Breakthrough: The Gaslamp Killer

"...take the music to the next level"
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Stuck in traffic, The Gaslamp Killer doesn’t hold back. Letting the driver know his feelings, the producer makes it clear that he must – simply must – get to the airport on time. The producer has a busy schedule, see, one that allows him to take his music across the globe, making dates on almost every continent. “Hopefully I’ll be flying back home to play Low End Theory” he explains. “We’ve got Peanut Butter Wolf at Low End Theory with Free The Robots tonight”.

Low End Theory is where it begins. The West Coast club is famed for its adventurous music policy, one which allows DJs to mix hip hop with dub, psychedelia with techno in front of a discerning, battle hardened crowd. “I feel like we in LA and the West Coast have a real original thing going on” he says. “I feel like we have been for quite some time but we were kind of over looked for a while because gangster rap was the only thing that was famous – 2 Short, NWA, E40. But really we had so many – like DJ Shadow comes from the West Coast, we have a history of making some creative, really cool interesting original stuff but just not getting that much love for it, being a small niche market”.

Continuing, The Gaslamp Killer outlines a few of the basic fault-lines rippling through the scene. “I feel like all of us love Aphex Twin and we all love Portishead and Massive Attack.. I was playing so much UK shit. You mix that raw hip-hop shit straight from America: New York, Detroit, Chicago, LA and the Bay and that with the hardcore electronic UK sound and you get something really fucking amazing”.

If it sounds like he’s describing his own sound, then he is. The Gaslamp Killer has helped fuel the Bay Area scene for almost a decade, producing several EPs under his own name in the process. Finally deciding to unveil his debut full length, new album ‘Breakthrough’ is a stunning, bewildering, profoundly mixed piece of work. Laid down in gaps between touring, ‘Breakthrough’ features an almost complete cross section of the figures around Low End Theory. “I was working with tonnes of people and a bunch of homies that I’d known for years that I’d been collaborating with on different stuff. I’m living in the shadow of some amazing producers – maybe not in other people’s eyes, but it’s a little intimidating being around other great people making music” he states.



There’s a sense of community, though, a feeling of shared values which permeates both the scene itself and ‘Breakthrough’ as a document. “I interact with a community in LA. I’m always going out and supporting other people’s gigs and people are always coming out Low End Theory and supporting out gig. We’re actually friends you know – we actually go to each other’s homes and care about each other” the producer explains. “It’s not just this musical, looks good on paper kind of relationship. The community that rallies around Low End Theory and the community that rallies around Dublab and Hit and Run is a very strong, tight family. We all have each other’s best interests in mind. We might not all be making similar shit but all of us have the same interest in mind and it’s a healthy competition”.

It’s a competition which is driving the area to great heights. ‘Breakthrough’ is packed with unexpected influences, from the toilet humour – song titles like ‘Fuck’ and ‘Flang Face’ – to the psychedelic flourishes. In a way, psychedelia covers the material on show better than hip hop: this is trippy, mind expanding stuff. “The word psychedelic to me means a lot of effects like reverse guitars and reverbed out vocals and super trippy, always so many effects. Very wet delay, reverb and super trippy you know what I’m saying – that’s the type of shit when you hear an echo – that’s the psychedelic part when you hear an echo and a delay, that’s the psychedelic thing that I feel is prevalent in my album” he says. “There’s tonnes of delay and voices a lot of weird skits and interludes and using my modular sense to make really weird twisting electronic noises. Just having fun experimenting and twisting knobs - not trying to be just straightforward beats, just getting trippy”.

Psychedelic is a loaded term, though, applicable to far more than just music. There’s a cultural relevance implicit in its use: in the 60s, remember, rock and the revolution sat like two snakes intertwined. For The Gaslamp Killer, too, music should be more than mere noise to fuel a club – it should educate. “Some of us take on the responsibility of the education of music and some of us stick with the entertainment aspect, which is totally fine either way you cut it. But I felt like I wanted to remind people that there’s more drums in the world than just the 808 and even though right now it’s all about the 808 and the big bass beats, you could get a similar reaction from the crowd by playing a live drum kit and having real raw cracking live drums... I just feel like playing music from our past”.

Intended as one, vast, continuous document ‘Breakthrough’ is – in the eyes of its author – exactly that. “My goal was just to take the music to the next level just trying to take my loops and samples just all the stuff that I was into but make shit up from scratch instead of sampling so much. And I’m inspired by tonnes of different sounds from around the world trying to execute sessions with different musicians, executing exactly what you want to do and how to do it and stuff like that. You know, really trying to evolve the sound from sampling into live playing that kind of hip-hop attitude, make it like a live band thing but not like a full on beat thing and not make it like a full on 303 sample thing. Just try and be more well rounded and evolve the style into one record kind of thing”.

The title needn’t suggest that The Gaslamp Killer’s work is done, though. Leaving it, you can’t help but feel that he seems like some ancient explorer, crossing a great plain of mountains only to uncover yet more unexplored land. “There’s still a lot of stuff that I’m barely scratching the surface of and I want to delve deeper into like I want to make a whole record of Turkish and Bollywood and that Middle Eastern kind of sound, I would love to make a whole record of that and really make it from scratch. That would be amazing”.

Photo Credit: Theo Jemison

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'Breakthrough' is out now.

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