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Q & A: Pretty Lights

In conversation with Grammy-nominated electro producer Pretty Lights, who performs in India next month

Akshai Sarin Mar 26, 2015
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Pretty Lights | Courtesy of Krystle Blackburn

Pretty Lights | Courtesy of Krystle Blackburn

In May 2014, my brother Aashrai and I first met Derek [Vincent Smith], at the International Music Summit [IMS] in Ibiza. We had heard so much about him through a common friend [his manager], Randy. We hit it off instantly, realizing we shared a lot in common ”‘ we were really interested in music below 120bpm and we both also had our ”˜small town America’ life experiences. Derek turned out to be one of the warmest, most unassuming, and curiously intelligent musicians I’ve met. He invited us to hang out in Lisbon, Portugal, where we met and talked about everything under the sun ”“  from Indian culture to instruments that create sound and music to Cosmic data readings.

The American electronica producer was nominated at the 56th annual Grammy Awards in 2014 for his album Color Map of the Sun, which was up against the likes of albums by Daft Punk, Kaskade, Calvin Harris and Disclosure in the category of Best Dance/Electronica Album. We’re really lucky to finally have him perform in India. Below is an excerpt of the first conversation we had last year, about his roots and his music:

What’s inspired you?

I’ve always been motivated to make an album as good as my influences.

We first met at IMS, which is a dance music platform. Are you heading beyond the 100bpm vibe?

[Laughs uncontrollably]. So Randy’s been telling me to come over there [IMS] for a while now. And he sold it to me through the performance at Dalt Villa, which is a world heritage site. I’ve always been obsessed with Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii and always wanted to play at places like that. And of course, I worked on the IMS anthem.

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Color Map of the Sun”¦ Dark Side of the Moon”¦

You know it! It feels good because I funded and marketed that album myself. It’s always been an underground thing but then you hit number one”¦ then people start thinking you’re selling out”¦ but I didn’t make music [for the Grammy.] That’s why I want to keep it real when I come to India.

It’s all about the live jam thing

I like the live instruments direction we’re headed in”¦ performing with musicians, deconstructing parts on the fly. The video of that Chicago drummer laying down the beat on Chikoo Fenny [an unreleased track named “Fenny” by Chris McGuinness and Sarin with Daniel Crane on drums] is sick by the way. That’s what it’s about”¦ musicians and vintage instruments. That’s what I’m doing in Portugal – there’s a crazy instrument that I need to check out.

Where are you from in the US?

It’s a small town”¦

It’s OK I went to school in Appleton, Wisconsin

Oh , then you know what I’m talking about. I was born in Sheridan in Wyoming [you didn’t find that on Wikipedia until a while ago] but I really grew up in Colorado. That’s why I’m such a marijuana advocate.

Yeah we could see on stage! You claimed it was sleep deprivation. Colorado, then it’s in your genes.

Right yeah, it’s in my genes”¦ people think I’m stoned all the time.

Yeah someone asked me if I was stoned at age 12. 

Me too, and I have a deep voice”¦

So tell me about the Grammy nomination.

Yeah, moving to a new booking agency, combined with the Grammy nomination has seen an influx of global booking requests.  It’s funny how the Grammy nomination has had a much bigger impact outside the US. It was surprising at first.

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[American electro producer] Michal Menert’s [the first artist signed onto Pretty Lights Music label] been to India. What’s the vibe?

He’s been there a couple of times and really loves it. I think he even proposed to his girlfriend there. I’m working on a record right now”¦ in full album mode”¦ so the India festival season [2014] seems out. What I really want to do is come and do PL shows, with a ton of guerilla style promotion. I’m trying to build something organically like I did in the States.

So then what’s the India plan?

I’ve got time blocked off for the first bit of 2015. Whenever I get the chance to go somewhere exotic, pretty, and amazingly beautiful I try to spend as much time recording street musicians and filming. So my girlfriend and I carry 20 lenses around”¦ we film constantly. Hoping to work on the [track]“Bombay Bump” music video there or in Morocco. I sampled an Indian record, fused it with some 1920’s New Orleans sound.

Do it back home. You met Tara, her dad made Bandit Queen. She can probably help with the filming.

Yeah, hit up Mumbai streets with some bboys like your “Dirty Money” video!

 Pretty Lights will be performing at Spiro 2015 and Vh1 Arcade. You can buy the tickets here. Event details listed below:

April 3rd – I-Kandy, Delhi, starting at 6:00pm
April 4th – Mehboob Studios, Mumbai, starting at 2:00pm
April 5th – BlueFROG, Pune, starting at 6:00pm

Akshai Sarin is a creative entrepreneur and music producer based in Bengaluru.

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