On this week’s edition of #OnTheRadar, local AJ Norman shares some insight on the power of video game soundtracks, reading social situations and speaker-testing his music. Take a peek below at this week’s #OnTheRadar local!
SIM: Welcome AJ! To start, how did you get into producing music?
AJ: I’ve been producing electronic music for about 6 years now! What really triggered me to start producing was seeing Feed Me at Electric Forest in 2011. I went to the festival mainly for the jam band/indie rock/hip hop acts as I wasn’t very into EDM at the time. I heard Feed Me and it was exactly what I never knew I wanted to hear.
SIM: “it was exactly what I never knew I wanted to hear”… that is an awesome way to describe Feed Me. So, are you mostly self-taught as a result, or did you go to school for production?
AJ: I’m mostly self-taught but I did go to school for audio engineering. I went to IPR here in Minneapolis to learn recording techniques, mixing, and mastering. I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember though. I started with piano lessons in 1st grade for a little bit and then later took drum lessons in 7th grade. I realized pretty early on that I was way more interested in writing songs than I was in becoming the best pianist or drummer, so I didn’t take lessons for very long. Instead I focused on music theory and getting to understand why my favorite songs are so good. I developed my ear and comprehension mainly from figuring out and analyzing songs from my favorite video games.
SIM: That is an incredible journey… one can only imagine how much its broadened the quality of your compositions and sound. Do you primarily produce in one genre, or do you like to work in multiple subgenres?
AJ: I would say I primarily produce Dubstep and Future Bass lately. My music is all over the place though! I do a lot of Disco-inspired stuff which I find really fun to make. Most of my music revolves heavily around video game soundfonts and samples, since they played such a huge role in shaping my childhood and musical development.
SIM: Going off of the sounds that have shaped your style, do you primarily stick to NRMN, or do you have another monker that you produce under?
AJ: I was making music in a duo called World Class Art Thieves for a while, but am currently exploring my sound with this new project NRMN. I love to bounce ideas and collaborations with all the friends I’ve made through music IRL and on the internet! One of my best friends goes by the moniker Dreamcasts and also lives in Minneapolis. We have similar styles of music and send each other stuff all the time. Look out for some NRMN x Dreamcasts songs in the near future!
SIM: We will definitely be looking out for your Dreamcasts collaborations! When working on your creations, which production software has been your weapon of choice?
AJ: My production software of choice is Ableton Live! When I first started I used Propellerhead’s Reason 4. It was very limiting though as I could only use MIDI. Switching over to Ableton opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Today though, most DAW’s are very similar in features so it’s not such a huge deal which one you use, it all comes down to personal preference and workflow. I think my foundation of piano, drums, and music theory knowledge are super beneficial in my understanding of digital music and workstations.
SIM: When you started out as local, how difficult was it for you to get support on your production?
AJ: Trying to get support as a new producer is definitely challenging! The internet is making it a little easier to send your stuff out there and get heard but it’s tough to find people who will listen. I remember playing so many house parties and bars while trying to build a name. I think one of the first big breaks and real shows I had here in the twin cities was back in 2011. We submitted a song and won a producer contest through SIM to open for Markus Schulz. Since then I’ve made a ton of connections with so many people involved in the electronic music scene here in Minnesota and beyond that have been so supportive. I’ve been booked for countless huge shows and amazing opportunities I never would have thought possible without their support. I think it’s important to leverage the internet as much as possible while still being outgoing and contributing to your local scene and being present. In the end we are all in this business because we love music and want to work in a field we are passionate about. If people see that you are focused they will want to help.
SIM: Throughout your growth as a local, what have been some of your biggest obstacles to overcome?
AJ: Some of the biggest obstacles for me have been mental blocks. I’ve been making music for a while and there are definitely long periods of time where I have severe writer’s block. Or other times where I question what I’m doing with my life. I have an immense amount of respect for any artist that can continue to pump out amazing work for a long period of time. Sometimes it’s hard to just step back and remember “Oh yeah, stop thinking so much and just make something that you think sounds cool.”
SIM: We can definitely attest to writer’s block as well. What support system do you utilize to help keep you on track with your music?
AJ: I don’t have an official manager or team but I always bounce ideas and consult with my girlfriend and close friends about my work. I also do have some labels and collectives I work with on some of my music releases (shoutout GameChops, Hebinomichi, Tiny Waves, TOO LUSH).
SIM: How has networking in the Twin Cities and beyond helped mold your perspective of working in the music industry?
AJ: Over the years I’ve learned a lot about navigating the music industry, even though I’m not necessarily the best at it. I can be really shy when it comes to networking and meeting people. Since I’m not the most outgoing person I just try to be as nice as possible to everybody and avoid drama at all costs. Sometimes this means biting my tongue and keeping my opinions to myself but I’ve seen many professional relationships destroyed because of people being shitty and perpetuating drama. It’s hard to put ego aside in an industry where we’re literally in the spotlight on stage but we have to remember that we’re all people here just trying to spread the love of music. 🙂
SIM: And in your experience, how difficult has it been as a local to have people give your material a chance?
AJ: I’ve been pretty fortunate to be able to play so many shows here in the Twin Cities and have my music heard by so many people! I think as long as the content you are making is quality, people will pay attention. I also think branding is really important. Decide on a strong aesthetic early and go nuts on it. You want your brand to be what people think about when they see or think about x. When I’m testing new unreleased music live I’m usually paying attention to the mix and loudness vs. the songs I play before and after it. I like my songs to stand out and be at least as clean and loud as the other stuff I’m playing. If it’s not then it’s back to the lab for tweaks!
SIM: That is a really smart way of testing your music, AJ! Thank you for sharing that insight. Do you have additional experiences you would like to share that shed light on your growth as a local?
AJ: I’ll never forget performing my songs for the first time. Or playing my first house party. Or my first time playing at a real venue. Or my first time playing at a music festival. Or my first time playing a show outside of Minnesota. It’s crazy to think about everything I’ve been able to do with my life with music so far and I feel so blessed to be in a scene that gives its artists a chance.
SIM: Do you have any proud moments that come to mind when you think about your time in the Twin Cities area?
AJ: Some of the proudest moments of my music career so far have been hearing other artists that I look up to playing my songs in their sets. It’s an indescribable feeling being in the crowd and hearing a song you made blasting out of the speakers for thousands of people. Getting the chance to play at Summer Set Music and Camping Festival was an unbelievable experience for this same reason, except it was me up there getting to perform my songs for thousands of people!
SIM: Looking down the road, what are some of the next big goals you hope to hit?
AJ: The ultimate goal I have is to be able to sustain myself and the people I care about through making music and other digital content full time. I would also love to able to do audio for video games at some point. Outside of making electronic music and playing shows I also create and sell sample packs and Ableton devices online. I am also teaching Ableton workshops and private lessons. Trying to diversify and apply my talents to as many avenues of income as possible.
SIM: And what is something you hope never changes about yourself as you become more successful?
AJ: One thing I value a lot and hope never changes is my artistic integrity. I’m not really a trend follower and will rarely play songs people have heard before in my sets. I’ve been making music for a long time and have tried really hard to carve out a unique sound that I believe is identifiable and synonymous with my brand, and I never want to sacrifice that and sell out. I’ve had plenty of collaborations not work out in the past because I wasn’t feeling it, and I would rather not release anything than release something I’m not 100% behind.
SIM: Thank you AJ for taking the time to speak with SIMshows this week. Do you have anything else you would like to share with our readers?
AJ: Follow me on all the social media! I’m most active on Twitter, though I’ve been quiet lately as I’m working on my new project. I’ll have more details on that soon as I can’t talk about it right now! But I’m super excited about it!!
Make sure to catch NRMN setting the mood at Skyway Theater before Slushii takes the stage. Tickets are still available, buy yours here.
Hailing from New York City, GRYFFIN shines a softer, more melodic and intimate sound to this city’s robust EDM scene. Only being on the scene since 2014, GRYFFIN has already been signed by Interscope and been played over all different radio stations. His style is sundry and continues to morph as his career moves forward. With his set happening tonight at Fine Line Music Cafe, it’s important to get a taste of all he has to offer.
GRYFFIN‘s beginning sound was his take on house music, adding a dreamy muted sound to his tracks and a melodic addition to his instrumentals. After releasing two remixes and a season mix on Soundcloud, he even started naming his genre “cloud house”. His first big break was when he collabed with Hotel Garuda and released a remix of BANKS‘ “Beggin For Thread”, gaining almost 14 million plays on Soundcloud.
This “cloud house” sound started to morph in 2015 with GRYFFIN releasing his remix of Years and Years‘ “King”. This remix started shifting out of the deep house format and into more of a tropical house format. This reappeared in 2016 with his first original release titled “Heading Home”. While these tracks still have heavy deep house undertones, the focus heavily shifts to the tracks in the higher keys. This new sound was the start to GRYFFIN‘s melodic house self-labeling.
GRYFFIN‘s sound shifted yet again after he collabed with Manilla Killa and remixed Jack Garratt‘s “Surprise Yourself”. This was the first time GRYFFIN worked within a more structured drop sequence, blending together the melodic house that he established with future bass. He has since released numerous other tracks with a heavier bass influence, such as “Feel Good”, “Whole Heart”, and his remix of Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe”. However, GRYFFIN doesn’t just ignore the other sounds he has created: “Love In Ruins”, released two months ago, sounds straight out of 2014, whereas he remix of Kygo and Ellie Goulding‘s “First Time” sounds like a 2015 jam while only being three months old.
GRYFFIN, the essential melodic house producer from NYC, has a medley of sounds in his pocket and is sure to throw curveballs at every show he plays. Make sure to check him out tonight at Fine Line Music Cafe.
On this week’s edition of #On The Radar”, local Freddy Gallardo leads SIMshows through his journey with Hip Hop, an unwavering love for Moombahton and just a dash of blunt honesty. Take a peek below at this week’s #OnTheRadar local!
SIM: Could you elaborate on your experience before “DropDeadFred”? If we have it right, you were a Hip Hip local before merging in the EDM scene. What is that dynamic like compared to being an EDM local?
Freddy: My passion for music started with Hip Hop, which is why I wanted to proceed in that area of music until I went to my first EDM show. My goals changed over night when I realized the intimacy people had for EDM artists. In the Hip Hop scene, people over look the DJ, they see them as just another DJ.. I have recently started getting into producing EDM. The last few months have been a lot of me learning the Ableton software.
SIM: So what’s the style “DropDeadFred” is known for?
Freddy: I usually play Trap, Dubstep/Riddim, House, and as of recently started playing Twerk/Moombahton. Most of my experience revolves around Trap, Dubstep, and House. I started adding Twerk/Moombahton to my sets because it’s an area of music I really enjoy listening to on my own time, and would like to help Twerk/Moombahton grow in our scene. The flow of Twerk/Moombahton feels more like a groove pace, and not so much a rage pace.
SIM: Is there another monker your produce and DJ under? Or maybe have another local or two that’s always got your back?
Freddy: I usually keep it to my DropDeadFred name. My best friend Velvo has helped me through everything, as far as producing tips and diversifying my music selections on my mixes. Erick a.k.a. Velvo has taught me how to make edits in Ableton which is something that I can go home and work on while using my own creativity. I feel that if we are going to make Minneapolis a scene for locals to rise in, then we need our friendships to be like a family. Family in my eyes is always honest with you whether you like it or not.
SIM: And besides finding your support, what have been some of your biggest obstacles to overcome as you’ve started out?
Freddy: Having a 9-5 job, my kids, and having to prepare for future sets has always been tough to balance out. One way or another, I find the time to make it work.My number one vessel that keeps me focused is the music. I listen to just about anything I can vibe with to help me keep a level head. Some days it’s some really aggressive Dubstep or chill Dubstep, some days it will be Bass House or Progressive House. It all hits home for me one way or another.
SIM: Ready? Few things most show-goers don’t think about when a local is DJing, go!
Freddy: I think the biggest thing people don’t realize is the amount of energy that goes into a one hour set, to provide the best set we can that people will enjoy. The song selection, how you want to mix the songs together, making sure you have clean transitions, not to mention having a solid interaction with the crowd to keep their energy up with yours or vice versa.
SIM: With those items listed – song selection, mixing, transitions and crowd interaction – which of your sets challenged you the most regarding each item?
Freddy: I was given the opportunity to play at Dancefestopia two years ago, and I was told to prepare to play a set. I scrambled for a week trying to figure out what I wanted to play, not to mention how I wanted to play the songs. I think the nervousness of me playing my first festival had set in and got the best of me. When the time came to play, all of those emotions had left my mind and I knew what I needed to do and how I should do it. After I was done, the relief set in and I felt amazing about how it all went down. That feeling afterwards is what keeps me even more motivated to do it all over again soon.
SIM: It sounds like your hard-earned instincts kicked in at the perfect time! As for expanding your reach, how has networking in the local scene and in other scenes helped mold your perspective of working in the music industry?
Freddy: I came from DJing for Hip Hop acts such as the Ying Yang Twins, BoneCrusher, and Lil Flip etc. What I’ve learned between the hip hop realm and EDM world is that there is a bigger appreciation for EDM DJs/artists. The love for the music and person playing the songs is what captured me.
SIM: Do you have any theories as to why the appreciation for EDM DJs is different between scenes?
Freddy: I feel the EDM scene revolves around love and it shows through the interaction with showgoers vs. at a Hip Hop show people show up just to be there. No real care for the music.
SIM: How valuable have your friendships been to your growth as a local?
Freddy: Having friends like Velvo giving me advice on anything I’m having trouble with has helped me move forward to try new things, and not stay so limited to just one area of music. For instance, when we hangout we listen to a wide variety of music, which peaks my interests in doing more with other genres of music.
SIM: What are the names of a few artists you’ve shared stages with, and why has opening for them been important to you?
Freddy: My proudest moments have been getting the opportunities to play on the same stage as artists that I have looked up to for years, and those artists telling me that they enjoyed my set. It makes me feel a sense of belonging in the scene. The artists that really had an impact on me just from communication of emotions during a certain set when I was nervous were Bleep Bloop, Mija, 12th Planet, OmegaMode, Wuki, Squnto, Mayhem, and AFK. They all gave me incredible advice that can help calm my nerves before a big set.
SIM: What are some of the next goals you have for yourself, and how are you looking to make them a reality?
Freddy: My next goals are to start focusing on my production and developing my own sound. I really enjoy Trap and Dubstep, so I would like to find a way to mash them together. I love the hearing some heavy 808 bass with some really aggressive Wubs. At the moment, I need to focus on getting around the learning curve of the Ableton software.
SIM: What is something you hope never changes about yourself as you become more successful?
Freddy: Getting caught up in things that don’t matter or issues that do not affect my life.
We’d like to thank Freddy this week for taking the time to do an interview with SIMshows. Make sure to check out DropDeadFred on his socials below-can you spot the name difference? Lookas is set to hit the LOFT this Friday night; tickets are still available, grab yours here.
Known for his progressive bops and trendy mashups, Kap Slap has become a ‘house’hold name. You may know his chart-rising tracks such as “Felt This Good” and “Gone”, here are five things you didn’t know about Kap Slap!
1. Kap Slap’s name came from a mixed drink
In college, Jared Lucas and his fraternity brothers came up with a drink they titled a kap slap. The drink consisted of funneling a beer followed by a shot of Bacardi 151, perfect for a college frat party. Lucas started his DJ career around this time, so it was only natural for him to choose Kap Slap as his stage name.
2. Kap Slap has spent time drifting cars
Well not exactly, but he has drifted a car before. He was an avid player of Gran Turismo and learned virtually how to drift a car from it. Kap Slap then decided to test his skill with an old Buick he had: “I did a full 360. I almost dropped the transmission. It was retarded, but it was fun.”
3. Kap Slap started the semi-iconic #BananaCreepin
It all started from a fan sending him a Snapchat of them eating a full banana in 10 seconds. Kap Slap decided that this was too good to pass up and started getting other friends and fans to post Snapchats of them eating bananas in front of people that don’t realize it. And such #BananaCreepin came to be.
4. Kap Slap started out with a gig Djing at a prom
While many artists start their DJ careers by getting an in at a local club, Kap Slap started by spinning at proms, college parties, and school concerts. He gained a fan base from playing mashups at his college and grew his repertoire from there.
5. Kap Slap is planning on releasing new tracks in the very near future
Kap Slap recently told EDM Sauce that he will be releasing numerous remixes and original tracks that are going to jump around genres. “I don’t think I’ll have a defined sound or style [for my original tracks]… I think a good song is a good song.” And who knows? Maybe he’ll be premiering one at Rev this Saturday!
Make sure to catch Kap Slap this Saturday at Rev Ultra Lounge! Pick up your tickets here or at the door.
On this week’s edition of #OnTheRadar, Nhia Her takes center stage to share a bit more about the genius behind Child’s Play. A true example of a local at work, Child’s Play can often be found opening up at REV, or rocking a studio room set. What’s more, this passionate Trance local has been quietly chipping away at music production for quite some time. Take a glimpse below to see this week’s #OnTheRadar local exclusive!
SIM: Welcome Nhia! Thank you for taking the time this week to speak about Child’s Play and your ongoing work. To start, how did you get into production, and how long have you been producing for?
Nhia: A friend of mine from high school was producing, and we liked similar music, so we decided to band together to see what we could come up with. I’ve been on-and-off producing for about 6 years.
SIM: You’ve mentioned previously that you’re self-taught and that your music partner has helped expand your knowledge of production. Is there another monker that you produce under besides Child’s Play…?
Nhia: I currently have a producer moniker but I’m keeping that on the downlow until certain projects are ready. As of right now, Child’s Play is my main identity. Once it’s done, I’ll start performing under my new moniker to showcase a more melodic style but, will still DJ under Child’s Play for other genres. My partner with whom I’ve been making music with for awhile is named Stephan Oleara.
SIM: How did you meet Stephan? And why has your musical partnership worked out as well as it has?
Nhia: We met through friends of friends in high school and we got to talking about electronic music and that he was learning how to produce. The first time we played around with production, we actually made a full structured song in a span of 8 hours. We just listen to each other and bounce ideas back and forth which is why we work well together.
SIM: Walk us through your music experience Nhia! Do you have experience with more than one software, or perhaps a musical background with instruments?
Nhia: Currently using Logic Pro as a main DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) since I started but I have experience with Fruity Loops. I’ve also played 6 different instruments growing up (piano, sax, drums, violin, viola, and guitar).
SIM: How has your knowledge of instruments helped you in producing music? In terms of track alignment, mastering, etc?
Nhia: It gives me a set of guidelines when trying to write chord progressions, rifts, melodies, etc. Once I kind of get a base of what I’m looking for, then I just go on from there.
SIM: And how much support did you encounter when you began to reveal your music?
Nhia: As far as the small stuff I’ve shown to people, they seem to see the genuine thought that goes behind it. A lot of people are more than willing to support something if they feel it’s coming from a place of compassion.
SIM: As you’ve noted, you prefer to keep your production to yourself. However, do you ever crowd-test any of your material?
Nhia: Depending on the event, I sometimes tease things I’m working on to see how it’s received. I don’t do it often but when I need to get a second opinion, I like to do a blind test because it’s less biased.
SIM: Why do you feel the need to keep your project “downlow”? Are you trying to “find” your sound, or are you trying to make your music so good that there’s no denying it’ll get big?
Nhia: I think the problem most aspiring producers is that they want to get their product out there as soon as possible even if they haven’t reached a decent level of production. I get that with how competitive the music industry is, the only thing that matters is being first. With that said, if you’re first and it sucks, that’s what people’s first impression of you is. I know music can be subjective but if it fails to deliver at its most basic point then in my opinion, it’s bad. Music is something that I cherish and if I’m going to put out a little something of myself out there, I want it to be completely genuine. I want people to know what I’m doing is because this is me and I’m more than willing to give myself as much time as I need to in order to achieve this.
SIM: Besides trying to get your music into the right hands down the road, what other obstacle have you had to overcome to make Child’s Play and your up-and-coming monker a reality?
Nhia: With how over-saturated the DJ market is, it was very difficult to figure out how to differentiate myself from everyone else. I didn’t just want to play what was popular to be well known. I wanted my audience to have a bit integrity when it came to listening to music. I wanted to present something that can be both new and entertaining. Even if I wasn’t sure what I was going to play was going to received well, I was still persistent on what my goal was at the end of the night. As far as producing goes, the biggest obstacle is trying to stick to a sound. I’m constantly going through different phases and when I go back to an old project, I hate it because it’s not what I’m looking for at that particular moment. So when that happens I end up scrapping it and starting something new. I’ve really had to discipline myself into sticking to projects and seeing it through. That’s the only way to progress as a producer. Once I’m done, I can go experiment with something else.
SIM: As a long-standing local, what mindset have you gained the longer you’ve networked within the music industry?
Nhia: We have a lot more in common than we think. Everyone is coming from a different background but for the most part we’re all trying to achieve the same goal.
SIM: How difficult has it been for you to find individuals interested in exploring your music?
Nhia: Coming from a Trance background, it was difficult for me to convince people to give it a chance because the structure of it is slow and long. I had to first join what was popular at the time (Trap, Dubstep, etc.) and slowly find the right people. It took almost two years to start playing the events that fit the sound I wanted to be known for.
SIM: And as for making your way into the scene- what’s been one of your proudest local moments to date?
Nhia: My proudest moment was when me and my friend Anthony Leone opened up for Krewella at Myth. It was still to this day the most people I’ve ever played for (around 1500).
SIM: You’ve been working away at your music for a long time. What’s a personal goal of yours that you’re looking to accomplish, and what’s keeping you on track?
Nhia: My goal is to finish up my remaining projects and start performing under my producer moniker. I’ve been really working hard the past year and can’t wait to show what I’ve been working on.
SIM: What is something you hope never changes about yourself as you become more successful?
Nhia: My love for the music, the people, and support for others. You’ll find a better support system when you level with your crowd rather than put yourself above them.
SIM: What socials should we all be watching to keep up-to-date with Child’s Play, and your additional project?
We’d like to thank Nhia Her for taking the time this week to be our #OnTheRadar local. Make sure to check out his Facebook and Souncloud to stay up to date with his longing and upcoming work!