The Wax Sessions : Terravita
I had the pleasure of having a last minute interview with the Jon Spero and Chris Barlow from Terravita. I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to do the interview and no expectation on who these guys were.
Needless to say, I came away with so much respect for this duo and have become a lifetime fan just because I had met them in person. Being a musician doesn’t just mean being able to make music. Musicians have to connect with the people around them and the people listening to their music. These guys seem like the most down to earth, fun and hard working people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
True inspiration right here and you’ll be able to hear it all in the audio I have uploaded. I’ve summarized and highlighted a questions I asked during the interview but I highly recommend you listen in to learn what they have to say. You’ll also be able to gauge the kind of people they are and learn a few things about Cristian from Adventure Club.
(1:20) Q: Light Beer or Dark Beer?
John: Light. If beer at all.
Chris: The Only Beer! Coors Light.
(2:05) Q: If you guys had a theme song for your life, what would it be?
John: Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
Chris: Can’t beat that.
Nelson: That’s it? No Kanye or anything?
John: Chris’s would be “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”.
Chris: Since we’re in Texas, I’d have to go with Cowboys from Hell by Pantera.
(2:50) Q: What do you think makes you guys stand out from the rest of the musicians in the Bass music genre?
Chris: We’ve always been about having stuff that’s cross-genre. Terravita first got popular for Up In The Club which is a mix of Drum N Bass and Dubstep. So now were kinda mixing middle bpms like 160 but Trap and Dubstep sounds combined with Hip Hop. We were doing Metal before and really we try to go for a mish mash of genres instead of trying to sound the same.
John: TL;DR Diversity!
(3:45) Q: So you guys have diversity as more of a style like mixing genres together but do you also focus on sound design?
John: It depends on the idea and the song. Sound design is important. Whatever the feeling you get from the vibe of the track, sometimes it just comes and sometimes you spend a lot of time on it.
Chris: Sometimes the song is about the melody or the sub, you don’t need a crazy sound design. But if you’re making gnarly dubstep or something, you’d definitely want to focus on the sound design. Lately, a lot of our stuff is not necessarily about the sound design but about the vibe of the song.
(4:33) Q: Like creating a theme for the song?
Chris: Not necessarily a theme but an emotion.
John: For example, we just finished a song with our friend Tima Dee. The first track we did with her, we got sent the vocal and really liked it. So we build the song around that. The second song, we wrote a song that we had a good feeling about and realized what was missing. We sent it to her for the vocal. You work different ways depending on the idea or the song and you get to a point where it needs something. You don’t really have a template. No formula
(5:59) Q: So its definitely a big piece of advice for up and coming producers. Don’t try to force the song.
John: Don’t force anything. You can’t because that’s how you get frustrated. Don’t be afraid to scrap a song and start over.
Chris: Treat it like a job and if you’re not working at it 10 hours a day and learning as much as you can, then its not for you.
John: There is no such thing as overnight success even though it may seem like that to a lot of people. Those guys have been grinding at it for years.
(8:25) Q: So you guys mentioned Icon Collective. Do you think its worth it going to one of those schools?
John: I think it depends on the person. I think a lot of people need a structured environment to learn and to learn from competent people in a great facility I think is a humongous advantage. I would have gone if I was up and coming but I don’t think everybody needs it. I honestly don’t know how much it costs so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much its worth. You’ll learn from a person who knows what they’re talking about on the best equipment. You can focus on what you’re weak at. Even if you already have talents and you know some shit like synth patches but you don’t know how to use Izotope Plugins or Ableton. These are people who can get you along.
Chris: When you say those kind of schools, Icon Collective is probably the only school that can boast that many popular artists.
(10:25) Q: How long have you guys been in this?
John: We’ve been touring for almost 10 years.
Chris: First proper release in 2006. We’re a decade of Terravita
Nelson: I’m kinda sad that I only heard about you guys 2 days ago.
(11:20) Q: Do you guys both have a separate skill set that you focus on?
John: Chris DJs and I rap. Chris does a quite a bit of the production in general but I come in and fix things that I want to sound a certain way. When you do vocals over a track, you don’t want to do vocals over a beat you don’t like.
Chris: That’s where being in a duo helps a lot because you have someone who can check you. Sometimes you think something is really awesome and its not.
Spoiler! (12:25) Terravita is working on a track with Adventure Club!
(14:10) Q: What do you guys think is coming next? Bass House is a big thing and Trap is blowing up at the moment.
John: Bass House was also the thing 7 years ago. AC Slater has been doing this shit since 2005. Everything goes in cycles. You’re even seeing a resurgence in Drum N Bass right now. I think you’re gonna see more people fold everything together and see genre lines get more blurred. Music is supposed to be about emotion and not about genres.
(18:25) Q: Is there a plan for a Terravita label or collective?
Chris: No, not really. We’re on Buygore and we’re really happy about it.
John: Labels are such a pain in the ass for such little reward. The only ones making money are the big labels. If you’re on the right label like Firepower, you get paid properly and you get what you deserve but how many copies are you really selling? 2000 a release is not gonna feed you for the whole year. Take Adventure Club for example, their free music motto soared for them.
Its a catch 22. If you’re on a good label, you may reach a smaller audience because people are fickle these days and have to buy it but you end up getting the promotional push behind it compared to an independent artist releasing music who doesn’t have that kind of capital to do mass promotion and sits around hoping for a big artists to repost or notice them. The merits of free music are fantastic but you should weigh them against having a label backing your track.
(20:25) Q: I work online and I network with a lot of small artists. They’re all 15 or 19 years old and make insane music. Well mixed and well written but the problem is they don’t have that promotional step.
John: 95% of this business is business. It has nothing to do with the music and its business savvy. Its understanding marketing, promotional plans, understanding what to spend you money on and networking. Some of its luck. For example, Chris gets sent a song he loves and he tweets about it. That does not happen very often. You can’t depend on something like that. Now that there’s so much of this type of music out there, how do you differentiate?
Chris: If you’re young and live at your parents house and don’t pay any bills. Sit and pump out as much music as you and and put it out for free.
John: Promote Locally! Go to shows that promoters go to and drop them mixtapes everytime you see them. Be Aggressive! Don’t be unprofessional and send them a Facebook message with a Soundcloud link. If you’re gonna write an email, write a professional email with social media links. That local following is whats gonna get you a bigger following. You need your local community to believe in you before the rest of the world is going to believe in you. Be careful what you say on social media. Look at Ten Walls for example. Don’t be a dick on social media.
Keep listening to learn more about Jon & Chris from Terravita, Christian from Adventure Club and AJ from Corporate Slackrs!
Posted By: Nelson Mak