I grew up being able to play a few different instruments like piano and violin fairly naturally. I’d hear something on the radio and play the melody back right away. I joined orchestra playing violin, then moved to upright bass because my best friend played it, which was actually a rough time since no one can even hear what 4 different upright basses are playing in a room of 30 loud and terrible orchestra students. I then got into the whole Fruity Loops thing and started making “beats” when I was 17. That’s when everything clicked for me. Before then, I had assumed I’d be a fiction writer – I loved writing creative fiction and even got a novel accepted to a publisher – but when I discovered songwriting, and that I could condense a whole novel’s worth of storytelling into a few lines, I was hooked.
Can you tell us a little about your novel?
I wrote it in high school – it was actually a really bizarre chain of events, because I wrote the whole thing and got it accepted to a publisher, only to watch The Butterfly Effect about a year later and it was almost the exact same story. Even some of the names and places were the same. I did some investigating and found out that script had been floating around Hollywood since 1996, so it’s not like they ripped it off or something. I guess it’s just an example of two people having the same idea completely independently of each other. I still think my ending was better though, I made it a twist where it turns out he’s time traveling through his memories, fixing each one as he pleases, because he’s actually in the final stages of brain death after a car accident, and for our consciousness to pass through into the next phase it,has to trick itself into thinking it succeeded in this one.
What were some of your favorite bands growing up? I can hear Trent Reznor influences, am I wrong?
My dad was really into Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers, and Supertramp when I was growing up, so I probably picked up some influences from them. Also, my brother is a prodigy when it comes to which bands are going to be popular next – it’s kind of crazy. I’ll probably sound like a snobby hipster here, but we were listening to Ratatat, M83, and Sigur Ros in like, 2001-2002, way before that stuff garnered the mainstream attention it has now. He also is responsible for getting me into Nine Inch Nails. I’ve always been focused on the production side of music, that’s what I listen for. Layers, panning, textures, sounds in the background…And Trent Reznor seems to be one of the few people that still actually puts care into production on levels no one else can touch. I’ll listen to some of those songs from The Downward Spiral now and still hear new things, after 1,000 listens. That’s what I want people to say about my music. I’m nowhere near that point yet but maybe some day I will be.
So what new bands are you listening to at the moment?
I’m actually listening to alot of trap and more beat-oriented music lately, I think I might get back to that. My music used to be all instrumental, before I decided to sing. Singing gets old though. Vocals are on their way out.
I think its awesome that you put your music up for free. What are some of the pros and cons in doing this?
I released Ancient Lasers’ EP for free primarily to get it out there as easily as possible. When you’re a new band, its just tough getting people to buy music. And to be honest, I rarely buy music myself. Its not that I am cheap, its just so much faster and easier to hop on a torrent site and grab an album. Do I think my music is worth paying for? Absolutely – if you add up how much it cost for my gear, producer, trips to Washington, meals, and marketing…Well, I could have bought a pretty rad car for that amount – and that’s not even factoring in my time. I would much rather people hear it than not, because that’s the point, but now there is so much noise out there – everyone has a crappy Bandcamp page, and everyone can get on iTunes now – maybe charging money for music shouts “Hey, this is a higher quality product”. It’s a problem the industry is working on, with things like Spotify and Soundcloud. In the long term view, the coming technological revolution will bring about waves of unemployment as systems are automated, but creativity will be one thing we as a society will continue to value. The middle men of the entertainment industry are probably realizing they are becoming obsolete as the separation between artist and fan shrinks.
It is great that musicians can get grass roots support from all over the world now via Bandcamp, Soundcloud etc. Any Fans from bizarre locations?
Probably the weirdest experience was when I built a website for my friend and called a developer in the Philippines, and he had heard of my band. The miracles of the internet.
Some of the Highlights of “You In The Future” would have to be “You in The Future”, “Lost Children”, “Last Americans” . How did you and Daniel Anderson manage to stack the album with so many solid songs, not many freshman records can boast that type of depth?
The writing process of the first Ancient Lasers album was much longer than you might guess. I was a huge fan of Anderson’s first band, Idiot Pilot, back when I was growing up in Bellingham, Washington – which is where we are both from. It’s a small town so news travels fast. I heard To Buy A Gun on 107.7 The End right after they won the EMP Sound Off and was intrigued that they had figured out a way to merge Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails on their debut album Strange We Should Meet Here. And the fact that Anderson had also used Fruity Loops to create such a solid album really inspired me, and kind of showed me that being a musician was a possibility. I still think that Idiot Pilot was way ahead of their time and am continually surprised by how dedicated their fans are in supporting Ancient Lasers the love I’ve seen them give Glowbug. While I was attending Santa Clara University, I majored in art and marketing primarily as a supplement to my music research. I rented a full-on recording studio with my mentor at the time, Brian Delizza, and learned the ropes of production and song construction. The two of us spend a couple years working on my first actual album, “To Build A Fire” by Post Human Era. I self-released that album in 2009 and had begun working on a follow up to it, when the opportunity presented itself to have a song remixed by Anderson. That song was “Building The Machine”. I was so happy with it I literally said “How about doing 15 more?”. It was at that time that I realized that the Post Human Era album was more like a collection of demos, waiting to be polished.
We mainly worked in my studio in Los Angeles, and I learned alot of important skills from Anderson. He is the definition of a musical genius, and its mind-blowing. Anderson can break down why something should happen in a song, when, and how, in ways that you’ve probably never thought about before. We started chipping away at some of the crap that I tend to clutter my songs with, and got to the real intention of what we are trying to make the listener connect to. Catchy pop tunes come easier to me, I think, but I can’t touch Anderson’s musical theory and production game – so when you combine the two skill-sets, it just works.
Artifact Wavs, which is 16 remixes from “You in the Future” as well as two other songs, feature remixes by Glowbug, Steven Coleman, Post Human Era, and Circles in the Ceiling. Any in particular favorites off of it?
I got contacted by Stephen Coleman around 2009 when he heard “Building The Machine”, and approached him to do some remixes for us as we finished the proper album. His remix of “Directions”, in my mind, turned out better than our Ancient Lasers version. I was blown away, to the point where I actually hired him on as a second producer for Ancient Lasers. His attention to detail is remarkable, and he can mix too.
“Here Comes The Cavalry” is an incredibly strong track, was it a B-side to “You in The Future”?
Yep. I still kind of regret not writing lyrics to it, though I suppose I still could. But I think it works as an instrumental. And actually, more than a few people have said that was their favorite song. Whoops.
What can you tell us about the new material you’ve been working on?
Since the first Ancient Lasers album was basically a finalization of material I had written between 2005 – 2010, this second Ancient Lasers album is the first “real” album we’ve made from scratch. Everything I do has an over-arching story built in if you know what to listen for, and this second album continues the story of the first. It’s kind of the “Empire Strikes Back” album, where things start really going wrong. We are right in the middle of working on a ton of material for it, so now it’s up to me to fit it all into the Ancient Lasers timeline. The hum of productivity is exhilarating, but I can’t wait to finish it. I’m releasing “Kill Your Idols” to hold everyone over until it’s done.
So when you say “ton of material” are we looking at a 20 song album?
The beauty is that I don’t feel pressure to release any music through Ancient Lasers that doesn’t live up to my sense of perfection. But I do want to increase my output significantly, and try to force myself not to overthink and over edit everything I do. We have tons of Ancient Lasers material, and me and Michael have tons of Post Human Era material. I make entire songs in a day – it’s never been a problem to come up with songs, its that long, slow tail of infinite corrections in mixing that drives me nuts.
Now for Today’s release.”Kill Your Idols” simply sparkles. Its a gorgeous track, what inspired it?
Kill Your Idols is, at its heart, about coming of age – the old saying “never meet your heroes” is certainly true, not only in the music world, but in life at large as well. I think we all have that moment growing up when you start to realize that the people you looked up to aren’t so different from yourself, if not worse. It’s especially disheartening when you realize your parents are just like you – if not more confused. Our society constructs idols – only to tear them down. You don’t have to look much farther than the Lindsay Lohans or Justin Beibers of pop culture to notice a recurring pattern. We want someone to dump our hopes and fears into…maybe this time we’ve found our incarnate of a child king that’s come to lead us to whatever next kingdom we deserve. Yet the moment they reach that pinnacle of fame and they’re under the microscope of the media, it’s like walking up close to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre – you notice she has cracks and flaws just like the rest of us. Yet our society would have no problem tearing her off the wall, because there’s always someone behind her in line on the stairs of our glass pyramid.
On a more personal note, I think we all fall into this pattern with relationships as well. It starts out with worship…maybe I finally found someone to fix my messed up life, then you start to notice the ice is starting to crack under the heat of the sun. Then you realize that someone probably thought you were their idol too. And that you have those same cracks, because you’re both under that setting sun. I think finding comfort in that is how to truly kill your idols. There are no gods. There’s no one coming to save us.
“The Line Drawn Through Me” by surprise. Your work up until now has been hard hitting, hook laden tracks, not to say “The Line Drawn Through Me” isn’t. “you in the future” hits like an axe, solid and splitting, but “The Line Drawn Through Me” is fucking sharp, katana sharp. Its a gorgeously clean and modern track. I am absolutely stoked for the new album, should fans expect more tracks like “The Line Drawn Through Me”?
Thanks for checking out this article. When you head over to buy the EP make sure to check out “Make It Work” and “The Terminal”, Both excellent tracks.