Events / Interview

Event Recap: EOTO & VibeSquaD at Stage 48 (New York, NY) & Interview with Jason Hann

EOTO FX Media

Photo by FX Media

by Anthony Salupo

Before Thanksgiving, we had a chance to head to NYC for a very intimate EOTO and VibeSquaD show at Stage 48 in Manhattan. The venue and crowd were relatively small compared to the usual, but the show was just as stellar as expected. VibeSquaD got the night rolling with a less heavy set than usual, angled more toward the funk and hip-hop flavor. The crowd was nice and warmed up by the time Michael Travis and Jason Hann, collectively EOTO, took the stage, and started off bringing the funk.

We got a chance to sit down with Jason Hann to ask him a few questions after the show, in which he revealed the duo has been playing a little more on the funky side recently. However, just like always, the Hann and Travis- also both current and contributing members of the String Cheese Incident– threw together some heavy bass lines, manipulated vocal inserts, and smashing drums fills to create that exclusive EOTO improv experience.

Hann is one of the very few artists who is currently being booked as three different projects: String Cheese Incident, EOTO, and his solo Prophet Massive DJ sets. This requires incredibly unique and creative musical intellect, as Hann contributes to jam sessions requiring him to be in sync with six other band members, embraces complete creative freedom with Travis in EOTO, and delivers imaginative DJ sets that are fresh and innovative.

We asked Hann what it was like juggling these three projects, and how his mind set differs before each performance. He told us that it is fairly simply to switch things up in the head, being a little ADD as it is, and he enjoys getting to work with different people and different styles of music. Jason further noted that his most trying project, at the moment, is his Prophet Massive sets:

“…when I play percussion with [String Cheese Incident] it’s very much I have my range of sounds that I use- I’m not necessarily trying to do anything other than serve the song we are playing at that moment. In EOTO world we are just making stuff up, so the styles of music are varied but in an electronic way, dubstep or trap or a hybrid of both or drum & bass. I’m at a bit of a crossroads with my DJ sets, I’ve done enough sets where people are digging it but I do wanna change the style up some. Just because the style I’m doing now is great but I’m feeling like I wanna do some other things…” 

Every great artist had to start out somewhere, so we had to ask Hann where his musical journey got started. It comes as no surprise that he was born into a musical family. His father was a guitar player and singer who’s gigs happened to be close to where they lived. Jason used to take his homework with him to see his dad’s band play. He continued to talk about how the experiences in these clubs helped develop his passion for music:

 “ It was pretty cool being around adults and hanging out in the club at that age. I was loving watching these guys play music every night. At first, I just sort of absorbed it, but I wouldn’t call it a passion yet. Little by little the drummer would show me something on there instrument during set breaks, and I seemed to pick it up pretty easily. Within a year and a half I knew just about all the band’s songs and could sit in and perform them… and the passion came once I got into it.”

With three very stylistically different projects in constant motion, we were also interested to know where Hann  pulled some of his musical influence from and how his influences might differ from one project to the other. Jason replied that he will gather some specific influences to help him enhance his contribution to certain studio sessions. For example, if he is going for a Brazilian drum feel he pulls influence from singer/songwriter Gilberto Gil and composer Hermeto Pascoal. If he needs to go for a more African vibe he goes to African singer Salis Keita, and for Jazz, Austrian keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul. In the electronic world, Jason has been digging Youngsta and Trashbat. Once we had moved onto the next question, Hann noted for us to add Tipper to the list as well.

As fans, we get to enjoy the finished product of an artist’s hard work, but very rarely do we see the actual trials and tribulations artists face during the creative process. While artists do love to make their fans happy, there must be other reasons artists put in so much time and effort. So we asked Hann what creating music and being a performer does for him as an individual. While this gave us some more insight on him as an artist, it also allowed us to understand Hann a little more as a person. He expressed that he takes his experience as a musician and applies them to learning other things or even experiencing things spiritually. Music has taught him to realize how much time and effort it will take him to be proficient at other things. He also explained how music offers a minor escape from reality.

 “So one of the things that I’ve learned from music that crosses over into spirituality, is the idea that you’re doing something to the point where your mind zones out or zones in, either way, to the state where you’re letting things go and there’s no sense of any thoughts that hold you back from anything. In your mind, It feels like you’ve opened yourself up to any kind of world to drift through… With music, it’s really easy to get into that state. If I’m not practicing at home trying to workout something with my muscles, I can sit behind my drums, any percussion really, and feel like I can just play very freely without thinking about technique or what I’m playing and at that moment I can take my mind to that space where its just drifting through and letting any types of thoughts to drift in.”

This way of freethinking and innovation led to the creation of one of the most unique and creative musical performances around today: EOTO. We asked Hann how this project with Travis came to fruition. He told us that when he initially got into the String Cheese Incident he would stay mostly over at Travis’ place. While trying to discover music to help enhance their creative contribution to the band, they would listen to all kinds of different music and have jam sessions that lasted until the early morning.

“He’s always played bass and guitar and keyboard as long as he’s played drums just for himself, not necessarily for bands. He had a set up in his room with a six string bass and drum set up. We would play from ten at night to four or five in the morning just making stuff up and taking little breaks. Listening to internet radio, we listened to Groove Salad, all this downtempo stuff. We would come off these little breaks and go lets do that kind of a groove, that sounds fun. That kept clicking, we added more equipment around us to make the jams more fun and started recording ourselves.”

Then, as Jamie Janover was preparing to do the first Sonic Bloom. He called up Jason and Michael wanted to perform this new project they were working on. Alas, EOTO was born.

Without any background knowledge, it would be difficult to know that EOTO is composed of two members of The String Cheese Incident, as the latter is a bluegrass band turned jamtronica and the duo revolves their sets around heavy dubstep. When asked what brought about this drastic style change, Jason referenced a trip to Shambhala in 2008. Both him and Michael witnessed Skream drop some heavy and aggressive dubstep and how the crowd reacted to it.

You know, dubstep used to be the most mellow of all the electronic music… the music had slow wobbles and everyones like woah this is really mellow and chill. Skream being one of those dubstep originators broke out with some really aggressive laser wobble sounds back in 2008 at Shambhala and the whole place fell apart, everyone was like woah what is this? Travis and I weren’t in the same spot but talked about that same moment later on and were like lets do this. I happened to have a dubstep mixtape that I hadn’t listened to yet. So we listened to it in the car and it was all that aggressive stuff that we decided to go with right at the next gig. This was a couple years before it go down to the states so we felt we were ahead of he game. We felt like we had it figured out and nobody else really knew what we were playing.”

We would like to thank Jason so much for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to have a talk with us. We were very fortunate to get the opportunity to better understand a phenomenal artist and an amazing human being.

EOTO Website // Soundcloud // Facebook // Twitter

EOTO  “Live at Wakarusa Music Festival 2014” — FREE Download!!

EOTO – “Live at Summer Camp Music Festival 2014” — FREE Download!!


Full Interview:

Funkadelphia: “When did you realize your passion for music, what initiated your journey on the music path, and what did you first start out doing musically?”
Jason Hann “Some great questions and I have plenty of great stories for them. I probably started getting serious about music when I was 11, my dad was a guitar player and singer and was able to get a gig close to where I was living, and I could take my homework over there and see his band play. It was pretty cool being around adults and hanging out in the club at that age.I was loving watching these guys play music every night. At first, I just sort of absorbed it but I wouldn’t call it a passion yet. Little by little the drummer would show me something on there instrument during set breaks, and I seem to pick it up pretty easily. Within a year and a half I knew just about all the band’s songs and could sit in and perform them. That’s when I started making money doing it and the passion came once I got into it. I was finding out about these limitless things you could study like rhythm on the drum set, or when I started playing percussion I would visit different countries and learn different traditional rhythms from the indigenous people and explore the world and the universe that way. There is still an endless amount of learning to be done. It’s both humbling and exciting and gives me a reason to dive into studying anything I can about music.”

Funkadelphia: “What does music do you for as an individual- artistic expression, internal reflection, mental or emotional release?”
Jason Hann: “It’s the whole gambit. When I think about getting good at something or trying to understand something, there’s this skill that I’ve learned through music and I can reflect on that, and say to myself,  Well I got pretty good on that, what were some of the methods I used to do that and how can I use them to get good at something else, like experiencing things spiritually, or what does it take to put the time and effort into being proficient at something else. Before I dive into or try to learn something else I try to measure how much time i’m going to invest in it to really feel dedicated to it and use it as a tool in a proficient way.
So some of the things that I’ve learned from music that cross over into spirituality, is the idea that you’re doing something  to the point where your mind zones out or zones in, either way, to the state where you’re letting things go and there’s no sense of any thoughts that hold you back from anything.  In your mind, It feels like you’ve opened yourself up to any kind of world to drift through. Whether its something you’re making up or some thought process that you’re thinking about something else in a different way. In that sense, it allows you to go where you cant go by doing other things. Everyone has their different methods to get into that state of being, like meditation or yoga. With music, it’s really easy to get into that state, If I’m not practicing at home trying to workout something with my muscles, I can sit behind my drums, any percussion really, and feel like I can just play very freely without thinking about technique or what I’m playing and at that moment I can take my mind to that space where its just drifting through and letting any types of thoughts to drift in.
There are all these barriers set up and walls of what you learned and where you’re at and what you’re going to its nice to have a vehicle with zero walls now what’re you gonna do, now what happens? Its not scary at all the curtain pulls away and you have a lot to choose from whats behind them?”

Funkadelphia: “Who are some of your general artistic influences; do you pull any specific influences for each individual project (i.e. SCI, EOTO, Prophet Massive)?”
Jason Hann: “I’m all over in tastes of music, but if I’m doing a studio session or playing a specific project, ill try to listen to music that I think will enhance my performance. For example if I’m doing a studio session with a brazilian percussion influence like from Brazil: Gilberto Gil, Hermeto Pascoal,  or from Africa Salis Keita, Lets Ballets Africans. As far as electronic goes these days, there are just so many, but as of lately I’ve been listening to Youngsta, Trashbat. I pull some Jazz influence from Joe Zawinul. Also, definitely Tipper.”

Funkadelphia: “What clicked between you and Michael that prompted the creation of EOTO?”
Jason Hann: “When I got into String Cheese I would stay mostly over at [Michael] Travis’ place. He was one guy who didn’t necessarily have a family in the form of kids, so we could hang out all night. We listened to all kinds of music. We looked for music to help make the next step creatively for String Cheese. He’s always played bass and guitar and keyboard as long as he’s played drums just for himself, not necessarily for bands. He had a set up in his room with a six string bass and drum set up. We would play from ten at night to four or five in the morning just making stuff up and taking little breaks. Listening to internet radio, we listened to Groove Salad, all this downtempo stuff. We would come off these little breaks and go lets do that kind of a groove, that sounds fun. That kept clicking, we added more equipment around us to make the jams more fun and started recording ourselves. Then, when Jamie Janover was doing the first Sonic Bloom, he was like, ‘hey I’ve heard about you guys are doing that stuff why don’t you play a show?’- so that became our first gig and the first opportunity to do something with it.”

Funkadelphia“With the pretty radical difference, stylistically, between SCI and EOTO- what prompted that move into electronic music?”
Jason Hann: “Well we headed out to Shambhala in Canada, and its about 80 percent Djs but everyone really brings their A games, they play music there you might not hear for another two years, people are just starting to release it. Now with Djs touring more the cycle might be smaller. But, back in 2008, we saw Skreams set. You know, dubstep used to be the most mellow of all the electronic music. If you were at a rave and wanted to chill out you went over to the dubstep tent where they had couches where everyone was comatose and the music had slow wobbles and everyones like woah this is really mellow and chill. Skream being one of those dubstep originators broke out with some really aggressive laser wobble sounds and he did that back in 2008 at Shambhala and the whole place fell apart, everyone was like woah what is this. Travis and I weren’t in the same spot but talked about that same moment later on and were like lets do this. I  happened to have a dubstep mixtape that I hadn’t listened to yet. So we listened to it in the car and it was all that aggressive stuff that we decided to go with right at the next gig. This was a couple years before it go down to the states so we felt we were ahead of he game. We felt like we had it figured out  and nobody else really knew what we were playing. Now with dubstep you never really know what you’re gonna get, you might go see a dubstep dj and it could be really played out. But we feel the way we play now is more aggressive but doesn’t sound like the same sounds those other guys use.”

Funkadelphia: “What’s it like juggling SCI, EOTO, and your Prophet Massive project, what is your mind set like going into each different performance?”
Jason Hann: “It’s pretty easy, actually, to switch things up in the head. Im a little bit ADD about things in the first place, so its great to get to work with different people and do different styles of music. In all three situations I’m very in the moment. In String Cheese world theres song that we play and we take the jams to those songs and try to make something really original with it and it comes from a world of six guys playing together and feeding off each other and when I play percussion with Cheese its very much I have my range of sounds that I use I’m not necessarily trying to do anything other than serve the song we a re playing at that moment. In EOTO world we are just making stuff up, so the styles of music are varied but in an electronic way, dubstep or trap or a hybrid of both or drum n bass. We’ve been doing a lot of funk stuff sort of like electro with more organic instruments. It stays in that [electronic] zone but within that zone goes anywhere we want it to go. I’m at a bit of a crossroads with my DJ sets, I’ve done enough sets where people are digging it but I do wanna change the style up some. Just because the style I’m doing now is great but I’m feeling like I wanna do some other things but its a little bit tricky when you’re audience is expecting a certain thing that I’ve had up on Soundcloud for a year and a half. That might be the trickiest maneuver it will involve me reinventing myself every few years. With EOTO its really easy because we are playing it all live. In Prophet Massive world its always trying to check out different music and also be fresh at the same time. I don’t wanna play what everyone else is playing but what I do play I want you to be familiar with but theres a little twist that makes you go hmm and get into it in a different way.”

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