Article By: Nicholas Callaio ; Photos By: Margaux Champ Galligan
I got the privilege to sit down with the king of crunkadelic music, Aaron Holstein, better known as VibeSquad. He rocked Denver’s Ogden Theater late last month with Love and Light and Unlimited Aspect. VibeSquad is not just your normal bass-driven producer. He combines bass with hip-hop to create his own style of music: funky crunkadelic get down. This show featured the biggest venue he got to play as a headliner, and blew the roof off, exceedeing any expectations. VibeSquad has been performing for fans across the globe, and is still experiencing rabid growth in his fan base.
Nicholas Callaio: With all the emerging Colorado talent coming up in today's music scene, how do you separate yourself from the rest and keep the fans begging for more?
Aaron Holstein: That is something I recognized early on as an improvisational musician in guitar and bass; it’s really about the freshest possible moments of new experience and new levels of connection. Anytime I get home from tour I hit the studio, but really I am driven to at least have one new track every week. I feel like this whole music platform gets stale—as a live musician originally—if you rest on your laurels and play your hits to get the crowd going. So for me it is always important to raise that bar every couple weeks or every month or every record and keeping pushing the limits. It’s all about the constant re-digging into the music, so it has that fresh-cut feeling.
NC: So basically, it’s all about variety in comparison to listening to music. Do you change your music consumption habits from week to week to keep a healthy amount of inspiration?
AH: Whatever it may be, from listening to music or playing a track at one of my shows, it has a certain energy level to it and I will know exactly how to take that amount of energy and amplify it a notch for the next batch of tunes, it is a learning experience all the way. One thing is that I know all the fans love my older tracks and would like to hear them, and they are very patient, but they are kind of just sitting in my pocket. Now it's fun to practice the art of raising the bar every stair step until the crowd is in a real frenzy. That’s a fun experiment I am going through right now so I am really trying to work on those types of tunes just for the live setting.
NC: Lets go back in time now. The first time I caught you live, you had a high pitch dolphin sound effect incorporated into your tracks. Ever since that moment, the name VibeSquad has been cemented into my memory. Do you use unique sounds as a method to catch the fans early?
AH: All these sounds I produce always conjure up so many emotions for everyone and it’s so cool because its abstract on an instrumental level because I don't have any hooks for the most part. So when people try to describe my song with a certain synth sound or a bass line it’s a dream for me because the fans have a clear imagery for my music. All I want to do is create a platform for people to have a ridiculously good time and if I can put this image into their head without putting it on a screen while I play, I have reached one of my goals. As for the weird sounds I work with, like the dolphin, I am really tapped into the underwater and outer space type of sound and try to get all of that psychedelic energy into this tough ass beat that we can all get down to. You know, just another challenge I have to face.
NC: I’m sure everyone wants to know who has seen you live before… What is with the constant cheesing when you’re in the booth? Are you really always that happy to play music?
AH: You know, that is the biggest blessing I have. As far as I can remember, all I wanted to do was play music. I am 40 years old, now, with a five and six year old, and I see the same passion in their eyes, too, but all I want to do is make people feel good, so the music became my lifet’s goal. I knew I was clearly cut out for this line of work and just to go out and play for my homies as my job, I just have a very high level of appreciation for what I do. Maybe if I was 23 and this was happening to me I could get caught up and say it’s all about me, but at 40 I am so over myself and I am so use to hosting everyone else's fun. So when I am smiling all the time, like you said, it’s just a byproduct of when I am spinning on stage. I tried really hard to “be cool” and keep it hard for a set, but people show me a picture of myself and what do you know, I have the stupid grin (bass face). Smiling is just what I do.
NC: I see you have the bass clef tattoo, what’s the story with that?
AH: That s great question because I have seen about 100 of these bass clef tattoos and its the most humbling experience to see that it is a universal symbol that people can relate to these days so I do not take it personally that so many people have it. I am so proud that I came up with that as my visual logo for what I am doing. It just means so much to me, bass love all the way and if people like that, then I am never giving this shit up.
NC: I am a huge fan of jam bands, myself, did bands like Phish or The Grateful Dead have an influence on you?
AH: It’s funny because I do come from the jam world. I was in college in the late 80's and saw Phish on the East Coast about a 100 times also I have seen The Grateful Dead about 100 times with Jerry, you know the whole deal. That was my upbringing: Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, and Phish, and to see the next generation come through, like The Disco Biscuits or Papadosio, and they are still carrying that energy. It’s really great to still be able to relate with that sort of music and still produce tunes on the computer at the same time. Over the last 20 or so years, jam and electronica came together and it really nice to see all the different fans some together too.
NC: Colorado loves you along with all the other local talent here like the Big Gigantic and Paper Diamond. Do you have a past with any of those guys and what are some of your thoughts on their rise to stardom?
AH: I have been friends with those guys for a long time now. Especially Big Gigantic, we have known each other forever. I have known Jeremy [Salken], the drummer, from when he was following around Zilla and I have known Dom [Lalli] from doing a ton of jazz shows in Denver. We played like 50 gigs together, those guys are beautiful when it comes to music. So yes I do love how they are just blowing up Colorado, and you can't forget about Pretty Lights or Unlimited Aspect. All these kids are so talented and they are coming up really strong and its makes me proud to be linked in with this whole music community. I just love Colorado like everyone else.
NC: Do you have any closing words for the fans out there?
AH: You know, the Ogden was the biggest venue I have ever played as a headliner and it was such a blessing to get the chance to play. I have been thinking about it forever and its such a good feeling to know that people appreciate what I am doing, by the same token, and I am just pouring it right back into everyone. It is amazing to know that I have everyone's trust and they want to hear what I do; even better that I do this for a living. All I have to say to everyone I have been playing for all over this beautiful green earth, I love it and I will never quit.
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