FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Saxed Up: Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli Talks About His Instrument

Head, heart, boom, sax.
September 25, 2014, 9:49pm

Big Gigantic is having a pretty major year. The Colorado live electronic band toured Australia, played Cochella, superjammed with Skrillex at Bonaroo and are on track to sell out two nights at Red Rocks this weekend before jetting to New York City for a show at Madison Square Garden next week with Bassnectar. Along with Jeremy Salken, saxophonist Dominic Lalli defines the group's unique sound and role in the dance scene. We asked Dom, a Manhattan School of Music-trained musician for the history of himself as a sax player and what it's like being a jazz guy in a world of untz untz untz.

Advertisement

I started in band in high school. My mom was a singer and my dad was a drummer. There was always music around the house and I randomly kinda started playing sax. I was in New York to do my masters—I was trying to do the jazz thing. Then I met these guys in a Afrobeat band.

We started experimenting with these house tempo beats and I started twiddling with computers. I was sitting in with different people, so I thought I'm gonna write beats and play over them. There were some bands that were already doing some electronic stuff and I got really intrigued with the writing process.

After graduating, I went to Colorado where there were people who were just like, "start a project, we'll follow you." Jeremy got involved – it really happened quick, I mean this was five years ago.

I had Flux Pavilion over the other day and we were talking about how piano is the building block for writing and then you produce. I come from the music side not the production side so I'm learning more and more on the production side. A lot of guys in this business are production guys or computer guys who are trying to learn how to write music and I'm sort of the opposite. I use what I learned in music school every day.

When fans come up to me, I get a lot of "I used to play, I still have my sax and you've inspired me to pick up my instrument again." That's a special thing for me. I'm one of those guys who just stuck with it. Everyone —even my mom— everyone was like, "what are you gonna do when you don't make it?" I was always like, "well how the fuck am I gonna make it if I'm already doubting myself? I'm going to make it. Let's just do this."

Advertisement

When I first started doing this stuff, touring around a little bit people looked at me like I was crazy. Now you hear so much saxophone everywhere, especially in electronic music. Like Griz and a lot people doing of the housy vibe like Kygo, you hear a lot of sax samples. It's kind of an honor that it's not only been accepted and people are kind of into it now. There are a lot of people being a DJ/producer, so anything different is catching people's ears. It's cool to see how far we've come with the whole thing.

Saxophone is just my voice. I can do so much with the writing but I when I want to just pour it all out and express myself, that's when I can pick that up and be like, this is how I really feel about it. It could be a guitar or my voice, but for me it just happens to be a saxophone.

I still practice every day. I try to get better. The more you practice the more you're connected to it, it becomes more like your arm. I want my hand directly connected to my brain. If I hear something, I want to instantaneously be able to play it. Head, heart, boom, sax. You don't want anything in between inhibiting what you want to play. That's one of the main reasons why I stay really connected to it. There's no interruption in terms of what I want to say.

I'm an improviser. You have to be able hear it and play exactly you it sparked in your head. That's the main thing with jazz. Even if you're going to play a jazz song, you're going to interpret it your own way, then you improvise over the basis of the song. You have to know all your scales, then there's that connection where you're hearing a melody or an idea and you're instantly playing it because you're that connected to your instrument. The great improvisers get a feeling and they just put it out there via their instrument.

It's crazy. I was the epitome of the struggling jazz musician in New York playing $50 gigs and now, in a few weeks I'm playing Madison Square Garden. My jazz friends support me so much and love that this is happening. They come to my shows and we just hang and reminisce. It's like a family reunion when I go back to New York.

Red Rocks is still a very big deal for me too! This year for me has been absolutely insane. I just kinda stuck with it, believed in myself, and tried to be the hardest working guy on the block, and it's worked out. It's a trip.

Big Gigantic is at Red Rock Amphitheatre September 26 and 27 for Rowdytown III and at Madison Square Garden on October 4 with Bassnectar.

Follow Dom on Twitter for sax, hugs and dancing fun: @DominicLalli