Few artists have been as relentlessly on our radar as Minnesota. It doesn’t seem like too long ago when he was the new generation of dubstep’s best kept secret; now you almost can’t avoid a confrontation with his beautiful, booming music.
We had a chance to catch up with Christian before his appearance at the bass haven that will be Sonic Bloom this weekend and find out more about his production techniques, the North Cali scene that nurtured him and got some insight into his recent album Astral Projections (name-your-price on BandCamp). Don’t forget you can also grab almost all his music for free on SoundCloud.
So Christian, how is the universe treating you today?
Good, good. I just got off of four days doing a little Southern run. I wasn’t honestly super sure how I’d do in those markets, even though I’ve been there but more as an opening act. Coming there and doing three solo headlining shows, I wasn’t sure how well I’d do and they all had great turnouts, great crowds, just really, really good energy. So I’m pretty stoked this week to come back from four great shows.
Where did you play, and which was a special highlight for you?
I played in Charleston, then I played in Knoxville, then I played in a random town in Georgia for Impulse Music Festival, then I played in Jacksonville, Florida. I had a ton of fun at Impulse, just because the people out there were great and there were a bunch of artists out there that I knew, so I got to go hang out and party with them.
Impulse and Jacksonville, those were probably the most fun shows.
I think the South has a reputation for not being bass heads, but that’s totally a myth.
And that’s why I was surprised, I wasn’t expecting that out there. I know a lot of the community down there more into jam-band-ish, jamtronica type of stuff, so just to see good, solid turn outs for all those shows and people coming out being the most stoked crowd I’ve ever played for, it just feels good.
Now I’m home in Santa Cruz getting a bunch of work done and getting ready for Sonic Bloom, which probably is one of the festivals I’m most excited for this festival season.
It’s a very intimate one, for sure. I always use the term “hippie bass” to describe that scene. Being from the Bay Area and signing with the labels you have such as Mal Label, Gruntworthy and Tycho, do you see any validity to the term “hippie bass”?
Yeah, absolutely! And that’s one of the reasons I’m excited for Sonic Bloom, it seems really similar to a lot of the smaller festivals we have out here. We have Raindance, Emissions, just a few small ones out here and especially for Raindance (which is a yearly festival I’ve been going to for a few years) I would definitely describe it as hippie bass. I love it. I wouldn’t consider myself super hippie-ish. I do love the community and stuff, but I think it’s an accurate term; these festivals are pretty heady. The focus is on music but it’s about a lot of different lifestyle stuff… different, I guess, “hippie” stuff. In a good way, in a completely good way [laughs].
I’ve started to shift my definition of it pretty drastically after going to Lightning in a Bottle – which is basically your stomping grounds – so it’s not describing a crossover jam/electronic crowd but more focused on the infusion of this emerging art and spirituality that comes with it.
Yeah, definitely, I completely agree with that. I’ve been to a lot of major festivals as well. Before I was going to the smaller ones I was going to Lollapalooza, Coachella; those are both great festivals, they bring out a lot of talent, but for the most part it’s a lot different of a vibe. There’s a good amount of people coming out just to party and stuff, whereas these smaller festivals like you’re talking about, there’s a lot more intention. A bigger percentage of people are coming out for the music and for the vibe of the general festival.
That whole festival-minded culture coming from your part of the world has been a dominating force lately, and it’s spreading into all these smaller festivals like you said. Would you say you carry your hometown vibe as you tour across the country?
Yeah, where I’m living right now in Santa Cruz, I’ve been here for the past five years and it’s definitely put me in the place that I am. Just had a huge influence on the music I make. I know one of the local guys that throws Raindance and used to throw a lot more events around Santa Cruz around the year; that was basically the festival vibe.
The hometown vibe is everyone that goes to the shows and festivals around here knows each other. We have a small club in Santa Cruz called Motiv, and I have a bunch of homies that do weekly’s and monthly’s there. When I go out to Motiv to go see whatever show, I’m mostly going to connect up with friends whom I haven’t seen in a little bit. The music is part of the reason why I’m going, but honestly just to hang out with close friends and spend some time with them.
Going on the road… that’s a hard one.
Do you feel like you’re waving a Cali flag when you tour?
Um… no, I wouldn’t say so.
What about a Minnesota flag?
Not so much. I love Minnesota, my mom still lives there and that’s where I grew up – but Minnesota really doesn’t have that state and doesn’t really have any influence on me. I had no idea about electronic music when I lived in Minnesota; I moved to Northern California right when I graduated high school, and pretty much when I moved, and that’s when I got exposed to electronic music and this underground community. Northern California has the main influence on what I do, not so much Minnesota.
Let’s talk about “Minnesota” the artist. What are some production techniques, VST’s or other sounds that you simply just can’t live without?
VST-wise, one I use the most other than Massive is Omnisphere, by Spectrasonics. It’s a synth with a massive library. You need a pretty big computer just to run it. It has a ton of different sounds ranging from string and plucked sounds to really cool textures that I can put in tracks to make them sound bigger and thicker. Definitely Omnisphere is my main go-to synths to create different melodies and get some really cool sounds and noises.
I think you’ve got two hemispheres to the music you make. The first, and probably the more visible, is the “purple” sound, which you’ve been after even before you started doing the Death Star thing with MartyParty. What draws you to that sound?
First of all, a huge part of “purple” music (or however you want to define that) is the melody, so obviously melody plays a huge part in all the music I make. The two other things is the bass-heaviness of purple music and the sexiness. That’s one of my characteristics of it, just the sexiness. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to make. Those three things, the melody that’s a big characteristic of it, the bass-heaviness that really matters when you’re playing out on big sound systems, and the sexiness of it.
Are you and MartyParty sticking with Death Star?
Yes. We both have been really busy. I personally am really focused on putting together a well-thought-out release that will have good mass appeal and will be really good dance tunes. So speaking for myself, not at least for a few months, just because I’m really focusing on getting really solid tunes of my own.
I started producing about two years ago and started to get some popularity about a year ago. Those tunes I made a year ago, I love them, but I obviously didn’t know as much about producing and making them sound great on sound systems as I do now. I haven’t had too much time to produce my own tunes because I’ve been on the road so much, I’m still playing a lot of my older tracks. So at this point, every free moment I have is going to making my own tunes for the dance floor. But probably in about six months, if he has the time and stuff, we definitely want to bust out another EP because we definitely work together.
How do you see your sound progressing as you develop these new tunes? Do you have a specific goal in mind?
The main goal with my music right now is to make dance tunes that are also great to listen to when you’re at home chilling. My last release, Astral Projections, is a very melodic release but it’s meant as a downtempo album and for people to listen to while at home just chilling out, relaxing; they’re not meant for the dance floor at all.
But for my live sets, I really do like to slam it. For the most part, I feel like people are there to rage and party and have a good time. So right now, I’m focusing on making super-melodic tracks but bass-heavy. Not really any bro-step or any screechy dubstep, just some really big tracks.
That actually leads well to my next question, about the two sides of Minnesota. One is that purple, rage-your-face-off, hip-hop-sample-driven sound is very clutch for a live audience, but I think where you’re really starting to make a name for yourself is the more melodic approach and going for a symphonic quality of the sound. Dare I say that “sensitive” bass music is where it’s at nowadays?
Producing-wise, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself in any certain genre, and that’s why I made that last release. I want people to expect me to do a ton of different genres or whatever music I feel like making. I love making chill music and stuff that’s not meant for a dance floor, it’s fun to make crazy melodies and not worry about the dance-ability of it. I definitely will make that in the future, but at this point I’m focused on making dance floor tracks.
One of the big things for me in doing this project is playing out live, that’s one of my favorite things to do. I really want to make music to make my live sets better and have them be more original songs, and transition more to mostly original stuff and remixes. Right now my sets are about fifty percent my songs and fifty percent DJ tunes and other songs.
The basis I had for claiming it’s “sensitive” is that I really dig your remix of “Demons.” Like you said, it’s not exactly a dance tune, it’s more something for you to throw your arm over someone’s shoulder and watch the stars as this beautiful, cascading sound comes over you.
Hell yeah. And in a track like that, I feel like it can kinda be for both. You can sit at home and still listen to it, and that will be one that I play out. That one’s really similar to my remix of Mimi Page, for a song called “A Bad Place”. Those are both super-melodic sound that actually work both on the dance floor and at home chilling. So stuff like that, a little bit different formula I use for that, but tracks like that are what I’m focusing on, making them work in both contexts.
Between all these different areas, what are you most trying to inspire in others through your music? What would make you the most happy to hear in terms of how your music affects others?
It really is great to get out and play across the country. I’m super surprised how many people come up to me and say they just love my music and it means a lot to them, which I never expected it would, ever. When I’m making the music, I’m definitely not thinking about that, I’m just thinking about putting down onto the computer what’s in my head and just making good music.
It’d be great to inspire the newer producers coming to make melodic and thought-out stuff. That’s what I hope to inspire with new producers. I think that’s about it.
I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty heavy dose of Minnesota this summer: I caught your show at the Ogden, you were at Snowball, Lighting in a Bottle, then Sonic Bloom coming up. I’ve liked what I heard from the start and I can’t wait to see where this new drive takes your sound.
Thank you so much, that’s so good to hear!
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