Dance music must be driving, but can it also have narrative? Can electric music made for the explicit purpose of getting a sea of people up and moving be song-oriented? Can Glitch Mob make music with the industrial sensibility of Ministry that will still leave a mass of people with the MDMA soaked autumn nights of their winterless dreams? Speaking with the energetic and optimistic Josh Mayer a.k.a. Ooah, everything seems possible.
Josh’s excitement is understandable since Glitch Mob’s least record, Love Death Immortality, recently debuted at number one on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart. Born out of a lively LA beat scene that includes Flying Lotus, Baths and Gaslamp Killer, Glitch Mob has gained an astounding following as the band’s sound continues to evolve. Once a crew of DJs with a profound passion for hip-hop and drum n’ bass, the guys have put away their turntables and midis in order to become a new kind of beat-makers.
BYT: I saw you guys when you came to DC in 2011 with Phantogram. That show was sick.
GM: Yeah, that was a cool venue. That was at the…
BYT: 9:30 Club?
BYT: I was surprised when you guys came out because I thought you guys would have the DJ set-up and be behind your equipment—the mixers, turntables, and midi. And you guys came out instead with that crazy setup with those touch pads. The set-up was way different than you’re typically DJ set.
GM: Basically, we’re not DJs anymore. We DJed, yes, we came from DJing and part of our career was DJing and we started DJing all solo and then we started DJing together as the three of us, and that’s how it turned into the Glitch Mob. But once we started writing music and pushing forward with what we wanted to do, we realized we didn’t want to DJ. So none of what we’re during is DJing or mixing music. Even in that tour you saw, we weren’t during it then and were not during it now. We just happen to make music that people would “DJ.” We play as a band, but we don’t play any actual, traditional instruments. I mean we have drums that we play, but they’re not like a drum kit, they’re these custom trigger drums we built. At this point, we’re way more a band than DJs.
BYT: So you’d say you’re more a band of musicians than a crew of DJs.
GM: Exactly, but that’s where we came from. We were a crew of DJs. But we decided we didn’t necessarily what to do that anymore. We wanted to figure out how we could better perform our music.
BYT: Let’s talk a little about the old days. You guys came out of a pretty happening musical time with that electric/hip-pop scene that included Flying Lotus and Daedalus, two guys who are doing some really cool stuff and who definitely aren’t pigeon-holed into any one genre What made L.A. in the late 2000’s such a great place to make electronic music?
GM: It was just kinda the hub, where people were doing it. And L.A. just has this grimy, underground hustle, beat scene vibe. It’s hard to really say. It was where we were at the time. We kinda all came from listening to hip-pop, just listening to underground hip-hop or good west cost hip-pop or east coast hip-pop. We just wanted to figure out how to make that with a little more dance room mentality.
BYT: Something dirtier?
GM: Yeah, and none of us were rappers and could get up there and rock a mic.
Z: Is that what attracted you to being a beat-maker?
GM: Yeah, but I’ve always been into that. Ever since I heard beat music—whether it was hip-hop or even like early electronic music, drum n’ bass and things like that. I always wanted to figure out how to do that, and I think that’s all three of us too, if I can speak for Ed and Justin. We always wanted to be the guys that figured out how to make that music. From there, you know, we kinda got into DJing and making music on our computers at home, and DJing the same gigs here and there. We’d get booked and we became good friends. We’d get booked back-to-back, like small tiny west coast parties and underground shows in LA. And then, we were like “dope we should rock this set together. We’ll just traded off tunes, or if you want to mash something up over mine.” It just came out of that whole thing, very organically.
BYT: So things were just happening in LA; the right people where around. And it really was born out of a love of early golden age hip-hop.
GM: And dance music. Like we were all big drum n’ bass heads, we were really into it. Like Ed used to DJ Concrete Jungle back forever ago when he was in college with Daddy Kev and Hive. They were doing a drum n’ bass night when drum n’ bass was really popping in LA. Justin was like off in his own whole in the Bay area, and I was living in New Orleans and I got into drum n’ bass. So when we all meet we had this love for drum n’ bass, but we didn’t want to make drum n’ bass music. We just loved the intense of it and like the heaviness and rawness, and the crazy psycho drum effecting and gnarly bass lines and stuff like that. So inevitable being loves of that and hip-hop, its kinda what came out of our early days was more of the hip-hop style.
BYT: You’re new album though sounds really industrial; it has a dark side to it.
GM: We’re big fans of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and all that kind of stuff. We’re inspired by a lot of different kinds of music. And I feel for this new record it was just what we were feeling at the time, and we wanted to write music for the live stage. As oppose to in the past we’ve written music for different things like whether it be just a club like a small underground club scene—what’s that gonna sound like. Whereas Drink the Sea was very much a headphones kind of like your driving Sunday afternoon driving out to the beach or kinda like a laidback listening to your house smoking a bowl or something. This time around we wanted to make a bigger sounding record for—not strictly—but for the live show. We were thinking what does Glitch Mob sound like on a big stage with tons of people having a good time. That was part of the root of this record. You can listen to this album doing anything you want to do, but that was kind of a little bit of the backbone of this record.
BYT: Now you guys have been describe as everything from glitch to trance to drum n’ bass.
GM: People call us all kinds of stuff, and we love that. We look at it like it’s a compliment. I think its great people find different ways into the music. And by calling us trance or techno or trance or whatever, it helps the listener get into the music more because maybe they’re a fan of whatever genre. We don’t particularly call ourselves that, but we’re not anti that.