SCV interviews Dot of Alpha Pup Records
Sound Colour Vibration has been following the new releases from Alpha Pup Records for years now and the arrival of new artists in the development of experimental electronic music tends to find a tentacle or two back to Alpha Pup. Dot, a 20 year opera singer, composer and now beat maker is one of the newest artists to sign with the Los Angeles based imprint. Rooted heavily in the expanding Low End Theory scene that now encompasses showcases in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Japan, Dot is one of the few female producers to emerge in these circles and her first electronic works carry a vigor and power that is going to raise a lot of eye brows this year. Most of Dot’s musical history background bridges deep studies in classical music and vocal acrobatic skills through opera. Her arrival into the beat scene has an endless amount of potential to shed light on worlds that have been rarely touched upon in modern electronic music.
Dot is presenting her first collections of electronic works with the Calliope EP on Alpha Pup Records. Seven tracks that all find a new origin and foundation of sound serve as the first glimpse of what’s to come in the future from this young Los Angeles producer. Calliope is one massively heavy ride into a new ideology of electronic music. You can hear many sounds from her colleagues in the Calliope EP but she pulls it together in her own way. Hearing her bass tones through the Low End sound system is proof of this when seeing the crowd react. The title for this new EP sources itself from a popular steam whistle in 19th century circuses and there is a lot of sound on Calliope that represents this odd time in history. The influences spread wide and far and by the ending of Calliope, the works come full circle and a breath of light and elegant beauty through sound ends the album.
We contacted Dot to conduct an interview to ask about her new record, her background, Low End Theory and more. We are also presenting the exclusive premier of the track ‘Desert Storm’ that Alpha Pup released a little bit ago with this interview. Dot is surrounded by some of the best producers and Calliope feels like a true snapshot of this world with the unique nuances that make it all her own. Dot will be doing a record release show at Low End Theory tomorrow, February 29th with Gonjasufi, Jeremiah Jae and all the residents of the Low End Theory Los Angeles nights.
Sound Colour Vibration presents the exclusive premier of ‘Desert Storm’ from Calliope (Alpha Pup Records).
SCV Interview with Dot of Alpha Pup Records
Conducted by Erik Otis
SCV: We wanted to first say thanks for your time. Shilo of Alpha Pup sent us the new EP Calliope you have coming out soon and whenever she sends of stuff we know we are in for a treat. I have to tell you, I really fell in love with this record on the first listen. In the press release it stated that these are among your first collection of beats ever created. Knowing that you are an opera singer and have a background in composition, was there fundamental teachings from this world that you tried to instil into your first album Calliope or is this a separation of the mediums?
Dot: Calliope is really one of my first writing attempts to bridge the gap between my classical composition background and more recent music interests. I hate how there seems to be an uncomfortable divide between the “classical music” and “popular music” worlds, so I tried to approach my writing from both angles. I started taking piano lessons when I was 6 years old, and was lucky enough to have teachers that also taught me music theory and composition. Since these are some of my first beats, I relied heavily on my previous composition and orchestration knowledge to make up for my initial lack of production experience.
SCV: I wanted to ask about the tones, instrumentation, hardware and other devices you utilized for Calliope as every song notches out a completely new sense of colors and foundations in my opinion. Did you sequence a lot of your material or is it a mixed bag of layered recordings, sequenced sections, programmed beats and so forth?
Dot: I mostly work in Ableton Live with a lot of Native Instruments plugins, although some of the earliest beats that I made were done in Reason (like ‘Calliope,’ ‘Artichoke,’ and ‘Simple Simon’). I like to use a wide variety of timbres and textures in my music, so I try to maintain a sense of consistency in my music through the style of my writing instead of my sound palette. I created Calliope entirely with software and without sampling, but I’m currently working on incorporating more live elements into my music and shows.
SCV: For Calliope, did you see a lot of the pieces before you created them or was this something that you had to fight for to see the final vision after production had begun?
Dot: The title track was the first beat that I made on the record, so it more or less set the stage for the rest of the EP that I envisioned. A lot of ideas for the rest of my beats definitely stemmed from that first track.
SCV: With the title of the album coming from the same name as the steam whistle that populated circuses in the 19th century and artwork reflecting that as well, did you have this concept in place before you created the music or was this a choice made after the music was created? Was there particular books, films, dreams, stories or other sources of inspiration for the concept used on Calliope?
Dot: The concept for the EP started to come together as soon as I began experimenting with the steam whistle sound. That style of music seemed to translate to beats fairly easily, so I decided to keep exploring it. I pulled from a range of sources of inspiration – mostly psychedelic imagery from films by Gaspar Noé and Tim Burton. Although a lot of my music is dark, it’s always done with a slight sense of humor.
SCV: When I listen to Calliope, I feel like I am inside of Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre with The Gaslamp Killer providing soundtrack music. Beautiful in some respects and mind altering in almost every other. I finally listened to it on a good sound system and it really blew me away. Who recorded, mixed and mastered the album and are you really happy with how all the levels came out?
Dot: I recorded the EP, both Elvin Estela (DJ Nobody) and I mixed it, and Kevin Moo (Daddy Kev) did the mastering. Being able to test some tracks on the Low End sound system helped me out a lot during the mixing process, and I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out.
SCV: ‘Simple Simon’ is a song on the record that I can’t get enough of. It has that very open, dreamy, fresh and vibrant feeling, one that makes me feel like I am inside of one of Nobody mid 2000 era LP’s or a Teebs record. It really ends the album on an incredible note for me. Was it really hard sequencing the album or did that shape together pretty fast?
Dot: The sequencing happened pretty naturally… I think I only switched around one or two tracks after initially putting it together. It’s nearly in chronological order of when the beats were created (except for ‘Simple Simon,’ which was made earlier).
SCV: What is the song from Calliope that you love to hear the most in a good sound system, like the one Low End has?
Dot: Probably ‘Freakshow’ because the bass is so gnarly. Plus, it’s fun to watch the look on people’s faces when they realize a girl is playing that shit.
SCV: I wanted to ask you about your background before the electronic scene took place in your life. What were some of the biggest musical accomplishments of your life leading up to this point and do you see yourself introducing your vocal work into later Dot records or other projects?
Dot: Before I started studying at Chapman’s Conservatory of Music, I was very focused on classical singing and piano, and I had my heart set on becoming an opera singer. I had been in a number of summer opera programs at different conservatories and universities across the country, but once I got to Chapman and started taking more advanced music theory classes, I realized that I was more passionate about creating my own music instead of performing works by other composers. So I switched my major to music composition, and eventually discovered beat music (and Low End Theory) through Steve Nalepa’s music technology class. I’m currently working on incorporating vocals into some of my new music in non-traditional ways, but the bulk of my work will remain instrumental.
SCV: You have had the privilege of seeing Low End Theory and all of its artists expand in a way unlike most, how much time do you spend with the Low End Theory family outside of the gigs and so forth and what have been some of the wildest and fun times with them?
Dot: I can’t really measure how much time I spend with them, but I can say that they’re some of the most inspiring (and hilarious) people I’ve ever met. I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by artists that are truly supportive of one another, because I hated the competitive atmosphere that I felt in the classical music world.
SCV: Do you have any mixes, tours, radio appearances or other activity that will coincide with the release and promotion of Calliope that you can share with us?
Dot: Yes! My record release party will be at Low End Theory 2/29 with Gonjasufi and Jeremiah Jae, and on March 2nd I’ll be playing Low End SF with Daedelus, Slugabed, and Low Limit (and of course all Low End residents).
Other future shows include:
4/3 Beat Cinema (Claremont, CA)
4/7 Resonate (Stockton, CA)
4/19 Dillon’s Tavern (Palm Springs, CA)
SCV: We are really looking forward to your performance with Gonjasufi, Jeremiah Jae and the residents of the Low End Theory on the 29th of this month. We wish you the best of success in this coming year and the future and look forward to meeting in person very soon. Calliope is something I really love, take care and thank you again.
Dot: Thank you, peace.
Order the new EP from Dot here: Calliope (Alpha Pup Records)
*All photos by Theo Jemison