Published: April 30, 2014
By: Ellie Salrin
While my Wednesday nights usually include yoga, writing, and relaxing, I switched things up a couple weeks ago and made an appearance at Donnie’s Homespun in Springfield, IL for a hell of a show. Headliners EOTO gave us a heavy dose of improvised electro bass-in-your-face. But first, the crowd was treated to some heady midwest favorites. The event was co-produced by Killinoize and Connector, and both collectives were properly represented.
Booties were already bouncing as me and my sexy lady friends entered the building, thanks to D.A.F. (Dope As Fuck). This duo is comprised of the vibrant stage presence of producer Nanosect (Matt Clegg) and infectious dance moves and basslines of Full Cardio Workout (Reed Whorten). Fellow Killinoize producer Trinketz hit the stage next and got us down on some future bass with contagious enthusiasm - bang bang.
Connector crew repped the stage next with PlunkiE, dubstep bigwig with Play Me Records releases under his belt. He was taking no prisoners on this particular night and the dance floor percolated and begged for more. After PlunkiE, pleasurable beats blasted from the speakers as Pleasure rocked the stage. An upbeat trap song sampled out with Lion King soundtrack blended nostalgia with a present euphoria. There was a heavy “No Quarter” remix, plenty of pantydroppers, as well as several fresh, unreleased tracks.
The thing about this event was each artist’s style was embraced to the max. There was no pussy-footing around until the headliner came out. What’s the fun in that? Let’s get the f*ck down the whole time!
As such, when Michael Travis and Jason Hann took the stage, the energy was palpable. Within each of us the good juices were flowing and we were ready for some EOTO. Not one of their shows ever was, or ever will be the same, and everyone (myself included) just eats that improvisation up. The momentum built as the percussion increased in tempo and the wobbles grew. I found myself up on the balcony snapping some photos, when low and behold, “Fire The Lazers!” The impeccable production setup shot beams of light like lightsabers, slicing through the air. Along with phenomenal projection mapping and Jason’s incredible choice of occasional lyrics (Busta Rhymes anyone?), the sound was impeccable and dripped down the venue walls before shooting into my eardrums til they eargasmed. The measure of a perfect evening.
Amongst the craziness, I got a chance to sit down with Jason Hann and pick his brain on everything from what inspires him to create, to what artists he likes to see when he’s in the crowd for once…
Ellie Salrin: You are part of String Cheese Incident, EOTO, and have your solo project Prophet Massive. How would you describe the difference for you between these three roles?
Jason Hann: They are pretty drastically different; and I'm adamant about my music. I love a huge variety of music and I've always played with a lot of different types. I love learning these different styles and how to play them all. Between String Cheese and EOTO and Prophet Massive that's just what's been happening for the last ten years or so. When I’m in String Cheese, I really love the fact that I'm surrounded by percussion and that we can play Latin music and Brazilian music and I have all the drums nearby at my disposal.
In EOTO, it's really great to just make up music all night and to do it in an environment where you're making kids dance - modern electronic music. It's partly keeping up on it and it's also really a challenge to play the style on drums because there's not a lot of drummers that play this style so I have to kind of make up my own thing. I also get to sing a lot, which is fun.
For Prophet Massive, so far it's just been doing after parties for shows and whatnot. That also helps me stay up on music that's out there in the moment - I'm always looking for new tracks or new producers. 70-75% of the music out there is not that good and just imitating whatever's already out there. You have to really look for that 25% or maybe less of real special producers that are trying to do something different with music, or trying to change the style.
ES: That’s a good point. I think people are losing respect towards the cheap tricks and DJs just altering other people's music, they want people who are producing their own tracks that are original and incorporate real instruments in addition to electronic instruments. That in my opinion is the kind of music that's going to take our generation forward.
JH: Absolutely. I completely agree.
ES: EOTO is playing quite a few festivals this summer. Is there one in particular you’re most excited about?
JH: I'm excited for Electric Forest because it's such an incredible playground atmosphere. The forest is magical and the way that we're set up for playing there gives us time to have fun and check out the other bands. It's not as much fun when you're rushing in and out of a festival and don't get to hang out. That one we'll be thoroughly involved in. I'm looking forward to all of the festivals really, but the other big one is Shambhala. When you go there, you're gonna hear music that you won’t hear in the states for like another two years. Kinda ahead of the curve. The way the artists are treated and the quality of the stage setups and sound systems, it is a special place to go and enjoy music. I always come away invigorated and inspired having heard so much hidden music in those genres.
ES: How would you say your style has evolved since the inception of EOTO?
JH: In EOTO, it's changed drastically. I would say almost every tour we do, we get something in there that becomes a really strong departure or new introduction of something that we haven't done before. For example, I would say we're doing a lot more funky 70's kind of groove in our sets. It makes it in there once or twice each set that we play. And that's really fun, it's just another texture to dive into.
We originally started out doing a little more breakbeat, drum n bass, and acid jazz type of thing and it's definitely progressed into doing more dubstep and electro glitch hop. And now we’re in a world where it encompasses more of the complete journey of everything that we've done. But we've changed our sounds up and stuff like that so even if we're doing something that's a little more on the crazy side of things with organic instruments like electric guitar and bass guitar that is an updated version of us. The evolution of EOTO is tremendous having been together coming up on eight years.
ES: Yes I heard you two celebrated your 600th set in Richmond a couple months ago. It is unfathomable to me how you guys make such dynamic improv that is never the same. Where do you derive your inspiration to bring fresh ideas to to every stage you play?
JH: I think inspiration can at times be like writer's block as in getting stuck creatively. Sometimes the thing to do is get away from it and come back fresh with a bunch of new ideas. The other option is to write twice as much and work through it. I think what we had to do with EOTO was, you know we're playing every night, so we gotta use the method where you just go for it and play through it. And we both know when either of us is doing something that's the same thing as the night before - something might seem repetitive - so we police ourselves and try to move on. We can get tired of it because we have to hear each other every night. We have fallen into a good system now and it’s gotten a lot easier. Okay, we got a two hour set? We don't have to talk about music or talk about stylistically what we want the journey to be. It just flows.
ES: When you feed off of the energy in the crowd, what kind of audience do you feel yourself connecting with the most?
JH: It really depends on both the audience and where we're playing. We did this one festival that was an electronic festival and we were doing a late night for it. When we went on people got down so hard. We were catering a bit more to the harder crowd and this slowly delivered; it was kind of like we still were able to take them through some different worlds. It can be difficult to get a feel for what kind of music a particular crowd as a collective would enjoy the most. So you try some different things and sometimes it takes awhile. But that's how we react off the crowd; we go off them and try to find their sweet spots then we get them and we're like, ‘Okay now we're gonna take you for a ride.’
ES: When it’s your turn to be in the audience for once, what are some producers or bands you enjoy seeing live?
JH: Let’s see...I enjoy seeing Tipper. I also like seeing Random Rab,
ES: Have you caught a Random Rab sunrise set?
JH: Yeah I've caught a few of those. It's really pretty joyous; he's the perfect music to bring the sun up to. Opiuo is another artist I really like. I don't think I've been disappointed by any set that he's done. I also like Youngsta. His type of music is more mellow, more like really warm bass sounds, a little more rhythmic underneath. Not hard snares in your face and drums bouncing around. He's really good and it's a style that's pretty big overseas right now.
ES: Alright, one final question. This is something I ask when I meet new people, and surprisingly no one has ever had the same answer. If you could have dinner with any person (either living or dead), who would it be?
JH: Ooh, that's a tough one. I would say Nikola Tesla. What a brilliant mind. I don't even know what his personality was or anything like that. I just to hang with someone at that high of a mental level. Music-wise there would be a lot of people I’d like to have dinner with...it’s too difficult to narrow it down.
ES: Oh yeah there are so many musicians, especially that are no longer alive, it’s too difficult to choose just one. I'll share who I’d have dinner with. I’d want to meet Hunter S Thompson. I’m a writer and his style greatly inspires mine.
JH: Oh, so you're totally interviewing me on acid right now? Haha...
ES: Haha I might be. Anyways, really glad I got to speak to you for a few minutes! Looking forward to seeing you guys do your thing up there.