We at Dancing Astronaut have realized that our readership is teeming with talent that has yet to be discovered. We’re also incredibly enthusiastic that so many of you have begun to contribute to the EDM community with your own tracks and musical styles — and the incredible amount of promos we get on a daily basis can attest to that. Stargazers is a column that will showcase members of the DA community and recognize their talents as original EDM producers! We encourage all of you to support your fellow DA fanatics — any of you could be headlining Ultra’s Main Stage someday.
Rick Markowitz is currently a Junior Music Business Major at NYU. When he isn’t spending his time learning the ins and outs of the music industry, he re-imagines tracks from Jason DeRulo to Rage Against the Machine under the name “SmarterChild” — yes, just like the AIM robot from back when people actually used America Online. His most recent remix of Rage Against the Machine’s “Testify” is a fast paced, heavy electro monster that puts a modern spin on arguably one of the best bands of the 90s. We sat down with SmarterChild to pick his brain and unlike his AIM bot counterpart, he actually answered coherently. Read our exclusive interview after the jump.
DA: How long have you been producing/DJing?
SC: I’ve been producing electronic music for about three years now. I’ve actually been doing the music thing for a while though in different forms. Took piano lessons since I was eight, and spent most of high school playing keys in a band that sounded like Coldplay meets Breaking Benjamin meets Red Hot Chili Peppers with a theatrical singer. To be honest we weren’t that good at all (with the exception of one or two songs which mean a lot to me).
DA: What sparked your interest in electronic music?
SC: One of my closest friends Colin Kelly actually tipped me off to the whole electronic scene during my senior year of high school. We were partying at his house one night and he put on Justice’s first album. I was instantly hooked. That album was fucking nuts.
DA: Are you classically trained in any other instruments?
SC: Piano. I’d like to say drums too, but I’m pretty sloppy at them. Definitely don’t want me playing drums in your band. I actually got accepted to Berklee (the music school) for piano, but ended up choosing NYU last minute.
DA: Who are some artists you have worked with in the past and some notable experiences in your career that you’ve had thus far? Any funny anecdotes?
SC: Up until recently I haven’t really had the opportunity to work with any huge names yet, considering most of my remixes are unofficial (except the City And Colour one), but at this point I’m starting to get some really awesome opportunities lined up for the next few months. In terms of producing I really like to work alone- if it’s a collaboration with others I usually have an idea started before I bring it to other people. What I really love is working with people of different mediums – designers, cinematographers, brands, whatever. Colin Kelly is my main guy, we’ve been doing stuff together ever since we were kids. His videos work so perfectly with my tracks and vice versa. And this dude Chris Saccaro’s photos blow my mind, scary suburbia shit that would make an incredible album booklet to go along with an EP.
Video by Colin Kelly
One of the coolest experiences I’ve had recently was definitely creating a track for a Lambourghini fashion runway show in Singapore. Through Phantom Modeling Agency, my friend Mike and I were approached to create a twenty minute track to be played during a modeling runway show in which Lamborghini unveiled a special new prototype car for their 10th anniversary in Singapore. After a day and a half of straight studio time, the track was cleared by both Phantom Models and Lamborghini and used in the event. Apparently the president of Singapore was in attendance.
DA: Who are some of your biggest musical influences in EDM? Outside of EDM?
SC: I don’t listen to a ton of EDM on my own time but do have a few favorites. Zedd is a fucking champion– the dude knocks his tracks out of the ballpark every time. I’m also really into John Hopkins. His track “Light Through The Veins” could be one of my favorite tracks of all time. Outside of EDM, I love Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and pretty much any track that Benny Blanco produces. I’m a top 40 fan for sure.
DA: What is an ultimate goal or something you’d consider a milestone that you’ve yet to achieve or accomplish?
SC: I would love to be a pop songwriter/producer for a living. You know, like make tracks for Katy Perry and Chris Brown or whoever the next big thing will be. I was lucky enough to land an internship with Pilot Creative Services, who manages some of the biggest writers/producers/artists in the industry right now, and they’ve done a wonderful job showing me ways to make this goal come into a reality.
SHORT TERM: I’d love to have a major publishing deal by the time I graduate. I would be so proud of myself to say that I was able to make all that happen while I was in school, so right when I enter the real world I’ll be able to work on even bigger and better things. Remixes are awesome, but it would mean a ton to be able to work on tracks from the beginning. And honestly I think those tracks would sound much different than the ones I’m putting out now.
DA: What is your DJ equipment of choice and why?
SC: I don’t DJ. Always wanted to learn, but haven’t found the time. I figure it’ll be something I pick up once I’m at a point where I’m ready to jump on a tour.
However, if I were to DJ, I’d be using Serato/CDJ’s. And the only reason I say that is because I share an apartment with Matty Mayz, and he’s all about Traktor/controllers. If I stole his swag he’d probably kill me in my sleep.
DA: What is your DAW of choice?
SC: Ableton. I started off using Logic and loved it, but as soon as I tried Ableton I was sold on it. Seriously, the drum rack defines my remix sounds. Just the way you can quickly chop up vocals and pitch shift them and the whole session view…so worth your money.
DA: What signature sounds or drums from some of your favorite artists do you find really compelling?
SC: It’s weird, almost every time I find a sound that I’m really impressed with I get proved wrong later on. There are so many huge electro tracks out there right now that rip off Sylenth presets. Legit, Warp 1.9 and Nero’s “Doomsday” both use the same exact sound in their tracks. Youtube it. I will say that no one will ever be able to touch Justice’s synth sounds. Or their drum sounds. And sonically, Dillon Francis’ new stuff is straight money.
DA: Who do you think is really pushing the envelope of EDM? Who do you think is at the top of their game right now?
SC: Every time I hear a track by my dude Justin Blau (DJ 3LAU) I get blown away. The kid manages to juggle more than six different a’capellas into one mega remix. In the pop world you guys need to be on the look out for Boyblue and David Brook– these kids are going to be taking over the world.
DA: Who would you like to work with and why?
SC: Ali Love, the dude who sings on Civilization. While I’m not a huge fan of this song, I think his vocals are killer. I’d love to have a chance to write an original with him. Bangladesh. I can’t explain it. His beats are so simple, but they make everyone want to do dirty things. I feel the same way about American Apparel clothing. Zach De La Rocha. There is no one cooler than this dude. No one. Chris Brown. Voice of an angel.
DA: How do you feel about the co-opting of electronic music into mainstream pop culture and the inevitable dilution of the genre as more and more “artists” attempt to cash in on the latest trend? (“Girls Run the World” comes to mind)
SC: I for one love it. Not Beyonce’s sample of Pon De Floor, but just like the idea of taking the electro elements of EDM and placing it front and center in mainstream pop. Dubstep Britney is the coolest Britney yet (At least since the KFed shenanigans). Furthermore, I don’t think it’s pop stealing electronic music as much as electronic music is becoming the new pop. I remember how cool it was coming home this summer and hearing Afrojack come on the radio. I want that to keep happening. And hey, if one of those tracks is my track, that would be pretty damn cool.
DA: What is your opinion on the over-classification of dance music? How would you classify your sound?
SC: I think all electronic music should be put into two categories: “Drum and Bass,” and other. Meaning that as long as it’s not drum and bass I’ll give it a shot. Fuck drum and bass. Not a fan.
DA: Who do you see as an up and coming talent that has yet to really break through?
SC: One of the new artists that I’ve been writing with, Gallant, has an incredible voice. He just got management at Pilot and is working on tons of incredible tracks by tons of talented producers. Be on the lookout for this kid, he NEEDS to blow up. The dudes fluent in Japanese.
DA: SHAMELESS PLUG TIME! Let us know about anything you have in the pipeline, anything you want to promote?
SC: My Testify remix is being featured in a promo video for IsAnyoneUp. Colin Kelly’s doing the video (the same friend who filmed my Kopps Remix Video) so it’s sure to be dope. I’ll definitely hit up Dancing Astronaut when that video goes live. Dallas Green from City And Colour/Alexisonfire chose to put my remix of “Fragile Bird” on an upcoming release from Dine Alone Records. I’m not sure exactly when the single is going to be released, but from what I hear it should be within the next month or so. I tend to work on tracks one at a time for the most part, so right now I’m working on a remix of one of the tracks from Collin McLoughlin’s upcoming EP (the album comes out November 2nd). My track should come out soon after that.
I also need a new logo designed. Someone help a brother out!
Rage Against the Machine – Testify (SmarterChild Remix)
Kopps – LA Lights (SmarterChild Remix)
Jason Derulo – Don’t Wanna Go Home (SmarterChild Remix)
To submit for Stargazers consideration: email original work and a synopsis of your accomplishments to email@example.com with the subject title – ‘Stargazers Submission.’