Go on an Audio Trip With This Exclusive Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 Mix From ATTLAS
It’s one thing to get signed to deadmau5’s mau5trap label; being a part of the mau5kateers is an honor most up-and-coming dance music producers would love to achieve. However, it’s an entirely different thing when people swear you’re a secret side project of mau5 himself. This is the position in which ATTLAS found himself at the start of his career in dance music.
The classically trained, Canadian-born producer had already spent years in recording studios, helping to score films and learning the ins and outs of that side of the music industry. While between jobs, he decided to take a chance and send his music to mau5trap. At that point, no other label had heard ATTLAS’ music. He didn’t even have any social media accounts, making the revelation of his true identity all that much more dramatic.
The narrative nature of his music is what is most striking and refreshing about his approach. Much like when deadmau5 first hit the scene, ATTLAS’ music is hard to pin into any particular genre, as it weaves in elements of progressive, tech and house. His EPs and impeccable production skills have solidified him as an artist, giving him a chance to stretch out and explore creative journeys through dance music.
As well, ATTLAS takes his storytelling to the next level through his mixes, and his exclusive mix for Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 is an audio trip through ethereal synths and thumping, groovy basslines. It’s just a small taste of what ATTLAS can do onstage, which you’ll experience in full bloom at this year’s Nocturnal Wonderland.
You’ve spoken about your EPs creating a narrative. When you sit down to write music, do you know what story you’re going to be telling that day?
It definitely varies, because a lot of my favorite melodies come about from jamming. That being said, it’s important for me to approach the work with a definite thesis in mind. It helps me determine the scope and spectrum of the sounds used—the melodies and the structure. Bloom was very much a response to what the prior three months of my life had been, and reflecting on it musically as well as personally. In my mind, it’s the most consistent I’ve been thematically, though it’s very much just the beginning of what I’d love to accomplish.
You and deadmau5 have done quite a few b2b sets. Since you both play live, how much planning goes into a set like that? How much freedom do you have to improv?
The funny thing with our very first back to back was that it wasn’t planned at all, and it was actually the first time I met Joel [deadmau5] in person. It’s very free and loose, with some conversation between us as we go. The key is to pay attention in the moment and use your ears, to have a good understanding of not only the tracks and edits themselves, but the arc you’re building together. If he goes darker, I go darker. The only real “planning” I do is making sure I have a good library of the kind of techno he likes to play—a bunch of stems, loops, and one-shots ready—and an appetite for Corona. One of the best ones we played was in Aspen. We were both digging for tracks the other hadn’t heard, and I think at one point, I was looping an air-raid siren over some hard Italian techno—utter madness.
People thought you were deadmau5 at first. What was it like to watch that conversation unfold before you revealed who you were?
It was initially very flattering! A lot of it was the result of me having no real social media at all. I just got my first smartphone this spring, and I had to create my own personal Facebook account, just so I could set up the ATTLAS one. People were clever in trying to fill in the gaps, but I was glad when the separation between my music and mau5’s was made clear. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes, and I think it’s important for me to grow into my own clear voice and sound, musically.
You had zero social media presence when you first approached mau5trap. How has opening up to the public on a more direct level affected the way you write, if at all?
That was definitely a big adjustment for me. I’m a private person by nature, and while I was comfortable with putting my music out there, putting my personality and face out in the world was a huge leap. There was fear, for sure, and the internet can be a murky place of opinions, perspectives, and sometimes poison. To my (happy) surprise, though, it’s been such a positive experience. My music and the way I write is quite melodically personal, and I’ve found that the conversations and interactions that have come about as a result of this sharing have enriched the entire experience. I’m more eager now than ever to write something that will mean something to me and that will mean something to a stranger. It’s another element of connection and community through music.
How did not having a social media presence play into your discovery story?
Funny enough, it was barely a factor at all, and the lack of social media presence meant I could start building something fresh. It meant that the look, feel, and sound of ATTLAS were unmapped territory to populate and to explore from the first release. The discovery of the music is a funny path as well. I had been working in L.A. under a composer, and after receiving my new contract, I had to go back to Canada to sort out the paperwork for my work visa. That’s a process that can be lengthy and expensive, so I was into a bit of downtime until all the legal came through. I finally had time to focus on polishing my electronic production, as I had been primarily in the scoring and composing world before then. I brought the dance demos to a place of polish, where I believed they met my own standard of quality, and I wanted to know how they fared against the high bar that deadmau5 sets. I found a demo submission email and sent the tracks off. mau5trap was the only label that heard them, and amazingly enough, I received a great news email in response.
Do you listen to narrative/storytelling podcasts or watch a lot of movies in your free time?
I for sure listen and consume a lot of narrative work. I love listening to the old radio plays, too. The way they play with music, folly, narration, and acting without an accompanying visual has given me a huge education on crafting emotional and storytelling arcs in my writing and mixes. If I can recommend one, please seek out the BBC radio play of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.
You were on the verge of continuing a career in film scoring when mau5trap signed you. Is that an area you’d like to revisit someday?
It’s definitely something I’d love to revisit, if not do together at the same time as this ATTLAS adventure. I’ve been fortunate enough on mau5trap to release a wide variety of music, some trending toward the more ambient and downtempo [sounds]. I think there’s a lot of crossover potential in the tracks we have out and are going to release in the upcoming months, but the real treat would be scoring a project from scratch. I love the idea of working thematically and with motif, specifically when it’s linked to character, geography and instrumentation. I’ve actually been working on some spec writing in that area right now, just to stay sharp and innovative for when the opportunity comes along. And it doesn’t just have to be film! TV, games, theatre—I’d love the challenge to score visual [projects], to score character, and to bring my own unique voice to the project.
How did you initially imagine the concept for your Storyline mix series?
I’d say the biggest influence for Storyline has been Adam Gnade’s work, in particular his record “Run Hide Retreat Surrender.” As much as I love an amazing DJ mix, I realized there was an opportunity to re-contextualize these tracks and sounds. In a similar way to Kuleshov’s visual experiments, I found that the emotional interpretation of a track would differ greatly if preceded by a conversation of a couple fighting or a man’s confession of love or a child wondering about the universe. I started toying with these emotional re-contextualizations in my “overtures” for the ATTLAS EPs, and I knew that a long-form iteration could really work, as long as there were consistent emotional threads throughout. It was [also] a chance to explore a lot of genres and eras of music at once and for me to reimagine my own work and have fun editing and remixing some of my favorite tracks.
ATTLAS Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 Mix Track List
D-Nox & Beckers “114 Miles to Go” (Roy Rosenfeld Remix)
Alex Smoke “Dire Need” (Tale of Us Remix)
Jeremy Olander “Exchange”
War “Invisible” (DjRum Remix)
Applescal “Harmony Two”
Four Tet “Unicorn” (Josy Remix)
Catch ATTLAS at Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 Sunday, September 4, at the San Manuel Amphitheater & Grounds in San Bernardino, CA. Tickets are available now. For more information, visit the official website.
Alexander Dias is one chill dude. Follow him on Twitter.Nocturnal Wonderland Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 ATTLAS deadmau5 mau5trap House Deep House Techno Tech House Progressive House DJ Mix Stream Interview Show more
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