You call yourself an 808 freak. That drum machine has been a favorite in hip-hop since the ‘80s.What do you like about it?
“I mean, you can feel it. The bass, to me, is music. You’ve gotta have the fiddles you’ve gotta have keyboards, you’ve gotta have guitar. When you hear it on the radio, it’s melodically perfect, but for lack of a better word, there’s no balls to it. And that’s part of it. You’ve got to feel the music.
“We were out with Brad Paisley and made a new intro for his song Alcohol. The bass hit so hard you could literally see people’s hair moving. I was like, ‘That’s how it’s supposed to be done.’”
What other gear, software applications and hardware do you work with?
“I do everything on Ableton when I’m on the road. Of course, we use Pro-Tools when I get back. And I use Serato to DJ with live. So we mix it all live up there on stage.”
Did it take a while to figure out what worked for you?
“Every time we get up there, something’s different, you know? Anybody tells you they’ve got it figured out – I mean, you either [need to] write a book or you’re a liar. Ableton and Serato, for example, I use it daily, and every time I turn it on, there’s a new something being added. It’s just like playing the guitar. Brad Paisley, he’s one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen. He literally soundchecks for two hours a day, just playing with his guitar. If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind.”
Elsewhere in the electronic music landscape, artists like Avicii and Pitbull have been incorporating folk-rock instrumentation, bluegrass singers, square dance calls and country harmonica. What does that say to you about where country and club music are headed?
“The people that listen to Avicii have probably never played a Johnny Cash record in their entire life. You know what I mean? You don’t have to just have a lonely dude picking guitar to play country. Avicii doing something like that does nothing but open more doors for anybody that wants to stick their neck out there and try something.”
Are you in a position now where aspiring DJs are approaching you for advice?
“Yeah, I get a lot of e-mails on Facebook and Soundcloud asking me what DJ equipment they should use. Or ‘Check out my mix.’ Or ‘I want to start being a DJ because I saw you in Washington.’ That is an absolute honor. My best is advice is just believe in yourself and do what you want to do.
“What’s the worst-case [scenario]? Somebody doesn’t like it? I mean, no matter what you do in this world, somebody’s gonna hate it. If you’re a 55 or 60-year old country purist that does not listen to anything but Hank Jr., you’re gonna hate me. You’ll think I’m ruining country music. But the people that listen to more than just country get it, and that’s my target audience. And you’ve gotta know your audience.”