Our introduction to Lasso came earlier this year when his spectacular album The Sound of Lasso dropped on Mello Music Group. Using a mesmerizing blend of foreign sounds and live instruments the album resonates differently with every listen. We would go as far to say it was the finest instrumental work of 2019. Lasso teamed up with Chris Orrick to release I Read That I Was Dead. The first part of our interview touches on Lasso’s career up to this point. Chris also joins us to answer questions about the new work.
RD: For the uninitiated, can you tell the listeners a bit about yourself?
L: I’m a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and home recording enthusiast based out of Detroit, MI. I’ve been playing instruments and recording music since I was a kid and the obsession has never stopped. The sounds go across all genres, dozens of collaborators. In simple terms, my music exists somewhere near the intersection of hip hop and psychedelic music.
RD: Your debut on Mello was our introduction to you. What developments led to you working with MMG?
L: Most of all, complete devotion and obsession with creating music. I’ve never been one to play video games or party most of my hours spent on earth are related to the studio in one way or another. Signing with Mello has been a life-altering opportunity for me, but it came about from living every day of my life in pursuit of sound. I moved down to Tucson in 2015 when my wife got a job, started meeting people in the scene, recording obsessively, and formed a collaboration with Lando Chill. Years of working on Lando’s MMG releases led them to bring me on as a producer and artist.
RD: The Sound Of Lasso features warm textures mixed with some very far-out arraignments. The sounds seem a million miles away yet they’re very welcoming sounds that draw you closer. How long did that project take you to complete? Where did you record most of it?
L: I dig your description of the album. I recorded the album over 3 months in late 2018. Most of it was recorded at my home studio, but I worked with about a dozen different Michigan musicians to widen the instrumental palette. For years I ran a studio and played in various bands based around Kalamazoo, MI. When I moved back here in 2018, I knew I would be bringing in a lot of old friends and collaborators to lend their talents to the sound.
RD: You are seen playing with some unusual equipment in your IG stories, do you have a go-to set of gear that you can speak on?
L: My day job is outfitting recording studios, so I get the opportunity to try a lot of stuff out. That being said, I definitely have a core set of gear that makes up the majority of my sound: Moog synth, Mellotron, guitar pedals, free/cheap iPad apps, drums, bass, and guitar.
RD: Do you collect vintage gear? If so, what is your most treasured acquisition?
L: I wish I had a budget to collect, but I definitely have some prized possessions from having the same hobby for so long. During college I got an internship with an amazing engineer named Jon Stites. He gifted me his Tascam ATR60 1″ 16-track tape machine when his studio moved entirely into digital. It’s an incredible sounding machine that is all the important to me because it came from an influential mentor in my life.
RD: After years of releasing instrumentals, 2 of your last 3 projects will have vocals. Was that planned, if not what chain of events brought that about?
L: Despite being an instrumentalist and dropping a lot of beat tapes these last few years, I’ve actually done a lot more work in my career with vocal-based music. The Sound of Lasso was the first time I really sat down and gave the full effort over to an instrumental record in the way that I do for albums I produce for emcees/vocalists. While I’m probably most euphoric when creating instrumental music, a lot of my ambitions lie in collaboration and creating sounds/beats that allow vocalists to push themselves in new directions lyrically & thematically.
RD: If you could contact any 5 vocalists for the next Lasso project, who are you calling?
L: Smino, Nick Hakim, Laetitia Sadier, Ravyn Lenae, Ishmael Butler
RD: Going off the two singles, would it be safe to say this album could push some boundaries?
L: I always hope that when I put out collaborations that I’m pushing up against some expectations of what it could be. Chris and I are both perfectly capable of putting together a really solid batch of hard beats and great verses, but you’ve got to follow the true inspiration. I get my energy from pushing my craft forward or into new directions. I can’t get motivated to just execute, I need that element of exploration.
Chris Orrick: I tend to struggle when answering a question like this, because I’m not really sure what boundaries we’d be working within. I think there are certainly moments on the record that are more experimental, but mostly in terms of my own catalogue. If we’re speaking in terms of my personal discography as it’s own universe, then yeah, this record is really unlike everything else I’ve worked on. It certainly pushes the boundaries of my own work.
RD: This album expounds on the damage done by the 2016 election and in turn the vicious 24/7 news cycle. If you could take control of any faction of our government and give it an upgrade, what would it be?
CO: That’s a really interesting question. I think it would either be the Department of Defense or the Department of Education. I think we spend an outrageous amount of money on our military. On top of the budget being exorbitant, the expenses are hyper-bloated by ridiculous military contracts given out to the manufacturers who produce for the military. Its strange, nationalist propaganda masquerading as marketing among other things. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has a budget that pales in comparison while people are going bankrupt to get an education.
RD: Chris, would you say this was the most challenging set of beats you have written to?
CO: While it was different writing to this style of beats, versus writing to more traditional boom-bap influenced hip hop, it was surprisingly very natural. When we started working on this project the beats Lasso sent were totally different, much closer to the sounds people typically hear me over. Those were far more challenging, frankly because I was personally a little bored of making that sound. They were great beats, but I couldn’t find a lot of inspiration in them. When the album took this turn, it became exciting to work on and write to this style.
RD: Lasso, how different is your process when recording instrumentals for solo work and working with emcees. What part of your process changes?
L: I’d say how far you take the melodicism in the instrumentation is the biggest difference. If it’s an instrumental album, you truly need a thread of personality and storytelling to weave the soundscapes together. When you are working with a vocalist, it’s more about capturing the essence of something in as few pieces as possible and then letting the vocalist magnify/walk through. A great vocalist can turn an interesting drum pattern and a few little sounds into an entire universe.
Follow Lasso on Twitter @TheSoundOfLasso
Follow Chris Orrick on Twitter @chrisorrickraps
I Read That I Was Dead is available on CD and LP https://www.mellomusicgroup.com