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AC Slater, 'Out Here': First Listen and Exclusive Q&A
The Trouble & Bass DJ talks about the disappearance of mid-level clubs and exploding ticket prices.
For the last five years, AC Slater has built a solid reputation as one fourth of eclectic Brooklyn DJ crew slash label Trouble & Bass along with Drop The Lime, Star Eyes, and The Captain. (Side note: Baauer once interned at the label, not too long before his “Harlem Shake” days.) AC Slater (born Aaron Clevenger) now splits his time between NYC and LA, though he’s nearly always on tour or in the studio. He plays the Wavefront Festival in Chicago on July 6.
AC’s new EP, “Return of the Underground,” is ironically poised to break through to a broader fan base than ever, thanks to current appetite for bass-filled hip-hop tinged, techno-influenced EDM. CODE caught up with AC for an exclusive chat. You can listen to the premiere of his new single, “Out Here,” below:
You have a very distinctive bass sound that predates the bass music and dubstep trends of the last few years. How do you keep yourself fresh in an expanding field of bass music-makers?
AC Slater: I've always been a fan of bass music way back from the days of Miami bass, jungle, or whatever else. Every new sound stems from something that has already existed, so it’s nice to take a little influence from older classics and breathe new life into it. I've spent the past year or so exploring new sounds, but I've found myself being pulled back to my original sound that I developed in 2008, but with a current twist.
You grew up in the world of underground clubs but now, that scene is much less underground. How do you alter your performance for when you're playing an event like a festival? Do you see a difference in the crowds now that the audience for your style of music has grown?
With the festivals you have to turn up the energy levels a lot. The festival crowd is more like a pack of wild animals ready to go crazy. It’s less about groove and more about people fist pumping and getting hype. For a festival set I'll leave out a lot of the deeper stuff and drop in some more recognizable songs and special edits to keep the vibe going strong.
When did you make “Return of the Underground” EP? How would you describe it?
“Return of the Underground” came from a burst of inspiration where I just wrote a ton of songs and remixes back in March and April. I went back to my roots, slowed the tempo down a little and just made some fun, bass-heavy jackin’ house music with some elements from the modern house/garage movement. I'm definitely going to continue in this direction because I have so much fun doing it.
Do you think there is or will be a return of the underground?
On one hand, there's always an underground, but the EDM thing has just gotten so big. I'm not sure how kids afford $50, $70, $100 and up tickets every week. I feel like the mid-size club nights got squashed out of the scene a couple years ago, and to me those medium-sized branded club nights were what really built the whole dance music community and aesthetic for years. That’s a huge part of the music scene, clubs you can go to for $5-$10 and hear great music and meet like-minded people. It would be amazing to see that come back, because there's a definite underground vibe there.
“Out Here” could be considered a sort of hip-hop track. How did the sound of this tune develop while you were recording it?
I just got a deep vibe going with that spaced-out synth in the breakdown, and contrasted it with the really twisted druggy-sounding bass that comes in on the drop. I sent the track to a great artist I work with a lot, Dell Harris from Atlanta, and he recorded a couple vocals and sent it back, I chopped it up and put it in the track, which added a nice human element to it and the hip-hop feel you mentioned. That’s my favorite track on the EP.
Trouble & Bass is notoriously not just a label, but a family. What kind of family is it, and what's your role in it?
When we are all together the Trouble & Bass crew is like a cartoon. We are a very tight family, and we have definitely tried to figure out what each of our roles is. I'm not sure what my exact role is but I would consider myself the instigator. I could go into the hilarity of the crew dynamics but that’s a whole other interview!