What up fam’. Hope everything is well.
Well, the nominations for the Dubstepforum Awards 2013 have closed and any day now we should see the announcement that voting can begin. I hope to see the BWS name on the voting sheet! What a year 2012 was for dubstep, right? So many great tunes released, labels started, and boundaries pushed during the past year that it’s hard to predict where things will go in 2013. One thing is for sure, and that is the simple fact that the music, people, and scene will continue to progress. I’m going to compile a ‘Top 20 Releases’ (obviously just an opinion) feature for 2012 as I did for 2011, and am hoping to have it all wrapped up by the end of the month (there’s soooo much good music to sift through). I’ll keep you guys posted on that so be on the look out
Today I have a special feature with US native Donnie Valdez, most commonly known as EshOne. A long-standing staple to the US underground, Donnie has sought out to test every boundary possible with his music whether it be formula, tempo, or distribution. Donnie has been releasing music since 2008 in both digital and vinyl formate. In 2011, he started up his label Elk Beats and has been releasing music exclusively through that outlet (more information regarding that in the interview below). Donnie is an all-around genuine guy who carries himself and his music in a concise and to-the-point manner.
Take a gander below if you want to get to know Esh a bit better. Also, he has been generous enough to offer a free tune for you to play while you read the interview!
BWS: Can you give the readers a quick blurb about yourself (name, hometown, music you make, etc.)?
My name is Donnie Valdez, I have tracks out there filed as EshOne, Don Valdez, and a handful of other names that I will not say. I’ve split my time since I was young between southern California and northern New Mexico, so I guess that’s had sort of a big influence on my sound. I’ve been focused on bass heavy music since I’ve started, moving through the darker stuff as I’ve come along. At this point I’m trying to play mostly, if not all, my own music in my sets. I try to create and maintain in a variety of tempos and styles, and as the library grows, the fun does too…
BWS: Can you remember any sort of defining moment that made your mind click, and you knew from then on that you wanted to make music?
Yeah. As far as making music in general, my mom bought me a mini acoustic guitar when I was a kid and I used to play these super annoying songs to her. It was hilarious to me. As far as creating electronic music, it started from playing whole sets on vinyl, and the whole time wanting to have made one of the records I was spinning. That was the cool part to me; playing them and having the knowledge and taste to like good music was an achievement, but what about making it? That’s the shit. This is still the driving force on a personal level. You can never be good enough at making music. You can never learn enough. There’s not like a pace you have to keep though, or a race against time. It’s all about having fun, and the harder you work, the more fun you have.
BWS: As far as I know you paint among other sorts of visual art, can you elaborate on that a bit? Do you find any sort of connective element in creating both visual and audible artwork?
I like to make stuff. I don’t draw or paint as often as I did before, but I do a lot more screen printing and digital art these days to make up for it. I used to paint skateboard decks and sell them, but it’s been a while! I do some design work and web development, if you looked at my productivity from a financial standpoint, design would be my main gig. As a connective element between visual art and music, I’d love to learn more about video and editing. I think it would really compliment any music I create, although it’s something I’ve never had the equipment for. Now that these handheld phone things we all have are capable of so much, I might do some weird stuff and see what comes out.
BWS: Where can the readers find your art if they’re interested in purchasing?
I’m continuously putting things up on the Elk Beats website [ http://elkbeats.com ], right now we are limited to digital music, and occasionally tees and posters – but cassettes, greeting cards, and weird sculptures are coming. Soon.
BWS: You’ve got a pretty solid history within the dubstep scene here in the US. What’s it been like to watch the scene evolve and branch out during the past 6-7 years?
It’s been entertaining! It’s crazy to me how much it’s grown. At first it was kind of this niche thing. Hard to find, and special when you found it. Then it was everywhere, and sad to say, pretty annoying. It blew up the the point of melting into the electronic music/dance music scene, this big flow of repetitive beats that are categorized in weird ways, and has now secured its place in the production style hall of fame. Now that it’s more settled, I’m hoping that everyone moving on takes to heart some of the amazing parts of this genre: the bassweight, the moodiness, the weird polyrhythmic aspects of the truly deep tracks, anxious syncopation, patience with the pace… I’m also hoping that those who stay with it don’t ride the sound into the ground, rather experiment and innovate. There is so much space to explore still.
BWS: Any moments in your history that stand out as game-changers? Tunes, events, etc.?
I make music fast… Like really fast. Now that I’m working with different tempos, it’s easy to make a house track when I’m not feeling like making dark bassy stuff, or the other way around. So the event is that I recently started playing digital music, on CDJs, which has opened up so many new doors to me. I’ve been stuck in the position of only playing a certain style and tempo of music for a while, because I would cut dubplates for every set. Financially, I had to cut only my best stuff, and things that were sent to me, that would mix well together. Time was an issue to – if I got sent a wicked promo that came out 3 weeks later, and I only had one gig in that time, it wasn’t worth the cut. It was painful to let those go, and not be able to play some serious tunes I’ve had my hands on in the past. Now with the capability to play all the promos I’m sent, and all of the styles of music I have, including things that are old and obscure, or aren’t finished yet… My sets have become infinitely cooler. To anyone reading and thinking, “I told you so,” I don’t regret playing on dubs and vinyl for so long, and I may go back to it. I’m just on a path of super inspired and rapid creativity right now, and the lathe can’t keep up!
BWS: I’ve seen your dubplate collection (or at least segments of it). Do you still get the same feeling each time a new box of acetate arrives on your doorstep? Whatever that feeling may be…
I love dubplates, I will always love them. Everyone who’s held one will talk about the smell of them. It’s true. They have a very distinct smell, and I’m sure opening a box of fresh cuts by an audiophile is very similar to opening a bag of the finest Humboldt Kush a weed smoker could get their hands on. It’s magical! Going to the mastering studio for the cut is even more exciting than a box at the door. Watching a needle etch your track into a metal disc and seeing the acetate shreds getting vacuumed up and hearing it all in real time is an experience like no other. On a performance level, I am to the point now where I just want to cut dubplates for personal use. Just my best stuff, to collect, and have a physical copy of.
BWS: I saw you post a cartoon strip like a week or so ago (state of the music industry from The Oatmeal), and you said it gave much of the reason behind the inception of Elk Beats. Can you go into more detail what you meant by that?
Oh yeah! The cartoon had to do with the digital distribution market, the disconnect it creates from fans to artists, and offered insight into the benefits of cutting out distribution altogether. It’s all true! At Elk Beats, we just sell through our website. It’s never been about getting charted on Beatport, or iTunes, or any of those things. To be honest I don’t give a shit about any of that. As a DJ, I would personally never touch anything I found on any sort of a chart, and to be quite honest, I don’t want DJs who think like that buying my shit anyway. We’re making and putting out stuff that not everyone will like, which is perfect, because we’re making it for those who are going to like it. This model is fantastic! I get to meet, or get emails from, everyone who’s supporting Elk Beats and the crew. It’s rad getting to know who likes what we do, and to see what they do! Also, getting to work with some of the artists I have so far with Elk Beats has been a great experience. Both Raggs and AxH have been inspiring and fun people to build with, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.
BWS: Is there any specific direction you want to take your music this upcoming year? Personally or with Elk Beats?
I’d like to continue making different styles of music, and finding better ways to mix them all together. I’ve been inspired a lot this past year by people who mix different tempos, especially Wheez-ie, Distal, and Sublmnl Sound System. As for the label, I’m always looking for ways to push Elk Beats to the next level. I’m working with a couple of artists who I believe will help do just that, and looking forward to what we’re going to put out this year. More tempos, more styles, more art. Look for lots of cool merch and one of a kind stuff on the Elk Beats site this year.
BWS: What was your favorite piece of music the past year? If you can’t single it, top 3/top5?
There are way too many outside of the bass music/dubstep sound, so for the sake of simplicity, I’ll go with Goth Trad – Man In The Maze. That song is an amazing piece of music, as is the whole album. Plus he is one of the coolest people I have met in the music scene, a very smart guy.
BWS: Can you tell us a little bit about the song you’ve be so generous to share with the readers?
This song, The Lagoon, is just one of those weird songs. It comes with a super thick vibe if you can pull it off right. I’ve only played it a few times. In order to play the track, the sound system has to be super beefy, the crowd has to be in the zone, and the set has to be authoritative. It’s one of my favorites for that reason. If you can play it, and it works, you’ve created a very rare and very fulfilling energy with a room full of people who will appreciate it.
BWS: What do you think could be the most useful piece of advice to any new producer?
The more unique your music is, the more accurate it is. It’s just like telling a story. You can exaggerate the parts you think people will like, and leave out the personal stuff, or you can tell it your way and get better and better at communicating what you like about it. Decide what you want people to hear, and work hard at getting that sound to them as clearly as possible. It sounds easier than it is, but that’s the fun part.
BWS: Who shot Biggie and Pac?
I think it would be disrespectful to speculate. I’ve been inspired by the music of both, and I’ve never even met either, so I guess I can say no one shot them. They’re still alive and reaching people through what they made, and will never stop.
Here’s the beat Donnie has been kind enough to give away – a track titled ‘The Lagoon’ that emits a classic vibe with a slumping bass line for all the soundsystem heads to nod to. Big up Donnie, much respect and appreciation for the interview!
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I’ll catch all your mugs next time! Big up and one love.