meet: Neon Chief

What are you doing at this very moment [besides this interview]?

Riding the light rail from Golden (up near the mountains) to Denver on one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen in a long time.

Where are you from and what’s the music scene like there?

I’m from all over, I’ve lived in Northern California, Texas, Northern California again and now Colorado for 10 years. The Bay Area music scene is legendarily awesome. I heard lots of funk and R&B as a kid plus there’s a strong rock influence and I lived there until I was 13 so it definitely influenced me. Colorado’s music scene is geared more toward jam band type stuff I find, which is definitely not a complaint. Plenty of good acts come through town and there’s a growing music scene on the whole because Denver itself is growing.

Apples or Oranges?

Apples all day to eat (Honeycrisp or Macintosh, son) but I have scented candles of both because I like nice smells and I’ll never say no to a Cutie haha.

What DAW do you use? Favorite plugins?

Ableton, but I’ll occasionally mess around with Logic, and I’ve used Reason and FL (knowing different DAWs really improved my production.) As far as third party plugins, I like FM8, Massive and Contact (got Komplete 10 a couple months ago so I’m still exploring and will be for awhile), iZotope is just beautiful and the Korg M1 soft synth is really fun for accent sounds and additional layers. Ableton’s stock plugins plus the Max For Live devices is what gets used the most though.

Why do you produce and what keeps you going?

I produce because I’ve always liked computers and music. I used to be a bedroom guitarist and the transition to bedroom producer was pretty natural. I was even writing music on GuitarPro, a pretty simple music writing software that had tab notation for guitar and standard notation. I also really enjoy combining the technical aspects of production with the more human aspects that we associate (even subconsciously) with good music: loose but controlled timing and imperfections in general. Eggs and cheese keep me going though. And tea. And sleep. Unless you mean what keeps me going musically, in which case, the sounds around me and the stories they tell. Hearing what the world is saying to you is not easy but is definitely worth it.

What is helping the music scene and what is hurting it?

Collectives and communities help the music scene immensely, I think. Finding groups whose taste you appreciate and trust, then watching them grow, can be pretty thrilling from the fan’s standpoint. It makes for a deep sense of community. What’s hurting is probably the attention grabbing culture of journalism. Music journalism on the whole isn’t as bad but the attention seeking at large seems to be infecting it. There need to be more places where it’s easy to hear some good music from someone you’ve never heard of. Also I wish people danced more in general, it doesn’t hurt the scene necessarily but it’s more fun that way!

Thoughts on the Law of Attraction?

I think causes and effects aren’t as simple as that law makes it sound haha. Positive thoughts do have the effect of making bad things that happen feel less bad though. I don’t think that positive thoughts have some sort of gravitational effect on positive experiences but ultimately, I think your mindset is the only thing you actually have full control over, even if it isn’t easy, so you may as well think positive thoughts. Thinking everybody is a jerk is a sure fire way to make yourself miserable.

Where do you see yourself 1 year from now? 2 years? 5 years?

Ugh I don’t know about the future haha! In 5 years it would be cool to be an Ableton Certified Instructor because I love learning about the program and how powerful and flexible it is. So over the next two years I just want to work on my craft, release music I like, and possibly design a live setup. I could probably just keep going with possibilities but I’d rather keep my options open. I like new ideas! I also like the idea of cross-medium collaborations: visual art, dance, cuisine, fashion. Guys like Ta-ku are good examples of how possible it is to mix music (especially more beat oriented forms) with other media.

Who are some up and coming producers that we should check out?

I’m not really sure what’s considered up and coming haha. Workers, Monte Booker, Chahine and Louie Lastic are inspiring as hell and don’t have too many SC followers so that’s a good start! Guys like Herzeloyde, Medasin, PYRMDPLAZA, Tom Misch, Tek.Lun and Lege Kale are really top notch producers too who are small in the grand scheme of things I would say. I’m such a shut in, it’s hard for me to really say for sure haha.

What four songs have been the most influential to where you’ve gotten today?

Four is tough especially since I find myself inspired by groups of artists and artistic movements so a song is less important than the whole idea behind a bunch of songs but here goes:
KOAN Sound – Meanwhile In The Future // KOAN Sound in general is hugely inspirational for me. Sound design, groove, melody, ambiance all top notch. This one has great switches, some truly incredible sounds and some high quality musicality.
Cherokee – Take Care of You // George Benson was huge in my house growing up so this sample is perfect. Plus smooth jazz, funk, soul, disco and house are influences for me so this song just hits all the right buttons.
Sorrow – Girl I Miss You // The Burial-type sounds that come out of the UK use space and organic sounds really well and Sorrow is just straight up sick. Easily one of my favorite producers and this one is so emotional. Hip Hop, Jazz, Organic, Glitch, Neuro and probably even more influences are combined so well.
Grover Washington, Jr. – Winelight
Smooth jazz is great even if it’s a little corny sometimes. GWJ was a killer saxophonist, arranger and composer and this one was played a lot at my house growing up. His lyricism with the sax will always be inspiring.

What upcoming work is in store for us to look forward to? An album perhaps?

I just put out a few short songs with my Soshu EP and right now I have a few songs I’m kind of perfecting and tweaking. My perfectionism generally prevents me from releasing haha! But I’m getting over that as I get more confident in my skills as a producer. I also like going back and adding to old things that I haven’t touched in months because I find that I learn a lot about my production techniques that way. And I’m always making new stuff of course. 🙂 Really if asked nicely I’ll show anyone my unfinished work haha

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