Who remembers Wolfgang Gartner’s dance classic, “Illmerica?” What about his “The Devil’s Den” with Skrillex, or “Animal Rights” with deadmau5?
While these electronic music staples may have arrived in early the 2010s, the gritty electro house rumblings of each record have aged with grace. Gartner brings back these old-school sounds on his newest offering, Medicine.
“2018 has been an insanely busy year for me in the studio,” Gartner tells Billboard, “in fact I’ve finished more songs this year than any prior year in my career. I also feel like it’s some of the highest quality and best work I’ve done. These kind of creative floods come rarely, and rather than releasing one massive album and getting it all out I thought each track would get more attention and chance to shine by doing small mini albums or EPs. Medicine is the first of these, and I plan on releasing a handful more sometime in the not-too-distant future.”
The six-track EP delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia, teeth-grinding bass booms and underground grooves. Songs like “Excalibur” and “Deja Vu” ride a melodic wave perfect for road trips while cuts like “Make It Clap” and “Bumblebee” are meant for those late-night warehouse raves.
Wolfgang Gartner breaks it all down below, exclusively on Billboard Dance.
The main reason I put this first was the way it starts out — that smooth piano line seemed like the ultimate intro for an album. The rest of the song is also really reminiscent of some of my earlier work, so I liked the fact that it was the first impression for my day-one fans and people who have been listening to my music for the past decade.
Good Medicine (feat. Rush Davis)
I met Rush through a soul / R&B project we were doing, we released some music under the alias Open Eyes a couple years ago, and he has done the vocal performance on a couple of my other songs like “Devotion” and “Ching Ching.” For “Good Medicine,” I wrote and sang the whole song from scratch, but wasn’t completely satisfied with the sound of my own voice, so I brought in Rush to re-sing it, and kept my vocals underneath his. So it’s actually a combination of both of us singing that you hear.
I wanted to write a sort of party song that wasn’t generic like many are, so I used metaphors to try and set the tone for basically a long night out “on the medicine.” It was also a way to keep it clean for radio, by using these metaphors and never actually saying what kind of medicine we’re taking in the song. People can interpret it however they want.
With this one I intentionally set out from the start to basically take the bones of my classic sound, give it new rims, a paint job, new shocks, lower it, and put some subwoofers in the trunk. In a sentence; I wanted to use all of the modern production tools that have come about in recent years and combine them with my old-school compositional style to make a sort of modern hybrid. It seemed like the natural first-single to release from the EP, to speak to new and old fans alike.
Make It Clap
I went really really deep with the synthesis on this one — I think the project file probably had about 100 tracks of synths, drums, and everything else, and a ton of sounds layered over each other to create thicker sounds and textures. Since this song has a more modern bass-house vibe to it, I used certain chords during the breakdown and middle section to conjure up nostalgic progressive vibes but with modern tones. This one has been a huge weapon for me in live settings.
As far as the music, I basically just made one really cool sounding bass tone on a synthesizer, then copied it about 10 times and freaked each copy a different way — reversed it, stretched it, vowel-filtered it, and otherwise. That sorta forms the basis for the song. I wanted a pre-drop vocal, but I feel like so many people get lazy there, so I wanted to do something that was definitely different than any pre-drop vocal that had ever been done.
The song was giving me nostalgic rave vibes, bringing me back to my late-’90s raver days in LA, and there was this rave I used to go to every year called Jujubeats where they had giant bumblebees dancing on the screens. I was time traveling back to that place, so I figured why not just make the pre-drop vocal “the Bumblebee,” and that was it! Literally the first take, and the first idea.
This Is Your Life
Some songs feel like they have an “ending” vibe, if that makes any sense, like they signify the end of something or the end of an era, or an album — and this one had that feel to me. I wrote the music first and had just gotten a new talk box, so I new I wanted to do a talk box vocal on it. The music was giving me a very in-the-moment feeling, like I wanted to write about being in the moment somehow, and that’s how those lyrics came about. I guess you could say it’s kind of the same concept as [“Once in a Lifetime”] by Talking Heads — it’s kind of a narrative about life, being in the moment, appreciating the moment, and how sometimes it seems to move so fast it almost passes you by.