Name: Skyler Patrick Taugher
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current Release: Holla Atcha Boy EP on DIRTYBIRD
Recommendations: Kraftwerk's “Tour de France” album would be one. The other would have to be the album “Moon Safari” by Air. Two of my favourite albums I always come back to.
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When did you start playing live - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing “live” electronic music around the time my productions started getting signed under my old moniker SHDWPLAY. It was probably around 2010. I was originally DJing prior to releasing music, but after my tunes started coming out, I started playing my music in clubs for an audience. I come from a rock and punk background, so the feeling of playing “live” shows always inspired me.
DJing was always fun to me, but it never truly inspired me. Making music was always my passion, so translating that into a live electronic set of my own music naturally made sense.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Immersion is everything. I don’t believe you will truly discover your sound unless you are obsessed with the process. We are all just remixes of what's come before us, putting our own twists on what's been done. The goal, and hope, is that you discover a twist that inspires you to then extrapolate that idea further and further, leading to a unique sound. The only way to reach “your sound” is to study the best, learn from the best, and try to take it to a different level. For me this rooted back to my punk and rock background. I never enjoyed the trends, and was always trying to make something that represented me. It has been a long journey but it’s coming together, and now I trust myself and the music I am making, even if its not currently trendy.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as an artist and how have they changed over time?
The main challenge was getting recognized in the beginning. Sending demos for years to certain labels hoping for responses, all the while refining your skills in hopes your next round of demos hits better than the last. This will change though, especially as your name becomes more common amongst the ranks and bigger DJs begin playing your records.
Once you are in the game, the expectations you put on yourself to up the ante surmounts, so the new challenge of out-performing becomes the next hurdle. But if you love what your doing, its just another day.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the producer / live act? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
My job is to deliver an experience, unique only to me, for the music listeners. I want people to enjoy the music, dance to it, and relate to it on some level that makes them excited. I have always believed that we should live in the present, and strive for the future. I want my music to facilitate this. I don’t want to look back at the good ole days. I want people to come out to a show and go “what the fuck, I’ve never heard anything like that”.
What was your first live set-up like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first live set up was a macbook pro, ableton live, and a UC 33 midi controller. This was it, and it worked!
As tech has evolved, my set up has as well. I am currently still on Mac and Ableton, but have updated the rest. I now am using 3 Xone K2 controllers, Maschine, iPad, Roland SH-01A, and a roland VT-4. And I am running it through my apogee duet. Relative to some live sets, this is pretty simple. But it does the job and allows me enough flexibility to keep it interesting on stage.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology is both an outlet for the ideas I have, as well as the ideas I did not know were possible. I find my favourite part about technology is all the happy accidents that occur while using the tech. I have a lot of cool ideas, but once I lay those ideas out and then start pulling them in different directions via different plug ins you start to enter the future. I want to hear something that I have never heard, but also relate to it in some way, if that makes sense. Nostalgic future music sounds cool.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
So during this COVID pandemic my routine has changed drastically. I use to be a bit looser when it came to working, but now that I am not touring, I have been on a really tight schedule when it comes to music making. I have never had this much time in the studio so I am trying to take advantage. Most mornings I wake up about 5:00am PST and stretch. After that I hop on the computer and double down on the stock market, seeing what’s happening before opening bell. This has become a special time to me haha. It gets the technical side of my brain working, and allows me not to think about music.
After about an hour and a half I transition into admin work like emails and such relating to music stuff. If it’s a slow morning I will go for a surf to get the body moving more. Then by around 11am I do all the social media for about an hour or so before lunch. After lunch I am pretty much free to write music, if I am feeling inspired. So I try to go hard for about 6 hours. After that I sometimes go to the rock climbing gym. Then it's dinner and bed. I try to pass out by 9pm if I can. It is pretty full on day, which I love.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
My approach depends on the line up, and whether it’s a festival or a club. I play live so people know I will be playing my own music. I literally show up to the club, feel the vibe of who’s playing at the moment, and just go with the flow.
Can you describe your state of mind during a set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Flow state is when I am playing the best. When the body is comfortable, the booth monitors are rock solid, booth height is perfect (I am a bit tall so low booths hurt my back), and you have a bomb vibe in the booth. If all this aligns then its going to be a fun time. The most important for me is the monitoring. If the booth sounds good, then I play my best, and I think people can feel that.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
This is all about vibe. Some people always refer to mixing in key, but I don’t really think about that. I think about the vibe, the moment, ect. Some records definitely syncopate better together, so I try to play those in succession, but it really all comes down to the feeling. I try to plan the first 3 or so tracks, and then roll with it and see where we go.
Would you say you see live performance as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
Yes, for sure. It is really a bit of both, like a hybrid. Its not fully live, but it is also not a DJ set. I essentially have all the parts from every song I have ever done and im essentially remixing all my own music on the fly. I have a clear idea of what I want to achieve, but that road changes every gig, and how I navigate that road is what makes it exciting.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
Nothing beats testing music in a club, for a crowd, especially in regards to dance floor music. Reactions are everything, and that emotional response is so telling. Sometimes I write a record at home that I think is great, but then I play it out and it has no impact. So I really rely on playing records out before sending them off as a demo.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as an artist and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
As a live act I feel that I really want to show the crowd something new, and having the crowd put that trust in you is really nice. They are paying money to come to see you, so you have to deliver. But you also want to play new stuff and take wild risks.
Finding the fine balance between taking risk, and satisfying the dance floor is the magic zone. When you find yourself playing really out of your comfort zone with weird songs and the crowd's with you, it's an amazing feeling. The synergy in the room will fully elevate me, and that’s the exciting stuff.
Thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
As a live act, you can not play forever. I think the 2 hour mark is great. As a DJ one can sift through a multitude of genres and really create an endless journey. But a live act is confined to a sound ... Imagine going to see a band play for 5 hours, I imagine you would get over it, even if you enjoyed the music.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art to me is a disconnect from the daily grind. My art is not made to send a message, or express a motive, or anything of that nature. It’s a creative outlet that I love, with a purpose of not having a purpose, really. I think people always have a place to be, someone to please, responsibilities that overwhelm them …
I guess I write my music for people to forget about those things, even for a brief moment. There is so much clutter in the world. I hope when people experience a live show, they forget about all that, and hear something they have never heard in their life before.