Interview & Mix: Urulu
Urulu, real name Taylor Freels, is a California guy through and through has an innate talent for sunny, contemplative chords and clever drum programming. In LA his DJ performances excited us so that we felt compelled to find out a bit more from the laid back producer. Interview by moderator: Stu Richards
What was the highlight of your last week?
Spent some family time in Italy as well a little stint in Korcula island in Croatia with my partner.
What are you most looking forward to prior to the clock striking 2020?
I’d like for some accountability from our government, both in regards to the rising climate crisis and gun violence. I’d like for 2020 not to be riddled with absolute numbness, both as it pertains to the music community and its relation to the rest of the world. And I would absolutely enjoy it if somewhere in between the progress and forward movement of society that my music career stay somewhat stable and my head remain attached to its cervical spine. I am also quite looking forward to this new alias that just received its legs. Liquid Earth is the name. The first record is due out on Tony Fairchild’s (Is/Was) TerraFirm label in the Fall.
You recently released your very well rounded Metroid EP on These Things Take Time. What is one of the biggest challenges you face when putting out something that's multi-dimensional, while wanting to maintain around a certain sound profile?
“That’s nice to hear, thank you. I believe the easiest way to create cohesion in any selected body of work is to limit the time you spend on that record. Having an entire record written over the course of, lets say two months, helps to create the sort of sound profile that you’d want in an EP. Rather than choosing tracks over the course of 6 years, I told myself to write a record within two months of being back in the states. And I think it worked. However, the aside and title track “Metroid” was salvaged from a project file almost four years older - so who really know how it all works haha.”
For the listeners at home, what is something that you want them to know about the creation or content of the EP?
A huge influence for this record was maintained by going back through Dana Kelley’s catalog. Whether it be under his club-chugging Callisto alias or the more melodically fluid DKMA name, Kelley’s work has been / still is pivotal in my music and more recently through Metroid. Now I don’t even remotely claim to be in the same caliber, nor do I try and mimic his productions, but hopefully somewhere in this record you’ll find the subtle influences poking through.
I remember you immediately really caught my attention when you put out the Needwant release with Auckland boys, Chaos in the CBD. Prior to that, you put out an EP with Steve Huerta on Dirt Crew Recordings and also your own on Amadeus. With all these different things going on in 2012/13, what did you want to achieve at that time?
Yes, those nut cases. All of which are still good friends. 2012 was sort of my year of exploration in club music. I had just moved over to London, which ended up being a two year stint in the capital city's east end (Bethnal Green). I was only just developing my sound. Exploring how I wanted to approach DJing, barely grasping the art of mixing. It was sort of a time of unashamed producing, clubbing, as well as literally sponging as much as the city had to offer musically. Albeit, in my own opinion, my music at this time sort of lacked a sense of direction and professional drive. I was barely 21, with little to no musical background and a studio setup that primarily consisted of Ableton and a set of Genelec monitors. The music was elementary, but I didn’t take my self too seriously and that was beautiful in it’s own way. So in a way I look back and am grateful to a degree at the lack of fear I had, but feel there are many record which I would have easily stepped back from or spent more time polishing. I’m sure this is true within any art form.
When you decided to go all in making music your career, what was that moment like? What fears came with that (if any), and how did you try to overcome them?
Honestly, I am still debating whether or not a music career is a healthy option. Both physically and mentally. It is incredibly demanding and I am sort of growing contempt towards airport queues. Following my path over to the UK, and later Berlin, without doubt gave me a better perspective of the great european clubbing complex. I think we all experience the appropriate fears when moving abroad to a foreign land. But I cannot recall anything specific. I guess you can say I missed my dog quite a bit and that was tolling.
Since that time, you've obviously come a long way. What are some of the biggest lessons that you've learned from that period through to now?
Funny enough, making sure to get paid a deposit prior to playing any gig is one of them. Don’t go to every uni kid’s flat party after the club. Drink water, a lot of it. Stop eating airport food, it’s overpriced and tastes like styrofoam. Release music on labels with people you actually enjoy being around / aren’t complete bigots. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Wash the space in between your toes. Donate to a non-profit that directly impacts marginalized groups. Buy usbs in bulk. Wrap your records in outer-plastic sleeves. Save receipts. Always collect all & save Ableton project files. Back up your hardrive on two separate externals and bury them in separate corners of the world. Buy music on bandcamp. Buy records directly from the label/artist. Get an airline mileage credit card and use it for purchases. Wash your pillows every six months. Use a face moisturizer that contains an spf sun block. Quit smoking cigarettes. Doing ecstasy with your friends can be a fun and rewarding experience to bond over. Call your mother once a week. A calzone is just a bootleg pizza burrito and doesn’t deserve to be on a restaurant menu.
You seem to have a pretty tight crew in the LA area and around California. Given your travel schedule, what's the importance of that to you, and how do you make the most of your time at home?
I am actually in the process of moving back stateside this summer. I’ll be seeing much more of that tight crew soon (hopefully). As far as Los Angeles and it’s grasp on nightlife goes, I believe we’re at a tipping point of possibilities of opening up LA to the likes of clubbing and cultural capitals like London & New York. But aside from parties. My time is spent eating.
What do you see as one thing that you love which you can only get in LA/Southern California?
The blends of Latin American food (I believe) is unparalleled to anywhere else in the states. You have obviously a huge influence of Mexican culture here in Los Angeles, with the city almost 48% of hispanic descent. It’s essentially part of the identity of Southern California. With that you are given all sorts of food delicacies and cross-cultural influences. Apart from Mexican cuisine you’ll get food from other central american countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. It’s insane. Quality control is high and the amount of restaurant choices at your disposal is what makes Los Angeles feel undeniably like home to me.
What elements of LA's dance music scene do you see have been derived from overseas, and what do you feel is distinctly LA?
Or rather what elements were sent over to the Euro Zone and regurgitated back stateside. There’s no denying the connections from midwest and east coast black, queer nightlife in the late 80s/90s that spiked house & techno’s interests from across the pond. In regards to Los Angeles specifically, I can only speak as far as my knowledge goes. From what I’ve accumulated, LA - and the Pacific Northwest as a whole - was sort of the amalgamation of what house and high end psychedelics would produce. The sort of deep- seequoia-forest raves where trance and house agreed to a beautiful, trippy matrimony. Think Exist Dance, Zoe Magik or further south on the spectrum - to the break style, hip house so unique to Souther California and it’s surrounding areas.
Where do you tend to do the majority of your producing?
At my family home in the suburbs about 25 minutes outside of the Los Angeles city center.
Tell us a little about your setup.
It goes a little something like this.
Emu XL7 Command station for quick drum samples/stabs. Vermona DRM for addition drum synthesizing. I love FM synthesis, so I’ve got a Novation Supernova Module, Yamaha tx81z, Waldorf Q rack, Quasimidi Sirius, Korg MS200 and a Yamaha SY22. Monitors are Genelec 8030bs and Focal Alphas. I’ve also just built a Pearl Syncussion clone and have an Electribe esx1 on the way. All of this is run with two Arturia midi step sequencers and Ableton 9. Recently, I’ve become comfortable with using Kontakt and it’s many digital instruments. Primarily Pink Noise’ Evolver and Lemon emulators. Also, if you’re looking for a decent randomizer for step sequences the for Max for Live plugins by Alexkid are great.
What's one piece of gear (hard or soft) that your productions couldn't live without?
A bluetooth mouse with fresh batteries.
Do you set goals for yourself, in terms of where you want to travel, who you want to play with, or the type of music you want to create?
I usually just let the universe do with it as it pleases to me.
If you enjoyed the interview & mix with Urulu, let us know below who you would like us to interview next.