DAD Mix 126: Ekali
What do Sinjin Hawke, DJ Slow, Evian Christ, Flying Lotus, Flava D, and Jackmaster all have in common? They’ve all been participants in the prestigi
Image via Complex Original
What do Sinjin Hawke, DJ Slow, Evian Christ, Flying Lotus, Flava D, and Jackmaster all have in common? They’ve all been participants in the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy. You know who else has? Ekali. That’s right, the guy behind some of the smoothest R&B-infused futuristic bass music you’ve heard all summer–that Tinashe remix and his own original “Unfaith” for starters–can now rightly call himself amongst the same company of such highly esteemed names as alumni of the RBMA. Following his stint at this year’s edition in Tokyo, Japan, Ekali took the time out to answer some of our questions and put together a special mix for our DAD Series. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a few months and Ekali 100% delivered.
So you were apart of this year’s Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, how was the sushi?
Going into Japan I was a little bit jaded about sushi because I’m from Vancouver, which has the best sushi restaurants I had ever visited (they’re also dirt cheap compared to other cities.) But yeah, the sushi was unbelievable. Blew every preconception I had about good sushi out of the water.
What was the biggest culture shock about moving from Canada to Japan?
I think what shocked me most was how unbelievably clean Tokyo city was, and how polite people are in comparison to North America. You could probably eat sushi off the pavement and that would be completely safe. And everybody I met was super respectful and welcoming, regardless that I didn’t speak their native language.
What would say were some of the biggest takeaways you personally as an artist got from RBMA?
I went into RBMA expecting to take a lot of technical knowledge back with me; even though I did learn some nerdy stuff, the experience mostly taught me how to be a better person, and how to improve my creativity by looking inwards and developing myself as a person.
Buliding on that, what takeaways can you share in general for those who weren’t there?
For creatives out there, I think one lesson I learned is that it’s important to surround yourself with good people and positive energy, and to go out and experience things. It’s easy when you’re working to sort of isolate yourself from people and become a cave person for awhile. And hard work is important, but being inspired and stimulated when you’re working is, in my opinion, the most important part of that creation. Go out and do some fun shit.
Is there a story you can share that you think is representative of the experience?
I had started a drum loop by myself in the RBMA studios that I was pretty happy with, but couldn’t figure out chords that worked, so I asked one of the studio staff members Oliver (aka Dorian Concept) to lay down some keys.. which he did insanely quickly. Om’Mas Keith (Producer for Frank Ocean, Vic Mensa, etc.) walked by the studio I was arranging in and dug the tune, and asked me if he could sing on it. So we took the tune to the main studio and Om’Mas and Oliver laid down some auto-tune vox, and the tune was done. The amount of creativity in every single person at the academy was just insane; the amount of songs that got finished quickly like that was staggering.
What was a typical day like?
Every morning I would wake up at the hotel in Shibuya and walk 10 minutes to the Academy. Catered breakfast started at 11, and our first lecture was at 12PM (There were two lectures every day, at 12PM and 4PM). Between lectures we were free to use any of the studios downstairs… I think there were eight or nine of them. So during our free time we were almost always working on music together or watching our peers make music. Every night there was a concert in the city, usually with a headliner and two-three of the participants opening up. Clubs in Tokyo stay open late, so most nights I ended up sleeping around 4AM or 5AM, and then waking up at 10 the next morning. A couple nights I went back to the Academy after shows to work on music with others 'til the sun came up.
What do you think was be the most challenging aspect of RBMA for you?
I had to open up very wide creatively, which was extremely hard for me. I make a very specific, honed kind of music, and the other participants at the Academy made music that fit into countless genres. So, in collaborating with them, I was making techno, house, trance, hip-hop, ambient and world music… it was a very different experience for me, but I learned so much in the process.
Have you lived abroad before?
I’ve never lived abroad, but I’ve toured in a band for a total of about four years. In that time we toured North America about eight times, and the UK twice. I suppose I just “lived abroad” in general, about six months a year.
Any specific tourist experiences stand out?
It’s so hard to pinpoint one particular experience in one place out of the hundreds I’ve visited. I think my favorite experience was visiting coastal England on the way to Brighton and exploring a small city and the coast and caves surrounding it.
Now you’ve been based in Vancouver–a place that’s been home to some really up-and-coming electronic stuff in the past few years. What’s the creative community like there?
Vancouver is growing right now. When I first started making electronic music (about a year and a half ago) Vancouver actually seemed quite dead. With very little buzz going on and hybrid promoter/dj’s opening every show in town. I grouped up with Chapel Sound, a Vancouver-based collective, early into my production span. We’ve been growing together and working with organizers in the city, and it seems like now Vancouver is burgeoning, with great successful nights opening up (i.e ’Sing Sing’ at 303 Columbia) and showcasing a lot of really exciting local talent (Shaunic, Joseph L’etranger, Rook Milo, Sangnoir, Sadgirl, Jade Statues, to name a few.)
Are you going back to Vancouver now?
I am! I’ll be settling in for the Winter with a few shows here and there, and then touring in the springtime/summer on my own.
How do you think living in Vancouver has effected your musical style?
It’s definitely got some of the dark, foreboding and brooding vibes that a rainy winter Vancouver night might have… The city definitely affects me. The weather affects my mood and my thoughts, which I guess translates into a particular sound in my music. I’ve also always been a huge fan of moody atmospheric and driving electronic music like Burial… so I think that it all plays a role.
You're also a part of the Flow-Fi collective. Can you tell us about your relationship with Flow-Fi?
Flow-Fi is the best, man. We’re all just a big family, and constantly either joking around in our FB group chat or asking for feedback on new tracks, collaborating, and just inspiring each other to be better in general.
How did you get involved with them?
I first hit up Maximus MMC for a collaboration earlier this year, and that turned into our Gucci Mane flip. From there I linked up with Aywy, and started working on a new song with him (which turned into "Another Girl"). Shortly after that song came out, Aywy asked me to join up. Best decision I’ve made.
I know the obvious answer is everyone, but who on the Flow-Fi roster should we be paying special attention to?
The brilliant thing to me about Flow-Fi is that everyone has a different sound. I think it depends what you’re looking for. If you want heavy and dark, Sh?m is your man. Fortune is blowing up right now and has a very specific 808 and soul-honed sound. Chris McClenney is one of the best piano players I’ve ever heard, and has been putting out not only original bangers and remixes but also composing his own piano pieces and providing vocals on original compositions as well. I could go on about everyone individually, but I think the best thing to do is to explore Flow-Fi’s entire roster, because every single member has something unique and exciting going on!
You also recently signed with The Agency Group to handle your bookings. How soon and where will we get to see Ekali?
Right now The Agency Group is handling my bookings for Europe, and we’re sorting out a situation for North America. The plan is to hit Europe this spring/summer, and I’ll inevitably be playing shows around North America as well. If anyone is interested in bookings/availability for 2015, hit up Ben!!
Is it going to be a DJ set or are you also planning a live set-up?
In the future I’d love to do live shows, but for now I’m just doing DJ sets. I love both making music for headphones and making club-appropriate tunes.. I think having both in your arsenal is a really powerful tool as a producer/DJ.
Musically, any releases coming up you can tell us about?
I’ve finished my third tune with Aywy, so that’ll be coming out very shortly. I’m working on a tune with Sh?m. I have a few more collaborations with other artists that I can’t really talk about right now.. but on top of that I’ve been making more original music, including some dancier music & trap. All this will be contributing to an EP I’ll be putting out as soon as it’s all ready.
Today you’ve also brought us a mix. Tell us about this mix, what did you plan for this?
The mix I’ve done for you guys is pretty indicative of what kind of stuff I’m playing live right now–a compilation of everything I’ve been playing and tunes by artists that I’m personally excited about. Feel free to dance around.
Do androids dance?
If they feel like it!
Keep in touch with Ekali: SoundCloud | Twitter | Facebook
PND - Recognize (Promnite Edition)
FS Green - Bewittu
Baauer - Boog
Kanye West - Yeezus (Neana Bootleg)
Tory Lanez - Crew (Falcons & Hoodboi Remix)
Young Thug - Danny Glover (Lakim Remix)
Branchez - Truth
Mr. Carmack - Tiki Tiki
Losco - Scriptina
Eli Muro - Orphan’s Son (Ekali Remix)
Tele Fresco & Swish - Hara Gichi Hueda
Baauer - Swoopin
Mr. Carmack - NASA
Andru - Wailin’
Sam Gellaitry - Paper
ODB - Shimmy Shimmy Ya (Mr. Carmack Remix)
Troyboi - Medusa Dayz
Busta Rhymes - Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See (Rook Milo Remix)
Falcons & Promnite - Riddim #1
Falcons - Be Quiet
Drake - 6 God (Gravez Remix)
Dj Smokey & Yung Gud - Neighborhood Tip
Schoolboy Q - Studio (Promnite Edition)