Freddy Todd – Interview, & Exclusive Mix

It is a special week to be lost in the sounds offered in select New England venues. A taste of the future you might say, and a little taste of psychedelic bass from The Bay to show us how those West Coast vibes are feeling these days. Carbon Vapor Productions is hosting a Northeast tour featuring Freddy Todd headlining, with support from West Coast composer/producers Dubvirus and Soulular. Freddy Todd, originally a Michigan native raised 20 minutes outside of Detroit, is a freak phenomenon of the future bass and glitch/psychedelic bass world. At 23 years old, Freddy Todd has about 17-18 albums under his belt (with a brand new one on the way), collaborations with some of the world’s finest bass explorers and an ever growing tour schedule.

Sometimes it is best to let the music speak for itself, even though there’s a lot to be said if you wanted to talk turkey about this kids beats. Songs like “Wave Therapy” are exactly that, therapeutic fractal bass tsunamis. His remixes are absolutely mind melding on point redefinitions of the original composition like the jam “Holla At” (which has some delicious TLC samples),and  a remix of T.I.’s “Top Back”…a supreme glitch thug banger. Freddy Todd’s cosmic space glitch-soul groove side is expressed in tracks like “Delic Licious” and “Laydout”. This man is set to impress if you dig that low end, and if you only mess with the best. Find more info, tour dates, and almost all of his music for free (everything he’s released himself at least), on his website. Check out Freddy Todd’s SoundCloud and Facebook pages to stay in the loop as well.

[LiS] Are you excited about a Northeast tour given that you hail from Detroit? Is Michigan where you grew up?

[Freddy Todd] Yup! Good to be back on the other side of the country after being on the west coast for almost a year. I grew up 20 minutes north of Detroit in Southfield and lived in the city of Detroit for a year or two. I’ll actually be stopping in the Detroit area after this northeast tour to join my buddies RV at Wakarusa, where I’ll be performing for my first time. After Waka I play a few Oregon shows before coming back to Detroit to play my first show there since NYE, so it definitely will be nice to see my parents, family, friends, and old animals Buddy & Ozzie a good amount this month.

Have you done a full Northeast tour before? You had a debut show in NYC in 2011, and I was surprised it wasn’t sooner when I started listening to the music.

I dont think I’ve actually done a “real” NE “tour” but what IS “real”? Haha, I guess this is the first dubbed “Northeast Tour” I’ve done, but as far as the east coast I’ve definitely played a bunch of one-off shows in NYC, Maine, Baltimore, etc… as well as a handful of southeastern shows.

You’re touring with DubVirus and Soulular, who both hail from California – have you worked with either of them previously production wise or performing together? How’s it been getting to know them before/ during this tour?

I don’t think I have and to be honest I don’t really know the dudes as I tend to hermit-out in my home studio when I am home and hang with super close homies, but I’m excited to get to know the guys and check out their performances. I think I may have met Dubvirus briefly at a show at 1015 in San Francisco though, not sure.

Do you plan to do another run out here before the end of the year? What’s next on the agenda after this tour?

Hmm, well my official schedule of locked down shows as of right now goes as follows:

6/5 – 6/8 Ozark, AR – Wakarusa Festival
6/13 Bend, OR w/ Mr. Bill
6/14 Portland, OR – Refuge w/ Mr. Bill
6/18 Detroit, MI – Elektricity
6/21 Clinton, MT – Bearmouth Festival
6/26 Birmingham, AL – TBA
6/27 Knoxville, TN – TBA
6/28 Atlanta, GA – TBA
7/4- – 7/6 Rumsey, CA – Lunarburn Festival @ Wilderness Retreat
7/23 Denver, CO – Colfax
9/20 Norridgewock, ME – Great North Festival

As for the next actual northeast run, there is talk of a possible GRiZ bus tour support in the fall, and as for where that bus goes, if it happens, we shall find out… I imagine we’d be hitting a few cities in the northeast.

What venue or event has had your favorite sound system, and which one has the nicest overall environment that you’ve played for so far?

I mean anywhere with a crackin and tuned sound system. If a venue has any of the big name crackin sound systems, then it’s on (funktion 1, void, PK, EAW, bass couch.. literally fractal subs, etc.). As long as there is a bomb sound system and a packed room (or a room with the right ratio of people for it to be a “party”), I’d enjoy anywhere which brings us to who usually vibes out the most, and that really depends. So basically any event that has the right amount of people and quality of sound, I enjoy the most, and there have been a lot of those lately. I gotta say the west coast knows what’s up when it comes to bomb sound, but I think everyone is catching on as well. I’d hope to see quality of speakers become more of a thing around the country, although it definitely is already!

You’ve recently made a move from Detroit to the Bay Area in California. Can elaborate on what forces brought this about? It seems like an appropriate re-location culturally and vocationally for you.

Exactly. It was either here or Colorado. There’s just a huge music scene out here in the bay (and makes LA and everywhere else in Cali that much more accessible) and equally so in Denver. But really what made the choice was the weather – it’s beautiful here 24/7. I live in Oakland, so it’s super sunny over here even in the winter as opposed to San Fran which can get quite foggy and chilly sometimes. Basically this was a perfect spot for my girlfriend and I both to unfold (she does graphic design and yoga). She got a job pretty much immediately after we decided, and I had already had a pretty solid crew of friends out here from traveling so much to play shows, so between the weather and the amount of like-minded individuals as well as producer homies to collaborate with, it seemed like the perfect choice.. although who knows where I’ll be in the next few years.. the mountains of Asheville have always been calling.. but I do love Detroit.. and Colorado is still extremely rad.

Can we expect to see some west coast collabs in the near future after you’re home? Has anything new or special already begun since the move besides the most recent album?

Ta ha. Me and Russ Liquid. Super excited for this one. We holed-up in his Berkeley warehouse studio, got pretty wild, and made one of the craziest collaborations I’ve been a part of. That particular track will be officially appearing on Russ’s forthcoming album, dropping sometime I believe in late june on Gramatik’s Lowtemp label. Beyond that, Russ recorded live horns and is featured on one of my new songs off my new forthcoming album Golden Tremendous.

Before I moved out here, I did a collab with Thriftworks in Berkeley as well. I’m also working with NOTE, a rapper and singer from San Diego, on a collaborative hiphop fusion EP that I’m really excited about. Other than that I’m constantly working with people in Oakland too like Drewmin, one of the tightest underground MPC-based beat music artists out here in the bay and also a wizard at mastering with analog gear mixed with the digital world, so I was able to get my album mastered and be there first hand to smooth out any problems and really just be there for the whole process, which is such an awesome thing because most people send out their music to get mastered by a 3rd party dude who you never see and barely really talk to and usually there is a huge disconnect there. People take mastering too lightly. It’s like you spent all this time, why not cross the finish line properly? Anyway, stay tuned for my new album mastered exclusively in the bay.10369709_10152096422062045_2904384847166804597_n

For those in the process of discovering who you are, can you explain why you took the direction of composing and producing your own original music. What were some of the major factors that influenced this, and how big was music for you before that point?

I’ve always been in live bands, but it wasn’t until I was 14 that a friend showed me FL Studio, and I thought it was so freakin cool. Started making dinky beats, was in a bunch of bands that always ended up panning out with dudes going to college, doing other things, creative differences, etc., and it really just made me enjoy having the entire executive decision to do the weirdest shit I could ever imagine and still fly to a show with just myself, a backpack and a bag without spending money on an entire band and back line equipment. Although I obviously 100% appreciate live music and playing with people, I absolutely love jamming and the second I can find the right people in the right area to start a new band, I will. However, I do have Wes drum live with me at select shows and will at Wakarusa, which is right around the corner. Before I started writing in FL though when I was 14 (I actually used cubase for a year or two before that), music was still huge. I was always playing live drums in the basement since I was old enough to walk and also played percussion in band class and marching band for years. I two years of piano lessons and learned guitar and stringed instruments as I got into my teens. I have a lot to thank my parents for – my moms father played sax in swing bands, and my father plays every single instrument and was a huge influence on my musical life. Very musical household growing up, my parents were always jamming to some kind of music.

You’re just 24, correct? You’ve had quite the journey so far in terms of sonic craftsmanship. How many albums have you released officially, whether independently or through a label?

I’m actually 23! And haha wow, I just counted, looks like 16 or 17.. wtf.

Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were a big influence for you, but you’ve made quite a jump from electronica or drum & bass. Where did your style start, and how did you get into what seems like a realm of your own or what fans are calling ‘future bass’ and ‘glitch-hop’ these days?

When I started I was 14. I obviously hadn’t developed a distinct “style” of my own yet and just kept making dinky beats getting better at the program. It wasn’t until I really started listening to dope underground hip-hop like j-dilla (this was after REALLY delving into electronica, like you mentioned Squarepusher and Aphex Twin) and at the same time watching the early days of glitch hop form in Colorado and the popularity and rise of bass music in general.. to be honest it was a culmination of all of that leading into my first “huge” festival that I went to (Rothbury ’09 in Michigan) which really made an impact on me. In fact I wrote my first EP Ghost Dance Messiah the week after that inspirational time at Rothbury at my parents while they were still on vacation for a week.

When did you take on the name/persona Freddy Todd?

My real name is Fred Todd IV, and my parents and people always called me Freddy as a nickname (Fred was used for my dad), but that’s a good question because I used a pretty funny name, “Synthetic Army” when I was 14 to years later when I decided to go by Freddy Todd and drop my first EP. But yeah that name was too violent and nonhuman or something… I ain’t about that.

How did it influence you, and what was it like growing and developing as an electronic composer in Detroit and as someone who’s always been exploring more futuristic and progressive styles?

Well the techno scene is insane in Detroit. DEMF Detroit Electronic Music Festival a.k.a. Movement has always had a special place in my heart, and I had been going there forever. Although I love techno, it isn’t exactly my cup of tea, so resonating with the Detroit pavement thinking about j-dilla, knowing that just years ago these cats were doing some reaaally ground breaking shit just miles from where I lived in the D (6 mile and Lahser) for a year after leaving Southfield.

What kind of music are you big on listening to in your personal time or what kind of music gives you the most ideas?

Man I love beat music, old hip-hop, afro-beat, jazz, funk (been listening to a TON of Cameo lately), soul, you know, anything that sounds CLEAN.


Name your top five or top ten favorite current or up and coming composers/producers of the future bass/glitch or “gloss” variety that you enjoy, are inspired by, or that stand out the most to you.

Loving that dude Haywyre right now. Koan Sound was the first show I’ve danced to in a while. Todd Terje’s new album is insanely amazing. Opiuo is the man. Shouts to Griz, homie for life. Russ Liquids new album is about to be amazing. Pomrad is awesome. The homie Thriftworks. Here’s to everyone out there doing themselves and not worrying about the industry. Love that.

Is there anyone in particular you’ve always wanted or would dream to write music with if you could that you haven’t yet?

Haywyre for sure, and I don’t think that’d be too hard…we’ve done some talking about it. I really love his music though – his new album is mind blowing. Very musical and jazzy bass funk, a great pianist and composer. Todd Terje would also be someone really interesting and awesome to work with.

So for our more technically bound crowd we have some questions. Do you have a personal template for FL studio? If so what does it look like or do you use the default with no limiter?

I do not. I start from scratch, blank canvas every time, and I would recommend any producer starting out to not use the limiter on your master. Get your shit sounding beautiful and lush at lower levels naturally, and then take it to a professional mastering engineer.

What’s your general method of starting a track? What’s the starting point usually for getting the drums and your bass/melody going?

I never know. I couldn’t really tell you how anything got started. It’s usually different every time. Whatever inspiration I’m feeling.. jamming on a synth or anything. Lately I’ve been on my drum game, really isolating real drum sample single hits and getting those eq’d perfectly separately. So the past song or two in the last month I’v  been focusing on starting with drums and getting a solid groove, but really there’s no one right way

What’s your favorite or most comfortable arsenal of plugins you go to that are native to FL Studio, and do you use any third party vsts regularly?

It’s not native to FL, like it doesn’t come with it free, but it’s made by the same guys image-line and it’s awesome. Harmor, a badass resampling synth.

Apparently you use gross beat often – any particular strategy you use with it, any favorite combos between the options for fellow Image Line explorers? Do you tweak it while recording with a controller or setup automation clips on a particular clip and edit away?

I actually haven’t used it in years. I used to use it in the early days to kind of cheat glitching stuff, but now I do a lot of things by hand, editing audio, etc. I’ll use it for some functions though, it has a pretty handy volume gate. It was good for the early days, but it’s evolved to the point of doing mostly all hand slicing and chopping the audio (on bass lines for example), to glitch it exactly how I want. I feel like you can get a better signal, and there’s a different magic once you’re editing with just audio and slicing to make something stutter vs. doing it with midi. You get to these points in this where once you think you’ve hit this infinite level of creative of options, you break into this new level of infinity all over again.

What plugins do you use and what’s your approach to mixing in FL Studio/getting your tracks mixed down in general? Your recordings are known to be immaculately clear regardless of volume or the amount of action going on in that point of the song. Every crunchy lazer crunked bassline sounding distinguished and unhindered.

Thank you! I wish I could figure out what I’m doing enough to talk about it haha. A lot of it lately is resampling things so the crazy stuff these days comes out down the line of fractals, but some of the primary soft synths I’ve been using these days are u-he’s products as well as massive for some more simple stuff, and image-line’s harmor a lot lately for resampling (and it’s a badass synth too). A lot of the clarity comes from understanding gain-staging and mix downs. Just really takes years of practice and learning. I’ve been using saturation in place of compression sometimes lately. I’ve also been getting into analog gear. Drewmin let me borrow his Yamaha dx-21 fm synth, and Russ let me borrow his new Roland jx-8p while he was on tour in Europe with Gramatik. There’s a certain warmth that comes with the electricity and circuitry of analog gear that is just still so beautiful, especially when you meld the worlds with digital.

I guess one super important intro technique. The first breakthrough years ago for me in clarity in mixdown of low end is to make sure to have room between your kick and bass. If your kick and bass both have really low frequencies, you’re going to want to do something, such as side-chain compress the kick to the bass, so that basically when the kick hits, the volume (or sometimes I attach it to a low end eq parameter) of the bass goes down, makes room and clarity in your mix for everything to come through. Although, you want to be careful with this technique and not do it too much, but in reality do whatever the fuck sounds awesome to you! Most of all, do not get discouraged. Get inspired.

Is there any particular function of FL Studio that you haven’t figured out or you think is kinda wonky? Is there a realm of it you still have to get to on your learning curve to be happy, or are you starting to feel Jedi synergy with it? is it just a match meant to be as far as a work station goes for you personally? Have you ever considered a switch or done serious production in other workstations?

Hmm there are always new things to learn, and just when I think I have it all figured out, something from the way beginning pops up that I never knew, and I’m like daaaaaaaamn mind explosion. So I think I’ll always be learning and even with every technical trick down, creativity is infinite. I’ve never considered switching programs because to me it’s like writing music on sheet music but asking if I’d rather use papyrus or printer paper (although in that analogy, that would mean it would take a bit of time to learn how to write on the opposite paper, so kind of sucks as an analogy, but you get what I mean).

So you perform with Ableton Live 8, and your sets are mixed on the fly. What does your template look like under the hood – do you mix your sets with stems or just the tracks? If with stems is there a particular way you approach that?

I basically just DJ out my tunes with an A and a B column, but I have so many tracks in the same evolving set that there’s really a looot of stuff to pick from if you scroll down. But I typically like to play my newest, favorite stuff obviously, yet it always depends on the mood of the show. Every set is different and on the fly, no repeats ever, although before each show I will kinda work out and meditate on what tracks are my favorite. I have some acapellas and sound effects and things, as well as tons of knobs and faders with effects on them, a crossfader. The live aspect I’ve really been delving into involves live synthesizers and a live drummer all coordinated and jamming with my original tunes. The reason I don’t stem them out is because they are SO absolutely insane, it’d be very difficult to recreate live and kind of defeat the purpose of the millions of hours spent in the studio making sure everything is perfect. I do plan on upgrading my set this summer into a more live thing, so we’ll see where it takes us. Always learning, and as a drummer and live musician, I think jamming on keys and drums will naturally lead to an even more live set.

Did you build up your own template for performing overtime, and are there any particular challenges or really useful things you learned about performing your own productions live from Ableton with a soundcard as you grew into a touring performer?

Yup! As I said before, I have a tonnnnn of all my tunes, probably 100s all loaded up in Ableton ready to rock a set. One of the pluses of playing all original material live would be that if I have a track that is super new, I can usually tell if I need to fix any levels, if the monitors and overall system are decent enough at the show. And mainly just getting used to improv like stuff like me playing synth live with the tracks. I had a buddy give me some constructive feedback to hold back sometime when there’s a lot of action with the synths in the recording. Basically pick the right times to play, so I’m growing and adapting to know when to flex my skills.

What are some other big influences in your life besides music that inspire you to create?

I really like super weird comedy. Tim & Eric. The Room. I like nature and hiking when I can. Listening to old records with friends. Smoking weed. I absolutely love chilling. But honestly music consumes almost 100% of my life… got Skyrim recently, but only really play it on flights.

I’ve always sensed a kind of theme or message from your album and song titles – some are random and silly, but others like “Sick in the City Alive in the Woods” are very conceptual. Can you provide some insight into what inspires these names? Is there an underlying vision you try to convey or help people experience through your music?

I think waaaaaay too much. I really enjoy it. “Sick in the City Alive in the Woods” is basically just a call out on modern society and how we’re destroying the earth and ourselves. The literal meaning of it derived from when I had a cold and felt sick whilst in a city and then pretty much immediately after camping at a festival in a forest somewhere a day later I felt 100% better, which has happened multiple times camping. But yeah basically my vision is everything isn’t real, be you, express yourself and your art to your fullest potential, and along the way, whatever you do, don’t be a dick. In fact, everyone should try being nicer, a lot of people would be surprised at how far it takes them. “If everyone love each other, the world would be a better place to live in ;)” (secret trivia quote here Fred says sorry if ya don’t know)

A motivation behind the silly notions is don’t take yourself so seriously, like you don’t wanna take your self so serious that you break down from it. Another end to the silly stuff comes from that kind of humor I like. For example, the commercials in early morning and late at night are so fucking crazy they’re hilarious…then Tommy Wiseau, Tim & Eric comedy like that. There’s people out there that take themselves so seriously to the extent it’s corny and laughable, and we’ve come this weird point in culture and time where it’s like why the hell are we not laughing at ourselves? We need to, but you don’t want to give too much of not a shit that you end up homeless with no family though. It’s a balance.

Is music a spiritual experience for you? And if so do you think of music as a spiritual tool for yourself and others, or is music a consciousness of its own that uses you as a medium to express itself to us at a given time or timelessly?

Yes, absolutely I go into trances with music for sure. It’s crazy ya know, not really, but really.

Second part.. wow that’s deep. I haven’t ever thought of it that way in the latter half as in music being its own entity. It totally could go into some crazy wormhole ideas of aliens controlling music or something. I never thought of it being its own entity, but it is pretty much. You’re channeling some kind of something, and it’s that ethereal web that life is. People feel it, say when I go into a room and I’m totally sober, maybe have a beer while I’m on stage. But the room is racing with energy and all these kids are on god knows what. I’ll be on stage, and all of a sudden I’m fucked up from the energy osmosising going on in the room between everyone.

We’re a species that thrives on social and empathic interaction, so its definitely viewed as a form of healing and to bring people together?

Yeah as long as people are happy from it, just listening or going to show. I feel that way. I’ve heard of people meeting at random shows or random places in the country that both have on my Grassroots hat and they start talking and bonding over something positive they love like “Oh you like Freddy Todd too?” and the fact they are doing that, making crazy deep bonds over listening to my music, is beautiful and fucking awesome. Basically whenever your’e focusing on something negative or complaining to someone, they’ve shown scientifically that it makes your frontal lobe or something start going to mush. So you gotta think then that doing the opposite means you’re making connections and I mean I definitely feel a tingle in my brain from positivity. Basically good stuff is good, pretty basic rule.

Born in Indiana and now a native of San Francisco, Dubvirus is Sacha, who has been producing for over a decade and decided to fully chase his dreams of music in 2011. He’s been making waves in the Bay Area and beyond since. He recently released a full album that’s available on Beatport through Muti Records, Spiral Animals, and has a fresh list of remixes from recent months as well, including his remix of Perkulat0r‘s “Transcend”. It doesn’t take too much listening of his trancy psychedelic bass progressions before you realize how nice it’d be to chill with it on a real P.A. system to begin swaying and moving to the waves, or bouncing to the rhythmic grime of the darker and heavier tracks. Find out more about Dubvirus and enrich your ears with his music via his website and/or SoundCloud page.

Soulular hails from the land of L.A. and the west coast at large, rockin’ out intergalactic dub love on laid-back but groovily sampled songs like “Internal Galaxies” and robotic downtempo ambient excursions like “Existence”. Soulular has made his rounds in recent years and is firmly establishing himself as a skilled crafter of downtempo, ambient and soulful space dub and seems all too ready to bring you to the chill end of the glitch/bass persuasion. A forte for him indeed – he’s responsible for releases through Gravitas Recordings, Forward Thinking Sounds, Mycelium Music, Muti Music, and Street Ritual. He’s previously supported acts like Opiuo, Kaminanda, Love and Light, VibeSquaD, and besides rolling with Freddy and Dubvirus on this tour, he will be up at Shambhala and Luminosity Festival in British Columbia.. nothing too crazy, right? For more info on Soulular check out his website and SoundCloud page.

These artists are all still fresh, young bloods in terms of the developing bass culture here in North America. Each bring something special to the table, and I’d be hard pressed to explain how you could possibly walk away from one of these shows without the need of figuring out where you can see one of these fellas next. Don’t miss your opportunity to catch them TONIGHT at Wonder Bar in Boston for our weekly Lost in Boston event. Then they make their way to Worcester on the 28th for a stop at Electric Haze before cruisin’ to Providence to hold it down at The Spot Underground on Thursday the 29th. The final resting stop of the tour is Portland, Maine at The Big Easy on Friday the 30th for the cats up north. Might have something to do with Carbon Vapor Productions being behind this little thing growing up there called Great North Festival (Sept. 19-24th), which Freddy performed at last year and will return to this year with a host of other cosmic compatriots to enthrall and awaken your artistic intuitions and premonitions. That’s still a bit aways though, so if you’re itchin’ for some glitchin’, I’m sure we’ll see you out this week!

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