Technology is a bitch. After a mild game of phone tag and a dropped call, I was fortunate enough to link up with Eliot Lipp for a quick chat right before he plays the Last Chair Festival this weekend at Squaw Valley.
From 3000 miles away in Brooklyn, he exuded a steady confidence that can only abide in someone who truly has a passion for their craft. Here are some of his thoughts on his love of music history, skating Greenpoint skatepark, grunge roots, and The Legend of Zelda:
Lo: Were you surrounded by music growing up? What were some of your early musical influences?
EL: I always had music in my house growing up. My mom played piano in church, dad was a drummer. We had drums, and always had a piano at home. One day I beat Zelda, and you know that song that plays at the end? My mom started playing it cause she plays by ear… I got excited and begged her to teach me.
Lo: Nerd Alert! That’s awesome! Growing up in Tacoma, how did you start developing your love of beats?
EL: I’ve been listening to hip hop and rap since I was young. The Bay Area sound was big in Tacoma back then. E-40, Mac Dre, that sort of thing. We liked that melodic sound. My friends and I would start rapping, and we needed sounds to loop. When I got my first sampler, I saw how easy it was to mix sounds. I tought myself how to layer and how to recreate.
Lo: With roots in the pacific northwest, and after living in SF, LA, Chicago, and now NY, how has your location inspired you? Are there places you still want to explore?
EL: I collect a lot records and study history of music. when I was 18, I left to go to school at the SF Art Institute. I lived in Chicago for 2 years after that and learned a lot about house and techno.. I just want to learn more about music roots and traveling helps with that. I’ve been in NY for 6 years now, and love the history there.
Lo: Did you spend any time in Tahoe when you were living in SF?
EL: I usually go to Colorado to go snowboarding now, I didn’t get to come to Tahoe as much because I was too broke to travel when I was in college.
Lo: How do you feel about differentiation between “artist” and “musician”?
EL: I see more of a difference between being an “artist” and an “entertainer”. I was in Idaho near Sun Valley playing and a girl came up to me and asked, “do you have any Rihanna? I had flown out just to play this venue, and thought, why would anyone fly out to play something by someone else, just for one person? Any dj could play that. As an artist, you are saying that there is more to what you are doing. You are claiming that there is another level, it’s not just about music. Miles Davis, Flying Lotus, I consider them artists. Like when I go to a show I don’t like to go with any expectations. I want the artist to do their thing and I’ll stand there and watch.
Lo: That to me is the highest form of music appreciation.. allowing the artist to just do their thing. I caught your show in Reno back in June… you played at a smaller club out here.
EL: yeah at Wurk?
Lo: Yeah! Do you enjoy playing the smaller venues? How do you like playing at larger festivals?
EL: I love both for different reasons. Festivals still make me a little nervous, larger crowds… but I love the energy and atmosphere. At smaller clubs, I can play longer sets, I can experiment a little and can get more psychedelic and zone out.
Lo: Who do you make music for? Do you have a specific audience in mind when you’re making music?
EL: I’m wanting to create something that sounds futuristic, but I want to drag my whole back catalogue with me…whatever it is I do, I want it to sound like progression. I listen to my fans and respect what they like, I respond to what people like live. I pay attention to how the crowd reacts to a certain track, and there are definitely some tracks that bring up the energy. When I’m making an album I want to make music that is cinematic and not always all hype.
Lo: Do you have a favorite track that you like to play live?
EL: Yeah, The Sunset, it’s instrumental, but expresses everything I want to say. It kinda has a grunge influence to it. You know Smells Like Teen Spirit? That build up at the beginning, when it starts out with just him and the guitar…you just wait for that heavy hook as it builds anticipation. I remember my friends and I would record that on cassette and just skate around and listen to it all day long. The Sunset kind of follows that structure… melodic build up.
Lo: Do you still skate at all?
EL: Mainly for transportation now. To the studio, to the gym. I skate the skatepark by my house in Greenpoint sometimes but I like to get there early when it’s not too busy.
Lo: Have you had what you felt was a “big break”? What do you think your best opportunity has been so far in your career?
EL: In 2003, I sent some music to Prefuse 73, and he put out my first record.. helped me get my foot in the door. He was a huge inspiration to me, helped me learn how to make the transition from just making music in my bedroom to recording and performing.
Lo: How do you define success for yourself?
EL: I’ve achieved some of my goals, but I’m always focusing on the present. It’s like, a part of it is that I am always trying to take what I do to the next level. I started a record label which is something I’ve always wanted to do. As I get older I want to be more experimental with my music, turn it inside out, create another dimension. Always progressing.
Lo: What do you like to do in your spare time?
EL: I love to paint, I actually studied painting in school. It’s like meditation for me, helps me zone out. It’s so different from making music that it helps me take my mind off any stress. I like to cook, I hike a lot in the summer, when I’m not on the road I like to spend as much time in the studio as possible.
Lo: Sounds like a bit of the Tahoe life. Looking forward to hearing your set at Last Chair Fest, thanks for catching up with us!
Catch Eliot Lipp and Foster The People tonight at Squaw Valley’s Last Chair Fest. Tickets are still available for tonight’s show, and tomorrow night featuring Emancipator and Random Rab. Local fave Gurbtron will be getting the party started both nights. See you there!
Here’s something to hold you over til tonight…The Sunset:
**For more information on the Last Chair Festival, visit here:
**Check this out for more info on Eliot Lipp: