EOTO played to a sold out house on Saturday, October 17 at Harper's Ferry in Boston, MA. I was able to sit down with Jason Hann, drummer for EOTO and percussionist for The String Cheese Incident, before the show and spoke with him about dubstep, the growth of EOTO, their new album: Fire The Lazers, the future of SCI, Rothbury, and more. Read the transcript below or listen to the audio here:
Jason Hann and me before the EOTO show
String Cheese Radio: How were you first introduced to dubstep?
Jason Hann: I’ve been hearing it evolve for a long time. I used to be way into Lee “Scratch” Perry and the whole dub movement. In the UK a bunch of years ago when dubstep made its first round it was a lot more ambient. It wasn’t really that gnarly and it was more something you’d chill out to. Then it just started getting gnarly pretty recently, you know in the past five years or so. Its had this whole second wave of coming about. And now people are just trying to get as grimy and as raging as possible. It’s a force.
Ahh, not so much. There’s some guys I’ve heard lately who are just into this gnarly bass sound— almost minimalist by going really super hectic with just the bass sounds and the wobble bass. And then after a while, that sort of dulls my attention span. They’re trying to be so gnarly that you don’t get affected by it. So, I love the stuff that’s more ebb and flow. It gets super gnarly then it breaks down then it travels a little to a new place then hits you again in the face. That’s the pacing I like.
Who is DJ Prophet Ma$$ive?
That’s my DJ set. I’ve only done one under that name and that was at Schwagstock out at Camp Zoe. It was fun as hell. I played from 4:30 to 6:00 in the morning and I had a really good time. I’m gonna do it again in Los Angeles out in Long Beach on November 5th then I might do an after show next time EOTO plays in Boulder, Colorado. So we’ll see how it goes down. Maybe by the time I do it as an aftershow I’ll have some of my own tracks in there too
DJ Prophet Ma$$ive (Jason Hann) at Schwagstock 2009
For those who don’t know, you record all of your shows and post them on livedownloads.com where people can buy them and listen to them. How are your livedownloads sales? Do people actually buy the shows?
Yea, you know it’s not a ton, it might average just a few per show depending on who’s there. We can tell who’s buying shows on a regular basis as opposed to people buying just one show in one city because they were there. It’s not lucrative by any means but it’s building all the time. If we have a big show, in the 600+ range, then we get quite a few downloads. Our biggest shows downloaded have been when we’ve had Kang and Kyle onboard and that’s because there’s people who actively seek that stuff. In most of the electronic scene, once it’s out there it immediately goes online and everyone can download it so we’re not super stressed about it. We just want to make it available.
I know you have a new cd called “Fire The Lazers”. What was your motivation for recording another cd?
Just like with any project it’s nice having something that makes a statement about where we’re at right now. Our live shows do that for us but when we’re in the studio we get the chance to do something a little bit different. We get to just work on one song at a time. We still record it in our same improvised way except its more of a process. We listen to a lot of music first then decide what kind of track we want to go for. Then we listen to those sounds and take some time tweaking our own library of sounds. Then at some point we hit record and we use all that. We record for about 10 minutes then try to use the best 4 minutes or so. It’s still completely improvised and allows us to keep doing our thing.
How hard is it to create your music when there is no crowd in the studio?
Oh yea it’s very different but since we’re listening to a track, that’s where our inspiration and motivation is from. We listen to the track, then we listen to what we did andwe discuss: did it even live up to what we expected? So it’s more compare and contrast. When we’re in front of the crowd it’s like, “What’s gonna make them dance the hardest at this moment?”
EOTO's new album: Fire the Lazers!!!
Have your past cd’s sold well or is most of your income from touring?
Most of our income is from touring. That’s true with any group touring, you know? Most of any groups money is from touring. It’s the same for Madonna to Michael Jackson and on down the line. But we do okay. Most of our cd sales come from iTunes and things like that. When we’re traveling around, maybe we sell a few cd’s a night but we’re not actively like, “Okay you guys, everyone go to the merch table and buy our stuff!” We just have it with us all the time and people find out about it.
How has yours and Travis’ equipment setup changed since your last tour?
Since the last tour? Let me think… Travis has a little magnetic keyboard that he plays with a pen. It almost looks like he’s taking notes but depending on where the magnetic pen is it will play the pitch of that key. We’re doing a lot more vocals on both our ends, combing different effects than last time. Last tour we had just started doing the vocals so we didn’t know what we were doing. Now we have a better idea of what we’re doing so we’re a little more adventurous with that. And we definitely tweaked our setup just as a matter of making certain things more present and whenever we’re doing a soundcheck we dial it in to make sure we get this huge humungous sound. It’s not necessarily something we’ve added, only that our knowledge of what we want to sound like from the stage has grown.
What equipment do you use to produce the vocal sounds and how do you choose what words to say?
Lets see, I’ll do Travis’ world first. He uses a keyboard called the [Korg] MS2000 which is an actual vocoder. He plays a note or chord on the keyboard and he says or sings something at the same time and then it combines the sound of the synthesizer and his voice— that’s the vocoder. And in my world, I use a Roland petal pitch shifter to make my voice sound either low or high just to make it sound like something other than my regular voice. Then I programmed an effect that makes my voice sound sort of like a radio. And different delays to kind of dub out my voice and do something in the mode of some kind of dub or Lee “Scratch” Perry thing. As far as words, Travis will throw in words. He’s working on actual rapping. You gotta listen really close but he gets a story line in there. And I’m just making up stuff: syllables put together rhythmically or put together with a melody. I’ve just been around a lot of world music and a lot of the DJ music I enjoy like Shpongle will put in something from some other country. Maybe it’s a sample of a traditional village, or something like that and I sort of like that approach where you take that world and bring it into what we’re doing. Sometimes I’ll try to go for an Indian thing; sometimes I’ll go for an African thing; sometimes an alien thing and just try to mix it up. Once in a while I’ll throw in some tease from some popular song from along time ago or recent.
Jason Hann on his drum kit
EOTO has a significant facebook and myspace following. Who maintains these pages and how have social networking websites helped you connect with fans and gain exposure for EOTO?
Its been really good. Our EOTO facebook is mostly me checking in on it with our publicity people (Tsunami). They’re more on top of it and if something comes in they’ll forward it to me. We get some contests going and they’ll monitor what’s going on. Also they’ll send me the question from our weekly “Question and Answer” and I’ll answer the question. So our publicity company is into it as far as the details and most of the announcements but I’ll send them stuff when something is ready to be announced. It’s the same for the MySpace we just try to keep it all coordinated. I think people feel like they’re in touch because more people are joining it on a regular basis.
If you had to pick only two pieces of equipment to keep from your own setup, which would they be?
Oh man, wow. Probably just the kick and snare. I could do pretty much any gig with just the kick and snare and it could happen. But everything’s pretty essential, if I don’t have the pitch shifter, which I didn’t the other night, I feel sort of naked. During an EOTO gig it’s all about producing some other sound so it doesn’t sound like what we just did. So we feel like we need to have all these pieces of equipment so there’s always something else coming at the audience and we can put our own flavor on it.
What was it like for all six of you to be back together again in the same room during String Cheese practice?
That was amazing. It really was because we hadn’t seen each other for almost two years. So getting back together, it was great. People had gone out and they’d done there own thing. So it was a little bit surreal to be in the same room like, “Wow were actually here” after talking on conference call and things like that and everyone being so separated for a while. Kyle’s got a new baby; Keith has his two kids; Billy’s been doing the family thing. There was a lot of growth in that short period of time that we were apart.
The Rothbury Cheese show was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. From your perspective, how were the SCI and EOTO Rothbury shows? Did they go as expected, were they better than you expected?
We knew that the String Cheese show was going to be our one show the entire year. There was no slacking off on it. We really tried to practice hard for it and try to get songs as dialed in as possible. For parts that we didn’t remember from songs we did something different. Everyone was all about somehow making it fresh for all of us because we weren’t going to be adding any new songs per se. What can we do with the material that we have to make it feel fresh and feel like we’re still jumping off a cliff and taking the audience with us?
That was pretty important and we actually didn’t pull off a lot of the things that we practiced. We went out there and felt like we gave it our best shot. It went over well and production wise it felt like a success. It felt like: well if we’re gonna do shows together, we really want them to be like that show as far as putting our best foot forward and trying to get as close to what we rehearsed as possible. Basically being prepared and being super “on” whenever we go out as opposed to doing a tour where the whole time you’re sort of practicing, getting the chemistry together and you may have only one amazing show that stands out.
We really want to make it so that every time we get on the stage, every single show is just flat out the most incredible experience that can be had. That sets the bar pretty high but that’s what you go for every night anyways. But to play a limited number of shows means that much more pressure to go out and deliver every single night.
As far as EOTO at Rothbury, you could feel like the energy at Rothbury. Everyone had to step up their game and after playing the String Cheese show on Friday. It felt like we really overcame a big hurdle there and we all felt really good about our playing. Then playing EOTO the next night, you know, we were seeing all these amazing bands during the day, and then Simon Posford goes on just before us and we’re like “We gotta step it up”. You feel that force. But it’s a good pressure— to feel like you gotta come up to that level. We felt like we really delivered there too.
EOTO at Rothbury 2009
What was your favorite festival of the summer and why?
Rothbury definitely jumps out, but man, EOTO played that Shambhala festival up in Canada. That was just like, “Whoaaaa”. That’s such an incredible festival with so much inspiration to be had. Its mostly DJs, very few bands, a lot of them are from the UK, Australia, and Canada so not as much influence from the states. Automatically you’re sort of transported into a different world with different types of stimulus. Just the way they take care of the festival is phenomenal. The stages are permanently there; they add on to them every year; some are in the forest; some are in the open; some are by the river; there’s a beach stage; it’s really an amazing experience.
Is there any temptation to put an EOTO style drums jam into the middle of a Cheese song?
Ahh, not so much. That’s such a different setup and I mean, we talked about some…different…types…of…things but that hasn’t really come up. We’re comfortable leaving it really different and if we go into drums ummm, maybe we’ll do something like that but some of the fun part about String Cheese is that we have this whole other palette of music to explore. Though at Rothbury, there were some things that I ended up programming. In Joyful Sound we got some of the electronic stuff in and it’s not like it’s dominating the whole set it’s just we all felt as a band that it was one of those things. One of those other moments where we’re like, “Lets just do something different and get out of our own box.” Everyone has that creative bug to push it somewhere else. It’s no indication that in the future String Cheese is gonna be any more electronic or less. But it’s definitely a good thing to always be able to circulate around new ideas.
Michael Travis of EOTO
Any plans yet for an EOTO New Years Eve show?
Man, we are working on it. We’ve had Miami in our sights for a long time and we’re so close to making an announcement on it but we gotta wait a little bit. Hopefully the plan is a week after New Years going down to Cancun and playing down there. If we’re lucky, and I don’t know if it’ll come together, we’d love to go down to Cuba and somehow play there. You know there’s obstacles in the way and that whole area is a little bit muddy. Nothing is concrete but definitely there’s things we’d love to be able to do right around new years.
I’ve heard rumors of Hornings Hideout and Red Rocks this summer, can you share any info you have?
Yea…It’d be great to give you like the official radio scoop, and I’ve told a few people who just casually asked, but I think without the band releasing the information, you know, as an official thing, I probably won’t do it.
Who is Alvin the Spun Chipmunk?
O wow, damn. I always forget the name of the guy that brings it, oh yea Justin. But you know, we’re down with Alvin. Someone brings Alf once in a while— we’ve had Alf on the stage. So were pro animated character dolls on the stage.