Pre-North Coast Interview: DJ SOLO
North Coast Music Festival is just a few days away and there is no better way to prepare than dish out some facts from North Coast’s very own artists. Today, we are posting an interview from Chicago’s very own, DJ SOLO. SOLO is a multitalented musician, mastering all types of genres, live instruments, turntablism, all while keeping his punk rock edge. This year DJ SOLO will be performing at a NCMF Official Pre-Party at Smart Bar Thursday night, the Dos Equis Stage on Sunday @ 3:30-4:15pm, and at the Groupon Silent 2 Stage on Sunday from 7-8pm.
YGP: As a big fan of your performances, I’ve always admired that fact that you incorporate different instruments in your sets whether its drums, a tambourine, and even a kazoo. When did you start incorporating these into your performances and what made you want to do this?
SOLO: I started out as a musician when I was a kid, so I’ve always played instruments and been in bands. It was a natural progression and a way for me to keep things fresh and exciting. I would also like to go on record and say that I am the world’s greatest tambourine player. I don’t think anyone has really claimed that title, so I’d like to be the first. Now that it’s in print, I think it’s official.
YGP: I know you spent a lot of your musical career in Los Angeles, working with DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, and the Soul Assassins crew. How do you think this affected your musical career and your musical style?
SOLO: It was a great opportunity to be around people who created their own world, with it’s own culture, and made it something that they could sustain their art with. There’s not many examples of that growing up in Chicago. You’re led to believe that you have to find a “real job”, and unless you win America’s Got Talent, you might as well pack your dreams up and invest in a briefcase. In Los Angeles, kids see from the time they’re young “how it’s done”. It’s not a mystery, it’s just a completely different way of life than most people would be willing to take on, and it’s something most people aren’t given as a legitimate option. That’s not to say that everyone succeeds, but there’s a realistic means to the end if you want to be a professional artist or an entertainer. And in the case of the Soul Assassins, they’ve always went against the grain and did everything by their own rules, which is the way I like to do things too!
YGP: After moving to Champaign, Illinois and joining the Chalice dubs crew, What was the transition like from living and performing in LA and Chicago frequently to a college town like Champaign?
SOLO: Honestly, it was the biggest, most alive section of what was going on and I wanted to be a part of it. I felt like it was comparable to the Seattle days of grunge, or Haight Ashbury in the 60s. It was that off the map spot that no one expected to bubble up, but the whole town was full of excitement and energy. You could feel it. Not to mention, a lot of really good DJs who were on the cutting edge of EMD and ready to push the limits.
YGP: Having visited Champaign to attend many Chalice Dubs Masquerades myself, I have been able to witness the dubstep scene first hand. I know you have a lot of experience performing for college towns, especially in the midwest. Can you describe a college town that has just completely blown you away in regards to getting wild to bass music?
SOLO: They’re all pretty crazy, just because you have a lot of kids in these small towns where nothing is really happening. So when a bunch of good DJs roll through, they’re genuinely excited and ready to rage with you. As opposed to a bigger city that gets tons of good shows, and people are sort of “over it” and jaded.
YGP: I know you study the teachings of many different philosophers and channel their wisdom through your music. Just through our simple chats in the past you’ve help me understand how in tune we can and should be with the universe. How has this change in your life affected the way you produce music?
SOLO: It’s really affected everything I do because I understand how music can impact and affect large groups of people. Being a DJ dropped me right in the middle of these giant shared experiences where the ultimate goal is to get everyone’s consciousness on one vibration and sort of experiencing a common awareness to music. That goes for any genre, bands do that too, but when you’re the performer, you become the storyteller and the shaman. It’s up to you to guide these people, so I treat it like a shaman who would go into the jungles and learn how to perform Ayahuasca rituals. I became a student of life and the Universe, as well as a teacher. I’m trying to make music that can unite, inspire, and awaken people. It’s still in the spirit of punk-rock rebellion and “question everything”, but once you destroy, the hope is to create something better in it’s place.
YGP: As a result of the path you are currently on, Starship Academy has emerged. Can you tell me a little bit about this new project?
SOLO:Starship Academy is the foundation of a new venture in bass music. To explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before. Music for the sake of music with no preconceived notions about what it’s supposed to sound like. Overall though, I want it to be eclectic and in the footsteps of people and projects like the Gorillaz, Dan The Automator, DJ Shadow, DJ Muggs, and people who made full, multi-layered concept albums.
YGP: Your first release from Starship Academy, “Tibetan Book of the Dead” is a bonified trap tune. Also, you released your trap set from Electric forest back in July. What is your opinion on the current Trap craze?
SOLO: Well here’s what you gotta understand, before dubstep happened, I was a hip-hop DJ, literally making gangsta-ass trap beats for real gangstas who gangbang and sell drugs in the trap. It obviously wasn’t really my “scene” and I’m by no means a tough guy or a gangbanger…as much as I love to sit in a studio smokin’ grape blunts, and makin’ gangsta-ass hip-hop beats. The new wave of electronic music made more sense to me, and it leant itself naturally to a wide variety of outside styles, including hip-hop. So any acceptance of the hip-hop ways is great in my book. Especially the old 808 drum kits and the “ghetto bass”. I grew up on 2 Live Crew, DJ Magic Mike, Africa Bambaataa, Run DMC and The Beastie Boys, so all those classic bass music sounds combined with the new, almost punk-rock intensity level of dubstep or electro. That’s like my dream genre that I had in my head all these years but couldn’t figure out how to make it. And all the Dubstep DJs who complained about it getting too heavy, and wanted a return to deep bass…THIS is it! You can’t get too caught up in what is a “craze” because every 6 months or so a new genre blossoms up, a new twist on what’s gotten stale, some people jump on board, the purists get upset, it’s a cycle that is gonna keep happening and you can sit back and watch it like a TV show. It’s hillarious. First they were mad about Dubstep getting too heavy, then they were mad about drumstep, then they were mad about Moombah, now Trap. I just play what I like and never concern myself with what’s hot at the moment, even if I happen to like what also happens to be hot. Genres are just a way for us to define music, they should never be a set of rules we imprison our creativity with.
YGP: This year will be your second year at North Coast. I always just expect you to take over the stage and surprise us, but is there anything this year that the crowd can look forward to hear or see, possibly the next Starship Academy installment?
SOLO: They’re definitely gonna get to hear some Starship Academy! I’m just finishing up my 4-song EP called “History’s Mysteries” which is a trap inspired, multi-tempo, bass and synth-heavy, mini-concept album featuring Tibetan Book of the Dead, as well as my new ones Atlantis, Easter Island (March of the Moai), and a remix of the Pixies Gigantic. I’m real excited to get this stuff out. Get excited!!