Originally from Alabama and now based in Brooklyn, ModyWorks signing Aman Ellis makes electronic music that varies from extra-terrestrial-minded techno (All The Things) to down-south trip-hop (The Cacti). I spoke to him about his recent releases, his ongoing efforts in crossing musical boundaries, and how he’s inspired by BBQ.
First of all, what was the starting point for your recent Cacti EP?
Well, I’ve always been interested in the beat culture, specially the West Coast stuff. So I’ve always wanted to do a record that way. It’s a totally different style of production. One day I stumbled upon this hidden record store in Brooklyn with all the pristine records for $1. There were all these great old school records; jazz, classical, Hawaiian. Stuff like Exotic Strings, ya know! Now it’s my secret spot where I can go and I’m guaranteed to find something crazy.
I bought a bunch of vinyls in the hopes of doing the kind of record I’d always admired. I wanted a very melodic record with a melancholic, almost antique vibe to it. I wanted the dirt from the records. The scratches and pops play a big part in the way this EP sounds. For me, it’s the scratchy sounds and off-beat rhythms juxtaposed against the very pleasant melodies that makes it cool.
It was quite a world apart from the All The Things EP, how deliberate was this drastic shift in mood and tempo?
The change was very deliberate. My first EP had a laid-back house/techno vibe to it. It’s what I was into in 2008 and 2009. It has a very clean production vibe to it. I’m still very much into that stuff, I just wanted to try something else, get sloppy with it, a little dirty, just relax and make it fun.
You seem to flirt with a variety of different styles, is this a case of challenging yourself with different sounds, or is it more that you’re trying to pin down every idea?
Yea, challenging myself. That and I grew up listening to a wide variety of music so I guess it’s just going to come through. For instance, I’m currently working on the follow-up to The Cacti EP and a lot of the songs are just a collage of sounds, different styles coming through to make a weird psychedelic amalgamation.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with the idea of releasing different genres of music under the same name. It seems like it could confuse some folks. But, oh well! I don’t really make music necessarily for the dance floor, although the dance floor has a huge influence on it. One day I’m going to make some straight club tracks.
What’s your inspiration?
Archibald’s BBQ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
And what’s your method in the studio? How do you kick start and then develop your projects?
Sometimes I have an idea of how I want a track to sound, other times it just happens. I have to be inspired to make something. If I’m not, I go do something else and come back to it later. Lately, I’ve been designing my own synth sounds, It’s a great way to get inspired.
Your musical history seems quite varied, do you ever look from project to project and see a pattern, or do you thrive on the difference in your back catalogue?
There’s always a pattern, however subtle it may be. I’d like to think that my musical style comes through with whatever project I’m working on. But, yes I’m really glad that I can do different types of music and get away with it. I’d be too bored if I didn’t. I guess the main goal is to eventually mesh all the styles together to form something uniquely my own.
How much does your DJing influence the work you make in the studio?
I recently came to the conclusion that I’ll probably stop DJing in the near future, or at least put it on hiatus until I can dedicate more time to it. I’m a producer at heart, DJing just came out of necessity of wanting to play out. I’m performing live PAs now. But to answer your question, I make electronic music first and foremost, not dance music. Yes, some of it turns out to be dance music, but that’s just a coincidence.
Whose work are you feeling right now? Both in terms of club music and just music for headphones.
I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at keeping up with the latest and greatest, and I don’t really listen to music much anymore. I’m a pretty busy person. I’ll listen to music on the train or in the car. I really love the new James Holden’s DJ-KiCKS album, it’s amazing stuff.
What’s your favorite song ever, right now?
Aeroplane’s version of I Crave Paris is my favorite song of the past couple years. It never gets old.
Any views on the present state of music?
Electronic music is everywhere in modern music these days. It’s very acceptable now. It used to be kind of a dirty word, kind of kept in the background, but now the biggest pop stars in the world have heavy electronic/dance influences. Think M.I.A., Kanye West, Lady Gaga, it’s all electronica. With the state of technology now it’s very easy for anybody to make music. People used to have to buy tons of sequencers and samplers to make an album. Everything is digital now. It’s good in the sense that everyone can express themselves artistically through music, but it also means there’s a lot of shit out there.
Where do you see yourself in a year, musically speaking?
Hopefully making some really weird tunes.
What have you got planned for the next 12 months?
My first LP will be out, It’s more electronic in the sense that it has more techno and house stuff, as well as some electro pop/rock stuff, for a lack of a better term. Also, the follow up to The Cacti EP, which I hope to turn into a full length, will be out. I’m also producing a record for Almamy, it’s about halfway done but I can’t really talk about it. I’ll be gigging a lot more too, and I hope to put together a live band eventually.
How would you sum up 2010?
2010 was a great year, but 2011 is my year.