New York City's Derek VanScoten is a musical innovator. He's given a whole new meaning to the term "one-man band," as he electronically dishes out tracks while simultaneously looping guitar riffs in his solo project, D.V.S*. VanScoten worked consistently over the last year on a double album, entitled Coming Up For Air Volumes 1 & 2, which was unveiled four songs at a time until November when the collection was complete and made public.
The project ended up being two discs considered sisters in technique, but opposites in sound and vibe. Both exhibit VanScoten's signature video game sequences, but volume one is more upbeat while volume two is softer and more melodic.
Amid constant work producing Coming Up For Air, VanScoten released one remix per month and still managed to tour. In 2011 alone, D.V.S* played Dallas four times and is coming back to The Green Elephant Saturday, December 17 with Gramatik and Supervision.
Coming Up For Air has been a huge work in progress. Now that all the songs are released as one collection, what is the concept behind the album? The title Coming Up For Air is indicative of relief and to different people the feeling of relief is triggered by different situations. Having been a musician for years, normally for the nightclub dance scene, I have a lot of older friends who are almost my parents' age and then I have a lot of younger friends that are late teens early 20s. I see such a wide range of experiences for what the feeling of relief is. For my young friends, the feeling is going out and raging all night to your favorite music. For other people, the feeling of relief is withdrawing and having more introspective time, whatever that means. Going out into nature or chilling out by yourself at home. Dusk [volume one] represents that nightclub release and Dawn [volume two] represents a more introverted and introspective release.
I am totally on the brink of both of those feelings right now. I don't know if it's the season, but all I want to do is stay inside and read because all year I've been out dancing and going to shows. And I feel the same way. After this whole fall tour I was totally ready to go back to the city but not necessarily go out a lot. Or if I do, I'm doing something different like going to see an orchestra or going to the theater -- something totally out of my element, because I had been in nightclubs pretty much every weekend since last April. I was hooked, but the thing is by the time late spring or early summer comes around, when festivals get started, I'll have cabin fever so a sense of relief will be going back out and all that again.
Would you say the underlying concept is how Dusk and Dawn differ the most? What about production-wise? As far as production, Dusk is much more rocking and represents much more of me growing up on people like Jimi Hendrix, whereas Dawn is much more rooted from when I got into acoustic music, that chill side. So production-wise they are very different but I think if you're familiar with my sound, you can hear that both of them are me, they're both just different extremes.
When I read the names [of the album] I thought of being at a music festival and what you would play raging into the night versus what you would hear during a sunrise set. Exactly! Part of this idea for a double album came from when people come up to me and say, "You know, I really like what you do and my favorite part about what you do is BLANK." So, often within minutes of each other, people will come up to me and say totally opposite things. Brostep kids will come to me and say, "Dude, I loved how you did the rock 'n roll guitar and the dubstep and the womp and still play." And girls will come up to me and say, "I love your beautiful remixes and all the really pretty downtempo stuff that you do that reminds me of Emancipator or Four Tet." So, it's really split. I thought, "How am I going to put out a record that exemplifies all this without every track really seesawing back and forth?" That's when I decided I need to do a double album and fully embody both sides.
This is the first set of tracks you've decided to charge consumers for. What was your change of heart? Dusk is still is kind of the old way as far as name your price. The reason why I decide to charge for Dawn is because a lot of that may not see the light of day in terms of concert material. If you look at most people that don't charge for their material it's because really it's a promo outlet for their touring. Look at Pretty Lights: The reason he doesn't charge, other than the fact that he does so much sampling, is because he stands to get so much promotion for his live shows, which are really how he pays all of his bills. But if he wanted to take five years off or something, he may then charge for his stuff. Or it would be something where his music was in movies and he's getting paid. I'll play like three or four of the 15 songs off Dawn live, so you're looking at like over half the stuff that you won't see live unless it's like really appropriate. For example, if I were opening up for someone like Bjork.
You make all your own beats and instrumentals as opposed to Pretty Lights, who mostly relies on sampling vinyl and other tracks. What exactly defines a producer in the electronic music world? Just to clarify -- because I do know all the people in the Pretty Lights crew personally so I see how they work -- it's not that they're sampling everything, it's more that they're using samples for the bulk of inspiration and core of the composition. Derek Smith [of Pretty Lights] will find a guitar lick and a soul vocal and he'll base everything else around that. Derek will build his own beats or do his bass lines. Gramatik does that too, but some of the melodic elements that kind of dictate what everything else does are based on samples. As I go on in my career I tend to sample less and less. My very first album had a lot of soul vocals that were samples, but it's really kind of what your background is. I come from a background of bands so when I do vocals and stuff, they're the very last thing I add to the music. I think a lot of the more hip-hop producers find that sample and build everything around it. To really answer your question, neither way is right or wrong as to what determines a producer. They're both equally as valid and it just depends on what your goals are.
What are your goals? My goals are to get my music out there internationally and be able to feed it into things like movies and short films and even commercials. My goal is to go beyond playing at a club. I'll be doing that the rest of my life because I love playing music, but I want to get my music to a broader audience as I grow and evolve. I think when you do a lot of sampling, even though you can get a million hits on YouTube and sell out Red Rocks and whatever, you can't really get your music into total mass consciousness or lengthen it for a movie without paying a shit load of money because you have all these samples.
You worked with Pretty Lights Music's Michal Menert on your latest record and now you're playing Dallas as part of the Pretty Lights Music Showcase on Saturday. Anything in the works with the label? Yeah, I mean I'm definitely involved for sure. It actually started a few years ago: Derek and I met on an online producer forum before he blew up and we were aware of each other and thought it was funny we had the same initials. And then about a year and a half ago, Menert and I really hit it off. Michal and I collaborated and I did stuff with the guys from Break Science (also on PLM) and co-wrote a song on Menert's new record. It stands to be seen whether I'll become one of the official Pretty Lights artists, but if nothing else I'll be part of the bigger collective where I'll be co-writing and remixing all those guys.
We like to call it the brethren of PLM. Right! They'll always know me and love me and respect me and you'll see me popping up on stuff with those artists. Even Paul Basic; I just did a show with him in Boulder. Everyone on that label, I love them and they love me.