After the release of his latest EP on mau5trap, Clairvoyance, ASHE swung by to chat about his production process and life during the pandemic.
If you’re someone who loves immersive soundscapes and stunning productions, there’s no doubt that ASHE is an artist who you should be listening to. Over the past few years alone this Toronto-based artist has brought forth some absolutely fantastic releases that have graced labels like mau5trap, Graydient Collective, and Emercive, and it’s clear that he has no plans on slowing his ascent in the scene down anytime soon.
Each release in ASHE’s discography is born out of his arsenal of influences and dedication to organic sounds that are blended together to create moments of true sonic bliss. And his dynamic sound has been put on full display through his mixes that sweep listeners off their feet as well as on tracks such as “Still Dreaming” and EPs like melancholia and the recently released Clairvoyance.
After returning to mau5trap with that aforementioned two-track EP, we had the opportunity to chat with ASHE about his influences as an artist, experiences during the pandemic, and plenty more. So press play on the exclusive guest mix from ASHE below and read on to learn more about this rising star in the scene, you won’t regret it!
Stream EDMID Guest Mix 241 || ASHE on SoundCloud:
Hey ASHE, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Before we dig into your latest release let’s turn back the clock to your first steps into the world of music. Who were some of your earliest influences and what drew you to electronic music itself?
ASHE: Hey! The pleasure is all mine. I’d say I grew up with the ’60s and ’70s music, it was a very Rod Stewart / The Beatles kind of house. We had a Music World that I went to in town at a track meet and I think the first CD I bought was Van Halen’s debut album. Discovering music on my own is really what set things in motion for me.
I was more into David Bowie and Rush (being a Canadian kid) and some of their more synthesized songs like “Tom Sawyer” and Bowie’s “Earthling”. My older brother Ryan, who was a DJ, first introduced me to electronic music back in 2004. We would listen to Sander Van Doorns early Identity sets and Paul Van Dyk’s – Vonyc Sessions to name a few.
It was one fateful day when I asked my brother to give me his discography and he said “No, if you wanna get into this you have to find your own music and learn your own tastes.” That’s when I drove up to Ottawa and got my hands on deadmau5’s “Random Album Title” and it was also around that time that I started making my own music.
Last year, you unveiled the Melancholia EP and “Human” on mau5trap and now you’ve returned to the label with two fresh tunes, “Clairvoyance” and “Zeitgeist.” Can you walk us through the production of these tunes? Is there a story behind them?
Well to start “Melancholia” was a real heart piece that I wrote and had the pleasure of having Léonie Gray sing on. “Clairvoyance” and “Zeitgeist” were my attempt at blending early alternative electronic with a bit more modern sounds. They both play with concepts of time which are better accentuated in the music videos that accompany them.
The idea behind “Clairvoyance” was the beauty of life and death. Knowing the finality of things and the dance we do with life. “Zeitgeist” is a particular place in time. I chose it (again with the video) to show how artists are chewed up by the industry and looking to the underground is where you can find people being truest to themselves. On a less serious note, these are my cool guy songs. [Laughs]
One of the things that really stood out to me about your productions is how diverse they can be, with some leaning on techno or progressive while these two are more downtempo and trip-hop. When you’re creating a track do you have the intended style in mind, or is it something that just happens naturally?
It’s the natural progression of things. Behind the scenes, you’ll see more tracks that fit “in-between” my releases. I never like writing the same stuff over and over and I pride myself on the diversity of what I write so that nobody will ever be able to pigeonhole me into one specific genre. People will just say, “That sounds like ASHE” no matter what I’m into at the time. I write exactly what I want to listen to. If I don’t hear it, I write it.
You also paired these two tracks with some visuals as well to add an extra dimension to the soundscapes you’ve created. What was the creative process like for this, and how important do you feel it is for artists to go one step further beyond just music?
I’m a HUGE movie buff. I love watching movies and music videos. Sometimes it’s the difference between what I put on at a party or not. If a song is packaged with really cool visuals it’s one step closer to being every piece of art, and I think that’s really cool. The creative process was interesting. I bought a ton of stock footage because of the pandemic. It’s not too easy to shoot anything right now. Video editing and music-making are very similar, they’re both based on timelines so I ended up just cutting to the beat and had a ton of fun trying to tell a story with pieces of media.
It’s like making a visual collage and the story can develop as it goes. Artists have always had to go beyond just writing music. Long gone are the days of selling records and being a rock star. We’re social media managers, photographers, editors, and “influencers” to a degree. Everyone is making music now. It was hard before the pandemic, now the entire industry is online. If you’re not willing to spend the extra time trying to catch somebody’s eye you might be left behind. It’s the cold hard truth right now. There is so much incredible talent screaming out for attention that posting your tracks to SoundCloud just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
The pandemic has affected artists in wildly different ways with some finding immense creativity and motivations while others have struggled to do the same. What has your experience been like over the past six months?
Now I say this as a Canadian, the pandemic has been very good to me. The government stepped in when we lost our jobs and provided support during the toughest bits. From the start, it felt like a perfect situation. I got paid more or less to write at home. Two months into it, things changed when suddenly live music was never coming back. I had gigs in October canceled and the gravity of it all really started to weigh down.
Now, I’m not much of a social person as it is but it made me reevaluate what was important in my life. I wrote this two-track EP in quarantine and have made massive strides musically. I know for others it’s been a lot harder. I was also living with two friends and had a big enough back deck so we were one of the lucky few to make it through relatively unscathed. To summarize not a whole lot changed for me but I’ve always persevered through rough times and like to make the best of bad situations.
Back in August, you played during Graydient Collective’s Gallery Live Showcase that was simply fantastic. When you’re approaching streams compared to normal sets, is there anything you do differently to prepare?
Streaming is a lot more work than playing at a venue. I had to buy an interface to run my turntables into my computer, figure out internet issues, and create a decent looking “venue”. I chose to do the Graydient set in my room because I was going for “chill vibes”. I can’t seem to jive with the heavy stuff over my laptop speakers so I’ve been approaching live streams with the intent of people doing other things in the background. I just try and show people cool things I have or hold my roommate’s cat, Oscar, in the air. It’s meant to feel a bit more like hanging out in your bedroom listening to music with your friend than I’d say playing a show.
Something that’s been a hot topic among artists lately, and showcased heavily on platforms on Twitch, are artists playing far lengthier sets than at your typical club or festival. What’s your preferred set length where you feel you’ve told a proper story?
I’ve done it all but I’d say one to two hours is best for me, sets are pretty tiring stuff surprisingly. Me, LUNR, and Rhett played an afterhours at Montreal’s “Circus”. We each had three hours but we went intermittently throughout the night. It’s kind of funny how tired I get at the centre of a party. I remember going to Circus 10+ years ago with my brother and we actually took a quick nap from 3:30-4 just to keep going.
It’s definitely easier to keep going when you’re on a live stream. I have a chair I can sit on, a fridge that I can go to, and can make a sandwich during the particularly long songs. They both have their benefits but “being at the hotel” during your set is definitely a special kind of luxury.
Having created and performing music for over a decade now, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the scene? Is there anything you miss from the early part of your career?
Well, the early parts of my career weren’t that interesting. The parties were way crazier during the “EDM bubble” from 2010-2013. I noticed the industry has dug its claws into the scene way more. You have more Instagram influencers playing shows and topping Spotify charts than people who are in it for the music. We used to book shows based on our DJ sets, now I’ve had promoters say “We were shocked you guys pulled such a big crowd because your Instagram followers are so low.”
I feel like as the money is leaving the scene and clubs are being driven out of cities, we’re throwing a lot more warehouse events. Not now of course! It’s a pandemic. Stay home so we have clubs to go to when it’s over! I’d say the biggest difference is people used to not show up to my gigs… and now they do.
While we won’t be able to visit you in Toronto anytime soon, when we do, where would you take us for a bite to eat?
Barring full closure of the city, I was living in Little Italy beside a place called Tondou Ramen. It was my spot to go with my roommates and actually Emercive head honcho, Rhyot. We went way too much but the ramen was superb and they had cheap house beers. Get the Nanban fried chicken. Do it. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.
Finally, with so much turmoil in the world today it can be difficult for many to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you could offer up some words of encouragement to those struggling, what would it be?
Nothing lasts forever. Try to take this time to better yourself in some way. I think it’s important to fill up your time reading, writing, creating art. It’s hard but we’re all going through the same stuff. The best you can do is write a song about it.