Monolith Q&A: The Glitch Mob

The Glitch Mob started out as a Los Angeles-based DJ collective that pooled its collective talent to make a more collaborative music with expanded sonic possibilities. As individual artists, Ooah, edIT and Boreta have released solo albums of cutting edge electronic music but it is as a team that they have put out some of the most interesting remixes being done today. Those familiar with improvisational band Sound Tribe Sector 9 will hear an entirely new band through the ears of the Glitch Mob and the Mob's remix of TV on the Radio's "Red Dress" enhances the song's dense and dark undertones. Currently putting the final touches on a full-length album of original material to be released in early 2010, the Glitch Mob is a formidable live act - one you can catch during the Monolith Festival at 4:45 p.m. Sunday on the main stage. Recently, we were fortunate enough to talk with Justin Boreta about the act's history and craft.

Westword (Tom Murphy): You're probably more well known for your production or remix work than your own compositions. What influences your decision to work with certain artists (do you approach them or vice versa or both) and what have been some of your favorite collaborations and why?

Justin Boreta: That's a good question. A little back story: we started as a loosely-knit DJ collective about three years ago and then it sort of morphed into more of a live band sort of thing--a live electronic band. We've been working on an album that's actually nearing completion. We have solo albums but as far as the Glitch Mob goes, we don't have any original music out but we will be releasing an album in early 2010. We've done unofficial remixes, as with our friend Matty G, which was our homage to West Coast hip-hop, which we all grew up on. It's completely unofficial but we loved those songs. As for other remixes, we've done remixes for Sound Tribe Sector 9 who are friends of ours and we're fans of theirs too and it was an honor to work with them. All the proceeds of that remix are donated to rebuilding homes in New Orleans. We also did a remix with TV on the Radio, and we're big fans of theirs as well. For the most part it's people who have approached us. We have stuff coming up in many musical areas including a remix for a well-known electronic artist.

WW: When did you first become interested in electronic music and how did you get into doing remixes?

JB: I've played music my whole life and I've been tinkering with computers and music gear since I was a teenager. It got serious when production and engineering work took over and it went from a hobby into something that I wanted to spend all my time doing.

Remixing wasn't something planned, it was just something that sort of happened. It was a way to start working with someone. Before the Glitch Mob, we were solo artists and when we decided to become a DJ collective, it was easier to do a remix because we could reach out for a song that was already there and put it together how we saw fit.

I started doing this stuff when I was 13 or 14 years old. I had an old PC back in those days and messed around with an early piece of electronic music production gear called Tracker, which used this thing called Impulse Tracker where you programmed the beats using numbers and letters.

WW: Did you ever get into the circuit bending thing?

JB: Yeah! That's fun stuff. I actually went to school and my minor was in electronic engineering. At UC Santa Cruz they had an electronic music program there and that's where I learned the nuts and bolts of electronic music production. I built synthesizers and did modular synth production.

WW: How did you come to work with edIT and Ooah and what was your common bond as artists?

JB: First and foremost we're friends. We were all friends before this whole thing happened and we were hanging out and started doing music on our own. We just realized it would be fun to do things together because there's a lot more solo acts in the electronic world because it's easier to take your laptop and records and whatever out there to perform. There's not as many bands or groups that do it. So it was a logical progression and we all have similar musical sensibilities. We're all big rock fans, hip-hop fans, experimental electronic fans and fans of indie rock.

The roles in the band change around quite a bit. It's not like a traditional band, which is cool because when we perform we use computers and we can switch it up. I'll be playing percussion and trigger synths and we can change that up for every song. It's all pretty equal and we work in the studio together.

WW: How did you end up doing music for the new Tim Burton movie, 9, and what kind of feel were you going for in that music?

JB: Actually they licensed one of our songs for the trailer of that movie. It's our remix of the TV on the Radio song "Red Dress." It seemed like, after talking to them, it was a fast-paced trailer and high energy and they wanted an apocalyptic feel to it and I think that worked out well.

WW: How do your live performances differ from your recorded music?

JB: We have a whole different way of performing live. Especially now. We're always in the process of thinking of new ways to perform. At this point in time the live set...every time you see us play, it'll be a little different. There will be a section where we'll all play different melodies and chord progressions. We'll have a set you'll only hear live. Just like a traditional band that will extend a song.

WW: How has your music and production evolved over the course of your career?

JB: It's hard to trace back to how it got to be where it is now. The album is a lot different from our previous efforts. I think as we've been playing live more often, compared to when we started where it was more nightclubs and it was a party. That was a DJ environment where it's based around rocking the party and bringing the hottest tracks and tricking them out in your own way. That's not to say that's the only reason we play music, for the live show, not that there's anything wrong with rocking the party, at least for now we're going to a different place so that the album is more of a listening experience. We're not focusing on it being the hottest track or a dance club hit, it's more of a full-spectrum record. There's mellow stuff, there's beautiful stuff and high energy stuff too.

WW: Is assimilating new technology and new production techniques part of your creative and songwriting process?

JB: I would say so. We spend a lot of time staying on top of what's happening in technology. We're all big geeks as far as that goes so as we acquire stuff we're always learning it and incorporating it into what we do. We spend so much time researching all the new stuff and tools and performance tools. We have our heads pretty deep into that world so we pick up new software pretty easily. As new technology and software evolves it has a definite cause and effect relationship in our music because the software we're using dictates the sound of our music. We usually pick a set of stuff we like and write everything with it. We'll stick with a handful of things we're hyped on at the moment and run with it and learn it as fast as possible.

WW: Have you been involved with creating any of that technology and software?

JB: A little bit. There's this program called MAX/MST. It's an environment for creating anything you want in the audio, MIDI realm. We use this program called Reactor to program our own synthesizers and our own audio effects--not as much lately.

WW: Is there anything you've been excited about in the world of music lately?

JB: There's so much good music out lately. We've been lucky enough to travel to festivals and play music alongside big acts and we've seen some good music lately. We got to see TV on the Radio, Bat For Lashes, which was amazing. We like Grizzly Bear and other indie rock bands. We also like the new HEALTH album a lot. We spend a lot of time in the electronic music realm. Ooah is involved in the band Pantyraid, which is linked to the whole dubstep thing. I think as far as that whole world goes, club/rave, I think dubstep is the most exciting stuff going on now. We're lucky enough to be in Los Angeles and some of my favorite music is being made here including Flying Lotus, who is a friend of ours.

WW: What would you recommend to someone who is interested in making electronic music?

JB: One of the things we get to do when we travel is interacting with people from other places and I like talking to people. It's a way for me to get re-inspired too. On a practical side, I recommend that people get Ableton Live. It's a really easy way to get your hands dirty and messing up. Grabbing whatever you want and chopping it up and doing remixes and with the tempos and everything, it's a really easy to get going with it. As far as more general terms, just do what sounds good to you. Do what you like and don't listen to anyone else. Follow your heart with what you want to be making and just work hard at it.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.