We caught up with Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken, aka Big Gigantic, at Coachella to talk about the early days of their career when they helped build a music scene with friends such as Pretty Lights and Emancipator. Looking forward we asked what they expect from the future of the electronic scene.
The livetronica, hip-hop, and jazz musical duo are based out of Boulder, Colorado and have performed at nearly every festival you can imagine. They just dropped their fifth, that’s right fifth, full-length album which you can get here, and they show no signs of slowing down.
You guys worked with Cherub on "The Night is Young," how was it hanging with Jordan and Jason?
Dominic: We love those guys, they’re wild. Wild. We were hanging out with them in Mexico cuz we did the video there. We’ve hung out with them a bunch, they’ve opened up for us a fair amount.
Jeremy: They’re like our little brothers.
Dominic: We’ve known them since they first started and we were playing teeny little festivals. They would come and everyone was on acid.
They leave out pieces of their songs on the record so they can put them in the live shows and have a unique experience. Do you do anything to make your sets a unique experience?
Dominic: Kind of that in a sense, but mostly just for the saxophone. We do a lot of edits live to open up the freedom to do soloing. Lately, I’ve been having ideas in songs; I’ll play the first part then mix it into something, then bring it back. Between each song its the sax and drums that are freed up from the rest of the tune so we can play.
Jeremy: Our live performances are amped up and really bring the music to life even more than it already is. The way Dom cuts it up gives us freedom to be ourselves: we can extend songs, take a longer solo, do builds differently, but the drums are still in there from the track. No matter how good your sound guy is, my kick drum is not gonna sound nearly as good as Dom’s produced kick drum which is ten in one and hits the subs.
Dominic: That’s pretty par the course as far as drums in a live set.
Jeremy: You can get drums sounding good but his snare drum is ten in one so it hits every frequency that it needs to, where as mine sounds completely different from gig to gig because its hot or the humidity fucks with it.
Dominic: The live element is a lot of the top end which can cut through, but the meat is in the track.
The Glitch Mob just dropped their new stage production with those massive stage drums that are midi rather than live- are you working on any new stage/light production?
Dominic: Yea they’re homies, I’ve been watching what they’re up to. We’re working on a new light rig. We’re always kinda doing that on our own tours. This will be our fourth major design-
Jeremy: We’ve done one a year, whole new light set-
Dominic: New content that’s accented for the light rig. Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, those guys we’ve done shows with, even the Glitch Mob way back
Lot of Burning Man cats-
Dominic: Exactly. They pioneered that whole visual thing and we wanted to have our own take on that.
You have the Shadow Hills Marching Band coming out today, tell me about that.
Dominic: Yea we wanted to have something cool and the band was totally down. We’re bringing out 30 kids, flag team, drummers, and they’re gonna rock two tunes with us.
Are you worried about working with 30 new people and mixing in their sound?
Jeremy: Because its horns it’ll capture that sound and we have mics that’ll pick them up and our sound guy will blend it in- he’s amazing. That tent is so huge they need to be miked. I think people are gonna freak when they see it.
Dominic: They’re high school kids. They’re so pumped that they’re gonna play in front of these people.
Skrillex and Diplo brought out some kids doing jumping rope at Ultra-
Jeremy: That’s what I heard, they were doing double dutch on either side of the DJ table, crazy shit.
They were nervous- 12 years old in front of 50,000 people...
Dominic: I bet they were! So trippy, such a good idea.
Touching back on the lighting stuff, do you two work in any other mediums? What role do you play in your visual production?
Jeremy: We play a big role in designing it. We have a light guy who does the show and we sit there and go over the content and help them come up with it. There’s so many different aspects beyond ‘That looks cool, let’s make it.’ Can it fit in our budget? Can we transport it and break it down every night and set it up in time? You can make something amazing but if it takes a day to set up you’re not gonna be able to travel with it. We sit there through every step of the process and make sure it fits with our vision- it’s worked out great.
This is your fifth album (The Night is Young) and you've dropped it for free- how do you feel about the change in the monetization of the music industry over the past 15 years? What are you doing to anticipate change in the future?
Dominic: One of the reasons we were successful early on is we paid attention. When we started, the music industry was at the bottom, no one was buying anything, and we decided to give our music away for free. We were going to shows, going to festivals, we were there, we knew what the fuck was going on, this is going on, we’re part of what’s going on. Then we started realizing we should have it everywhere, not only free and that’s it, but people go to iTunes, and this blog, and soundcloud. We wouldn’t even advertise that we were selling it and people would do it anyway.
I was talking to Derek (Pretty Lights) one day, and he was like ‘It’s this weird cryptic thing man, give it away for free and people will buy it anyway.’
It's the Bandcamp philosophy.
Dominic: Yea he had the suggested donations, we don’t do that anymore.
Jeremy: We had it but no one ever did it (laughs).
Dominic: Now everyone’s streaming. People can just stream it on Spotify and not buy it anymore. We’re trying to be everywhere we can and be on the forefront of what’s to come. With blogs, everything’s online, you’ve gotta be seen. I don’t think anyone- big artists to small will be making much on selling records anymore. It’s gonna be through live stuff. It is what it is, you can’t change a mass movement.
You guys have this live musicianship that's not as common in the dance scene, what advice would you give to young producers who are trying to get out there in 2014?
Dominic: The key is to be different. And good, and work hard at it every day. If you’re working hard and you’re on the path, things will come. Maybe not today or tomorrow or in two years, but you’re gonna get good and if you’re different you’re not gonna get lost in the scene. Like us – saxaphone – when I started people looked at me weird when I broke an instrument out and I was like ‘Don’t worry’ (laughs).
A lot of people like Emancipator, Pretty Lights are starting to do the Ensemble stuff.
Dominic: We started to do shows together, us and Doug (Emancipator) and he would go out and play guitar, Ilya on violin. I actually linked them up, I told him to check out my friend Ilya who was a big fan, big player, good kid, in the scene, and they’ve been playing ever since.
Thanks so much.
If you’re in Colorado don’t miss these guys at Red Rocks September 26 and 27.
See you on the dance floor,
Jesse Wheaton and Julia Crescitelli