We caught up with Montréal native e|m for a discussion about musical eclecticism, genre conventions, and drugs in the scene. This turned out to be one of our bet interviews yet...
Percussion Lab: This tracklist is pretty eclectic, is this a typical set for you?
e|m: Yes, I love to try and stretch the boundaries of the dance floor…my mixes do not necessarily have to be in the club to make sense. I went to university for electroacoustic sound and was exposed to a huge variety of sound art over those years. I have always clung to the idea that hearing music you would expect throughout a mix can be good, but hearing music that you do not realize you want to hear is always better. I love looking up and seeing people enveloped by Radiohead or Whitney Houston or Sam Cooke or D'Angelo at 1h30 on a Friday night.
PL: Clearly you don't adhere to genre conventions; does genre have a role in dance music today? How do you decide what to play? Is tempo the new metric to judge a tune's worthiness? If not, what is?
e: Genres make me laugh. That is not to say that I disregard them, but at times I think they can be silly. I recently put out a mix which I humorously named the "LaZer Sex Mix" simply because it is essentially vocals and bass…or sex and lasers. Some would call it Future Bass, Post-Dubstep, House, Bass, Garage, 2-Step…I guess it is all of them put together? I think that provided the music has rhythm or soul, people can dance, and there is no point in trying to make too much sense of 'where you are' or 'what you should be doing' in the context of what genre you are listening to. If a song makes you want to dance, it fits under one umbrella and gets grouped with all the other songs that make you want to dance – simple enough. I order songs by tempo and see what journey it takes me on. Iyo Djeli by Oumou Sangare and You by Gold Panda…same tempo, both make me dance, I'll play them together.
PL: What's your local scene like?
e: Well, Montréal is home to some incredibly talented electronic musicians, some incredibly forward thinking labels, and some incredibly accessible festivals. There are lots of events being held under the radar in lofts and unofficial spaces honing in on a crowd that goes out simply to dance…really hard. That said, it is not the easiest thing to get a hold of. I wish there were more reliable sites for free, multi-demographic dancing, but what do I know – I am a late bloomer into the Facebook world and perhaps I have been missing out. I have only been back in MTL for a year now and I was around Vancouver before that. It's how I teamed up with Andrea (The Librarian) and got to helping her out with the Bass Coast Project in Squamish, BC. That is a scene to check out…if you have not heard of the artists playing at Bass Coast, you will probably hear about them in the next 12 months. Andrea, their talent coordinator, is 12 steps ahead.
PL: Do you produce? if so, what's your dream collaboration?
e: I produced a bunch of music via modular synth throughout my university years. I can remember students from other faculties walking by our synth lab and giving us the stink eye because of the wild and distracting noises we were making and then looking up to see our professor giving us a 'thumbs-up' 5 minutes later. Ever since I lost access to the modular I have basically halted producing music. I spend my mornings thinking about how I should produce, my days finding new music, and my evenings remembering why I love playing other people's music. It may change one day, but for now, I will continue to hunt for the brilliance which is on the horizon.
Dream collaboration would be Koreless or James Blake. Two geniuses who are not afraid of silence.
PL :The 'bass'/post-dubstep/hyperdub-nightslugs whatever you want to call it thing has sort of been the dominant sound of a particular, possibly self-congratulator-ily, forward-thinking scene, for a few years now. Do you get the sense that that sort of 'non-sound' has past it's heyday? if so, are you aware of any identifiable new style or sound bubbling up from some corner of the underground?
e: Well worded, haha. I won't lie, I read that six times. As far as Night Slugs and Hyperdub, I love Kingdom and Burial and Lil Silva but I am not floored by every release that comes off their press. Are they still setting pace? They are not setting my pace, but I am not one to decide for the rest of the community. Labels like Symbols, Infinite Machine, Squelch and Clap, and Origami Sound I follow much more closely. I am predictable in my enjoyment of vocal samples, especially R&B samples. I came right through the dubstep movement with Burial, sp:mc, Benga, Skream, Distance, TRG, and right into the more aggressive zone where dubstep currently rests. I hit a wall, almost overnight, about a year and a half ago and decided I needed more humanism, more groove, more jam, less anger, less stress, less industry in my music.
As an ode to who is on top, Disclosure is killing it time after time and getting huge recognition and then someone like Armeria makes all of his tunes available for free and has much less recognition for heart stopping music. If play count decides who is leading, it is not always accurate.
Did I even answer your question?
PL: There's been a lot of talk this year about corporations dumping money into dance music, in particular in the festival scene. What place do festivals have in dance music? Is this potential influx of capital a good or a bad thing from your perspective?
e: Festivals which are pushing the limits of art, understanding, and convention are gems. I think this is a necessity. Montréal has Piknic Électronique every Sunday through the summer, aimed at bringing electronic music out of the rave scene. Consensus? Awesome! We have Igloofest through February where we can party outside in subzero temperatures in snowsuits to Maya Jane Coles and French Fries and Buraka Som Sistema. Consensus? Awesome! If more support can be brought to the hands of the festival organizers it can potentially make it more accessible for more people by reducing ticket prices. That said, I don't really want to see "Smirnoff" tattooed on Machinedrum's face next time I go see him at a festival. It is a fine line. In Montréal we have bicycles that can be rented all across the city with a pretty respectable bike path infrastructure. Within the first year of this system being in place, advertisements began popping up on the bikes themselves. My initial reaction was not supportive, but if these ads can make the system more affordable and hence more accessible, I can live with it. I'd rather see more people experiencing the arts, and if financial support will kickstart that…well…let's do it carefully.
I wish that the electronic music and festival scene could begin to peel away from drug culture and usage. I think more people need to realize the inherent enjoyment of music without this influence.
PL: Would you care to expand on your comment regarding drug use and dance music? I think there is a definite link between 'raving' and the ecstatic states achieved by, say, the whirling dervishes of Sufism, or the master musicians of Jajouka, or traditions like the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greek culture or ayahuasca and sacred mushroom ceremonies in the Americas. Do you see any connection there? What about drug use do you object to? Is it scene related?
e: If we are going to look at the traditions you have mentioned, we are introducing the element of 'spirit' into our discussion, and I firmly believe that drug use is not necessary in order to greater connect with your spirit. If anything, it propels you further away.
I feel that far too often human beings, in Western culture especially, believe that in order to tap into their own creativity they should use drugs. So many idols in music have been drug users and so many of those very same people have passed as a result of this use. We are inherently creative creatures and it may at times be hard to discover, but natural creativity is something truly incredible which we should all strive for.
As for experience, dancing is liberating in itself. Being completely unaware of your surroundings and unaffected by social norms is a place most people like to go, it is light, simple, and freeing. Reaching this place with drugs requires no effort, whereas achieving this state naturally one must add effort. This effort in turn becomes so empowering as you begin to have absolute control over your own release. Ethereal.
Yiuy can check out e|m's feature mix here.