June 22, 2012

Interview: Groundislava

Sometime last year in coastal NC, I was eating at a diner and chatting with my friend John Rinka about music. And while not much of this particular conversation sticks out to me now, one thing I clearly remember was John's insistence that day that I check out this crazy L.A. producer called Groundislava. Fast forward to now and I'm really happy to say I took him up on it, because i've been stoked on this dude since first listen all those months ago. The stage name of Jasper Patterson, Groundislava blends 8-bit retro swagger with spaced out next world synths in a layered, danceable and compulsively listenable swirl of elements and style. No doubt others in the know have noticed; the quality (and slow evolution) of his music has led to some tight associations within the electronic music scene. He currently records with the excellent Friends of Friends label alongside many great artists, including fellow up-and-comer and close friend Henry Laufer, a.k.a. Shlohmo. The two are also part of the WEDIDIT collective, which includes other recent buzzed-about electronic acts such as R.L. Grime and Jonwayne.

Groundislava has a new EP, TV Dream coming out on June 26, and the short release is already starting to build a steady buzz: sites like XLR8R are giving him the nod and he was even given (albeit under a discarded EP title) a coveted shoutout in Pitchfork's Summer 2012 release guide. I recently got to talk with Jasper himself for a small chat about his new single, the (apparently ongoing) mystery of Clive Tanaka, and other things.

Critics tend to like to pigeonhole producers who use 8-bit instruments with words like "videogame" or "chiptune". Describe your musical aesthetic/style in your own words
I'm not a big fan this. It bugs me when I get labeled solely as an 8-bit producer. In Book of Tech and my self-titled LP I definitely used sounds that fit into that category very easily but for the most part that wasn't necessarily the intention. I more so just liked the sound of raw square and saw waves. My focus has been on powerful melody and song structure. When you work with synthesizers, soft or hardware, you can basically give that melody whatever sound you want. My new EP sounds completely different from my stuff from last year, and my LP (drops later this summer) sounds completely different from that, but the melodic characteristics and concepts are consistent throughout. I don't want to deny the influence that video games have on my music, though. Video game soundtracks in the 90s were incredible.

Pop on over past the jump to read the full interview with Groundislava.

 What sort of cultural items (bands/movies/books/people) influenced this style?
Science fiction, Neuromancer, Snow Crash, the 80s, the 90s, the 2010s, videogames, Aphex Twin, movie scores, Ceephax, M83, Boards of Canada.

Does the current L.A. electronic scene factor into these influences?
I find it hard to keep up with, and as a result I haven't been paying nearly as much attention. I found myself being influenced by it a lot less as time goes on. I find the influences I had when I first started making music are what I really focus on now. For me, they're timeless and as a result I can draw infinite amounts of inspiration.

What is your production process like then? How do you typically build a song?
I start with a melody and build on it. If I feel uninspired, I start working on drums and return back to the melody after. I was doing basically everything in Reason until recently. I now use Ableton a lot as well as a lot of hardware. I really enjoy the process of using hardware. The results are completely different when you can have a hands on approach. When you midi-sync a synth and a drum machine and just start building a sequence, it has an incredibly intuitive workflow. It's pretty new to me since I spent so long meticulously gridding notes in Reason.

You have an upcoming EP coming out on Friends of Friends. What is it about the label that makes you stick with them for releases?
I love Friends of Friends because the roster is small and everyone is very close. I've talking to Leeor [Brown, founder of FoF] about it a lot, and one of the best things about FoF is that it doesn't try to only represent one sound. We all do our own thing, and as a result we each have our own style and sound. FoF is like a family.

Tell us a little bit about the opening track "Weekend in the Tropics".
It's a lighthearted summer track. The whole EP has a very focused sound and theme - sort of bittersweet summer, nostalgic vibes. It's completely different from the (upcoming) LP that's going to follow it.

One of the tracks off TV Dream features notoriously enigmatic producer Clive Tanaka. Some of us at Decoder have been following his mysterious movements for years, what can you tell us about the man?
I know very little about him. He made some great vocals for the track, but I haven't ever spoken to him directly.

What art are you currently into (books, films, bands, etc)?
I've been listening to a lot of acid house lately. I like searching YouTube for cutty house music and videos of people making music with interesting equipment. In the car I listen to the news. To be honest, I haven't been seeking out that much new music and shit much this year, since I've been really caught up in just getting the new EP and LP completely perfect before they are released.

Who do you currently have or want to start beef with?
Shlohmo and Salva. Hate those fuckers.

What is Groundislava's goal(s) for 2012?
I want to make some sort of mixtape/album that's made completely with hardware (except for sequencing, via Ableton). I'm really exploring this workflow and so far it's been extremely rewarding.

Any shout-outs?
WEDIDIT. Check out the homies Benedek, K. Rudd and Dreams.

Finally and most importantly to heads waiting to know, how do you like your pizza?
I often make my own pizza. Super thin, crispy crust with good anchovies.

Stream: Groundislava - Weekend In The Tropics
TV Dream will be out 6/26 on Friends of Friends.

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