Los Angeles has emerged as a denizen for experimental electronic artists, and Shivastep stands among the finest. I shot him a few questions about his work.
Where does the name Shivastep come from?
Shivastep is a play on words, the dance of the Hindu god Shiva represents the destruction and rebirth of existence, so Shiva’s step refers to that as well as the step nods to electronic music. A theme of the project is this rebellion against pop culture where through destroying these icons I create something meaningful. I’m searching for that pure release in the music which is spirituality to me, when you lose sense of the individual and feel that bliss. It all kind of ties together so well that when I first came up with the name for a new track I knew that was it. I’ve gone through tons of project names but this is the first that actually “fits” you know? Conceptually it can sound kinda heavy but the only thing that really matters to me is that you just hear it and feel it. Especially live its meant to be a visceral, physical experience and a lot of fun to lose yourself in.
You are based in Los Angeles. What circle of artists do you run with out there?
Los Angeles. Probably the best thing about living out here is the amazing music being made and performed here. The track number artists are mega dope, Eras‘ new record Portals is incredible and Sigils‘ upcoming EP is ambient crack. The Architects & Heroes crew are fantastic. My friend/roommate Helsquiades is a rad musician (and did a killer remix of my s/t track that a lot more people should hear). I’m pretty new on the scene out here so I’m looking forward to meeting and playing with new artists, although I do all the Shivastep stuff solo I think collabs can take you great places that neither of you would ever have gone solo.
What was the creative process behind your Shivastep EP?
I’ve been writing music since around 17 when I first realized I had it in me, so over the years I learned what works for me and what doesn’t. Once I got into electronic music I had to kinda reorient since its a different beast but inspiration is inspiration and everything starts there. I find it to be one of the most interesting and oddest aspects of humanity, where inspiration, ideas and creativity come from. For me its about letting go, if you’re trying too hard to direct it than it’ll come out like some shitty regurgitation. But if you’re in the right place the ideas will come through, the real work of the artist is knowing which ones to curate and in shaping those raw ideas into full songs.
The Shivastep EP came out in a flood. A big factor was last year I was working this suffocating, awful job and driving an hour each way in horrible LA traffic where I couldn’t help but dwell on the purpose for it all, not just my situation but the whole culture. I felt i was being crushed, it was literally killing me and I was finally gonna just quit with no backup plan when I was fired. It was one of the best things that anyone’s ever done for me. From there, the songs just poured out and they are a total release of that intensity that is the modern, American way of life.
The process was really organic and the songs would grow from the first seeds of a melodic, rhythmic or harmonic idea. I would really hone in on the feeling with the vocals, tearing apart these pop/rap songs to chase it. I was able to tap into the source surprisingly well and it was really therapeutic making the EP.
Is there a particular track from the EP that you’re into the most?
Picking a particular track is tough since I’m so fond of each one. It’s hard for me to be fully proud of a work and not hear faults but I really feel each of these songs are strong musical compositions, have exciting structures, melody and production and are totally dance music in a really unconventional way. That said, I’d pick “SUPERBASS” cause it has so many little parts and flourishes and the middle just destroys me. “RIP” hits me the hardest emotionally though, especially that soaring chorus. The music came after an intense night with a friend who definitely did not want to be alive anymore. I started playing those chords over and over and they just said it all. It’s definitely the most uplifting music of the EP for me.
What software are you using to create this music?
I’m using Ableton Live 8. I rarely use its instruments though aside from the drums which are all 808s. Obviously I love the sound of the 808, but I also love that the history of electronic music is in that thing. I run my synths in as audio tracks and, aside from the 808, the quintessential trance synth tone of stacked detuned saw waves just gets me and is all over the EP. There’s lots of tasty portamenti sine waves, sub-bass for sure and even some 303. I also used some random wah guitar and vibraphone too but most of the synth patches were hand made. All the vocals are from Youtube acapellas.
It’s funny, I came up writing and recording songs on an 8 track and even the first electronic music I made was recorded on one which was such a bitch. I started teaching myself Ableton like a year and a half ago, so I probably take a lot different of an approach because of those two things. I feel like I make songs rather than tracks or beats in that they breathe, grow and develop and I don’t base them off of loops and adding more or subtracting off. Some of the uniqueness comes from that I’m sure.
What’s happening next on the release front?
I have an all new EP that’s ready for release at the beginning of December! It’s got some killer songs, some real bangers and some different textures, all more hip hop oriented. Also, the plan is to release a series of limited edition vinyl singles from the Shivastep EP.
Any live shows coming up?
I have my first show at a real venue on November 3rd at the Central SAPC in Santa Monica. I can’t wait for that, I have a brand new set I’ve only played out once that rips. Shivastep is made to be experienced live. I keep it fresh by performing/improvising the synth parts and sequencing the songs on the fly plus all the track number and architect & heroes crew will be in full effect. Anyone in the area should definitely check it out! I’m always down to play a show so hopefully im able to get as many as possible set up in the near future, I could see that taking off as word gets out. It feels like all my work and passion for music is starting to bloom, so I couldnt be more excited for where things go from here. As always, mad love to everyone who’s made this a reality by listening/supporting Shivastep, especially my amazing wife Lindsey. Hang on, this is just the beginning ∞