Desert Dwellers :: Interview for Electronic Site ‘Psy Amb’ (2015)
01. How does the new album differ to previous ones ? I heard there might be some more uptempo tribal tech numbers on it ? What was the overall vision in regard to creating this album ?
The Great Mystery is a special release in the vast Desert Dwellers catalog of music. This album marks the first time that the two of us (Amani Friend and Treavor Moontribe) have collaborated on a full length album together from start to finish, even though we have been producing music since 1999 together in a wide range of styles. Up until now our productions have gone into the world as either singles, EPs, or on various artist compilations. This release actually marks the 8th full length album of original music in the DD catalog, and it is definitely one of the most dynamic offerings. The vision behind the album was hatched several years ago between the two of us, and that was to create a journey through multiple genres of electronic music and world music into a fluid tapestry of psychedelic soundscapes. The range of this album goes from ambient, to full on tribal tech dance tracks, with a lot of psy-dub and mid tempo global bass tracks in between.
02. Do you guys enjoy DJing you own music or do prefer a more live setup ?
Our set up when we play as a duo is to have one laptop running tracktor to DJ the tracks, and the other laptop synced up through midi so that we can trigger additional vocals, instrumental passages, loops, and effects on top of the DJ set. This allows us to be spontaneous and in the moment, and we are able to do “live remixing” of our older and newer tracks. It is also a functional and efficient operation to travel with, which makes our lives easier. We have collaborated many times with live vocalists and instrumentalist in our sets, and we really enjoy that a lot. We want to be doing that a lot more and more in the future with our collaborators Ixchel Prisma, Meagan Chandler, and HANNAH. We also want to start exploring some visual projection aspect for our show as well. But keeping things simple and efficient the past few years has been the way to go, as we have been traveling all over the place.
03. What has been the highlight of the past 12 months ?
It was exactly 12 months ago that we were driving around the country in a bus with Simon Posford (Shongle). We had the honor of opening up for his Shpongletron show 42 times. We can honestly say that tour was a career highlight for us, as the music of Shpongle has been some of the most influential and inspiring music to both of us since the 90s. Also in the past 3 months we have had the opportunity to travel extensively to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Bali!! Spreading the joy of music to all corners of the planet has always been a life long dream!
4. American producers, especially those in the San Francisco bay area really helped to push the merging of bass and psytrance into a tribal bass downtempo hybrid. Were you guys influenced by anyone in your own bass evolution, so to speak ?
The roots of psychedelic tribal downtempo music originated long ago with artists like Shpongle, Eat Static, The Orb, OTT, Abakus, and other similar artists. We were heavily influenced in the 90s by this first wave of producers. During the past 5 years or so we have been inspired by many artists from down under, such as Grouch, Kalya Scintilla, Whitebear, and Temple Step Project. In North America, the producers we really enjoy are Bird of Prey, Birds of Paradise, and recently artists like Sixis and AtYya.
05. You have done many remixes and been remixed by many artists. Are there any particular remixes that you are especially pleased with ?
The remix we did for EarthRise SoundSystem called “Makyen Ghrir Allah” came out amazing, as did our (yet to be released) remix for Eat Static of “Dionysiac.” There has been so many remixes done of DD that would be impossible to pick a favorite, but a couple that really have always stood out are Kaminanda’s remix of Dragon’s Mist, and Kalya Scintilla’s remix of “Lotus Heart”… and the entire set of remixes for “Seeing Things” on Twisted Records is exceptional as well.
06. What have been your favorite festivals to play at and what makes them so special for you ?
The most amazing gathering and musical experience we have ever been a part of was playing in front of the Great Pyramids in Egypt on Dec 21st 2012 for “The Great Convergence”, and then flying to Guatemala right afterwards for New Years Eve at the “Cosmic Convergence” !! Exceptionally epic way to bring in the new era. Other music festivals we have enjoyed a lot are Symbiosis, Beloved, Sonic Bloom, Enchanted Forest, BOOM in Portugal, Rainbow Serpent and Earth Frequency in Australia, and of course Burning Man …. but we always say that Burning Man is in a category of it’s own!!!
07. I am always excited about how many young producers approach new ways of exploring beats and bass. Who are some up and coming artists that have caught your attention of late ?
AtYya, Sixis, Mumukshu, Wu Wei, Goopsteppa, Supersyllius
08. What were you guys like as teenagers ? Did you have a rebellious phase ? What music were you listening to back then ?
The two of us actually had completely different upbringings. Amani spent his early years traveling around the world with his hippie parents, listening to reggae, dub, jazz, and all forms of world music. Treavor spent his youth growing up in LA listening to classic rock and heavy metal, surrounded by the buzz of the concrete jungle. When electronic music kicked into the scene in the early 90s, both of us gravitated towards it immediately and devoted ourselves to it, bringing our own unique histories into the new electronic landscapes we were producing.
09. You have your own label DesertTrax through which you release music. You also have releases on Whiteswan and sister label Blackswan I believe as well as Twisted Records. What informs your decision to release through your own label as opposed to other labels ?
generally speaking, when we want a certain release to have a Physical CD that goes along with it, we will collaborate with Black Swan and White Swan on the project … and when a release is digital only we will release that under our own labels Desert Trax or Yogi Tunes. We did release something on Twisted records called “Seeing Things” about a year ago … and we would love to create some new psychedelic EP for that label in the future as it is such an iconic label to work with.
10. I’m a big fan of artist Aumega who has designed the cover art for your new album. How do you guys get hooked up ? Did you give him any ideas of what you wanted for the cover ? What other visual artists have you been involved with ?
We got turned onto Aumega’s art because of a T-Shirt Amani bought from Nomad Wear. We just emailed him one day and he was so enthusiastic to work on the new album for us, as he said he was already a huge fan or our music. The feeling was mutual for sure. We gave him some minimal directions, wanting the cover to capture the essence of the “Great Mystery” that we find ourselves in during this enigma of an existence. Aumega really did an exceptional job and we are very pleased with the result of the collaboration. We have also worked with many other talented artists on our covers in the past, including Justin Totemical, Olivia Curry, Vajra, Jesse Noemind, Michael Divine, and Amani has actually contributed his art and design to many of the covers for Desert Dwellers` and Desert Trax as well over the years.
11. I grew up in Australia and was lucky to attend some great summer outdoor festivals in my youth. How was your recent Australian tour ?
We had a really exceptional time down under. The people are so friendly and the nature is breathtaking! you Australians really know how to party and have a good time!!
12. Your tour for the new album kicks off in a few weeks. How are preparations going ? What can people expect from the show ?
Expect awesomeness to unfold perfectly
13. Outside of music and performing what do you guys enjoy doing when not in the studio or on the road ?
Outside of traveling and working in the studio? Is there such a thing?
14. Can you tell us about the meaning behind the name Desert Dwellers. Is it related to where you guys are living ?
We both grew up in desert climates, organizing electronic music gatherings deep in the desert landscapes, under the full moon and the stars. The name Desert Dwellers comes from our initial wanderings through the deserts of California, New Mexico, and Nevada.
15. I love listening to ambient music and credit it for healing me at a time when my physical well-being was under attack some 10 years ago. How effective do think music is as a healing tool ?
Music is certainly one of the most powerful healing tools, as proven time and time again in the medical profession. We feel that one of the most important aspects of music that makes it healing is the intention behind the music when it was created. When you give your music the intention of it having a healing effect on the listener, it will have so much more power and effectiveness to obtain that result.
16. How is your workload shared when creating music. Do you work on tracks in total unison each time or are each or you responsible for different structures, sounds, melodies, basslines etc.. ?
We like to work on our own and pass projects back and forth until the track is complete. We initially got into the habit of working that way versus working in unison because for most of the collaboration we lived in two different states, and passing projects back and forth was the only way we could get things done. Now that we both live together in Santa Fe, we have a common studio that we share, but we are rarely there anyways !! We are both fully capable of all the aspects of the music production workflow. That being said, Amani generally works more on the effects and sound design, and Treavor generally works more on the arrangement … and then we both mix the track together.
17. Touring as a festival act can be very draining both physically and mentally with many late nights and long distances between gigs. How do you maintain your health ( and sanity ) on the road ?
Well one thing that we both don’t do is drink alcohol all the time. It would be torture to have to do all this traveling while constantly being hung over!! Not sure how some of these artists drink the way they do without getting burnt out physically. We also have our methods for staying healthy … catching up on sleep whenever possible, usually in the airplane. It is also important to stay on top of things and be proactive in eating a healthy diet, and taking super foods and supplements to aid the bodies own natural immune system. We also like to tell ourselves that this crazy lifestyle we have is way better then having a day job … and any time we are feeling burnt out, this slight attitude adjustment enlivens our gratitude and overall happiness to keep doing what we worked our whole lives at!
18. What are your thoughts on the coming wave of music in virtual reality systems ? Could we imagine a non to distant future where Desert Dwellers ( or avatars thereof ) are playing “live” at a virtual Burning Man ?
wow this sounds very trans-human, and a terrible “evolution” of technology. Who would want to replace the real experience of getting our feet in the dirt and dancing under the stars and moon, and watching the sun come up over the horizon with our best friends around us dancing up a dust storm together !! No virtual avatar in a dimly lit room while we stare at the unhealthy glow of a computer screen will give us an experience like that! That being said, we did actually play on Turntable FM once and it was kinda fun. Great way to connect with people all over the world who otherwise could’t travel to one of the festivals we play at. But it certainly was no replacement for the real thing 🙂