Welcome, New Philadelphians, to the first installment of Under the Radar! A new column, Under the Radar aims to break fledgling, unsigned artists into the blogosphere, giving them a platform to share both their work and their personal musical journeys. Every month we’ll be sharing with you our favorite cuts of the artist’s discography, as well as mixes, interviews, video projects, and anything else that might pop. Here the casual fan can discover great artists that they might otherwise have overlooked, and the discerning DJ can stay one step ahead of the game by getting the deepest, dirtiest, off-the-grid cuts… first!
Apostrophe S is a New Haven-based Hip- and Glitch-Hop head whose tracks run the gamut from Hudson Mohawke/Rustie/Numbers crew-esque Crunk and Trap to J Dilla-conjuring sample-fests to spacey, care-free Jazz-fusion. His freshman LP, Pylon, is slated for a free release(!) on FreeBassCollective this Friday, and we can say with 100% certainty that it’s bound to turn some heads. You can stream — and download, of course — a couple of our favorite offerings just below. I also caught up with the man, himself, to talk influences, production workflow, and the musical future. You can catch that interview below, as well!
TNP: Who are you? Where are you from? Where do you live now? What do you do with yourself when you’re not making spaced-out Glitch-Hop tunes?
Apostrophe S: My name is Dan Paoletti. I’m from Albany, New York. A cultural suck hole famous for containing one of the top party schools for spoiled Long Islanders. I currently live in New Haven, CT: a cultural suck hole famous for containing one of the top meccas for intellectual nonsense. When not making music, I’m either working, eating, or sleeping.
TNP: Haha, you don’t seem so keen on the places you’ve lived in. Oftentimes artistic inspiration springs from barren landscapes — is it safe to say that these “cultural suck-holes” have influenced you as an artist?
Apostrophe S: I don’t want to come off as condescending — but it’s probably too late to say otherwise. It’s just that some places have no “scene” to speak of. I was in a Ska band in Albany for about 6 years, and all we wrote about was girls and being lonely, and moving out to California to start over. I think that’s a metaphor for a lot of places in America — the idea of somewhere else, whether it be California or Florida or Europe, has been a theme for my friends and me. So I think my music is more about creating an environment of escapism that runs contra to the environment I’m in. The great pleasure in using a computer to make music is that you’re automatically synced in with the world around you, and detached from the place you’re in. Electronic music is as much about escapism as electronic communication is.
TNP: It’s interesting that you mention this idea of “escapism” in your work, as your tracks often contain little samples — snippets from old Hollywood movies, advertisements, etc — that have a very distinct nostalgic feeling to them, as if yearning for days long past. Where do you find these samples? How and when do you decide to use them?
Apostrophe S: To be honest, the process is a little random. I had a composition teacher in college who always hounded me to add vocal samples to my work. I don’t remember his rationale behind it, but the idea kind of stuck. I wanted to create more of an environment on the album, something that drifted between places but had a certain cohesiveness to it. Samples of movie dialogue, or radio dramas, or what have you, are a good way to ground what Marshall McLuhan would call a “hot” medium into a more realistic place. The new always plays in dialectical counterpart with the old, and my work is just an extension of that cultural truism. I find most of the samples on Youtube, which is an endless treasure trove of nostalgia — oddly enough, nostalgia is another concept central to McLuhan’s work. It all comes together in one way or another, whether you look at things spiritually, intellectually, or psychedelically.
TNP: Take us through your typical workflow. Do you wait to start a track only when you get the inspiration, or do you sit down and see what comes to you? What do you work on first? Last?
Apostrophe S: I really like what Zappa said about soloing — something like, “It’s like sculpting with air…” So I look at my process a lot like sculpting. Build up a nice loop, then the form of the song kind of evolves around that. Add and subtract as appropriate. Artists generally can only use other artists’ techniques to describe their own. I feel like sound is a lot like sculpting or painting, but that’s because I interact with music very intimately — as I imagine a visual artist must with their medium. I’m always working on something, and sometimes it just doesn’t evolve properly. So I’ll leave it for later, or it will disappear when my computer crashes. And so it goes. Art isn’t permanent, as the Buddhists say — or was it Ken Kesey?
TNP: Your tracks draw influences from a pretty eclectic variety of genres: Hip Hop, IDM, and Jazz for just a few. Whom would you say are your biggest influences?
Apostrophe S: In terms of where my sound comes from, I heard a few artists I liked and said, “I want to sound like that.” Slowly, I got to the point where I felt I started to sound like myself. Those artists include J Dilla, Flying Lotus, Shlohmo, Rustie, Lone, Nosaj Thing, and other purveyors of the “wonky” sound — which itself comes from a diverse range of influences. Big kudos need to be given to Daft Punk and Infected Mushroom and Cascada for getting me hooked on music that didn’t have guitars. Though it may have been slightly ironic at the time… If you had told me when I was thirteen that, some day, I would exclusively work with electronic music, I would have told you to fuck off.
TNP: If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Apostrophe S: That’s a really hard question. There’s so many amazing people making music right now, in so many different realms. I think something really interesting would happen if I collaborated with composer Nico Muhly. He has this sort of harmonic genius I really admire, along with a knack for atmosphere and environment that I really dig. Maybe I’m thinking more along the lines of “who do you wish you were,” but I think an interesting collaboration would emerge from combining this kind of beat culture with post-minimalist classical.
TNP: So what inspired you to begin producing Electronic Music in the first place?
Apostrophe S: Weed.
TNP: Haha! Well said, but how so? Do other mind-altering substances similarly inspire your productions?
Apostrophe S: I’m actually a year sober now; I decided to leave the drugs behind. Wasn’t working out for me. But at the time, weed in particular was kind of a portal into a whole new conception of sound for me. The drug itself, I think, makes you pay attention to and appreciate the details in everything. I had never really been a fan of Electronic Music before, except in some kind of passing ironic way. Daft Punk was interesting, but I had never been exposed to the idea of “experiencing sound itself” until I was high one night, listening to Rusko, Emalkay, Chase & Status, and the like.
From that moment I knew that there was something special about the purely sonic world of Electronic Music — in the same manner as I’m sure an opium smoker would have found the music of Berlioz or Liszt particularly attractive in the 19th century. The world of sound became so heightened, sharpened, and interesting that I had to apply myself to it fully. And when I suddenly realized that the same principle that applied to this Brostep I was listening to applied to the head-bobbing stuff I was into like Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Bibio, and so on, it was a done deal. This was the kind of music I was going to devote myself to.
TNP: What can we expect from Pylon? How did you decide which tracks would make the LP and which wouldn’t? Will we ever see some of the ones that didn’t? For that matter, when is Pylon coming out?
Pylon is a trip into the last year of my life, minus all the shitty music that came out of it. There’s 21 tracks, some stretching back to the Fall of 2011, tweaked and remastered a bit, but most from the Fall of this year. I went through a bit of a creative upheaval over the last year, trying to figure out how to do what I do without drugs, and then to improve over it. I ended up with a lot of music that I thought was good but that didn’t age well past a month or so. It was all kind of an experiment in Deep House or UK Funky sounds, uptempo stuff that I can absolutely appreciate listening to but shouldn’t really be trying to make. So what you have is about 2 months worth of music that reaches back to my old days of drug use and squalor, pulls out the pieces worth salvaging, and mixes them in with a testament to my present day self.
Most of the recent stuff was resurrected material from months-old tracks from the summer. Some of the tracks, particularly in the middle of the album, were really composed within a few hours each, after the initial form of the album had already been solidified, and I liked them so much I had to put them on the album. So I had to tweak around the order a bit, but I have it down to its final form now. Just working on the mastering as I write this with my friend KaZulu. Oh, and it ends with a folk song now. Just to mix things up.
In terms of what didn’t make it to the album, there’s no real place for what I consider throw-aways to see the light of day. But like I was saying, some of the material on the album was made from snippets or ideas crafted months before they were finished, so there’s a lot more half-finished material from this period that might make it onto the next release. Who knows? I always keep a library of half-finished ideas, and sometimes that serves as material for a completed track. But I’ve been getting more into traditional composition recently, so my next album might be all atonal string music, who knows.
TNP: After Pylon comes out, what’s next?
Apostrophe S: After Pylon you’ll probably see a new EP from me within a few months with an even more evolved sound.
TNP: Got any new remixes on the horizon?
Apostrophe S: I do remixes kind of on a fly-by-night basis. If I like a song enough, I’ll hunt for an acapella (usually they end up coming from the iTunes store, believe it or not), and try to lay my style over it. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of remixing these terrible pop songs so they fit my style. I recently did a remix of Owl City‘s “Good Time,” which I think came out pretty well, and did a glitched-up version of “Don’t Wake Me Up” by Chris Brown. [Ed. Note: Both of these can be found on Apostrophe S’ Soundcloud page.] I have my sights set on doing more of these, since the pop landscape these days is so bland and repetitive, but the songwriting often tends to be genius. I have a lot of admiration for Katy Perry, fun., Demi Lovato, artists like that. One of my dream projects is to have a whole remix EP or LP of just these terrible pop songs. Maybe some day.
TNP: Any live performances coming up?
Apostrophe S: I don’t do live performance yet because I don’t have the right equipment, so I’m trying to just build my online presence. People like you are helping to spread the word, and I deeply appreciate that.
TNP: Thanks! I understand you’ve also tried your hand at soundtracking a couple short films. Did this effect your view on production at all? Any new A/V projects in the coming months?
Apostrophe S: Just working on a couple of my friend Jake’s short films. A lot of the soundtrack to the latest film, Vocabulary of the Mysteries, consists of an array of my more Hip Hop sounding beats, new and old. And the former will feature a lot of creeping bass and soundscape work. So the first film is an experiment for me, something a little expanding. The second one I didn’t have to do much work on.
TNP: Thanks for your time, Dan! Before we go, is there anything you want to tell the good people of Philadelphia?
Apostrophe S: Stay up, I love Philly! Bump my tunes in your whips!
That’s all for this month, folks, but stay tuned! And be on the lookout for Pylon, dropping for free this Friday on FreeBassCollective!