CINEMATIC, TRAUMATIC, ELECTRONIC HIP HOP FOR YOUR EARS AND EYES.
LEViT∆TE takes what you love most about dubstep, hardcore rap and a movie trailer about alien invasion then throws them in a blender. He crafts soundscapes that capture the mind in a dark, twisted world of madness and bass. If you close your eyes you can almost see the alternate dimension this sound came from…
Now open your eyes, because on Sunday, June 30, LEViT∆TE is unleashing [C:\Fatalism\AudioVisual\
The Dojo’s own Luke Rain caught up with LEViT∆TE to allow him to introduce himself to our family of Ninjas, give sage advice, share Bassnectar collab stories and tell us more about [C:\Fatalism\AudioVisual\
To start, tell us a bit about yourself and your background, where are you from and where are you now?
I am LEViT∆TE on stage, and Connor in real life, I’m 25 now, and I come from a small town on the east coast, called East Burke in Vermont. Ever since 2013 I’ve been living here in Seattle, Washington.
How long have you been making music? When did you start and what were some of your early inspirations?
I was 14 when i started DJing and making little edits for myself, and about 16 when I was really putting work into a DAW. At the time, Justice, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Zeds Dead and The Glitch Mob, artists like that, were really starting to pop, all the artists that people see as veterans now. I came from listening to hiphop and metal so I wasn’t so into techno or any four on the floor music at the time.
[C:\In The Studio]
What software and/or hardware equipment did you begin on and how has that evolved to your present setup?
I started-started on virtual DJ, with some control vinyl on a Gemini table and a mixer that didn’t have a real crossfader haha. But then Traktor, and a Kontrol S4 with 2 turntables, then I started doing both turntableism and producing, so I started using garage band to make edits, using my S4 as a sound card, then moved to Ableton. I’ve been on Ableton since as a DAW. For a while, I was doing these hybrid like sets, where I would rout the master channel of Ableton into my S4 mixer and do scratching/ sample juggling on top of Ableton live sets; but frankly it just became impractical and kind of over kill for the setup and size of performances I was doing, especially once I got my first residency at a club. After that, it was all CDJ’s. But before y’all think I went into the dark side or some shit, all the “LEViT∆TE live” sets I do, or the audio/ visual shows I do are done on an APC40 out of Ableton. Specifically speaking, I trigger stems in Ableton, with the APC40 and mix dissected songs together that way. Then I send midi signal from Ableton to control visuals.
Any VST’s you’d want to recommend to our readers?
Most sound design I do (with the exception of using Serum for some synth stuff) is done with Ableton stock effects, so I don’t have too many suggestions for effects outside of Abletons built in effects.
But for mixing and engineering thats a whole different story. For starters, Izotope Neutron. Being that Ozone is so widely used, I’m shocked at how over-looked neutron is. For the longest time, Izotope Alloy2 (precursor to the Neutron series) was my all time favorite plugin, but since Neutron 2 dropped that takes the crown, although I still do prefer the multi band gate on alloy 2.
Another excellent mixing tool is Fab Filter Pro-Q 2 (I don’t have pro-q 3 yet) everyone knows about Pro-Q but damn near no one I’ve met yet, knows how to use it to its full potential. When I fully learned all the ins and outs of Pro-Q that became my secret sauce for engineering. I felt like I had a superpower or some shit.
What monitor speakers would you recommend producers mix on?
As far as gear, people may disagree, but in this industry, if you’re in the average mid-20s-not-yet-hood-rich budget, Yamaha HS-8s are the best monitors out. For 2 reasons, 1. Because everyone suggests Hs-8s or KRK Rockits. But the thing is, Rockits are awful engineering monitors, and they have a frequency response thats all over the place. And 2. most people in that lane (besides those using Rockits) are using HS-8s. Every monitor speaker has largely different characteristics, to best level the playing field with gear, I would suggest to use the same thing as the next guy, so you guys are essentially competing in the same domain. I understand that there are some Focal, and Adams monitors in the same price range (although for that price you don’t get as wide of a low end response.) But If your stuff sounds good on your HS-8s, it will sound the same on everyone else’s.
Your collaboration with Bassnectar was a big milestone in your career. Can you tell us about what lead to that collab and what it was like working with him?
Man, he liked my song, Godstatus. I got an email from his people letting me know. Then we chatted a bit over email, which led to working together on a few songs and being friends. He’s a good dude man. Absolute sweetheart. A real example of that is when we did Level Up, he asked what rapper I would want on the verse, and I was saying Skepta and some other huge dudes like that. After 2 days or something, Bassnectar was like, nah, like do you know someone? Which of course I did, from being a hiphop DJ for so long. So I suggested my very talented friend Macntaj, and BN was down. He single handedly made that decision to put one of my friends on the song, over some industry rapper. That’s a genuine, “we all got’ eat” type of move.
You’ve also collaborated with another very successful producer who comes from outside the festival scene, Fuse of 808 Mafia, who is very well known in the Trap and Hip Hop world. How did that situation manifest?
Shitttt, I think I’ve only actually met Fuse maybe 2 times. He seems like a solid dude from the impression I got. He was homies with my old manager, Greg, who works over at Third Eye Collective studio out in Atlanta. Fuse was a regular client and the connection was made. It was always a dream to work with anyone from that camp, so that was so dope to see actually go down. I made sure I had some really dope shit for him beforehand, which turned into “Black Mass”
You have released much of your music independently and have also partnered with labels, notably Division Records. What benefits do you find on each road and where do you find more difficulty?
Everyone at Division are not only by the books, but extremely respectful and well articulated. My connection to them was through Thys of Noisia, who really oversaw the production of my EP “Collapse” from afar. It was a much different experience than working with Buygore or any of those guys, because it was an idol producer overseeing everything. So when he gave criticism, I not only followed, but I was happy to hear it.
Lately, I’ve gone hard independent with everything, which was a conscious risk/ decision, regardless of whatever other options I had. This isn’t because of a sour experience or anything controversial like that. Its because I have an idea of how things work in the industry, and I’m impatient and frankly it works best for my skillset to do so. I don’t like the idea of having another artist do my visuals. Luckily Division was comfortable with my doing them myself. Normally though, that’s not an option. If i take care of everything myself, for my release schedule, I get to put things out quicker, and I get to make it all myself, and do whatever I want to do. It makes a lot more sense for me. I’m very aware that signing over projects can “grow” my reach much-much faster, but for me, there’s downsides to going that rout. Also, its much more satisfying and there’s a lot more security knowing that the network and fanbase I’m building is all me. If electronic music falls in popularity, as a “scene” I will still have those beautiful people that found my music, just because they like my shit.
You just released “All That I’ve Done” on 6/20, what is the story behind that song?
To be honest, I wanted to make a song that sounded like calling for help from the inside of a broken tape machine or something, I don’t know. haha.
Next Sunday, June 30, is a big day for Levitate releases. You have a remix EP coming out for “Drowning,” what artists made the tape?
Vane and Eve! Those dude seriously killed their remixes. There were a good amount of submissions for the remix contest of that tune and theirs were both clean, cohesive ideas, and well done. Eve’s is a little more on the abstract side, which I love, and Vanes is just quality bass music honestly.
AND on that same day, June 30, you have the world premier of [C:\Fatalism\AudioVisual\
Yeah man, this is kind of big for me. I spent all of January going nuts on getting a fully cohesive A/V set going for that show. While that was happening and I was posting about it, and a shitload of people asked if I was going to stream it. I’ve put out a lot of music since then, so I will have to do different sets these summer shows, so before I say goodbye, i wanted to show all of the people online what the whole project looked like. I asked Facebook, and it seemed like most people wanted it on YouTube, so I’m going to host the actual stream there (youtube.com/levitateofficial) then have the discussion live on a brand new LEViT∆TE Discord server.
[C:\Being A Visual Artist]
How long have you been doing visual art, and was it always to accompany your music? How long have you been doing full audio visual sets?
Always, but I started using Photoshop and Illustrator in high school. I never used it for anything besides track art, until I was in my 20s and needed some bread. I did design jobs for clients, on the side, up until march this year when I decided to stop taking clients to go 100% in on LEViT∆TE. Outside of random track art, the 2 mediums started blending near mid 2017 when I dove into motion graphics and started learning the basics of 3D and CGI. I’m still a baby with that stuff, but its what I’ve always wanted to do, perform full A/V sets. The first time I had fully original visuals for my show was a Waves show (s/o to the Waves crew) out here in early 2018, but the first time I actually VJ’ed and DJ’ed at the same time, was for the Fatalism EP release in February. This has been a goal of mine for YEARS man. Like 5 years. That release party was the first time I felt fully fulfilled as an artist
You have a distinctly dark and surreal tone to your cover art and video sets, where do you find inspiration for your visual art?
A lot of people, HR Giger, Jesse Draxler, Zdzisław Beksiński, fucking Dali. Of course the more direct ones though, Jesse Kanda, Geurillagroup, Bladerunner, Ghost in the shell is a big one, Akira. I also find a ton of stuff on Instagram. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack to find something really creative, but it’s out there. There’s this dude, @nicholasmatthewelstran on Instagram, his work leaves me speechless. Also, my dudes Safehaven @Safehaven_hq and Lake Hills @lakehills_ are constantly killing it.
What software did you use to make the Fatalism visual set? And if you had to estimate, how much total render time do you think it took to get you from conception to the final version?
MAN NOW THATS A QUESTION haha.
I’ma answer the software thing first tho. I use C4D/ Octane render/ Camera Raw/ After Effects to do the big 3D stuff, then just After Effects/ Element 3D for the smaller jobs. When i VJ, i use a midi channel in Ableton to control Resolume (you’re welcome nerds.)
But to answer that fucking monster of a question, dude…. I’m not even sure, i could do some math here. So i counted it and I worked 25 days straight of 12+ hour days in January, to prepare a total of 46 visuals (some were already made, i just had to fix them.) Being that I have 2 computers, I would have one render, while I work on the other. My main CGI computer was rendering while I sleep for the most part, so about 10 hours a day for 25 days straight (my electric bill was $500) so that’s 250 hours out the gate. But with my other computer, that’s a different story. I think I only had that one rendering maybe 4 hours a day, so let’s ballpark it and say that’s 100 hours. So we’re at 350 hours. I also used older visuals from [v./concept//collapse.] which was around of 100 hours for that but I only used maybe 4 from that time, on average those were taking 8 hours a visual so there’s another 32. So if I’m ball parking it, about 380 hours, give or take 10-20 hours. Here’s the thing about that, my roommates can back me on this, I promise those numbers aren’t exaggerated.
In February I had the pleasure of being at The Crocodile for the Fatalism Seattle premier and I was blown away by both the audio and the visuals and how well they worked together. What goes into taking that vision from the studio to the stage? Is there any special gear involved, and do you use more than one computer to run everything?
Well the actual nuts and bolts of the connection are a secret, because Saige Rakoski, the dude who taught me how to pull this off, asked me to keep it between us. So I’m going to honor that. Essentially though, use Ableton to send signal to another computer running Resolume and hosting my Resolume project file. In a practical sense, the way this works is, most modern venues are using Resolume to run projections, in order to do that, you need a pretty beefy video computer that is more than likely built into the venue. I have it set up so I can go to a venue like this with a hard drive that has all of my videos, and my Resolume file on it, give it to the VJ that night, then set up my end, and boom, cohesive visuals in time with a stem-mixed Ableton set. The only extra gear besides my laptop and my APC 40, can fit in the bottom of a backpack.
Any final thoughts?
Yeah please tune into the live stream of the Audio Visual set! haha. Also be on the lookout for my summer releases, I’ve been trying to do a new drop every 10 days. Also if you’re in Washington, come out to Summer Meltdown festival to catch your boy. And finally, thank you for this interview Luke! Always a pleasure chatting with you man!
If you would like to see one of LEViT∆TE’s audio visual sets live in your city, make sure to give him a holler at [email protected]