Gaslamp Killer: "DJs are Afraid of the Kids"
The Gaslamp Killer isn't for the faint of heart. He's been in the game for more than a decade and he's made a name for himself as part of Flying Lotus's Brain Feeder crew. The Cali-based label is a tight-knit group of envelope pushers, and Gaslamp Killer has earned his stripes with mind-bending mixes and insane live sets.
He's got a rowdy weekly every Wednesday in L.A. called Low End Theory, but he's taken his inventive sound to dance floors all over the world, whether the world is ready for it or not. He'll be hitting the carpet this Sunday at Bardot, and he's looking forward to a crowd that's ready to eat up what he's serving.
Come on Miami, you're not a bunch of peasant shit-stains, are you?
Crossfade: Your recordings and mixes have a very interesting and unique sound to them. What is going on with other DJs that seem to have gotten stale out there, sounding the same? The Gaslamp Killer: The DJs are afraid of the kids. People are afraid to be themselves. You put yourself out there in front of these people, and you think you know what they want to hear, and you think you know what they're feeling, so you start catering. I was doing it last night. I played a secret set for a show in New York that shall remain nameless, but it was a hip-hop show and it was a big deal for New York. I thought it would be cool to play what I play because the people that asked me to play really wanted me to bring my style to it, and the crowd hated it. I tried to adapt and I failed because I was afraid of the people. I felt so much pressure from the audience. They weren't happy, and they started to vocalize how unhappy they were and it got kind of hairy. I felt like I had to just change my sound up and start playing more hip-hop and start catering a little bit. I never do that, and I hated myself for it, but I panicked under the pressure of the crowd. I think a lot of DJs now-a-days they start out in love and they're doing their own thing, but then somewhere along the way the gigs takeover and this crazy importance to make the crowd happy takes over their artistry. It just becomes another fucking jukebox party, y'know? A lot of people feel like "okay, the kids want to dance, the kids need to dance, they want to get crazy, they want to get turnt up." They start playing the same songs everyone else plays, trying to get the crowd involved, but we as DJs need to have a little more faith in what we're doing, and in the crowd and what they're coming to see happen and try. (We need to) feel a little more brave and have a little more pride for what it is that got us started in this shit. Some of these guys started off playing dance music and playing fun party music that everyone loves and that's what they've always been into, like playing at their friend's house parties and making everyone happy and stuff. But other DJs started out and they were so weird and quirky and have their niche, and then they just crumbled under the pressure of the people and under the trends and shit. I'm sure it's a slippery slope. Yeah, it happens to the best. It really does.
How do you try to keep yourself fresh? How do you try to keep your brain in an artistic space? It's so complicated honestly. What kind of morning did you have? What kind of afternoon did you have? What kind of night did you have? Are you okay with your girlfriend, are you okay with your family, are you okay, period. That type of shit is going to affect your show, and it's going to take your mind away from what you really need to do. Sometimes I can just snap into the show mode and then all of a sudden it's just me and the people. I just feel like "okay these people packed in this club, they're here for me and that's a big deal. I feel very proud of that. I filled this room for who I am and what I do and stuff," so I have a little faith, and I'm going to give them a dose of what they came to see and just kind of be freakin' proud and brave and just get in the moment with the people. If you're an opener it's a little harder because the people aren't there to see you. They're there to see the headliner, so it's way more complicated. But I have years and years of playing as the opener and having to deal with people who were over what I was doing. They wanted me to hurry the fuck up and get off so the next guy could get on. Last night, I said to the crowd "I get it, you're all here to see so-and-so. But if I stop, you're going to be listening to a fucking CD for an hour, I guarantee you. So, if you want to be nice, I'll play. But if you don't, you're going to be sorry." Sure enough they were rude, so I got off early 'cause I was this unannounced guest, I didn't owe anyone anything. I got off the fuckin' stage and they played a fucking Bob Marley CD quiet as fuck in the background for an hour, and they all stood around like idiots with their dicks in their hands, and that's what I told them was going to happen if they didn't act right. They just didn't listen to me, and that's what they get and I laughed. I was just sitting there like "I just think you guys are so ignorant, you couldn't even have a good time. I was trying to bring you a good time, you couldn't even have a good time, and now this is what you get. You get to stand around with no music. I hope you're fucking happy you fucking peasant shit-stain." Damn, that's a good insult. I'm going to keep that in mind. That's my go-to. But honestly, I just say that in jest. Obviously I'm not anybody special. I'm just an artist trying to do his thing. But it's personal sometimes, you can take it personally.
Especially because as an artist, you're taking that courageous step and putting yourself out there. It's a part of you that's being judged. Do you think it's possible for that kind of artistic side into the mainstream? I don't know. I feel like it takes a lot of attention to realize what you're hearing. If it's not what you know, you kind of have to give it a second, and people don't have too much time to spare. I feel like they just want what they know, they want what they're going to get excited about. It's an ADHD generation. None of us really have that much time to get into new shit. The only way for it to be cool and to get it into our radar is if your friends start to like it and it starts to become popular on its own. That's the way the regular kids find out about it. Like so many of these young kids coming out, young rappers. Hip hop is back again but it's way different than it used to be. But it's not that much different, people are still talking about the size of their dick and how much money they have and drugs and all that shit. I think it's really, really hard to do. The type of music that blows up is the music that's really easy to digest, that's really simple, like dubstep and trap. A really good drum beat with a really heavy bass. That's the ultimate rhythm that gets human beings moving. It's the same thing with house and electro, really simple time signatures. It's not like jazz where you have to wrap your head around it. It's really fucking simple and it's not very artistic, creative music. That's not what's popular, because it's not easy to wrap your head around. It takes this really simple drum beat to put the kids in a trance, to put them in a meditative kind of state where they want to just bob their heads to this one beat all night and it just stays the same tempo. It makes sense to me. It's been this way for a long time. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last thirty years of music. You're clearly a tastemaker with interests all over the board. Who are some artists you're inspired by or who you think are making something interesting right now? Dim Lite and Connan Moccasin. They're both really experimental psychedelic. Dim Lite is a one-man band who works with musicians to create insane (stuff). He's your favorite producer's favorite producer. He's the guy not many fans know about but every producer worships. And then Connan Moccasin is my new obsession, as far as Radiohead-style music. Tame Impala, Dungen. The psychedelic scene is out of control, off the chain. This band Tinariwen, they're a very cool guitar band. They're some kind of traveling nomads. I don't even know where they're from, but they were dressed like straight-up desert nomads like out of a movie of something, it was so amazing. I saw them at Desert Days. I skipped out on Coachella to go to Desert Days because I really wanted to see this band, and also War Paint, I really love War Paint. And of course Flying Lotus and Hudson Mohawk, beats like that as well.
What are you working on these days? I'm working on my next album, and I finished a music video for "In the Dark" that's out now. Some friends of mine hooked me up with a really dope video. I just finished up a mixtape that I did for The Heliocentrics. That's a band that I really like that I forgot to mention. They're incredible. The summertime is touring time. I don't get to work on that much stuff, I just go through as many shows as I can and as soon as it gets cold, I start working on music again. Well, we're looking forward to see you in Miami. I hope you bring it in your own style and really do it up. Miami is a bunch of people, anybody who actually lives in Miami doesn't get to see that much rare shit, they get the same bullshit crowds and clubs a lot, so I'm sure the people that'll come to my show are going to be asking me for a break from all that. Gaslamp Killer. As part of Memorial Day Bash. With N/P (Nuri & Po$hstronaut, Denzel Curry and friends, JBZ and Niko Sacks. Sunday, May 26. Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors open at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $19 to $25 plus fees via showclix.com. Call 305-576-5570 or visit bardotmiami.com.
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