Alpha Data: Interview, Upcoming EP
With the world of electronic dance music (EDM) ever expanding in our world today, we are being exposed to new styles of music arising from a completely digital world on what is seemingly a daily basis. No one is this more true of than Alpha Data (James Ristvedt), busting through the scene with his style of captivating electronic synths and pulsating bass grooves. Truly a chameleon in genre, he is able to mix an array of EDM styles into his work while still staying true to his heavy, glitchier roots. Now under the label GruntWorthy based out of San Francisco and managed by the Disco Biscuit bassist Marc Brownstein, Alpha Data is set for his first official E.P. release. Nefertiti is set to come out November 29th 2011 and will be available for purchase through Beatport. I have been watching Alpha Data grow and expand his sound over the past year or so and had the pleasure to sit down with him (virtually) and interview him on his upcoming album.
When can we expect the E.P.?
AD: The EP actually comes out tomorrow (Tuesday, November 29th), but I have plans for a full length and more EPs coming in 2012. I’ve got a bunch of unreleased material, and numerous tracks that are in my “progress” folder at this point. 2012 is going to be non-stop production.
Track listing on the E.P.?
The track listing is: 1) Nefertiti, 2) This is Heavy, Doc, 3) More Than Ever, 4) In Electronics.
Where will this E.P. be available for purchase?
AD: For the first week (or possibly two, can’t recall for certain) it’ll only be available through Beatport. After that, it’ll be available all over. iTunes, Amazon, Addictech. Pretty much anywhere you can buy music online, I’ll be there.
What style does this E.P. take? (How is that similar or different to your other works?)
As far as style, I’m kind of all over the place with this one. It’s my first official release, and so I really wanted to demonstrate a good breadth of styles and moods here. Nefertiti starts off with a sort of melodic Middle-Eastern sound, but transitions into a middle section that’s just really heavy bass, with a final section that has this pensive melodic feel. This is Heavy, Doc is one of my older tracks, and sort of has a rougher sound to it. A lot of craziness going on, and it’s got kind of a swagger to it. I had it described to me recently as “g-funkay,” which seems fitting. More Than Ever is a really fun track with a couple tempo changes, and it has this huge build that gets pretty chaotic. For a long time I wanted to write tracks with just huge huge peaks that would never end, and More Than Ever was written during that period. Lastly, In Electronics is just a fun combination of sort of slimy bass tones and 8-bit patches.
What genre would you classify yourself under?
Genres are tough. When it comes down to it, the most agreed upon name for my genre is glitch-hop (or glitch hop, without the hyphen), but I’ve been really enjoying “lazer bass” recently, so for now I’m going to go with that.
If I might digress on this point: more than ever (pun intended), I think genre names are very reductive (especially as they pertain to EDM). People have a lot of preconceived ideas about what “dubstep” is, or what “techno” sounds like, and those ideas tend to impact their decisions about what they think of the music. Genre names can be good for descriptive purposes, but they’re really becoming less and less accurate as they relate to EDM. There’s so much crossover of genres, and I think a lot about something FlyLo tweeted a while back: “Dear journalists, There is no such thing as aquacrunk. Please stop putting us in a box. We’re just having fun making music.” I could not agree more.
How was this E.P. Produced?
I do all my production with Ableton, and I use a plethora of samples and VSTs (Virtual Studio Technology plug-ins). Everything I make sounds very very digital, so it’s probably fitting that all of the instruments and sounds I use are digital as well.
Is any other of your music available?
This is my first official release. I also have a track called “Tiny Ivory” available on a bass music compilation from Subsynthesis called “Bass From Above Volume 2.” Tiny Ivory is very dear to me, and is still one of my favorite tracks ever produced, and there are a lot of really fantastic tracks available on the compilation from some outstanding producers. My good friends and fellow Midwest producers Sovereign Sect, Unlimited Gravity, and Billy Blacklight all have tracks on the compilation as well, and the compilation is available for free or for optional donation, with all proceeds going to Music For Relief. I also have several remixes available for free download through my Soundcloud.
Latest tracks by Alpha Data
What can we expect from Alpha Data in 2012?
2012 is going to be a fantastic year. Like I said, I have a ton of production plans in the works, I’ve got some remixes I’m working on for friends, a couple collaborations planned, and I’m hoping to start filling up my calendar with concerts in as many different places as I possibly can.
You recently changed your name (from Photosynthesizer), can you shed any light on that?
For a while I produced under the name Photosynthesizer, and I found out earlier this year that there’s a group called “The Photosynthesizers.” I wanted to avoid confusion and avoid any potential future legal implications of using a similar name. And honestly, Photosynthesizer is really hard to get people to find on the internet. I cannot tell you how many times I had people ask me at shows how to spell Photosynthesizer, and it’s a really long name. Ultimately, when I found “Alpha Data” there wasn’t even a second thought about the name change, and I’m extremely happy with the new name. I also think it fits me a lot better.
You were discovered primarily through word of mouth and the ID festival contest (in which your song Nefertiti won, as chosen by The Disco Biscuits), how has that experience been and how have things been since?
It’s funny you should ask about that. That contest ended the first week in August, and I was selected one of the first-prize winners, but not the grand prize winner. Ultimately this meant going out to the Identity Festival in Michigan with a couple VIP passes and meeting the artist who chose me (which was the Disco Biscuits) and getting a set of Skull Candy headphones. It has now been almost 4 months since the contest ended, and I just got the headphones in the mail yesterday. I’m still pretty disappointed I didn’t win the grand prize. Partly because the winner got to play an Identity Festival date, but especially because the winner won “A one-year supply of Skull Candy headphones,” and I wanted to see how many sets of headphones I could go through in a year if I knew they would keep coming.
A long time Disco Biscuits fan yourself, and now managed by Marc Brownstein. How has working with Marc been for you?
It’s been great. Marc is fantastic and has been helping me more than I can adequately portray. He was instrumental in helping me pick out the right name that would project the right message and be marketable, he’s hooked me up already with some really great opportunities in terms of connections with other artists and shows, and we’ve got a lot of plans for the future. I think one of the best benefits about having Marc as a manager is that I love the music that guy makes and he loves the music that I make, and so I can bounce ideas off of him and get really beneficial feedback. I was stuck on a track a while ago and sent him what I had and was basically like “I have no idea where to go next.” He threw out a couple ideas, I tried one, and it worked out unbelievably well. (If anybody’s interested, the end result was a track, streamable on my Soundcloud, called ADHD.) As a fan of the Disco Biscuits, I think more than anything I was humbled by the fact that this musician whom I consider one of my big inspirations not only enjoys my music but has enough belief in what I produce that he would invest himself in my music and my career.
Thank you Alpha Data, you’ve been great!
I did just want to add that there are an innumerable amount of people that I owe so much to, and I just want to thank my beautiful girlfriend Kalynn for all of her support and inspiration, Marc Brownstein for everything he’s done for me already and continues to do for me, all the producers who have helped me improve my productions in many, many ways (especially the guys in Sovereign Sect, Cyma, Samples, J.me.j, so many others), and my good friend Chris who did the incredible artwork for my EP and paints under the name Seepy.
Alpha Data’s E.P. drops on November 28th on beatport. For more information on Alpha Data contact him at email@example.com. For booking and other inquiries please use firstname.lastname@example.org.