By Gregg Sauber
Prior to his March 9th show at the Highline Ballroom in NYC, L.A. based future bass producer Stephan Jacobs sat down with me to talk about his musical upbringing, his views on Skrillex, and the slew of upcoming releases he has in the oven.
GS: Growing up, what were some of your earliest musical influences?
SJ: I was exposed to the Gypsy Kings, Bob Marley, and Sting by my parents at an early age. Later my dad got me into Moby and Enigma. Growing up in high school I always listened to hip-hop like Dr. Dre, Eminem, just that whole west coast sound. I had a jeep that I put a full custom stereo system in. I was super into bass even then, mainly hip-hop bass. I would drive around and bump it super loud. I was also into rock like Korn. I went through all my phases. My friends in high school were freestylers, and that’s when I first started experimenting with Acid and Fruity Loops.
GS: What style of music did you produce initially?
SJ: The first beats I made were experimental. They were basically under-produced hip-hop beats. It wasn’t until I started getting into electronic music like progressive house and minimal techno that my music started becoming more bass heavy. These were the first kind of electronic beats that I made. Once I started learning more about synthesis and sound design I tried to make my sound as big as possible.
GS: Do you play any instruments?
SJ: I played bass guitar and trombone in the high school band. Then I started playing keys where I learned about music theory. I incorporated everything I learned playing instruments into producing.
GS: The Headtron crew is one of the driving forces in the progression of the west coast bass scene. How do you think being a part of that crew has influenced your career?
SJ: We’re all super tight, they’re my homies. It’s a great team to be a part of. We’re all coming up strong together yet we have our individual styles as artists. It’s similar, but different enough to be part of the crew. We’ve got the underground west coast sound and there is definitely the possibility of that sound becoming more popular. It’s just a matter of breaking in.
GS: What are some of your favorite electronic producers right now?
GS: What record labels would you like to have a release on?
SJ: I would love to have a release on OWSLA, Skrillex’s new label. Anything along those lines that has a wide reach so the most people can hear it. There are a lot of options, like even Play Me Records. Reid (Speed) and I have met a few times, and I think she would be really open to hearing my new material.
GS: A lot of artists are labeling their music as dubstep. How do you feel about that versus more specific genre labels such as lazerbass, glitch-hop and future bass?
SJ: If labeling my music as dubstep is going to trigger someone to listen to it, sure it’s dubstep. I personally don’t feel like I stay within the box of dubstep. A lot of my music is dubstep-ish in that it incorporates glitch, melodic elements and definite song structure. I try to make it a little more of well-rounded epic journey song rather than just WAAA-WAWA-WAAA-WAWA.
GS: I can definitely feel more emotion from your music than say Skrillex or some of the more mainstream dubstep producers. Do you think that making melodic, deep electronic music allows you to connect more directly with the listener than dance-driven electronic music?
SJ: I actually feel emotion from Skrillex music. Its dope, he has great melodies they’re fucking brilliant. I don’t hate on Skrillex at all. I’m sure I’m not the only one to say it, but we’re jealous. He’s got the right team and he was at the right place at the right time. I think my music is up to par with him. He’s opening the doors. His music is great.
When you have an emotion or a melody or vocals in the music, it gives the listener something to latch onto and connect with. These elements allow you to reminisce and have memories to a point where you get lost in the sound. I want music to take me on a journey when I listen to it. I’m all about getting lost in the sound.
GS: How do you feel that the rise in popularity of mainstream dubstep has affected your career?
SJ: I don’t let it affect me. I try not to pay attention to that. My goal as an artist is to create without forcing anything and let it come out naturally. If I were try to imitate a particular style I won’t have my signature Stephan Jacobs sound. I want people to be like “Oh that’s a Stephan track” and that only comes from letting go and not trying to do something else. I’m going to try to stay true and strong to that, god-willing.
GS: How did you select the artists for the Mad Era/Into The Vortex Remix EP?
SJ: It was a combined effort with Aaron Simpson at Simplify Recordings. We put a list together of what was realistic and attacked it. He contacted a handful of the producers himself like Mr. Bill and Freddy Todd. Aaron is awesome to work with. Overall, he and I work extremely well together. He’s able to lift the weight off my shoulders in a sense that I sent the stems out and he took over as the remixes came in.
GS: What upcoming shows are you playing?
SJ: I’m actually incorporating my drummer, SunEvil, for my live show. We’ve already played Expansion at the Hummingbird Ranch in L.A. We have a couple more shows coming up including Lake Tahoe on April 3rd and San Francisco on April 5th. I’m also trying to get him on Coachella (at the Do Lab stage) with me for the first weekend.
GS: What releases do you have on the horizon?
SJ: I have quite a handful. I have the remix for Kraddy coming out in about a week. I have a remix for Ruffhauser called ‘Time Of Our Lives’ which I feel like I really knocked outta the park. I’m hoping to get him a little more attention and he is someone I definitely am considering releasing on my label. Another Kether album is in the works as well. Every couple months we get together for a session. Also, my full-length album, which I think is going to be called The Productionist, I don’t know yet. I’ve got the majority of it sketched out but I want to buy some plugins to improve the sound. I’m all about perfection. There’s a new Pizza Party mixtape coming on 4/20 as well.
GS: How do you see your music progressing?
SJ: Hopefully, with the times. I try to stay on top of new techniques, new sounds. If music becomes 3D, I’m going to have to figure out a way to make my music 3D like the movies. I’m open to everything; I just want to create. The more music I hear that inspires me, the more I likely I am to explore new styles and sounds.
The following Memekast includes unreleased tracks, remixes by Headtron brethren +Verb and Chris B and provides a great depiction of Stephan’s genre-bending sound. I personally love the atmospheric soundscapes of SJ’s remix of Goldrush’s ‘Astralover’ and the bouncy, glitched out synths of ChrisB’s remix of SJ’s ‘Izzo’. You can download it here for FREE.
Check out Stephan’s brand new remix of Ruffhauser’s ‘Time Of Our Lives’.
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