Nothing says Big Rave Energy quite like the Windows XP 2001 start-up sound. Yes. You read that right. And here’s why…
‘Windows’ is just one of the many rave-infused slivers of magic taken off Big Rave Energy, a solid and diverse project by producer, teacher, visual artist and performer, Left/Right. The multi-genre LP hits a sweet spot between old-school rave and the astronomical capabilities of modern-day technology. It’s raw and soulful yet, totally 2023. It’s got it all. Born in Dallas, TX, now residing in LA, L/R has degrees in both music composition and audio engineering. A masterful skill-set certified by big-hitters such as Deadmau5, Claude VonStroke and Jauz, L/R’s work continues to dazzle the electronic music sphere across the globe.
To celebrate the release of Big Rave Energy and his mind-boggling, but beautiful, AI themed CONDUIT tour currently rolling out in the US, we caught up with the man himself to dig a little deeper on the shenanigans.
Hey Left/Right, how are you doing? You’re in LA right?
I’m good, thank you. Yes, I am. Lots of sunshine!
Wonderful. Let’s start with the album, Big Rave Energy. What a project! Ravey from start to finish. The use of the Windows login sound is pretty elite too. Talk to us about the release.
Ha, thank you! The truth is, I’ve been wanting to make an album for a long time. I have put out hundreds of songs, I’m an audio engineer and I teach production so I did the maths and I’ve helped other people make thousands of songs so it’s like… why have I not made an album yet?! Once upon a time, I was advised by some people around me that an album – especially on my own label – wouldn’t do very well. Then, when 2020 happened, a lot of things changed for me, a lot of hard things. I lost access to my studio, a lot of the labels I worked with shut down, I moved on from my team at the time and I moved cities so I thought, do you know what? It’s time to put out something big. I had a good amount of tunes that I was sitting on so I was in a good position to do so. The truth is, at the time I was thinking so much about strategy. I was thinking I should go with a certain genre and do some crossover into mainstream bits, but at the end of the day, I didn’t want to. I just wanted to make something I really liked. Drawing on all of my favourite influences.
The concept of the album has changed over time but at the end of the day, I just wanted something that represented me, which after many revisions, I do feel that way. I feel there’s pieces of me in every song, it’s got my sound. It touches on a lot of different emotions and vibes and genres. I’ve always been a Breaks artist, but not strictly that. I like pulling things from garage, house, D&B and jungle… even hip-hop. I feel I’ve weaved a lot of that stuff throughout. That was the spectrum that I wanted to cover and I think I got it.
You really did. Your event series CONDUIT sounds incredibly interesting too. How did it all begin?
I come from a background of installation art, I went to music school. My father was really into opera and art so I’ve come from a very musical background and as I’ve grown in my own artistry, I knew I wanted to put on an event, do something completely different.
I’ve really been inspired by the tech art in California, more specifically, at Burning Man, where they have huge instals. Back when I was living in Texas, we started off doing shows similar to how we do it now, but in art galleries. Eventually, we started to bring it into venue spaces like clubs.
The goal was to transform the space, to do art installations, but to still book high quality acts. We’re on our seventh show in Texas now. We’ve had Jacques Greene, A B S O L U T E, a Boiler Room x CONDUIT collab and many more incredible artists and shows. It’s been amazing.
Sounds really exciting. You’ve been incorporating AI into the events too. How exactly are you doing so?
We do a lot of immersive arts. We even have storylines and actors and yes, our current tour rolling out in the US is a series of shows themed around AI. It’s very hacker! People will get a floppy disc when they come in… it’s interactive art. Tongue and cheek, kind of funny.
We’ve been trying to level up the storyline, the last one was kind of about a mineral mine, we had a lot of projection on rocks and stuff, which was fun. This one is a lot bigger. It is the first one that we’re taking to different cities, starting in San Francisco. We have a team of 25/30 people including a team of writers, actors. There’s different stages you go through and even different rooms. Everything, including the story, is based on AI. Part of the reason we’re doing it is because we want people to be aware of what is going on with AI… it is insane! It’s accelerating at a really rapid pace.
In terms of what AI we’re using, we’re using Midjourney and ChatGBT for the art installation. What we do is supposed to be fun, but also interesting. Like AI. Which is so interesting. I could take your picture right now and AI would find things about you on the internet that you didn’t even know existed.
Urgh… no, thank you!
I know, right. There are things out there that people thought were just in science fiction films, but they’re happening all the time now. That goes for music too.
People who are tapped into it are trying to wake the rest of us up, right… How do you think AI will change the music sphere specifically?
I think it already is. Things are changing a lot, AI is the future! I think it’s going to do a lot more than people want it to, very soon.
A major issue in the industry already is saturation. As technology has made it easier and easier to make music, it has simultaneously made it harder for individual artists to stand out in their own way. AI created music is not going to help that. Even just putting out my album now vs in 2020, I’ve noticed a huge difference in saturation. Even with marketing and adverts.
We’re seeing AI commonly used with engineering now, but mixing and mastering were already using AI. A popular one is LANDR. For entry level usage and for people new to making music, it’s not a bad tool at all. Especially if you can’t afford a mastering engineer… and it’s just going to get better and better.
Thing is, we’ll always want to see performers, right? That human aspect is still so important to us.
A positive focal point for me is that when people consume art, they want some form of connection. A connection to a mood or an idea. AI can help you make those things, however, most people want to connect to a feeling or a person and currently, humans still have to work with AI to try and create that.
Right now, you can’t have a performance that has the same level of engagement without a person. However, there have been Japanese acts that have been made completely from AI, they’re totally fake and they have massive followings! It’s not quite the same as connecting with a person though, seeing them on the screen, talking to them. Although, there are synthesised versions of that too…
Oh gosh, it’s too much! So, back to the human-made music… Big Rave Energy is the 10th release on your CONDUIT imprint. Talk to me about the label. What’s the ethos?
CONDUIT is technically my third label. Before it, I ran BRØKEN Music Syndicate, releasing bits from artists like ZERO, Dakota Sixx, Nekst. We had a lot of support from My Nu Leng. The sound was a lot heavier.
CONDUIT started as the event brand and then I decided to make it a label because of all the multifaceted art stuff that we do. I also have another alias called You Us We Them that’s a bit more on the melodic side, so I thought, why not bring it all in house, under one big umbrella?
I really wanted to make CONDUIT bigger than myself. A lot of the stuff you do as an artist can get tiring and mentally draining as you’re always trying to get people to pay attention to the art you’re making. What I really loved about the events was that we really had a big collective of artists working on something. Something way bigger than anything I could achieve by myself. I wanted to credit those people, lift them up. We were also donating to charity. The event side of things had everything that was important to me, so I thought, why not do a similar thing with a label.
All of the releases so far have been my own releases but that’s because I’m trying to kick start the label. I might have one more from me, but then I’m working on a compilation where I’m bringing in loads of other artists.
Super wholesome, community vibes. Love that. What challenges have you found with running a label?
In terms of running a label, I have to say, it’s a lot. You have to work really hard on it. There are so many little things. For example, my album has two releases, a short version for Spotify then an extended version for Beatport. When I submit that to distribution, you have to submit it as two totally different releases. Input all the information separately, double check everything. It’s a lot of work.
Is it worth it?
Yes, definitely! It’s very rewarding. Plus, I do a lot of sync for adverts and I write scores for short films so now it’s nice to be able to not have to get permission from another label to use their tracks.
That’s a win right there. Talk to me about a significant turning point for you within your musical journey so far.
I came from a real musical family. I grew up playing the cello. So from the ages five to ten I really went down a classical route. Something that always frustrated me about the classical route was that it’s quite regimented. You have to do things in a certain way. Around age 10, my mother died and at that time, I started to shift away from the cello and improvise on piano. And so, that was the catalyst for my relationship with music changing at a young age. That was when I really started to write instead of performing. At that point, I started to pick up the guitar and use my voice too… Then I discovered rave culture! That was the arch where I went from classical into improvising and writing my own stuff. Then, when I got into electronic music, things really exploded.
Last but by no means least, any nuggets of wisdom you can pass on to those reading that might want to get into the music industry?
Of course! Because I teach, I have a lot of mantras. First of all, don’t even try and get into the music industry unless you love the music. Over the course of your career, you’ll go through many hardships, which is the nice way of saying it. Many traumas is probably the more accurate way of saying it, but if you love what you’re doing, then nothing else matters. If you love the culture, you love the community and you love what you’re making then it doesn’t matter if you have two likes or 2000 likes. What is important is that you enjoy creating and you enjoy engaging with the community. It’s as simple as that.