Not too long ago, I was graced with the chance to sit down with Eskmo and Eprom before their show in Austin, TX. You guys spoke up, and here is the Eskmo interview transcribed from that night! Brendan Angelides, also known as Eskmo, is a Bay Area producer who melts faces wherever he goes. His genre-bending music reminds people that dubstep doesn’t have to be so dull and monotonous, that it has the potential to be a true avenue for creative exploration. I walked away from this interview feeling much more confident in the direction that electronic music is heading, with folks like Brendan manning the helms.
Psymbionic: Tonight is the first show in anticipation of your upcoming release on Warp Records with your friend Eprom. How does it feel to be a part of a legacy such as Warp?
Eskmo: Honestly, same answer as Sander.. super humbling. I don’t think I’ve even think I’ve gotten over the ecstatic feeling from it, cause it’s still coming out and stuff. Definetely.. nevermind, I was going to use an adjective.. Bonerific? But yeah, it’s just wicked. And I’m just glad to part of that thing, because I’ve been listening to Warp for so long. Like Aphex Twin was a huge influence of mine back in the day. He was one of the first electronic ones that really sent me into this whole “oh wow you can do a whole nother thing with this”. Like the Richard D James album, I remember finding that, and it blew my whole world apart. He was just approaching songs from a completely different area of the brian, you know, which was pretty wicked. And then obviously Boards.. and the fact they are also signing stuff like Grizzly Bear and Broadcast and Battles and all that shit, that just totally re-amps my view of them.
Psymbionic: I’ve read more than once that you carry a field recording setup with you whenever you can. When you’re not on tour or in the daily bustle of life, where do you go, microphone in hand, to seek inspiration?
Eskmo: Umm, I actually don’t do that too much. I don’t kind of go out on field recording missions. I usually just bring it with me if I’m like… That last bass note just totally rumbling my.. I can’t even hear myself! But yeah, I tend to bring it with me, like I have it with me right now. If I’m just going to the park with a friend or something like that, just random times.. I’ve just kind of been getting into the mode of carrying it in my bag with me all the time. And then if something for some reason happens and I just kinda bring it out. The rig is nothing too much at all, An Edirol field recorder. The main thing I love about it is that it just fits in my pocket, it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying anything. But the actual built in mics are super super good on it. I know that if it was even higher quality, and if I had one that was like $2000 or something, just for the fact it was larger, I wouldn’t use it as much. Because I use this thing just because it fits in my front pocket. It’s ideal.
Eskmo: Is there a kick? Do you hear a kick?
Eprom: The kick is just lost in that bass.
Eskmo: Sidechaining is very important technique. 100%.
Psymbionic: Would you say you have a specific production method? Along the lines of personal thought process.
Eskmo: Kinda, but not really though. I still really try to maintain the fact that I’m doing it for therapeutic reason for myself and also hopefully I can translate that to other people. So I don’t think about it beyond that as much. As an example, I just wrote a tune where I’m basically just signing the words “communication” over and over for about three minutes. It was right after I got back from Christmas break, and I had a really really strong powerful good talk with my little brother. There was no thought process behind it, other than that I just felt like I needed to express that and it just kinda came out, you know? So I don’t know if it goes any beyond that, but I usually just try tohave a direct connection, and if I’m not inspired by something, then I won’t force it, but usually 9 times out of 10 something will come out.
Psymbionic: So you just respect the flow?
Eskmo: Yeah it’s important.
Psymbionic: You come across to me as a pretty down to earth and humble, you know regular guy.
Eprom: No, he’s a fucking dick.
Eskmo: (pointing to Claire) Yeah she knows. On the way over here, I was yelling, “fucking, watch your driving! Bitch, quit texting!” But, that is true. If I can leave this interview with saying one thing, I totaled my car right before Christmas because I was texting while driving. Do not text and drive, ladies and gentleman, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it for you or the person you’re texting.
Psymbionic: What do you feel about the state of the electronic music scene today as far as peoples personal interaction with others.
Eskmo: To be honest, I don’t know if I really feel too much a part of it. I don’t really go out to events and stuff like that much. If I go out, I’m bound to go out and see a band that I love, or a singer/songwriter. I’ll go out and support friends that are playing and stuff, when I can. But I think I did so much of that for so long, because I started going to electronic events, like only electronic stuff, when I was like 17 or something, and I’m 29 now. So there was a period there that that was all that I was doing for a long time. And then I realized my heart wasn’t in that at all. And even these days I still my I don’t feel like I’m part of a club environment at all, you know, it’s just not where I resonate at all. But I feel like it’s activating something else for other people that are experiencing it, because I know therapeutically, music is huge for me. I went through places that I couldn’t have accessed if I hadn’t seen a band perform a certain song or anything like that. Not that I feel like there is any kind of martyrdom or anything like that. I just feel like right now, this is the only place I can get this stuff out so I’m rolling with it.
Psymbionic: What is your choice of computer music and DJing programs and plugins?
Eskmo: When I play out I use Ableton, a Novation 25 key controller, and then a Trigger Finger. And at my studio, it’s Logic Pro.
Psymbionic: What do your different musical personas represent about you, and how do you juggle them?
Eskmo: I made Eskmo first, back in 1999. I didn’t really start putting out any kind of releases until like 2003, I think it was. And I was writing a bunch of music that I wasn’t putting out as Eskmo at all, like I wasn’t even introducing it to people as Eskmo. Eskmo is purely 100% just from being in an emotional place. And by 2006 I realized by I had a full album of this other music and that’s when I decided to put it out as Welder. And I had to contemplate if I wanted to do it as Eskmo or if I wanted to make a separate character, and it sounded so different that I thought about bookings and live shows and the fans and stuff and the way they might relate to it. Where it could be a really big challenge, to play both in the same set. From that point, I’ve literally played a Welder set to close to almost all ambient. And I couldn’t do that as Eskmo, I would be booed off the stage. When I first made Welder, I was trying to juggle both of them at the same time and it got to be way too much. So basically what I’ve done is I put a lot of emphasis behind Welder in ’08 I guess. In ’09 it was 100% emphasis on Eskmo. I want to use the momentum behind Eskmo that is building right now, for Welder for when I decide to make another album. It just made more sense. It will be much easier for the characters to ride off the coattails of one another and go back and forth. And like emotionally there is a place I’ve been able to learn from Welder to help Eskmo so a lot of my Eskmo stuff is starting to become more melodic and really textural. They can still play in their own arenas, but after I do this next big Eskmo release type thing, it’s going to be interesting seeing where Welder is going. I already envision it, but I think it’s going to be very cinematic.
Psymbionic: If you suddenly dropped Welder off the map, do you feel like that’s denying a part of yourself?
Eskmo: Oh 100%. I couldn’t even cut it off, it’s not going to happen. I would go crazy. It’s such an emotional outlet and resonance for me, that I need it. I’ve had really interesting reactions to the Welder sets. Completely different energy, and intention, throughout the music and stuff. But the way people kind of reflected back.. I really like kind of giving that to people.
Psymbionic: Were you a DJ first or a musician? The guitar in your hand says musician.
Eskmo: My first instrument was bass, and then I started playing drums. I used to be obsessed with Primus, back in the day, so full on bass was my instrument. Then I started playing keys, and then basically started to fool around and write stuff on my own. Like I played on high school bands and stuff like that. But then I started to get into the idea of writing a whole entire track by myself without having to worry about other peoples schedules and that kind of stuff. When I started out I was doing live PA, but I didn’t really know what it was. But I never really wanted to DJ, I kinda came from that mode, and so I brought keyboards with me and samplers. I ended up doing that for a few years in Connecticut and Massachusetts and played in New York and Philly a couple times. I was born in Massachusetts and raised in Connecticut. And then I just kind of kept to myself for a couple years when I started writing stuff in Connecticut before I moved to California. I DJed for I think two years in that whole time period, between ’99 and now, off of CDJs just because I had kind of gotten tired of lugging all that equipment around and stuff. I got really bored with that and I was kind of questioning what I was doing. I was kind of being pushed into writing specific kinds of like formulated things for labels and stuff, these smaller labels. You know, BPM, intro, outro, format.. you know, all that shit. Because they were worried about sales and that DJs bought them in vinyl and stuff. I always tried to push that boundary when I was releasing, I would always try to work with the label. So I got back into doing live stuff through Ableton and allowed me to freak out a bit more when playing live. Then in ’08, I decided to make my own label, and that kind of gave me free range because I was kind of tired of dealing with more dance label type things. Like, I’m down for remixes and stuff like that, but it was too much. So now, the creative brain stuff, I can just go with it. That’s why I’m so stoked with the Warp thing, because hopefully that will be a good outlet for me and I can just do what I want, you know?
Psymbionic: Your music seems to be very heavily influenced by concepts and ideas that resonate with you. Who are some of your favorite thinkers, speakers, and philosophers, either from today or of old?
Eskmo: I don’t even know if I can name too many names to be honest. I could even say something really simple, as in music, but he goes past any kind of music like rock star persona type of thing. Someone I resonate with, and like the shit he’s doing, is Tom Waits. He just seems really on point as an individual, at least from what I’ve seen. I really like how he’s progressed through his body of work over the years and some of the topics he hits on, it’s like his personality coming out through his music and just the way he translates whatever the fuck is going on inside of him. Wherever that music is coming from. He’s just someone who is really holding his own, you know? And I just take that as a metaphor that you can apply to your own life on that kind of stuff. And there were periods, you know, I got really heavy into conspiracy based stuff, and really researching dark, dark stuff, for a period of probably like 5 years. And that stopped, kind of slowly, around 2005. That wasn’t what I was wanting at all, you know. But I was able to learn a whole bunch of that kind of stuff and be able to translate it into my vision, kind of what I’m doing and stuff. And for a while there, it started to take kind of a dark turn. Like, there’s something that happened, and you have to fight against this ‘whatever it was’, but that just leads to this resistance type of thing and just a whole bunch of shit. So I just started to focus more on what I wanted, not what I didn’t want.
Psymbionic: What about people who are inspirational to you?
Eskmo: There’s one guy I can name Michael Mead in Seattle. I was introduced to him maybe three years ago, and I actually haven’t used any of his spoken stuff in my music like when I play live or anything. But basically he runs this place called Mosaic up in Seattle, and they work with at risk youth. They go around with drums and stuff and interacts with kids that are going through crazy, crazy stuff and connects with them through music and through metaphor and mythology. He kind of takes after Joseph Campbell, he’s a huge supporter. That’s actually another person I could name, Campbell is wicked. But he uses mythology and archetypes to help with integrating crazy shit into your own experience, and being able to grow from that as an individual. You know, through the dark times that we have to go through, and through your own personal kind of anguish, but also own personal kind of experiences where like a light goes on. Like being able to go through the dynamics of whatever you perceive as being really good or really bad and being really bad and being able to integrate that into your experience. Campbell is huge on that too, and Michael Mead kind of uses that stuff, and he’s just in the trenches, you know, he’s just working with kids that have been through a lot of shit, and totally bringing about this nurturing from this work. So anyone that is involved with this type of work, I’m all about for sure.
Psymbionic: The squishy, layered snare has sort of become a signature of Eskmo. What is the importance behind it?
Eskmo: It kind of just got more and more that way, and that really just came about through a whole lot of field recording and layering different frequency ranges with different sounds and stuff. I think the thing that really got me into that was the whole idea of the clap, and what the clap is doing in different frequency ranges. Then I recorded myself stepping ona bunch of branches when I was out camping one time. And I ended up takiong those back and layering them on top of snares and claps. And that kind of turned into me doing it on almost every single track. It wasn’t pre-meditating, I just did it.
Psymbionic: How was it working with STS9 and 1320 Records for your remix of Shock Doctrine?
Eskmo: Oh it was wicked, they are super nice guys. They are mega supportive, they are just good people. We ended up doing five shows together, back in October I think. They all went really well, you know, they are working super hard. Anyone that was doing that type of stuff, you know, you got to give it up. That was the first time travelling with a band that is doing that type of lifestyle, hitting city city city, waking up in a new city every morning because someone else is driving the tour bus type of thing. Yeah, it was wicked. They have a huge following, and they are really introducing a lot of their people into smaller electronic niches, which is pretty cool.
Psymbionic: Would you care to share a favorite quote of yours with us?
Eskmo: “Whatever you focus on gets bigger.”
Psymbionic: Other than your upcoming Warp release, what else do you have in store for us in coming months?
Eskmo: I just finished a remix of this guy Spor. He’s a big drum ‘n bass guy. That’s going to be coming out on Lifted at some point, I’m not sure. I know they sent it off for mastering and stuff right now. I just started a collaborative project with Amon Tobin, and that’s going to be called “Eskamon”. We just finished our first track together, which actually incorporates a bunch of field recording that we both did. We are actually going to be putting that out on Ancestor soon, within the next four months. We are also going to be giving away a sample pack of the field recording and stuff that we did. Down the line, there’s going to be more stuff that we are going to work on together, for sure. Just when the timing and stuff works. I know we are both uber eager to work on more and more stuff together. Besides that, I’ve just been working on an album, and hopefully see where that goes, and actually, I’m already close to done writing an LP. We’ll just have to see what happens.
There you have it! But, the funs not quite over! We have a couple tracks for you to snag from the man himself, as well as a video compilation from the Austin, TX show from videographer Mike Abb (make sure to check out all of his videos here). And don’t forget to support Eskmo himself by snagging a couple of tunes from his label, Ancestor Media.