I recently spoke with local designer and web engineer, Ross Edman, who is known musically in Dallas/Ft. Worth as Datahowler. In anticipation of his show this Friday, May 11, at Club Dada in Dallas, I spoke with him talked about the transition from Objektiv One (another moniker of his before Datahowler that was more hip-hop party jams) to electronic downtempo soundscapes of Datahowler.
Edman was inspired his grandfather, a jazz saxophonist. He was involved with orchestra and small groups in school. A teacher once threw him out of a group, and told Edman he’d made a “horrible musician”. Those words remain fuel for the fire as Edman continues to produce instrumental artistic expression that more and more people are tuning into. Edman also won the honor of Best Electronic Act for 2011 in the Dallas Observer Music Awards.
JW: So you moved from hip-hop party mashups with Objektiv One to electronic with Datahowler? How did you make that transition and how did your fans take that transition?
D: Before Datahowler I was doing sample-based hip-hop (as Objektiv One) and before that I was in different rock bands. Then I was like, ‘I get it now, I can record these sounds with real instruments and make it sound sampled’. So on Slowdrifter, there were some samples but the majority of the sounds came from me playing the instruments. Drumming, percussion is my main instrument. I was introduced to various ethnic percussion while I was in orchestra when I was younger. In particular, I has a fondness for [Nigerian] Highlife music.
I lot of people were really mad when I did [change music focus from Objeckitv One to Datahowler]. I wanted to be a hip-hop producer with Objektiv One and I produced and released these mash-ups as kind of a joke. I was like, ‘nobody cares about my beats, haha’, so I’m just going to put this music out. But It kinda backfired on me because then people wanted me do more of the beats and remixes for them. For me, I was ready to move on because I felt I could do more than just sample-based music and I’d created those beats at least 12 to 16 months before they were released. The same with Slowdriter in that I’d created that music 14 months ago and I wrote it, like, two and a half years ago. I’m so anal retentive that I have to totally forget about it, then come back to it to see if I want to release it.
JW: So on Twitter the other day I responded to a tweet of yours that made me want to talk with you more, so would you mind discussing further what you meant by what you said.
There’s days where you look in the mirror and ask yourself why you care about being an artist with so much resistance from the world
— Datahowler (@datahowler) May 1, 2012
D: Yeah, I’ve been doing music for about 15 years of my life pursuing music and it’s hard, y’know. You put off your family, you put off obligations, you put off your friends. I’ve missed so many peoples’ weddings because of touring, and I mean, sometimes you’re like, ‘no one really cares that much’. Some care, but at the same time we live in a society now that doesn’t really value art and culture like it use to. It’s just overwhelming. It’s like you’re screaming into a dark cave and no hears it. Yet there’s something within me that keeps driving me to it. Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like not to have the drive to do it. Friends of mine have jobs and they like their job and go home and party on the weekends and love life. They seem free and happy without the same urge I have to create this music.
JW: So what about this urge that keeps you going? Can you talk more about what you think that is?
D: I find myself inspired by the past, by past music movements that people neglect to talk about in pop culture. Again, one of my favorite movements is African funk, like Highlife, which is so politically driven and so meshed in their culture. With globalization and the internet, I feel that music has become watered down especially it becomes popular. You lose its original identity and the culture that drove the music. Even J-Pop sounds more and more like American pop. Hearing a specific culture is like an audio historical imprint that many are missing. So, I look to the sounds of the past, and the lesser known the better.
I’d also say the fear of immobility keeps me from stopping. So I talk about stopping, but I really can’t. I was at SXSW one time for my job and this woman recognized me as Datahowler, which is strange because..that just doesn’t usually happen. She told me that my music makes her feel good as just wanted to let me know that. And I was like, ‘wow I so needed to hear that’. As an artist, I can tend to focus on the negative stuff folks say and people who really like you don’t always a point of telling you they do. So it was nice to hear.
JW: Have you noticed that there seems to a trend of late with electronic artists for moodier, darker music or do you think it’s getting more attention now? Think it has anything to do with 2012 fears?
D: Well, I know my next EP is dealing with the occult. It’ll definitely be some darker stuff, and I’ve noticed that I lot of my friends are moving towards a similar expression in their music. Maybe it’s 2012 concerns, but I think it’s a return to the uncertainty and turmoil of times like the 1960’s in the U.S. With war abroad and violent crime plus prejudice at home, that’s what I think it’s more about. It’s like a new psychedelic moment happening in the production of the music. I’m excited about that because out of this comes new art and culture.