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Extracurriculars: Groundislava Created an Interactive Fantasy World for His Next Album

The LA producer describes how he made an album that's as immersive and multi-sensory as a video game.
February 19, 2014, 12:31am

We often pigeonhole musicians into two-dimensional characters rather than seeing them as fully realized human beings. Extracurriculars is a series that uncovers unknown, surprising, and often super weird non-musical interests of DJs and producers—and lets them explain how it all relates back to their work.

Groundislava (AKA Jasper Patterson) is a cool nerd. He's the kind of guy whose interests seem to border on obsession: he's deep into science fiction and he's spent countless hours immersed in the fantastical and polymorphous worlds of video games. His love of extraordinary tales belies a highly active imagination and creative mind, which he expresses through his own music. As a producer, Patterson blends his extramusical inspirations with influences gleaned from nostalgic pop, woozy house, lurching hip-hop beats and beyond. His latest project, a full-length follow up to his Feel Me LP, is his most ambitious effort to synthesize his many interests to date: the album, which is due out later this year on Friends of Friends and Shlohmo's Wedidit label, includes a visual component and a backstory complete with "pages of lore." We chatted with the LA producer about how video games have informed his artistic output and what he has in store for the coming months.

"I probably started playing when I was like, four years old, on an old Mac computer. I was playing this game Myst, it's a computer game where there aren't really any moving graphics—it's still images, and you click through them to simulate being in a 3-D environment. That was probably my jumping-off point with video games. It's a classic early '90s computer thing. My parents were playing it, and I remember that it was very new and cool. They weren't even gamer people, but they were playing it because they had a computer, and it was new, so they wanted to play the game that they heard about from their coworkers."

"A lot of the games in the '90s were really more made by Japanese developers. Now there's more American games, but back then it was dominated more by Japanese companies, so I played a lot of games that came from Japan. There's a different vibe with Japanese games; If you think about how a Japanese cartoon is different from an American cartoon, you can get a good sense of the variation there. I played a lot of RPGs, I played a lot of computer games, too. Lots of fantasy stuff, lots of sci-fi. I never got into sports games, never got into shooters and stuff until I was older. But I was into lots of stuff that took you into another place. I was always really into the music side of it."

"There were so many dope games with dope soundtracks. There's a game called Buck Bumble. I think that was the first time I heard like, UK garage or grime music. It was probably the late '90s, early 2000s, and the intro was some fuckin' UK dance track. It was all shitty because it was on an old Nintendo 64 cartridge."

"My whole vibe that I take away from video game music, I don't think it's particularly a sound. I think the sounds are great, but what grabbed me about video game music was the vibe that it creates, and how atmospheric it can be when it's coupled with a visual component that's interactive. Even more than in movies—when you're 8 or 12 hours into a story-driven game, and there's a certain song that kicks in, it goes with that moment in the game, and that can't be reproduced by a two-hour film, or by some sort of visuals for a concert or something like that. There's something that video games have where they can really drive home an emotional component to the music through your involvement with the game. That works really well in deep story-driven games, but it can also work in shallow action-oriented games. It's just that interaction between the visuals and the music and the gameplay there, that's what's inspiring to me."

"I work with my brother a lot, he does a lot of the visuals for me. I'm inspired to make stuff that goes with a mood, or creates a loose narrative, or an emotional context and flow for the music. For this new album that I just finished, I created a whole storyline and living world behind the album to further develop that idea. I have pages of written story and lore for it. We're working on a video now and basically making all these components come together gracefully."

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