October 14, 2011 by DJ Elroy
Came across your music on my great Quest For The Next Big Thing… Really diggin’ the progressive/trance vibe you’ve got. Give me a bit of background…
I picked up my first EDM album at Tower Records. It was ATB’s “No Silence” and hands down I owe him everything. He’s my idol, he’s the reason I’m here. He’s my roots.
My mom bought me my first DJ setup when I was 15 — the Torq Xponent combo. Back then I thought it was the coolest thing, but I soon realized that just because I knew how to work a midi controller and software didn’t mean much. I had no idea how to play on CDJs (which I have been using now for over two years). As far as production, I picked up Reason 4 about a year ago, struggled with it and decided to kick up to Reason 5. Best decision I’ve ever made! I haven’t looked back since. All in all, I’ve been in the DJ game for over three years and producing for about a year and a half.
So what gear are you running with now?
I started with that POS setup, and as soon as I figured out what it could do I also figured out what it couldn’t do. That and the fact was I was using headphones rather than monitors. I’ve since bumped it up to a monster Dell setup (I know, I know, everybody says “go for a Mac” but this thing I’ve got is a powerhouse) and got some proper studio speakers to go with it. My production has really been taken to the next level. As for DJing, I’ve got two CDJ 800 MK3s and a Behringer DJX750 mixer. It’s the best budget mixer for the money, I shit you not. This thing is built like a tank. Going strong after 3 years now.
Where did the name come from?
Frequent Flyer Miles dawned on me from wanting a project with matching track names and artist names. Makes for clever marketing!
What’s more important: Producing or DJing?
Ideally being able to test original stuff and bootlegs on the dancefloor would be the best of both worlds. And knowing how to do one can only benefit the other, so I’d say they’re equally important in your performance.
Describe your live sets:
To me keeping the crowd entertained is a huge thing, but there is a fine line between being a good entertainer and just being dramatic. I want to keep people interested, but I want to keep the focus on the music, too. I want to have people really listening to what I’m playing. That means always being on beat, on key, and always being on top of the game.
And the studio formula?
It all starts with a pounding kick. I’ve always thought a bad kick ruins a track. I’m also into the more progressive song structure. Start simple and build into something more aggressive or attacking. Work in a slight appregiated synth or pad, something that drives the track, then break it down into something that gives you the chills. Those spine-tingling melodies, the calm before the storm, you know? Then that hand-lifting moment, then the drop and… you can just fly. Let the music carry you!
What are your goals as an artist?
Well I’ve done a few fun warehouse parties, but DJing has really been put to the side for now so I can focus on production work. I still do an occasional Faderwave mix show, but most of my attention is on making new music. I’ve been dropping some of my original stuff at a local Seattle dance station (C89.5 FM) and shopping around for a label to release a few of my tracks, including “Layover”. My “Exposure” remix was done for home-town buddies Max Go and Chris Lawr (who did “Wayward Love”) and that’s what got me hooked up with Fuzion Four Records. One of my tracks was featured on prime time slot with Steve Anderson’s SAME Radio Show, and that was a rush! Long-term goals? Maybe signing with my dream labels, Anjunabeats/Anjunadeep or Enhanced.
You’ve got a decent production portfolio put together so far. What are you hoping to accomplish in 2011?
Right now I’m polishing up an EP to release under my moniker Frequent Flyer Miles. I’m also really focused on fine-tuning my signature sounds and growing into something unique. Making more music and getting more exposure is also on my short list.
Speaking of your “signature sound”, how have you evolved over the years?
Well it’s all been a learning experience; I’m ALWAYS growing. Never think you’re the best (even when you’re on top), because you’ll lose your edge. Strive to learn, to be better at what you do, and practice! I may spend hours and hours trying to tweak one little thing in my music, working it into something that is catchy, easy to listen to, and slightly ahead of the curve.
And aside from ATB, who or what has influenced your sound? Do you have any local mentors?
I can’t stress how important ATB has been, but locally a guy named Butch (aka Earl Gray) showed me the ropes. You could say he was my mentor back in college… A man who produced some HUGE disco/house hits back in the day. Sure, it wasn’t my genre of choice, but I still learned so much from his teachings.
As a whole, do you think the dance music scene is getting better or worse?
This seems to come up so much nowadays that the debate is almost silly. But here’s my two cents for what it’s worth: When I got into EDM people laughed for DAYS that I could even consider it “music”. But look at it now; the Top 100 on iTunes (where most of the people probably wouldn’t even recognize a name like Armin) has 30% EDM tracks… And even a few in the Top 5 at times. The scene is making a HUGE leap forward as a whole, and if you’re not ready for it you’re either gonna get stuck back and forgotten or get hit and not know what it was that hit ya.
Networking is important to any artist, and a strong community is where to start… Where do you hang out online?
Ok, I admit it, I’m quite the Facebook addict. But when it comes to music forums my favorite is djforums.com, and you can catch me there either being silly or helpful depending on my mood.
And when you’re not online or slangin’ beats?
I’m a college grad with a nigh job at a local steakhouse, but music is my life. What more do you need than a love for music and a job to pay for it?
Any parting words of wisdom?
I guess something that comes to mind right away I’d learned from watching a studio session with Armin Van Buuren. He said (and don’t quote me exactly) — “Ever since I made “Communication” [which many call one of his big ‘break-thru’ tracks] I always sat in my studio and tried to more another “Communication”… But then I realized I can’t make another one, so now I try to make each track different. I never start with the same synths, claps, or anything. It’s a new track, so I try to start from scratch.” I’ve taken this to heart and try to apply it to my own music; although I try to keep my signature sound, I try to make each track stand out, try to make them each have their own flavor.
Track One: Sky High
This was my first big breakthrough as Frequent Flyer Miles. I got together with a buddy who wanted to start producing as well and we began tossing ideas back and forth and came up with the name. My friend brought some piano talent and I focused on the production side; together we made the first track worthy of a label that was catchy, had a smooth piano riff and flowing production. We shopped this track around a bit to some different labels and right now we’re waiting on a nod from Steve Anderson (of SAME Radio and SAME Recordings). It’d be a crazy experience to get this track signed because not only was it our first serious project, it was more of an experiment than anything and it came out way better than either of us expected it would. The inspiration from this track come from our trance roots. It has a pretty basic percussion drive, an aggressive electro-style bassline, and it reaches into that familiar appregiated melody. I try to aim my productions toward a smooth break, a HUGE uplifting pluck that smashes into a driven drop. This track was the start of it all… it represented the sound that FFM has become known for.
Track Two: Layover
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and my friend grew out of the trance sound and decided to take his own path. So Layover for me was a big project; I was able to replicate his sounds and really turn it up a notch. I feel like this track is more accurately the true starting point for FFM. It’s gained MASSIVE support in the Seattle area and this was the first track that actually caught the ears and won support from some big international labels. The one the piqued my interest most was Fuzion Four Records. They wanted to sign the track, but I decided not to let it go, mainly because I wanted to hold this track to my heart and see where it would take me. I feel like artists there is that ONE track that did it for them, and for me this is that track. I feel like I can work this track to death and back and make it perfect, so I didn’t want to release it 100% to the community. Having my production partner leave was the inspiration for the track; it was a hard time, I was a bit sad and wanted to bang a track out to keep my mind occupied. I’ve always heard that when you make music in an extreme emotional state that it’s your best work; somehow more true, more real, you know? I didn’t believe it until I finished this…
Track Three: Baggage Claim
After Fuzion hit me up to sign Layover and I turned them down, I felt obligated to make something to give them to release. Baggage Claim is it! This track was a new direction for FFM, and I did a little experimenting with the leading pads, put together a huge 5-layer bassline, and went with an all-around heavier build technique. The appregiated melody was a simple 3-chord stab, but again, I was really striving for that massive “hands in the air” pluck and I think I nailed it here. While I still like Layover more (maybe because of the emotional involvement), this track has some amazing qualities that make it a great listen and a very good peak-hour track. So here we are; after three tracks it finally happened. FFM is now a labeled producer with Fuzion Four Records. I wasn’t sure how this would change things and honestly wasn’t sure what direction I was heading now…
Track Four: Wayward Love (FFM Remix)
After jumpin’ in with the label, they asked me to do a remix of a track they were pushing to be their next big hit. Ironically, the Original was produced by some local Seattle guys Max Go and Chris Lawr. It was the first time I’d ever attempted vocals, so I was a bit nervous, but I just drove through it and did what I could. This project took several weeks and I’ll say it’s the most inventive thing I’ve done to date. It had a completely different level of percussion and a unique driving bassline. I also spend a lot of time perfecting my previous piano synth into a much more smooth sound. This track gained MASSIVE support once it was released, and low-and-behold was even charted and played by Steve Anderson on his weekly radio show (http://soundcloud.com/steveandersonmusic/same-radio-show-143). So this was it, this was my breakthrough, and I took it and ran with it and have since been evolving my style, updating myself, and striving for that unique FFM sound.