Talking Shop with Es-K and Elder Orange
In last week’s Roundup, I spotlighted a Flip Physics track on the latest Millennium Jazz compilation, Operation Six. Yet he’s not the only 802 producer in that distinguished lineup: Es-K also had a sunny burner, “Gsol,” in the mix. He cooked it up with an assist from Elder Orange, the singer / engineer / producer / multi-instrumentalist behind All My Friends Believe in Ghosts.
I took advantage of that connection for a quick conversation with both artists about living the dream of an actual career in music — the good, the bad and the boring. Enjoy.
VTHH: You're both experienced producers, and you've both already been through so much of the ups and downs artists inevitably face. In recent years, what's been helping you guys stay inspired and stay productive?
Elder Orange: My biggest motivator is keeping a steady supply of new music in the ear. I don't really care about, "new to the world" music so much these days-- but really anything new to me regardless of era/genre has been wicked useful. I think a lot about the endless expanse of recorded music that’s available to the public ear and how many of those records I haven't listened to or made connection with; it's exhausting, humbling but also super exciting. Unearthing a new sound, song form, studio technique etc. that I can then apply to my own music or reverse engineer serves me not just from the "crate digging" side of the equation, but more generally just as a music appreciator. The more I listen/feed my head, the more there is to ingest; it's been a self-oscillating mechanism for the last year or so that I'm lucky enough to call the norm at this point.
Es-K: This is a hard question for me to answer. I think the most simple, to the point answer I have is that it gives me purpose. Making music, completing projects, meeting new people, collaborating, etc — it all just excites me and gives me purpose.
VTHH: What advice do you have for producers looking to collaborate with instrumentalists -- and vice versa? Do you think there is a bare minimum "floor" of musical knowledge a producer should need first?
Es-K: My main advice would be to simply follow your gut. Trust your ear and reach out to people who you vibe with. A personal connection is definitely more important than any sort of music knowledge or skill set. It's also always important to remember that growth always happens outside our comfort zone, so don't ever hesitate to reach out to people who you may think are unaccessable, etc.
Elder Orange: Yeah, be humble, be honest and just go for it. There is always going to be something new to learn, so why worry about the things you don't have in your wheel house yet? There are projects you might not be ready to take on, but how else will you know what your threshold is if you don't hit it? Ambition will always be in style.
On the other more practical end of the spectrum I would def. say that knowing the names of the notes on a keyboard, and knowing how to tap out the basic meter/tempo of a tune are tools that will serve you for a lifetime and grow your vocabulary when collaborating with folks. Is that information a prerequisite for any of it? Nah. But it sweetens the pot, and will make your life easier, open doors and make your projects more efficient.
VTHH: What projects do you have on the horizon right now?
Es-K: I have a decent handful of stuff around the corner - 2x releases have been submitted and are just in the art and manufacturing stages. One is called Continuance (due out on Ninetofive Records late 2018 / early 2019) and includes a bunch of collaborations with new and old friends alike. The other is called ReCollection (due out on Cold Busted late 2018 / early 2019) and is very mellow, simple, and "lofi". Besides that, my main focuses in terms of projects I'm trying to finish have been a solo album I'm producing for Danny Whitney (local keyboardist extraordinaire), and an instrumental album I started with my dad last year (another amazing piano player).
On top of that, I have a bunch of singles and collaborations that I will be dropping once every 2/3 weeks moving forward. Expect more stuff on Millennium Jazz, Chillhop, Cold Busted, Ninetofive, Bucktown USA, and more. Beyond that, I have been preparing my first real "live" set in which I'll be actually playing my bass and performing parts of the songs live instead of just DJing my beats, hitting filters and delays and what not. Hopefully, that will be more exiting and be the beginning of me doing more live stuff.
Elder Orange: I've got a new solo Elder Orange record, Bricks in the Bathwater, that'll be out in the first quarter of 2019. Gonna be a ripper, bud.
I'm producing/mixing an EP for a rapper from Island Pond -- Dan Briggs. He's a brilliant dude with a signature sound and a ton of ambition, guessing we'll move towards an official release whenever the snow is deepest in 2019.
I just put out a new live record with a band I've been playing with for the last two years -- Tighten. It's an entirely improvised guitar/bass/drum trio format leaning hard on the dub/psych-surf end of the spectrum. The other dudes are insanely good — and I'm lucky enough to play bass along side; it's a lot of fun and keeps my fingers nimble.
I co-own a recording studio/cooperative just outside of Bennington, VT called Akin Studios. I do a ton of engineering, production and mixing. I'm in the mixing phase with one client, and in the throes of basic tracking with two others with full-length records. Less info to present here since I'm just the back-end guy, but I'll take busy over bored pretty much always.
I'm also pretty much always in the throes of guitar/bass work for someone regardless of genre-- and always down to collaborate with others in need of quality samples and instrumentals (or just cause collaboration is good for the scene and soul.)