Monday, November 17, 2014

Guest Writer Kat Paled Chats it Up with Big Data

American alternative electronic outfit Big Data has been on an incredible journey over the past year. Helmed by producer Alan Wilkis, the band’s debut EP “1.0,” and the remix EP “1.5” have shot the group to a new level having been featured in publications and on radio stations all over the world. Currently, they’re on the road in the middle of a very successful tour with Fitz and The Tantrums. Kat Paled caught up with Alan in Boston before his House of Blues gig to talk with him about music and the technicolor web of voyeurism that is the internet among other things ahead of the tours arrival in Detroit, MI at The Fillmore on Tuesday, November 18th.

HID- Your first release, the self-produced 1.0 EP has seen incredible success in the past year, particularly the track ‘Dangerous,’ which has turned into a monster. It seems to be steeped in a bit of a “Big Brother” is watching you vibe.
BD- Absolutely. It’s sort of like the voice of a stalker or a creepy person, but that creepy person is Big Brother, or the NSA or whoever is spying on us on the internet (laughs)

HID- You also have the Facehawk interactive video, which is a fantastic concept playing on the themes of voyeurism while also acting as an extremely unique promotional tool. How did you come up with the idea?
BD- Well, I met the director, Rajeev Basu about a year and a half ago. He’s an interactive artist who makes all sorts of weird stuff on the internet and as soon as I found that out, I was like “Well, my music is weird and about the internet!” (laughs) So we decided to collaborate and I told him what ‘Dangerous’ was about and I sent him the music and he came up with the whole concept based on what the themes of the song and of the band are, and it couldn’t be more spot-on. With the music and how I present the lyrics and the presentation of the band in general, I want it to be sort of fun and entertaining on the surface, but I also want it to be sort of unsettling and scary, the more you think about it. That was exactly what his idea was the Facehawk. It really was all perfectly in line with how I think about it all. It couldn't have been a better fit.

HID- In regards to many of the recent articles and debates regarding online privacy, data collection and surveillance of the population in general to collect information and direct marketing to individuals, do you think there is still such a thing as the concept of “Online Privacy?”
BD- Well, I don’t think it ever really existed (laughs) but it’s hard to say. The second we’re relying on any sort of company or any sort of infrastructure that is out of our own hands, of course there’s going to be privacy issues. We’re all comfortable enough to post private things on the internet, so of course at some point it will wind up in someone elses hands. The hope it that it won’t be abused in wrongful ways and I think that lines gets a little blurry. We’re so far removed from what’s being done with our data and I think that’s where the problems really arise. There are some companies that are really fighting the good fight in terms of actual privacy; There’s one company I’ve gotten to know called Wickr. It’s a private messaging app that essentially works in the same way as Snapchat. It deletes everything from their system and from your phone within 24 hours. And it doesn’t store anything in the cloud, it’s not stored on their servers, so it really is gone after the message does “self-destruct.” I don’t see any reason why everything can’t work this way (laughs)

HID- Living in New York, you must feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such a diverse and eclectic music community and scene, including a personal favorite of mine, the DFA records empire, which holds an impressive catalog, including LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost and The Juan Maclean. What sounds of the city have inspired you as an artist and musician?
BD- That’s a hard question to answer (laughs) It’s sort of an infinite list (laughs) I go to a venue called The Bowery Ballroom a lot, I’ve seen so many bands there. I’ve played at so many venues around New York and I grew up in New York, so really all of my musical development happened in New York.

HID- So the city of New York as a whole?
BD- Yes! I’ve met so many incredible musicians and seen so many talented bands there. New York has this kind of crazy energy. It’s the best place in the world when you’re feeling good... (laughs) and it’s sort of a brutal place to live when things are tough, but I think that makes you tough and more resilient and resourceful especially if you stay in New York. It’s definitely shaped my life quite a bit.

HID- Right now, you’re out on the road with Fitz and The Tantrums on what seems to be a very successful tour with quite a few sold out dates on the itinerary. I now we’re all very excited about The Fillmore show here in Detroit. What are some personal highlights from the tour thus far?
BD- It’s been crazy. I honestly could not be luckier to be touring with them. Every single person in the band, every single person in the crew is really nice and thoughtful and helpful. There’s no requirement to be nice to your opening band, but they really go above and beyond. Their crowds are really all ages and really into the music. There’s no people just standing there with their arms crossed (laughs) People are there to have fun and that all makes up the best possible scenario. We’re all really grateful.

We’ve done 10 shows already and they’ve all been awesome so the bar has been set really high (laughs) There was this one show in Ithaca, NY. There were a bunch of college student there in this big, seated concert venue-style hall and we weren’t sure how it was going to play out because everyone was sitting down at the beginning.

By the time we got to our fourth song in the set, everybody got up and bum-rushed the stage and the crowd stayed right up at the front of the stage for the whole show. That was the coolest thing! I’ve never experienced that before. It was really special.

HID- In addition to Big Data, you’re also an accomplished remixer with credits to The Who, Phoenix, RJD2 and many more under your belt. What would you say your favorite remix has been to work on thus far? Who would you like to work with in the future?
BD- That’s how I started to make more of a name for myself. I had been recording things under my own name, and then a bunch of bands in college and when I started doing more remixes, you know, you inevitably get more exposure, if the remix is good, just because the band you’re remixing is a famous band. That was the period in my career where thing really started to grow.

HID- Is there a “Bucket List” artist you’d love to remix?
BD- That’s tough (laughs) Probably The Beach Boys. They’re just on my “Bucket List” in general.

HID- You seem to be pretty Pro-Spotify in your online presence, including your Friday Mixtape which is uploaded weekly showcasing some of your favorite tracks. Spotify itself tends to be a hot topic of debate with musicians for a number of reasons with some even going so far as to remove their entire catalog from the streaming service. What is it about Spotify that you enjoy? What makes them stand out from the rest of the online streaming services?
BD- The whole issue is extremely complicated and all this flack that Spotify gets, it’s only because they’re the biggest one. They’re the best and most successful in the streaming category and that’s why they take all of the heat. The royalty rate is low obviously, but it’s not that low. The way artists make more money ultimately on Spotify is if everyone uses Spotify, or whatever streaming service it is. They way I look at it all is that if it weren’t Spotify, it would be someone else. All signs point to Streaming Media as the way we will be consuming media across the board more and more. I happen to think that Spotify is the best out of all the streaming music companies. I’ve also found that the payout aren’t all that bad on Spotify. When I used to release my music independently, I always found that Spotify made up a pretty good chunk of my income with my record label. I think the issue is more when artists have old-school, more traditional record deals and various parties are taking their commissions on this and that, and finally when the Spotify money actually makes it to the artists, it’s been divided up so many different ways that of course it looks awful!

(laughs) But that’s more of an issue of bad, old record contracts. Like with Taylor Swift; Taylor Swift is certainly the one right now making all the Spotify waves. The most ridiculous part of it all is that of course she can do that because she’s Taylor Swift and a zillion people around the world know who Taylor Swift is and they’ll go buy her album wherever it is. ‘Joe Indie Band’ that no one’s ever heard of though? If he’s not on Spotify, you know, there are people that only listen to music on Spotify and they’re not going to listen to his band if it’s not there. That can be the case for most independent artists. It’s all very complicated and of course the money could be better and hopefully it will be someday (laughs) I think to categorically say that streaming music is the enemy, it’s just really short-sighted and silly because we all stream everything now; Music, TV, Movies… everything. You’re basically saying that you don’t want to move forward with the way that technology is moving.

HID- Touching back on the Spotify mixtape idea, do you want t tell us a little bit about who you’re listening to right now?
BD- Well, today I was listening to old stuff. (laughs) I was listening to Kris Kristofferson earlier. There’s this band that I just listened to called Timber Timbre. I really love their record. There’s also this band called Wampire that I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

You can check out more about Alan and Big Data (as well as his Spotify mixtape) at: / /

You can catch Big Data live at The Fillmore in Detroit on Tuesday, November 18th with Fitz and The Tantrums. Doors are at 7 p.m. and all ages are welcome. Tickets are available in advance here.

~Kat Paled

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