Even with the sweeping sonic palette of synthesizers, mainstream electronic music has hit a certain threshold. It has to do with so many producers these days using the same store-bought music production software, virtual instruments, and sample packs.
One producer who is certainly not guilty of adding to the derivative white noise is Computer Jay (AKA Jason Taylor) who actually builds his own DIY hardware instruments from scratch. Ironically, he wasn't looking to create a one-of-a-kind sound that's never been heard before, but rather tap into a sound familiar to anyone who grew up in the '80s.
This retro-futurist slant puts Computer Jay right at home in the L.A. Beat scene, where fellow underground artists like Flying Lotus, Schlomo, Dâm-Funk, and Gaslamp Killer are producing vintage-sounding yet future-thinking experimental electronic music.
Crossfade caught up with Computer Jay ahead of his live performance for Chocolate Sundays at Purdy Lounge to find out what he's all about.
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Crossfade: Who is Computer Jay? How did the project first come about and how would you describe to the uninitiated?
Computer Jay: I had been making music under the name DJ One3 for a long time. At some point, I started working with 8-bit sounds. Computer Jay was an AKA my friend had given me. The AKA and concept slowly took over as my sound developed -- straight up like Anakin Skywalker. I was inspired by everything from Herbie Hancock and George Duke, to concepts like Max Headroom and movies like War Games. Innovation is what drives me musically. I'm too much of a music fan to just rehash whats come before me.
When did first start building your own electronic music gear, and how did you acquire the necessary electonics skills in the first place? What was the impetus for producing music with your own gear?
I became really intrigued with using 8-bit sounds. It clearly has something to do with being from the video game generation as a kid. At first I was sampling old video games, but I'm also a keyboardist and wanted to be able to write original music with those tones. I stumbled across a site where these modules using Commodore 64 sound chips were being made, the only catch was they were all DIY projects. These were not instruments you could just go down to Guitar Center and buy, so I had no choice but to learn electronics if I wanted to acquire one. I had to have that sound by any means necessary.
So as far as the chicken or the egg question, you designed the gear to create musical ideas that were already in your head, as opposed to creatinging music inspired by the gear's sounds?
Sound came first and the gear came second. Though the ideas had been running around my head for a minute, I had no idea just how far the sound would go until I built the gear.
How has the L.A. Beat scene shaped or informed what you do as a producer? What has the experience of collaborating with other cutting-edge L.A. artists like Dâm-Funk and Gaslamp KIller imparted to you?
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It's funny cause we didn't consider it a "scene" till recently. We were just friends who all made music and would occasionally play shows together. Some years later, I look up and all of a sudden people out of L.A. were paying attention. The "L.A Beat scene" happened quite naturally, and honestly with no specific agenda, and I feel that translates into the sound. I feel it set up an environment for having no boundaries and a platform to innovate. I feel blessed to have worked with so many different artist including Dâm and Gaslamp. It has expanded my palette far and beyond what it use to be.
So what can Miami expect during your performance on Sunday? How do your studio recordings translate live?
You can expect some weird science. You'll hear the songs like I recorded them, but with a live and different twist. No doubt.