A couple weeks ago, two of California’s finest, Gladkill and Sugarpill made their way up and down the Northeast, paying a particular visit to Philadelphia at Silk City. It was a Tuesday night, but once again Philly proved that any night is a good night to party when you’re with good people. With the dance floor packed, the venue hopping, and the beats flowing (special thanks to Philadelphia hometown here Space Jesus for supplying the opening jams), it’s easy to say the night was a success.
But Boris (Gladkill) and Evan (Sugarpill) set out with a serious mission in mind this tour: not only show off their own prowess and musical repertoire, but also call attention to the musical movement they have always been forerunners in. I was lucky enough to catch up with the two of them before the show to discuss their own inspirations and beginnings, as well as their new co-founded label, Foundations Recordings.
Through Foundations, Gladkill & Sugarpill hope to bring to their fans, and even new ears, an entirely new arsenal of easing bass music from producers all across the globe. But we’ll get into that more in the interview. Among the music, you can find a brand new remix from Gladkill, and releases through Foundations from Gladkill and Sugarpill, as well as some of their other contributors.
[BRAND NEW NOISE!] Beyonce – “Mine (Gladkill Remix)”
F: Alright, so where are you guys both originally from, and where do you reside now?
SP: I’m originally from New Jersey, lived in Florida for a long time. Then I moved out to California; I live in Los Angeles now. Been there for about five years now, love it.
GK: I was born in Russia, grew up in New York and live in Oakland, Cali now.
F: Would you say that living in California, or any of these places has been a key inspiration in your music?
GK: For sure. Every chapter of your life- from the music you listen to, to the place you’re surrounded with, to the whole landscape- brings inspiration to your music. You know, Björk and Sigur Rós make beautiful, awkward, weird music, because they’re from Iceland and that’s what they have to look at, when inner city kids might make punk rock.
SP: Yeah definitely. The people around you that you artistically vibe off of, or that you bounce ideas off of are different everywhere you go. I was definitely super inspired by moving out to California, Los Angeles and seeing a bunch of new things I’d never had the opportunity to see in a lot of other places. It was at such a rapid pace, you couldn’t help but meet people and take off of those things.
GK: It’s so centralized, too, in a place like Cali. Everyone’s way more motivated and gettin’ it.
Banks – “This Is What It Feels Like (Sugarpill Remix)” [Foundations Recordings] — FREE Download!!
F: Do either of you have any sort of musical background: either other musicians in the family or music education?
SP: Yeah my family’s a super musical family. My mom has like eight brothers and sisters that all play instruments, so it was always a big part of growing up. I play clarinet, the upright bass. I used to compete in orchestral competitions. I’d been in all sorts of bands growing up, playing guitar and drums and singing. I didn’t even get into electronic music until I was 18. I liked composition and started to realize you could do that on a computer and kind of just translated all of those skills of being able to play over to being able to write songs on the computer.
GK: I came from a line of musicians. My dad’s side of the family had a lot of singers. I’ve been playing guitar and bass since I was in high school, and I’ve been in and out of bands since then. My main instrument is piano right now, and I practice music whenever I can.
F: Did you grow up on electronic music, or can you think of a particular time in your life where it really struck you?
SP: Go Plastic by Squarepusher; when I heard that album it was like, ‘Wow, you can do some crazy stuff, that you could never do with instruments, by taking it into samplers’. At the time I was kind of learning what samplers were and how they applied to band music and recording, when I realized you could just use the parts of it that sucked for actual composition with live instruments to do something interesting, like create a stretchy sound or make it freak out. It felt like that was kind of the jazz of our generation, taking those kind of things and using computers to do what computers do best, rather than trying to model it after what instruments already do that computers suck at doing.
GK: As a kid I listened to a lot of weird stuff people weren’t down with. I listened to like Fatboy Slim and old, old The Prodigy stuff, and all my schoolmates were like, ‘why are you listening to techno? This stuff sucks.’ That moved on to, in college I found Telefon Tel Aviv and Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, and did acid for the first time, and fell in love with electronic music, accordingly.
F: What were you listening to prior to your interest in electronic music?
SP: I grew up around my parents listening to King Crimson and jazz-fusion and rock-fusion. The basic rock stuff like Cream and The Beatles, stuff that has really good song structure as well. Certain stuff was really influential, like Jimi Hendrix. Stuff where a particular artist was really pushing some element and also making timeless songs while doing it. That’s something that’s always been really inspiring to me, how you can make a catchy tune that stays stuck in your head, but is also doing something experimental enough that it’s actually interesting. You can write that money progression, but if it’s not stimulating my brain, it’s just not doing it.
GK: It’s got to be casually able to be picked up, but at the same time be experimental. It’s a very delicate balance. Likewise, I listen to everything from classic rock to progressive metal to electronic to hip-hop to everything. Inspiration comes from everything. I played in a Misfits cover band, did funk-jazz quartets in college, did everything. This is just where we’re both at now.
[Foundations Recordings] Gladkill – “I See the Future”
F: There’s a lot of talk within electronic music about, “this is that genre, and that is this genre”. How do you guys see your music as it fits into the electronic music world? Do you try to model your sound after a particular style that you want to keep constant in your music, or do you just sort of try to keep everything freeform?
SP: I feel like the whole electronic music scene just finally caught up to the way we approach it. Because genres are bullshit for electronic music and have been used to pigeon hole certain things into the smaller or bigger rooms at a rave. And coming from a band background that was just nonsense; that was the hardest thing to understand. Why does drum & bass go in this room and these guys go in this room, when everybody’s dancing to everything? If you’re really doing something interesting, you’re playing with all sorts of inspirations and influences. That has always been my approach: I don’t really have a genre. I’ll make one up that sort of describes my music, but I don’t think it’s something that everyone needs to catch up on. I think it’s awesome; electronic music has finally reached that point where people are thought of as artists that can do whatever they want, and they don’t need to have the same theme all the time. It’s just boring.
GK: It’s more so you’ll hear the same factors, because it’s the same person making the music. It should be: I could throw house at you, I could throw happy hardcore at you, I could throw anything at you, and you should still be able to say, ‘well those elements are from Gladkill’. And that’s definitely the way music is going. It’s harder to categorize things as things become more and more of a mess. But it actually makes it easier to connect with people, because now if someone says, ‘I listen to electronic music,’ it’s such a wide blanket. It’s not just, ‘I like house, fuck all that other stuff’. It’s just a big, messy, inter-connected family.
F: You guys just came together and founded Foundations Recordings. Can you talk a bit about what sparked the idea and went into actually making it happen?
SP: Well we’ve been friends and touring together for a long time. It’s kind of the culmination of a lot of the ideas we just explained. All those places where we come together on how we think about music and the direction it’s going. It gives us an outlet to translate that into music for people. And it’s music that fans of our music will connect with because they’re fans of our music and are interested to see what else is out there. Instead of just seeing what we’re up to, also seeing how other people are coming up and getting to it, and how they’re inspired by those ideas and sounds that we have.
GK: It’s definitely us finding music we’re excited about now and wanting to share it with our fans. Now, in corporate electronic music, it’s so much about who’s pushing you and who’s got money behind you, that the stuff we’re falling in love with, since there are so many people doing electronic music, we want to find that and share it. I think a big part of it, or at least the way I see it, was we couldn’t find a club that we fit into, so we said, ‘fuck it let’s make our own club, and fill it with stuff we love’. That was pretty much just the approach from day one. What we love, to share to the people we know love what we love and love it back.
F: Can you guys disclose any other artists we might see releases from on Foundations?
GK: A lot of them are artists that either have been obscure or you might have never heard of them. We’ve got a lot of people we’re working on right now. My personal thing was, we’re not going to create an official roster until these people have put out significant releases with us. So now you’re going to see a lot of young artists, a lot of affiliated artists you may already know, just kind of throwing in tracks for compilation. We’ve just been talking to so many people we know across the board now. It’s just a matter of narrowing down and getting the tracks. A few names, we’re working with: DAILON out of San Francisco, Bedrockk out of San Francisco; we’ve got some guys like Seapoint out of Barcelona; we’ve got Gillepsy out of Russia.
GK: A lot of names we hope you’ll be familiar with in the future that you may not be right now.
MORiLLO – “S.S.S” [Foundations Recordings]
Beshken – “Doubt” [Foundations Recordings]
F: Is there anything you’re trying to do specifically with Foundations Recordings to set it apart from other labels?
GK: Other than tailoring it personally to ourselves, one thing I’m bringing into it that we both agreed on, is that we’re not going for this like, ‘our team’s strong, our team’s the best,’ mentality. We’re actually more so trying to provide a platform for people and trying to not lock them in. Instead, we’re saying, ‘we want you to release that with so and so,’ we just want to be their as a platform to help you move along. Instead of keeping all the artists to ourselves on an exclusive roster.
SP: We both write a lot of different music. So the idea that not all Sugarpill music is going to come out on Foundations, or that not all Gladkill is going to come out on Foundations, just goes toward this sound we’re trying to cultivate. If you have one song, or four tracks, or a whole thing, as long as it fits into the idea of having strong melody and harmony progressions, as well as danceable elements and stuff like that, we’re open to it. Whatever that happens to be.
GK: Just concise ideas. Other artists can release other things with other sources; we’re not saying not to release it. Get it all out. This is just the stuff we want. And I think a lot of people are approaching it the complete opposite way. They’re trying to build up these super strong armies, when in reality that just limits an artist more than anything.
F: Can you also talk a bit about what it’s been like being a part of Headtron? Do you guys come together with the other artists on the collective a lot on just collaborative thinking, talking about music and bouncing ideas off each other?
SP: I mean, that’s the fam. That’s the core group, for the most part of the producers we’ve been working with now for a bunch of years. It’s become it’s own sound and thing, and we’re an integral part of that. But as time moves on, different artistic direction is going to happen and that’s become such a big family that we’re trying to grow. And Foundations is so much more about our own angle on things, Allowing Headtron to get bigger and letting these smaller, little niche things build off it is sort of just the natural progression I think. They’re also our best friends though. They’re always there to bounce ideas off of and to play the bigger shows with.
GK: Headtron has really come into its own thing. People have begun to ask, ‘How do you get on Headtron?’ And what they don’t understand is that it went from nine people who make music, to, as we showed by selling out the El Rey in L.A. with a Headtron takeover, a thousand deep. We’re forming Headtron into more of an extended family slash lifestyle brand. It’s not just the nine dudes out of Cali who make music; it’s so much more than that. It’s a big family, and you’ll see it naturally progressing as such. You’ll see us throwing events under the Headtron name, releasing brand stuff and merchandise like we already do.
SP: And also the blog. The whole Headtron thing is also going to be founded around the blog at this point. A lot of the Headtron artists are sort of branching off into other projects at this point.
GK: And we have so many people who are creatively involved with Headtron that we just want to get out there. Art, fashion, everything.
F: What are you guys using in the studio right now, both hardware and software wise?
SP: I moved to mostly producing in the box, mostly software based stuff in Ableton like analog modeled compressors, because I like to be able to use a lot of different things to create a sort of warmer sound than you would get out of the stock kind of plug-ins. More of the simpler stuff is actually how I get the sound that I want. Taking something like a sine wave and building it into something more interesting has really become a lot of what I’m doing. For Christmas someone gave me a Moog Little Phatty synthesizer and I’ve been using that in Traktor, which adds a whole other element of warmth to it. That’s pretty much my setup: that and a bunch of MIDI controllers and pads and keys.
GK: I write most of my music on a digital piano and then transcribe it into Ableton. But lately I picked up Ableton Push, which changed my life completely. Now it’s completely streamlined; no looking at the laptop, just beats on the fly. I think what Evan wanted to mention as well was that we both have been greatly stepping up our sub game with SubPac. That thing has definitely changed our game up hard, being able to listen to big room sub without it leaving your headphones and seat. That completely redefined my mixing game. So I would say Push and SubPac, as well as an 88-key piano, which every good producer should at least have access to.
F: Are there any other artists you think are doing notable work that fans of yours might be interested in checking out?
GK: Yeah we’re doing that professionally through Foundations. Stick around, we’ll show you all the ones we like.
SP: Also, among the other names that we mentioned, we have homies that are close to us doing stuff under other aliases that have maybe flown under the radar and are undergoing some transitions right now, which we want to support through Foundations as well.
GK: You’ll hear familiar people under new projects and new people that deserve their time in the limelight.
F: Do either of you have any upcoming releases you’d like to mention?
GK: We’ll be releasing a split Sugarpill and Gladkill EP in early April through Foundations.
SP: Yeah, that’ll be a couple tracks from both of us, hopefully a couple collabs on there as well. That’s just a way for us to set a tone for the label. And then we’ll follow it up with a compilation release of all these artists we’ve been talking about around early April.
F: Alright, well thanks guys. Any thing else for the fans?
GK: Funkadelphia’s the best.
Gladkill – “Sessions Vol. 1 Mixtape” — FREE Download!!
Sugarpill – “Space Foray Mixtape”
Gladkill – “Sessions Vol. 2 Mixtape” — FREE Download!!