Doug Appling, also known as Emancipator, delivers a blend of sampled instruments, raw electronic sounds, intricate jazz melodies and headnodic beats each time he takes the stage. Peep this interview to learn more about what drives this modern musical genius.
Axiom-Nation (AX): How has digital technology and the popularity of the internet changed the landscape for young producers?
Doug Appling (DA): It’s an open field really. You just have to put your music out there. It’s kind of a democratic process now because everyone can stumble upon your music as soon as you put it out there, and if it can be dug, it will spread.
A.X: Do you feel like your music has a connection to nature?
D.A: Certainly. Nature definitely spurs my imagination all the time in music. A song to me is something that can take you to another place in your mind than where you are physically. Most of the time, it’s a beautiful, organic place I’m imagining, and that kind of inspires the sounds I’m choosing.
A.X: You truly have created a one-of-a-kind, signature sound — a live violin riding crisp downtempo beats, with melodic instrumentation masterfully layered on top of each other, how did your musical journey land you here?
D.A: I think a lot of it has to do with teaching myself production. I’ve experimented with all kinds of electronic styles and I developed my own way of writing songs, so it has a unique signature sound because of that. The instruments I choose and the production techniques contribute to the overall sound.
A.X: What’s your writing process like?
D.A:The first two elements I throw down are usually the beat and the melody. I start a lot of songs on keys or guitar, and then I start building drum loops around it. Sometimes, I will work with samples that will kickstart a song, remixing stuff.
A.X: Now, your music has been labeled with all across the board: downtempo, trip-hop, but none of that really tells us anything specific about your production style. How would you describe what you do when you come at a track?
D.A: Foremost- my tracks are very layered, kind of groove-oriented, but also very tonal. I focus on melodies, and try to make sure a song has something you can take away from it, that resounds in your memory even when you’re not listening to it. I try to combine. I take aspects of different genres, and make a melting pot on the track. I mean, new age music, its all textural, ambient, and atmospheric. I
A.X: Your sound has matured and evolved so much over the course of your very short career. What was your process in developing your unique sound?
D.A: Well I spent a lot of time as a new producer just on trial and error so I just remember playing a song and creating loops from scratch, that’s kind of how I made my signature sound and I try to teach myself all along the way. It’s kind of funny because I consider myself an electronic musician but a lot of people may hear my music and don’t think it’s electronic music because it doesn’t necessarily mesh with what’s popular. I arrived here because I had this background in classical music and folk music which unfortunately don’t feature a lot of drums.
A.X: What is that classical music background of which you spoke?
D.A: Violin was the first instrument when I was four and I played that for eight years before I got more into drums and guitar, bass and other instruments too. Currently in my studio I have a synth, bunch of guitars, mandolin, banjo, kalimba, flute; just a lot of instruments to record and sample and produce them electronically. That’s kind of how I get my unique sound, I like to take acoustic instruments and lend them to electronic production.
A.X: Where do you see yourself fitting into the larger framework of electronic music?
D.A: It depends on where you think it’s at right now; it’s a lot of different places. I think it’s getting so popular that people are beginning to discern between the genres more so, not like ten years ago when you said you made beats people assumed you meant techno, people actually know about this stuff. I think it’s going to come around full circle and you’re going to start seeing more fusion bands of electronica mixed with instruments which has been popular in our scene for awhile but I think you’ll see more and more of that.
A.X: It seems that the information, music, literature and art we consume is always somehow reflected in the work we produce. What role do you feel consumption plays in the artistic cycle?
D.A: The music you consume informs music you produce. I could find pieces and bits of some of my favorite music that I absorb that resurface in some form in my music. As for non-musical consumption, it’s hard to say. You process so much information in a day that it’s hard to isolate the effect of one media or experience over another.
A.X: Music has consistently been associated with major social revolutions. What sort of impact do you think electronic music has on the greater social consciousness?
D.A: There is a social revolution right now in digital music. Our in ternet is empowering everybody to make music and reach people with it. The electronic music scene is really thriving and bringing together different communities centered around electronic music. I have toured all over the U.S. now and this is happening in every region. There is a lot of innovation in this scene that comes from technology and the fact that it’s a newer medium. The internet makes it so easy to collaborate and circulate music and electronic musicians have really taken advantage of that. So there is a lot of fresh electronic music right now and that’s why the electronic music culture is thriving.