Underground electronic artist Woodrowgerber joins us for coffee provided by Culver City, CA’s Super Domestic Coffee to discuss his latest single “On The Moon,” his transition from the pop-punk realm to the electronic world, and his goal to continuously incorporate live instrumentation in his work.
So to start us off, you’ve got a new single called “On The Moon.”
What inspired its lyrics and instrumental elements that you chose to incorporate? I got a Daft Punk meets Santana vibes.
Woodrowgerber: So lyrically, for whatever reason when I was writing it, I was thinking a lot about how I feel a lot like Salvador Dali the artist, but in the musical sense. Sometimes when I see his work it reminds me of my music. I always kind of felt like a comparison there.
Mind melting? *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: *laughs* Basically yeah and “On The Moon” is kind of part of that as far as the melancholy part. I can’t remember why that was the lyric, but has a lot to do with the balancing of emotions of being up and down melancholy, which is kind of very Salvador Dali-ish.
Wooddrowgerber: Yeah! So I turned it into a lyric. And then with the guitar stuff, it started out as a session with a hired guitarist. Whenever I make music now I like to kind of highlight the guitar instead of using it as just the background instrument whereas it used to be just the background instrument, you know? I kind of like to let it do some cool stuff and that’s probably where the Santana-ish stuff pops in.
Yeah, and it’s different and refreshing than what you normally hear in that style of music.
Woodrowgerber: Yeah it’s a tricky balance because the guitar is in a really weird spot right now where some people love it still and are discovering it, but then other people like hate it because they’re like, ‘Oh it’s just so overdone.’ I’m over here like, ‘Whatever I like to use it whenever I can.’
Oh course! It’s, like, what starts the song!
Woodrowgerber: I know right! It’s been the tricky part because I did a lot of the Warped Tour, rock n’ roll kind of stuff, but then when I transitioned into electronic music there’s almost a disdain for the electric guitar. Actually, there’s a bit of a disdain for any live instrumentation. There’s these two teams where it’s Team Live where they’re like ‘I don’t use computers’ and then there’s all these guys who are like, ‘I don’t use stupid instruments, I use computers’ and they hate each other. So there’s this period where I was kind of bouncing back and forth between the two groups.
Why can’t we all just be friends?
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! Why would we get all snobby about music? Just make it!
And that’s so interesting to hear about the background of it because I always imagine the electronic world being that way, but having someone actually say ‘Yes, it’s that way’ is crazy.
Woodrowgerber: I will say that the new group is not like that because a lot of the guys I work with now are just like, ‘Yeah, whatever is cool, let’s do it.’ But yeah, for awhile there the rock n’ roll world was like, ‘That’s not real music’ and then you have the electronic people saying, ‘That’s old people music.’ And then I’m just like, ‘Yeah, you guys can all just keep fighting, I’m going to make my music over here. *both laugh* That’s kind of where the sound was born where it’s kind of like whatever goes goes, you know.
Yeah. Now everybody just blends all their elements together.
Woodrowgerber: Yeah, like turning into a fusion of, I don’t even know. I guess the genre stuff gets frustrating because people are always like, ‘What genre are you?’ and I’m like, ‘It changes per song.’ Technically I fall under synth-wave or synth-pop, but if I have a song or style with a little more guitar than they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s electronic rock.’ You can’t win. So I stick with this identification of underground electronic music. *laughs*
And how would you say the songwriting and recording process for “On The Moon” was different than that of your previously released tracks?
Woodrowgerber: I mean, it’s always kind of different. I don’t really have a consistent method of doing it. I just kind of sit down and think with that one guitar lick that kind of sets the tone for the song. It’s always different. Sometimes it starts with the beat, sometimes with a guitar, or I’ll just have the lyric in my head. But lately, it’s been the lyrics as the focal point after I’ve gotten a majority of the song down. I think in this one, lyrics was one of the last elements that I put on it.
Would you say that it’s easier to pin down the interpretation first through the lyrics or vice versa?
Woodrowgerber: For me to go back and forth, but it depends if I have a lyric that I’m like, ‘This is total fire!’ I will force a song around that lyric if it is. Or a lot of times what happens is I have a lot of melodies float around my head and I have to get the melody down. The melody has you waking up in the middle of the night to get it down and then figure the rest later. So it’s just chaos. It’s chaos! *laughs*
I mean, that’s what music is right! It’s sound chaos! *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! It’s like three minutes of just nice, sound chaos.
And sometimes it makes you cry. Sometimes it makes you dance.
Woodrowgerber: Sometimes it makes you wanna fight. *both laugh* That’s that screaming metal-core stuff though.
They do tend to play their music aggressively. *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: They do. When I got on the Warped Tour, some of scream-o bands come out and the mosh pit guys will just start fighting each other. *laughs* It’s like all dance fighting.
They were very lax at this year’s Warped Tour.
Woodrowgerber: Aww man, you went!?
I did. It was very sad. I was like, ‘I don’t care if I’m injured, I am not missing the last Warped Tour ever!’
Woodrowgerber: I can count on one hand how many people have actually been nice to me in this industry that have positions of power, and Kevin Lyman is one of them. That guy had no reason to be kind to my band when we were playing Warped Tour, but he saved us and saved our tour. He did not have to do that whatsoever. That guy is the real deal.
He is a very nice man. I got to meet him at Sunset Sessions in San Diego a long time ago.
Woodrowgerber: Yes! So amazing! But yeah, we were technically kicked off of the Warped Tour on the East Coast due to miscommunication between two different groups of people. It was a mess. One of his assistants was like ‘You guys are out of here.’ and we were like, ‘Hold on a second, our whole tour is based around this!’ We ended up sneaking into another Warped Tour, tracked Kevin Lyman down, told him what was going on, and he’s like, ‘Ok.’ He called the lady over, and we were like, ‘Oh man, this is gonna be bad.’ He says ‘Did you say this and this?’ and she’s like ‘Yeah because of this and this.’ They were like ‘Let’s just forget it and get this thing figured out.’ We never had anybody do that for us before.
Well I’m glad that it worked out!
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! And that was the last time I ever talked to him. *laughs* Nice guy! Good guy!
And what was your band’s name?
Woodrowgerber: The band’s name was The Suicide Denial. It’s fun hard rock. We did two albums and then everyone stopped buying music, well, most people just stopped buying rock n’ roll. Then we got screwed over by a promoter for a huge tour, and then we kind of went on hiatus from there because we were just so burnt out on the business aspect of it. That’s why I started doing more Woodrowgerber stuff just to kind of get out some of my ideas, and it took off right away. So I was like I should probably see where this goes.
Yeah. Have you guys ever wanted to reconnect or do like a reunion of some sorts?
Woodrowgerber: We’ve talked about it. The problem now is we have so much stuff going on that’s actually paying the bills, and with rock n’ roll being so shaky right now it would have to be something that we felt strongly about doing. With doing all these things that have the wheels rolling, do we stop all that to take a gamble on the third album or not? I don’t know.
We’ll see what the future holds I guess.
Woodrowgerber: Yeah, you really never know what the future holds. I really like rock n’ roll, but it is exhausting screaming into microphones and throwing guitars. *laughs*
I always thought that that was the best part! *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: I mean, all around it’s fun, but hard. The Warped Tour was the hardest thing I’ve ever done hands down because you’re doing that in 120 degree weather in like Phoenix, Arizona with kids vomiting everywhere. *laughs* It’s like a war zone. Just blood, sweat, and people laying on the ground totally unconscious, not even joking.
I believe it!
Woodrowgerber: I just remember Black Veil Brides eating hot dogs in their full costumes sitting at the hot dog stand in front with all the other guys eating hot dogs. It was definitely a sight to see. *laughs* Good memories. Good times.
Then they got rid of the costumes. *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: Yeah, probably because everybody kept comparing them to KISS and they were just like, ‘Enough already!’ *both laugh* I just saw a video of one of them attacking one the fans in the crowd, like, just straight up jumped off the stage and tried to fight him in the middle of the set. That’s rock n’ roll right there. *laughs* It’s real life. He also was the one who released it so it was ok.
*laughs* So getting back to the song, you also released a cool lyric video to go along with the song in the style of a retro car arcade game. What interested you in going in that artistic direction for the lyric video?
Woodrowgerber: So I haven’t seen one in real life yet, but I am a huge fan of the DeLorean.
I think everybody is a fan of the DeLorean. *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: Right! Like, why is that not back? Why can’t Tesla have like a DeLorean launch? *laughs*
They do have a style with the doors that are like the DeLorean, but it’s just not the same.
Woodrowgerber: Right? Let’s just got full blown DeLorean! I swear it would work!
I’d buy that shit!
Woodrowgerber: Right! Me too! *laughs* Like I looked into renting one of the for like a week for 80 bucks a day. But anyways, it just so it felt fitting for the video. I don’t know why. I like that retro synth-y old school vibe to it. But yeah, it just kind of came together. I really don’t have anything super deep or interesting to say about the lyric video other than I love the DeLorean. *laughs*
You were just like, ‘This needs to be in here!’
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! Actually, for shooting the music video for “On The Moon” I did look into renting a DeLorean, but when I talked to some of the team they were like, ‘It’s a little much.’ *laughs* It would hijack the video a little bit, so I understood what they were saying.
I mean, it’s pretty iconic. *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: It is iconic! It’s like dropping the Batmobile around in a music video. *laughs* You have to acknowledge it’s greatness and what you’re doing with it.
If you could choose three artists to go on your own personal world tour with who would they be and what would your tour be named?
Woodrowgerber: The name of the tour part is really hard, but I think I would want to go with Gorillaz, Daft Punk, and Skrillex. And I would call it ‘The Dirty Circuit Tour’ Or ‘The Digital Didgeridoos Tour’
That almost sounds like a band name!
Woodrowgerber: It does doesn’t it? *laughs* Yeah, I don’t know what the name of that tour would be.
The ‘I Don’t Know What The Tour Name Is’ Tour! *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: Or ‘The Guys Who Like To Play Instruments That Are In Electronic Music Tour.’
Perfect! *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: *laughs* Yes! That’ll totally sell! That’ll look good on a poster. *laughs* The whole thing is just acronyms.
We all love acronyms! *both laugh* Speaking of touring, and you’ve already kind of touched base on the Warped Tour aspect, but you’ve gotten to go to a bunch of places through touring.
What are some differences that you’ve seen in regards to artists being supported by the audience just between the U.S. and internationally?
Woodrowgerber: That one’s pretty easy to break down. Europe loves music first and foremost, so if it’s good music they’re on board and they like it. Obviously there’s exceptions like if you get into a real saturated area like London, you might have some pretentiousness, but not as a whole. Here’s the formula in America: It’s hype first, then the music. Everywhere else for the most part is music first then the hype. Actually, what’s funny is in most parts of Europe, once the hype kicks in that’s when they tend to stop liking the group or the artists because they’re like, ‘Well, now they’re big.’
The original hipsters! *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: Exactly! So basically in the United States, if you go to places like Middle America and stuff like that people really get on board. In L.A., you’re basically wrapped up in the group of other musicians you know. In Brazil, people are super down with the music! You don’t have to have the flashiness that America has. In America, if you go a festival and it’s like, even the audience needs to have crazy and flashy costumes. That’s just the American way. Whereas you go to festivals in other places, it’s just people with a four year old kid with them. The music is more deeply understood and deeply appreciated. But yeah, America and I have a love/hate relationship. Performing in America, you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s phenomenal, sometimes it’s just people that are ‘Hmm.’
I mean, I definitely see where you’re coming from just from going to shows in L.A.
Woodrowgerber: Yeah. It’s like, in America, music as I understand it is a part of the American culture it’s a part of how we market everything. Everything is marketed in the media says about it. But over in other parts of the world, it doesn’t seem like you have to worry about it as much.
Yeah. And do you think that the ‘hype factor’ is caused by the over-saturation through social media and how it’s like the main form of marketing now?
Woodrowgerber: I mean, I think some of it is. I’ve thought about this topic for years, and the bottom line is that America has mastered the art of advertising. Like, we could sell rocks to people, literally, if the marketing campaign is good enough.
We did that one time.
Woodrowgerber: Oh God, we did! *both laugh* But it becomes almost like a cultural thing in America where this marketing machine comes in to make sure what you’re trying to sell marketable. In America, you’ve got us closing down all these music programs like, ‘Eh, we don’t need it.’ But then you go to other countries and they’re like, ‘You guys are crazy, we need more of it.’ I’m not saying who has the right or wrong answer, but I think it does affect how people interact with music. But social media plays a huge part in it whether we like to admit it or not. Obviously it’s been great because it gives a voice to smaller artists who wouldn’t have normally had that, but the problem is now the internet is full of smaller artists all screaming for attention. But at least now you don’t have to have a middleman if you just want your music to connect with your fans. If there’s one good thing about the internet maybe that’s it because now fans and artists can connect directly without some cigar smoking guy in an office saying how to do it.
Yeah. I mean, I’m sure that’s how it was way back when.
Woodrowgerber: Oh yeah. Luckily I got into it right on the tail end of some of that stuff. Like, I’d be in bands where they’d be on the phone with the label and the label would be like, ‘You need to do it like this. Here’s what we’re going to do next.’ Then the band would be like super pissed about it, but they have no choice because they’re on a contract. I got into some really bad contracts. I had a really good lawyer that kept me safe from that stuff, may he rest in peace, but I have friends that are still wrapped up in that unfortunately. I’m glad that’s stopped a bit, but there are still some messed up stuff going on. Like, with the Music Modification Act that they’re working on I think will help a lot. It’s a can of worms. That’s what that is.
All we can really do is sit and wait and hope everything gets better.
Woodrowgerber: We’ve got to just keep creating. They can all argue about it, I’m going to continue to do what I’m good at and what I know how to do. Fingers crossed.
And it’s interesting that you brought up America getting rid of the music programs even though we subconsciously always want music involved in everything.
Woodrowgerber: It’s very frustrating to me. And like, I can’t hate on the fans for doing it because I understand the complexities of it, but with Spotify and YouTube and iTunes, these companies are all basically stealing from artists, and these companies are worth billions of dollars because they’re selling a product that they got for essentially free. So if it were a chain store, they’re taking the clothes from the designers, selling it, and being like, ‘I’ll give you a half a penny for that shirt that I just sold for you.’ And then the designer is like, ‘I can’t keep making shirts like that!’ We all know that this is where it is, and I’m hoping that it will all change soon. I mean, they are working on it. I think it took Taylor Swift to finally say something. *laughs*
Out of all the people. *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: Yeah, it took Taylor Swift to be like, ‘Uh, I don’t like this.’ and all these agencies and governments were like, ‘Oh no! What’s going on TayTay?’ *both laugh*
Which three artists would you want to collaborate with and why? I’m going to guess Taylor Swift, I can just feel your love for her right now. *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: Look I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I would totally collaborate with Taylor Swift. *laughs* Years ago I would be all snobby about it and be like, ‘I don’t wanna work with any bubblegum pop artists.’ Now, I’d love to see what I could create with them even if I end up bashing my head against the console halfway through. *laughs* I would also like to do something with Pharrell. He’s just so great! I really want to something with Daft Punk just because I just want to steal their ideas and see how they do everything!
And to see what under the helmets of course! *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: *laughs* I just want to learn how they do their tricks so I can make some super cool stuff on my own, but doing an album with them would be so awesome! And I’ve always thought Jack White as someone that would be amazing to work with. That’s a fourth artist, but he just has thing old school way of doing things that I feel like if I could get into the room with him we could make something that was completely new.
He definitely has the magic touch when it comes to his music.
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! I think the most interesting one to work with would be with Jack White because I think it would be like a total mess, but what would come out of it would be really cool. *laughs*
Woodrowgerber: Sound chaos exactly! *laughs* And I feel like Pharrell would be the easiest one to work with. But still super cool.
Absolutely! All of them would be really cool. If you were only able to do one music related career for the rest of your life, would you choose producing, performing, or songwriting?
Woodrowgerber: I think performing at children’s birthday parties for the rest of my life would be the ideal.
Isn’t that every artist’s dream? *both laugh*
Woodrowgerber: I want to get to the very top of my career and then go down to the children’s birthday parties. *laughs* But yeah, it would definitely be performing. I think would definitely have to be performing because it’s the one that always that always keeps life crazy and interesting, and I’ve done a lot of it. Yeah you can produce hundreds of tracks in a month or whatever working all kinds of projects, but performing is where we also get to interact with people more. So definitely performing, that’s my vote.
What do you hope that your audience takes away from your music?
Woodrowgerber: I’m a big fan of escapism, so I want whoever is listening to my music to be able to just shut their brain off. I want them to feel like for however long that song is or the concert is or whatever that nothing else exists outside of that moment. It’s impossible to get out of your own head now. Even if you’re sitting in your living room, there’s so much stuff always fighting for your attention.
There’s just so much stuff going on, you can’t just sit there and not think about anything.
Woodrowgerber: Exactly. That’s what I want, for people to just jump into a track and really feel their emotions.
What one word describes you as an artist?
Woodrowgerber: That’s a really hard question! *laughs* I’ve heard other people say ‘prolific’ and all that, but I feel like for me it would be ‘loner.’ I’ve never actually admitted that out loud before.
It’s an exclusive!
Woodrowgerber: Yeah! I mean, at the end of the day I have to just do my own thing. And that’s caused some problems in the past, but I think, or hope, it was worth it. Plus, a lot of times when it’s, like, the real life guys versus the electronic guys, I just struggle to jump on board with some of the things they’re arguing about. So yeah, I’d say ‘loner’ is the best word, maybe ‘musical loner.’ Kinda like Beck. *both laugh* I feel like Beck would be another one of those musical loner guys.
I can see that.
Woodrowgerber: Like, he can collaborate with people and all that, but at the end of the day when Beck sits down to do his thing it sounds like Beck, you know? And I’ve done some pop production stuff and many levels of it, but when it comes down to how formulated I can get, I’m just not very good at it. I would like to be because it would be easier in ways, but sitting down and trying to make a pop track makes me realize that I need to let the people that are good at it take over. *laughs*
And apart from the release of “On The Moon,” what other big plans should we be looking forward to from you in the near future?
Woodrowgerber: I have a non-Woodrowgerber, a Chad Gerber, feature out on Warner [Brothers Records] with Darick Gyorgy, and I’m also doing a lot of work with this collective of artists that are based in Brazil and Amsterdam. I’m hoping that I’ll get back in the studio again either in Brazil or Amsterdam to work on some new Malifoo stuff, which he just finished doing like Ultrafest and all the big electronic stuff. I’m going to kind of plan to launch Woodrowgerber that’s more pop with me doing vocals and writing. Yeah just tons of music, but I’m so ready for Halloween and then the holidays. I want to have some days where I just do nothing. *laughs*
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