Levitation Jones: Kissing Hands and Shaking Babies at Hulaween [Interview]
Brian Gardner, the man, the myth, the legend, best know as Levitation Jones made his Suwannee debut at this year’s Hulaween. After finally finding a quiet place to sit down and talk amongst the Spanish moss on the trees of Suwannee, Brian spoke about living life shamelessly, enjoying Hulaween, and meeting fans, or as he said, “Kissing hands and shaking babies.” Bass musics’ biggest rockstar sat down with us to talk about life, the underground, and his first time at Suwannee.
Welcome to Hulaween!
Now this is your first year playing Hulaween?
Yes, first time ever at Suwannee.
Have you had any time to look around and enjoy the festival? What’s your favorite thing you’ve been able to see?
Everything is just really magical. You walk around every corner and there’s something fun. I appreciate festivals like that. I think the idea of festivals when they first came around was that they were supposed to be a kind of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory vibe and the more and more it gets like that, the more fun it is. Electric Forest is a great example of that, and everyone says Hulaween is the Electric Forest of the south.
How are you feeling about your performance?
I’m excited and nervous for what to expect because this crowd is different. It’s such a big festival, great vibes, and all the homies are here, so there’s gonna be my type of people and people who really fuck with what I’m doing. But doing these jam crossover festivals are weird. You want to play music that’s a little more tasteful in my opinion. At the same time half of this crowd is into really heavier dubstep stuff that is simply structured versus the other half of the crowd who may like really complicated riffs and like progressive jam music. It’s cool, I think a lot of people do appreciate the crossover, but I’m coming from a different direction than either of those things, so it’s interesting to try to adhere to all of those crowds and still keep it all just what you want to do. That’s a real big way to say… I don’t know hahaha.
Without revealing too much, what can we expect from your set this year? I know you’ve expressed some excitement about playing shows during the spooky season.
I always say, ‘there’s no better boy to play your Halloween set than Levitation Jones.’ I am the spooky guy. We have the silent disco stage tonight and I think people don’t appreciate panning in music. I put a lot of panning in my music so there’s just little things that can create so much space. You can pan something hard left or hard right and you can almost feel your eyes move with it too. It’s crazy how your senses can be tricked. I’ll definitely be playing some stuff like that at the silent disco stage tonight but mostly I think we’re just gonna party. We got one set, we got one hour, let’s do this thing.
Have you gotten into any renegade shenanigans yet?
We’re going to do the Incendia stage and then I’m going to announce and move the entire crowd directly over to my set at the Silent Disco stage and we’ll all run over there and play at that stage. Going to try to take over the festival no matter what. That’s what we’ve always been trying to do since day one when we walked in. We always wanted to take over and create the most ridiculous party.
How did you get your start in music and producing? Did you play any instruments, or did you draw interest from a fan perspective?
I think I grew up always wanting to be a Rockstar, in a funny way. Sort of like a showman, a performer, an entertainer. I always just wanted to get up, make people laugh, and make people feel things. You know I love attention, which is always a good and a bad thing, but I’ve been able to focus-in on those good things. I found that this is a really good way to express a lot of what I’m experiencing. I dabbled in video production and got into radio when I was in college. I stopped going to school after a semester, but I kept pretending that I was enrolled so I could have my radio show. I would drive an hour there for the meeting, and an hour back, then an hour there and back for the show, 2 times a week, just so I could spin dubstep on the radio in 2011. I was playing artists like Skrillex and Flux Pavilion, then I’d find some stupid stuff from guys that don’t make music and have kids now from a YouTube deep dive. Some progressive-metal kid showed me Reaper, which is the DAW I use to produce still, and he showed me how to download drum samples, then use synths instead of recording guitar tracks like he was doing. I just got really into it really fast.
How did you come up with your name and character Levitation Jones? What is the story behind this alias?
The character of Levitation Jones has developed over the years, and will continue to develop, especially as I push the podcast and more of myself as a personality. It’s just become more honed-in as we go. At first, I was just trying to be a wild boy and cause a scene. I was able to do that for a while because I wasn’t a big influence. The rowdiness was just enough where people were like ‘I can get behind that.’ But now I have a voice because people listen to me, so people think I’m more responsible with that, or they at least think I’m supposed to be. I genuinely do think I’m a decent role model if you get what my art is about. I set a way better example for people than some think.
Tell me about some of your other projects like getting involved with podcasts and hosting the new Levitation Jones Show.
So, the podcast stemmed first from my belief that media coverage in bass music is really awful. Some of these articles and topics they cover are trash. The second was: ‘What can I do to help people understand me better?’, because I realized people aren’t really getting the character from behind the wall of Twitter. The people that know me and come to the shows, they do get it, they hear me, understand, and stick up for me, but it’s hard to stick up for me when you have 100 people in a room who just see the Tweets but don’t really have the context on me. So, this podcast is to have people listen to me talk credibly and see I’m not an idiot. You can hear the clear intention in the podcast. We hop back and forth from fucking around to actually talking. I’ve written the show over 2 years. So, the content is quality, production wise were getting there, it’s only the first episode. The final motivation behind the show is that I want to be multi-faceted, I want to be valuable. I don’t want to just be a DJ/producer. When underground bass music gets a serious radio show, I want to be qualified to host, because I’m a fan, and this, it’s something I study. I love the culture of it; listening to other people’s music, just finding other people’s work and exploring, making sure its shared properly.
Your latest EP ‘Optical Sliding’ came out just a few months ago. Definitely includes some interesting song titles and sounds. What was your inspiration behind this EP?
Taking a break from the artsy stuff, I wanted to make like deep dubstep party tracks in a weird way. I just wanted to be wonky with it, be different, just show you what I can really fucking do with a subwoofer. I wanted it to be weird bass for deep dubstep heads and deep dubstep for weird bass kids. The title ‘Weird Place to Find a Foot’ it’s a festival game where you just name a weird place to find a foot…’Optical Sliding’ is straight up a reference to when you’re high and you think you’re seeing something straight, but your eyes are actually doing a diagonal. They’re not focusing the way you think they are, but your brain is tricked and that’s why it looks like the walls are stretching or moving. ‘Back Then, but Now’ is just the Mike Jones reference to the sample that’s in it.
Who are some of your favorite up and coming bass music artists to listen to and work with right now?
Rest In Pierce, that kid deserves to make it more than anybody. He works hard, he’s the purest soul, and he cares about everybody. He cares about the scene, he’s not overboard in any manner. I think I’m a good guy to support but I’m so wild; Logan is so sweet, just a great human being. Ludge doesn’t get enough credit. He’s grown up so much and he was so young when he started doing this shit. He’s been through a lot and people don’t realize that. He’s gonna be so big one day. I support people’s music who I fuck with, but I play music from people I don’t even like, because if you make good music, it deserves to be supported in my opinion. Horrible people make art, great people make art, weird people make art, crazy people make art, it’s all worth sharing, I think we should use more maturity in our digestion of that: the separation of the person and the artist, and the studying of all minds. That’s part of why I’m pushing the education of the underground scene. We can all be smart fans.
Tell me a bit about your style. Sometimes you’re performing in a skirt, sometimes dying half your hair black, maybe even braiding it. Is there any reason for some of your looks? Are you trying to keep things fresh or do you like standing out and being different from other artists?
‘To play good you gotta look good’ I always say! I got my platform boots for my set. Obviously, it’s like partially an attention thing. I love being the center of attention for whatever reason. I think people should be more ok with that. It’s not a bad thing. I do know I look silly, but at the same time, I think it’s really inspiring for all genders to see a straight man so in touch with his femininity. There are way better examples than me, but in this scene, there’s not a ton. There’s something comforting about feminine energy in comparison to masculine energy, especially with what we’ve been taught to think. Guys are supposed to be so *grunting and flexing*… It’s my little attempt at reversing some of that toxic masculinity that’s out there. I think by wearing a skirt, putting on some platform shoes, my hair in braids, but to still be killing it with the ladies, yet being like flirty and fun with the guys, just being myself, and not worrying about being too tough or too serious about anything, is encouraging for a lot of people. If you’ve got a smile on your face and you’ve got manners you can do whatever the fuck you want.
What do you hope to be able to do more of on tour in 2020?
The year of the vision. You guys are fucked. That’s all it is. It’s over. I’m gonna write a lot of music, I’m gonna do a lot of crazy stuff. We’re gonna start budgeting my craziness. 2020, I’m excited. I haven’t felt this excited about my stuff since like 2016, so if you were investing in Jones stock, right now would be the time to do it… and then like, sell in two years.
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