Today we have an interview with Colorado electronica producer, Pretty Lights. From his beginning as a bass player in rock bands, he turned his teenage rebellion into the beginnings of a successful musical career. Look for him 11/9 at the Granada and check out his song "Cold Feeling" at the bottom of the interview.
Bona Fide Darling: There are a lot of what sound like old soul and blues vocal samples on your album--are you a crate digger?
Pretty Lights: Very much so. Nothing sounds more fun to me than 7 hours in a big ass used vinyl store with a battery powered portable record player.
BFD: I compared Filling Up The Skies With Lights to DJ Shadow's Entroducing..., do you get that a lot? Is he an influence of yours?
PL: That record was in my cd player/alarm clock for most of high school. It's safe to say that it had a major impact on my musical vision.
BFD: Is that a Big Boi vocal sample on "Hot Like Sauce?"
PL: No it's not a Big Boi sample.
BFD: How did you get your start?
PL: Well my mom forced me into a religious private school in 7th grade, which pushed me to be a very upset young teenager. I then rebelled and eventually found a connection in punk and grunge, then later hiphop and electronica. It was a foolish adolescent dream at first... even selfish. I just wanted to be the guy on stage, or on the radio... so all the people that wouldn’t sit with me at lunch could see... that I really was something special.
Lucky for me, that urge was enough to get me to buy a bass guitar..... and that was the catalyst that sent me on a journey through musical styles and bands until I discovered the music that I wanted to make. After that point, all it took was not giving up.
BFD: What made you want to use a live drummer in your live shows?
PL: I just think it's a little more exciting for some of the audience with a drummer. It was something that I thought would be cool at the beginning and its sort of just stuck. I am looking into expanding into having a lot of other instruments in the live setting. I play flute, bass, and keys... so when I have the ability to bring that sort of thing on the road with me, I will.
BFD: The sound of your newest album is pretty broad: soul, electro, a little rock, hip-hop--what, or who, are your influences stylistically?
PL: Influences, I would say are pretty broad. I appreciate electronic artists who push the envelope of sound design and production techniques. I appreciate any artist that can make me really feel something the first time I hear their music. I've been influenced by certain lyricists in the sense that their styles have shaped my taste when searching for and choosing vocal phrases & samples to use in my production.
BFD: How did you settle on the moniker Pretty Lights?
PL: In a phase of really loving Dark Side of The Moon I came across an old Pink Floyd poster that said "Come and see the pretty lights," It almost sounded like the name of the opening band, which I would have loved to be a part of. It got me thinking. To me, that name represented a lot more than its literal definition. It represents the experiences that we all have in our lives, mostly unexpected and random, when we come across something beautiful...or inspirational... or even disturbing... something that makes us think, or reflect, or imagine.
From the way a red traffic light reflects off the rain drops dripping down a wind shield, or the way sunshine peeks thru mini blinds and slices the smoke in half as you exhale, or the way the city skyline looks when I take my contacts out... those are all beautiful experiences of the mundane... brief moments in time, that when caught from the right angle can spark a feeling or change a mood....and serve as a microcosm, at least in my mind, for why art is worth creating and even more, why life is worth living.
BFD: Your style is vastly different from what you hear on the radio. How did you get into making the music you are making now? Was there a specific point where you realized this is the sound you were going for?
PL: There was no specific point. The sound and style that I am going for has been developing and evolving since the first time I produced a piece of music and it continues to with every new track as well. That is one thing that really excites me about music, the continual evolution of creativity in individuals and in the collective of all artists.
BFD: With the state of the music industry today, what made you decide to give away your albums for free? Do you see them as just a promotional piece while you make your living on the road?
PL: My intention was to get as many people to hear and hopefully enjoy my music as possible, I had no idea that it would actually create a means for me to make a living off of my music thru touring. I continue to give my albums away for free because I want to make an impact on the transformation of the music industry and hopefully discover a new model for lasting success and longevity as an independent musician.
BFD: You have toured with STS9 and I've seen you listed on Jam Base, do you think of yourself as a type of electronic jam band producer? Or is it just a by product of who you've toured with.
PL: Its definitely just a product of who I've performed with. I started producing as a hip-hop producer.. beats to rhyme on. It evolved into me wanting to use that medium to create sophisticated, interesting, and high energy music that stands alone without a singer or a rapper. Music that has the potential to channel emotion in the listener and also make them want to move.
BFD: What was the first album you ever bought that completely blew your mind?
PL: Nirvana- Nevermind