Join the Tribe: A Q&A with Tribal Leader
How did the name Tribal Leader come about?
At first I thought it would be funny to have something totally over the top, like I was the the ruler of the world or something along those lines. But when I actually put some thought into it, that just isn’t me.
So I really dove into making electronic music, and a lot of my songs had a slower beat with a tribal feel, with many melodies layered on top of one another.
I always thought of playing for a crowd that was really into my sound as I led them through a set that had a rise and fall of intensity. I thought about being some sort of leader, but not as far as calling myself a king or a deity or anything like that. I wanted to put my own modern spin on what I thought of a tribal leader — someone who works for those who will listen and leads them to a place where they can have a kick ass time.
How would you describe your sound?
I would say it’s a body that is twisting, turning, jumping, headbanging and stomping, in both slow motion and real time — all at once.
Who are your musical influences?
In short, everything around me is an influence to my music. I can’t help but pack every song with a certain feeling or thought that I had earlier that day or some memory that randomly popped into my head.
But as far as actual musicians who influence me, I definitely see myself taking tips from producers/DJs like Boys Noize, The Subs, The Bloody Beetroots, and bands like Kataklysm. It’s not often something simple such as liking their sound and trying to mimic it, or really feeling a melody and trying to create something similar. But I’ll hear some small clip or transition that just really sets the song off, and then I’ll pick apart the song structure and how they made everything flow together.
What inspired you to create the music you create today?
I just really love music. I think it was only a matter of time before I took my years of making little riffs or melodies that didn’t really go anywhere and turning them into full songs.
There’s also a part of me that wants to be part of something bigger. I want to have a connection with a group of people and just create a really immersive experience. In college, I was an art major, and I often used music to set a certain mood or add some feeling. I think my teachers saw it as a crutch, which I guess it was, but now I’m going to embrace it. At some point, I’d like to bring back some of the ideas I was exploring in my art classes and mix it in with my live set.
How long have you been playing music?
I’ve been playing music since I was around nine years old. I started playing the flute in the school band. I was the only boy who played the flute at my school, but I loved it anyway. I really found a passion playing jazz and laying down some fluid flute solos with our school’s jazz band. That was a long time ago, but I remember it well, and I still love playing.
What makes your sound so unique?
I think my mix of a piano background, my passion for a slow but really powerful tempo, and my desire to make tracks that are hard and dance-able can end up forming into a really unique mix of sounds and melodies. Often times a song might start off with a classical piano feel and then drop into a hard electro banger that makes your head fall off.
I also think that my live show changes how my music is heard. I often have to build each song up, track by track and layer by layer, one at a time, which brings out an appreciation for all of the subtleties in the song.
What instruments do you incorporate into your music?
My main instruments are my keyboard, which I use for it’s piano sound, and my Kaossilator Pro for its huge range of synths, drum pads, effects and loops. The Kaoss Pad really changed how I make and perform music. My entire live show really revolves around it. I also play my bass guitar and my flute to change it up every now and then get ideas for fresh sounds.
Talk about the Kaoss pad you use, where most of your music is made. What attracted you to this instrument/device?
-The Kaoss Pad, or Kaossilator Pro, was something that I came across when I was looking for ways to play a live show. I was making a bunch of songs with tons of layers, and I just had no way of playing it live. I went in search of a loop pedal, and came across the Kaoss Pro. The fact that it could serve as a loop pedal, a drum kit and a synth was absolutely perfect for me because I had also been looking for a synth for quite a while. I looked around on Craigslist and found one for $250 which was a good $150 cheaper than they are new, so I jumped out and snatched it up!
To be honest, I didn’t even test it out at a music shop before buying it. I had watched a number of videos online and I knew it would do the trick. So I picked it up off a fellow musician who had put it up on Craigslist and went right home to make some loops.
I spent the next few weeks locked in my room making all sorts of new music, pushing into using more synths and harder beats, all while keeping up with some smooth melodies. As time went on, I got better and better at using the Kaoss Pad, figuring out all of the little ways I could make it work for me. Now it’s basically an attachment to my keyboard; I always have it at hand and couldn’t imagine playing without it.
What other artists use this instrument?
-You know, I’ve never really thought about it. I see some DJs/producers using the KP3 sometimes, which is an earlier version of the Kaoss Pro, and it is better for remixing and chopping up loops. But the Kaoss Pro is more for building loops with all of the different synths and sounds it has.
I do know that those who have it use it more for making cool accent sounds or little effects to blend from one song to another, which is very different from my sound because I use it to play every melody, beat and sound of an entire song. I think a lot of the bigger electronic artists either have their own amazing analog synths and technology that I can’t even fathom yet, so they really don’t have a need for a synth like the Kaoss Pro.
Describe the process, from start to finish, for each song? Is the process unique to each track?
How I get to a finished product is definitely unique for each track. Sometimes I don’t even remember how I got there; I just snap out of a zone and have a solid track ringing in my ears. But I usually start off by standing at my keyboard with my Kaoss Pad hooked up so I can make loops. I’ll pluck around with some different melodies, often starting with something I’ve already written, and then slowly change it as I play through a few times. I’ll use that as a warm up, and I’ll just jam for a while. There is almost always a point where I’ve changed the melody a five or six times, and then I fall into a rhythm or feeling that I can really groove on. That is the “aha!” moment, which I then play through a bunch of times and record on my Kaoss Pad to start a loop. After that I’ll start adding layers, with a similar process of playing something familiar and slowly changing it until it really hits a spot that I like. I’ll add a layer, take out a few layers, switch the drums and and change the melody again. I do this over and over and over until it manifests itself into a fully functioning song, sometimes with a very stripped down two or three layers and sometimes with a good 10 to 15 layers.
Describe your self-titled album; what’s its message?
I made this album to see what Tribal Leader might some day become. I really love playing the piano, and I love playing electronic music that makes me move; so this album is a culmination of those two styles coming together and having a bit of a face off.
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
I want listeners to be moved. I want people to connect to the music I make and let it sink into their body and move them. I want to create an environment where listeners are inspired to let go a bit and feel every note I play and just enjoy themselves from start to finish.
What instruments or sounds do you hope to work or incorporate into future tracks?
I’d really like to incorporate the actual instruments that I use with my Kaoss Pad. I use flute sounds, piano sounds, synths, all sorts of bass.
I’d love to get a solid recording set up and be able to record real flute riffs and real old school analog synths to get a great, non-digitized sound. But that brings up the problem of finding a way to transfer all of that over to a live setting. I guess the greatest thing would be to get a band together and learn to play everything live.
What is Tribal Leader’s next step? What are your future plans?
I’d really like to do a lot more live shows. I love making new music, and I make a new song almost every day, but there’s something amazing about playing live. The pressure of a potential mistake and the possibility of nobody liking what I play seems like the ultimate test. I get such a rush, even playing for small crowds; I want to put on a solid show, and I want everyone to have a great time.
My future plans are to continue growing in every way possible. I want to really put my name out there and see if there is a place for me. Once I feel like the time is right, I’ll start working on a new album, which I plan on making three parts for: “The Rise,” “The Rule” and “The Fall.”