A conversation with Policy.
Percussion Lab: Can you give us some background on how you started producing, maybe up to landing on Rush Hour?
Policy: I started messing around with making beats around late 2007. At the time, I had just started a temp legal job at a Wall Street bank in order to support my wife and newborn son, and making music late at night became my sole creative outlet. Going back to work in an office was difficult because I had given up the big law firm life four years before that, to pursue my own solo law practice as well as filmmaking, both of which I did with a fellow lawyer/filmmaker buddy of mine. Fortunately, at the bank, I met a colleague who was exploring music production, and soon enough, we were sharing our latest tracks with each other, sneaking every opportunity to talk about music and Craigslist gear finds. I still had a traditional band mindset though, using the guitar and keyboard to produce “songs”. Well, one day, my colleague introduced me to Burial's album “Untrue”. I didn't have a strong reaction at first, but then I started to become obsessed with it. That album became my soundtrack for the next half year. Everything I made after that point was part of my attempt to unlock some secret about what I was hearing. I've been a musician all my life, but you could say that Burial was my entry point into making electronic music with any level of intentionality.
In late 2009, I started putting my music up on Soundcloud, and soon after, I got two tracks signed to Car Crash Set, which were released in summer 2010. Shortly after that release, I emailed Rush Hour and they responded enthusiastically.
PL: So you have two kids; how does that affect or not affect your production/performing/ability to absorb influences/stay current (if that's even relevant to you or in general)?
Policy: It might seem difficult to do what I'm doing while raising two kids, but honestly I don't know that it's more difficult than what everyone else I know is doing: holding down a day job, trying to have a social life, etc. Right now, my day job is taking care of my boys, and when I go out to events or stay up late at night working on a track, I've got the same considerations everyone else has – How am I going to get through tomorrow? If anything, having kids helps to keep it all in perspective. I don't get distracted by the latest 'free download by so-and-so' when my youngest is screaming at me to play with him. The question of absorbing influences is a good question though. Since I only started producing after our first child was born, I'm accustomed to having a limited amount of time to actually listen to music, but that's what has worked for me to this point. And I'm not sure how different that is for other people. It's true that raising kids can be all-consuming, but it also means I have more moments throughout the day where I can just reflect on what I'm doing musically, without the pressure of a boss hovering over me. I think a lot of stay-at-home parents might agree that we live for those moments. For some, it might be the chance to watch a show on Hulu. For me, it's the chance to review what I've been working on.
PL: In the context of the contemporary music industry, does this constitute a job? How do you navigate this landscape?
Policy: Making music hasn't become a 'job' yet. I do dream about it becoming a self-sustaining endeavor though. We'll see how things go :)
PL: Your facebook page states that you make ' white-collar, corporate casual, electronic music.' How do you balance that statement with the undeniable fact that your output is body-moving, and dancefloor oriented?
Policy: Well, I never thought of myself as making, or capable of making, truly danceable music, so 'corporate casual' was sort of a safe, tongue-in-cheek way to describe my work. I mean, for a couple years, I was basically listening only to music that was digestable in a crowded subway train and at the office. House or techno just isn't very conducive to navigating in those environments :) It wasn't until I quit my job and started staying home that I started to intentionally make interesting, yet danceable tunes, which is still an ongoing quest.
PL: What are your goals as a musician? I.e., why are you doing this?
Policy: I don't have any very specific goals except that I want to keep progressing as a musician to the point that it becomes easier for me to put ideas down any which way I want. It's tough because I've found as I've progressed in my production skills, you can't help but notice what others are doing, and there's always the temptation to compare yourself and wonder if you're doing things wrong. These days, I'm pretty selective about what I listen to, out of necessity really, but it works to the extent that I need to be in a vacuum to be free to do my thing. Do I want my music to be relevant? Of course. With my album release, though, I'd say that it's already fulfilled a large part of my musical dream, which was to have an LP out. I'm finding that it also gives me some freedom to not worry about whether someone will hear my music now, and enables me to focus on making good tunes. I can't deny there is the urge to be heard by more and more people, but that probably goes without saying about anyone who has submitted demos anywhere.
PL: What role does dj'ing play in your life/creative process?
Policy: To be honest, it's a relatively new part of my musical creativity, as I didn't grow up wanting to be a DJ. It's an art I've grown into the last few years, but I definitely see it as something distinct from my music production. They feed off of each other, of course, and I'm sure the relationship will mature if I'm given the chance to play out more regularly.
PL: Who are some of your favorite New York producers at the moment?
Policy: There's a lot of energy in this city, and it's bubbling with talent. I've always adored Falty DL's music. Machinedrum blew me away with “Rooms”, and Braille made one of my all-time favorite tracks, “The Year 3000”. I also really dig what Anthony Naples is doing. Guys like Contakt, Blind Prophet, Enoe, and Svpreme Fiend are making quality music as well and I look forward to what's in store for all my music bro's.
PL: What other events do you consider a must in New York right now?
Policy: I don't get to attend as much as I want to, but I love what Justin and Eamon are doing with Mister Saturday Night. Their guest DJ's and vibe at their parties are spectacular. I still have to get to a Dog and Pony Show event, as those guys have been big supporters of mine. They've also been bringing class acts to this city.
PL: Does visual art play any part in your inspiration?
Policy: I've always loved the combination of visuals and music, so of course movie soundtracks were a big part of my tape collection growing up. I don't necessarily use visuals as inspiration for my electronic music, but a lot of feedback I've received mention that my work is cinematic. There's probably a cheese factor that subconsciously inspires me. But I'd say that my film work really helped cultivate the notion of creating scenes or moods that tug directly at people's emotions. If they conjure visuals, that's probably why my music has been described as cinematic. I definitely don't have synethesia, but maybe I have a distant malformed cousin of it, where notes produce a particular camera shot. I will say that “Look at Them” on my album is a direct response to a particular movie scene in a Scorcese film. I tend to remember powerful scenes, as if they were important moments in my life.
PL: TURRBOTAX® seems to be a reference point for you. Do you have any affiliation with the idea of 'post-dubstep' ? Do you see a connection to that scene with your current sound?
Policy: If I've felt a connection to “post-dubstep”, I think it's mostly been as an attitude and a direction for me. Honestly, I don't think I ever fully appreciated dubstep, because I was not involved in the scene until very late. Turrbotax was instrumental because it exposed me not only to other people in the scene, but also music that I wasn't really tuned into on my own. As far as my sound, I probably am lumped in with the post-dubstep crowd because my earliest work was very much influenced by the darker, rolling low-end of dubstep. But it wasn't until I signed with Rush Hour that I started to see references to house and techno in connection with my sound. I never even considered myself as a house or techno artist either. So I guess I'm an orphan, because I never fully lined up with a particular genre.
PL: What's your studio setup? When you play live, what's that look like?
Policy: I've used Cubase since the beginning, along with some outboard synths. I like starting with samples or sounds outside of the computer and bringing them in and processing them. If you see me play out, you might see some records and some digital files going through a mixer :)