Friends of Friends 2 Year @ Echoplex – Salva, Groundislava, Mex w/ Guns Interviews +

On June 18 Dubspot will be sponsoring the 2-year anniversary celebration of Los Angeles label Friends of Friends (FoF) at the Echoplex in LA. At the top of the bill is San Antonio, Texas producer Mexicans With Guns, Anticon rookie Baths alongside west coast beat technicians Salva, Shlohmo and Groundislava (pronounced Ground-is-lava), with Anenon and Jonwayne opening. In the past year FoF label and friend head Leeor Brown has signed LPs from Salva EPs from Shlomo, and Groundislava., establishing a movement that gives LA and west coast beat scene crews like Brainfeeder a run for their money.

Much the recent attention has been due in large part to Salva’s album Complex Housing—a record that navigates bass music with masterful percussive attention that manages to hold up for a full-length, an unusual feat in a market dominated by the EP and 12” formats. Between Salva and his San Francisco-based label and party Frite Nite, and the beat-scene epicenter of LA, Friends of Friends has threaded together a west coast family of talent that is tightening the US’ reputation as a space for innovative electronic music.

Joining the extended fam ranks of the FoF crew is a US electronic music leader in his own right: Mexicans With Guns. MwG recently released his debut LP Ceremony on San Francisco’s Innovative Leisure label and you may have caught his workshop here at Dubspot last week. MwG similarly explores a dynamic range of sonic territory to that of Salva, MwG choosing to mine his Mexican cultural and musical heritage for intersections with his MTV-filled childhood. As a result, the album often sounds like a precocious teenage dream, one that has been realized with a fresh cosmic perspective that includes ancient drum understandings, a sonic vision of 21st century Shamanism in global club music, and whole lot of fun.

In addition to a fun-filled evening at the Echoplex, what is particularly remarkable about this line-up is that it represents an important cache of emerging electronic music artists that have racked up some great press of late, and foreshadow great things to come. And to get a perspective on where these guys have come and where they’re going, we chatted with Salva, (a.k.a. Paul Salva), Mexicans With Guns (a.k.a. Ernest Gonzales), and Groundislava (a.k.a. Jasper Patterson) about what has brought this crew of LA beat scene producers to the Friends of Friends label and how they get it done in the studio..

Salva

Would you talk a bit about your creative process in writing Complex Housing? What was inspiration behind the title of album, and what, if anything does it have to do with your creative vision?

My main goal for Complex Housing was to try to reel in some of the fans not particularly keen on straight-forward dance music in to the universal elements which make real techno and house music so amazing. Not that any purist would see this album as house or techno (not at all actually) but its all 808, 909, analog chord stabs and soulful jazzy pads, etc., kind of hidden in a package of grime, west coast beat, funky and quasi-juke style compositions. The title, of course a play on words, is something I meant to reflect my modern experimental view as an old house enthusiast.

How do things work for you in the studio? Do you have production techniques that fair better than others?

I’ve clocked an insane amount studio hours learning and experimenting over the years, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I will reach my ceiling. There is too much to learn about music writing and production, and there is so much that inspires me now. However, playing out a lot more these days on a variety of systems, even post-Complex Housing I feel I’m getting a better grip on engineering for the dance floor….so yes, the more I mature in the studio I’m finding what works and I tend to stick to some of those techniques for sure.

Seeing as how this is an anniversary party, is there anything you’re reflecting on about where you’ve come and where you’d like to go?

I think the whole vision of FoF was something I wanted to be down with as soon as I met Leeor. The stuff that Shlohmo and Ground Is Lava do, which I’m crazy about, and on a totally different wavelength the heavy sounds of Mexicans with Guns, is super diverse. Where it totally compliments what I do, each style is totally different…to me, that’s exciting. This party— which looks like it will flow like the amazing daytime FoF SXSW party earlier this year—is going to keep people dancing and thinking all night, and you’re not really going to hear much of the same style from any of the artists.

What is most exciting about making music at this point in your career? There are hardly any boundaries at this point. Is it ever intimidating?

I finally feel like I can just do whatever style I want, as long as I really own up to it and make it unique in my own way. Back in the day, genres were so important, your artistic lane had to be so narrow just to retain a fan base. Where a lot of artists out there still think that way and of course the industry still operates that way in many circles…but there’s a huge forum now for good electronic artists that really care about longevity and really strive to be true musicians, and want to just do their own thing. It really has become a producer’s market as far as playing out on the circuit, and I think fans have really come to appreciate the sound of a particular individual as opposed to just being a fan of a format or genre. That, to me, is beyond exciting.

Mexicans With Guns

Would you talk a bit about your creative process in writing Ceremony? What was inspiration behind the title of album, and what, if anything does spirituality have anything to do with your vision?

I grew up as a Mexican American living in San Antonio growing up on MTV and pop culture…without too much knowledge of Mexican culture. Although my parents were Christian they never made me go to Church. My cultural identity and spirituality are two things I think about a lot both consciously and sub-consciously. These two topics aren’t things I necessarily think about at the same time but when learning about Mexican Shamanism I feel like the two came together. While working on Ceremony, I started learning about Shamanism from Mexico. I became really intrigued by it for many reasons. The music I was making for Ceremony was directly influenced by what I was learning.
In a lot of ways I feel that ceremonies are similar to modern electronic music. Drums and sounds repeat creating hypnotizing patterns that people dance to…I think most people would agree that going out to dance can become a very spiritual thing. Clubs and raves are throwbacks to those tribal times.

How do things work for you in the studio? Do you have production techniques that fair better than others?

I don’t have a set pattern to how I work. Sometimes I create a beat first other times a bass line or melody first. I find that its best for me to work on the song as much as I can in 1 sitting and then save for later. Lately, I’ve been having ideas for things I want to try and then I go into the studio to try and re-create the idea. My production techniques are probably overly complicated for the simple things I try to do….for some reason I enjoy making things harder than they need to be.

Seeing as how this is an anniversary party, is there anything you’re reflecting on about where you’ve come and where you’d like to go?

Considering Ceremony is my first go at an MWG album…I know that I have made a lot of progress in a relative short amount of time. I am happy that the album is out now and that people are finding out about it. Looking forward to touring this summer and letting people see it presented live. I’d love to see everything (live show and music) grow and evolve…I’ve got some ideas floating around.

What is most exciting about making music at this point in your career? There are hardly any boundaries at this point. Is it ever intimidating?

After wrapping up an album I feel like “how the hell did I make that?” That feeling can be slightly intimidating for sure. The most exciting thing about making music right now is the question we should all ask ourselves “Ok where do we go now?”

Groundislava

Given that this is an anniversary show, do you look back on your album and your other releases and see the where you’d like to be taking your music in the coming year?

Yes. I didn’t get to play many shows before I put out Book of Tech and the self titled LP; however, since then I’ve been playing a steady stream of events. It’s been a lot of fun. I want to continue doing this while I work on my next release. I’ve had plenty of time working by myself in my room on music, so it’s great to have a public outlet, and it’s very gratifying to see a positive response in a crowd. I’ve been adding a lot more of my own voice in the newer tracks I’ve been working on, so I’m also pretty excited to see how that will augment my live performance.

What works best for you in the studio? Do you work with rhythm first, or because your tracks are so melody drive, does that take more focus?

I definitely like to start with melody the majority of the time. I’ll sit at my keyboard and just fuck around and slowly work out different melodies… often I’ll just leave the computer recording during the process. This allows me to go back and pinpoint certain elements that I was working with and jump off from there. I end up spending several hours, a lot of the time, just figuring out a really solid melody and structure, without really recording much. I find the rest almost writes itself if the melody is powerful enough. It can really dictate the rest of the song in an intuitive manner. It might just be the nature of my workflow, but this is how I’ve always felt.

groundislava

Do you have any advice for young, up and coming producers like yourself? What has worked more than anything?

I worked with a lot of different style over the course of the past 5 years. It’s easy to get carried away trying to make music that fits into a specific genre. However, it’s also essential to work in different styles to teach yourself the importance of variety and the ability to make dynamic works. I definitely learned a lot in the process of “finding my sound” and figuring out what kinda shit I wanted to make. In the end, I feel like the music I make is based mostly upon the stuff I would try to make back when I was like 15 or 16, and a lot less upon the tracks I’ve made in the last few years that very deliberately fall into one category or genre. In other words I use the skills and techniques from my sort of “trial and error” process that I’ve undergone, but my creative basis lies in the uninformed creative brain of my 15 year-old self. I feel like this really shows in my newest music (not released yet J ), particularly if you know me personally.

It’s great to feel like you are directly channeling what you want to hear into your music… when your music is literally everything you want to hear in a song. I guess that’s my advice. Don’t be afraid to work in different styles and try to make music in line with relevant genres; however, at the end of the day, try to put all the effort back into making what you want to hear on the most primal level.

It seems that you have created a great community of producers who give you feedback on your work. How essential is it to have a label and crew who you know will support whatever it is that your doing?

It’s great to have a network of close homies when making music. You always have people invite to play with you, and often they’ll invite you to play with them. It’s great to have context to your work and personality, and having a crew or label can definitely help provide that. Feedback is essential, especially when you’re first starting out. There’s a lot of bad shit that comes with making music digitally that you don’t necessarily hear when you’re starting out. This is definitely a benefit of working with a crew. I dig that both WEDIDIT and FoF represent a number of styles… each of the members really does their own things, and rarely do our ideas overlap. It would be shitty if we were just doing several iterations of the same musical concept.

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  • Groundislava Video Interview @ Friends of Friends Anniversary | Dubspot Blog
  • 6/16/2011

[...] process, and even hints at some forthcoming material. To hear more from Patterson, check out the in-depth interview we did with him and the rest of the FoF crew back in [...]