April 23, 2012

Interview: Dreams West

Dreams West is the pseudonym of Raleigh, North Carolina producer James West, who first gained attention back in December 2011 when he released a self-titled 12-track effort on cassette label As Above So Below. And what a release it is. Dreams West is an excellent collection of productions showcasing a rising producer with a strong skill set. The disc, a study in inventive sampling and glowlit ambient synth lines, stands as an eclectic and sometimes psychedelic collage of 80's-inspired tunes. And his more recent output, including just-released banger "v er sa il l es", shows his production hand is becoming ever stronger. These are beats for skulking midnight walks past bars on retro nights; for cratedigging old MS-DOS titles; for stoned romps through the underbelly of the internet using Internet Explorer 3.0. I recently got a chance to talk to Dreams himself after an engaging live set in his hometown of Raleigh.

How did you start producing electronic music?
I actually first started making music using samplers and synths. I never really liked using software, I just couldn't get a good enough sound out of anything, it all sounded cheesy. After nerding out on gear for a couple of years I finally started using Ableton Live. I still love using gear more than anything but Ableton just makes certain things so much faster. As Daniel Lopatin once said, the gear doth not make the man.

Read the full interview and more after the jump.
Could you describe your process? How you build a song?
It varies, some times I'll hear something and just be like "Oh fuck, I wants to samples dat." Most of the time, I just get really bored, sit in my room and jam out/bullshit/watch YouTube videos/go to [local Raleigh bookstore] Reader's Corner and grab some stuff/jam out. I usually end up making a finished product about 3 percent of the time. I just really, really, really like doing synth solos by myself. I'm real lame. Sometimes when I come home from the bar/a party/my living room I drunkenly smash buttons and keys and think I'm awesome.

[Dreams West @ Kings, 4/14/12, photos by Aaron Edward Ellis]

Nostalgia seems to be a significant "formative" concept in your music. How would you describe your aesthetic and what guides it?
I can't make 'new' sounding music. I guess I don't listen to enough of it. Maybe I'm unhappy with the current state of things or my current state in general, maybe I miss the 90's. Having yup-dog parents in the 90's was cool, it was a pretty sweet childhood. I don't think there was a better place or time to grow up in than inside the beltline in Raleigh during the 90's. Everything was golden.

Your first self-titled album was released by As Above So Below on cassette. Why did you choose to release your album this way?
I'm a big cassette head. Greg Langel (owner of AASB) is a big cassette head. It just seemed natural. If it wasn't for Greg I don't think it would have ever happened. He's a real homie.

Name some artists who inspire you.
Teddy Riley, Thomas Bangalter, DJ Screw (RIP), early 90's Madonna (ha), Deep Forest, Enigma, Ace of Base (ha), George Duke, Quincy Jones, etc….  I could go on forever but I think when you get right down to it, its mostly just a list of producers. Shouts out to Lust and Tokyo Hands and Greg Langel and Chet the cat.

What do you like and dislike about the current state of electronic music?
I don't know if there is much not to like. We live in a day and age where anyone with a little bit of pirating skill and a computer can basically do what ever they want. That Tiesto guy sucks pretty hard though.

If you weren't producing music, what kind of art would you be making?
Probably photoshopping a bunch of stuff, recreating old advertising, or maybe make some cool videos. Videos are fun. Actually I'd just make sweet hats, I love hats.

What goals do you have for Dreams West as a project?
In the future, I would like to to put vocals on my tracks, so next is probably selecting people to do collaborations, possibly rappers or female vocalists. Make sweet jams and play music for people and get lots of hoes and money. But really, I just want to make cool sounding stuff.

Stream: Dreams West - v er sa il l es Dreams West's self titled debut is available now via As Above So Below.

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