LessThan3: What were your musical influences growing up?
Andrew: I was really into grunge rock when I was young; whatever was on 99.1 in DC. Then I started getting into NIN, Radiohead, early Aphex Twin, and then I went to Germany and I got really into cheesy German trance around 2000. That’s when I decided I wanted to make dance music, and I got really into eurohouse and eurodance for three to four years before I actually started releasing music. It was a dark time in my life [laughter].
LessThan3: Are you living in Boston now?
No. I studied in Boston; I went to Berklee College of Music
for three years, then I moved back home to DC, then lived in London for a little over a year, and now I just moved back to DC. It’s cool being in DC now because all of a sudden DC is like “dance music is really cool!” and my friends are listening to dance music and I keep meeting random dance producers around the city.
LessThan3: What was your specific major at Berklee?
Andrew: I majored in music synthesis; they renamed the department last year to Electronic Production and Design or something like that. They teach you composition tools, mixing–pretty much everything you would want out of an electronic production school. I studied with two incredible people who are still major influences on my career.
LessThan3: Are you active as an alumnus?
Andrew: Not as much as I would like to; I’ve been planning a trip to Boston because one of my teachers wants me to do a clinic with her. That is something I would love to do—looks like that will be happening in the fall. I still have some friends who are on the staff that I keep in touch with.
LessThan3: Have they said anything to you about a growing increase in dance music?
Andrew: I have noticed that a lot more. When I was there, it was more focused around IDM. I was practically the only house producer there. Now it seems that people are much more into it. I get messages from people who just started at Berklee saying that they are into trance and house, so that is very exciting.
LessThan3: What musical training do you have besides Berklee?
Andrew: I had a lot of training early in life, but at first I resented it. I took piano lessons from the time I was three years old because my brother was taking them as well when he was eight and I would tag along to the lessons and tinker around. Then I got more of a formal music teacher before high school and I never really took it that seriously until I started writing music. By then, I was really thankful for having that tutelage that shaped my ear and helped me with my compositions.
Do you think the strong IDM influence at Berklee influenced your new album It’s Artificial
Andrew: For sure; just by being at Berklee I really got to be around a lot of music tastes and absorb what the other students were listening to. I would go to someone’s house and they would put on whatever music they like, and I started getting into a lot of different kinds of music that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to. My teachers and friends changed my perspective on music and pushed me into other genres, which I am very thankful for.
LessThan3: Can you tell us something that your fans might not know about your new album?
Andrew: I was a bit terrified with the release for a few different reasons. There are only eight tracks, and most trance albums have many more tracks. Granted, mine isn’t really a trance album so it’s kind of exempt from that. One of my intents for the album was to not really have any filler tracks or DJ intros or outros—it’s wall-to-wall music. Most of my favorite albums are on the shorter side, just like mine. I foresee myself writing a much longer album, but I doubt I would structure anything to be longer than 60 minutes in one sitting.
LessThan3: How would you say that this album is going to change the way you do live performances?
I am actually more of a composer than a live performer/DJ. If and when I do start getting more into live performance, I would love to be able to play all my music. What I would probably do is structure my set to where it will grow in bpm. For example, Above & Beyond
will play progressive house for the first half of their set and then they’ll move into the more banging trance stuff toward the end. I would likely do something similar—play the more IDM stuff at the beginning and then go into a dance music section, and then close with more of an instrumental music section.
Do you feel that your Distractions
EP release was a testing ground for your new album?
Andrew: It kind of worked out to be a testing ground, but it was something all on its own. I was really sick at Jono’s (Above & Beyond) house and I couldn’t leave the flat for like a week. I was also trying to go back home to DC so I was stuck in London trying to go home really sick, so I was miserable. While I was sitting in bed, I ended up writing the Distractions EP in four to five days—that’s where the name came from. The Distractions EP was actually finished after It’s Artificial; I began writing It’s Artificial three years ago and finished it a year and a half ago.
LessThan3: Why did it take a year and a half for It’s Artificial to come out?
Andrew: I was trying to add material to it for a while because I was worried about the length, so I wrote about 90 minutes more of material, but none of it fit. Some of it has been released separately from the album. I actually like some of the extra tracks better than what’s on It’s Artificial, it just didn’t fit on the album.
I met BT at Ibiza in DC. Above & Beyond was playing that night. It was weird because he was with Matt Lange
, who also went to Berklee and is now one of my close friends, but at the time I didn’t know either one of them so I met both of them that night. I knew Matt’s girlfriend from Berklee, so it was an interesting connection. BT and I began talking and I was freaking out at the time, then all of a sudden he wanted to work with me. I worked on The Emergency
for three to four months in Boston while trying to balance doing my Signalrunners stuff, my solo work, and school—it was a lot of work. I ended up involving Boom Jinx
in the track because I had so much on my plate that I needed to help, so he did some synth work and programming. It took a long time, but the results speak for itself.
LessThan3: Did BT do any of the composition work or did he just record vocals?
Andrew: He did some of the synth work as well and he also did the string outro. I almost sh*t my pants the first time I heard that outro. It sounds like a film score at the end of the track.
LessThan3: How has interaction with your fans helped you in your career, online or otherwise?
A lot of people are much more active online with their fans than I am. I try to be active with Facebook
and such, but I feel if you make yourself way too accessible to your fans, this sort of musical mystique is lost. I feel like a lot of artists are too available, and I’ve seen a lot of my peers get disrespected as a result and get really upset by it. I try to keep a comfortable distance.
LessThan3: What does your family think of your music?
Andrew: They are ridiculously supportive; any family that would allow their kid go to a music college is amazing. My mom actually likes the new glitch hop stuff more than my house and trance music.
LessThan3: Do you find it difficult to collaborate with artists in other countries or do you find it simple?
Andrew: It’s second nature to me because I did Signalrunners for so long, so I’m very used to working with people online. In some ways working with someone face-to-face becomes more complicated, because you want to have that creative space for youself. When I was working with Above & Beyond, we had two studios next to each other, so we would come in to collaborate, focus on what we needed to do, then we could go into the other studio and work. It’s difficult for someone to come in and have them say “you should do this” when you just haven’t gotten to that yet. The people you are working with have to have that respect for your space.
We loved your remix of Thing Called Love
. How did your ideas come about for that?
Andrew: I was working with Above & Beyond in London, and we were having an A&R meeting and talking about mixes and I asked them if they wanted a clubby, Swedish-style remix, and they liked the idea so I knocked the remix out fairly quickly. The thing that is cool about that remix is there aren’t that many tracks in it, there’s just a lot of automation on those tracks.
LessThan3: How do you feel about building dance tracks off of premade sample packs rather than their own melodic composition?
I’ve never used a prewritten bassline or pad. What’s funny is I’ve started to get into “sampling,” which is slightly different, for some of my hip hop side projects where I take one note out of a guitar and a couple of words and rearrange them. However, I can’t hate on all people who use prewritten samples. Take KNAS
by Steve Angello
—people freaked out about him using a premade melody line, which I found hilarious because it didn’t change the effect of that track for me; it’s a great commercial house track. You could play it at a trance event in the middle of your set and people would freak out. I go to clubs in DC sometimes where they are playing top 40 and they will put a Rihanna vocal over it and people love it. With the amount of success that Steve has pulled off for taking a sample and putting it over some drums, you’ve got to hand it to the guy.
LessThan3: Where do you see your sound going from here?
Andrew: I’m a pretty big workaholic. I’ve started working on these organic instrumental hip hop tracks, and I’ve been really jealous of these producers that use sampling as second nature. I didn’t grow up with that technique so I felt like I couldn’t do it, but finally I decided to do it and sample music that I like. I love it now—it’s a new form of composition. It’s like back to basics songwriting.
LessThan3: If the world was ending in LessThan3 minutes, and you had an iPod with every song ever made on it, what would you listen to?
It would have to be something by Clark, like Herzog
or Herr Bar
on his album Body Riddle
. It’s probably the best electronic music album I’ve ever heard.
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
Andrew: Organic, glitch, musical.