SCV interview with The Gaslamp Killer
The Gaslamp Killer is a self-taught producer and DJ originally from San Diego and now a resident of Los Angeles who embodies the spirit and raw power of our generation. Over the past decade William “The Gaslamp Killer” Bensussen has released over a dozen mixes, EP’s, and other produced materials, as well as relentless world touring. The amount of dedication alongside GLK has given him the opportunity to move in motion with the entire world, whether inside the studio or on a stage. Gaslamp’s comrades, his friends who complete the Low End Theory and Brainfeeder rosters are artists whom never cease to lose sight of the truth inside of electronic music. Then across the pond is the talented array of hundreds of artists that GLK shares bills with, giving his communication around the globe and the networks that exist with it answers leading to results in music that are endless.
SCV phoned Gaslamp Killer early this year and discussed matters of history, present-day, and of course events/projects in the future. We discussed gear, thoughts about his travels of the world, the importance of the drum, mentors, his five most anticipated albums of the year and many more topics in the time we had with GLK. The Gaslamp Killer is a very intelligent and insightful human being, an artist who’s grasping more technical abilities to realize his musical visions as time progresses and someone who brings people together in euphoric ways. With his first official full length in the works, this is an interview we are very happy to bring to Sound Colour Vibration.
SCV interview with The Gaslamp Killer
*conducted by Pouya G. Asadi
SCV: First wanted to start off talking about the power of percussion and specifically, the drumset, along with how many different emotions it can put us through as listeners. I was introduced to your work 5 years ago while waiting in line at a concert at the Ventura theater and was thrilled to hear a producer who tracks his own drum beats. Why is drumming is so important to you?
GLK: The drum… I think the drum is probably the first music that was ever created in the world. I think the heart beating is like a drum. The ultimate rhythm of the world is coming from the drum. I believe that we are driven by rhythm and emotion. [With] our bodies being made up of so much water, I feel like the rhythm of the ocean and the rhythm of the drum is very similar. I just think the rhythm section, of any song, that’s what gets people right away. For me, if the drums are bangin’, I’m immediately intrigued and I want to listen deeper right away.
SCV: You have an enormous amount of touring coming up, and it’s something you’re used to. Has the process of touring become a bit therapeutic at times?
GLK: For me, I don’t partake in any drugs or alcohol and have not for 4 months. I am trying to continue to do so for a while. I’m focused on feeling energy from the audience and I’m addicted to that high and I want to share my music with as many people as I can, perform for as many people as I can. I find that that’s what makes me most happiest in the world; is creating music and playing it for people. Being able to play my friends’ music for large crowds and stuff like that. It’s what moves me, it’s what drives me. That’s what I enjoy the most, that’s what gets me going.
SCV: Sometimes while traveling, culture clash freaks people out, does the culture clash inspire and intrigue you as you tour across the world?
GLK: Yeah, it does every time. I find that young people are pretty much the same all over the world. Everybody goes to shows to escape. Everybody goes to hear music to try to catch some kind of spirit and be free from their stress and their worry and their day to day issues and their humanity. The reason why I go out to hear music is because we don’t have tribal ceremonies anymore where everybody gets together and a band will lead a community into a trance. We don’t have that anymore but human beings are constantly looking for that peace inside them. They’re constantly looking for that togetherness. They’re constantly looking to go into trance with their community and find freedom in their spirit and their mind without having to be locked in their body that has to go to work everyday and has to deal with the dramas of boys and girls and relationships, and has to go through all this stupid bullshit. We just want to be let free from that and everybody’s trying to get that from going out and myself included. I find that it’s a much needed escape and that our generation, our culture, doesn’t have that. We don’t have that tribal society where that happens anymore and I think that’s a integral part of humanity and being a human being in general. Like wanting to escape your body and be free. That’s how people used to do it, and it’s been lost in recent times. But I believe that is what drives people who generally are broke and can’t even afford a movie ticket, they would rather pay to go to a show and break free in a show. That’s where they want to spend their money even if they’re are hella broke they still wait in line and pay for Low End Theory because they want to be a part of that and I think all of us as human beings need that.
SCV: I wanted to talk about your live show, I notice that it’s almost like a creative lecture, what I mean is you’re basically showing your peers what’s hot and fresh in terms of new music while teaching them new things. Have you learned a lot through similar process with all the brilliant different label-heads [Andy Votel of Finders Keepers/Twisted Nerve, Daddy Kev of Alpha Pup] that you meet and collaborate with?
GLK: I find them more as friends more than label heads. Daddy Kev, Alpha Pup or no Alpha Pup, I found a lot of guidance in Kev and a lot of knowledge in Daddy Kev and definitely mentoring me in every way imaginable. He knows more about me than a lot of people. He knows as much about me as my own parents do. He definitely mentored me as well as Brandy Flower from HIT+RUN crew. Brandy Flower is my art director and he’s always got good advice for me and always knows what to say. He lives his life on the edge for life, and he’s always coming out ahead, and he’s always sharp and he’s always giving 100%. Same as Kev, they barely sleep. They devote their lives to their community and they do it so well and I find a lot of knowledge and a lot of guidance from those two. I try to teach the kids when I’m on stage. I try to educate, not just entertain. I’m not just their just to play whatever makes them happy and I’m not just there to jump around and act crazy or play whatever they want to hear. I’m there to play music I believe in and if I’m feeling it, than perform with that same enthusiasm that I have for sharing the music.
SCV: How is your new full length album coming along?
GLK: I’m thinking about 70% done which is great for me. I have been playing new songs from the record for people. At my shows, I’ve been playing some of the stuff and it’s coming together pretty well. I got Daedelus, Dimlite, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Mofongo, Gonjasufi and a lot of other guests. It’s shaping up nicely. Little by little, I’ve been working on this for many years. My EP’s, I kind of just threw out there because they were burning a whole through in brain and I felt like they needed to be released to the world. But this has been something I have taken my time on and I’m still working on it and I’m still really devoted to the idea of having the first album be exactly how I have envisioned it for this many years instead of trying to rush against time.
SCV: What kind of stuff will you play at the upcoming Low End Theory Stage at Cypress Hill’s Up In Smoke Fest and the other shows coming up?
GLK: I don’t know, it depends on what kind of crowd I have. That’s another thing, I kind of choose who I’m going to play my own material to very wisely. I can tell the difference between true Gaslamp Killer fans and just some people who want to get crazy. I can tell the difference between them. People who just want to get crazy, generally don’t want to hear music that’s all about the head. They want to hear music that’s also about the body, which is fine with me because I have tons of both. But if someone asked me to come play an art show it would be way different than somebody who would ask me to play a concert which would be way different than somebody who asked me to play in a small dance club where everybody’s sweating their ass off, dancing. I don’t try to cater but I always try to direct it and change my set accordingly but not to cater per say, more to interact with the audience on many levels and I’m always trying to flip it up for myself too. It just helps me keep it original.
SCV: SCV has talked to a lot of gearheads in the past, are there any new toys that you have been messing with onstage or in the studio?
GLK: Well my OP-1 has been a good friend to me. Teenage Engineering: OP-1. That’s definitely a fine tool for both recording and performing. That’s my newest piece of gear that I’ve been using a hell of a lot. It’s this new keyboard. I also have the Korg MS2000, and the [Moog] Little Phatty, and the Univox [miniKORG], and the Virus TI, and uhhhhh.. a few other things that I’m gonna let remain nameless that I used all over the new album.
SCV: Last year when my colleagues and I were listening to some Prefuse 73 records we noticed your name in the liner notes of Everything is Ampexian? Do you collaborate a lot with Guillermo?
GLK: It was a minute there when I was on tour with him and I was drumming and playing drums a lot during sound check. I’d come up during his show and his drummer would leave and I would get on the drums for the finale. Basically, he asked me, “Send me some of those drums if you have any studio recorded sessions.” So I just sent him some of my drumming and he made a song with it. We never actually got in the studio together, it was always just like we admired each other’s work and he asked me to jump on and I said “yeah.”
SCV: Are there any films or books that you have seen the past year that have really affected you and your perception of art?
GLK: I reread Jack Keruoac “On The Road” and I also reread another book called “Acid Dreams” and I’ve been kind of trying to go into the past with literature, not just music, to try and find inspiration. I find a lot of inspiration from the 60′s and I find a lot of inspiration coming from the beatnik generation, which is also my mother’s generation, my father’s generation. The Americans in the 60′s experienced so much change, in the late 50′s through the late 60′s.They experienced so much change and it just reminds me how important it is to go outside of yourself as much as you can. Killing the ego was something that a lot of people were about back then and people just wanted to just exist. We didn’t choose to be born and we can’t really kill ourselves gracefully, there’s no real good way to do that. So you kind of just have to live and instead of always chasing my goals and my dreams and my aspirations, I just want to be. I just want to simply exist as a human being and I’ve been trying to get back to that as much as I can. It’s really hard though because I have a lot of ambition and a lot of drive and I have a lot of need to go further and go harder and be better but sometimes, you know, I just want to be a human being and all of us deserve that. That has a lot to do with “On The Road”, just going out, hitchhiking and experiencing the world. Acid Dreams is all about the 60′s and LSD and the CIA and how America changed and how LSD changed the whole world. More than the drug, I’m interested in the social change that it created and the way the people of that time tried to kill the ego. That’s the type of stuff that intrigues me and that’s what I find inspiration from as well musically.
SCV: Besides your new album what are your top 5 most anticipated releases of 2012?
GLK: That’s tough. I think, definitely top two are EPROM and Flying Lotus. EPROM’s album is fucking next level, Flying Lotus’s album is next level. They both definitely set the bar really, really high. Gonjasufi and his wife have a new project, it’s called Black Hail Mary and it’s one of the most goosebumps-evoking records I have ever heard. So those are my top three. Niki Randa who’s all over Flying Lotus’s records, she has a group called the Triangle Method. Their record is really, really heavy and I don’t even know if that’s going to come out this year, that might come out next year, but that’s definitely like wow, incredible. I think Computer Jay’s new record is also going to be really, really heavy. I’ve already been listening to a lot of Computer Jay’s new record and it’s so fucking dope. It’s so original and he’s mixing so much of this modern funk vibe that he got while creating Master Blaster with Dam-Funk. He’s got this modern funk vibe up in it a lot more. He always had a funky vibe but now you can hear he’s comfortable. He understands, like alright, this is my sound and you can hear that in the record and it’s fucking amazing. I’m really, really looking forward to Computer Jay’s record dropping. Everything Dimlite has been playing me and everything Mophono has been playing me. I don’t know if Dimlite will put out another record because he just dropped that one at the end of the year. Mophono from San Francisco, Mophono’s new record is fucking incredible as well. Really, really, really, really good. So yeah, EPROM, Flying Lotus, Gonjasufi, Computer Jay, Mophono, Triangle Method. It’s crazy because I hadn’t even thought about that but you helped me narrow it down now, I’m glad we did this.
SCV: SCV noticed that Low End Theory are gearing up for another showcases in Japan, how is that coming along this year?
GLK: Unfortunately, I can’t be with them but I can tell you it’s going to be the best Low End Theory Japan yet. Even though I’m not going to be there, I can already tell you, the way they are putting it together is so incredible and so on point and so impressive. It’s going to be the best Low End Theory Japan ever, than the next one in June will be equally as impressive. Then the next one in September will be equally impressive and there’s a lot of really good details that I’m not going to be the spoiler to. I’m just going to let the Japanese people enjoy that.
The Gaslamp Killer – ‘When I’m In Awe’ feat. Gonjasufi via Brainfeeder