Welcome to a Unexpected Influences, where we talk to musicians about the music no one expects them to like.
Datahowler, mad processor of decades of international culture, has a lot on his mind. Born Ross Edman (and formerly using the moniker Objectiv One), he has managed to push himself into the current local music spotlight with, perhaps, the area's first prominent release of 2011.
His sci-fi fueled journey, Slowdrifter, sucks listeners in to its twisting narrative by way of his self-crafted (he plays all instruments on the album) sonic space-scape. This instrumental gem is full of crunchy textures and funky downtempo vibe, occasionally peppered with eerie layered vocal smatterings.
So what makes a guy like this tick? A whole heck of a lot, it turns out. Read on to jump into the mind of a man whose musical influences come from sources as wide-ranging as the philosophy of Heidegger, Nigerian Highlife, Planet of the Apes and the rejection of Vanilla Ice.
Also included is a link to the most robust Unexpected Influences playlist that we've had to date -- so get comfy and get ready for a ride into the mind of a Datahowler.
What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
I think people would be surprised to hear that I don't listen to much music at all. Hardly ever, in fact. I don't listen to music when I drive, either. I reserve my driving time for thinking and brainstorming. I find most of the things that influence me are visual or other events in my life. I am most influenced from modern art. I love looking at art and always have. I think the visual world hasn't been quite as commercialized and destroyed by the Internet like music has and so, at this point in time, it seems a more pure form of inspiration in my mind. Also, I believe that high forms of art express the overall ideas of our current culture more then modern music does. Modern music is quite fickle in expressing our culture's real concerns because it grows and dies so fast.
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However, when I do listen to music, it is often long-forgotten music. I've been record-digging and collecting for quite some time, so I thrive on hearing obscure lost records of past generations. For the past year or two, I have specifically focused on Nigerian Highlife, Afrobeat, Afrofunk, etc. Anything pressed in Ghana, Nigeria or France (many African records were pressed in France) is what I long for. I have lots of Fela Kuti, Cymande, African Brothers, Peter King, Osibisa, etc. sitting on my shelves. I have been a percussionist/drummer and rhythm fanatic since a young age, so this music speaks to me with the ever complex maturing rhythms in these songs. The same goes for Latin music like Sergio Mendes, Mongo Santamaria, Malo, etc.
I also love psychedelic music quite a bit. It is something that has grown on me over the years. Any surf or psych from the '50s-'60s, I want. Especially the out-there stuff. All that pop-psych from the '60s sounds the same and is, quite frankly, annoying to me. This fascination all started when I would find records like The Electric Prunes, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Blues Magoos, etc., and, from then on, I was hooked.
A lot of ideas inspire me as well. I went to school and studied art and philosophy. I quickly latched onto French post-modernism and any philosophy that dealt with technology. A lot of my music is inspired by these ideas ranging from Brave New World and Frankenstein to Martin Heidegger and Jacques Ellul.
I also have been heavily influenced by old sci-fi movies and anything that has to do with space from Planet Of The Apes to old Tomita records I am all about it. I even have read many astrophysics books and love learning about black holes, m-string theory, etc. That all comes into play when writing my music.
On top of all of this, I am a huge Beatles fan. I have a lot of Beatles records. A lot of awesome ones. Which is all of them. Cause it's The Beatles. I'm more of a McCartney fan then Lennon too.
Who do you look to for inspiration when you play in public?
This has been something I have struggled with. The way I perform live is quite different and hasn't been touched by many people. I perform with all controllers and electronic instruments. The way you program and build a live set with this equipment is time-consuming, labor-intensive and downright brutal. Not many people are doing it and doing it well. So for performing live I currently have had to blaze my own trail. It is currently an ongoing growing process that I am hoping will mature more over the next year.
The first record that you bought for yourself?
I don't recall the first record I bought for myself. The first records given to me were when I was 5 years old. It was Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction and a Metallica album which I believe was And Justice For All... or Ride The Lightning. I also was given a copy of Vanilla Ice, but even at a tender age I was a critic and gave it back to my cousins. I thought it was awful. No offense, Rob Van Winkle.
What are your musical guilty pleasures? Anything embarrassing?
I have to shout out Prince. That isn't even embarrassing to listen to but any short, tiny man who can dress like him and have a fan base of 40-plus-year-old women is obviously the shit and doing something right. And he gets away with saying the dirtiest stuff while wearing purple sequin jumpsuits.
Talk a bit about where you got the influence for Slowdrifter.
Slowdrifter was this project that had morphed many times. At first it was an EP that was called Kaiju Showdown. I was never happy with it so most of the songs got trashed, but "Lurching Forward" came from those sessions. After that it was going to be called Spacebucks and DJ A1 was going to partner up with me on it as a mixtape. However, we both ended up touring months and months at a time and never got to meet up. Many of the tracks were random tracks I didn't know what to do with. Eventually as I started writing more I noticed my love of space and this '50s vintage sci-fi influence was coming through heavily in my music so I decided to make it more of an epic soundtrack. I am a very musically diverse person and I have always wanted to score films. I have a deep love for instrumental music and also believe that albums should be a body of work not just compiled tracks. I wanted the album to play front to back without stopping and tell a story to the listener. I wanted it to take them through different ideas and emotions without ever speaking many words. I wanted to make an album that could be a soundtrack to some one's life. I think when you release music, it isn't yours anymore. It becomes everyone's in the sense that people live special moments to it and then it is embedded in their minds as special. They take ownership of the music. That's why that Prince song you danced to your girlfriend with the first time you met her is special. Every time it comes on you scream "That's my jam!"
Any other musical anecdotes from your upbringing that would be interesting/funny?
When I was really young me and my friends used to make cardboard instruments and pretend we were in Green Day and jam along to Dookie. Duh. Who didn't do that?
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What do you have in store musically for the next few months? Any special plans for 2011?
2011 is a special year for me. I have been working on some of this music for years and now it has reached a maturity to be released. I already released my debut album Slowdrifter. I also have a free EP called Passengers As Eggs that is finished and will be released shortly.
How about a playlist for your listeners so they can get a taste of your influences?
I would have loved to do a full mix if I had more time. I had almost 90 of my favorite songs ever for this ... I cut it down to 24 but it was heartbreaking experience that left me nervous and leaving some of my favorite songs feelings abandoned. Also this list doesn't include much from my record collection. A lot of those records are full on experiences from front to back. There is a lot of jazz, funk, calypso, hardcore, punk rock and psych I would have included in this list if I could but as of right now in my life these are the best of the best:
Body Language - You Can
Com Truise - Cyanide Sisters
Diamond District - Who I Be
Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance
Dirty Gold - California Sunrise
Dirty Projectors - Temecula Sunrise
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Afrika 70 - Open & Close
Javelin - Intervales Theme
Jay Electronica - Exhibit A
The Kinks - Strangers
Kisses - People Can Do The Most Amazing Things
Martin Sexton - Glory Bound
Miike Snow - Animal
Monster Rally - Color Sky
The Anambra Beats - Ayamma
Notorious BIG - Juicy
Onra - My Comet
Painted Palms - Water Hymn
Prince - I Wanna Be Your Lover
Roky Erickson & The Aliens - I Think Of Demons
Stoney Larue - Oklahoma Breakdown
Toro Y Moi - Low Shoulder
Voxtrot - The Start Of Something
Walsh - Sweet Dreamz
Give it a listen here.