Five Minutes at MUTEK with Shlohmo

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As always, this year's edition of MUTEK offered a potentially overwhelming number of shows, parties, workshops, panel discussions, and more. Amidst all the activity, XLR8R also wanted to take the time to sit down with a few of our favorite artists, both to get their impressions of the festival and to check in about what's happening with their music. First up was leftfield beatmaker and LA native Shlohmo, who spoke about his experience living in New York, his impending return to the West Coast, and the multiple sides of his musical personality.

XLR8R: This is your first time at MUTEK?
Shlohmo: Yes.

Is it a festival you knew about before?
No, I did not. It's kind of how I found out about everything. [Someone says,] "Oh, you're playing this," and I'm like, "What's that?" Then [they explain], and I'm like, "Sick." [laughs]

Your musical career has been sort of a weird whirlwind. It was only about two years ago that your first record came out.
Yeah, I made it three years ago and it came out a little over two years ago. It just been a crazy coincidence world since then.

You're living in New York these days. What prompted you to move there after living in Los Angeles and San Francisco?
I'd been on the West Coast my whole life, grew up in LA, did three years in the Bay. I feel like there aren't that many cool places in the US, other than New York, that you want to go after growing up in big cities. So I said, "Fuck it. I'm 21/22/whatever, I want to go do that before I don't want to do it anymore." I had to get it out of the way, you know what I mean? It sounds stupid like that, but it's kind of true. I think I'm moving back to LA, actually, soonish. [I'll be back] by the fall probably, so there's not too much time left.

The music scene that you're a part of seems so tied to Los Angeles, especially with Low End Theory. Musically, how have you found the transition to New York? Do you feel like a fish out of water.
I felt like a fish out of water in the Low End thing, too. Since then, my stuff has become less "Low End-y," less what LA has become known for. All my shit is quantized. I got more into dance music. That's [what 's] cool about New York—there's a lot of cool dance stuff going on there. But the scene can be... Not intimidating, because it's not, but too cool for me. I don't really fuck with dressing up. Besides that, the electronic scene out there is kind of dismal. I don't mean dismal in terms of who's out there or what people are making, I mean dismal in terms of an actual scene, where [you can] go see shows and how often shows happen. It's even gotten better since I moved there, but it's still really rare to see a good electronic show at a good venue with a good soundsystem. Everywhere you're playing is like a bar with an amp. [People ask,] "Will you DJ at the bar?" and no one gives a fuck who you are or what you're spinning. It's just a bar people go to. And people only go if... New York is just super fucking socialite, and I think I've come to realize that in my time there. In LA, I feel like the mass of people genuinely search for shows. In New York, I think that's a minority, because there's just so much shit to do.

When did you move to New York exactly?
I officially moved out there and signed a lease in October, but I also spent last summer out there, so it's been almost a year.

What's prompting you to move back to LA? Just because it's home?
It's home, but also I've been traveling a lot and coming back to New York is not resting. I come back there and it's just on again. I miss the sunshine and I miss backyards. I'm really excited to own a backyard and have an animal or something.

Are you working on another album?
Sort of. I don't really know what's going on yet in my Ableton files. It's just been a lot of remixes. I've been working a lot, but it's been remixes and production for other people, which is rad because that's something I've always wanted to get into. But it hasn't left me much time to work on my own stuff and get in that zone. That's why I'm not going to be playing very many shows. After MUTEK, I'm going to Europe, and then there's nothing for awhile. I'm going to work.

The other people you're making music for, are they singers? MCs?
Both. I'm definitely more interested in R&B. I just like making stuff with room for vocals and melody. I love rap music, but I'm a far better R&B producer than a rap producers. But I've also been working with some rappers, too.

There's a difference between your production and your live show. The live show seems to be more hard hitting and clubbier. Do you feel like both of those represent you?
Yes. Definitely. Maybe it's been a good thing, in terms of how people view me. They don't know what box to put me in, which is always good. For me, it's been hard to make a decision [about which way to go]. I'm still trying to force myself to not make a decision. The majority of music that I listen to on my down time is a mix between indie-rock shit and guitar music, but then I'll go to the new Meek Mills mixtape or Rick Ross mixtape. I'm so all over the place with what I like. With Bad Vibes, that's definitely me. But I also feel like all this newer stuff is me, and the live show is still me. It's weird. I can't please everyone. There's always going to be a few people at the show saying, "Why didn't you play Bad Vibes?" It's like, we're in a club, and you're drunk, and you're the only person that wanted to be a sad drunk. Everyone else wants to be Friday night happy drunk. When I'm playing a show, I want to be the Friday night happy drunk and not Tuesday night sad drunk. It's like when your at home versus when you're at a show. It's the same thing for the audience. People can listen to Cat Power when they're at home, and then go to some rap show and still be the same person. I feel very much like that.