“I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes and electronic setups singing or speaking and using machines.”
— The Doors’ Jim Morrison, 1969, about the future of music.
Electronic music and the use of electronics in music has grown from unheard-of to practically indispensable over the 50 years since the first musician picked up a keyboard and started experimenting.
From the 1970s, with prog-rock trendsetters Pink Floyd and Rush, to the ’80s’ synth-pop superstars Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, all the way to today, where top pop hits can’t succeed without a producer familiar with what makes electronic music, well, pop, electronic music is here to stay in a multitude of forms — for better or worse.
Local musician Josh Slavin knows electronic music. His encyclopedic knowledge of the genre ranges from dubstep to electro-house and far beyond, and in his band, Love’s Secret Domain, he uses it to express himself.
Slavin has spent the last few months in Long Beach, studying under his mentor Alex Hope, where he’s learned the intricacies of Logic, a tool popular with producers.
“Lady Gaga was one of the first people to have RedOne at her back, which was a huge thing,” said Slavin. RedOne, also known as Nadir, is a Moroccan electronic pioneer who has worked with artists that include Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.
Accessibility to tools and ease of use with instruments has shaken up the American scene, creating a demand for the unique sound popular in Europe, says Slavin.
“We’ve seen the Beatles already,” said Slavin. On being original, Slavin says that it’s easier now more than ever.
“People used to have rooms full of synthesizers and shit. I hardly own any hardware synthesizers; it’s all predominantly software.”
Edgar “Esgar” Vergara is a local electronic artist, but the stamps on his passport might say otherwise. Recently, Vergara traveled to Antwerp, Belgium, to DJ, and has plans in the near future to perform in Mexico City and elsewhere in South America.
The reason mainstream musicians have poached electronic producers for their own productions is an easy answer for Vergara.
“A lot of electronic artists are the pioneers of certain sounds because they experiment,” said Vergara. “As far as the pop artists, it’s more like ghost writing, the music is being presented to them.”
Electronic artists such as Lorde, Chvrches and Passion Pit have all benefited from the paths paved by New Order, Depeche Mode and other acts that mix an electro-sound with rock philosophy.
Cesar Augusto doesn’t buy into the trends, however. As half of the electronic duo Gypsy Death Star with Wyatt Hull and the sole musician behind Earth Delivery, Augusto takes inspiration from unique sounds that he says are easier to find today than at any time in the past.
“That’s part of the pro and the con of electronic music: it can come from anywhere,” said Augusto. “It’s easier to capture your ideas, but that means you’re going to have a lot more shit to sift through.”
As for Ventura, Augusto believes that it would take just one breakout artist to put the city on the map; but Chauncey Pearls would like to establish a scene first.
Pearls and his partner Christian Latour are putting on a revival of what they say are the roots of electronic music — disco — at a monthly event called Future Disco: The Z5th Hour.
Disco was popular with African Americans and homosexuals, notably those in Chicago, says Pearls, and comes with a sordid history that at one time included a “Disco Demolition Night” at the White Sox stadium that involved the detonation of disco albums with a hint of homophobia and racism.
Keeping those roots in mind helps to keep the duo focused while establishing a scene in Ventura that Pearls knows exists but hasn’t been realized yet.
“People in the area aren’t really venturing out to see other things,” said Pearls. “They’re not really digging past the surface. It’s shameful because the area has so much potential.”
Potential that Pearls says his events and his music are trying to capture.
If Jim Morrison were here today, he’d sit smugly in his rocking chair having predicted the future. One simply cannot dislike electronic music in these modern times as it is everywhere; and electronic musicians can put out a hit single from their bedrooms. If you know where to look, you can find the unique, the retro and the experimental right here in Ventura, too.