Pretty Lights on free music and mixing genres
Thu, 31 Jan 2013 11:17p.m.
By Janika ter Ellen
Dereck Smith, the American electronic music artist better known as Pretty Lights is a rising star in the rave scene.
The 31-year old is in New Zealand for two live shows, but his sound isn't what you'd expect when you think of electronic music.
Smith is still trying to find one word to describe his music.
So far, he's down to three: Electronic, fused with Hip-Hop, and Soul.
“I like music that really hits you hard, and makes you cry or laugh or whatever,” Smith says.
And he's wanted to make it since one album changed his life as an 11-year-old.
“I heard Nirvana, Nevermind, I just flipped out over it. I got a paper route, and bought a bass guitar and went from there.”
But finding his sound wasn't easy.
The young artist, who can play seven instruments, went from rapping, to punk, funk, and hip-hop. But as he struggled to compromise with band-mates, he settled on producing.
“I felt like I had a vision of music that didn't exist yet,” Smith says.
Laptops are used to create the sound and samples are mixed on the fly at live shows.
“A lot of electronic music is all about just losing yourself on the dance floor but I really try to make music about life, and serious things, but also making. So combining the pretty with the heavy, the beautiful with the banging.”
Smith releases the tracks free on his website, like Radiohead did with their 2007 album In Rainbows.
“A lot of people accuse me of copying Radiohead but I'm like ‘no, I put out my music before that’, but whatever I don't care.”
He says it's the best decision he could have made, driving people to his live shows.
“A lot of people who are used to the more traditional way of doing it, and who say giving away music for free is crazy, there's no way they could survive or make money. It's not true, you know, I'm doing quite well.”
Smith gets very excited when he talks about his upcoming album - two and half years in the making.
Until now, he's used other people's samples, but this time he's created entirely original material, using vintage gear.
“It had to, like, be a guitar, from the 60s, through a mic that was 50 years old, through an amp that was 60 years old.
“And then I smeared dirt in it, so it sounded even older. No just joking, but I did let it get a little dusty.”
Smith's performs in Wellington tonight, and Auckland tomorrow.
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