Behind Lindsay Lowend’s music stands more than just syncopated drum patterns and gritty bass lines. Through the D.C. producer’s ‘visual’ production exists another world – a far away galaxy. A scene from a movie, a level from your favorite video game. Transcending traditional music norms and breaking about every rule in the book Tony Mendez is a musician in true form, adamant on maintaining his artistic integrity to the highest degree.
Since his debut ‘neon’ and future bass-influenced EP Wind Fish dropped a year ago, Lowend has boldly performed a stylistic 180° in response to his growing discontent towards structured and repetitious modern dance music. Unbound by genre barriers and unfazed by typical “EDM” standards, Tony is a breath of fresh air in an industry where making a quick buck and placing on ‘top 100’ lists seems to take precedent over what’s actually important: the music. We had the privilege of sitting down to talk with the man himself at Voodoo Experience New Orleans last weekend. Join us as we travel the universe with one of the most interesting men in electronic music.
RTT: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into electronic music production?
I was a freshman in high school and started playing Dance Dance Revolution competitively around 2007. Pretty instantly I was just like “holy shit this music is really fucking tight!” From there I started discovering more and more about electronic music: guys like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher – all that kind of shit I loved and essentially got addicted to from there.
Who’s an artist that’s had a big impact and influence on your sound?
This guy Max Coburn (Maxo) that writes 16-bit super nintendo influenced type music. He’s the most prolific and talented guy I know. We hung out in New York City about a year ago and he’s the coolest dude, we talk on the reg. He’s easily my biggest influence ever so it’s crazy that I know him now like I do, really grateful for that.
It’s no surprise you say Maxo because I know you attribute a lot of your style to video game music. What is it about video game music that inspires you so much?
It’s really well composed and effective music. I don’t see music as good or bad, I see it as effective or ineffective. You have to ask yourself, what is this particular song’s purpose? If it’s like a club song is it an effective club song? If it’s an orchestral piece of music for a film does it capture the scene well? I love video game music because it’s really about capturing the scenery.
So that’s what you’re trying to do, capture the scenery?
Exactly. I think that’s the most important thing about music: to really capture an image, something you can see. To bring something visual to light.
What video games do you play?
It’s funny, nowadays I really don’t have time for them. But back in the day I loved the entire Zelda series, Link’s Awakening is the best game ever. Mario Kart is another one, love that game.
You gotta start making tracks for video games!
Yeah I mean that’s my dream, that’s what I want to do. DJing is fun but I’m getting kind of tired of it. I’d rather just compose music.
Without using genres, how would you describe the music you make?
What can someone expect from a typical Linsday Lowend set?
Nothing. It’s different all the time, I’m all over the place. For example, I played a few shows with Porter Robinson recently and I was playing Japanese pop music and crazy shit like that.
You sort of look like Porter on stage! It’s the haircut.
(laughs) It’s funny he actually got into writing music through Dance Dance Revolution too. I feel like we’re twins separated at birth. We’re eerily similar people, it’s kind of creepy. He also kind of got sick of EDM, structure, and all that shit too so it’s pretty interesting to see how his career has panned out. He sort of alienated his fan base and I kind of feel like I’m doing that now… but I don’t give a fuck about that because all the people getting alienated, to me they’re not cool. They’re not hip, they don’t get it. If you don’t get what I do right now you’re not cool with me. Because what I do right now is cool… at least to me.
Tell us what this new direction, this new sound is all about. What inspired you to switch up your style so much since the neon / future bass influenced Wind Fish EP?
I got really bored of buildups and drops. That shit became real lame to me. So one day I decided that all I want to do is “soundtracks.” There doesn’t even have to be drums in it, yo! It could just be like that new song by Hudson MoHawke “Brainwave.” That’s like the best thing I’ve heard in a long ass time. Shit like that. HudMo doesn’t give a fuck and neither do I. That’s important.
Is this ‘no fucks given’ mentality related to how you’ve recently been hiding all the stats on your soundcloud tracks?
Well that’s just to shut the peanut gallery up. Fuck you guys! (laughs) People read comments and they become instantly biased or influenced by them. They’re like “Oh no one else is liking this so I’m not gonna like it” whereas if you can’t see any stats you can’t see any comments and it’s completely up to you, the listener, to how you interpret it. So it’s really a lot more true and people’s reactions are a lot more genuine I feel.
How have typical mainstream “EDM” crowds reacted towards your more underground-type music? You’ve played at a lot of big festivals this year.
Honestly I try not to look at the crowd ever. I’d rather just be in my own zone so I’m usually up there just ignoring everybody else. Sometimes I look out into the crowd and they’re loving it, other times they’re standing there talking to their friends, texting, doing whatever. But as I said if somebody doesn’t fuck with a song that I love, why should I give a fuck about them? Because they don’t understand the shit that I understand! That’s how I feel about it.
In the past month you’ve dropped 8 tracks! What’s your process like in the studio getting tracks together so fast?
Well it’s changed a lot since I used to live in D.C. with my parents. I was self-conscious about blasting shit on speakers because they don’t really fuck with what I do at all. Then I moved out to Michigan and now I’m living in a house with six different musicians including my best friend Jonah Baseball. It’s awesome, I’ve just been waking up everyday, smoking hella weed and making hella music it’s been unreal. I never used to do it like this and that’s why I’ve been putting out so much stuff. Basically I’ll make something and put it out the same day that I made it. I like that too because it’s makes my music a lot more like a diary or like a sketchbook, as opposed to a really polished product. I think music should be a lot more like a diary. You shouldn’t put three months into a song. You should make a song, put it out, move on to the next thing, and repeat.
When you’re setting out to make a new track do you have in mind what you want to produce beforehand? What’s your process like creatively?
I go on tumblr and I look up beautiful game concept art. Then I’ll look at that shit and be like: “What kind of music would be playing in this scene?” So I essentially write music based off of pictures, that’s why I’ve been uploading music to soundcloud with only really nice works of art as the cover art.
On that note, a lot of your newer tracks have very interesting names to them like “trans-neptunian mcdonalds.” What’s your mindset behind giving your music these untraditional and unique names?
I love space. After music, space is like the coolest shit ever.
Dude. Space is fucking dope.
It’s cool as shit! Unreal. To me, it’s really inspiring and so interesting that we’re constantly finding out more about it everyday. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a G, love that guy. But yeah, Space is tight man. Basically all those titles have been space-themed.
Who’s one producer you’d love to work with?
Luckily I’ve already worked with a lot of my favorite artists, which is fucking crazy. I would say Hudson MoHawke is definitely one of them. He knows what’s up, he gets it.
What’s one thing you would change about the EDM-industry?
Kill it! (laughs). Don’t actually kill it… just let kids know what else is out there. People that enjoy dance music should know what else is out there and understand the purpose behind a track as opposed to expecting every song they hear to have a big buildup and drop. That’s not what music has to be.
Any exciting releases / projects coming in the future you can tell us about?
This dude Haywyre, I’m working with him right now. I’m also doing a remix for Lemaitre. I actually went on tour with them recently along with Porter Robinson. I did a remix for them that’s coming out soon. That’s about it right now, everything else the second I make it I put it out.
If you weren’t a DJ what job would you have?
I’d be writing. Screenplays, TV, stuff like that. I actually switched my major from music composition to English briefly before I dropped out of college. I just don’t like college period. But I’d love to get my English degree eventually. It’s really interesting and I think having a good hold on the English language is crucial.
Any parting words for Lindsay Lowend // RTT fans?
No. I think I said all I need to say.