Now you’re pretty well known along the West coast, but for our Eastern and international readers can you give a bit of background info about yourself? Where you’re from, when you started DJing, stuff like that.
Well the long story is that I’m Canadian, but I grew up in the US. I was born in Edmonton, but my family moved to Missippi when I was 8… It’s a pretty huge culture gap from growing up in Canada. When I was in middle school, around 15 years old, I got really into turntablism and underground rap through skateboarding and I really wanted to get into DJing. I ended up saving up from my first job bussing tables and bought my first pair of turntables and a mixer, and was I ordering videos and scratch records off the internet. I did that for 2 years or so and did a couple of house parties, but it never really took off and at that point my taste in music had changed and I got more into indie rock and kinda left DJing for a while. Fast-forward a few years, I did 2 years of university down in Missippi and later transferred to UBC. I ended up randomly moving into a house where my old DJ partner Mike was living. He was super into rap and at the time rap was having a huge revival; this is when Hollertronix was blowing up and things like that and I got stoked on DJing again. Mike and I started DJing and saved up the money for a pair of 1200s… We did that for a couple of months and then switched over to Serato and this is when Paul Devro and his brother Eric and a few others were throwing these events called ‘Half Alive’. These parties are really what blew the electro sound up in Vancouver and that’s really how I got into the party scene in this city. But yeah, this was so long ago, 2006, 2007, 2008, and eventually that scene fizzled out as electro got bigger and more mainstream. All those guys couldn’t really compete with the bigger promoters like Blueprint at that point. Paul booked me to DJ and when Paul started working with Alvaro he recommended us to Alvaro. Then when Paul moved to LA to run Mad Decent with Diplo, I was left and Alvaro brought me on.
And now here you are.
Haha, exactly, I moved up and up and developed my DJing to where it is today.
When did the switch to production happen? I remember going to the Youngblood Sundays events at Venue where Expendable Youth would be DJing, but you guys didn’t have your own material back then.
That’s actually kinda how it all started. Around then we made a track with some help from Felix Cartel, it was called “Cannibalistic” and it came out on Discobelle Records. That was only a couple of Youngbloods in and it kinda progressed from that point. We’d always made edits and things like that to use in sets, but we’d never really put ourselves out there. We decided that we needed to get serious and strat investing time and energy in production. At the time I actually had a different DJ partner, a guy named Mike Barrow. And you know, he was doing more of the production back then for sure and we had done a couple of things, but he ended up dropping out of Expendable Youth just over a year ago.
Really? What happened there?
We totally parted ways amicably, he just wasn’t into DJing anymore and moved on. Seeing as how I have a job with Blueprint though it was kind of logical for me to continue doing it. At the time there was this kid named Jimmy that was working for me as an intern; he was bouncing me his stuff and he begged me to let him do a remix of Cannibalistic. I said ‘fuck it’ and sent him the stems, and he made this moombah version that really impressed me. I mean, it wasn’t the greatest, but for his skill set and level of experience back then it was definitely good enough for me to see the potential there. Then a couple of months later after Mike had dropped out I was thinking that realistically, this isn’t something that I can do alone. I mean, I’d love to be able to spend all day producing music, but the reality of my job is that I can’t. I’ve got a job, a girlfriend, a dog, all this stuff. Producing music is something you have to be very very serious about and be very consistent about. So I had a talk with him and said ‘you know, I think you have a lot of potential, and I think that bringing you into Expendable Youth would be a good idea.’ I’d made ‘Heyo’ before he came into the picture so everything after Heyo has been made with Jimmy.
What’s his last name?
Ahh, I think I’ve seen him…. …On Facebook…
He’s getting better and better as a producer every week and now we’re just working on his mixing so that he can be my DJ partner as well as production partner. These collaborations with other producers are really helping a lot too and I think within a year we’ll really be putting out a lot more music and making bigger moves.
You were the debut artist on Mad Decent’s new imprint Jeffree’s, which is obviously a bit deal. We’ll talk more about this in part 2, but for the meantime have you seen a big increase in people’s interest in Expendable Youth since Jeffree’s? Has much come of it?
A lot has come of it actually. A lot of remix opportunities, a lot of collaborative opportunities. We’ve had a few agencies that were looking to pick us up. [Since]… I do work for Blueprint and I basically run the marketing and promotions it would be a huge conflict of interest if I started going on tour due to the demands of the job. It’s definitely going to have to be a balancing act. Right now we just finished up a remix for Dim Mak for this dubstep guy Sam Wire. He works for MTA (Chase&Status’ label) and the original is super brostep, but we did a great trapped out remix for it. We’re working on a few more things for Mad Decent, but it’s pretty open ended at the moment so we’ll see what comes of that.
One thing I’d been meaning to ask you actually: You did a remix of “Sabro,” that track by Amazinggaijin- How did that happen? I know him through 110BPM and his world and your world are completely different… I mean, he’s in Paris after all.
Well he’s different and he’s not. Yes, he’s in France, but he makes tropical, bassy kind of music. He hit us up on SoundCloud and was like “Yo, I love your shit. I have this track that came out and I’m doing a remix pack. I’d love you to do a remix for it.”
Ahhh, okay. That fills in a few blanks. How’d you end up with the remix that you did? It’s quite different from the original, what was the thought process?
Well first we thought that we’d take the opportunity to do a moombahton remix… but, it didn’t really work out and we didn’t like it so we decided to do an electro remix at 130bpm. ….Again, it wasn’t working so we just said ‘screw it’ and we went with a Kuduro/hard style track and it worked out really well. Actually…. I should probably follow up with him because I have no idea when it’s coming out…. Haha. (Note: It was just released on May. 16th through My Techno Weighs A Ton. Check it out here)
Are you working on anything else that you can talk about?
We actually have one that we’re super super excited about. It’s a collaboration with this guy named Baauer. He’s part of the new wave of Trap producers – like Flosstradamus and dudes like that – and his sound is somewhere in-between that and Hudson Mohawk and Rustie and Lunice. That’s a sound that I feel is going to keep getting better. It’s got the brightness and the business of a lot of well-produced dubstep, but it’s not so psycho. So this Baauer kid is from New York and we were a big fan of his stuff. I actually sent a few of his tracks over to Paul Devro and he ended up signing him to Mad Decent, haha. Now this label in Scotland, Lucky Me, which is a big label over there has picked him up too. We’re almost done wrapping that collab up, it’s just in the finishing touches phase right now. What else… We’re also working with a local dude, Krusha, who’s a really talented dubstep producers. He’s actually one of the best technical producers I’ve ever worked with ,he’s insane. He’s fully a sound engineer. That’s kind of been the goal for us, to bridge our lack of production skill with people that are more technical. We have the creativity and the ideas and some of the production chops, but you know we’re kind of meeting people half-way.
Here’s a bit more of a personal question: obviously you make music in a certain style that appeals to people, but is there a style you wish you could produce that just doesn’t have an audience yet?
To be honest, I’m a big appreciator of dubstep and electro and house and all that. Since I work with Blueprint I have to keep all of that on my radar and I have to be well acquainted with it. At the end of the day though I don’t go home and listen to that kind of music. I’m a huge electronic music fan…. I really like that scene that’s popping up now in the UK and the US with labels like Night Slugs and Fade to Mind and Body High. If I had a choice – I mean, I do have a choice – but if I wanted to promote that sound it’s still such a niche sound and scene that it wouldn’t work. First of all, it wouldn’t be authentic for me to just drop everything and be this underground guy and second, it’s just not realistic. I really envy the tracks that those guys put out and their style, like the post-UK two-step stuff, like Girl Unit and Kingdom and LOLboys, and I have a lot of repect for those guys. I think they’re doing something very culturally important that they don’t really get a lot of recognition for and you know, either their moment will come or it won’t. It could go either way. I don’t want to call this music more intelligent because that’s a bullshit claim, but it certainly doesn’t have the same flash and pomp that popular music right now has. It definitely has more substance to it. At the same time though it draws very heavily on current trends.
Do you think trap has the strength to stand alone? Will there ever be a trap night, or is it more of a compliment to a set?
I don’t think so, no, because I just don’t think it’s that sort of sound. It’s just people taking cues from a style of rap production so it’s not quite unique enough to stand on its own. I just think it’s more of a contemporary sound and style, and even though it’ll run its course too, but what it is aiding in doing is pulling people away from the idea that everything has to be super hard and heavy.
Build, build, build, DROP
Exactly, haha, it’s pulling people back to the idea that you can have shit that’s a bit softer sounding that’s still driving and has a lot of (a different kind of) energy
This is primarily a moombahton blog so I’m obliged to ask you this: What’s your stance on moombahton?
Well we (Expendable Youth) were actually one of the first, if not THE first DJs dropping moombahton in Vancouver and there’s a bit of history there. The first time Dave Nada ever debuted moombahton was actually in Vancouver and not very many people know that. He debuted it on Sam Demoe’s radio show that he played for the Olympics. So moombahton’s a sound that we’ve always supported and always been into, but I’ve always been cautious about whether it would turn into a stand-alone genre. So far it has, but I think that it’s at the point now where it needs a good influx of great stand-alone producers. Dillon Francis is good, Munchi is good, and guys like Skrillex and all that are good, but I feel like it still needs a bit more. The sound pallate that it’s currently working with is getting a bit played out so it needs.
Ugh, don’t get me started on the dembow…
Haha, yeah the dembow. Not just that and the latin stuff, but the pitchy synths and things like that. It’s gotten a little bit formulaeic in that way, but at the end of the day it’s more about the tempo right and I think that if enough good producers come along it’ll maintain strength and even continue to grow. I do think there’s something still there, it’s definitely not “dead,” and I mean we’re kinda banking on that with this new moombahton-focused night we’re starting here in Vancouver…
Matt’s going to be back for a Vancouver-centric part 2 next Tuesday where we’ll be talking about the origins of electro in our city and the new night he’s pioneering, Faded.
You didn’t think I’d leave you guys hanging without any music, did you? I got in touch with Sam Demoe and tracked down Dave Nada’s debut moombahton mix from his set in Vancouver back in 2010. If you want to gain a huge appreciation of how deeply he established his sound and how far moombahton has come since, I can’t recommend it highly enough.