Thriftworks review + slideshow / Empire Control Room (Austin, TX) / Feb 5, 2014
Published: March 5, 2014
Interview by: Jacki Horne
Photos by: Mario Villeda
Seeker and producer of unearthed sound, Jake Atlas a.k.a. Thriftworks, is a league of his own when it comes to electronic music production. The self-proclaimed psychedelic hip-hop producer creates downtempo, basscentric soundscapes that guide the listener on an exotic adventure through a magic carpet ride of beats and vibes.
Thriftworks brought his unparalleled alluring basscentricity to Empire Control Room in Austin, Texas last month and the night was nothing short of being rowdy, psychedelic, and sensual. Kaleidoscopic background projections reflected off the packed venue’s walls while several gorgeous girls from the crowd jumped on the stage and danced in front of the DJ booth. In addition to Thriftworks, local talent for the show included the likes of Austin’s own: BoomBaptist, 808K, Significant Brother, and G. King.
We got to catch up with Thriftworks before his set and learned that he is as hilarious as advertised, while possessing a no-bullshit mentality. Jake is not trying to sell pseudo-spirituality or fit into a specific culture. He is all about his music and projecting his creativity and feelings into sound without a need for fluff, because his intricately crafted soundscapes speak for themselves.
The Untz: Your music deviates from the norm and has a uniquely signature sound. How would you describe it to someone who has never heard of that kind of music before?
Thriftworks: I'd try to keep it simple with someone who might be out of the loop, especially outside of the realms of electronic music; I would probably describe it as psychedelic hip-hop with electronic influence.
The Untz: How do you manage to keep your sound so organic in such an oversaturated EDM market?
Thriftworks: It’s all about starting out with unique noises. I feel like if you start a song with your basic electronic sounds, these harsh basslines and synths, you might have trouble getting something unique, but I’m just trying to come up with something fresh. I love drum percussion and programming and I love sampling strange sounds, from birds, to voices, to rustling leaves, and generally heavy modulation on organic samples.
The Untz: So what does your music production process look like?
Thriftworks: Sometimes I’ll start off writing something with melodic content, whether it be a sample or me playing a part via synths, then add a drumbeat. If melodic inspiration isn’t there, I’ll start out with drums and try to use a unique percussive element like sampling the sound of rocks clacking or something strange to create a unique beat without anything else. Then I’ll step away and come back and add melodic/harmonic content. The process either consists of starting with melody and then adding in drums, or vice versa.
The Untz: Do you think that the popularity of EDM is an advantage or disadvantage as a producer?
Thriftworks: It’s kind of neat, because it’s a built-in market. You get plugged into something like that and you really start to see it’s almost a brand of people; all like-minded and all bouncing off one another, in some regard that totally helps. But in another regard, I think people can be too quick to accept something as cool via their peers. I think it has its advantages and disadvantages; in some ways it can work for you, but it can also contribute to a stagnant nature of EDM, which I think a lot of people recognize.
The Untz: Your obscure track titles do justice for the unique quality of your music. How did you come up with track title "C12h17n2o4p?"
Thriftworks: That is the molecular structure for psilocybin, which is the psychoactive compound in mushrooms. That was not even me, it was my friend and collaborator Mythicalifornian who wrote that track; the lyrics on that were all him. We actually recorded that verse on a different track. He was upset when I stripped the acappella and started playing it live on my sets with the lyrics over whatever beats I wanted. I’d been doing that for a while and I really liked the way it sounded over one particular beat. The track sampled Stanley Kubrick’s 1980’s film The Shining.
The Untz: Will we ever get to hear the original "C12h17n2o4p?"
Thriftworks: The original track still exists. I think he (Mythicalifornian) plans on putting it out. I think he’s actually in the process of drafting the music video.
The Untz: Some of your track titles suggest new age spirituality, but possess strong undertones of satire, for example “Voo Do Yoga” and “Pistols and Crystals.” What is the overall message you are trying to convey with your soundscapes?
Thriftworks: I can be a sarcastic bastard, anyone who knows me will tell you that. I don’t think there is a central message. Trying to take a message out of my music might be too deep, but I’m glad if people make meaning out of it. Honestly, it does come from a place and a feeling within me, but it’s more of a feeling than an overall message. I have been seeing that people around the country get that emotion through my music and that makes me stoked. I don’t want to go ahead and say that there is even a way to summarize the feelings, but I’m just glad that people are feeling at all.
The Untz: Festival season is almost in full swing, what are you looking forward to most at this point?
Thriftworks: I think Wakarusa could be neat; I’ve never done it before, but I hear it’s a really good festival. There are also a few great ones, which I probably shouldn't talk about quite yet.
The Untz: You’re returning to Gem & Jam this weekend, what are you looking forward to most about that event?
Thriftworks: Last year was a really memorable set for me, I played indoors and max occupancy was reached; it was pretty epic. I’m also looking forward to hanging out with my people, my good friends Russ Liquid, Insightful and all of the Euphonic Conceptions crew. I’m sure that will be a hell of a time, all of us smoshing at the circus.
The Untz: Lets take it back all the way to Hermetic Thriftology, how would you say you have grown as a producer since 2010?
Thriftworks: Honestly, Hermetic was after I had just learned about dubstep. I came out to the West Coast and for school, and some friends put me on to it. It was very powerful to me because I had never heard anything like it, and I think that influenced my music a decent bit throughout that album [Hermetic Thriftology]. I feel like I swiftly grew into a mature version of that, which is an ever-evolving process. I think my brand is almost always shining through the noise, but it’s a process of growth that naturally changes: people, life events, music that your into, even your breakfast has influence on what you’re doing.