Words and Interview By Gurvin 'The Man In The West' Dhillon
Groundislava is something of an electronic music veteran. He’s certainly been around the block and your Internet browser before. Responsible for some of the most classic albums released via L.A record label Friends of Friends, GIL is your one and only cyber punk lord and amongst the diverse WEDIDIT Collective, made up of Shlohmo, RL Grime, D33j, Nick Melons and himself.
On top of this, he is the brother of mysterious graphic designer $u$boy, who has worked the visuals for the likes of Boys Noize, Skrillex and - of course - WEDIDIT themselves.
Since he started making music in his early college years, Jasper has shown his development and experiences to crowds at home and across the world. It's been some time since releasing a project, and 2017 was finally the year that saw him release the follow up album from ‘Frozen Throne’ with ‘Endless Voyage’. An album that features some of his closest friends, it's also the shortest project which will make you wanna repeat your voyage and experience with the album again and again.
I was fortunate enough to ask Jasper a few questions while he was at his parent’s house, fresh from moving out of home. Fresh on starting a new chapter, and as of last week with some fresh exclusive Endless Voyage merchandise you can call your own here.
Stoney Roads: How’s it going moving places at the moment?
Groundislava: Its good man, it's good to fuckin’ change up where you’re at some times. I was in that spot for a while; I was kinda getting sick living above a bar so I. I’m actually at my parent’s house right now over in a lil neighbourhood kinda part of town, a little bit more quieter.
SR: It’s more of a retreat.
GIL: Yahhhh it’s nice man its super nice, its super vacation-y right now, It feels to because I literally just put the album out and then chill for a second. I’m also kinda thinking about new music and stuff too so its cool to end that chapter with an album and start new, and I don’t even know where I’m gonna end up living but I haven’t found a new apartment yet so I’m gonna be parked up here for like a month.
SR: I guess its not bad being around your parents for new inspiration. Because William Gibson was someone that inspired your recent album ‘Endless Voyage’.
GIL: I have always been really inspired by William Gibson. My last album ‘Frozen Throne’ was definitely a serious homage to his work, but I mean definitely his normalcy in particular got me interested in story telling in the means of writing but just like, I dunno. It made me, how do I put it? It was the first time I picked up a book and I ended up reading it 3 or 4 times.
SR: You got so submersed into it and you visualised his writing.
GIL: Totally, like with my last album I did 1 narrative over the course of 1 album. With this album I wanted to have each track feel like it was a narrative in itself. It’s almost like a collection of short stories. Just like a book if we are comparing it, it has this theme but each one starts at the beginning again.
SR: You say each song on Endless Voyage has a different theme. Which song off the album hit a soft spot with you that captured and projected your emotions with everything you wanted to express?
GIL: Ohhhh man its tough, because the record is like, every record I’ve done before not even intentionally has been 10 songs and 40 minutes long and this is the first time I released a record that was less than 10 songs, and part of that was me starting off with more than that and I wanted to make it so every song was hard to pick out the stand out moments. Instead I wanted each part to feel like the same weight, that’s why it’s hard with a question like that. But if I had to pick a track, emotionally the most important to me is…. I dunno ‘Until Tomorrow’ I feel like, that was the single and it’s really important to me; because I have been working with that guy Jake Weary for so long like almost 10 years. Like its so cool to spiral back around and have my lead single be with him again after I haven’t done that since my first record even though we’ve worked so much, so that’s pretty cool. But I have to say ‘Light Breaker’ is maybe the most kinda expressed song from myself, because structurally it’s the most me on a track you know? Its got like 2 minutes of no drums in the beginning just melodies and it really expressed myself to the fullest metric and I did something that I wasn’t thinking about it at all on what anybody wanted to hear, but not in like a selfish way but I really just like made this song and I just kinda went with it and spent a long time on it. I was kinda wondering if I needed vocals and some people said it needed vocals, but I just stuck with it and it turned out really well. And since I released the record people have said it was really special or that they cried when they heard it or something, and I dunno it felt really good because that track was definitely an emotional charged moment on the album.
SR: So Until Tomorrow and Light Breaker are the definitive tracks off Endless Voyage that a fans can connect with based off your expression, and you talked about Jake Weary…
GIL: It's not necessarily like they’re the definitive ones because you know, I guess they are definitive in a personal connection sense but then I feel like ‘Nova’ and ‘Pressure’ are like the stand out tracks for me for like impact, and there’s different ways to look at it on the album. On the other hand ‘Dark Planet’ and the track ‘Endless Voyage’ are both kinda like chilled, I wanted to hit every note on this album and catch up on every style so its hard to pick one.
SR: So with Jake Weary, how did you two meet?
GIL: Soooo we actually went to… in 2008 we went to the same collage and umm he was from New Jersey and you know I’m from L.A and we kinda clicked on the first day of freshmen day of collage. We kinda just fucked around making silly music and shit and ahhh like rapping and bullshit. Then we both left that college after one year, he dropped out like half way through because he’s an actor too so he’s in a lot of stuff. So we just linked back up, he moved to L.A after he dropped out, and in 2009 we formed a band but I already made the GIL moniker but we formed a band called ‘Land Lord’ and originally my self titled album was gonna be us as a band but he was just busy doing stuff with acting and a lot of the tracks were still solo like instrumental tracks so we ended up keeping it to the GIL album that was featuring him. So we met in college and we were technically a band for a lil bit, but yah even if we don’t see each other for a while we still talk and we have such similar taste with music stuff so whenever I send him something to work on I know I’m gonna get it back and its gonna be super dope. Its always good to have people like that to collaborate with, I don’t collaborate and stuff, I generally work alone there’s just a handful of people that I really like to work with so.
SR: It’s definitely noticeable that you work with people in your circle, and someone recently new in your circle is Swan Lingo. Do you feel there will be something happening between you two?
GIL: I haven’t hit him up yet but I really wanna do a track with him, I mean Endless Voyage just came out but I’ve been working on new music. Like that record has been done for a lil while now.
SR: How long is a lil while?
GIL: To be honest I finished like a rough version of Endless Voyage about a year ago, it was longer and very different, it wasn’t as fine tuned and I dunno it didn’t have ‘Lightbreaker’ on there yet or ‘Nova’. There were other songs instead and yeahhhh it just felt like it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It’s been done and mastered for a few months. But with Swan Lingo’s shit I haven’t heard it until it came out, his single actually came out the same day as mine and I’m really digging it. I have a lot of tunes that you can hear off Endless Voyage that have been blown further into rock tempos and down tempo stuff, where my earlier stuff is kinda more on this IDM kinda thing like Frozen Throne was dance-ier. I think with Endless Voyage I’m bringing my music very much to the realm of kinda song writing and I don’t wanna say pop music but I wanna say pop song structure in a electronic sound.
It’s just funny that you brought up me maybe working with Swan Lingo because I’ve been meaning to hit him up actually. I’ve been working on a lot of stuff with guitars and ahhh trying to do stuff with live drums. I dunno I would really love to make an album that you know you can hear multiple people playing instruments and ahh its something really organic but still have that old classic synthetic signature sounds kinda mixed with that. I’ve already been playing with it a bit and that’s definitely the direction I wanna go in with the next release, whenever that might be I’m not even planning it yet. SR: I can already picture and hear out how your collaboration with Swan Lingo would turn out, because you used a lot of guitars on Nova with C.Z. so it just makes sense.
GIL: Yeahhhh there’s been a lot of new music that I have been working on where I have been using that and ummm there a guy I’ve been collaborating with that plays guitar and we’ve been bouncing stuff back and stuff. Like when I have stuff half finished I like bouncing them to people to get their advice on it and some tips to change it up. Like I’ll put a bit of drums on a track and it was much more drumsier and a rock song or something and its cool because it’s such a different direction from me but it still sounds like me and that was kinda the moment where I was thinking like shit that could work with Swan Lingo. Like I love rap music and stuff and electronic stuff obviously, but the further stuff gets into kind of like, its easy to get overwhelmed when just being surrounded by bass music, and umm I’ve come to realise when I actually listen to music I listen to really chill music. I’m really listening to stuff that you know, wanna hear super loud that has a crazy bass and shit like I’m really wanting to make music that’s great to listen to it doesn’t have to fuckin’ knock your socks off it doesn’t have to make you bang your head its just really, really fuckin’ nice music to listen to. That was definitely a big thing with Endless Voyage I wanted to make a record, and its something that I’ve always tried to do was to make a record that will sound good today and it will sound good in 3 years and 5 years or something. I feel like, there’s moments on my records where I can go back and I can remember where I was like I was influenced by this trend or whatever but I make sure I don’t get too caught up in it I guess what’s going on around me.
SR: You’re making it timeless.
GIL: I don’t like to call my own music timeless, because it’s a bit narcissistic, but I try my best to make something that isn’t to tided to trends. You know what I mean? It isn’t too temporal.
SR: In the process of making the album, who were some artists that you were listening to that inspired and brought a different approach towards Endless Voyage?
GIL: There’s been a handful of bands that I loved in high school and the older I get the more I just wanna listen to those bands, and I pay attention less to new music. It used to kinda be this thing I never listened to much music before new music because I was so focused on my own music and lately I don’t listen to much new stuff because I’ve become I dunno. I’ve become so obsessed with the stuff that got me interested in making music in the first place, so like some of the big bands for me that I’ve been listening to and I’m listening to a lot right now are like; Mew, I dunno if you’ve heard of them they’re a Scandinavian band, and then there’s another band called Tortoise they’re kinda like a groggy jazz kinda umm I don’t even know what to call them but super chilled music. A lot of Tortoise a lot of Mew umm what else, I listen to Sade a lot I’ve been listening to Quasimoto a lot again, a lot of Madlib, ummm I listen to Ween a lot they’re kinda a weird band not everyone likes them but they’re one of my favourites of all time. I mean those are all kinda non-electronic stuff but for this record you know I dunno I can’t really say there’s a big major influence on this record in terms of specific bands, but also with this record I’ve been getting more into industrial music, well I’ve always been into industrial music especially touching back on William Gibson. You know industrial music is so kinda like the sound of the cyber punk genre literature and culture of stuff so I’ve always been a fan of early Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppies and that kinda shit. That’s one thing on this album that I did I really wanted to use all of those drum sounds and stuff.
SR: It makes sense that those bands really inspired Light Breaker.
GIL: I used to play the drums when I was younger and I noticed over time that I programmed my patterns more and more like live drums and less like trying to make these impossible patterns. I mean if you’re listening to the song Pressure, like that’s definitely more a impossible drum pattern with live drums. But with Light Breaker, I was really going in this style of a live drummer kind of performance. So that’s something I’ve been or a path I’ve been going down more and more.
SR: Moving away from the tracks on the album now, you got an artist (Devin) that’s responsible for your album artwork. How did you guys get to know each other?
GIL: Honestly Devin is a friend that... I’m trying to think how I know him originally. I hang out with a lot offffff aaaaa you know like, I try not to just hang out with just music people because I’d get a lil crazy if I do. Devin is someone I know through visual arts stuff so I hang out with a lot of guys, who do visual arts, and I grew up doing visual arts but not that it was our connection pull. I don’t really remember how I know Devin originally, but um he and another friend of mine share an art studio and ahhh I just see Devin a lot. I just hit him up and I was like I had this idea for the album you know, I wanted something that could convey the sort of dreamscape and sort of ahhh transcendence between like different narratives within one dream in this idea of jumping between different dream scenes without sort of any coherent lines, umm and I just came in with the idea and he was like yeah fuck it lets do it. He made a lil character of me and then we got drunk and he just started fuckin’ making art like its cool, my homie we were just kicking it drinking beer he’s just adding stuff to the painting and he’s like what do you think of this, what do you think of that, and I was kinda like interacting with it too it was cool. It was over a couple of different sessions were I came in and we just kicked it and just listened to music and he worked on the painting, it just came out so cool. It really, really is a part of the album, it feels like this tangible element of the album and that was exactly the reason I wanted to do it. I wanted the album art to feel like something physical. His art is so physical looking, even thought it’s a painting its always 3 dimensional stuff there’s always things that stick out to you, like shadows more than a 2 dimensional piece. Sooo I really felt like it was a cool way of expressing tangibility.
SR: It expresses the lucid dreaming concept as well.
GIL: Yeah it’s like real, like an uncanny valley affect that it looks real but it looks too real or something. Like you can see the paint like the light reflecting off the paint in the image. It’s got this sort of like hyper intensity to it.
SR: It makes sense now thinking back to your Instagram, always going to the art studio.
GIL: Yeah man I actually did a project with Devin right afterwards; he did a performance piece where he danced with these ballerinas at an art opening. He does a lot of really cool openings in L.A and New York and ahhh right after I did like a soundtrack for his performance piece. Like I mashed up ahhh some classic Tchaikovsky music with some modern trap rap shit so it was pretty cool. We’ve been talking about working on more projects in the future and stuff.
SR: You could have an art gallery concept show, where you play music emblematic to the art on the wall.
GIL: Like besides from my first record, every record has depicted me in some kinda form like its got this trivial look to it of a silhouette of me, then the tv where it had this vibe, then I had Frozen Throne that looked like this digital sort of sci-fi book cover or something, then this one I wanted a picture of me but I wanted it to bare a resemblance to me.
SR: That’s how you look if you were lucid dreaming let just say that.
GIL: Yeah exactly something like that ahah.
(If you don’t know how to lucid dream yet, go back in time with this vintage BR set while you practice.)
SR: If you were to use your album as a movie soundtrack, what movie would that be?
GIL: Hmmm, man it’s hard because there’s so many different vibes to the album.
SR: I’m gonna chime in and say Enter The Void.
GIL: Like I mean like that’s something I can think of off top I can imagine butttt I’ve never actually finished it all the way through but I wanna say I know that fully. I dunno man. Basically anime you know. I took a lot of; I’m always really inspired by the music in anime and like Hayao Miyazaki movies like Spirited Away. I dunno just animations of drawings and how music can take that and just bring it to such an inactive place. I guess that’s kind of a non-answer.
SR: Instead of a movie per se it’ll be anime in general.
GIL: Ohhhhh it depends on the anime you know that’s kind of a broad one. Something animated would be awesome something weird, It would have to hit a lot of different notes.
SR: What’s some weird anime series people should watch then?
GIL: Ohhh man I watched this one recently, I can’t remember the English name but its called Shokugeki No Soma and its about a boy, whoooo him and his father own this diner in Japan, and they close this diner and basically he ends up in this boarding school for chefs and they do, the show is super silly ahahah. It’s like stadium food competitions but in anime ahaha it’s the best show if you wanna watch something weird.
SR: That sounds sick, the weirder the better. I can’t remember if that’s the show I asked you about over Instagram before.
GIL: Its pretty dope, defs check it out, its reallyyyy weird.
SR: We’ve come to the end of this quest the voyage is almost complete. But if you and C.Z. could make a collab project together what would it be called off the top?
GIL: Dude we actually have, we’ve started a lot of music together and we had one time where we had Creamsoda for the artist name and its kinda silly but I kinda love it. We made this bubbly pop, like trance song and we put Creamsoda as the artist name.
SR: So we can look forward to more Creamsoda music to come?
GIL: I’m gonna give you that answer as Creamsoda because that was the only time we ever came up with a name. If we had more time to speak about it we might have another name, but that’s what we came to then. I kinda like it, but it’s not the official name… yet.