Although she has only been in the bass music scene for a little more than a year, Bay Area controllerist and producer WALA has already shared the bill with some of the biggest names in the business, including: FreQ Nasty, Thriftworks, Random Rab, Slugabed and more. She just released her new KaliKutta EP and is currently planning a summer festival tour and more releases later this year.
We had a chance to sit down and chat with WALA on a rainy San Francisco afternoon.
Controllerism.com: So how often are you performing now?
WALA: This week I’ve had five shows, it’s really out of control! I really put a lot into my sets, so when I have five shows a week I basically don’t sleep. I don’t like repeating myself and preparing tracks takes time. Even though warping a track in Ableton takes like 30 seconds for me now, when you’ve got 400 tracks it’s still a lot of time.
C: What got you started making electronic music?
W: I got into electronic music at Burning Man in 2005. This was before the days of really high production value stages, so the way I remember, it was literally a platform with some theatrical lighting and a DJ booth. It was in the middle of a dust storm and there was a huge crowd so all you could see were the outlines of people in the lights and this DJ dropped a dubstep track and it just hit me in my heart. The moment was exactly right with the energy of the crowd and the environment.
C: Tell us about your live software and hardware setup.
W: I play in Ableton with an APC20 and I use it really pretty basically for triggering clips. I got in this strange habit of mixing EQs on faders, which is really fun live when people can actually see what you’re doing. You can play a lot with taking the bass out for a minute and then putting it back in. I use a Trigger Finger for effects, filter effects and triggering one-shots and samples and things like that.
C: Why do you enjoy playing with this setup rather than a more traditional one?
W: Ableton gives you a lot of freedom to be able to do different things. You can do all kinds of stuff, like you can’t play live synths if you’re using CDJs, and even with Traktor or Serato you just can’t do stuff like that. You can build custom effects racks and live looping, you can do some of those things with other platforms, but not as easily. You really have the freedom to create music live on stage rather than just play it.
C: Tell us about this new EP.
W: I spent more than a year in India and close to a year in Israel, and those are the two places that have most profoundly influenced the music that I make. For this EP there are a couple of Bollywood remixes, tracks that I really loved and spoke to me while I was in India and I’ve now put my own glitch-hop vibe onto. They’re just acapellas that I used and I made everything else. They’re really just fun tracks, one of them is kind of darker and sexy, one of them is really beautiful and airy and the other one is very bouncy and dancey.
C: Tell us about your production process, in the studio.
W: I enjoy starting with some artifact and building something around that. So with remixes it’s done with an acapella, and with original tracks I’ll find some super sick horn sample or some really cool new instrument. I use a lot of Indian instruments and Middle Eastern drums that are fun to work with. I’ll find something and chop it up, mix that up and build on top of that. I usually start with drums, when I have a really solid beat to work with, the melody just comes naturally.
C: What’s the next step for you?
W: Short term, I have a lot of music coming out. I’m just really hitting the studio hard and making a lot of beats. Once I get a new computer, I’m adding a lot to my live performance in terms of playing things live and creating live music. And then long term, I really do want to get into that Kinect controller and custom controller space. I think making the performance and production process more transparent is fun for people.