Relentless Beats

RB Exclusive Interview: ATTLAS is Blooming into Something Special

ATTLAS got his start creating music for a barbecue sauce commercial with no pay, and he has come a very, very long way since then. At first nobody knew who ‘ATTLAS’ really was. When he released a killer remix of deadmau5‘s “Aural Psynapse,” many thought that he was a side act of deadmau5 himself, until Pete Tong revealed his true identity, Jeff Hartford, and he only went up from there.

I had the chance to ask Jeff a few questions about his background and his latest EP, let’s take a look.

Why did you keep your identity a mystery in the beginning, and what made you want to reveal yourself?

The funny thing is that it was never really the plan to be hidden or concealed, it was just a natural byproduct of the way I had been living. I was always a private person, and had no social media prior to the ATTLAS journey beginning. It was nice at the beginning to have a bit of social insulation though, as the world I was about to enter was an intense one with a ton of opinions. As we started to grow, I was beginning to be wary of the deadmau5 comparisons. As nice as it was to be mentioned alongside a huge inspiration of mine and my new boss, I wanted to be respectful to the legacy he and his music created, and to make sure I was honouring my opportunity in the best way possible. To me, that meant putting Jeff Hartford a little more out there in the world, and developing my production and writing in a way that would let me have my own musical voice and identity.

deadmau5 – Aural Psynapse (ATTLAS Remix)

What was it like to have deadmau5 debut your first track ever?

Incredibly surreal! I was at a friend’s house on a Saturday night when he played my Aural Psynapse remix at Hard Day of the Dead during his b2b with Eric Prydz. The mau5trap label manager tried to call me and let me hear the moment (and his enthusiastic screams) over the phone, but at the time I was using a pay as you go phone with no money on it! A few frantic minutes of reloading the phone from my credit card, I got a chance to hear one of my musical heroes play out a track that I had written in my room just a week prior. Still can’t get over that memory, incredibly special.

How would you say you have improved from the beginning to your latest EP?

In the beginning I was just excited to have a chance to release music on mau5trap. I tried hard to show a range of sounds and musical ideas, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t sure if it would be both my first and last release on mau5trap, or if I was going to get to continue to live out what was once just a dream. Now, I’m eager to encapsulate more consistent themes and ideas over the course of an EP. I have the chance for one off singles, remixes, compilation inclusions, and mixes to express my ideas, so the EPs can be their own unique flavour of output in my writing. Bloom is a great first step in what I want to be self-contained worlds of sound, and I look forward to pushing myself into new areas as soon as I’m back in the studio!

How did you come up with the backstory for Bloom EP?

Bloom EP was the natural response to the way I’d been living for the past few months. I was (and still am) very new to the world of producing, releasing, traveling. The winter was intense professionally and personally, and when I returned I felt I needed to reflect on the lessons I’d learned as a musician and a person. I didn’t have my piano and guitar on the road, and so I gravitated a little more heavily towards those sounds in the writing process. Additionally, I wanted to surround myself with more optimism. 2016 was then, as it is now, an intense and dramatic year globally. I tried to find more optimism, more musicality, and an arc that represented how I felt as I wrote on the heels of winter with spring making its arrival.

Can you elaborate a little bit on how the EP displays frost melting, winter thawing to colors and sounds?

A lot of what the EP meant to me was quite literally how I felt as the seasons were changing. We open up with Shadow Play, perhaps the most obvious reference to darkness and shadows, and conclude with the warm acoustic guitar of Avenue Road. Avenue Road was the name of a street I used to live on in Toronto, and it was always a place of warmth and good memories. There’s something too to be said about the inclusion of more instruments as well. I felt that there was something more human and organic about having these instruments I played with my hands as opposed to purely electronically produced sounds and sensations.

What is your favorite track on the EP?

Tough to answer that one! At different points in time, each track has been my favourite. I love playing Ryat out in a club, and the vocal tracks mean so much to me. I Need You More is an idea that I’ve lived with for a long time before it found its release, and having it out in the wild means I can share something personal with so many. Avenue Road is this perfect little memory box for me that references an apartment where I shared some of my happiest and most formative musical memories.

Who was your favorite vocalist you worked with on Bloom?

Both Kye and Lune brought such raw honesty and melodic purity to their respective tracks, it’s impossible to pick one. They both work so well with the music, and I couldn’t be happier to have had the pleasure of working with them.

What can we expect next from ATTLAS?

More music! I enjoy nothing more than writing, composing, producing, and playing music. While I’m on the road I’m constantly learning and evolving as I discover new ways of presenting the tracks, and when I return home I try my best to incorporate those lessons into work that resonates with me personally but in a way that will connect with others. More specifically though, I’m in the middle of writing another EP and Storyline 2, I have some remixes coming out that I’m very proud of, and writing a lot of piano music. I honestly can’t wait to share more music.

It’s awesome to hear from Jeff how he started out, and how much that first debut of his remix by deadmau5 meant to him. I think a lot of people would kill for that opportunity. It’s also very interesting to hear a little more about the backstory for ATTLAS’ EP, and it allowed me to listen to the songs with a different mindset as I would have before knowing this info. This guy really puts meaning behind his music, and I think that makes it so much more meaningful than just trying to create something people will like.

Well you guys heard him, we can all look forward to more music in the future from ATTLAS. He can’t wait to share it and I can’t wait to hear it.

Connect With ATTLAS: Twitter | Facebook | SoundCloud

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