For the last few years U-Tern has been putting in work and really building a name for himself in the dance and pop music scene. This year is no different as it’s poised to be a big one as well, having already released an official remix for Britney Spears with production partner Oligee. Recently he took a bit of time out of his busy schedule and talked about his past, present and what’s going down in the foreseeable future.
So let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into music and eventually realize that it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
I got into music in my mid-teens through the whole skate/hip-hop scene. We used to just skate all day, smoke weed and listen to Wu-Tang and Nas and stuff like that, from that I gained an interest in DJing because I wanted to learn how to scratch, DJ Premier was a huge influence on me. I don’t think I ever consciously thought about pursuing it as a career, I just couldn’t do anything else without being bored to death. Money was never a motivator for me; I just wanted to enjoy my work.
Your roots weren’t always in dance music; you initially were a turntablist and more involved with hip hop as mentioned above.Talk a bit about those days. (ups, downs, experiences)
It was a great learning experience for me, it makes me appreciate being paid to DJ because I didn’t make a dime for years and years, and it was more about being really good technically and having skills or whatever. I would just hermit out for hours practicing and trying to get better. I used to enter battles back then too, I even won a couple, at the time that was the best feeling ever. Back then I had no idea you could get paid to play records in clubs every week, that was a whole different scene I wasn’t aware of.
What made you decide to switch genres and pursue dance music?
It was a natural progression, I was into hip-hop and interested in all the original records that producers used to sample which was mostly funk, soul and disco. I just got bored with hip-hop a little in the early 00’s and dance music seemed more interesting to me. I started getting into the French house/filter house stuff and they were sampling a lot of the same disco/funk records that I was into from the hip-hop days so there was a common thread there.
So your previous experiences in hip hop helped with your development in the dance music genre?
Definitely, back then house music and hip-hop beats were made the same way kind of, samplers and records, maybe a synth or two, just bedroom style production. There are a lot of things that carried over from the hip-hop days, mostly just the hip-hop DIY attitude, like making the most out of what you have. Hip-Hop to me was always about taking all your favorite things from all kinds of music and making it your own, that’s still how I like to approach making music.
On that whole DIY tip, how do your ideas generally formulate when you take on a song? Is there something you hear immediately that you know you can fine tune and/or enhance or does it have to sit with you?
It’s different every time, the Mark Ronson remix for instance was originally a remix/edit that I made for DJing out, I just replayed it and added my own flavor to it, then a friend heard it and told me I should put it out, after that Mark got in touch with me and put it out officially. Usually with remixes I’ll make several versions before I settle on something. The goal with edits is to bring out the best in the original song and make it sonically competitive with modern club tracks, just give it a little extra juice.
On a lot of your productions, you can tell that you’ve used live instrumentation. Is that something that you learned as a youth? Or is it something you picked up by ear?
I just picked it up by ear, I basically sample myself, record a bunch of stuff then just rearrange it and tighten it up. I’m not much of a player myself but I’m lucky enough to have friends that can play well, collaborating with other musicians is my favorite.
Your sound, while is considered dance, has a lot of pop elements in it. Is that a direction that you see yourself going towards as you progress?
For some reason I gravitate towards more pop sounding chords and melodies, it’s not really a conscious thing. I’m definitely not against making pop records in the future, that’s an avenue that I really want to explore.
You’ve made the move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, what made you decide to move there?
The move to LA came along because I needed a change in my life personally and professionally. I signed a deal down here back in [the] summer and it was just getting ridiculous having to travel down every couple of months to work, I got my visa and made the move shortly after that.
You started a project with producer Oliver Goldstein aka Oligee, called Oliver. You guys have released a few tracks as well as remixes, Is there an album in the works? Or will you two be more of a production duo for remixing projects?
We’re currently working on a remix for Aeroplane which we are very excited about. After that we are going to be focusing on putting together an EP which should drop this summer. The ultimate goal is to put out a full length album this year, now that we’re in the same city we can really sink our teeth in and get things going.
I saw photos of your studio and the incredible collection of synths, they’re all probably like your children, but is there one or two that stand out to you, that’s your go-to or rarest in your collection?
The analog synth thing is actually quite new to me; I usually just use software because I didn’t have a lot of room to work with. It’s really amazing working with these older pieces though, you can really get some incredible sounds out of them, and they all have so much character. My favorites right now are the Multimoog and the Roland SH-5.
Asides from all your production stuff, you also have a mix series called “One Day Later”, what’s the premise that initially started the series?
It’s was just an outlet for me to share all the music that I love, and it kind of forced me to make new mixes every month so I had to really be consistently seeking out new music because I wanted every mix to be fresh. The only consistent element of the show is that I play all the new/old music that is exciting to me at that time; it’s basically a mixtape for me to listen to in the car or on my iPod. I feel blessed that people listen and appreciate the music the same way I do.
For someone that’s looking to get into the industry what’s some advice that you would give them that you wish someone had passed along to you coming up?
Just make sure you have a true passion for music because that’s the only thing that keeps you going sometimes, it’s a very hard business.
So what’s next and / or currently on your plate?