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[Interview] FEMMEHOUSE DJ LP Giobbi On Empowering Women Through Production, Going 'Tits First' Into Her Career

Los Angeles FEMMEHOUSE producer and DJ LP Giobbi (born Leah Chisholm) is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to her trajectory into present day and without a doubt Some Kind of Awesome. Raised by a couple of Deadheads in New York, she started playing piano when she was in 2nd grade and experimented playing in bands as she grew up. "I was always the music kid. I played in the bands," LP explains, "I was that person." When it came time for college, her supportive parents encouraged her to pursue her passions, and she found herself taking all music classes at UC Berkeley in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with a degree in jazz piano and, drawing inspiration from her upbringing, sought out a job at Another Planet Entertainment, home of Outside Lands Festival, Treasure Island Music Festival, and more. After reading the biography of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham, who worked with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Rolling Stones, she decided to write a letter to president Gregg Perloff, who had worked directly under Graham for many years.

"I wrote a letter as to why they should hire me and I literally walked down to their office, found their address, rang the buzzer and asked for Gregg Perloff," she recounted. "They assumed because I had so much ignorant confidence that I did have a meeting with him and they let me in." As luck would have it, Perloff actually stepped out of his office around the same time that the APE staff were trying to assess what the then-nineteen year old's intentions were. "I think at that moment they were like, 'There's a stalker in the office'", she said, "but I walked over to him and I said, 'You know, you would really benefit by hiring me and here's a letter as to why'." Completely blown away by her go-getter attitude, Perloff read her letter while she stood in of him and then hired her on the spot.

This is one of the many stories that LP would share with me during our conversation the evening before her set at Brooklyn nightclub Output, alongside Animal Talk labelmates Crush Club and label founders better known as electro pop sensations Sofi Tukker. While her attitude towards life is often more of a "Tits First" policy, leaping into everything assuming that a safety net will appear, it took a while for her to be honest with herself about wanting to pursue music full-time.. "After a lot of soul searching and conversations with the best pals, I learned it was actually fear of not being able to make it as a musician [that] was putting me on the industry side of things," she explained.

By chance, she was approached to be part of an all-female electronic project, LEX (later known as LJ Laboratory), despite not knowing the first thing about making electronic music. "I did not even know what a synthesizer was or how to turn it on," she admitted. In true Tits First fashion, she would spend the next three years familiarizing herself with DAW systems, ProTools, Abelton, and sound design, which helped bring her to her present-day production prowess.

During that time a friend invited her out to catch house legend Tornado Wallace. Entirely unaware of the inner workings of electronic music, the experience blew her away almost instantaneously. She recounted, "I was like, 'Is there a piano up there? Where's all the music coming from? Like how is there one guy playing all this music?'" For the reminder of the set her friend would proceed to break down everything that Wallace was accomplishing on his own on stage, going so far as to pounding on her shoulder during the 2/4 time signatures.

Beyond being impressed by Tornado Wallace's technical ability, LP was wholly captivated by the sophisticated yet simple nature of house music. "What was so interesting about it was that I had spent the last 4 years in college intellectualizing music," she recalled. "When I was at this club listening to this music it was all about the body. It was like meditative almost. It was the first time in a long time that I had a connection with music on a non-intellectual level."

After that encounter she knew that was the kind of music experience that she wanted to curate for her listeners. She explained, "I wanted to understand it. I wanted to know how to make people tick with it. That's what I wanted to be a part of."

LP admits that her "inner music major" can get in the way as she works on new music: she occasionally struggles with over-intellectualizing. "[In college] it was like 'Let me show off and show you how much I can say really quickly'" she said. After graduating college, however, she was challenged by some sage advice from a songwriting partner. "The very first thing she did," she recalls, "was rip up all my music and said, 'I don't wanna hear how many things you can say, I wanna know WHAT you're saying.'

It's something she still battles with in present day. She detailed,

"The note that I get back from Tucker [Halpern (Sofi Tukker)] every time I send him a track that I think is ready to be released, is 'DO LESS'. 'Take things out'. 'Say more by saying less'. My motto in life is 'More is more' so that's been really challenging for me, *laughs* but ultimately it has benefited [me], I think, for like focusing in on what I'm trying to say. It's been a really good challenge for me."

When she's able to achieve the perfect balance of doing less and saying more, the result has been nothing short of deeply impactful. An easy example of this is her debut single, "Amber Rose", which features Hermixalot reciting lines from a poem she wrote 10 years ago about then-girlfriend of rapper Kanye West and present day feminist icon, Amber Rose. When she's not making songs about women reclaiming their agency you can find her making more clever club-filling music. In "These Are Your Children" she pays homage to the history of New York City nightlife by sampling former club kid king Michael Alig’s 1990 interview from the Geraldo Rivera show. Her latest single, "Kupsa Kupsa" features a collaboration with French rapper H3RY LÜCK and is a playful song entirely in French about how making music is akin to cooking and is simply a blend of all the best ingredients.

One of the most admirable things about LP is that despite being involved in the electronic music scene for a somewhat short amount of time that she's already making a point to pour her heart into the community that helped her connect to music on an emotional level. She specifically makes it a point to leverage her white privilege and opportunities to provide a platform for other women, specifically women of color, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community.

Earlier this month, she partnered with Live Nation and launched the first of a series of events in San Francisco at their new August Hall venue under the name FEMMEHOUSE. The events give women the opportunities to take DJing and sound design classes prior to a series of performances of which there will be a few spots kept open for the women to practice the skills they've learned. "I think our whole goal in all of this is to be gatekeepers where, you know, the gatekeepers have normally been white men, she explained, "We wanna give them a stage and we wanna give them a voice and we wanna give them tools to use those things."

For LP, teaching women music production is a way to empower women in music, specifically vocalists, who are often at the mercy of their male producers."I feel very passionately about having women control that narrative and having them control their own voices," she says, "Or at least be able to speak the language when they do get into the room with a producer. That to me is what FEMMEHOUSE is all about."

LP Giobbi at the inaugural FEMMEHOUSE event on November 1st at August Hall in San Francisco, CA. photo credit:  FEMMEHOUSE instagram

LP Giobbi at the inaugural FEMMEHOUSE event on November 1st at August Hall in San Francisco, CA. photo credit: FEMMEHOUSE instagram

I feel very passionately about having women control that narrative and having them control their own voices, or at least be able to speak the language when they do get into the room with a producer. That to me is what FEMMEHOUSE is all about.
— LP Giobbi

In addition to FEMMEHOUSE, LP is also responsible for being the driving force behind the Santa Barbara Girls Rock camp being able to expand their course offerings to also have a music production class. Upon leveraging a recently made relationship with Native Instruments, she pressed the company to donate the necessary gear, and then even taught at the inaugural music production camp. "We taught [10 year old girls] how to make a song in Abelton," she gushed, "They used a bunch of like the Native Instruments keyboards and DJ controllers and it was SO FUN." The experience actually ended up inspiring to flesh out her then-initial stage idea for FEMMEHOUSE.

It is no surprise given how excited she was while we talked about her experience at the Santa Barbara Girls Rock camp that she has found a happy home within the artist collective Animal Talk, born from Sofi Tukker members Sofi Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. According to LP, "Animal Talk is more than a language *laughs* Animal Talk is the best place on earth in my humble opinion."

Born around the idea of tapping into your child or animal, she explained the importance of being a member of the collective,

"Sofi [Hawley-Weld] always talks about how as an adult you go and meet with one of your friends, you sit down and have a beer, and you're like, 'This is what I'm doing with my life', you catch up, and that's it. But as children, we would play. We would build sandcastles. We would play dress up. We would play make believe. We would create things together. That was such a natural state of being and in adulthood that gets killed, so we wanted to make Animal Talk a place, like a physical/spiritual place. Physical in the parties and spiritual, you know, offline. In that reminding people that we can still play, we can still create, we can still be children. A place where they can free themselves and where they can tap into their inner child or inner animal and, you know, remember what it's like to play and to create. I think that that is the key to joy in life."

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarify.

[SONG OF THE DAY] + [INTERVIEW] Too Many T's - "Patterns"
photo credit: Phoebe Montague

photo credit: Phoebe Montague

The loveliest London lads known as Too Many T’s are some of the most creative people I’ve had the pleasure of coming in contact with. When they’re not releasing cheeky videos rapping about bees to the tune of Destiny’s Child’s “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” or enlisting Alexa (yes THAT Alexa) to rap with them, the duo have been working tirelessly on visuals to accompany their debut full-length, South City, which was released last year. I delightedly tuned in for the debut of “Hang Tight”, the first ever one-take video shot on Facebook live and have been consistently inspired by their persistence in taking their innovation to new heights with the release of every video.

Their creation to accompany “Patterns” is their latest tour de force, which will be premiering live on YouTube Premier, a feature that allows the creator set its upload like a premiere and watch together with their viewers when the video goes live, and like a live stream on YouTube, both the creator and viewers will be able to engage in a discussion at the comments section. 

Yours truly got a sneak peek of the stunning video, which is the first time that gaming hardware has been used to both capture and render a music video. Get this, y’all: it was painstakingly put together over the course of over 600 hours of production and rendering with the help of triff (born Stuart Trevor), a video game artist who had been exploring motion capture using an Xbox Kinect camera, more conventionally seen attached to a games console. His work repurposes the camera to capture both movement and depth, which he then places within CGI environments created using visual effects software such as 3ds Max, Redshift and After Effects – which is then output through two powerful gaming-orientated graphics cards.

The final result is nothing short of insanely impressive. “Patterns” is a song about overcoming mental health issues and the struggle to escape patterns of bad habits which the band fell into on tour. The scenes throughout the video are meant to showcase how dark and isolating this uphill battle can be. I’d say they absolutely nailed that aesthetic. As if this wasn’t already mind blowing enough, the jaw dropper of a video is set premiere at the prestigious BBC Amplify event at The Rattle in Tobacco Dock with three daily screenings on November 8th - 10th. The screening will include a presentation by the duo on how new artists should innovate and collaborate with emerging technology, and will also include a demonstration by Play On Player - a new interactive app allowing users to immerse themselves within the song by experimenting with the stems of the track, creating their own fan versions. 

As can be expected I had too many Qs for Too Many Ts about all of this but managed to contain myself enough to only shoot over a few to these dope ass dudes. Peep our convo below!

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

How did you manage to link up with triff?

Standaloft: On the information highway.

Leon Rhymes: We knew we wanted to create something special for the “Patterns” video - something we’d not seen before. So from the start we knew we needed more brains than just our own.

Standaloft: We began by reaching out to our extended community to see what and who people knew. One of those people was the legend that is Stuart Trevor or as we like to call him, Triff.

In the past you guys have rapped with Alexa, now with Triff's help you've essentially hacked a Kinect to shoot mo-cap for "Patterns", what inspires you to tinker with new technologies in unconventional ways? 

S: Creativity and limitations. 

LR: And the desire to explore opportunity. 

S: We always want to create something that we’re proud of musically and visually and by incorporating new technologies it forces us to think outside of convention.

LR: Couple this with financial limitations of an unsigned band and you get to a special place of creative innovation. 

We always want to create something that we’re proud of musically and visually and by incorporating new technologies it forces us to think outside of convention.
— Standaloft, Too Many T's

How does video extend the narrative of your music? 

S: With the rise of affordable professional camera equipment the accompanying music video to the track has become almost expected.

LR: And the a visual is such a powerful tool - just take a walk down the street or a train across town to see the amount of adverts everywhere. Not only is the visual expected we’re also fighting against more visuals than ever to stand out. 

S: So it’s important to do try and make something different or something only you can do. 

LR: I think the idea of a story is important - it’s why stories are still read and will survive all digital technology. So if you can create a storyline to run alongside the song I think that’s really strong. 

S: That’s something we did with the music video for “Panther”. 

LR: For “Patterns” the video enhances the mood and feeling within the song. For “Panther” it was more of a simultaneous (and different) storyline running alongside the track. 

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

still from “Patterns” video courtesy of Too Many T’s

What's the symbolism behind the different scenes depicted in "Patterns"? 

LR: This was very much led by Triff. We’d always seen the song as a whole but he broke the track up into  6 scenes + an epic intro. 

S: What this did though was treat all the scenes and characters in isolation which really works in the world of the song and that feeling of being alone with no one to turn to but your demons. 

LR: It enhances the overall feeling throughout the song.

How do you manage life on tour so you don't fall into the same patterns that inspired the song?  

LR: Honestly!? Not gonna lie, it’s difficult - can resist anything but temptation! 

S: Late nights can help you lose the days and we’ve had to be professional when on tour this year. We’ve grown up (slightly) and learnt to know our limits. 

LR: You need to make mistakes sometime to learn about yourself. 

What's next for you guys? 

LR: We’re certainly not stopping here and really excited about the next 12 months!

S: We’ve had a really successful year in France so we’re working on a French connection project with our label Banzai Lab and all the artist we’ve met out there - stay tuned for that cos its gonna be sick! We’ve recently started writing some new tunes for the second album as well. Watch out 2019, you’re getting had!

LR: More immediately we’re going on tour in Australia and South East Asia for three months January to March with gigs in Melbourne, Sydney, Bangkok, Chang Mai, Hanoi, Phnom Pehn, Tokyo and more TBC.

UPDATE: “Patterns” premiered LIVE today (11/6) on YouTube at 7:30PM GMT (2:30PM EST). Check out the video below!

[Interview] Goo Goo Dolls Bassist Robby Takac: "Life's Good In The Bubble, Man"
Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

After speaking with Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac the Friday before their show at Beacon Theater as part of their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl Tour, I can confirm that he is indeed Some Kind of Awesome. The music community, not just Goo Goo Dolls, are truly beyond blessed to have someone so passionate about music the way that he is. In addition to his rhythmic duties in a band whose career spans across more than three decades, he's also been running the music non-profit Music Is Art and the boutique record label Good Charamel Records for over 15 years in addition to owning the recording studio GCR Audio in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. "You know, owning a recording studio is very akin to owning a boat," Takac jokes over the phone last Friday, "You do it because you enjoy it. It's not necessarily a cash cow, that's for sure."

Some people would find keeping themselves so busy to be exhausting, especially given the extensive amount of touring that Goo Goo Dolls do (including the tour they’re currently on), but it actually has the opposite sort of effect on Takac. "All these things, Music Is Art included," he explains, "helps to exercise parts of my brain, my emotions, my creativity, that probably might have driven me crazy to not be able to exercise." 

He went on to detail the beginnings of the Goo Goo Dolls from a business standpoint, " We did everything, you know, Johnny [Rzeznik] and I did 30 years ago. Everything. We had this hilarious briefcase that we used to carry around with us like all our papers, and it was pretty much our whole world was in that briefcase." As the band became more popular obviously the briefcase became an inefficient form of handling the band's business."Little by little we let started letting go of parts," he recounted, "It took many many years, but since then we found people who did it better (...) and all these people took a little piece of what we did in the beginning and started doing a much better job of it, but that didn't mean that those things weren't still inside me, you know, clamoring to be exercised, and so I think that that's why I still keep up with all of this stuff. Because it allows me to be better at being in the Goo Goo Dolls if that makes sense at all."

Of his three side passions, Music Is Art is by far his biggest focus outside of the Goo Goo Dolls. The most admirable part about his approach to the non-profit is his acknowledgement for the need for art/music comes from personal experience. As he shared:

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

To be clear, Music Is Art does incredible things for the music community. In addition to its yearly cornerstone event, the Music Is Art festival, which boasted 20 stages this year, they also organize a variety of battles of the bands both in corporate and public settings. Most importantly, they've been doing instrument drives and to date have donated a half of a million dollars worth of both new and refurbished instruments to schools and communities in the Maryvale School District in Buffalo, New York. While the organization never has an issue with finding volunteers from both musicians and the general public, even with it's rockstar affiliation they share the same struggles that arts-centered not for profits have when it comes to funding. "The hard part is actually keeping it going, you know," he admitted, "and all the realities that you have to face when you go to a lawyer or an accountant. As the festival grows bigger it becomes more and more of a responsibility."

It's not often that I get to speak with someone who has been in the business of music for as long as Takac has, so obviously the conversation drifted to technology. Like any music lover who was  actively collecting music pre-iPod, living in this new era of streaming services is the biggest change in music that has him buzzing with excitement. "(...)Coming from a guy who collected records when I was younger like that is MIND BLOWING man.(...)If you and I are talking about something I could play it for you right now just on my phone. That is MIND BLOWING. Seriously." 

He also had nice things to say about our friend The Algorithm™. He even shared that Discover Weekly had gotten him into The Heavy and Beach Slang recently. He raved, "(...) The ability for Spotify to build algorithms and like expose you to things that it's discovering that you might like, I think that's unbelievable." A kindred spirit, he too has mixed feelings about how algorithms like Discover Weekly are lessening the emotional connection that is made between people when they share music with each other. "(...)It's a little bit sad because I used to have those same experiences but I would have it with my friend Gary Sperrazza down at Apollo Records in Buffalo, or I would have it down at The Record Mine with my friend Dave, you know? It's sad that human interaction is taken from it, but I think the resources that are at hand with music is just unbelievable." 

Another big difference is obviously the way social media has shaken up the music landscape. To an extent Goo Goo Dolls were pioneers in the early age of fan interaction, dating back to the early America OnLine days. Now the band has amassed a massive online fan base, with over 3 million fans on Facebook at the time of print. When they started, fan engagement was primarily about promoting a single, album, or tour. These days Takac observed that having a digital presence has a different impact on musicians, specifically when it comes to access. "You know, we always laugh about guys like Jimmy Page, like you've got this image of Jimmy Page living in his castle somewhere, you know, like whatever," he observed, "Or this weird image of what Led Zepplin was like or all of these bands cause there was a mystique to them, but this current social atmosphere of immediacy, you can't really be that way anymore." He's also a realist when it comes to fans having their smartphones at concerts, as he noted, "It's all out there and it's all out there in unprofessional, unairbrushed, you know, like 'here's our pimples' kinda world. It's changed."

In Takac's mind the archetype for the modern day musician on social media is Kanye West. He further clarified: 

"Kanye makes some cool music but like it's not so much about that with him, you know? A little bit of it is, but it's more about everything else, you know it's about his social media. It's about his wife. It's about his wife's family. It's about their TV show. It's about his sneakers. It's about like all these things that the music is sort of in the background as something that he sort of does, you know? It's why he's such a big star, 'cause I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore... It's all this stuff, you know, that figures in now that, you know, didn't figure in when I was thinking about Jimmy Page in his castle. I never thought about any of that stuff with him. He was just that dude in Zepplin. That's what he did, you know? It's way more than that now."

I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore...

Things that are also very different than when Robby and Johnny started Goo Goo Dolls over thirty years ago: the two are both sober, with Robby over ten years sober and Johnny around four years sober. It's easy to assume that backstage while on tour is packed with opportunities to slip back into substance abuse, but Takac was quick to shut that fallacy down:

"It is what you make it," he said, "It's your bubble man. You're in a bubble when you're out here [on tour] but it's your bubble. Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'. You know, for a lot you get to choose what's there and what's not, you know? So we just kind of keep it sane back there, and there's not a lot of parties and that kind of stuff. Not that there's not but there's not a lot."

Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'.

While they've admittedly had a few decades to get heavy partying out of their system, it was refreshing to hear that there are legacy musicians that acknowledge their ability to be personally responsible for the toxicity level of their touring environment. These days Takac's number one tour essential is his teapot, which is his way to bring a piece of home with him while he's out on the extensive touring schedules with Goo Goo Dolls. "It's just you need those kinds of things to keep you warm, you know, keep you happy," he offered, "It's tough but you try to get a little bit out here." 

Make sure you catch Robby Takac with Goo Goo Dolls while they're still out on their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl tour. I can attest that it is an energy packed night that you won't want to miss even if you're a casual fan. 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

[Interview] Yuksek Just Wants To Make You Groove

The day that Yuksek's debut album, Away From The Sea, graced my ears back in April of 2009 was the day my standards for what an electronic album should sound like were raised to such an insanely high level that only a handful of artists/records have managed to meet since. 8 years, 12 EPs, 3 LPs, and a plethora of remixes and various other projects later, the French producer and DJ has firmly cemented himself as a staple in the dance scene by meticulously making music that will have you dancing until daylight. Literally. I was literally out until 3am last month at his DJ set at Le Bain a few hours after he graciously chatted with me at his listening party in SoHo for his latest album, Nous Horizon, which was released in February. 

"It's more the music drives me than me who drives the music,"

He explained that his approach for making albums is less intentional and more of the byproduct of constantly creating. "I'm not thinking, 'I'm gonna do this kind of record,'" he said, "I just sit in the studio every day. Sometimes doing production for others. I [also] started to make movie scores and stuff. In between I do some stuff for me, just like tripping on a synthesizer or playing bass or something." He went on to detail how this sort of creative process turns into an album, "I record and record and record a lot of stuff and then something comes together like a puzzle in a way." This may sound daunting for some artists, but for him it's an integral part of the process. "It's more the music drives me than me who drives the music," he said. 

While Away From The Sea and Living On The Edge Of Time were both more on the indie/pop spectrum of dance records, his latest endeavor, Nous Horizon, is definitely more disco-esque than anything he's released to date. Even so, there is one core element to all things Yuksek related: groove. "I'm good for that: making people groove," he noted. As he put it, at the end of the day his music is all about, "feeling good, enjoying yourself, and having a good time." 

Unlike his previous albums, you'll notice that this time around that some quality artists appear alongside Yuksek on Nous Horizon: HER, Monika, Juveniles, KIM, and Roman Rappak, vocalist of SKOA favorite Breton. These were more than just your standard features on dance tracks, mind you. "It's called featuring [on the track listing] but I think the word is not exactly accurate," he said, "[...] featuring is sometimes you make an instrumental, you send it to someone, and then like [they] do your shit. On this we did it really old fashioned. They came to the studio. We worked together on the songs as well."

The only criteria for working with Yuksek in any capacity is fairly straightforward: he has to like the artist both personally and professionally. It's something I've continued to admire about him. It's amazing that for such sophisticated music there's zero pretense to how he operates. This is especially the case for both his album and his label, Partyfine, which he started in 2013 as a way to elevate talent that oftentimes might slip between the cracks otherwise. "I thought about [starting the label] for quite some time. I like to produce music for other people and to make records," he explained, "Sometimes it's a bit frustrating to do it and then the project disappears after I finish mixing it or producing it. [With Partyfine] it's more having relationships with artists and to help them to reach the goal they have with their music."

Considering he's both an artist and a label owner, of course I had to pick his brain about streaming. While most people assume that a record will either be a hit or a dud immediately, he sees releases now from a different perspective, "[...] what you release now, I don't know about in 50 years, but in 3 years people can hear it still and you get money from that. Even if it's a small amount of money but it's here." Moreover, he thinks that streaming gives albums a longer shelf life than what existed prior to streaming. "In the past, when you just released an album on vinyl or CD in a shop, when it's not in the shop anymore it's finished. No one can buy it and so it's long term. That's what's interesting with streaming," he noted, "You create a catalog like you do with a publishing company. You know that [like a publishing deal that streaming is] long term because you [have] tracks that are maybe going to be in a movie or in something in 5 years. Streaming has to be seen in that way I think." 

Funnily enough, as I was writing up this interview I decided to refresh my memory of his earlier EPs, which resulted in me wandering to eBay to pick them up on vinyl. Thinking he might be on to something there.

As you can see, Yuksek is some kind of awesome. Be sure to pick up his latest album, Nous Horizon and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud. Oh! And check out his label Partyfine, which is currently prepping some upcoming releases as we speak! 

[Night Out + Interview] Austere Magazine Issue #17 Launch Party featuring Sam Lao @ Roll Gate Studio (04/09/2016)

Remember that "not #squad but gang" I rolled with to Humans? The majority of those crazy kids were all Texans who are part of a really beautiful magazine called Austere. They trekked out to Bushwick all the way from Dallas to throw a party for the 17th issue called URL/IRL, which HELLO is kind a little too fitting for yours truly to attend. In addition to various pieces curated together by Baby Art Gallery, one of my (now) new favorite experimental hip-hop artist, Sam Lao, also from Dallas, performed that evening. 

Do you know Sam Lao? You should know Sam Lao. Especially if you're the type at person that feels you should never take shit from anyone who tries to discriminate against you for your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and that we all should be treated equally as humans. 

I'd say she champions for equality, but really she's a feminist warrior. I was made known of this within the first 2 minutes of her set when she opened with the first track off her latest album, SPCTRM, "Reminder (Bitch I'm Me)", when she shouted the chorus, "Bitch I'm me! Bitch I'm me! Fuck what you want me to be!"


In addition to being a singer/rapper, Lao touts herself as an alchemist, artist, and an outlier. She started out doing slam poetry in high school, which soon ended after she started college for her BFA in Visual Communications. Unfortunately, during her last semester in college she was forced to drop out because she couldn't afford tuition. "I was a month into the semester," she recounted, "I had already done the first project and I was getting ready [to graduate] and they were like, 'Nope you gotta get out. You haven't paid for it.'" Frustrated by her financial situation, this setback would leave her depressed to the point that she removed herself from all of her creative outlets. "I was doing nothing creatively and it was just like soul wrenching and terrible".

It was through the help of her friends in the music community that Lao was able to pull herself out of her depression by turning to music.  "I always had a love for music but I never felt like I was good enough to pursue it," she explained, "It was just one of those like, 'Oh I'll just keep this little hobby here for myself and it makes me happy." Through some persuasion, she agreed to start writing in the studio with her friends. "[My music] just sort of blossomed from there." she said. In 2013, she released her first EP, West Pantego, to further pull herself out of depression. 

According to Lao, the city of Dallas really took to the EP. "Suddenly I was performing all the time, I had all these shows and people were stopping me at random places [while I was out] to tell me how much they loved my music," she recounted, "So when it was time to make [SPCTRM] there was suddenly pressure there that wasn't in the beginning. That was a process to overcome. There was a lot of perceived outside pressure."

Just as she was wrapping up SPCTRM last fall, an unfortunate event that happens all too often to musicians happened to her: she lost her entire album due to a hard drive crash. "We were in the final mixing and mastering stages when I lost all the tracks," she explained, "Everything was gone. All I had was my lyrics." Over the course of the next 4 months Lao would remake her album from the ground up, complete with new beats and new music. 

While her music is deeply rooted in hip-hop, Lao experiments mixing in various genres of her choosing. She's sampled Carlos Santa, Coldplay, and other artists in her music. "I like to listen to all different genres of music, so experimental hip-hop is a good sphere/little bubble there [to create in]," she said. Lyrically, she writes mostly about the experiences of women and the situations that the majority of women frequently endure. Songs like, "Pineapple"  defiantly remind men that women aren't entitled to womens' bodies with lyrics like, "Don't police my areolas!", while a track like "Gold Link" calls out the absurdity of how taboo it still is for a woman to hit on a man while out at a club. While the subject matter may be forcefully feminist, according to Lao, she typically receives an equal amount of praise from both men and women after her performances. 

I'm not sure when Sam Lao will be back in New York City but you can be assured that when she's back that you will be the first to hear about it. 

Have a listen to her latest album, SPCTRM, below. 

You can have a look at the photos from my night out with the latest addition to the #SKOAfam, Sam Lao, below. 

#skoaradio 10/24/2015 liner notes
artist rendition of my convo with Alex from Kingswood after I shut the mic off

artist rendition of my convo with Alex from Kingswood after I shut the mic off

Hey fam!

Things refuse to slow down in SKOA HQ, but I'm not complaining! I wrapped up CMJ with a day in Aussie Heaven where we interviewed KINGSWOOD prior to watching them totally kill it. I can't believe how much fun I had. Kinda wish it had never ended tbh. Oh well. Time to prep for Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival, which is coming up super fast. I've got a couple of new tracks on this week's show. As always would love to hear your thoughts so @ me bb if you liked what you heard!

See you next week!




[Interview] Don Diablo Talks Anarchy, Family, The First Song He Ever Made
Don Diablo @ Pier of Fear 11/1/2014. Image credit: Sprout Dr

Don Diablo @ Pier of Fear 11/1/2014. Image credit: Sprout Dr

At the end of the day the annual DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list is just that: a list. Granted, it's a fairly good indication of the DJs and producers that are probably worthy of your eardrums as well as your dollars, but like every facet of the music business, lists like this also get muddied up with the DJs du jour that vanish from the scene maybe a year after the list is published. We’re currently in a bit of a crisis in music where the overall sentiment is that we aren’t going to have any “career musicians” to replace the ones who we will eventually lose. Who will be our next Radiohead, Beck, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bjork, Led Zepplin, etc.? At the current rate that we’re going, it feels like we’re all going to have to accept that these flavors of the week who are fighting for their 15 minutes are as much a standard part of the new music business model as our fairly newly crowned singles dominated sales model, or the reluctant acceptance of streaming for that matter.

When it comes to Dutch producer/DJ Don Diablo, this is not the case. He’s nothing remotely close to a fad. He is an artist that has put in the time to hone his craft, extend his family to include his ever growing fanbase, and gain the respect of the music community breaking all the rules every step of the way. Amidst the never ending swarm of momentary musicians that will come and go, we’ll at the very least have one powerhouse of a DJ that we will all happily grow old with.

Don Diablo and Steve Aoki in his "Back To Life" music video. 

Of course when he’s at the age (which is 90, for you kids at home) that he portrays in his music video for, “Back To Life”, who knows what Diablo will be doing? As we chatted backstage early November at Pier of Fear in New York City moments before his set, he confessed that music wasn’t his first love, but that filmmaking was. “[It’s] weird, right?” he chuckled, “We’re here at a huge rave tonight and this wasn’t even my dream!” His musical beginnings stemmed from the need to find the perfect song for a film that he had been working on with his friends. Since his search left him empty handed, instead of settling for second best, he took matters into his own hands and made music of his own. Although the song would eventually be what got him signed and releasing records at the ripe age of 14, he'll be the first to admit that the song was far from a masterpiece. “It was horrible!” he noted, “It sounded really bad. The production was horrible. I guess there were some ideas in there. A lot of it was based on samples.”

Now at age 34, Diablo has been creating music for 20 years. Things have certainly changed in the way music, especially electronic music, was made since then. “[Back then] it was a time where you really had to invest in making music,” he noted, “You had to buy equipment, learn how to work the machines. It’s different than nowadays.” Despite overcoming the technological hurdles, being a seasoned electronic music veteran who’s not exactly an old timer can have its disadvantages. “Some people think I’m really old.” he chuckled, “They think I’m an old fat German guy because they know records from me from like 15 years ago.”

Having a professional career that began in his early teenage years has made what he considers to be the status quo is pretty mind blowing. “My reality is pretty distorted.” he explained, “I have a pretty weird life in that sense. […] I just grew up living in hotels and planes and doing whatever the hell I want. Sleeping in. Not sleeping. I don’t have a weekend. I don’t have a week. I just do what I feel and I have no boss to account to.”

They think I’m an old fat German guy because they know records from me from like 15 years ago.
— Don Diablo

This unruly upbringing would have a profound impact on his approach to his creative process, which he is constantly hinting at very subtly by utilizing the anarchy symbol in his logo. This intentional little detail is his statement to both his fans and musical colleagues alike. “Anarchy means no rules so you don’t have to obey existing expectations or rules,” he explained, “For me, it means that you don’t have to make music in one genre. You don’t just have to be a DJ. [...] I try to break free of the rules and just come up with a different idea and in that sense to me it’s like anarchy.”

This credo of his is seen throughout his work everywhere you look. Most DJs aren't known for directing their own music videos, contributing lyrics or vocals for their songs, genre hopping, or designing their own clothes in addition to a handful of other things. They also most likely wouldn't choose to enlist their mother and grandmother for a photoshoot to encourage fans to vote for them in the Top 100 DJs list over hiring a publicist for a huge press blitz, but again, Diablo dances to the beat of his own machinedrum and no one elses. “I’ve literally been trying to destroy my musical career for years,” he said, “But every time I get more inspired and I get more ideas.” He never allows himself to get burnt out on making music or any of his other disciplines. “[...]When I’m not inspired with making music I get into other stuff,” he elaborated, “I start editing a video or coming up with concepts with videos. [...] You can do other things that are still creative and a part of you being an artist. So that’s how I found a nice little balance for myself so I can be creative 100% of the time.”

Since he’s always working on something, when the time comes for a song to come together, it can happen faster than you'd imagine. “I think the best songs I’ve done, I’ve done in one day,” he divulged, “Like let’s say, 'Anytime'. I finished it in 3 hours. It’s just boom boom boom. Obviously I already had the idea there for a long time. I created all the separate elements and had them in a folder. [...] The actual production only took a few hours.”

I’ve literally been trying to destroy my musical career for years, but every time I get more inspired and I get more ideas.
— Don Diablo

However unconventional his methods seem to be, they’re most definitely working in his favor. This past October for the first time ever he made his debut entry on the Top 100 DJs list at number 82. While it comes as no surprise to longtime fans like myself, as usual artists are their biggest critics, "I’ll be very honest," he confessed, "Most of my life I’ve been feeling pretty disappointed in myself. Like, I’ve never really been proud of anything that I’ve done. I felt like my life was a big failure, you know?" Those of us on the outside looking in can see his gradual climb, but Diablo hadn't noticed until it was blatantly obvious, "Yesterday I played in a club and I played like 90% of my own records and people went APESHIT," he gushed, "They weren’t just singing along to the lyrics of my songs, they were chanting along to the melodies. Like during 'Knight Time' they were like, 'dun dun dun, dun dun dun dunn' but in a choir. It really made me feel like for the first time in the last couple of months that everything is coming together. I’m proud of what I’m achieving now."

Every artist has a tipping point in their career. Unfortunately for Diablo, it all started shortly after his father passed away after a battle with cancer 2 years ago. “When my dad passed away I let go of every inch of fear that I had in my body and I also tried not to overthink things." It reinforced his creative process. "I do everything on feeling and out of my heart [now]," he said,  "Sometimes it’s a song that’s very personal, sometimes it’s just a cool tune. I don’t like to linger around too much. I just want to release music.”

Once he freed himself from fear, songs like "Starlight" would find their way out into the world. "Once I had that record," he explained, "I just realized, 'Wow. It’s really connecting with people on a worldwide scale.' Something just snapped in my head and everything I did before in all those years I basically set aside and I started over like I was a new artist." Songs like "Knight Time", "AnyTime", "Back In Time", and "Back To Life" would further propel him forward. As the play counts on Soundcloud and Spotify continue to soar and the dance floor becomes more tightly packed, his inspiration proportionately increases as well. "Right now I’m just insanely inspired," he gushed, "It goes up and down, but for the past 2 years I’ve been on an incredible high. I just had ideas that just go into the studio and music just comes by itself."

Up until recently he was prepping for a proper full length debut, which was tentatively titled, Respect Doesn't Pay The Bills. After an unfortunate series of hard drive failures earlier in the year, however, he took a step back to see what he could learn from the whole experience. "It opened my senses," he explained, "I lost all my music. I lost my whole album. But the album would have kept me on the same path." Throughout the majority of his career, Diablo has been an internet darling of sorts, getting so much love from music blogs that for a few years he was often Hype Machine's Most Blogged Artist, which he obviously is grateful for, but as his scrapped album was appropriately named, respect doesn't pay the bills in this industry. "[...] It’s cool getting good criticism and people on the blogs really loving you," he admitted, "[...] but I wasn’t getting any bookings. I really kind of saw it as a sign." After a month of soul searching he came to the conclusion that he would hold off on a full length for the time being. "I thought, 'Maybe this wasn’t meant to happen. I need to change my direction.' That’s when everything kind of happened for me. I broke through. All the things I’ve always dreamed about have happened straight after that. It really was an eye opener for me."

Instead, he chose to refocus on rebuilding his entire technical system so he could create more easily on the go as well as making the decision to take a singles based approach for the time being.  “I have the songs," he said. "I could release them tomorrow, but my record label and the people I’ve been working with have been saying, ‘Keep building this momentum’[...] I still really have a long way to go." While he estimates that we probably won’t see a proper full length until after summer of 2015, he did jokingly offer to put out one before then, "Maybe I should just start a poll," he chuckled. "[...]I’m gonna go on my Facebook and if I get 10,000 likes from people wanting me to do an album I’ll do an album before the summer of 2015."

That's the nice thing about Diablo, since he's been working on his art for such a long time it's easy for him to adapt to whatever his current situation may be. For example, if his musical career were to end today he thinks he could fairly easily transition back to his first love, filmmaking. “I’ve actually been writing on a couple of scripts," he admitted, "They’re all based around family life." For him, it's important for his art to have an impact on people, whichever discipline it may be. "[...]I’ve always wanted to touch people. Not just in their feet but also in their heart." Just like with his music, he hopes the movies he would make to impact people's lives. "My favorite movies have always been dramas," he noted, "You know, those movies that take you on that emotional journey and really make you walk out of the cinema with that feeling of, 'Wow I need to call my mother or my brother or my friend from back in the day.' It makes you think about life. It’s like art transforming life. It takes you one step further." He went on to detail how his ideal first documentary film would probably be at least partially about his family, who were immigrants from Indonesia. "There’s like a whole dramatic life story with my mother and her brother." he said.

The most important thing is that you leave [behind] a legacy. I always thought that the legacy would be music, but at the end of the day there’s only one thing that’s important and it’s family.
— Don Diablo

Family is something incredibly important to Diablo, moreso than anything else in his life. “The most important thing is that you leave [behind] a legacy. I always thought that the legacy would be music,” he admitted, “but at the end of the day there’s only one thing that’s important and it’s family.” I was heartbroken to hear that just two days prior to our interview that Diablo’s adorable grandmother that helped him campaign for the DJ mag list had passed away. He even admitted to the audience during his set that he almost didn’t perform that night because he was still very shaken from it. As seen in his latest video for “Back To Life”, you can see that mortality of man is something that has been impacting his art for awhile now, “[...] If you look at the time series I did (Anytime, KnightTime, Back In Time) they all kind of revolve around the concept of time,” he explained, ”I’ve lost a lot of people in my life in the last 2 years so it really made me realize like how precious and valuable time is.

For Diablo, his family extends past his bloodline to both his fans and his inner circle of friends. It’s seen in the way he interacts with his fans on social media and how hard he’s working to help his friends make their dreams come true as well. “I’m really working my ass off so hard right now and I’m making a lot of money right now, I’ll be honest,” he confessed, “I’m saving that money because I want to create good things for other people, you know? For my inner circle, so I can do things for them. I can help them achieve their dreams and they don’t have to wait as long as I had.” He revealed exclusively to Some Kind of Awesome that he will be starting his own label, which will be officially launching early next year. “It’s the first step to helping other people achieving their dreams.” he said.

Follow Don Diablo on Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

Make sure you download his latest single, "Generations"...NOW.

Check out the photos below of Don Diablo at Pier of Fear in NYC on 11/1/2014. Click here to view the full gallery in its full glory!

[Interview] Hidden In Plain Sight: (Re)Introducing Kenna

It wasn't until I was preparing for my interview with Kenna that I finally sat down and did the math: I have been a fan of his music for over a decade now. This summer it will be 11 years since the day I first encountered "Freetime", from his 2003 debut, New Sacred Cow. I remember the day well. I was sitting in my parents house watching MTV2 with a notepad on the coffee table. This was my ritual when my friends were out of suggestions for new bands to listen to. Every few months, I would sit for about an hour and take note of any bands that were worth possibly buying CDs for and then go out and buy them, but only after quizzing myself a few days later when I would look back at the notepad and try to remember anything about the artist. "Freetime" easily passed my silly test. Soon after picking up New Sacred Cow, I set myself on a course that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would lead me to writing the words you are reading today. After moving to NYC in 2006, I would spend random lonely Friday evenings on my laptop, checking up on any bands in my 3rd gen iPod that hadn't released new albums in awhile. This is how I ended up on the Kenna message boards, which is where I met Rocko shortly thereafter, and around 3 years later, SKOA was born.

As a fan, it has been borderline infuriating to see such a talented individual as Kenna not get the recognition he deserves. Also during my MTV2 years there was another song that I remember taking note of, "When I Get You Alone" by the artist  eventually to be known as Robin Thicke. Back then, he had long straggly hair and went only by his last name, but he's been at this game just as long as Kenna, if not longer. Although Kenna has gained a lot of recognition in many musical circles, even receiving a Grammy nomination in 2009, it's hard to not go bonkers that both haven't seen the same level of mainstream success to date. Granted, I thank the universe daily that there is nothing comparable to the notorious twerking incident at last years VMAs synonymous to Kenna's reputation. Even still, I don't know how much longer I can handle introducing people to someone who has simply been hidden in plain sight for a decade now. Take for example that video for "Freetime" that I saw long ago. Typically, debut albums mean a lot of exposure for the artist, their faces are supposed to be plastered everywhere humanly possible. In the case of Kenna, the first and only time you see his face in this video is practically at the end of the song.

Fast forward to mid-November 2013, a month before my interview with Kenna, when I see this familiar-looking face while I'm waiting for the L-train.

Imagine my surprise that the man who can't seem to effectively get in front of a large audience to save his life is suddenly staring back at me like this. A month later, I anxiously got on the phone seeking answers. I had to know, how could someone who seemingly didn't want anyone to know who he was all of a sudden have such a dramatic change of heart? Why had he been hiding all of this time? After a nice chuckle at my reference to waiting for the subway with him that day, the artist I thought I had all figured out very calmly explained, "I wasn't hiding as much as I was mitigating. I wasn't keeping myself from everyone as much as I was waiting to be introduced." He noted that I didn't quite understand what he meant at first, but he went on to explain, "If everyone had song that represented them, mine would be 'Where The Streets Have No Name' [by U2], because it has an incredibly long intro. I'm just getting to the first verse of my life." He added, "As many things as I've done in my life, I've been present, I've been aware, I've been available, but I've also been selective. I think it gives me an opportunity when a lot of my peers have really run their course, reached their pinnacles, and have done really well. They now are left really trying to, like, reinvent constantly. I'm able to come with a fresh perspective, make something that I believe is important, and actually present it because of all the music and artists that have come since that have started to, "pave the highway," if you will, for what I'm going to create next."

"If everyone had song that represented them, mine would be 'Where The Streets Have No Name' [by U2], because it has an incredibly long intro. I'm just getting to the first verse of my life."

That's the thing about Kenna that people take for granted. He'd rather patiently wait for people to come around to the music he's been creating for nearly two decades now before he'd consider compromising what he stands for. Even after losing literally every idea or completed song including his Land 2 Air Chronicles EP series slated for release throughout 2012 to a hard drive crash, he took it in stride.

 According to Kenna, “The fact that I was willing to make a shift and be open to the message that the universe was clearly sending my way” actually led me to make better music in the long run”.  He added,

"I also felt like it was also a signal to me that I needed to work harder, that the universe or god wasn't going to let me put out something that wasn't to par and that maybe at that point that I had resigned a little bit. Even as the [releasing the L2AC series based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Self- Reliance"] idea was the reason why I was making this EP series, to bring this dream into a reality, I think I resigned to a little bit to the fact that there might be a chance that I wouldn't reach my destination. When that happened I just kind of decided, 'Even I won't have control over this destiny, there's something greater that me happening here, and there's something more important than me in this process. It's all the things I've been doing, whether it be philanthropic, clean water, technology, and music. All the areas that I work in, they all are comprised of so many individuals and so many powerful beings that allow me to be great at what I do. I think in that moment I had to realize that I can't do this alone, that I can't climb this mountain by myself again, and that I have to really pull together my allies. That's when, 'Nothing Is Greater Or Less Than Us,' really started to take hold in my world. I just kind of wanted to reiterate that in my actual life as an example."

I had assumed that he re-recorded the songs that he already had planned to release, but in addition to the previously mentioned hard drive crash, he writes his music asymmetrically. As he put it,

"Sometimes I'll be writing a song purely from a melody standpoint and not have any instrumentation and I'll have to build around it. Where I'm not as familiar with is how the organization of how the music was to that melody and then I have to re-devise it because it's not actually complete, like programmed in any way. That's what makes my music so special. It really is one of a kind and it's not something that you can really replicate without having the actual files and so that was the most difficult [about the hard drive crashing]…Those [old/unfinished] songs were great but I had to put away some of those ideas because I didn't remember them, you know?"

Since Kenna was presented with a clean slate for the EP series, he took the opportunity to amplify some of the components of his music. One of the key elements that he decided he wanted to change was his voice. "My voice coach became a critical and pivotal person in my life because I decided then to work really heavily on my voice and build my voice and make it so it was a lot stronger than it was on the first two records."  He admitted to having a "weak" voice. "When I say weak, I don't mean that I can't sing," he said, "I'm just not like Jennifer Hudson, you know what I mean? I don't have a natural voice that just comes to you." He recounted how in his youth that he was practically tone deaf. "I had to work to have a [good singing] voice…" he explained, "I almost couldn't hear things. I just forced it. I just taught myself how to hear keys and notes and I spent a lot of time training my voice." The incident with the hard drives shifted a lot of the way he approached things. "I thought, 'There's no reason why I can't have an epic voice," he said, "there's no reason why I can't have an epic album. There's no reason why I can't have an epic moment. There's no reason why I can't do it for something greater than myself."

This mindset would converge into what we now know as the first two volumes of the Land 2 Air Chronicle series. In their pre-hard drive failure inception, the series was broken into 3 “Volumes”/EPs based on Ralph Waldo Emerson's, "Self-Reliance" essay. Now in their new form, he’s taking advantage of the clean slate in order to more effectively introduce himself to newcomers as he preps for what is sure to be a big year for Kenna.

His latest in the L2AC series, Volume 2: Imitation is Suicide spans 3 Chapters in the form of EPS, which showcase his refined voice and his longstanding ability to write songs about, as he put it,  

“us…. journeys, the human condition, love, confusion, the search for self, [and] social conditions. I write songs about ‘us’ and how we are in all of those situations and how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive others, how perceive family, and whether or not it really is the journey vs. the destination. Sometimes for me it’s the destination and I forget the journey. Sometimes it’s all the journey and I could care less where I’m going. I write songs hoping that it represents, and this sounds really grandiose, the totality of mankind because I’m everybody and everybody’s least I hope.”  

To get better acquainted to Kenna, you can befriend him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Feel free to have a listen to Land 2 Air Chronicles Vol. 2: Imitation Is Suicide (Chapters 1-3) below. If you enjoy it, consider picking them up on iTunes.