goodstuff 038

Golden Harvest

I recently had a chance to speak with Dexter Tortorielo, the founding (and sole) member of an experiment in electronic music functioning under the moniker Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross. We talked about his recently released Mad Decent EP, Blow, some of his earlier works and other current projects, and a bunch of super-nerdy stuff about making electronic music.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, growing up, how you got into making music and some of the early projects you worked on, that kind of stuff.

I grew up in Chicago. I got into music at a pretty young age, one of my father’s friends owned a recording studio and he dumped a treasure trove of old analog recording equipment on me and my brother when were really young, probably seventh grade, sixth grade or something. So when I was like eleven or twelve years old, me and my brother were learning how to use eight-track recorders and effects racks and things like that; it wasn’t for like another four or five years that we actually got computers to make music.

So from there I had tons of projects, some of them were electronic when I was like much younger, and then once I got into high school I was into a lot of doom metal bands and that moved kind of in the polar opposite but still similar direction of just like, big, pretty, ambient guitar bands. I was playing guitar and piano in like a bunch of noisy projects and then after I got out of high school—I was like eighteen—I started this band called The Hospital Tapes, but it was just me, it was like real slow, kind of bummer folk music. It was actually pretty similar to Dawn Golden & Rosy Cross, if you were to strip a lot of those songs down to just guitar, something like that. The last song on the album, “Black Sun” was actually a Hospital Tapes song that I had just never used for anything. So I did that for like five years, and then, nothing happened. So I moved on and started the band Houses that actually got me the attention that I have now. I put out a record with Lefse records as Houses last year and that was really, really incredible. In my spare time I had been working on these songs for Dawn Golden & Rosy Cross. I just had them up on a Bandcamp page, I didn’t have my name on it or anything, it was just kind of floating around out there and one day Diplo messaged me on Myspace [laughing] and asked me if he could put em out.

That’s how you linked up with Mad Decent?

Hahaha, yeah. Wes, Diplo, he Myspace messaged me.

The Blow EP is fresh man, what was your mindset going into the project?

It was really organic. The first song I recorded was “Blow.” It just kind of happened one night. I was trying to record stuff for my other project, Houses, and it just came out fucking weird. I don’t really know what happened, I was just putting spring reverbs on everything and spring reverb on my voice and then distorting things and by the end of it, it was a really cool song but I had nowhere to put it, so I had this idea: the band name I had floating around in my head for a while, probably a year before that. It seemed like the right pairing, ’cause I had a band but I never knew what it was going to sound like. So it all just kind-of fit together and I put together like six songs and put them online. They’re not necessarily as cohesive as I would say that everything in the future is gonna be, this is kind-of just like an introduction.

Did you approach it differently from past works?

As far as recording process and stuff like that goes?


Yeah totally. I really have to get into a certain mindset to record stuff for Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross. It’s much different because it’s like, the music and the lyrics and stuff like that comes really into me, but only when I’m in a certain kind of frame of mind, which usually happens anywhere from like 2AM to 4PM, and I just kind of have to be up to catch it. I can try all day, and I do, I try all the time to record stuff, ideas I have for it but they don’t usually work out unless I’m full in it, you know. Whereas with my other project Houses I can tinker around with stuff and just kind of actually feel like I’m working a little bit. With Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross it’s just really organic, so it takes a lot longer for me to record.

The sounds you’re making on this record are really dope, tell me about some of the recording techniques and instruments and other tools you like to experiment with.

Yeah, so I know a lot of the stuff on there is kind of indistinguishable, as to what’s happening, what’s making the noise. A lot of what it is… I have an old 70s effects rack that’s full of reverbs and delays and stuff like that and I run a lot of sounds through that, and that kind-of gives it its signature, the reverbs and stuff like that, the spring reverbs that make everything kind-of wet and weird sounding come from that. The rest is just really, really heavily fucked with samples of some other stuff that I’ve recorded, like older pieces of music that I’ve recorded. I’ll pitch a vocal track down really low and add some bass and then turn it into the bass line for a song or something. I really like cutting shit up, a lot, like that song “Lamont”, all of the melody is made from probably less than ten seconds of a tape recording that my friend sent me of him playing the guitar.

For “White sun,” I sampled every key on this old piano, but it was out of tune, and then when I imported into my sampler to play it back in to logic, it got mapped out backwards so the highest keys were on the left and the low keys were on the right, it was basically a whole piano reversed, it was like playing a different instrument, none of the chords I already know worked so I had to play different stuff which is awesome. I really like the way that song turned out but now I can’t play it, I can’t do that song live, I don’t know how.

The drum work really stood out to me, super forceful, in a way that really compliments the softer aspects of the works. What were you envisioning when you were working on the drum patterns for this project?

I put a lot of work into the percussion on those songs and a lot of it does come from, not really doom metal, more like… there’s so many different subgenres of weird metal… have you ever heard Neurosis? I don’t listen to fucking Metallica or anything, it’s not that kind of metal, it’s slower and there’s a lot going on melodically. The drums are just so powerful, it doesn’t really matter what they’re playing on the guitars because there’s somebody that’s screaming his fucking lungs out and pounding on the drums. There’s something really beautiful about it in its own strange way and that’s where I got a lot of the inspiration for the drums. That and some of the way-newer beat producers, like Baths, Flying Lotus, stuff like that, I really like how they use their percussion.

Has the work you’ve done with Houses informed your work as DGRC in any way?

Yeah it totally has, Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross is kind of a revitalization of the band I played in before Houses, just in a different way. When I recorded the whole Houses full length last year it was a fucking learning process, ’cause I did it all myself and I’d never really used a lot of the interfaces that I used. So that album is a mess of ideas and recording techniques and stuff like that, there are just so many different things that went into it. I was really able to hone certain skills, so when I get in front of the computer, it’s like there’s no computer there. So it made recording for Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross a lot easier, but at the same time I really try to separate the two as far as style goes. I find myself cleaning up a lot of the Houses stuff lately, trying to make it sound big and clean and pretty, and where Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross comes in I just want it to be like shitty and awesome.

Are you mixing and mastering all this music yourself as well? Has that process affected your approach to making the music itself in any way?

Yeah, you know with digital music and electronic music they’re so intertwined. The way you make the song can directly affect how it ends up sounding in the end. It’s not just like, kick, snare, bass, drum. I’ve been kind of working on the production end of things for like four years, before I was just recording guitar to a four-track recorder, so there wasn’t a whole lot of mixing to do there. A lot of that happened with the Houses record, learning how to mix things and I wasn’t the best at it then but I’m really learning now. It’s just tough because you have to take into account how many people are just going to listen to your music on a Macbook speaker…

My friend and I were just talking about that the other night.

Yeah, It’s really difficult. So like when I’m mixing I listen to the mix through a pair of studio monitors, then like a pair of regular Bose headphones, and then through my Macbook speaker. You have to find the perfect balance.

Anything in the works this summer that you want to share with us?

I just kind-of set a deadline to have my full length done by, and it’s pretty close… So I’m going to be working on that a lot, but I talked to Mad Decent about hopping on some of those block parties that they do every year and stuff like that, but nothing’s confirmed yet, I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to be doing all summer.

, 27 May 2011

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