Basslager is a young electronic music producer based in St. Louis, Missouri who specializes in creating intricate tracks with an emphasis on timbral, rhythmic, and melodic complexity. Basslager has been a student of music for many years. Cello was his first foray into the realm of music, which he began at the age of three. Initially, the only way to inspire him to practice was the promise of getting rich. A deal was struck between him and his parents, and at the price of 1¢ per song practiced, Basslager quickly decided to diversify (as any savvy business person would do), taking up the piano and later the guitar. Recently, Basslager has primarily produced in the genres of trap and dubstep, while incorporating elements from neurohop, classical music, and heavy metal. In an exclusive interview Basslager filled in the blank spots for us.
- How did you get started in the music business and where did you get the name Basslager from?
Basslager: I began playing music when I was three years old, when I learned the cello. I later learned the piano and the guitar before finally taking up music production in early 2013. I had my first commercial release later that year through a small indepedant label.
While I wish the name “Basslager” had a more profound meaning, I chose it mainly because I like both fish and beer, and I enjoyed the double entendre that “bass” provided. Although I include a lot of fish imagery in my artwork, “bass” is supposed to be pronounced like the subsonic frequencies, not the fish.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Basslager: When I was growing up learning piano and cello, I mainly listened to classical music, particularly from the baroque period. Later, when I discovered other genres I almost entirely stopped listening to classical music, however, classical music elements can still be heard in many of my tracks. When I create music I typically like to include evolving or multilayered call and response melodies that are often heard in many classical songs.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Basslager: I listen to a lot Apashe and the other artists out of Kannibalen Records in addition to lots of IDM. I recently discovered a neat album (Diametry) by Fidelium that really captured my attention. I’d be super keen to make something with him.
- How and when did the move from Cello, Guitar and Piano to electronic music come about?
Basslager: It was by no means an intentional progression to electronic music. My first experience with producing music came from trying to record some of my guitar/cello/piano arrangements in Garage Band. Electronic music production came as an off shoot of that. I began making songs almost entirely within my DAW in early 2013.
- Essentially how do you currently produce your sound? Is it loops, samples and software based and do you also use real live instruments in your productions?
Basslager: While I create my basses and synths within software such as Massive, Reaktor, or Alchemy, almost everything else that I include in my tracks is some version of a real life sample. I run the sample through a variety of effects and processes until it I like how it sounds. I have used live instruments in the past, however now I mostly sample live instruments and then use samplers, as it lets me edit out my mistakes.
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Basslager: I definitely prefer producing in the studio. Performing live is a ton of fun, especially if everything is going just right, but especially for a DJ, I don’t feel like it allows you the same level of creativity that you get to have when making something from scratch.
- What do you do in your time outside of making music? Do you have any other hobbies?
Basslager: My primary time sink besides producing music is definitely school. I’m attending Washington University where I study computer science and marketing. In addition to that I play on the rugby team. While not completely separate from music production, I own and operate the electronic music production blog http://producerheadquarters.com
8. What does your current studio setup consist of?
Basslager: In addition to my computer and DAW (Logic 9), I have a midi keyboard, drum pad, hardware mixer, and several microphones. I use Native Instruments Komplete 10 and Camel Audio’s alchemy to do most of my sound design.
- Which piece of hardware or software would you consider the most essential in your Production setup, and that you would never want to be without?
Basslager: Definitely my computer. While I can get by not having my studio set up when I am on the road, without my computer I cannot produce anything. Earlier this year my computer had a complete meltdown and I was a fish out of water for several weeks before I got it replaced.
- What is the title of your latest release and where can fans find it?
Basslager: I have an upcoming EP, entitled “I Can’t Breathe” which is going to be available through TRNT Records. I try to keep my Soundcloud up to date with new, free downloads and mixes several times a month.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Basslager: For me it’s basically the same answer for both questions: people hearing my music. Nothing gives me a better feeling when someone (whom I have no real connection with otherwise) tells me that they like what I am doing and to keep up the good work. That being said, sometimes it feels like there is no one out there hearing what you’re doing which can be discouraging.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
Basslager: I handle everything myself. I like the experience that I get from doing so. Currently I am in university right now studying marketing and computer science, and the experience with online marketing, web design and social media promotion that I have gotten through managing my music project has opened up a lot of doors for me.
- Do you work exclusively a private home recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio too? For example, do you outsource your mixing and mastering?
Basslager: For the most part I do all steps of the process myself, although when I have a commercial release I let the label take care of the mastering process. I don’t have the studio equipment or room set up to do a truly professional master on my tracks.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Basslager: I can’t remember where I heard it, but I read somewhere that having one real fan is far better than a thousand “followers” who are unengaged. I think that is especially true for social media. I wish I had followed that advice earlier on. For a long time I figured if I made good stuff eventually people would find it and listen. The unfortunate truth is there far more good musicians out there than will ever be heard.
- Gives us your personal shortlist of the best 3 electronic producers currently in circulation – underground or mainstream?
Basslager: Skrillex will always be one of my favorite electronic music icons. Essentially everyone with the least bit of familiarity with the scene knows who he is, and what his sound is. While it is a fairly popular to give him hate, I think he is doing great things with OWSLA and Nest HQ (his free release label). I have found so many great artists who have released under both.
Apashe is another one of my favorites. He has some of the best sound design around, and couples his amazing sound design with excellent orchestral or other real life instrument samples. It’s not often that he releases a track that I don’t immediately download.
Otto Van Schirach is a live performance master. His music is esoteric, and far from mainstream, but the way he performs it captivates the audience. I strongly suggest you watch his boiler room set. It is one of the strangest, most entertaining hours to be found anywhere on Youtube.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and independent music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web?
Basslager: I personally dislike social media, but that is mainly because I have trouble keeping up with it all. I think it’s a great way to keep in contact with your fan base, but I personally have trouble finding time to do so adequately. I think social media has definitely made it easier to “fake it” now than it had been in the past.
As a response to social media I have started developing my own website (basslager.com) in an effort to give myself an online hub that is detached from the social media realm. Its still in its infancy so I am not sure how it will actually turn out.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Basslager: Personally I feel that my style falls under the umbrella of Trap/Dubstep. Within that umbrella I would say that a lot of my songs are fairly IDM influenced, with a strong focus on melody, rhythmic variation, while also retaining danceability. That being said, I will occasionally release a track that is more mainstream sounding in an effort to help promote the stuff that I like making.
- Straight off the top of your head, how would you describe the current state of electronic music in general?
Basslager: Its obvious that the entire genre is growing… fast. Although I wasn’t around at the time, I have a feeling that electronic music now looks very similar to how rock did thirty or forty years ago. A lot of people say that electronic music is getting “too mainstream”. I would argue there has always been a mainstream and an underground in every genre, regardless of how big or small. While the mainstream of electronic music is growing a lot, so is the underground. I’m finding more, better, unheard of artists now in 2015 than I did just two years ago.
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or some other tangible milestone?
Basslager: I guess the pinnacle of (realistic) success for me would be underground recognition. I would be thrilled to have a sizeable dedicated fan base that come to my shows because they like what I have to perform for them. It would great to have that on a massive scale, kind of like what Pretty Lights has, but right now achieving St. Louis recognition is what motivates me.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Basslager: I hope that no matter what type of success comes my way, I will always stay humble. As of right now, I try to communicate directly with fans, answering questions, responding to comments and what not. Even if my fan base explodes, and I achieve absurd mainstream success, I want people who listen to my music to see themselves as my friends and not just followers of some untouchable icon. Luck shouldn’t dictate how I treat other people.