Grateful Web Interview with SCI/EOTO's Jason Hann
Between The String Cheese Incident’s impressive Hulaween performances at Suwannee Music Park, gearing up for what’s sure to be a spectacular three-night New Year’s run out in Colorado, not to mention EOTO’s seemingly non-stop touring schedule, it’s safe to say Jason Hann is quite a busy musician. The percussionist/producer recently spoke with The Grateful Web to discuss a number of different topics including his current musical influences, the Bill Nershi/EOTO collaboration, tour must-have’s, and how The String Cheese Incident came to be the staple of Electric Forest.
Grateful Web: What’s up guys, my name is Elliot with the Grateful Web and today I’m speaking with Jason Hann of EOTO and the String Cheese Incident. It’s always great to talk to you my man, how is the EOTO winter tour going so far?
Jason: So far, so good! We just finished up with the Midwest and now we have some California dates coming up here soon, so it’s good to be back near where I live.
Grateful Web: First things first, I wanted to get your opinion of the current state of the EDM scene and the direction it’s heading?
Jason: Yeah it’s interesting to watch because it’s on that threshold of not quite pop music, but I mean there’s no doubt that kids are going out to shows in pretty big numbers. There are so many people out there touring now, that some of the numbers are pretty divided as far as mid-tier acts. So, I guess it’s kind of the same thing you get with any form of popular music, you get a lot of music that sounds the same and as soon as somebody releases that hit song, you know, everyone wants to sound like that. So it’s getting to the point where there is a lot more awareness from people trying to hear new songs, and it’s just kind of at the point where the underground is moving above ground.
Grateful Web: Rolling Stone Italy recently released a video that ripped electronic dance music and essentially called it “soulless,” which caused a pretty huge uproar within the EDM community. As a band that prides themselves on 100% live improvisation and not using pre-recorded material, how do feel about Rolling Stone grouping you guys with other more “generic” sounding electronic artists?
Jason: Yeah, it’s kind of funny to hear that from Rolling Stone because they are a magazine that built themselves on what one author might be accusing a genre of music of doing. When rock n’ roll first came out everyone called it soulless, even Rolling Stone called it soulless you know? Not even soulless, it was the music of the devil! It was satanic! (Laughs) So all the things they are saying about the computer in music now, they said about the guitar back in the day when a kid could go buy one and practice in his garage. So it’s a funny article, and you know it’s probably just from whoever made the video, but if the whole magazine was pushing the line then they are outdated, because there are a lot more interesting things going on in the electronic world than in the pop world. In the rock world there are still a lot of cool things going on, but like I said earlier it’s all become so saturated that nobody is coming out with anything shocking. Everyone who wants to have an alternative take on something, still sounds like everything released in the past 15 years as far having that truly revolutionary sound, and in electronic music those breakthroughs seem to be happening about every 8 months whether you like it or not. So again, it’s too bad that’s the line they are going with but like I said before to with the music that is starting to become popular, and same can be said about rock n’ roll, is that there is just much out there, that chances are there’s more bad than good.
Grateful Web: Last time we spoke was back at Summer Camp Music Festival, and we discussed some of EOTO’s earliest influences including Dave Tipper and that old school Bassnectar sound. Fast forward to 2013-2014, who are some of the up-and-coming artist’s that influence you today?
Jason: Well when we were first starting EOTO I think we both had immediate common influences, like we would jam a little bit in a room and then immediately put on a Tipper track and both listen to that and ask ourselves, “How did he do that?” Then we would listen to other tracks like Sound Tribe doing their drum n’ bass thing, and be like, “Man, how does Zach sound so clean right there?” So most of the time we were listening together. I would say in the past two and a half years or so, that Travis listens to what he listens to and I listen to what I listen to, but honestly that’s really helped our sound too because we’ve both gotten more independent within our setups and each of our individual influences are able come together. So we tend to have a lot more of those moments, as opposed to both of us listening to a track and being like “Okay, you do that here and I’ll do this there.” As far as some of the new producers in electronic music I’ve been listening to this guy Joe Ford. Keep in mind this list changes every 5 months, because nowadays when somebody puts out a release it’s rare that they do anything else for the next year or so. So by the time a year has gone by, the style of music has changed and it causes for a lot of different variety. But anyways, this guy Joe Ford I’ve been listening to a bunch and his last EP was really solid. I also really enjoyed Reso’s latest release. I also really dig the whole Uprise Audio label with Seven and Youngsta and a bunch of different artists on that label. Let’s see, who else? I like Jesse Slater’s stuff, he’s with Diplo’s record label Mad Decent, as well as Birds of Paradise who just put out something recently that’s a little bit more mid-tempo and its got some deep bass sound. It’s not super party tone, but it’s more like soothing bass, more of something you can just hit cruise control with rather than bang your head to.
Grateful Web: If you could play at any music festival in the world, which would it be and why?
Jason: Oh man, that is so hard. Do they have anything on the moon yet? Any moon festivals going on? Yeah I would probably like to do something up in a space station somewhere, but you know there are so many festivals taking on their own personalities nowadays. I haven’t done many Euro festivals, so I imagine things like Tomorrowland have got to be pretty out of control amazing. I’ve done Glastonbury as well, but like I said festivals are starting to take on characters of their own and Electric Forest has been amazing to play at. We also just did Hulaween down at Suwannee, and one more that we didn’t play this year but the Shambala Music Festival up in Canada, we love to play that one because it has so much character to it. So it’s hard to pick a singular one, and I know there’s got to be plenty of festivals down in South America and Japan. I wonder what Fuju Rock is like nowadays, because that’s the festival that Electric Forest was modeled after, you know? We went to that around 2005, so I wonder how much it has stepped up its game in comparison to something like Electric Forest.
Grateful Web: Speaking of Electric Forest, you were right when saying that it really has taken on a theme of its own. Was the String Cheese Incident always in the plans for Electric Forest, or did you guys end up playing it one year and it worked so well you’ve just kept coming back?
Jason: Well it’s a good topic to ponder, basically from everything I’ve gathered from the people who run the event and people who put up money for the festival, the only way the first Electric Forest was going to happen was if the String Cheese Incident were headlining it. Most of the money was put up by Insomniac, who is probably the biggest in the country when it comes to promoting dance music, but at that point they hadn’t had much success in getting kids to drive hours and hours away from the big city to go camp for a weekend because that scene isn’t really a scene of campers, you know? Where as on the festival scene, there is so much music that has crossed over that you kind of expect at every “jam” festival or whatever, to have DJ’s late night and some on the main stage. So I think with Insomniac putting up the money they were wanting to guarantee that people would go out there, and String Cheese now has that crowd of people who will spend the weekend out there and are open to a lot of different types of music whether that be super organic or electronic, and so that was kind of the basis for making Electric Forest happen. It went so well that we kind of did want to claim it as like a “String Cheese” festival, even the way it’s owned and set up isn’t completely ours. But you know there have been all sorts of rumors going around, like Pretty Lights is taking over the festival and buying it out, and those rumors are pretty common. String Cheese’s manager actually is the guy that everyone has to go through if they want to throw a festival on the grounds so I guess there could be another event that pops up on the property, but as far as Sting Cheese doing there thing every year that’s a sure thing.
Grateful Web: Well we are all glad to hear that. It really does seem like Electric Forest has found a solid balance of all genres of music.
Jason: And I think the whole idea of how the Forest gets treated and how it’s lit up definitely comes from String Cheese roots. Those first couple Rothbury Festivals, almost all the artists at that time were coming from Michael Kang’s friends at Burning Man, so there was so much art to contribute. The whole idea of lighting up the forest came from us freaking out over how good Fuju Rock was, we were like, “oh my god, there is no festival like this in the States,” so having access to a venue like that just added to it. So again it’s not exactly our festival, but we kind of have the open invitation to host it as much as we want.
Grateful Web: Few more for you Jason. Recently EOTO played a show out in Colorado billed as the “Honkeytonk Observatory,” along with your buddy Bill Nershi from String Cheese. Did your overall approach change when jamming with Nershi, or did you guy’s just kind of do what felt right?
Jason: Oh yeah, I mean that’s all we could do, and it ended up turning out so well and was definitely one of our better collaborations. Nershi just has this whole other thing to offer, and he was really happy when he got bust out his Dobro and just sit down with his slide and work it for a while, as opposed to here’s a three minute section to do your soloing. He really felt like he could take his time hang out instead of having to get ready for the bridge again or going through suddenness of song structure, so that really brought out something different in him. So it really was a blast, and it’s something I’m sure we will do again because all the way around it felt like such a successful collaboration. Especially with all the familiarities that are contained within the String Cheese Incident, it was cool to hear people after the initial announcement being like, “Whoa, that’s actually pretty cool,” instead of hearing, “That’s never going to work!”
Grateful Web: Final question for you Jason, what’s one thing you always need to have with you while on tour?
Jason: One thing I always need to have tour is probably blue shorts and a black shirt. That’s my go to wardrobe right there! (Laughs) Other than our gear though, there’s not anything essential that really needs to be there. I guess my phone is pretty important just because there is so much information there, between our tour schedules and getting in touch with our people, that’s probably the most essential besides our gear.
Grateful Web: Right on Jason well thank you for your time, as always it’s been a pleasure to speak with you. Looking forward to New Years out in Colorado, and good luck with the rest of the EOTO Winter tour.
Jason: Right on, thanks for getting the word out. Look forward to seeing you in a little bit!