk spirituality, healing, and just who the hell he really is.
Onnit: How did you get interested in spirituality?
Sears: In my late teens I began a search for something more. Something more than status and achievement. I just felt an emptiness inside, like there has to be more. I sure as heck didn’t know what I was searching for when I began but I think my mind started to become open.
This lack of meaning I felt inside got me to open my eyes to what else life might offer. From there I encountered some important mentors who opened me up to the spiritual world, which I would define as the world beyond the five senses.
Where do you think that emptiness came from? How were you raised?
I was raised pretend Catholic. My mother was Catholic and wanted my sister and I to be Catholic to please her parents because that’s how she was raised. But my dad was an atheist. So there was a nice balance. I got a taste of spirituality but not the kind of overwhelming dogma that can be traumatizing. I think the answer would be that I was very emotionally disconnected as a child and through my teenage years, and probably still to this day—although I’m working on it. I think the emotional disconnection really created a sense of emptiness—if I’m not connected to myself, of course I feel empty.
I would disconnect from emotions because I was trying to be the stable one in the family. I’m not allowed to be afraid or angry or sad because I need to be the one who brings balance and stability to the family. I need to take care of mom and dad. But what that really was was me not giving myself permission to be a child, and one of the important, beautiful gifts of being a child is being connected to your emotions.
Are you saying you never felt really happy or really sad?
I mean the peaks and valleys were really small. I’d feel a little happy at times, a little sad at times. But only feeling “a little.” Anything more than a little emotion one way or the other triggered the breaker that caused an electrical disconnect of my emotions. I didn’t know that was strange at the time because that’s just how things were.
“The worst life ever is a life that never changes. It may be the most comfortable life but it’s the least fulfilling.”
Who were these mentors who began to enlighten you?
Paul Chek [founder of the world famous C.H.E.K. Institute] was my first mentor. At first, I was interested in exercise and nutrition, so I sought out Paul. This was in 2001. At the time he wasn’t really open about his spiritual beliefs and teachings, so it was a surprise when I started learning spirituality from him—how people’s emotional health would heavily impact their physical health. My interest in him through exercise and nutrition was essentially the gluten-free breadcrumb trail that got me interested in the subtle aspects of life, like emotional health and spirituality. He was the messenger who could deliver it to me. I saw Paul at the time as a rock star.
If some boring-looking dude in a suit had shown up and started talking about emotions, I would have said “Whatever. I don’t want to hear about it.” But when it’s Paul Chek, I thought, “Yes, I DO want to hear about it,” because I found him very interesting.
The next mentor I had was John McMullin [journeysofwisdom.com], and he’s more directly all about emotional healing. He’s an amazing person—an angel inside of a human body. I learned how to work with people at the heart level. How to resolve pain, wounding, trauma, self-sabotage, and self-imposed limitations. The most integral part of my journey, of course, has been working on myself.
You’ve said that you discovered your own need for emotional healing by coaching others. Have you been able to heal your own wounds?
Have I healed them? Probably not. Am I healing? Hopefully. I think healing is probably infinite. After we get out of acute pain we might start calling it growth but it’s the same thing. I’m still affected by my wounding but I’ve made progress on it. The first real meaningful wound that I became aware of was on December 3, 2002.
Wow, you remember the exact date?
I was 21. I had been working with Paul Chek so my mind was open but my heart hadn’t quite arrived yet. It arrived on December 3. It was the afternoon of my first class with John McMullin. He’s very intuitive and he saw through the stoic façade I had—the “I have everything put together in my life.” This was such a persistent façade that I thought it was real. I thought this is how I am. I am so strong, stable, and put together. I hadn’t cried for at least six years before that day, probably longer.
John brought up a time when I was seven and my parents were going through a separation and my sister was relying on me as a father figure. John brought up questions that made me look at that and realize how tough that was for me and I really hated it but I started to connect to emotions. I started bawling my eyes out and that was so unnerving for me because who I thought I was was suddenly shattered. It’s not what I wanted but it really was what I needed. I opened my heart to emotions, unresolved pain. It initiated an ongoing journey to connect emotionally to who I really am.
Cirque du Freakz was developed in Los Angeles, CA in 2013 to breath new life into the underground/electronic scene. With a vision to integrate the emerging EDM music, with Live bands, Burlesque, Circus arts, and a touch of Vaudeville! We have created a playground for your soul… an escape from reality, a place to let your freak flag fly! SO COME EXPERIENCE THE UNEXPECTED at the next Cirque Du Freakz.
Rumpus, by definition, does in fact bring the noise – and the bodies – to dance floors and music festivals around the globe. Drumming since the age of 12 and growing up playing in punk rock bands, Rumpus has since evolved into a full-time touring DJ/Drummer and producer of high vibe, funky house music.
Rumpus’ live drumming blended with a finely tuned DJ palette, serves up an irresistible feast for attuned music lovers and funky festival freaks alike. His visually captivating high-energy live show fuses his signature house sound with elements of other genres such as hip hop and experimental future bass. With releases on Westwood Recordings & Australia’s ‘Sweat it Out’ Club Sweat label, the Rumpus sound has been described as “what you get if funk house and bass house had a kid”. 2019 is on course to be another major year with lots of new music, a packed tour schedule, and a few other surprises up his sleeve.
Fusing two fresh-off-the-mountain electronic music addicts, Tim and Dave together create 12 feet and 350 lbs of turbo-funk-boosted, snowsuit-donning man flesh. Hailing from the world famous ski town of Whistler, this dynamic duo loves shredding fresh power almost as much as they love smashing out hit records in the studio.
Producing & performing together since 2010, they are like savage yetis feeding off of each other during their high energy live shows (which often feature snow machines & loud retro ski gear) while they blast through genres playing everything funky from bassline house to black-diamond twerk.
Denver based, New Zealand born master of intergalactic funk, K+LAB, has been rocking dance floors and bringing the heat to the masses since he first burst onto the scene with his debut album “Spacedirt” in 2013. An ever-expanding galaxy of FUNK, K+Lab’s sound is always absorbing and incorporating a seemingly endless array of influences and vibes – the head-nod aesthetic of hip-hop, the futuristic techniques of Glitch-hop and the fury of drum n’ bass – all tied together by an orbital pull of all things funky. Unlike anything else occupying the sonic landscape today, Armed with his signature keytar, K+Lab’s incredible, live performances garnered high profile slots at some of the world’s most lauded dance festivals like Oregon Eclipse, Electric Love, Shambhala Music Festival, Breakfest,, Rainbow Serpent, Northern Bass and has seen him conquer dancefloors across over the globe including U.S, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, UK, South America and his native New Zealand.
With 3 full length albums including “The Worldly’s” (2016) on Gramatik’s imprint (Lowtemp) and “The Booty Galactic” on The Funk Hunters label (Westwood recordings) + a steady release schedule of EPS, Colabs and remixes, K+Lab has solidified himself as the best selling Glitch Hop artist of 2017 & 18 on the Beatport charts and was nominated twice for “Best electronic album” at the New Zealand music awards. Since reloacating to Denver he has been busy pushing his sound even further in to the Cosmos and working with local funksters to bring you the next era of the K+Lab journey, hold tight and get ready to have your booty galactified with the super sonic sounds of Captain K+Lab.
TV Broken 3rd Eye Open is an eclectic and versatile seven-piece band that fuses together a multitude of musical styles from across the world into a psychedelic explosion of sound. Equipped with didgeridoos, sitars, guitars, world percussion, keys, synthesizers, drums, bass, flutes, harmonicas, banjos, and the kitchen sink; it is a musical ensemble like no other. The band draws inspiration from a myriad of musical genres such as afro funk, jazz, psychedelic groove, Indian, folk, blues, and even spaghetti western circus cabaret. Though the band’s sound is unique in its own right, the TV Broken 3rd Eye Open experience also has a significant visual component. The TV Towers 2.0 (debuting in April 2019) is a way to express the way the band sees their music through visual art. Stunning visuals of sacred geometry and psychedelic imagery are then projected on to the stage to combine with the music to make for a truly unique experience.
Grooving and playing with so many different styles and sound textures has allowed the band to continuously grow from a style perspective. Just as their music has grown, so too has their festival presence. Having played at festivals such as Electric Forrest, Symbiosis, Lightning in a Bottle and Lucidity; TV Broken 3rd Eye Open’s exposure is on the rise. The band’s recent collaboration with visual prodigy Pickles Visuals and Stranger Liquids has certainly solidified TV Broken 3rd Eye Open’s status as a must-see band on any festival line-up.
In addition, members of the band can facilitate workshops, lectures, and classes of different kinds to enrich any festival experience. For example, one of the members is a certified and licensed sound therapist who can provide personal/group healings, workshops, meditations and interactive experiences involving sound healing. TV Broken 3rd Eye Open’s current line-up consists of Adrian Johnson (global instrument specialist), Nathan Harvey (drums), Jasym Ellis (guitar, synth), Travis Soto (Bass), Alex Mello (Keys), Roberto Rodriguez (Percussion), and Pickle/Stranger Liquids (visuals).
Lantz Lazwell & the Vibe Tribe service the deep, melodic desires that drives us to dance while providing a complete auditory/visual experience to dazzle the senses.
Lantz has not only been a national touring artist for years, traveling and sharing the stage w such greats as George Clinton, Bernie Worrel, Eric McFadden, Norwood Fisher (Fishbone), Stephen Perkins (Janes Addiction), but also was the winner of a Los Angeles Music Award for “Best Rock Male vocalist ” in 2007.
His new project “Lantz Lazwell and the Vibe Tribe”, fuses elements of Live and electronic music, Fusion Belly dance (Jayna Manoushe- Belly Dance Superstars), and circus arts.
This pairing of digital & performance art to their rock ‘n soul , world beat inspired grooves, is an immersive, one of a kind experience that has continued to captivate audiences across the nation.
A festival staple… A powerhouse of talent and showmanship… Lantz Lazwell & the Vibe Tribe bring the rock ‘n’ soul anthem back into your heart & rock you right.
This LA project began when Madison Orange & DJ Lou E. Bagels held the same vision to share the beautiful yet dark sides of Los Angeles through music, visuals, and performance artists. They bring awareness to leading issues such as the homeless epidemic and drug abuse, while also shining light on the incredible talents that are inspired by the famous, crazy City. Together their they specialize in BassHouse, House, & Tribal House music that are approach for the setting and are guaranteed to keep you on the dance floor.
GoGo Hoop Dance Stars:
Founders of the GoGo Hoop Dance Stars Katelyn Carano & Madison Orange come together to perform a “Best Friend” multi LED hoop duet. The GoGo Hoop Dance® Stars are a professional LED, Fire, Aeriel, & DJ international entertainment company specializing in elongated performances alongside musicians & DJs.
A Tahoe/Reno local House DJ known for his bass heavy, entrancing deep house and booty shaking bass sets, he will leave you sweaty and craving more!!!
Lady Nichole will be sparking up your senses with a burlesque routine you don’t want to miss!
COMING TO RENO AFTER BURNING MAN? If so, join us for one of the best party’s in town. Come shake your dust off at the annual Cirque du Freakz Afterburn at Faces NV – your official afterparty for The Great Depressurization Tuesday night in Reno!Our line-up this year is truly the best we have done to date. We are excited to announce that Westwood Records will be combining forces w the Cirque Du Freak team to bring you this extraordinary event!
FULL LINE UP- Dj Zehbra TV BROKEN 3RD EYE OPEN LANTZ LAZWELL & THE VIBE TRIBE K+LAB RUMPUS X SKI TOUR (B2B) BOSS ANGELES
PERFORMANCES THRU OUT THE NIGHT BY LADY NICOLE & THE GOGO HOOP STARS. *SPECIAL BURLESQUE HOOP PERFORMANCE BY MADISON ORANGE (BIRTHDAY GIRL!)
ADVANCE TICKETS FOR ONLY $10 ON EVENTBRITE (LINK IS ON EVENT PAGE) WE WILL ALSO BE SELLING SOME SPECIAL VIP PACKAGES FOR THE NIGHT!
R.A.W. aka 6BLOCC is known for his relentless techniques behind the wheels of steel. Getting his start back in 1985, this dj is no amateur when it comes to tuntablizm. He was already battling local djs in Los Angeles before the modern dj culture was even created. In 1988 he made his move into the hip hop game with 2 vinyl releases under the name PROJECT X which featured Brooklyn MC, SILKSKI.
He went on to film a music video for one of the releases which aired on local L.A. music video shows. That same year he joined the legendary L.A. hiphop radio station, KDAY and spun live broadcasts along with other Angelino djs called HIGH ENERGY MIXMASTERS. During this time, he entered many dj battles including showdowns with Joe Cooley, Tony A. and JRocc. This experience has led to the legend we now see on the decks. In 1991 the sounds of UK hardcore / jungle were creeping onto the shelves of dance shops in L.A. and R.A.W. was quick to spin and represent. With help from Dj Dan, R.A.W. began playing at major raves and underground events throughout the west coast. His sound at the time was a blend of jungle, hiphop, turntablizm and hardcore sounds which made him an instant draw in the underground scene.
By 1994 R.A.W. alongside Dj Curious and Dj Trance (Jason Blakemore) started L.A.’s first jungle weekly called….JUNGLE! Located at a dirty abandoned train station known as the Belmont Tunnel (Predator II was filmed here as well), the weekly gathering was the only place on the westcoast to hear the dark sounds of reinforced and suburban base records. The venue was kept dark with only one laser to keep the junglist listening and falling deeper into the music.
By the mid-90’s R.A.W. was traveling all over the world rocking crowds with his signature sound of urban jungle choonz and b-boy turntable tactics. In 1997, R.A.W. would go on to win the West L.A. Music Dj Battle judged by Dj Quik. “I remember Quick jumping like crazy when I was rocking doubles of J Magik’s ‘Your Sound'”, says R.A.W. Shortly after this he was hired by a Japanese sound design company to produce 2 sample cd’s: DRUM AND BASS AMMO and HIP HOP AMMO; both were sold with the Roland SP-808 in Japan. Also around this time he began to release his jungle productions on labels like Warner Bros., Thrive, Priority, Mictlan, Tonz of Drumz, N2O and by 2000 on labels like Thermal, Vortex, Sound Sphere where the sound was getting faster and rougher. His single on Sound Sphere was a masterpiece created with E-Sassin at the Sound Sphere studios. Together they weaved an intricate tale of twisted breaks and evil winds over a relentless bassline that would pound the listener every 16 counts. “That song still wrecks shop everytime I play it out..and of course I have to rock doubles!”
Other R.A.W. classics still rock dancefloors worldwide like – Passin Me By Remix, Klash, Jah Rise, Ragga 2001 (which brought the stateside ragga-jungle sound to the masses), Mathematical Chemistry and Monkey Business..just to name a few! His discography has reached over 50 vinyl releases and a plethora of mixtape / mix-cd releases that sell out throughout the year!
In 2006, while working on some drum and bass material R.A.W. heard a bassline coming from the nextdoor studio and asked, “what or who is this?” It was a mix by Youngsta from the UK, “the sound spoke to me and said follow me…and I did”. R.A.W. continues, “I felt like I was ready to change my style and move onto a new sound…dubstep was exactly what I needed at the time. Drum and bass reached a point where I no longer felt like it was me and it was also getting too fast and void of the funk.”
By 2007 R.A.W reinvents himself as 6BLOCC and is releasing his new sound on labels like Lo Dubs, N2O, Tribe Steppaz UK, Bootshake UK, La Dubstep Nostra and the popular white label War Recordings. In 2008, Portland bass music label, Lo Dubs calls upon the 6BLOCC to rock a mix cd featuring the Lo Dubs roster. A blend of hypnotic textures and warped basslines from the future cut the f*ck up using Cubase SX3, 6blocc says, “I decided to use Cubase to give it a different feel than the usual mix-cd and to add my own samples and edits.” The result is ANALOG CLASH, the first CD compilation / mix that features dubstep music from the Americas (north and south) as well as a remix from Vex’d. So far it has sold over 3000 units within months of the release date! When he isn’t on the road or in the air flying to various clubs and events throught out the U.S. 6BLOCC is managing his digi-label DIGITAL 6 (available on www.digital-tunes.net – www.chemical-records.co.uk – www.addictech.com) and knocking out dubstep remixes and originals.
The word on the streets is 6BLOCC is looking to put out some white labels of his hottest dubplates that always get the call…PUULLLL UUUPPPPP!!!! If you’re wondering what the name 6BLOCC means? “I got the name from a Masta Ace song here he says, “the bass I create is heard from six blocks”. BOOM!
Subterranean trance-like movements of afro-funk mashed-up with psychedelic guitar lines and scatterings of broken brass is the order and Papa Chango delivers like no other. Unique in this thriving Melbourne scene they take it to the gritty edge, melding banging technique with playful exuberance. This Melbourne based 8-piece brings audiences to a sweat on packed dance-floors, evoking a hidden spirit within.
2012 saw the release of their breakthrough album, ‘The Matador’. Taking the listener on a sonic journey over barren plains and rugged terrain, ‘The Matador’ is the “soundtrack to the film yet to be filmed.”
2014 was the year of the Dragonfly. The four-track EP, ‘Enter The Dragonfly’, was unleashed. A one-inch-punch of a release bursting with kung-fury from start to finish. .
In 2016, their latest release, ‘The Lost Moon of Bellaris’ continued the sonic evolution of the band, pushing further out into the vastness of the void, propelling you towards distant, unexplored territories.
Featuring newest member Nat Grant on vibraphone and percussion, along with special guests, the band have let their ethio-jazz influences take hold and delivered an album that explores the darkness of space and the lightness of life. From the luscious horn and vibraphone melodies of the title track, through to the deep, subterranean rhythms of ‘Nightmares on Sax’ and the straight dance floor swagger of ‘The Son and The Snake’. Once again, texture and form are at the forefront of the release with 8 tracks of cinematic, instrumental badness.
SHINY THINGS come from dirty places: rolling in rave dust since childhood, the colorful vibes awoken during prepubescent trips in the desert have transmuted into some of the future sounds of today. From the interior groves of the west coast, this one’s a contributor; when not on stage you’ll find him on the floor, with glistening wits and moves for days. Selections all with good taste, these hyphy but paced, futuristic but deeply rooted psychedelic sounds are delightfully hype at any hour.
BEAT KITTY IS THE HEAVY-HITTING BASS-DRIVEN POWERHOUSE YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR
Beat Kitty is quickly gaining traction as one of the most versatile djs and producers in underground East Coast bass scene. Catch her at any event for carefully crafted selections delivering the perfect balance of dance floor filth to get your body moving.
She takes her fans on a playful musical journey, smoothly shifting the vibe from lively and mischievous to downright dirty. She consistently escapes genre norms, with global and timeless sounds blending perfectly with heavier, grimier bass lines. Her nightly arsenal of Halftime, Leftfield bass, Trap, and DnB (with the occasional hip-hop throw-back) will leave you wanting more.
Beat Kitty has recently shared her soundscapes all over the country playing everything from festivals such as Bamboo Bass, Emissions, EDC and Mysterland to venues such as Meow Wolf and the Knitting Factory. As a support act, she has had the honor to grace stages with Baauer, iLL Gates, iLL-Esha, Soohan and Mr. Jennings.
As a classically-trained singer and flautist who’s a certified metal-head, her varied influences are used liberally in curating innovative and exciting soundscapes. After releasing 3 original tracks and a music video in 2018, and working on an EP for 2019, you can expect to see many more productions and fire as she continues to experiment with international influences and bass-driven tones. Overall, her mischievous approach and diverse musical touch have created a unique style that many fans have come to know and love.
When not ears-deep in musical production or touring the country, Beat Kitty aka Amanda Bo creates immersive events throughout NYC aimed at temporarily shifting reality. She’s been creating underground shows and art collectives for over 10 years, contributing to such names as Party Liberation Front, Vitamin B, NYC Bass Collective, Bass Tribe, and JunXion. In any spare time, you can catch her crafting and building festival stages, welding art cars and advancing her career as a professional tattoo artist… but nothing trumps her drive and love for bass!
Mersiv is originally from Shreveport. He originally started releasing music under the name BENOIT.Bass on his Bandcamp and SoundCloud. He started DJing in 2012 after hearing deadmau5 at a power but only get into producing original music in 2015. Anderson’s influences include Nero, Foreign Beggars, Bassnectar, Zeke Beats, The Widdler, and G Jones. His music has been described as a dark-loud style of bass with a dreamy melodic structure. Mersiv has played at festivals such as Electric Forest, Kosmic Kingdom, and more.
Mersiv – Coming from the up and coming production and record label, Formo Productions. (MorFlo Records) Mersiv is quite possibly their new prodigy. Based in Longmont, Mersiv has been bumping around the Front Range and getting people hyped with his one of a kind bass music. With an influence from Bassnectar, his music resembles the grime but has a relentless style of his own. Don’t miss out on his next mind melting performance!
Mersiv, while this may be an unfamiliar name to most it’s only because the project launched back in the beginning of October by the mastermind formerly known as Benoit. Anderson Benoit Gallegos is on a mission, in these past few months he has played his first sold-out show alongside none other than The Widder and Truth for an absolutely insane Halloween show. A few weeks later he headlined his first show in Colorado, and for both shows almost the entire set was all original tracks. Judging by the insane energy of the crowd mirroring the amount of fun Anderson was having on stage, we would have to say both of these events were massive successes and have become the catalyst for the fresh Mersiv Sound Project to explode.
Without a doubt Anderson is not afraid to push the boundaries with his music, creating something absolutely unique with his hypnotic dark bass that won’t just have you moving your feet but your entire body. With artists such as G-Jones, Conrank, Dirt Monkey, and Zeke Beats inspiring him to experiment and push sound design into brand new territory you know you’re in for a treat. Much like Boogie-T, the stage presence Anderson brings is next level, the fun he is having on stage is contagious and you can tell it’s where he belongs.
Mersiv has very recently collaborated with the likes of Dapolitiks and other Forward Momentum artists such as Knat Turner. His video of an unreleased track featuring the one and only Chill Bobby has amassed 30,000 views in a few weeks, which can be heard in the Mersiv 2000 Mixtape he just dropped last week.
Supertask is an electronic beat producer based out of Oregon. With his distinctive approach to music creation, he composes euphonious arrangements that shroud listeners in an affable blanket of solace. His attention to detail leaves nothing to be desired as his music permeates the atmosphere and brings with it an irresistible temptation to lose yourself in the soothing, eclectic groove. With a seemingly infinite number events transpiring within the finite duration of each track, the name ‘Supertask’ could not be more fitting.
Ivy Lab is a collaborative project between Sabre & Stray
Originally starting life as a trio, North London outfit Ivy Lab were brought together out of a shared enthusiasm for experimentations on the fringes of the UK bass music scene. The years that followed saw them go from strength to strength, earning a place in ‘The top 10 DJ’s of 2015’ (Mixmag) and propagating a new generation of hip-hop inspired abstractions housed within the framework of their ’20/20 LDN’ project.
The duo now find themselves at the apex of the ‘Halftime’ / ‘Future Beats’ / movement – A motley assortment of actors from across the bass music landscape applying their sonic-heritage to experiments with hip-hop and drum machine electronica.
Ivy Lab invested further in the exploration of this sound with the creation of their ‘20/20 LDN’ clubnight. Housed primarily at Brixton’s Phonox nightclub, it earned the characterisation of “ultra innovative” (Timeout Magazine) and a “London standout” (Mixmag).
Minted in late 2015, and borrowing the same raison d’être as its elder sibling nightlife brand; 20/20 LDN Recordings was unveiled with the pseudo-mixtape/compilation LP “Ivy Lab presents 20/20 Volume.1” – described as “uncompromising, insightful and rather awesome : 9/10” (Mixmag) and “impossible to categorise : 9/10” (DJ Mag) . Little over a year (and only 5 releases deep) the label was awarded the title of ’Best Breakthrough Label 2016’ in the DJ Mag ‘Best of British Awards 2016’.
Now a galvanising presence in the ‘Future Beats’ movement, Ivy Lab’s’ “20/20 Volume.1” release and the subsequent follow up E.P’s were benchmark moments in forging the genre into a pillar of the electronic music landscape. Tracks such as “Spooky Dub”, “Can’t Say No” & “Peninsula” all garnered incredible currency, supplemented by showpiece remixes for Banks (“Fuck with myself”) and Noisia (“Tentacles”).
That same currency as bass music figureheads has been embraced by festivals as varied as Glastonbury, EDC Vegas, SXSW, Sonar (Barcleona + HK), CTM Berlin, Dour, ADE, Woo Hah!, Shambhala, Lightning In A Bottle, Lowlands, Origin NYE, Exit & Outlook.
Ivy Lab head into the horizon not only with an anchored presence at the cutting edge of the bass-music landscape, but also a secured reputation as pioneering label bosses & event promoters in ownership of one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary music brands.
Gove Kidao and J. Fogel were initially brought together by a shared affinity for music that hovers on the fringes of the bass music scene, experimental sounds and ideas that live on the borderlines between genres.
Both are accomplished producers in their own right – Kidao goes by Sabre, and has been a maverick in the DnB world since 2004, whilst Fogel produces as Stray, having debuted on Critical Recordings in 2009 and pushed a forward-thinking approach to the genre ever since.
Coming together as Ivy Lab, they produce hard-hitting, bass-heavy abstractions that stretch the boundaries of mid-tempo electronica. As a duo they’ve moved away from the structures of DnB and towards the amorphous future beats movement, a loosely defined proto-genre that takes initiatives from hip-hop, trap, DnB and bass music, fusing aspects of various scenes to create weighty, bombastic music that bangs at a halftime tempo.
Since establishing 20/20 LDN in 2015, a record label and dedicated club night at Phonox, they’ve become figureheads of the scene, providing a platform for fledgling artists and a space for their music to be shared with a wider audience.
20/20 LDN Recordings are marking their tenth release with the debut album from Ivy Lab, Death Don’t Always Taste Good. It’s an audacious 12-track foray into the duo’s twisted imaginations, fusing the sonic signifiers of UK bass and DnB with the rolling tempos and cocksure attitude of hip-hop and trap. Following the record’s release on 11th May, we caught up with the pair to get an insight into their creative process and hear about the thoughts, ideas and influences behind each track.
1. Fortune Teller As an opener the aim was that this set the haunting and unsettling tone that permeates the entire LP. The demo version was titled ‘RZA’ cause the beat has this kinda gritty wu tang vibe about it, and the vox and strings give it a B-movie horror aesthetic which is as tense as it is playful
2. Ugly Bubble This one has a heavy dub-oriented influence and stands unique on the LP in it’s reliance on 4/4 kicks to drive the beat. The sudden switch into the melodic and lush dreamlike middle breakdown is a ‘surface-to-air’ moment before the bubble comes back and infinitely descends with a shepherd tone illusion quality to it
3. Jet Lag Jet Lag was written at a time where we both happened to be undergoing emotional stress in our personal lives, and we’d like to imagine that there is a tangible sense of melancholy conveyed in the music
4. Astral Pirate Theme The sirens, pops and baroque bassline melody are a nod towards Dilla, and the hallmark to its groove is how early the snare hits. There’s also a kinda prog-jazz leaning to the melodies that happen later on in the track and the whole thing has this travelling through space vibe about it, hence the title
5. Cake This track is a straight-to-the-point affair carried by it’s G Funk styled worming reese bass and swagged out groove. It’s essentially a drum & bass tune at heart, which is where it took most its engineering cues from. The key to the drop is the empty space created in the sparseness of the intro; someone described this to us as being like a ‘palette cleanser’, which feels pretty apt!
6. Vanity Fair Vibe here is all about making peeps feel on edge, and making use of as small an amount of different elements as possible. There’s a somewhat non-descript and almost alien nature to it’s main instrumentation, and the creepy, bitterly suggestive vocals felt like the perfect fit. It’s the most lowkey track on the LP but arguably one of the most essential in its cementing of the project’s aesthetic
7. A & E Another very drum & bass oriented affair with glaring techno influences, tunes like this are probably the closest we get to a ‘roller’. Slowly evolving, repeating hypnotic riffs sit as a throwback to some of our earlier tech dnb, and the sound design intentionally maintains a sense of panic, conjuring images of an accident and emergency ward at a hospital, which is how it got its name
8. Death Don’t Always Taste Good This one bears flickers of Company Flow/El-P, with it’s industrial & grungy core. There’s a sense of tangible urgency, and the burrowing insect percussion keeps things freakish enough to warrant the chunky neurofunk styled bassline which underpins it all
9. Snack Time Picking up where ‘Death Don’t Always Taste Good’ leaves off through it’s overarching industrial and machine like quality, the juxtaposition in mood between this track’s two halves acts as a fitting microcosm of the project as a whole – it carries a particularly jarring and challenging nature, born out of the playground taunt melodies and awkward groove, and the payoff once again is in the lush, cradling sound design and chords which float in and out over its duration
10. Calculate The factory / machine aesthetic comes to a head here, with the robotic rendition of Monty Python’s Argument Room sketch playing centre stage. In contrast to much of the rest of the LP, the beats here carry a more classic boom-bap groove, which is offset by the choice of offkilter & industrial drumkit
11. Ozbo Here, a film-noir dark circus evil clown aesthetic converges with dub-influences and tips its cap towards jump up drum & bass. It carries a very tongue-in-cheek sensibility over from it’s predecessor ‘Calculate’ and sits as one of the album’s most playful and dancefloor centric jawns
12. Cadillac This was built a lot like one of our old liquid dnb rollers but in halftime, with an emphasis on filter work which creates the moments of clarity. There are gospel themes to the music which hopefully conjures a kind of celebratory headspace to leave the listener in as the album draws to its conclusion
Ivy Lab are one of the hottest groups around right now.
The London trio – made up of Stray, Sabre and Halogenix – are releasing their debut album, ‘Ivy Lab Presents 20/20 Volume One’, this week and it’s an absolute belter from start to finish. Producing tracks individually and collaboratively on it, they’ve served up a mix of scorching halftime and hazy, future-facing instrumental jams.
It’s a bold move from them, too. Even though they made their name giving us some of the most divine and delicate drum ‘n’ bass cuts of the last few years – ‘Make It Clear’ with Hydro and Frank Carter III on Metalheadz, ‘Oblique’ and ‘Live On Your Smile’ on Critical Recordings and their remix of Anushka’s ‘Never Can Decide’ – they defied expectations, rewrote the game-plan and decided to give us a taste of the style of music they’ll be championing on their new label, 20/20 LDN Recordings.
Another way of letting us know what the label’s all about is through their 20/20 mid-week club night that recently made the move to south London venue Phonox after a year at The Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park. Joining them and residents Tim Parker and Deft, guests like Alix Perez, dBridge, Om Unit, Fracture and Sam Binga have passed through to spin cranky, twisted bass, blazing hip hop beats and frantic footwork. The next one sees them team up with London/Glasgow label Astral Black at east London venue Village Underground on November 21, inviting Ryan Hemsworth along. Judging by how much we loved the last one, we fully suggest you go if you’re in town.
They were one of our favourite acts at Croatian bass fest Outlook as well. So much so we basically stalked them and saw them play three times, on two boat parties and once at the Critical takeover of The Moat, and they smashed it every time.
Joining forces in 2013 and finding themselves among our breakthrough DJs list last year, 2015 is definitely the one they’ve become a name everyone’s raving about. The ‘Twenty Questions’ EP on Critical landed early doors – serving up a contender of drum ‘n’ bass tune of the year with the title track – before Lenzman called on them to remix ‘Paper Faces’ on the ‘Looking At The Stars’ remix album. The result? A soul-oozing gem, of course.
It’d be rude not to mention their solo skills while we’re here, although Sabre’s been quiet on that front since the crunching ‘Pinch Me’ with Cern on Dispatch Recordings in 2013. Stray and Halogenix might well have produced two of the year’s best EPs in ‘Paradise’ and ‘All Blue’ on Exit Records and Metalheadz respectively. Taking into account the sheen-smothered beauties they produce individually, it’s no wonder the group manage to blow us away with everything they do.
This mix is a tidy warm-up for the album, featuring six tunes from the record, with tracks by Alix Perez, Mr Carmack, Eprom, Enei, Kasra and Skeptical also being spun. Rugged and spanking in places, beaming and swooning in others, it’s a prime example of their tight, varied selection and the direction they’re heading. Crank up the sub, this one’s fully of rowdy bass.
Pink Mammoth (PM) was created by people who feel and believe in synergy. It is a collective that nurtures, encourages, and supports its participants in being completely themselves, in learning to express their true nature, and to practice their gifts freely and without condition.
PM understands and appreciates that people are more able to realize their fullest potential when they have the unconditional support and love of their community. And in turn, our participants provide unconditional love and support for the PM community, placing the fulfillment of those around them as high or even higher than their own. We borrow this concept from the path of the Bodhisattva, a Buddhist name for one who defers his or her own enlightenment for the sake of helping others attain their own. We believe that if we all practice this form of selflessness, then we all gain, and to a far greater degree than we ever could alone.
PM is also founded upon the principle of giving without expectation. We have discovered that when we give of ourselves freely and without expecting any kind of return, the sense of fulfillment within us is greater. And when an entire community practices this form of giving and sharing, then once again, everyone within that community bears greater rewards. Each of us in the PM community shares whatever we have with the primary purpose of helping our fellow, whether it be a form of art, a possession, or simply a favor. And when the fruits of our labors are rewarded by others – whether it be in monetary form or otherwise – these rewards are received with unencumbered gratitude, rather than with an expectation fulfilled.
In this era of commerce and impersonal exchange, we strive to transcend the traditional practice of offering one’s labors simply in exchange for money. PM participants demonstrate that when we work for ourselves, for our own spiritual fulfillment and for the sake of enlightening our fellow, there is no greater sense of satisfaction. It is a spiritual reward, a feeling that each of us has felt inside when we see that our gifts have benefited others, and have done so simply by being an extension of who we most naturally are. Traditional tenets of commerce have negated and ignored the immense value of spiritual fulfillment in our work, and PM strives to reintroduce this element into the lives of our participants, while still engaging in activities that bear financial support for them and their pursuits.
PM is a family. We strive to nurture a sense of closeness among us, a bond between us, and to create an environment of love and compassion, selflessness and support, health and vitality, that encourages each of us to be our best, to shine and to thrive. Like preparing communal meals and participating in recreative pursuits together, we constantly engage in activities that strengthen the bonds between us and encourage a healthy lifestyle. We recognize that we can only be our best when we are healthy, in spirit, mind, and body, and we constantly strive to help each other attain this state of holistic wellness.
Every penny of income that PM receives through activities goes directly to supporting our Burning Man infrastructure, to acquiring and maintaining the equipment our participants need, and to constantly generating awareness and recognition of our mission.
The survival and growth of PM depends upon its participants, in helping them to strip away the obstacles that block their path, and to provide them with the love and support of community as they find themselves and find ways of applying their innate gifts for benefit of all. All of us feel that every experience, every choice, every direction and change of direction has led us to this, preparing us and training us for creating the greatest and most rewarding effort of our lives. We believe in it with more commitment and faith than anything that has come before. PM is the ultimate manifestation of our collective vision we each feel a deep urge within, to see each other happy, to spread light into the world, to use our inherent gifts to help and enlighten each other. We are making our own world, the way we see it and wish to build it, and with every new person we welcome, the energy grows.
If you’re looking for a daytime camp where you can enjoy the best music Burning Man has to offer, Funky Town is the perfect place. It has a unique sound that you will not find anywhere else. This camp has a reputation for a swinging Wednesday day-party. During this event, art cars of all kinds come to show off, which means that you will get to see the full spectrum of artists at the festival. While you’re there, you’ll have a full view of the playa to enjoy while sipping on a custom smoothie and listening to the funkiest jams in the desert.
The SurlyBird is the double decker art car of Surly Camp. She first debuted on the playa in 2003 and has undergone some amazing and imaginative transformations since then. As the DMV and Burning Man community are demanding higher quality art and ingenuity, the crew of Surly Camp rises to the occasion, offering the eyes new and inspiring imagery. 2012 brought forth the Surly Phoenix, with laser eyes and feathers galore. Lots of hard work went into this baby, and the DMV seemed happy enough…
The crew of Surly Camp steps up each year in a big way to give the old girl a fresh coat of love. They drive and fly in from all over the states to help out in the months before Burning Man. They do it out of love. They do it for you.
Have you experienced a bangin’ good time aboard the SurlyBird? Well, we want to hear about it. Tell us your stories, your adventures, your tragedies…after all, we’ve been known to listen now and again..
We’re Golden party purveyors here to boost your rave experience in to the stratosphere on a 24 karat gold spaceship made of endless walks of shame, bedhead, and regret. We’re here to make sure you and yours are prepped and ready for the sexiest damn time of your life, wrapped in gold, with a smiled ear to ear. We are Solid Gold Jacuzzi
Gramatik has always been an early adopter. It began at the age of 3, when his mother would catch him glued to the radio in his older sister’s room, checking out the cassette tapes with American funk, jazz, soul and blues. He started making his first be..
Gramatik has always been an early adopter. It began at the age of 3, when his mother would catch him glued to the radio in his older sister’s room, checking out the cassette tapes with American funk, jazz, soul and blues. He started making his first beats on an early PC by the time he was 13, and soon the kid from Portoroz, Slovenia figured out how to harvest the power of free file sharing to build a following throughout the US & Europe. Tracks spread, hype grew, tours followed, and before long his digital persona forged the initial inroads into the US market, landing him both a label and an agency. Gramatik landed on US soil as a fully formed artist who knows how to do things his way. He signed to a label, Pretty Lights Music, that gives all of its music away for free, which went hand in hand with his own philosophy about ”freeing music by making music free”. Soon after, he scooped up his hometown crew and moved to Brooklyn, NY. Alongside Gramatik, the multimedia collective known as Dream Big features guitarist and producer F.A.Q, video director and filmmaker Anze Koron and graphic and web designer Martin Kenjic, with whom he has been friends since they were kids, sitting in a small town on the Adriatic coast, dreaming of breaking out into the wide world beyond. Now’s the time. Of his new record #digitalfreedom Gramatik says, “My new EP bares the title #digitalfreedom. As an artist that based his entire career on the platform of free file sharing, I’m dedicating it to the fight against severe internet censorship bills we’ve been hearing about so much in the past months. Bastards have been trying to cripple the internet on a global scale with bills like ACTA/SOPA/PIPA and I’m sure there’s more of them coming, so this one goes out for spreading awareness! Reject them all, they will never stop the sharing, the Internet is our realm, DIGITAL FREEDOM!” With over 100,000 tracks sold on Beatport.com, topping all kinds of genre charts, Gramatik has clearly matured into a world-class producer. He earned nominations for “Best Chill Out Artist” and “Best Chill Out Track” at the 2010 and 3 best track awards at the 2012 Beatport Music Awards. More recently, after posting a clever remix of Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, he shot to number 1 on HypeMachine in a matter of hours, and has been since appearing in the site’s ‘popular’ top 10 chart with every new release. Within the US, it’s been a huge year of growth for Gramatik, performing at festivals across the US and alongside labelmate Pretty Lights, including epic sold out shows at Red Rocks. This summer promises even more high-profile appearances, including gigs at Lightning in a Bottle, Wakarusa, Electric Forest, Camp Bisco, Wanderlust and many more.
Gramatik & Eric Krasno Funk Up The Road to ‘Recovery’: Exclusive
“After Torture comes Recovery,” so reads the message from Gramatik that comes with his latest single. The genre-blending producer recently messed up his leg real bad, and while he was stuck healing, he took the opportunity to get serious work done in the studio.
Following “As We Proceed,” “Recovery” is something different for the heads. It opens with orchestral strings and piano in the style of a ’50s musical, but ain’t nothing dated about the groove that follows. It’s got a vintage swing, sure, but the bass kicks are too future. Vocalist and guitarist Eric Krasno sings soulful inspiration to anyone who’s struggling to get their mind, body, or heart back on the right track.
“Recovery” is a real cool, laid-back tune for your lazy summer afternoons. It foreshadows some kind of larger release. Whether it’s an EP or full-length album remains to be seen. “Recovery” is out everyone Friday, June 2, on Lowtemp Records, but you can listen to it below, exclusively on Billboard Dance.
Daft Punk climbed atop the pyramid. Pretty Lights performed amid a neon skyline. Yet Gramatik’s stage setup may have the most meaning behind it: a few towering columns of blazing light, connected by glowing wires. It’s an LED rendering of Croatian inventor Nikola Tesla’s turn-of-the-century, voltage-amplifying Tesla coil.
Sure, the whole thing is an ode to an oddball inventor, but it’s also reflective of Denis Jasarevic’s approach to making music. As Gramatik, he tinkers and toys with a vast array of genres, almost scientifically fusing blues guitar, trip-hop beats, rumbling bass and even the folk music of his native Slovenia to create some of the most exciting electronic dance music around. And with his upcoming record – The Age of Reason, dropping on his own label, Lowtemp – he’s ready to bring his experiment to his biggest audience yet.
Though his tiny, coastal hometown of Portoroz (population: circa 3,000) didn’t offer much of a music scene, Jasarevic found a holy trinity in three ‘90s icons: Wu-Tang Clan, The Prodigy and Daft Punk. “They were what got me hooked for life,” he says. Jasarevic dabbled in hip-hop and began fiddling with beat sequencing. When early tracks off his 2008 debut, Street Bangerz Vol. 1, began selling on sites like the influential Beatport, Jasarevic knew that he could find success on the other side of the Atlantic.
“I started touring in the States before I ever toured Europe – I developed a more substantial following there,” he says. “I didn’t decide on that; touring isn’t something broke artists can just decide to do when starting out. It’s something you get offered to do – for no money.”
But that first 2009 offer – from Pretty Lights’ Derek Vincent Smith – was big. One day, Jasarevic was flooding the Internet with tracks from his home in Slovenia. The next day, he was lighting up stages in 1,000-person capacity clubs, opening for the Colorado EDM sensation.
When Smith launched his Pretty Lights Music (PLM) in 2010, Gramatik was a natural fit. Jasarevic handed Smith two projects for his label for free: the jazzed-up Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1 and the harder-edged, knowingly named #DigitalFreedom.
While David Guetta’s house music was flooding the radio and Skrillex’s dubstep was providing the soundtrack for countless frat parties, Gramatik and Pretty Lights, along with PLM signees Break Science and Paper Diamond, were creating something far funkier with soul samples, guitar licks and endlessly somersaulting beats. And they were giving it away for free.
Like his idol Tesla, Jasarevic was working with a mad scientist’s drive: a side project with producer Griz called Grizmatik, near-genius remixes of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, increasingly huge tours and the foundations for The Age of Reason – his most complex, accomplished release yet.
“I’d planned to release two projects on PLM from the start,” he confirms. “Derek completely understood that I wanted to do my own thing and be completely independent as soon as I was able to. We’re very much alike in that regard.”
Unlike the vast majority of electronic music, Jasarevic recorded much of the instrumentation live instead of relying on samples, including Soulive/Lettuce’s Eric Krasno and Jasarevic’s touring guitarist Eric Mendelson.
“There’s a lot of guitar, bass, piano, all types of organs, lots of original vocals – more than any other record I’ve produced,” he says. “We recorded most of the instruments and I chopped and
re-sampled the recordings.”
In other words, rather than crate-digging for obscure sounds, Jasarevic created them.
Jasarevic buried himself in the studio with his three must-haves: “My Macbook Pro, a box of custom Gramatik Rolling Papers and a big bag of weed.” And the result was his heaviest, densest and most rock and roll work to date. Or as he says, “It combines all the genres I’ve been producing since the beginning in the most drastic, neurotic, cohesive and outrageous way imaginable.”
While The Age of Reason, the first release on his new, PLM-like label Lowtemp, won’t win over any classic rockers, it’s better paced and layered than a recording from your average EDM star. It’s dance music that tells a story. Jasarevic aims to pull off the same effect live.
“I like to play for over two hours so I can really tell a full story of my life as a producer,” he says. “I start off with chiller hip-hop beats, then get into my soulful electro-glitch stuff and end with my heaviest productions. It’s omni-tempo, omni-genre. Anything goes.”
Well, not just anything.
“The thing is, I get inspired by perfection,” he says. “That’s the kind of art that inspires me to be better at my craft – whatever it is that I’m doing.”
British producer Troy Henry, better known as TroyBoi, is a multicultural electronic music artist who has produced and remixed tracks for rap, R&B, and pop artists in addition to releasing work under his own name. The native of South East London, England arrived during the early 2010s and is most frequently associated with trap music, though his output has also veered from electro-house to commercial dance-pop. Among his most prominent productions are Little Mix’s “Lightning” and Serayah’s “Get No Better (2.0),” while he has remixed tracks by Danny Brown (“Smokin & Drinkin”), Missy Elliott (“WTF [Where They From]”), and ZAYN (“Like I Would”). As a proper solo artist, his most successful tracks include the muscular likes of “O.G.,” “Soundclash” (a Flosstradamus collaboration), and the Mad Decent-issued “Afterhours” (featuring Nina Sky and co-production from Diplo). In 2017, Henry issued his debut full-length, Left Is Right, a bass-heavy collection that included collaborations with Healthy Chill, Nefera, Y.A.S, and Ice Cube. The next year, he issued the EP V!BEZ, featuring David Stewart on the track “Spooky.” The follow-up, V!BEZ, Vol. 2, landed later that year.
About 24 hours ago, I didn’t have a role model. Now don’t take this the wrong way, this is not some clickbaity adornment to attract readers, this is not a thoughtless embellishment to impress industry professionals, but a sincere representation of my feelings. Troyboi became my role model last night, and legitimately caused me to tear up as he opened his set. If you’re a fan of trap music, you’ve probably heard his groovy, Middle-Eastern style beats and massive percussion tracks. His collaboration with Flosstradamus, ‘Soundclash’, built an insane amount of hype for almost a year, and gave him the recognition he deserved as it showcased his versatile talents. Even though you may have heard his massive production, the man behind the filth is more humble than you could ever imagine.
Troyboi is one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met, and that’s why he became my role model. For the first time during an interview, I felt like I was talking to one of my friends. His good-hearted generosity, immense candor, and contagious personality made me feel like I was just talking to another dude. All of my previous fangirling nervousness had disappeared, as his modest nature overpowered my anxious tendencies. When he stepped on stage to drop his upcoming collaboration with Stooki Sound, I began to cry as I realized that one of my idols had just changed my life, solely due to his beautiful personality.
I spoke to him backstage at the 1015 Folsom nightclub in San Francisco, and he revealed some very interesting details about the music industry and himself. With his divulging of an upcoming SoundSnobz EP, which is his collaboration project with icekream, and a discredit to the recent SoundCloud crackdown, he made this fascinating interview the perfect read.
The amount of tracks you release is simply absurd. How much time do you spend in the studio? What’s your creative process? It really really depends. It could be 20 minutes, to literally 5 days. My creative process starts off from an idea that stems from my head. For example, I could be watching the TV and hear an ethnic instrument, or something like that, go to my computer, record what I think might be the idea, and build from that. It just all kind of comes together. I never try and get in the way of the music. I like to let the music write itself. That’s a real, genuine lesson I’ve learned from one of the greatest entertainers and producers of all time: Michael Jackson.
Glamour and fame aside, what do you get out of your own music? Why do you do it? I do it because it’s a form of my own personal expressionism. I do it to express myself, or how I’m feeling. Generally, I do it because I love making music.
Which of your tracks are your personal favorites? Why? I like ‘O.G;’. a lot, and I like ‘Do You’ and ‘Drive’ a lot. Honestly, I consider a lot of my new material, which is unreleased, as my favorites. They all have styles which I’ve wanted to do, and always done before I got called out as a ‘trap producer.’ I actually wouldn’t consider myself a trap producer at all. I’m a producer of all genres because I love making house, and I love making R&B and Soul, which I’m going to show in many years to come.
Your style is so diverse with some of the grooviest drops, and some of the weirdest samples I’ve ever heard. How do you come across such interesting material? (laughs) It’s crazy. I’m just naturally attracted to weird things, or things that are just different. I love to manipulate sounds in ways that people don’t normally do it. I like to be different, and I love to show that in my music. Whether it proves to be vocal samples that are pitched up, pitched down, or whatever. I like to find wacky sounds that don’t make sense, and make them make sense.
What’s your opinion on SoundCloud cracking down and removing so much content? How do you think it will affect yourself and the music community? By SoundCloud taking down a ton of the music, it doesn’t really allow artists to express themselves in ways that they usually would.. To be honest with you, I wish they would stop doing what they’re doing, because I, for one, love to sample famous people’s music. If I made a track that everyone really liked, and suddenly got taken down, I would be really affected by that. And I hate that, so I think it’s really something they really need to fix in the future.
About a year and a half ago, you got signed for the first time. Now you’ve worked with Flosstradamus and Diplo, and can easily be described as the fastest rising producer in all of trap music. What was that moment like when you realized you’ve made it? I still don’t think I’ve made it as of yet to be honest with you, but the moment when I thought I was getting the right attention was after the track with Flosstradamus. The reaction to that song, when it was played during the circuit of Mad Decent Block Parties, and the way the hype was building for almost a year, caused me to realize that there was loads of potential. I’m still in the process of growing, and I still think I haven’t blown up yet, but I’m still waiting for that day to come.
What was working with Diplo like? What did you learn? I learned that Diplo is a very, very nice man (laughs). A very humble, and down-to-earth man as well. Working with Diplo has been great – he has very good ideas – and the collaboration we had together has worked very well.
SoundSnobz is hands-down my favorite collab project out there. How did you and icekream meet? Icekream and I met a few years ago through an artist which he signed to his label, as he had a label which he set up. The day we met, we clicked just like that. Ever since that day, we have been best friends. I consider him a brother; he IS my brother. Our music minds, rather when I heard his music and he heard mine, caused us to connect like that. Because of the chemistry we had, we knew it was inevitable that we would have a collaboration project together, which is now SoundSnobz. We have an EP coming out this year, and I am very very excited for the things to come.
What’s the difference between a Troyboi and SoundSnobz studio session? A Soundsnobz studio session is way more relaxed – that’s for sure. I can take the pedal off for a little bit, and allow icekream to take the reigns. I feel very confident in him doing that. When it’s just me, I don’t know when to stop. I’m always thinking, ‘Is it enough? Should I keep adding stuff, blah blah blah?’ On both occasions, I love the work that I’m putting in. But when I’m working with “Ice”, it definitely involves less stress because I love the work that he’s putting in, and I love his ideas.
Collectives such as Soulection and Courteous Family are bringing up an incredible amount of talented producers. What’s your opinion on the current resurgence of the underground scene? In terms of Soulection, I have nothing but amazing things to say about them. They are genuinely such a wonderful group of individual producers. Joe Kay specifically, I have to shout him out because he’s done such an amazing job with Soulection. I think that collectives these days are such an amazing way of showing individual talent, and collective talent together. As collectives, the widespread power of their music has allowed it to reach the ceiling of music’s boundaries.
Your name rarely appears on the bills for major festivals in the US. What’s the reasoning behind that? Timing and patience. I don’t believe in sticking my name on a festival where I don’t necessarily need to. I feel that there’s a time for everything, and maybe that time is not right. I’ve certainly been approached to perform at festivals, but I know that there’s a method to my madness.
What can we expect from you in 2015? Expect nothing but the same thing you’ve been experiencing for the last two years. Expect that I will always give 110% to deliver to the audience and my fans the freshest music, and live up to the Troyboi name as much as possible.
TroyBoi Proves He’s an Absolute Beast on 20-Track Album ‘Left Is Right’
The London producer has announced a North American tour supporting the new set. The dankest speak-n-spell in the universe just dropped a massive 20-track album — London-bred TroyBoi is here to reinvent tired trap traditions and mark himself a leader among producers from both hip-hop and dance.
Left is Right is out now via T Dot Music is best enjoyed with the bass turned to the max. Elements of dubstep, trap, R&B and house weave in and out of minimal headbanger beats designed to pop trunks from Los Angeles to Mars. Fans should recognize previously released anthems “O.G.” and “ili,” while new cuts “Back To The Wall” and “What You Know” bang with a grimy darkness. “Mantra” and “KinjaBang” blend Asian influences with hip-hop percussion for some transcontinental vibes and there’s even something for the lovers on smooth jams “Wavey” and “Her,” featuring Nefera and Y.a.s.
This is beat music for the heads. Of its 20 tracks, only five feature guest vocalists, the big hitter coming from hip-hop legend Ice Cube on second-to-last track “Look At Me.” Truly, TroyBoi’s space-age flavor is the star of the show.
“Left is Right represents taking the alternate route in multiple aspects: creating your own lane, but still achieving the end goal no matter the risks,” TroyBoi said in a statement. “My music is quite hard to place into one genre and is considered ‘left’ of center, but in my mind it works and feels ‘right.'”
TroyBoi will hit the road to support Left is Right on a full North American tour, kicking off Sept. 5 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s taking gnarly bass pals Louis Futon, YehMe2 and Slumberjack with him.
Bristol is renowned to be a generator of exciting fresh talent in all aspects of art. The fact that the bearded booty-cuddling machine, Will Clarke, is from this part of the world is no surprise to anyone.
Two years after Will’s ‘Big Booty’ was being played in every club around the globe from the likes of Jamie Jones, Seth Troller, Eats Everything and MK (just to name a few), Will has rocketed to great heights in the house and techno scene. Will has become a family member in the DIRTYBIRD flock, and has released a plethora of chart topping records such as ‘The Goog’, ‘Can You Funk’, also collaborations with Justin Martin with their track ‘Back To The Jungle’ and a collaboration with Shiba San, ‘Give It To Me’. Staying on the DIRTYBIRD theme, Will has just released his Booty Percolatin’ EP (which if you haven’t heard yet, you are missing out). Alongside Will’s original releases, he has also churned out remixes for Riva Starr, Lee Foss’s label Emerald City, Hot Natured, Azari & III just to name a few.
In 2015 Will took it upon himself to start his radio show ‘The Barber Shop’ which has now had guests such as Groove Armada, Kolsch, MK, Yousef, wAFF and the list goes on. With over half a million monthly listeners across multiple platforms, Will’s Barber Shop is causing a little bit of a fuss.
Will Clarke’s live DJ sets are full of his unreleased music, edits and reworks. The fact that he played over 100 shows worldwide in his first year touring, proves that he is a force to be reckoned with. So if you are into Booty’s Percolatin, beards or cuddles then make sure to check out Will Clarke.
Will Clarke is an electronic music producer based out of Bristol, England.His sound is categorized under the House music variety.  Will is known for his signature beard and facial hair.
Early Life and Career Beginnings
Will was born and raised in Bristol to a family that loved music. His mother was a singer and his father had a distinct taste in punk rock. Will’s earliest memory of house music when his brother gave him a CD of Dance Mania 95 when he was 5 or 6-years-old. When he was 13, he played his first set at a club in Bristol, which is considered the Bass capital of the UK, and when he was 16 was invited to play in Ibiza a few years later. At 18, he decided to pursue music full-time and moved to Ibiza to work and spin in the scene for several years.
Growing Prominence and Dirtybird
Clarke grew in traction with the song ‘Big Booty’. He soon caught the attention of Dirtybird Records founde Claude Von Stroke, who signed him to his label.  He dropped the “Booty Percolation” EP later that year. His collaborations with Justin Martin with their track ‘Back To The Jungle’ and a collaboration with Shiba San, ‘Give It To Me’ played in clubs across the globe.  He has traveled the world playing sets under his “Barber Shop” tour as well as the Dirtybird Campout.  The hashtag #doingitforthecuddles was started by his friends. as a reference to his preference of cuddling over anything else. 
With a substantial following on social media, as of July 2017, Will Clarke had over 11.5K followers on Twitter, 23K followers on Instagram, 19.5K followers on SoundCloud, and 37K likes on Facebook.
“The more people that listen to my music, the bigger and stronger my beard gets… everyone’s a winner, baby.” Dirtybird-affiliated house producer Will Clarke introduces himself.
WHO ARE YOU? A 25 year old non-drinking, non-drug-taking, bearded DJ and producer based in Bristol (well, the outskirts, but I always say Bristol as I can’t really describe where I live – it’s in the middle of nowhere…).
WHAT DO YOU SOUND LIKE? In between ghetto house and house with a touch more bass.
WHY SHOULD WE LISTEN TO YOU? I don’t like telling people they ‘should’ do anything, however if you like a little mid-week boogie or if you’re reading this before you go out on the weekend then give my tracks a listen and it may put you in the mood. Plus I have worked out that the more people that listen to my music, the bigger and stronger my beard gets… everyone’s a winner, baby.
WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU GOT COMING OUT IN THE NEAR FUTURE? I’ve had a couple of releases on Dirtybird called Badness, The Boogie Woogie, Jackintosh, and 808 Frenzy. I’ve done a remix of Azari & III‘s ‘Reckless’ on Turbo Recordings. In the future I have a release coming out on Defected in September.
WHAT SONG SUMS YOU UP? WHY? Detroit Grand Pubahs – ‘Sandwiches’. It’s fun and weird, plus I love a good sandwich.
DJ Awards Feature Interview – Will Clarke – The Bristol scene has always been a solid place to be bought up in, although I was never that into Drum n Bass at a young age there was always amazing parties going on somewhere
As part of our support for the DJ Awards, we sat down recently with a number of the Newcomer nominees to discuss their careers, the nomination and more. Next up is Bristol born house artist Will Clarke.
Will first blew up on the scene in early 2014 when his Big Booty EP was released on Worthy ’s Anabatic label, later picking up support from Jamie Jones and MK during the festival season that year. Like many artists, Will Clarke’s sonic palette comes his experiences and influences from home and afar. The roots of his sound stem from both his hometown of Bristol and his seasonal home in Ibiza, which has forged Will’s style; a style that fuses the best of Bristol’s bass elements with the upfront house music sensibilities of the white isle.
UK Editor Simon Huxtable sat down recently to chat to Will about his nomination, Life on the road and more.
Hi Will, great to meet you. Thanks for finding the time to chat with us from Decoded Magazine.
Hi guys, thanks for having me.
Congrats on the nomination for Best Newcomer at this year’s DJ Awards. Aside from industry validation, what does this nomination mean to you?
So yeah the nomination, it’s crazy really, it’s not something I would’ve thought I would be nominated for. However for me, it’s nice to be recognised for what I’ve been doing over the past 12 years of hard work and finally making my hobby into a career.
Like me, you’re a West Country lad. How do you think the diverse musical heritage of your hometown has shaped your tastes?
As I’m sure you agree the Bristol scene has always been a solid place to be bought up in, although I was never that into Drum n Bass at a young age there was always amazing parties going on somewhere. I used to go to hip hop parties, techno parties, the occasional psytrance event and then would get roped into going to drum n bass nights too. So I guess my music has taken influences from the early days of when I would be in Bristol. That’s also the thing I like about artists from the city, nobody is afraid to be an actual artist and stand for what they believe in. It’s an amazing community to be part of.
Let’s head back a few years to when Big Booty dropped. Can you tell us a little about the back story behind getting signed the Anabatic?
It kind of started with a bit of pot luck really, I was really into the label and some of the artists signed to Anabatic were getting bigger names for themselves. So my manager sent a couple of tracks over to Worthy. Honestly, I didn’t think he would get back to us, although a week later we received an email saying he wanted to sign ‘Drop it’ but wasn’t too keen on the others and needed a B-side.
This is where Big Booty came into play, I had it sitting in my folder of unsigned tracks, I loved it but I didn’t think anyone else would so I didn’t send it out. On an off chance we sent that over and Worthy said it was perfect for a B-side. It’s crazy to think about as I wrote that track in about an hour.
That EP really put you on the map with support from Jamie Jones and MK to name but two. How did you feel at the time?
Fucking awesome. Even though I’d been producing for years before that it was my first track that got real support from all the artists I aspired to be. Words can’t describe that shit.
Of course following that, Claude Vonstroke contacted you and you began your adventure with Dirtybird. How has the stability of having a world renowned label behind you affected your creativity and output? Do you feel a pressure to produce a certain way?
After “Big Booty” came out it was actually a super hard time for me if I’m honest, I didn’t know what direction to go down I was trying to copy other sounds and be like other people rather than myself. I actually took a break from music for about a year and was going to open a club.
Thank god the club fell through and I got the music bug back, I just went back into the studio with a fresh head on me and I started to make music that I enjoyed. That’s when my tracks started to get signed to Dirtybird. It was mad because I signed my first track then Claude signed another 5 tracks off me that year. I think then it wasn’t pressure of actually signing tracks but it was the pressure from me of wanting to write better tracks each time so every release I did was better than the last.
We understand you have a few collaborations with some Dirtybird label mates out soon…
Yeah, well I’ve had ‘Back to The Jungle’ which is a collab with Justin Martin which actually came out on his album in April. Myself and Shiba San have just released a track called ‘Give It To Me’, that’s on the Secret Sauce EP on Dirtybird. Other collabs have been done but we are still touching up some bits before we announce them.
What else is forthcoming this year?
Well, I’ve just had a remix released on Lee Foss’s Repopulate Mars, I have another remix coming out on Cajual and an EP on Dirtybird in September time. Then off for another tour of America in October along with gigs in Europe throughout the summer.
We all love a good tour story. Can you recall any funny times on your recent Dirtybird Australia/Americas tour?
This is always the hardest question I swear…. Yes, there are always funny stories, I was playing at the Dirtybird Campout and I was playing my track ‘Spandex’ (silly track talking about superheroes) then all of a sudden two pink Power Rangers come up behind me and start dancing. But the thing is I didn’t realise they were there and everyone was trying to grab my attention and I was too focused on what track to play next. Anyway, they eventually got my attention and it was fucking hilarious two guys about 6ft tall dressed in pink Power Ranger suits. Genius!
Haha and you’ve toured again this year already. How was ‘Will & Bills Excellent Adventure’?
It was so much fun I actually based myself in LA at the time as well, so I fully got into the American lifestyle. But the tour was crazy I think we did 30 shows in 3 months touring 3/4 times a week, we got to play in so many cities.
Touring life is hard. I was speaking recently to David August who found the late nights really didn’t agree with him. He said by the end of the tour he felt very demotivated about everything because he was constantly tired. How do you deal with the pressures on the road?
Yes, I totally agree in some ways, however, I like to keep healthy so I don’t drink or take drugs, even though I love a good burger I tend to eat well, for nearly every show I go to the gym beforehand or do some sort of exercise. At the end of the day, I look at it as there is going to be some downsides to having the best job in the world. I can live with being tired, it’s a small price to pay.
Brexit has been on everyone’s mind these last few weeks. Social media draws out the political commentator in all of us, but is it the right arena for the discussion to take place? Does it fuel the fire of hate? What are the alternatives?
Personally, I feel we should’ve stayed in however I do feel now that the country has decided to leave I think everyone should pipe down and just get on with it. Media is the fuel to every conflict in the world, 95% of politicians talk shit, I just wish people would actually realise this and ignore it. The day we ignore the media and get on with our lives is the day that the world will be a happier place.
Will, let’s finish off things there. We wish you the best of luck for the future and with the DJ Awards nomination. Is there anything is closing you’d like to add?
Thank you so much, guys. I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone that has followed me along the way. Also, party hard, keep safe and don’t forget to cuddle… It solves all your problems!
Casual High Technology. Music by Reggie Watts and John Tejada. We make music so you can dance to it.
Wajatta – the new group formed by beat-boxer/comedian/musician Reggie Watts and electronic music artist/DJ/producer John Tejada recently released its debut album, Casual High Technology. Presented as a cosmic collection of funk-infused techno, Casual High Technology is the culmination of decades’ worth of Watts and Tejada’s favorite electronic music shaped to fit a new dance sensibility. Wajatta (pronounced wa-Ha-ta), as the name suggests, is a mash-up of the artist’s last names. Having grown up with similar musical influences, Austrian-born Tejada and German-born Watts draw from their love of urban, electronic music. Exploring the intersection between influences and innovation, the two describe Wajatta’s music as “electronic dance music with its roots in Detroit techno, Chicago house, ’70s funk and New York hip hop.” Tejada’s deep, melodic production makes the perfect backing for Watt’s wide vocal range and live looping skills.
Wajatta’s Wickedly Funky (And Fun!) Casual High Technology
As a way of potentially creating something genuinely new, or at least surprising, the time-honored but perhaps neglected artistic scheme of melding or juxtaposing multiple dissimilar aesthetic beliefs or conceptual visions in order to birth a third entity, independent of its parents’ genetics, might be the best way to describe the resonant thrills encoded within the grooves of Wajatta’s debut album.
Fascinating, funky, funny and just plain fun, the appropriately titled Casual High Technology is the knockout result of a fortuitous partnering of beat-boxer/comedian/musician Reggie Watts and electronic music artist/DJ/producer John Tejada, whose backgrounds and areas of expertise, on paper at least, wouldn’t immediately suggest logically fertile grounds for collaboration. German-born, L.A.-based Watts is familiar to TV watchers as the bandleader on CBS’s The Late Late Show with James Corden, and for his 2016 Netflix special, Spatial, numerous major festival appearances and as co-host of the IFC variety series Comedy Bang! Bang! He’s an improvising comic motormouth known for an excellently fresh use of an array of looping pedals to avalanche audiences with major loads of surreally humorous vocal and musical quixotics.
Meanwhile, Tejada is what you’d call a West Coast electronic legend, a reputation the Austria-born/L.A.-bred tonemeister earned for his consistently satisfying catalogue of uniquely (within the “genre”) melodic and subtly opulent arrangements on labels such as his own Palette, primo Koln imprimatur Kompakt, Pokerflat and Plug Research; a major draw on the Euro club and festival circuit, he’s also due big tips o’ the hat for what in retrospect are groundbreaking remixes for the likes of The Postal Service, Bomb the Bass, Kevin Saunderson, Gui Boratto and Simian Mobile Disco, among many others. A wickedly funky branch off the techno tree — yes, it’s great for parties — Casual High Technology is on the one hand a tasty batch of undeniable dancefloor fodder. Dig a bit, though, and the set reveals a lot more than that, and this is where the aforementioned “third entity” thing comes into play: As heard on tracks like the gorgeously harmonized opener “We Know More (Than We Let On),” “The Solution,” “Je Wa Soto” and “Synchronize,” this super-choice compendium of the best of a few decades’ worth of Detroit techno, Chicago house, ’70s funk and East/West Coast hip-hop is, while not overly studied, rather educational. Whether boiled down and studio-enhanced and transmogrified via Tejada’s advanced melodic and harmonic gifts, or perhaps owing to Watts’ special brand of this-absurd-life humor, virtuosic vocal-style references (hear him channel EWF’s Philip Bailey throughout) and unfettered sense of sheer sonic possibility, if one pays the record the honor of listening to it more than once, that lucky one will hear these initially infectious but merely charming tracks blossom and bloom, transforming into musically thrilling entities.
It’s not that electronic dance music has never seen real artistic depth before; it is fair to say however that the genre has rarely evinced the willingness or ability to venture there. And of course the wisdom behind great music of any type is how it rarely reveals its true nature, its resonance, its soul, till one has lived with it for an extended while. Owing mainly to Tejada’s wonderfully understated use of a gently progressive harmonic and textural palette, Casual High Technology’s tracks too do first come off as mildly engaging bits of danceable product — which apparently is about how high most other e-dance producers or DJs set their bars — so it is somewhat of a revelation to experience the flowering of these pieces into entities quite unlike what they at first appeared to be; “Get Down With Your Bad Self,” even, with Watts spouting deliberately wack-ironic “party” lingo, mutates in effect from eyeball-rolling tolerance to amused affection for the track.
Worth noting is the duo’s working process of conceiving and executing the album’s tracks: In what seems to have become the core element was the very idea of the quickness of action with which the tracks were generated, mixed and edited. This by now vintage idea of not letting the intellect interfere in the flow of creation — to not censor one’s self, to respond to one’s immediate environment and fellow musicians — was in Watt and Tejada’s hands/mouths a way of capturing an evanescent, spontaneous magic as if netting butterflys fluttering by.
There was a time when those hoary old new-wave types from the early ‘80s loudly proclaimed “Forget art, let’s dance!” Sure, but lately it’s become way clear that such simple dichotomizing between the two things is, well, it’s just not necessary. Casual High Technology offers the chance to chin-scratch-ponder a genuinely fine, high art sound, and shake your booty at the same time — should you so desire.
Wajatta It shouldn’t be painful to have fun and make art
L.A.-based electronic duo Wajatta drop their debut album on May 11. They’re an unusual pair for sure — Reggie Watts is an acclaimed absurdist comedian, while John Tejada produces refined, melodic techno. Put it all together, and Wajatta make off-the-wall funk and hip-hop–inflected dance music by capturing, looping and layering Watts’ vocals over Tejada’s synth and drum arrangements. Titled Casual High Technology, the album will be available initially as a digital release. The vinyl will be released June 29. The song “Slippin’” is getting regular play on KCRW, which recently hosted Wajatta on Morning Becomes Eclectic. “Runnin’” was released on 7-inch in March as a lead single, with a digital teaser first appearing in December. Wajatta and their label, Comedy Dynamics, have kindly agreed to have L.A. Weekly premiere “Get Down (With Ya Bad Self).”
“‘Get Down’ started as a simple idea, which got totally transformed with the help of my frequent collaborator, Justin
Maxwell,” Tejada explains. “Justin took my linear idea, added the main vactrol bass pulse and spaced apart [Reggie’s] busy vocal into what is now the final version.”
Wajatta – the coming-together of electronic composer John Tejada and poet, musician and stand-up comedian Reggie Watts. Andy Hermannsat down with them in Los Angeles to dig into how this surprising duo works so well
John Tejada rises to greet the arrival of his friend and collaborator, Reggie Watts. “Do you remember?” he asks. “This is the spot of our first date.”
Reggie looks around. “Oh, right, that’s true,” he says, his ever-present smile widening. They’re on the back patio of the Paramount Coffee Project in Los Angeles, a favorite hang of Reggie’s because it’s right down the street from CBS Studios, where five times a week he leads the house band on The Late Late Show with James Corden. After first meeting at one of John’s DJ gigs a little over a year ago, the two men reconvened here for a little coffee and conversation, bonding over shared passions — old-school hip-hop, 80s sci-fi flicks — and similar upbringings.
Long before they met, they were mutual fans: Reggie of John’s crisp, propulsive techno productions for labels like Kompakt and Poker Flat, John of Reggie’s surrealist comedy and improvisational vocal funk jams. Still, it took a while before John broached the subject of working together. “I didn’t want to force him into anything because I figure anyone who meets him is like, ‘Hey, do you wanna be in my thing?’ So we just hung out a bit.”
When they did finally begin working on the project they would eventually dub Wajatta — a portmanteau of their last names — their musical chemistry was immediate. Two of the tracks on their debut album, Casual High Technology, were recorded on their first day together in John’s home studio in Van Nuys, several miles north of Hollywood, where he lives on a quiet, tree-lined street that seems an unlikely source for his futuristic sounds.
“On Make Some Sense the first bit you hear was first-take Reggie,” John says, referring to the wordless scat singing that begins one of the album’s most classically four-on-the-floor tracks. “I work with a lot of people that are fast, but they need to hear it and write some lyrics and get the headphones and get used to it. [With] Reggie it was just like, I hit record and five seconds in, it’s what you hear on the record.” “Yeah, it was pretty instantaneous,” says Reggie. “What he played me was really fun and awesome and it sparked a lot of possibilities in my head.” Reggie is famous for working improvisationally, using vocal loops to build tracks from the ground up and then freestyling on top of them with an expressive, multi-octave voice that startles people who know him only for his comedy. It’s a style that seems at odds with John’s precision-tuned techno — but John, it turns out, likes to work quickly, too, rejecting the popular notion that producing electronic music has to be a laborious process.
“It shouldn’t be painful to have fun and make art,” he says. Once you’ve logged your 10,000 hours, you shouldn’t still be agonizing over getting the perfect kick drum sound. “This isn’t supposed to be a challenge. We both put 20-plus years into it. We should be able at this point to express ourselves without too much error. “I agree with him 100%,” says Reggie. “I’m always looking for the fastest form of production. And it’s not about low quality — it’s about capturing the freshness. That’s the difficult thing. If you’re doing something long enough, what you’re expressing is not the thing you’re worried about. Like, I’m never worried about, urgh, will I have an idea?”
He says this matter-of-factly, not “tooting my own horn,” as he puts it. By his own estimate, he’s logged “about 15,000 hours of stage time,” most of it doing an entirely improvised mix of standup comedy and music constructed from vocal loops. “I’d say about nine or 10,000 of those hours — just into the ether. There’s no evidence of me having done it, no recording of it, nothing.” So when John asked him to collaborate, he was ready to tackle a project on which there would be a tangible, permanent record of his improvisations.
John, for his part, began producing techno in the mid-1990s and has become internationally renowned for a distinctively springy yet cerebral style, built almost entirely on analog synths. He’s never courted mainstream success by tailoring his sound to the trends of EDM, but his best-known tracks, including Sweat (on the Walls) and The End of It All, are the kind of underground classics that can fill any dance floor, from a dirty warehouse to a Vegas megaclub.
Both men are biracial and bicultural. Reggie was born in Germany in 1972 to a French mother and an African-American father serving in the US military; John came along a couple years later in Vienna, the son of an Austrian conductor and a Mexican-American opera singer. They both moved to the States at a young age; Reggie’s family settled in Montana, while John’s mother brought him back to Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, where he’s lived ever since.
“He was a little younger when he moved here, but some of that stuck in our heads,” John says of their similar backgrounds. Both men are hesitant to attribute too much of their creative identities to their upbringings, though Reggie does think it played a role in his ongoing fascination with language. “I love speaking in a way that sounds like a particular language,” he says. “When I toured Europe, I used to do fake Italian, fake Spanish, fake whatever.”
On Casual High Technology tracks like Je Wa Soto, Reggie strings nonsense syllables together in ways that sound like a lost African dialect, or possibly the patois of a particular Rio favela. “A lot of our improvisations, people say, oh, is that Brazilian? Portuguese? Which I kinda like, because that’s a beautiful, really sexy language.”
Their collaboration is an extension of their friendship. Everything is done together, in person — bouncing ideas back and forth in a studio, rather than over email. “You have to hang out,” says John. “You may have a bit of food, you have some beers, you make a tune.” There’s an ease and warmth to the music on Casual High Technologythat makes sense once you know their process — and once you see the two of them sitting together at the very same table where they had their first “date,” sharing a slice of coffee cake and setting up the punchlines to one another’s jokes.
You wouldn’t call Casual High Technology a comedy album, even though it was released on a label called Comedy Dynamics that’s best-known for stand-up albums from the likes of Bill Hicks and Patton Oswalt. But it’s filled with a playful back and forth, as Reggie’s vocalese loops ping-pong between the snaps and clicks of John’s drum machines. Often, as on the subtly insistent mid-tempo groove of Slippin’, the sounds bleed together until you can’t tell where the vocals end and the synths begin. “A lot of the percussion, even though it’s not super-obvious, it’s his mouth,” John reveals.
Their chemistry peaks on Runnin’, which achieves a kind of weightlessness in its lush blend of layered, soulful vocals, jazzy keys and high-BPM techno gallop. It’s the embodiment of their philosophy of working quickly and keeping it fresh — 20-plus years of experience distilled down into five minutes of dance music as graceful and seemingly effortless as a ballet dancer’s grand jeté.
Things get ruined fast for us if it’s like, no, it’s not right, try it like this, try it like that,” says John. “Then it’s like, you know what? This song’s not gonna work.”
“Exactly,” Reggie says, laughing.
To perform live as Wajatta presents new challenges for them both. Reggie has to learn how to rein in his improvisations and recreate, at least in part, the melodies and phrases of the original album tracks. John has to learn to follow Reggie’s lead and embellish on the fly when inspiration strikes his partner, which it frequently does. “We’ve almost built these signals,” John says. “There’s certain things I do — like if I pull the beat out, he knows, here’s a change coming. And we just like … right?”
Reggie nods in agreement. “Eventually I hope John and I will have a portion of the show or moments in the show where we’re just kind of jamming together,” he says. “I’ll have a synth on stage and I’ll loop and he’ll be doing beats.”
At the time of our interview, they’ve done five live shows, including radio and TV appearances. In two nights, they’ll be doing a sixth, an album release concert at the Teragram Ballroom in downtown L.A. “I’m curious what we’ll be doing,” John says with a chuckle. “I am, too!” says Reggie.
The show is a triumph. Once each track has achieved liftoff, propelled by John’s Roland TR-909 beats and Reggie’s vocal loops, Reggie steps to the front of the stage to work the crowd, unleashing his inner house diva with soulful shouts and a soaring falsetto. He’s clearly having a blast, bobbing his top-knot in time to the beat. Even the often stoic John moves to the sinewy rhythms, a shy half-smile etched across his face.
“This is a tune off our fourth album,” Reggie jokes at one point. “I hope you guys like it. It’s a song about love, loss and regeneration. Enjoy.” Then, unexpectedly and much to the audience’s delight, they launch into John’s biggest underground hit, Sweat (on the Walls), with Reggie paraphrasing the track’s original, spoken-word vocals in a deadpan, vaguely British accent: “Have you ever been a party where there was just sweat, dripping down? Dripping down from the walls?”
For the encore, they improvise. John builds a drum track on the 909, one element at a time. Reggie adds some vocal percussion effects, then loops the phrase “Get some.” John adds more synths. Reggie adds a keyboard part. He sings a falsetto lead, something that sounds like, “I know we should be able to know,” though it could also be the half-formed words of a made-up language. He looks back at John and they exchange grins.
It’s a moment no one will ever experience again. And like everything Wajatta does, it sounds effortless.