ash.ØK talks with us about his debut album ‘The Unraveled’, which is a hodgepodge of emotions and different elements of Electronica, Indie, and Pop. Therefore, he makes his alternative music even harder to define. However, everything he creates is pretty enjoyable. Besides that, he’s also a fan of making films, so you can’t miss watching the video for the first single, “Holding Sand”, produced by the artist himself.
1 — How has 2018 been for you so far?
Surreal is probably the most accurate way to describe 2018 for me. My album dropped at the beginning of this year and it still gets me every time I hear anyone talk about this music. For the past two years prior to the drop, I was pretty much holed away in my studio without a single ear listening to what I was working on. So yeah, it’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this music is being listened to by anyone, let alone fans on the other side of the globe.
2 — Since when are you passionate about making films and music?
I’ve always been really obsessed with the details that lead up to a final piece of work. Even from a pretty young age, I would dissect songs on the radio to figure out a certain bassline or riff, and then try to cobble it all together into my own version of that song. I could still sit for hours watching behind-the-scenes footage of how an album or film came together. I’ve always geeked out over movie and music facts – sometimes, I get more of a thrill out of hearing how a particular song came together more than the actual song itself. I think that curiosity lends itself to being passionate about your craft and wanting to focus yourself on the act of creation.
3 — What’s your favorite song on your recent debut album ‘The Unraveled’?
Bruh don’t ask me to pick between my babies…😄 lol. In all honesty, I think the album is varied enough that I’m drawn to different songs for different reasons. The title track is probably the most emotional one and it was the catalyst for the rest of this. I love the mellowness of songs like “Bitter Herbs” and “Holding Sand”. From a producer standpoint, the harmonies on “Breathe Me In” get me every time. And tracks like “Don’t Say Xie-Xie” and “Just Freedom” have a totally different energy than the rest of the project. Not trying to be cliché but I’ve spent so much time obsessing over each track that it’s ultra-hard trying to pick which one I’d want to call my one and only.
I honestly wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be. Not because of the music being good or bad, but because I kept so much of this under wraps for so long. To me, it’s just too difficult working on anything when anyone is over my shoulders especially if there’s any negativity or doubt being injected, it just kills the creativity. So I kept what I was working on pretty much to myself and a handful of folks. The first release off the album was “The Unraveled”, which premiered on HuffPost with a really powerful video. Just because of the basic content of that story dealing with suicide, it just floored everyone and began the whirlwind of questions around this album and what it was all about. In the end, the reaction has been so positive and amazing and I really couldn’t have asked for a different response.
5 — How many artists collaborated with you on this project?
Easily over two dozen vocalists and instrumentalists contributed to this album. About half of these were listed as featured artists, but so many people outside of this had a hand in the final outcome. I had some pretty amazing talent on this album and there are versions of some tracks that never made it outside of my studio which I’ll probably release at some point.
6 — What is the one thing you’re proudest of ‘The Unraveled’?
What really grounds me about this album is that it started with me telling the story of a very close friend who tried taking her life. Since the album came out, I’ve had so many people reach out to tell me how much “The Unraveled” spoke to them, how they were going through something similar and that this music actually meant something to their own story. It can get overwhelming at times, but I’ve built some really meaningful relationships because of this single project, in ways I definitely would not have been able to do otherwise, and I think that brings me the most sense of completeness when thinking about this music.
7 — Were you inspired by a historical event for your latest music video “Holding Sand”?
Not so much a single historic event, but I’ve always been drawn to stories from Medieval or the Dark Ages, which are almost always morose and full of heaviness, broken hearts, death, etc. We drew much of the inspiration from Braveheart, Game of Thrones, etc. and wanted to create a storyline that fell in that world. I flew out to Eugene, Oregon from Philly to film this video – the dense forests and the general dreary tone of that day really set the mood for the final video. In thinking of the visuals, I just wanted to see something from that realm juxtaposed to music that was really bass and synth-heavy, just two totally different ends of the spectrum.
8 — How was it possible to produce those relaxing vibes and melodies?
The original production started exactly how it’s heard on the final track, with that single reverse piano line. As much as the cello takes the center stage, the simple piano melody was really what started the song for me. I went in and laid down the cello line against that. At the end, though, it really was the bass kicks and rolling synth organ that set this into something that was more modern. I wanted to do something super 808-style heavy in there to balance out the rest of the lighter notes. The other instruments on the track, like the erhu and Native American Bass, were just sounds I really wanted to hear over a more EDM/electronica beat, just for the contrast in genre and tone.
9 — Will you continue to experiment with different genres of music in the future?
In all honesty, there’s really no way I can keep away from experimenting between genres. I create music in the same way I consume it, without boundaries or categories. Even if I tried making a standard, genre-specific track, it’ll still ultimately morph into something that bleeds into another category.
10 — Do you have any final words you would like to say to our readers?
I’m truly humbled at the support I’ve received from folks from so many parts of the world for this project. In addition to people reaching out from all over the US, the album has been picked up by a number of stations in Europe, Japan, India, etc. and it’s incredible to hear back from people who discover my work. I often write directly to fans that this is a one-man show with no corporate support or backing, and it’s 100% true. Doing this grind solo makes it that much more meaningful when someone gives an indie artist or producer like me a spot on their playlist. I don’t take any of this for granted, truly humbled and grateful that I’ve created something that made its way into another person’s music collection.
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Exclusive Interview: Steven Jones On Lockdown & Writing “Shedding My Skin”
Steven Jones‘ recent release “Shedding My Skin” is heavily influenced by swirling synths and drum machines. The outcome of cutting-edge Synthpop with the vintage-esque aesthetic is what makes his music so special. What’s more, the spread of COVID-19 accompanied by large lockdown periods become the inspiration for his latest lyrics. Scroll down and learn more about this interesting song.
1 – When it comes to your music, what three words best describe it?
Dystopian Analog Beauty.
2 – How have you been keeping yourself entertained this lockdown?
I’ve continued to practice yoga on a daily basis. I’ve done more walking in the park than ever before. I’ve made a special project of carefully listening to the back catalogues of my favourite artists. I’ve watched lots of movies and read a pile of books. Lockdown has given me a time to experiment with video, take moody photos, and pen obscure apocalyptic lyrics.
3 – I’m loving the vibes of your new EP, “Shedding My Skin”, what’s the inspiration behind this material?
“Shedding My Skin” is a lockdown anthem. I suspect a lot of artists will have been inspired by the deep strangeness of the world’s response to COVID-19. This EP is our response. The starting point was Kevin O’Dowd’s claustrophobic lyrics. Using these as a foundation, I created a basic demo I tended to reflect the dislocation and fear of the quarantined mind. I envisaged a skeletal soundscape out of which a voice intones images of despair and hope. Once this was achieved, Logan added his cinematic electronics and sleek production. The dub mix, “New Skin” purifies the emotion of the isolated spirit of lockdown into sheer atmospherics. A wordless cry from behind a closed door.
4 – How much time did you work for this EP?
One of the most interesting aspects of lockdown was a sense of timelessness. It’s easy to spend hours recording and experimenting. I suppose I worked on the demo for a few days before Logan got busy with it at Sky Studios. It was a relatively speedy process.
5 – I’m curious about your creative process, what comes first lyrics or sound?
The songwriting process usually begins with sound. A basic demo provides an atmosphere or emotional cue from which the lyrics arise. I usually start by improvising a vocal on the track, singing whatever comes into my head. So often the lyrics come right out of my subconscious. After several improvised takes I’ll begin to feel a structure appearing. Then I’ll begin to edit the lyrics. When there is something the feels like a song, I’ll send the stems Logan who will make suggestions, play in new melodies and add dynamics. We discuss ways to refine the atmosphere or take it in unexpected directions.
6 – Do you have a specific writing technique for the lyrics?
It starts with improvisation around themes that currently preoccupy me. I take inspiration from novels, films, art, overheard conversations, dreams. Sometimes I’ll draw from my own experience and encode this into the song. Many lyrics arise spontaneously in response to the mood of the track. Sometimes we have a song title which guides the overall content of a lyric. I have a very language-based thought process so I can easily generate imagery and curious sentences.
We can appreciate both as warm and icy sounds soundscapes, but I know Logan likes to focus on vintage hardware, that was used to create the synth soundscapes for the final Visage albums recorded before Steve Strange died.
Live performance is exciting and it’s an amazing feeling to sing one’s own songs but I prefer recording. I find it immensity fulfilling to write and record songs and then allow them to live in the world. I feel it’s like capturing time. I think my love of recording has its roots in my life-long passion for records! I’ve always preferred listening to an album than going to a performance. Gigs are cool but nothing beats immersion in the self-contained sonic world of a great album!
8 – Is your music only suitable for nostalgic lovers of the 80s or Synthwave fans?
I suspect that a lot of people view us as a Synthwave duo arising from a scene based in nostalgia. And while it’s true that our musical DNA can be traced back to the electronics of the early 80s, I’m keen that our records are creatively vital and future-thinking. Our music is a direct reaction to modernity and not a flight from it and we actively reject pastiche!
Some of our songs draw upon the world around us. “Corrupt State”, “Deluxe Tourist” and “Supply Chains” look at issues of corruption, “Syria” is an ode to the ongoing war and “For Europe” laments our departure from the EU.
My current reading list consists of the surreal poetics of William Burroughs. I recommend “Cities Of The Red Night” for a journey into the bizarre. And for light relief, “An Officer And A Spy” by Robert Harris.
“The English Patient” for doomed romance. Polanski’s “Macbeth” for windswept tragedy and “Network” for a cynical take on the media!
10 – Lastly, if you could design your dream music video right now, what would it look like?
A virtual swim through the cosmos, a shimmering journey from darkness to light…
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Tyler Okun Reveals What His Music Is All About + New EP ‘The City’ In Interview
Music has been the focal point of Tyler Okun’s entire life. He has the ability to easily convey his feelings through relatable songs that touch your soul. Not for nothing, his debut EP, ‘The City’ is full sincere emotions and contemporary melodies for your pleasure. Tyler wishes to impact the world positively and bring smiles to those who listen. Learn more about his amazing music below.
1 — Who are your musical influences?
Growing up, I was exposed to many artists from the 70s/80s, so I’d consider that my backbone for influences. But since then I’ve grown to really appreciate Pop and Alternative. I’d say my main influences are Green Day, The 1975, Troye Sivan, and Tom Misch.
2 — Why do you have a special interest in guitar-based music?
I was introduced to the guitar when I was five years old when my aunt bought me a beginner acoustic guitar. Naturally, I was drawn to music that I could play along with. Some of my earliest memories include strumming along to concerts playing on my TV.
3 — How would you describe your signature sound?
I play into what people would consider “Pop” sensibilities. However, with each song, I try to find a cool way to integrate other genres into that Pop sound. Take “Basic” for example, I had this really awesome baseline in my head, as well as a really catchy hook, and then I and my producer decided it would be crazy to add giant 80’s style synths and a trap-style drum pattern. And it just worked.
Absolutely. I find songwriting to be a very cathartic experience because there’s been huge highs and lows in my life. Putting it to lyrics is my way of communicating it to everyone so that I can get the gratification of knowing at least one person who hears this song has gone through the experiences I write about and can relate.
5 — What subjects do you prefer to explore in your songs?
Writing about love was my way of writing songs. The first song I’ve ever written “Serenity” was my way of explaining such a powerful emotion. Since then though, my songs have evolved into territories like empowerment, dancing, heartbreak, and even depression and anxiety.
6 — You just released a new EP, titled ‘The City’. What does this project mean to you?
For the majority of my time actually making music, I was writing acoustic songs and never even considered what I’d do with a larger sound. That all changed when I started working with my producer, Matt “Malto” Loss. We spent so many hours just trying anything possible in the makeshift studio in his basement. This EP is displaying my new sound that I was able to find while recording there. This sound feels more like me, more fun, and just plain awesome.
7 — Which is your favorite song from this material? Why?
I’d have to say the title track “The City”. It’s just so fun, and it just gives me so much energy every time I hear it. I was able to really shred my guitar and pull off some really high notes with my vocals. I think it’s the perfect way to get people ready for what’s to come with the rest of the EP.
8 — Are you open to remixes? If so, what are the requirements?
Definitely! Requirements would be just to have fun with it and present my song in a new, interesting way! Side-note, I really dig electronic remixes so I’d be really curious to see what an electronic specific artist could do with my stuff.
Playing my music wherever I can, and spreading positivity with it, I think the world really needs that right now. And who knows? I’ve got a lot of plans for more future releases!
10 — Finally, what’s the best career advice you’ve received as an artist?
Honestly, I’d have to go with my Dad’s classic phrase “Knock ‘em dead!”, his way of saying to just give it all I’ve got. He has always believed in me from day one. From the first time I performed anywhere till now, my Dad would always say that phrase to me before I’d start anything. So in everything I do, I go into it hearing him saying that to me, and I know I’ve given it my all.
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Lailien Talks His Gigi D’Agostino Cover + More In Interview
Meet the magician of music, Brad Shubat aka Lailen. Carried away by his great creativity and imagination, he gives new life to Gigi D’Agostino’s classic “Fly With You”, which is featured in the crime thriller Uncut Gems. Known for experimenting with electronic music, pop, and rock, you can learn more about how he works and much more in this exclusive interview.
1 – First of all, what made you want to do a cover of one the greatest hits of Gigi D’Agostino?
In the words of my collaborator and co-singer Ruby Perl, the song is divine! We both love the song, including its many other formal iterations of covers and remixes. We had just finished our version when I heard it play at the end of the new Safdie brothers’ film Uncut Gems, soundtracked by Oneohtrix Point Never, so I knew the stars had aligned for sure!
2 – What’s the new perspective you want to bring with this cover?
Every artist brings their own peculiar idiosyncrasies to a cover if they’re doing something interesting and I felt that the generosity of this tune was still far from exhausted in its sonic possibilities. Primarily we wanted to take it into new stratospheres of playfulness and jubilation.
3 – Which is your favorite lyrics’ line on “Fly With You”? Why?
“I still believe in your eyes, I just don’t care what you’ve done in your life”
It’s so powerfully eloquent. A perfect encapsulation of the prospect of innocence at religious depths of profundity expressed through common phenomenological beauty, the eyes being windows into the soul.
4 – What do you use in your studio when producing these types of tunes?
Lots of various equipment and software, including Ableton, Logic Pro, Omnisphere, Native Instruments, UAD plugins, Waves plugin package, a Neumann M147 mic, Gibson Les Paul guitar, Music Man sub-bass and more!
I do think it’s very important. Humans exude technological extensions of our imaginations and studio equipment provides a basis for catalyzing new possibilities. I will say though that one can have all the most expensive equipment in the world and still not make anything interesting if the creative spirit isn’t properly attuned.
6 – Besides producing the catchy beats, did you also record your own vocals for this track?
Yes, and here I have to give a massive shoutout to producer and all-around brilliant musician Mark Zubek who was absolutely crucial and essential on this track. All my songs are recorded with him at his Zedd Records studio in Toronto.
7 – Who is the singer that collaborates with you on this cover?
Ruby Perl. She is such a beautiful soul and was the driving force behind this particular song’s creation. This is actually her first professionally recorded tune so I’m super psyched by her performance and what’s to come next!
8 – Are you planning to release more covers or remixes in the near future? If so, tell us more.
Not currently, but I do have a lot of original material coming out soon, including several videos!
9 – Where do you usually find inspiration?
There’s a poet friend of mine named Michael Boughn who told me he believes in perspiration over inspiration. That always stuck — putting in a consistent work effort regardless of the day to day fluxes of motivation. Thankfully though I do find myself inspired most of the time regardless, especially by what other musicians are making, the poetry I read, and the love of creating in general.
10 – Do you believe the electronic music scene will evolve after the pandemic ends?
The pandemic will definitely have an impact, but not in some homogenized, congealed manner. I expect an ongoing proliferation of diverse and nuanced artistic practices to reverberate and emerge. Life constraints have always informed and propelled creative agency, sometimes in paradoxically nurturing ways, so if anything I hope it brings further compassion, respect, and appreciation to artists in general which in turn blossoms into magnificent new works.
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Exclusive Interview: Ronni Zag Talks New Single, “No Me Llames”
If you like Latin Pop and Reggaeton, you must discover more about this up-and-coming artist called Ronni Zag. Charismatic, passionate, creative, and visionary are the best words that describe his personality. You can expect a high dose of energy with his next single, “No Me Llames”, out on June 26th.
Ronni is available to help indie producers with his technical feedback and further input via Instagram. Scroll down to read this exclusive interview.
1 – You’ve been composing songs since…
I have been composing music for quite a long time, since 2007. Even though I didn’t know much about composing then, however, my passion for music helped me to progress with rapid improvement. There is a saying “if you love what you are doing difficulty gets out of your way”.
2 – You got involved in the music realm because…
I got involved in the music realm since I was born in a family where both of my parents were also into this cultural activity. Luckily enough, this became my influence from an early age and I’m so happy about it.
3 – Your sound is…
Since the “sound aspect” is something that changes through the years depending on the progress and my influence, I cannot answer this question directly, but what I can say with certainty is that the main characteristic of my sound is between Latin Pop and Reggaeton with summery vibes. I also love the Spanish language hence the song “No Me Llames”.
4 – Your biggest inspiration is…
My biggest inspiration is traveling to places that I have never been before and exploring other countries’ cultures.
5 – What was the most difficult times in your life…
The most difficult time in my life was when I was pretty much “sentenced” by medical experts that I will live the rest of my life with an excruciating back pain. “You will have it for life” they said. To their surprise, I managed to not only get over it forever but people around me could never believe what was happening. After those dark days of my life, I feel that if I could manage to overcome that difficulty (which seems impossible at the time) then anything else is pretty much doable. That works out as a motivation for me as well.
6 – People should listen to your new single “No Me Llames” because…
If you ever caught yourself dancing in a club just to find later that this happened because of a catchy hook that was playing, that is the reason you should listen to “No Me Llames”. The catchy rhythm and melody make the song memorable to your mind which is a vital part of any hit song these days.
7 – If you want to know who Ronni Zag is, listen to the track…
Some of the songs that represent the style of Ronni Zag are “Mi Gente” from JBalvin and Willy William + “Bailando” from Enrique Iglesias.
8 – Your most memorable career moment so far has been…
One of the most memorable moments of my journey is when I worked as a sound designer on vital-audio.com. This helps me see things more clear so I can have a bird’s eye view when I make music.
9 – Your dream is…
My dream is to live in Bali-Indonesia away from any distraction so I can write music living in a place full of inspiration and exotic beaches. That gives me a tremendous amount of appetite for making music and gets me in the zone of creation and abundance.
10 – Your next release is called…
The title of my next release has a name that I am not aware of it yet. I want to create music as I get the inspiration and not preschedule releases heavily just for the sake of releasing music. Prescheduling releases can lead to a lot of issues regarding the quality of the music.
11 – Your all-time favourite track is…
This is definitely an answer that includes a big list of tracks but one of them is “Reggaeton Lento” by CNCO.
12 – Your favourite place to write songs is…
My favorite place to write a song is when I go to places out of my everyday activity or my routine (whether this is vacations or anything else that can make me recharge my energy). My creativity mode gets wild and I can tap into ideas that I could never imagine I can come up with.
13 – You’ll only stop making music if…
I would say a reason that could be an obstacle for me to stop writing music is some kind of a serious health condition as I already had one, but thankfully enough I made it all the way through and now I am stronger than ever.
15 – What are you doing for the rest of the day?
I love reading personal development books as it can help me stay on track with every aspect of my life. What I also like is working out regularly and staying fit.
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A Daydream Person Talks New Single “Down In Flames” — Interview
A Daydream Person is probably our favorite emerging producer from South Korea. Discover his catchy Nu-Disco single, “Down In Flames” and the meaning behind it. Without a doubt, his creative energy reflects personal and intimate emotions. Scroll down to read this interesting interview!
1 – I really enjoyed your new single “Down In Flames”. What was the inspiration behind it?
After experiencing countless disappointing relationships, I realized people used me and pretended that they’re nice. I tried my best to make the relationship get better, but didn’t get anything back. Sometimes I punished myself and told myself that it wouldn’t have happened if I was a more attractive person. All these are about my collapsed self-esteem.
2 – Musically speaking, what sets you apart from other artists?
I like to talk about my own self-esteem. When I talk about my self-esteem in my music, which is not too good, not too bad, a lot of people feel it and relate to it. I just realize that there are lots of people that feel the same as me. These days are such a hard time for everyone. People always have to struggle with failures and obstacles. I want to share some feelings with them through my genuine honest vibe. So I think what makes me so special compare to other artists is ‘being honest, real and not pretending’. However, I still root for all artists living around in this desolate world.
3 – What’s the music scene like in Seoul? Is Nu-Disco popular?
Originally in Korea, I think because of ‘Han(한)’, which is kind of feeling refers to deep sadness that can’t be expressed easily if at all, gentle soft music like ballad was so popular. But as K-pop just appeared in the world and developed so fast, we started to get used to electronic music. And after UMF settled down in Korea, music like Big Room and EDM got so popular.
Some people switched their taste into Hip-Hop. I heard there is a growing number of people that actually enjoy the ‘Nu-Disco’ genre, but I guess when I introduce myself as a Nu-Disco artist people wouldn’t know what that is. A genre of music? or cookie brand? They just consider it music that’s usually played by street shops or some cool restaurant.
No, I don’t think so. K-pop is just only a kind of music, but a huge system or culture. So it seems like many artists that don’t play K-pop think it’s not just their barrier anymore, they just try to cooperate with it. But you know, the position of K-pop is so huge that many musicians are reluctant to try different genres of music and some even just give up.
5 – Whose idea was the use of falsettos on this track?
Basically it’s Marcus’ idea. Actually, I didn’t know he was such an amazing vocalist until I first heard his track on SoundCloud and suggested to work together. Later, I listened to another track of him, and wow this guy is talented and his falsetto was amazing, so I started mastering right away. I highly recommend you listen to this music. It SLAPS.
6 – How much participation MxRCUS ALEXIS had in the creative process of this song?
Marcus made lyrics and melodies for the music. Originally, I was going to write the lyrics, but when I received the guide melody before the lyrics were completed, I thought it would be better if he writes the lyrics, not me. So I suggested only the overall direction and he worked on the specific part.
7 – Who is “Down In Flames” dedicated to?
I’d like to dedicate this song to the girl who pretended to be a nice and kind girl on the outside, who was in fact quite the opposite, who lives in Gangnam and likes working out. (She even stole my clothes.)
8 – What’s the message you want to get out with it?
Rather than trying to convey a message to those who live their life pretending to be nice people, which is not true, I just wanted to reveal my
thoughts in the most confident and legal way I could. Actually there’s no place in the world to talk about my innermost thoughts as we think it would be.
Actually, I want to make a music video, too. However, I am worried that the quality won’t be as high as I expected, and it is not easy in reality because of the epidemic situations. I’m going to try it when it gets better. Also I aim to release the EP/album within the next year. Hopefully, I don’t get lazy.
10 – Besides music, what else makes you feel happy?
I’m a foodie. I love going out to grab something so yummy. But these days, as you know, I can’t really go out so I just need to settle for delivering food. I guess you guys would think pizza or chicken, but in Korea you can deliver all the food you can think of. Even ice cream and steak.
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