Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Bastion of Music

Jonathan Bastian has a voice familiar to fans of WFPL, Louisville’s NPR News affiliate. As the local host of “Morning Edition,” he eased us into the day; now, in an unexpected departure, he’s leading us into the night with a new album of electronic music … called Morning Edition.

His label, sonaBLAST! Records, calls it “10 tracks that balance both intense bass and blissful organic sounds.” Released under the artist name Bastion, Bastian says, “In Louisville, I realized that my identity was defined as a local NPR and PBS host. So when I started creating electronic music, I wanted to keep it private, as something I could do freely, openly, without worrying what people might think … Obviously ‘Bastion’ is a pretty transparent disguise, but it provided just the separation I needed.”

Q: How did you get from NPR to EDM?

Jonathan Bastian: Before I was a journalist, I was a musician. My best friend from high school started a successful Americana band called The Low Anthem, which I played in throughout high school and college. I also minored in music at college, studying a heavy dose of music theory and classical composition. But paths diverge and interests change. In my 20s, I wanted to write and work in public radio. Still, music lingered. It was this kind of unavoidable voice in the background, whispering, “I’m still here! You can’t get rid of me!” What I never expected, though, was that the music I would eventually make would be electronic.

It happened like this: for two years, I woke up at 4 a.m. to host “Morning Edition” on WFPL. It’s a demanding, fast-paced four-hour program, and coffee will only get you so far. At some point, I began to listen to electronic music on my drive to work to get the adrenalin flowing. It filled me with energy. So I went deeper into the many EDM genres, only to realize that the music was shockingly interesting, complex and diverse. Moreover, the possibilities of electronic music are endless. I knew I had to try and make this stuff. So last June I invested in a music software program called Ableton Live and stumbled down a long strange rabbit hole I’ve yet to emerge from.

Q: How did you put this album together? Who are some of the voices on it?

JB: I’m especially proud that there are no samples on this album. Everything you hear is original. I’m not averse to sampling, but it can be a crutch in electronic music. Producing your own raw material is an important battle. I worked with one female vocalist on two tracks. She asked to remain anonymous on the album, so that’s all I can say. Aside from those tracks, they’re all instrumental. The album was influenced by two of my favorite electronic producers: Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner. I listen to these guys almost everyday and remain overwhelmed by the sheer creativity of their songs.

Q: Is this a new career path for you? Are you still in Louisville, or will you be hitting the road and hitting up festivals?

JB: While I don’t see myself jet-setting around like Avicii (although it does sound pretty sweet), I like the idea of it being an important, viable part of my life. I like the idea of playing regularly at certain venues where people care about the music ... maybe taking an occasional tour when the time is right. The music brings an important balance to my life.

I’ve taken a hiatus from public radio and TV, but I’m about to return to the airwaves in Louisville. What I love about public radio and television is the intellectual intensity of the work; it’s very cerebral. But there comes a point where I need to shut off that part of my brain and engage in something different. I’m finding electronic music provides that outlet for me. The beauty of this music is that you can make it alone, on your own time, with just a synthesizer and a laptop. The simplicity of the process, coupled with the limitless nature of electronic music, is very empowering.

C. 2015 The Voice-Tribune

No comments: