New In Town: How ESSEX Is Taking Over Seattle, One EP At A Time
From Boston to Seattle, Seth Michael, or better known under the aesthetic of ESSEX, is an upcoming producer breaking into the music scene with his unique sound influenced by a plethora of traditional instruments background and hardcore metal bands as an inspirational artillery. At a young age, he began as many kids can relate to: picking up an instrument because his mom encouraged him to learn. Naturally, as a parent, they gave him a clarinet instead of the drums he wanted to play. However, from that day forward it has become a viral piece to the building block that would later create the entity we know today as ESSEX. Having had a booming career in photography, touring with bands and other high profile names and organizations — this new career and life path is nothing of a surprise because of the continuous passion for music ESSEX has. This ups the ante and expectations…but in the face of a new road ahead of him, he remains in dedicated and steadfast about producing new music; garnering a fast following and prominent artists are already taking note. Sensible Reason had to catch up with this new talent and talk about his extensive experience and learn what ESSEX was all about.
You are most notably a professional photographer — what was the driving factor for you to pursue music after being a success in the photography business? Was the venture into music something you gave up for photography or do you manage them at the same time? If you do, how do you do it?
Music has always been a part of my life. Piano as a hobby, touring in bands, and now the last five years producing my own aesthetic, it’s just always been there. Most aren’t aware of it due to the fact I’ve focused so heavily on my photography. But I don’t think I could live without either. I haven’t put new music out in almost three years and really wanted to refine my aesthetic before I put myself out there so under developed. Much happier with my sound now, and I still am able to manage my photography career. I like feeling as if I have purpose, creating gives me that.
Who, what, and where are your musical inspirations from? When listening to your tracks, there’s a distinct sound to it — like a house, meets tech, meets some gothic, is there anything specific that you listen or watch that motivates your style to trend that way?
I have a lot of influences! Having spent my youth playing in hardcore bands, so it’s hard not to write in a similar style. The music I grew up listening to, (Deftones, The Clash, Minor Threat, Have Heart, Wu Tang) to the the stuff I’m into now (Future Unlimited, Drab Majesty, Grum, Balance and Composure, Club Cheval) without necessarily intending to, all influence my sound in their own respective ways. I’m also ridiculously obsessed with Parisian techno music, as a whole. Zone Music, Bromance and BNR having catalogues I could drown in.
Your first musical instrument was actually the clarinet as it was encouraged by your mom and later accumulated piano and guitar — do you think these traditional instruments and sounds have affected the way you produce these digital tracks?
Most definitely. Growing up in an DIY community of creatives, we all produced and recorded our music without the help of engineers. I learned the technical aspects of recording long before I had even listened to real dance music. So for me when writing, a lot of older habits bleed over into Essex. I’ll “jam” by myself for a few hours playing along to a 4×4 and hats to sketch ideas the same way I would recording guitar. And considering I use soft-synths and some hardware keys, knowing piano I feel let’s me get ideas out more efficiently. Having a relationship with music theory has definitely proven beneficial.
With your new EP and mix out, how do you as a whole feel about the entirety of it? Will you continue to stick and progress with this signature sound or do you feel like experimentation will happen quite a bit in your future?
I’m beyond happy with it! But I’m constantly pushing myself for growth and am all about experimentation. Nacho Piccaso and I have been talking and have some things underway, so that has the potential to get super interesting real soon. I’m not limiting myself to expectations for sure though, the Slave Ship remix I did for Azizi Gibson & Waka Flocka was a lot of fun, but totally different than anything on BLOODS. In saying that though, BLOODS is ESSEX; if that makes any sense at all. I’d like to maybe put together a live set someday, that would be pretty rad.
Speaking of the future, what are your long term goals in the music industry? How about short term goals?
Long term I would like to see this turn into something I can do a lot more of. I enjoy playing out and touring, both of which I’m putting a lot of work into right now for the year. Short term I’ve got a few east coast dates lined up and have been talking with local promoters about getting the support. I’m fortunate to have the guys from PDA in my corner, they’ve been a staple of Seattle hip-hop forever and though the genres are different, they’ve helped open doors for me I could never of imagined. All I really want to do is create and play music.
I’m relatively new to Seattle and am still getting to know people, but there are definitely quite a few awesome producers/DJ’s from here. My aesthetic is definitely unique to this area, but techno is alive and well. It’s hard to judge where I stand being most of my peers produce in other genres, but I’d like to think we’re all doing great.
September 29th, 2015, ESSEX dropped his first EP, BLOODS, available for listen on SoundCloud — and it’s definitely something dirty, dark, and brings something new to the techno table. It could be due to his taste and inspiration in music, but the definitive aesthetic was continual and strong throughout the entire mix — you can feel the grunge, almost like a homage to the great garage and punk bands of the earlier decades. With dance music being such an experimental genre because how much artists and producers can create under this umbrella genre, new sounds can become just that: experimental. However, with BLOODS, the transitions are very fluid and the beats feel natural when combining dark wave and techno. This entire EP is melodic and dance worthy — it brings it back to the days of the underground rave scene, both exciting and mysterious; because of this, no matter what style of dance you have a preference to, the many nostalgia points with his music is addictive and captivating, and worth a listen. Or two. Or fifteen times. Have at it: