The classically trained musician and jazz composer also shared what music he listens to on his free time, discussed video games, puppies, and what his dream car is.
You’re a classically trained musician with training in jazz. How long have you been playing jazz music? Could you tell us a little bit about your musical upbringing?
I started playing when I was three years old. I got introduced to jazz around second or third grade. So, a bunch of years now.
When listening to music, do you listen to a lot of the heavy music, similar to the stuff you produce, or do you listen to other genres and styles?
It really depends on what I'm doing. When I produce, I listen to a lot of the heavy stuff to get a lot of inspiration. Usually, I will listen to jazz when I'm at the airport, on the plane, and when I'm just chillin' with my chick or vibin' in the car. It really depends on the situation.
Nothing is heavy anymore. You need the light stuff to appreciate the heavy productions.
The 'Adventures In Time' album is clearly much different than what you normally produce. Why did you do such a sharp 180-degree turn all of the sudden?
I was hinting at my musical background in a lot of music throughout my years of releasing. It's just that people didn't notice. I brought jazz music into my records before, and if you pay attention, I actually played the saxophone. Some of them I played the drums; the piano in all of them.
I was hinting at my background throughout all of these years. When I'm home, all of my friends and family know that I'll sometimes dedicate three to four hours a day just practicing piano because I find it really interesting.
Jazz music is incredibly complex, from a music theory standpoint. In your opinion, what’s the hardest music theory concept to understand in jazz music?
There're honestly so many levels to it. There's a lot to know when you finally dial down and know all of the scales. Then comes the crazier part of finding the parallel, different, and alternate scales of the scales that you're playing. For example, changing dominants. There's too much to study when it comes to harmonies. I kind of touch it in my album.
I would say 99 percent of electronic music is written in 4/4. In Adventures In Time, I actually put an emphasis on time signatures. That's why I called it Adventures In Time. Most of the records are not in 4/4. They're written in 5/4 or 7/8. "It's Complicated" actually changes a time signature almost every bar.
You have to pay attention dynamics, too, or giving space. It sounds like the most basic thing. There's no space for space. There're so many things you have to pay attention to.
Also, the attention span of your generation is very short. There's just no room for buildups, so you just always have to be there [in the drop].
A DJ once said that most productions today are produced and engineered for 16-bar loops for festival drops.
Oh, 100 percent! When I started producing, I had no idea about DJing. I didn't want to DJ. That wasn't my purpose. So all of my songs were incredibly... weird: Long intros going into whatever and ten parts in a song that don't repeat themselves. Then, when I started DJing, I realized that, oh, fuck, I couldn't even mix this thing.
You recently played a jazz night in Los Angeles to celebrate the 'Adventures In Time' release. When you’re not in the studio, touring, etc, do you play a lot of jazz nights around the community?
I like to jam with some friends. Sometimes I play by myself. The thing with Adventures In Time and the show is that for years, I wasn't ready to play in front of people. I wasn't sure if I was decent enough. I still don't see myself as an elite piano player. No way in the world. I can't be in the same sentence as Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau. It's not my goal. I like to think of myself as more of a composer, and that's what I emphasized in the album, not my piano skills. But, that being said, I feel comfortable enough to sit down with players and play.
After this third show, I feel more comfortable playing to crowds. So, I would love to have more jazz fills.
The drummer hit me up after the show and said that there was an open stage night some place in LA and I should go and play. And I'm not ready for that type of shit. This is the type of place to see how good I am. I'm comfortable enough to play my shows.
For [Adventures In Time] I hit up some of my friends from high school that I used to play saxophone with. I'm like, 'Yo, I'm playing piano now, let's try it.'
Your music is peppered with jazz influences, tendencies, and sounds. Any intentions in remixing a track or track(s) on the 'Adventures In Time' album?
I was actually toying with that idea. A couple of nights I actually started making these records electronic. There's something in the flow of playing this record because everything is improvised.
In the album, there's a lot of correspondence between me and the drummer. I'll play something and the drummer will follow me. Or the bass player's playing something so I give him certain chords. There's a musical discussion between the three of us. It's live and dynamic.
But I might do it!
When I approached into producing this, my problem was the uncertainty. Let's say I record the piano first and I have to write drums that talk to the piano. But maybe the drums will change the piano. I don't even know or who or what to record first. It also sounds weird when everything is live, but it's actually just MIDI.
Don't forget that the tracks are in really weird time signatures.
Trying to get a dubstep track into a 5/4 or 7/8 time might be kind of challenging.
I've done this before. You can also do the violas, or triplet over four. I can probably write the record in 5/4, but the drums are holding four when the bass and melody are playing five. It might be a little confusing.
"My Favorite Things" is in 3/4, and I turned it into 4/4. I took "Cry Me A River," which is in 3/4, and put it over 4/4. I've done some really weird shit in the past. I've done it in the past and might do it in the future. But then there's the discussion of 'Who the fuck's going to play it?'
What made you want to go into electronic music?
There's always a time and place for everything. I love to go to jazz nights. At the same time I also love to go to techno nights. In Tel Aviv, it's very, very heavily electronic, but not like electronic music here in America. Dubstep is "poppier" to me. Flume's melodic type stuff is poppier.
In Israel, it's the very underground shit, super underground. There're like 20 basements right next to each other, completely dark, with one strobe. It's everywhere. I can't even explain it. You have to go and see it. It's insane. The party starts at 3am and ends at 12 on a Monday. It's very minimal techno and weirder stuff. This is where I grew up. That's the shit that I went to.
Then, randomly there would be a drum and bass or dubstep night. There was one in 2006, and that's where I discovered it.
Of all of the tracks you’ve ever written and released, which one is your favorite? Why?
I cannot have a favorite. Listen, I love and hate all of them. They're like my children. They all suck but they're all amazing.
Who’re some up-and-coming artists that you have your eyes and ears on? Are there any of them that really stand out?
You know I have two labels. With these two labels we push a lot of people. There're so many talented up-and-comers right now. I think the accessibility to electronic music this day and age is what allows for so many talented people. Ten years ago, everyone wanted to be in a punk band like Blink-182. [There were] crazy drummers and guitar players. Today everyone wants to be on the stage at Tomorrowland.
There're a lot of upcoming producers.
If you could be a puppy, what breed would you be and why?
A caucasian ovrcharka. It's Georgian guard dog. They're massive and the most loyal. They'd fight a bear for you. They're scary, but they look cute. I read it in a book and fell in love with it. I couldn't even believe this dog was real until I googled it and was like, 'What. The Actual. Fuck?'
You’re a car enthusiast. What is your dream car?
I have most of my dream cars, but there're a couple of concepts that were put out that look interesting.
Mercedes put out a car called the Maybach Vision that I would love to have. It's an electric powered car that looks like Batman and Robin's Batmobile. It looks like a boat on wheels. That's my dream car. It's so sick.
You’re also into gaming. Have you ever combined your passions of music and video games and written music exclusively for a video game? If not, would this be a venture you’d be willing to go into? If so, what game/game company would you like to write the music for?
That would be super interesting. I don't know how much this generation appreciates it, but when I grew up, I learned a lot of my music from video games. Soundtracks for video games are important. I learned so much about dancehall and reggae from GTA; punk from Tony Hawk.
I think today there's less of it. The only ones that really push music like that is Rocket League. When I opened Rocket League for a month, it was Slushii.
But I don't see how you're going to put music into games like Fortnite or PUBG. If you put music for the Final Circle in PUBG, I'll break my computer. I need to hear who's killing and where and what's going on. You can't put music there.
I would love to have my music in a game like PK, FIFA, or something that's more sports, or a racing game. I could also write music to a story mode for a game like Call of Duty. I would rather have my original songs embedded in a video game rather than writing an original score. If I'm already writing a score I'd rather it be for a sick movie.