You'd have a hard time extricating Jasper Patterson, b.k.a. Groundislava, from his fantasy worlds. Or any member of our networked generation, for that matter. We’ve grown up alongside social media and immersive gaming, our dreams made tactile, and our brightest selves are preserved. As technology ascends, imagination dovetails with experience. We’re in deep.
Last month the 24-year-old WeDidIt member released A Frozen Throne. The album describes a dude in a dystopian future forced from catatonia when a mysterious woman appears, disrupting the static virtual environment where he spends all his time. He unplugs from his simulated nirvana and chases her fruitlessly through the real world. Honeyed vocals from LA duo Rare Times and Patterson's cinematic synthscapes illustrate the cyberpunk storyline.
The plot has an intriguing genealogy: Patterson’s father directed the music video for a-ha’s “Take On Me”, about a girl who falls in love with a comic book character. She follows him through the pages of a book into a world of ink-drawn intrigue. It's A Frozen Throne, inverted: a bored teen girl chases the specter of romance into a virtual environment. The Pattersons clearly don't have much respect for the porous membrane between fact and fantasy.
Considering his interest in escapism, it's no wonder Jasper's a total trance-head. "The older I get, I just want to play trance," he remarked over the phone a few weeks ago. Case in point: his thrilling "Cool Remix" of Tinashe's ubiquitous "2 On." He transforms the sultry diva into an ecstatic rave angel, cooing over his Kandi-coated bounce. Stream our premiere and check out my interview with the producer about Tiesto, William Gibson, and the shifting demographics of WeDidIt fandom, below.
Tell me about how you developed the plot of A Frozen Throne.
We started with a general cyberpunk theme, and as we were writing it we created a narrative. Basically there’s a main character who’s just a someone. He could be the listener. He’s similar to the main character in William Gibson's Neuromancer. He’s living in this dystopian world. He lives in a shitty future shanty town in a storage container. He escapes that reality by living out his life in a cyberspace environment. Less like a Second Life kind of thing, more of a user-controlled interactive dream. He’s the king of his own world, but it doesn’t mean anything. That’s the Frozen Throne.
So who’s the "Girl Behind the Glass"?
In that world there’s a girl, a female presence that he interacts with and is in love with. He doesn’t know if she’s real or not. She could be some girl on another computer console, or a rogue AI floating freely through the Matrix. He logs in, and he’s in this perfect serene environment, but the girl’s not there and he doesn’t know why. And it all comes crashing down, and he realizes it’s such a beautiful and pristine place but it’s totally sterile and lifeless without this other presence. So when you go into the middle of the album with “Feel The Heat,” that’s about how he freaks out and leaves his house. He normally never would, but the only thing he relied on for stability disappeared. He’s fucked up in this cyberpunk world and ends up in this crazy night club, where he sees the girl. He can’t believe she’s real because he never interacted with her physically or in a real way. So he’s like, “Is that you, standing there?”
Does the narrative resolve?
We wanted to leave it open. As you move toward the end of the album with “Steal The Sky,” it’s about now that he’s accepted the real world and found love, is there a way to escape this nightmare future reality? Or is it worth even trying and should he recede into his old routine?
You know, at this point William Gibson barely reads as speculative to me. He's too on point.
Yeah. There’s obviously a lot of stuff that’s dated, like he’ll talk about some previously nonexistent cyber concept that’s so commonplace now, and next thing he's talking about a VHS loading up software. It’s such a fun realm to work within because it’s relatable and current, while also remaining futuristic and feeling dated at the same time. It’s a mix of nostalgia and future vibes.
One thing I find really prescient about Gibson is his description of a region-less, networked culture, where aesthetics instantly manifest at multiple points around the world. Footwork crews in Japan, for example.
Right, you get so involved with something while having no connection with it. And everyone has so much access to everything and anyone that you can create it remotely. This vibe of regions condensed into each other; he’s always really influenced by Japan. Tokyo mixed with New York and LA all mixed at once. So he takes this market and condenses it into one thing. The world is just five giant cities. In Neuromancer, the assassins are futuristic hackers, but they also wield katanas and samurai stars and dress like samurais. Mashing up very serious shit with video game character creation, what you want reality to be like.
If you were abducted by aliens and you could play them any music, what would you play?
Basshunter’s "DotA." Even if you hadn’t asked I would’ve mentioned this song before the end of the interview. With that song, there’s like five versions and it’s only tight if you watch the original of him playing DotA [Warcraft] with his homies, and they go to the club after. I loved that shit when it came out. I’ve always been into trance and I’ve returned to it, but it’s been my guilty pleasure. It’s funny now because people aren’t as weird about techno, but in the early 2000s techno was so taboo and not a cool thing. And now people are like “that’s future bass, and that’s post-footwork.” It’s cool now that I can make trance tunes and people fuck with it.
Was trance your first exposure to electronic music?
Yeah. In sixth grade my homie gave me a trance compilation and it blew my mind. When I started going to raves in high school, I caught the tail end of it in 2006. I'd be 16 at a rave with Sasha and John Digweed and Paul Van Dyk. It’s so good, and what pisses me off is that it's having a revival, but only in a way that people are making fun of it. I was digging through Tiesto tracks, and I found a remix of Imogen Heap and was transported back to Coachella 2007 and was tripping out. It was always Tiesto, Paul, Deadmau5. Now all those artists fell off.
Did you have a raver name?
It was Teddybear or something. I didn’t give it to myself, it was nothing I’d ever wear as a badge of honor. But other people were like “I’m Oaktree, or Sunflower.”
What’s your most euphoric rave memory?
I remember having a real rave moment to Ferry Corsten's "Beautiful", and bumping that track for months after, remembering that moment on some 16-year-old shit. And now I’ll be watching an RL Grime vid and I’ll see people who were that age commenting, “Oh my god, remember when he played that at that time?” and it’s like, goddamn, that was me but to cheesier music.
To be 15 nowadays, I can’t imagine.
It must be insane. I couldn’t look up tracks on Youtube. It sounds silly, like I’m old or some shit, but with that Tiesto song, he played it and no one had a way to look it up. And also how easy it is to interact with artists, you can just follow their every move. There’s no mystique, and I’m not saying there should be, but I think about who I’d be following on Twitter trying to get to follow me back.
Who would you try to get?
Probably the WeDidIt squad, honestly.
You’d be a WeDidIt stan.
Yeah, I’d be at the pop up store trying to get the shirt signed.
What is WeDidIt thirst like on the receiving end in 2014?
It’s changing a lot. At first it was really nerdy and a lot of the fans were very much those you’d expect to be at Low End Theory or Soundcloud “I smoke a lot of weed” crowd. Very hip and nerdy but into streetwear. But when RL Grime and others blew up we absorbed a lot of kids who are EDM heads, and now it’s a mix of super hip, Supreme Hat with the WeDidIt shirt mixed with candy girl tweeting about crystals and shit. Which is such a thing. It was so eye-opening playing with RL Grime in Santa Ana and Pomona because it was all 16-21 year olds, heavier on the 16 side. It was straight EDM shit. Hearing our music in 2012, I never could have guessed it would end up becoming big rave shit.
How does your typical 16-year-old EDM fan who’s into an RL Grime trap set react to the more heady aspects of WeDidIt?
It’s hard to predict, and it’s taught me a lot about how I can play interesting sets, because I’m not a DJ, and I’ve never been one. But I’m booked constantly as one, and I’ve had to learn how to warm people up to things they otherwise might have been scared of. So if someone’s really EDM focused, I’d want to play more trance-y tunes, which you’d think would go off in the environment, but they don’t. So I have a lot of tunes that are unreleased that are more for just live settings, and they don’t realize they’re dancing to Basshunter. Conversely when I’m touring colleges for a headier crowd, they don’t want to hear party shit. But there’s a way of finessing it without them realizing it and then they’re down. So there are these two disparate audiences that only want to hear half what I or my crew represents, but there’s a way of entertaining both sides without compromising.
So your goal as a DJ is to get everyone to listen to trance?
That’s pretty much it. The older I get, I just want to play trance music. I want to start a party in LA every couple months. After this tour I want to do a trance release party for the album.
It’s such a different type of euphoria, between the modern trap EDM drop and the classic trance build.
Yeah, before the modern trap style of drops, people joked about trance build-ups being corny. But now looking back at trance, the way they handle build ups is closer to the fluidity of classic house stuff, whereas now the drops are so sharp. I’ve been making a lot of bootleg remixes that I’m waiting to put out, taking trance into a more modern context. Now if you play trance it breaks pacing if you’re playing more modern shit. Like I’m not going to play seven minutes of this fucking trance track, it takes seven minutes to hear two drops.
What trends in modern electronic music irritate you the most?
Big thing that’s been pissing me off, is bringing back old genres just to parody them. With trance, the only thing people have brought back are the trance-stab cheesy stuff that makes people laugh at it, but they like it for the same reason they would if it was serious. That pisses me off, as well the speed at which people have been going through every past genre and shitting on it. I like how fast these get revived, but I wish people would appreciate them beyond just the first few things that sound different compared to the familiar. Other than that, what’s frustrating is how confusing it is to predict what a crowd wants to hear. So in Miami I’d want to do a hyped-up set, and would prep but I get there and it’s a heady crowd that wants to hear my first album. But then I’ll be in like Humboldt or Arcada, and I’ll think they’ll want to hear heady shit cause they’re a college town, and I get there and they want to hear trap. There’s no way of guessing.
Groundislava means very different things to different people.
Completely different. If I released everything I made ever, it would be very confusing.
If you could give up your body and live as a Soundcloud waveform, would you do it?
If it’s a really nice one, then yeah.
Would you rather be a 320 download with a hundred downloads, or 128 with unlimited?
Oh man. 128 is way hotter. [laughs] That’s definitely the thot of bit rates. Just straight off youtube. Flac is bae.
If you were standing in front of an audience of every teenaged candy raver whose ever been at a WeDidIt event, what would you say to them?
Ezra Marcus is a teenage raver at heart. Follow Ezra Marcus on Twitter.