Ehren Wolf (Wolfstax) has just earned his purple belt after being featured on two mixtapes (World of Dance and Audio Scrabble) and a recent collab session with ill.Gates in Los Angeles. We couldn’t be more proud of this achievement. This is what Ehren’s Sensei, Evan Gilsdorf (RIP KENNY), shared with us about Wolfstax: “Ehren is one of my hardest working students & friends. From the day we had our first lesson to now the transformation in his music has been nothing short of legendary! His most recent body of work, an EP he collaborated on with vocal artist Kaisa — was a real standout. It’s clean, elegant, and expertly crafted. He’s constantly pushing himself to create fresh sounds, always working on something exciting and keeps up the grind day in and day out. I’m proud to call myself his Sensei, getting to be a part of such rapid improvement has been a real treat. Big shout out to Ehren on the Purple Belt, extremely well deserved! Keep up the great work buddy!!!” The very first Purple Belt honoree, Vaedynn, also commented that: “Wolfstax immediately had me moving when I first heard his music. Using great sounds, groovy percussions, and solid arrangement. He’s had a ton of progress while at the dojo and I’m very excited to see him continue to grow as an artist.”
Ehren, tell us about your musical journey and how did it lead you to ill.gates, The Producer Dojo and the Class of 808?
My musical journey started around 2014 about the time I turned 24 years old. After years of hard drug abuse with heroin and pills caused me to lose my career as a Steel fabricator and wreck my car high, I was stuck working at an Arco gas station wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. I spent most of my time wasting it. Playing video games to disassociate, and doing everything I could to ignore the “good” life I threw away. Basically wallowing in my own self pity. One day this thought hit me like a ton of bricks, ‘If I spent half as much time learning to play the piano or drums like I have always wanted to do instead of just sitting here trying to be better at playing Grand Theft Auto, where would I be?’
For some reason, I decided to take a risk and run with that idea. I sold my T.V. that week and bought a laptop. I ended up giving my Xbox and games away to my Ex-girlfriend’s little brother Kevin and bought a DJ controller with my full paycheck. Seeing as I had no musical background or any experience whatsoever, DJing seemed like the easiest and cheapest way for me to get started.
I was very enthusiastic, and embarrassed myself to all the locals in my hometown, (god forbid if any old videos of me trainwrecking songs together from a crappy little Sony alarm clock radio ever surface again lol). But, I never gave up, I kept at it and ended up getting some opening slots at the 1230 Room nightclub in downtown Olympia. Meeting all the DJ’s there and becoming more involved in the EDM scene I was introduced to ILL Gates by some of my friends, and was blown away by his midi fighter videos on Youtube. Still to this day, one of the best shows I have ever seen was the Midi battle between KJ Sawka and Dylan at Foundation Nightclub in Seattle.
After watching his breakthrough workshop video in 2017, I realized how much of my efforts are wasted on the wrong processes and needed to focus on workflow. I signed up with the Class of 808 after that video using my college loan money and the rest is history they say lol.
Where are you from originally? Can you describe your life using only song titles?
I was born and raised in Olympia, Washington which is about 40 minutes south of Seattle.
Describing my life in only song titles hmmm
Where is my mind? – Pixies
God’s Bathroom Floor -Atmosphere
Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
What made you want to become a music producer? What do you do when you are not producing music?
I personally love to create things and I love to be challenged. I’ve always been a very anxious and energetic person living with extreme ADHD and I don’t know, writing music just centers me. It lets me hyper focus on something that also makes my soul feel good. DJing certainly played its part in making me want to produce. After about a year of DJing I really began to not enjoy playing other people’s music and really wanted to have that feeling of a dancefloor going nuts over a song that I made.
I am super obsessed with writing music and just recording audio in general that I open my DAW just about every day. But, when I’m not producing music some of my favorite activities are being outside doing yard work around my house or collaborating with other artists on their projects. I also spend a lot of time down at my work The Society Nightclub (formally the 1230 Room), trying to improve my skills as a light and visual technician, so I do lessons on Tuesday’s in Grand MA with my friend and coworker Ryan Thomas.
I’m also really into setting up festivals, building stages, and being a part of all aspects of the show’s production. With the support and reference from my boss, Alex Bosi, and all the experience I’ve gained working with my friend Chris Paro, I’ve recently had the chance to work with setting up truss and small lighting fixtures for Lucky at the Tacoma Dome this past March. I just love to be a helping hand in any show’s production. This year I was also very lucky to land a spot working at the Paradiso Festival with setup and load out.
I mainly just like to challenge myself to experience and learn new things, help others, and do anything that has to do with music or event production. It’s my obsession.
You recently traveled to the city of Angels to collaborate with ill.Gates. Tell us about your experience.
It was a wonderful and knowledgeable experience and I highly recommend that any Dojo member does it. The studio is amazing, Dylan is a wizard, you will learn a ton of stuff.
(Just an FYI, Dylan and his family were incredibly kind and fantastic hosts and he is a wonderful mentor, and NOTHING he did made me feel like what I am about to discuss. This was just my depression creating negative loops in my head about my perceived personal worth. I felt it might be helpful to share with all of you who may also be suffering from similar issues concerning their art or mental health. This trip and Dylan’s guidance helped bring to light the shadows I’ve buried for years and I’m finally starting to work through them.)
As a deeply depressed and anxiety riddled individual who beats himself up constantly with negative thoughts about how my music sucks or I’m not good enough etc. . . the collaboration for me was quite taxing.
The first day we had in the studio it was perfect. We stayed up working until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. But towards the end of the second day I started to notice whenever I was in the driver seat, I felt un-confident and questioned every decision I would make, throw it away, or I would feel paralyzed to even make a move. I also felt like my skills and anything I was going to write or do was shit compared to what Dylan could do with his skills and just made me feel like what am I here for? Like if I was taken out of the collaboration would it even be noticed?
I knew these feelings were completely inaccurate and I was a valuable team member in the collaboration. I knew I came prepared with good material for us to use, but, my depression kept creeping into my thoughts and by the third day I was pretty down and burnt out.
It was also concluded while I was there that I needed to change my stage name so it was more easily searchable on google. I deleted the music I had released on streaming sites and I’m basically starting from scratch again, which is fine, it makes total sense, and it’s what has to be done.
But at the same time, now I’m sitting here with not much to show anybody for the years of hard work I’ve put in or money I spent on T-shirts & stickers which now have the wrong spelling of my name and pretty much not useable now. No new music that I’m truly proud of up on streaming sites so when people ask me what I do, I can be like, “I’m a music producer and you can listen to me here!!”.
Again, this was totally necessary and I’m glad I did it, these are just feelings, it was a bummer at first but I quickly moved past that and started to focus on new material and this nice fresh start.
I was depressed and hating my art prior to this trip. I have always had a hard time sharing my art because deep down I feel embarrassed by it. Or like it’s something to be ashamed of. I remember thinking before my trip that writing a cool ass banger with Dylan is exactly what would snap me out of my funk.
Sadly, mental health doesn’t work that way and I still feel like a loser producer a majority of the time. The moral of my story is, it doesn’t matter what famous artist you collaborate with or how big a show you book, if you’re not kind to yourself and love the artist within, you will suffer from your depression even when you’re living out the most positive situations you have strived and sacrificed to achieve.
I understand that you caught the modular bug…is that correct? What modular synths have you incorporated into your studio and how often do you use them?
I caught the modular plague lol. Right now, I have a Moog Grandmother and a Moog Mother -32 which I would certainly run into a house fire to save lol along with my computer of course lol. I had all the Korg Volcas, but I recently sold them so I could buy the Arturia Rackbrute and start building a eurorack. Prior to my trip out to L.A. I was using them everyday to patch crazy bass sounds for mudpies and to chop up into sample racks. I slowed down on using them since I got back and have been working with Maschine the most lately just to be more hands on and have more fun while I’m writing songs.
What are your plans for your music (both near-term and long-term goals)?
I have been striving to get an EP released on the Dojo label, but working with other artists like my best friend Kaisä and writing songs for her has been more fulfilling for my creativity, so recording more artists and producing for them is top on my agenda.
I have had one ambient song placed in a first person shooter video game called Undoing on Steam and I have written some cues for a weed store’s commercials and a local Yoga business which I would like to continue doing and get some songs placed in television shows.
I desperately want to have some electronic songs that I can play in a DJ set so a huge goal of mine is to write 30 minutes of original music that can be played in a Nightclub since most of the music I have written has been for other people, or businesses.
What are the top 3 “game changing” lessons that you learned as a member of the Class of 808?
Separating editing from writing or “day” and “Night” sessions, was a huge game changer for my workflow. Prior to watching the iLL methodology, I was always doing everything together, sound design while I was writing or editing while the song is only halfway done and I could never get any finished ideas or if I did it was a fluke accident.
128 racks and templates have also been a game changer to my workflow and make things so much easier and faster to get started writing a song.
Making synths and drums out of any sample was one of the weekly downloads that inspired me to write two songs for a school project using only sounds I recorded and making sub bass from the waveform of a dog bark was all stuff I never would have thought of without the Dojo lessons.
If you could go back 10 years ago and advise your younger self of just 1 thing, what would that advice be?
To not be so hard on myself or set unrealistic expectations and never drive a car with no insurance! Boy howdy did that turn out badly for me when I was 20 lol.
Do you ever experience writer’s block in the studio? How do you overcome it? How often do you make music?
I work on music everyday in some aspect, whether it’s just sound design, making mud pies or just playing my instruments, I do something musical everyday. I have to. Im so entirely consumed by it that if I don’t do something musical that day it drives me nuts and if I’m out doing something else like taking a hike or something, I will walk around thinking about how I shouldn’t be hiking and how I should be writing music instead.
The only times that I really suffer from writer’s block anymore is when I have a half finished song. If I wasn’t able to complete the idea right from the start and have to come back to it the next day or so, I almost always have to scrap the song and start over with something new because I just can’t get back to the groove I was feeling with that song anymore and everything I do to it seems wrong and out of place.
Whenever I write a song on Maschine I never have writers block and I tend to finish my ideas, I found its easier for me to get trapped in writer’s block using Ableton and a keyboard rather than working hands on with a drum machine.
What are your favorite genres of music at the moment and who are your top 5 favorite artists right now?
Since I have worked in a Nightclub as a light and sound tech for the past two years and hear nothing but mumble rap, top 40 and ear screeching riddim, I mostly listen to jazz, blues and rock hahaha. But I’m also a huge fan of house music lol.
Top 5 artists right now
I See Stars
All the Class of 808 artists have been my favorites for a while now TBH
Are you involved in any other music production communities?
Recently, I was invited by my old high school and former visual arts teacher Scott Le’Duc to sit on an advisory board with other business professionals in order to help younger artists grow their skills and progress through their passions smoothly. We have been working together to help design lesson plans for next September that are practical and fun for media students.
I’ve also been recording and producing songs with previous music classmates of mine from the Evergreen State College. Working with Autumn and Kira on their EP projects and passions has also been very rewarding to be a part of.
If you met with a music producer that was on the fence about joining Producer Dojo what would you tell them?
Don’t wait a second longer.
This community has helped me tremendously in achieving my goals and has always been completely supportive of my dreams. Even today, when I was discussing my feelings with Sean (Spiderhound) about being nominated for purple belt and how I didn’t feel like I earned it, he was so helpful in shifting my perspective back to positive and reminding me of my worth. Sean gave me solid advice about how to relieve some pressure on myself, and get back to writing music for fun could help me finish my EP and achieve my goals.
And Evan (RIP Kenny) has been a tremendous support of my vision right from the second we started having lessons together. If it wasn’t for Evan’s guidance and support, I would have never made it onto two of the Dojo mixtapes. I can say without a doubt his lessons and support helped me earn purple belt.
Without this community I would continue to be lost in a loop. A nervous wreck lost in my negative thoughts with no support to tell me otherwise. I can’t imagine a time when I would not want to be in the Producer Dojo.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
It is truly an honor to be nominated for this award and I can promise full-heartedly that I will continue to work very hard to be a beneficial and supportive member of this outstanding community of talented musicians. 🙂