Figure on Horror, Monsters, and Working for Universal Studios [Interview]
As twilight hit at the Boat stage at Mysteryland on Saturday, May 24, Figure brought his horror-filled bass music to the raging high seas. Marked by a consistent intensity throughout, Figure maneuvered between heavy tracks with the deftness and ease of a ballerina. The ebb and flow in contrast with the weight of the sound made for a strong and startling symbiosis. The set definitely started with his heavy, horror-filled dubstep and later in the would develop into more trap-filled tracks, then weaving back into dubstep. Hearing his signature dubstep, particularly at the beginning of the set, with marked horror sounds– such as, the quintessential horror moving stabbing screech– drove the crowd wild. As the music got darker, so did the sky– and by the end of the set, night had overcome the crowd, and like any good horror movie, the intensity was high.
Figure started laying tracks around 2009 in Indiana, and now he performs at major venues and festivals around the world, particularly the US, Europe, and Australia. What’s most interesting about Figure is his use of quotes and sounds from major horror films to create a darker, edgier dubstep sound. His popular annual series, Monsters, is released every year in October, just in time for Halloween. With a spring tour featuring 30 tour dates alongside Crizzly under his belt, fans are anticipating the early release of a track off his upcoming October 2014 Monsters EP on the next Friday the 13th– June 13. Check out the teaser here:
When the sun was still high on that Saturday at Mysteryland, well before darkness would fill the stage, Sensible Reason pulled Figure aside to ask how he crafts the perfect set, his upcoming projects for his favorite holiday (you guessed it– Halloween), and how he keeps the energy for his shows at 100%. Here’s what he had to say:
Sensible Reason: What are you most looking forward to for your set tonight?
Figure:Well it’s an hour and a half set, and for the bass stages, that’s not a common thing. With an hour, you feel like you get cut short a little bit, like you didn’t’ tell your whole story that day. I’m just stoked to play the amount I would have for a show that’s in a venue at a festival. I think it’s the first time I’ve played an hour and a half at a festival—It’s always an hour.
What is the ideal set time length?
An hour and a half, with the choice of another 30 minutes without getting cut off. I wouldn’t want to do that at a festival because there are so many people, but at your own show where everyone is there to see you, if everything is good after an hour and a half, sometimes I just stop and I say, “That’s was the set but I just want to play like for another 30 minutes.” [It doesn’t have to be] this whole elaborate thing; I just have all these songs and I just want to play them.
What is the difference between a performance at a festival and a show?
At a festival, because there are so many artists back to back, your shock value and energy have to be 100% up from start to finish. At one of my shows I might do a 5 minute intro. Here? No way, I just go into it and start.
How do you bring 100% to the show from the start?
Go to the stage beforehand– don’t just go to the stage and pop up. A lot of the energy and everything, you can control that more by having things not have as long break downs and build ups. You can just throw it at them real quick in between every song. Instead of being like, “This is a 2 minute breakdown; I’ll just let it happen,” you have to drop the drop as fast as possible. And I guess that’s the difference in the festival shows— I don’t let things sit as long, I won’t play the song as long, I just like to get in and get out, because it’s usually only an hour you have to do things in faster time.
What is something your fans should look forward to in your set today?
Bunch of new stuff. There’s a bunch of songs that no matter what I play them in every set because they’re stuff that if they’ve been fans with me since things took off, they know what they are. It’s like if you go to a Mötley Crüe concert, you want to hear “Girls, Girls, Girls.” There are certain things you want to hear. It’s stuff that they want to hear and stuff its stuff that hopefully will be promoted in a couple months because it’s new. And my friends always send me new music, so I’m always trying out other producers.
What’s some new music your fans might not have heard of? Some artists you’ve been turned on to?
My friend Hunter Seigel makes really good hyper but dark house music. It’s stuff that people wouldn’t expect me to play but it’s my good friend’s, so I’m always playing his stuff. One of my favorite producers is Eptic, I’m always bugging him for new stuff and he just sent me a couple new songs that aren’t out until the end of the year. You ask your friends, and it’s not even time for them to promo stuff yet and they’re just like, “Hey man, you can’t put this in a mix. This isn’t promo time, this is like I just finished this.” That’s the stuff that gets me excited to play because I know a lot of other dj’s don’t have it– it didn’t go out in a big email blast, I specifically asked for something new and they weren’t ready to give it but they gave it. I like that that. It’s kinda like growing up, you went to the record store first, and if you saw a record and knew it was really good, sometimes you just buy all five of them so no one else in town could hear them. And you have copies forever! But, that doesn’t exist that much anymore. You don’t find a rare mp3’s on Beatport. So, getting stuff before it’s promo-ready is important.
You have an EP series, “Monster.” Can you tell us about it?
It’s every October, it’s themed towards Halloween. It’s my shtick as you would say. Instead of a drop of some girl saying, “Get up!” or “Do this!” it’s themed towards a different horror movie. It could just say the name of a creature or there could be like a story line going before it drops. But every October there is another series that comes out. This year will be the 5th one. I’m almost 6 or 7 tracks into it already, and normally I’m just starting on it now. I usually work on it all year, but I don’t take it seriously until it’s crunch time. In the crunch time, that pressure, it makes me just—I don’t think about it, I just start doing stuff and it just works. I think it’s luck, I don’t know—because if it didn’t work I’d be screwed, because I always leave it to the last minute. So this year I started earlier.
What is it about Halloween and horror that draws you in?
I don’t know, I was into it as a kid. When I was young I didn’t really leave our basement a lot, I just watched a couple movies over and over. I had a Beetlejuice VHS, Adam’s Family VHS, I loved when Ahh! Real Monsters came on on Nickelodeon. Nothing much would resonate with me, just darker stuff. I’m not a dark guy, I don’t summon demons and shit… I mean, that’s cool with me. I’m just more into darker stuff. You know how you have your comfort movies? I’ll watch like The Shining, that’s a comfort movie for me, that helps me to fall asleep.
Not many bass music producers say that film inspires their music. Can you speak about the intersection of film & music and what it means to you?
Maybe it’s like when you see something and you hear something. I like to say the songs are part of a bigger picture, but [in essence] they’re still just songs. If you just heard someone get stabbed and you heard the gross sound effect that they would make on a movie, you wouldn’t get grossed out. And if you saw it but didn’t hear it, you wouldn’t be that grossed out because it was silent. So I feel like, somehow, putting those samples in there…
There are some chord progressions that you just think are creepy right away right when you hear it, so I feel like that gives it something more, rather than just a song that will work for a little bit, especially if you sample a classic movie that everyone has grown up on, I feel like that extends the life of a song.
Would you do a horror film soundtrack?
Yes, I would!
Has anyone ever asked you to do that?
No, one has asked me to do one, but last year I got a lot of requests from TV shows to use my songs, but there are so many samples in them that I can’t really do that. I do score the Universal Studios LA Hollywood Horror Nights, it’s a month and a couple days every October and they basically turn the entire park into a huge haunted house. And instead of a ride, you walk into a room, and there will be an Evil Dead haunted house. And it was legit: Bruce Campbell was there, there were props from the original set. So I score one of the buildings that they do. Three years ago they used some of my songs and I found out about that and it made me really happy, so I contacted them and I did it officially last year and this year I’m doing it again. I guess that’s the closes to the scoring stuff.
What are the logistics of making tracks for the Horror Nights?
Certain rooms are themed certain ways, and they’re looking for something in particular. I get told pretty early what things are, and I just start making… It’s not necessarily full songs that they want. You walk into a room, and it needs to be peak time at all times, so they’ll say, “We’re going to loop this song for a minute. So give us a minute, we don’t need anything else.” A lot of times, I’ll tie that in on the work on the Monsters stuff, so many times the songs on the Monster EP will be those songs in the rooms but I’ll just change the samples or themes. Like, last year there was a Psycho room, and one of my songs I just took out some of my stuff and put in the stabbing noise from the sound track, that and girls screaming and getting killed in the shower, I’ll put that in the song and so I turned it into the Psycho song.
I got really good feedback. And because it’s all in LA so the music scene there is ridiculous, like a lot of people appreciate incorporating new stuff into something more traditional.
Figure may have a taste for darkness, but his personal demeanor is light and easy going. While he was calm and relaxed here, just a few hours later he would throw down so hard at the Boat stage that people’s backs were aching and their cheeks were sore from making that stank face we all make when listening to only the finest eau de dubstep. Figure nailed it at Mysteryland and we cannot wait to hear more tracks to be released as well as more summer show and festival dates! You need to follow Figure on Facebook and Soundcloud to keep current with him, so be sure to do that. In less than two weeks, Figure will be pre-releasing a track from his Monsters EP, this Friday the 13th, so be sure to follow him to keep updated on that! We’ll also be sure to share any updates and track releases, so stay tuned.
You can check out Figure this Labor Day weekend in NYC at Electric Zoo! More info here.
Check out our full Mysteryland photo albums here:
Can’t get enough dubstep and bass music from Mysteryland? Then check out our interview with Dirtyphonics & Zomboy here!