Jason Hann of EOTO gave us an inside look into his world and all things EOTO. His musicianship is inspiring and can be fully understood from this incredible interview. See EOTO at Brooklyn Bowl on Wednesday, September 14!
Brooklyn Bowl – When and how did EOTO originate?
Jason Hann – When I started playing with SCI (The String Cheese Incident) in 2004, I would mostly stay at Travis’ house. He had a 6 string bass and we would jam as a duo with me playing drums after SCI practice, pretty much every night. Then, Travis added an Echoplex to try some further interplay, more similar to what Keller Williams would do through looping. Travis would do the same with guitar and often our jams would go from 10pm until 4am or 5am.
At that time I had been using Ableton since it was in it’s 2.0 version, more as a toy program but occasionally on a gig back home, so I suggested we could have more control over the individual loops (adding effects live) in a performance situation. We started a setup with Ableton, which led to Travis adding a keyboard (microKorg) and we started putting microphones on the drums and monitoring ourselves through Ableton, becoming self contained.
I programmed and showed Travis the Behringer 2000 MIDI controllers (still being used today) and Behringer FCB 1010 MIDI foot controller (now replaced with 2 Softstep controllers) for looping and sending effects to the auxiliary channels. I started out with an FCB 1010 foot controller as well, with an SPDS sampler, which changed to an M-Audio Finger Trigger early on (now I use MIDI Fighter and just started using Nord 3p drum synth)
It made our late night improv jams take on the character of songs and eventually played our very first show which was the first Sonic Bloom 2006 in Colorado at Mishawaka Amphitheater.
BB – Is your approach to improvising with EOTO similar to how you approach The String Cheese Incident? If so, how?
JH – Our approach to improvising is different than any other musical situation. We have no songs or song forms or chord progressions figured out before we play. We just know that we approach each theme starting from a BPM (beats per minute) reference and Travis will build (loop) a baseline , guitar line, and a synth line while I add effects to my vocals or loop percussion sounds. Within that we know that we have to create another section that sounds like a chorus and switch to that. We treat that “theme” as a song that we switch back and forth against, while also keeping in mind to build up to a drop or aim towards a breakdown, that we build towards the next song (“theme”). We try to change these themes at the same pace a DJ might change to the next song – maybe every 3 minutes or so. Our pacing and styles of music we cover is much more similar to a DJ set, even though we play instruments live the entire time.
BB – If either of you could play any other instrument besides drums, what instrument would it be and why?
JH – Travis’ is already comfortable playing quite a few instruments. I play some Keyboards and bass, but only in my studio, where I can take the time to figure things out and slow things down and mess up a bunch.
BB – When listening to other music, are you consistently listening to the percussion or do you listen to songs as a whole movement?
JH – It depends. If I have a gig coming up that requires a particular type of playing (such as Brazilian Batucada carnival music), then I’ll submerge myself and really tune my ears to every percussion part and get my playing up to par on each percussion instrument. I was recently listening to some techno as I just added this Nord 3p drum synth, and I really want to have the sounds set up and play parts that reflect techno music from different eras – different from the way that I use my MIDI fighter to play samples of knives, bubbles, and glass. So my ear is really tuned in to recreating parts of the style, though eventually I’ll internalize it to where I’m playing without thinking about it.
The best for me is to listen to songs as a whole, and if something really attracts me to a song, I’ll start picking out all of the instruments to try and find the “key” that makes the song do what it does. It’s a lifelong adventure.
BB – September is Classical Music Month. Do you take inspiration from any specific classical musician/composer?
JH – Not really. While I’m in awe of Classical music composers, I haven’t gotten the spark from that music, that makes me shut out the lights and sit for hours with it. That being said, I enjoy both the emotional content and the technical fierceness of classical music. Debussy has ridiculously gorgeous compositions and Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart can be analyzed forever for how they put together their timeless pieces. There’s such a wealth of essential music there, but my path gets more excited about hearing indigenous music from the Pygmies of Cameroon, or Bata music of Cuba, or traditional Voudoun music of Haiti, or Sabar drums from Senegal.
BB – If you could cover a classical piece of music, what kind of spin would you take on it?
JH – I’d want to figure out a way to create more percussion grooves throughout the passages, or replace melodies with synths and effects. I don’t have inspiration for that right now, but that would be my starting point.
BB – What should we expect for your upcoming show at Brooklyn Bowl? Any specials guest or surprises we should anticipate?
JH – Only that we haven’t done an NYC/Brooklyn show in awhile (outside of Electric Zoo), and our style has evolved. We feel like we’re playing better than ever right now, and with 1000 shows behind us, it allows us to feed off of the crowd and make the whole musical journey of each evening even more unique.
BB – How would you describe EOTO’s music to someone who has never heard it before?
JH – I would go for “Alien Bass Disco Party”. The bass and grooves are deep and we get into these quirky things around it all, for our distant brothers and sisters who enjoy landing for a few hours outside of their spaceships and join us in our terrestrial one.
BB – Any words of wisdom you’d like to share to our readers?
JH – Find ways to stay inspired. Always keep learning. You’ll never be too good to the point where there’s nothing else to learn. That inspiration, combined with the work that you put in to where you want to go, will transform your path to one that exists at a high frequency that has no limits. When you feel like you’re getting pulled from that path, try to find ways to get back on your path and clear the roadblocks. If you get into those habits, than the falls become easier to recover from. Mistakes are your helpers. Don’t be consumed by them…learn from them:)
Ha, I was listening to Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” just as I started answering the last question. Thanks for making me think about it all!!!
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