Published: January 21, 2013
By: Jake Krzeczowski
The idea of a "model" in the music industry is all but gone. Some still traverse the traditional route, but for many contemporary artists there are many more options. No one knows this better than Doug Appling, better known as electronic wunderkind Emancipator.
Before hitting it big in the States, Emancipator became a phenom overseas—most notably in Japan—at the age of nineteen riding a wave of eagerness for his unique blend of instrumentation that includes rousing performances on the violin by Illya Goldberg. The young artist moved to and performed in Japan, keeping a keen eye on what was happening back in the states before taking North America by storm in late 2009 and early 2010.
TheUntz.com was able to catch up with the Emancipator before his January 19 date at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago.
How’s touring life?
The tour’s going great; we just had our first date at Canopy Club in Champaign, and we're just excited for the next five weeks—and I'm excited at least to be bringing this new album out on tour.
Anything new in store for the tour and live performance?
I have these songs that I've been working on all winter that I can wait to share with everyone, and there's new production with a new video rig which is pretty dope. They bought us a projector last month to make these triangle panels.
You’re known for a really lush stage show. How much live instrumentation goes into one of your performances?
These shows feature me and Illya playing onstage, I'm not bringing any instruments myself but we'll still have some musical surprises for you guys.
Your sound has matured and evolved so much over the course of your very short career. What was your process in developing your unique sound?
Well I spent a lot of time as a new producer just on trial and error so I just remember playing a song and creating loops from scratch, that's kind of how I made my signature sound and I try to teach myself all along the way. It's kind of funny because I consider myself an electronic musician but a lot of people may hear my music and don't think it's electronic music because it doesn't necessarily mesh with what's popular. I arrived here because I had this background in classical music and folk music which unfortunately don't feature a lot of drums. At some point I fell in love with the drum kit and started playing it and eventually meshed these two styles into one.
What is that classical music background of which you spoke?
Violin was the first instrument when I was four and I played that for eight years before I got more into drums and guitar, bass and other instruments too. Currently in my studio I have a synth, bunch of guitars, mandolin, banjo, kalimba, flute; just a lot of instruments to record and sample and produce them electronically. That's kind of how I get my unique sound, I like to take acoustic instruments and lend them to electronic production.
Can you tell us about your experiences in Japan?
I think it was great to be able to get that experience early on. For my career, I have a good foundation going to be able to let this music grow. It was really thrilling to be able to dive right in to a place like Japan, halfway across the world and have a following there so it's been an inspiration and a motivation all along the way.
How much did that experience prepare you for America?
It's funny, my first show in Japan was at the Rolling Stone Cafe and I thought that was a big deal for me at the time and at the same time my first show in the US was opening for Bonobo's live band at one of the biggest venues in Portland so even here I kind of feel like I dove right in. I see the arenas getting better so I think I'm just constantly growing and adapting to what the situation is. I don't feel like I've made it but at the same time I don't feel like I've learned everything I can and I'm not bored of it yet so it's still fresh.
Where do you see yourself fitting into the larger framework of electronic music?
It depends on where you think it's at right now; it's a lot of different places. I think it's getting so popular that people are beginning to discern between the genres moreso, not like ten years ago when you said you made beats people assumed you meant techno, people actually know about this stuff. I think it's going to come around full circle and you're going to start seeing more fusion bands of electronica mixed with instruments which has been popular in our scene for awhile but I think you'll see more and more of that.
For those who have never experience a live Emancipator show, what can they expect?
It's all about setting the vibe for this kind of music; expect some dope beats I guess. It's not too in your face, we just try to keep it clean and evoke some emotions.
Any big plans for 2013?
A year from now I'd like to be moving in a positive way with my music, just like this year but hopefully with a lot of new material under my belt. We're looking forward to getting on the festival scene and whatnot, it should be a good year.