‘If you really love something you push forward,’ Ephwurd on restarting the project as a solo venture after Datsik fallout [Interview]
Just a handful of years ago, as bass house was weaving its not-so-subtle stylings into the worldwide electronic anterior, Ephwurd was swiftly ascending as one of the genre’s most exciting forces. Fielding a shredding, high-impact sound design and securing a wall-to-wall library of festival bookings, Ephwurd’s Basie Hauser and Troy Beetles (Datsik) were locked and loaded at the turn of 2017 to renew their rapidly accrued success heading into 2018.
But their momentum would soon flatline as resolutely as it began. Rumors of Datsik’s sexual misconduct gave way to full-fledged testimonials aimed at the Firepower Records label founder, spanning years of alleged abuse. Datsik stepped down from Firepower, his representation dropped him; and nearly overnight, the Ephwurd project came to an emphatic halt. Hauser promptly cancelled all performance stops and rightfully opted to take some time off to recalibrate.
“It was heartbreaking,” Hauser tells Dancing Astronaut. “There was a lot going on. When all that stuff happened I was like, ‘Okay let’s take a step back, reevaluate everything, and go from there.'”
A year later, Hauser is picking up where he left off—well, sort of. Describing the project’s relaunch as a solo venture, Hauser says he has every intention of perpetuating the bass house heart of Ephwurd into the revamp, though he’s keen on dousing it in more non-electronic experimentation. Born into a musical family, Hauser discovered firsthand and at a ripe age what success looked like in such a wildly competitive industry. His father, Tim Hauser, was a member of the Grammy-winning jazz ensemble, The Manhattan Transfer.
While resolving to keep the project alive as a one-man show, Hauser has allowed for time to rectify some of the residual apprehension surrounding the Ephwurd masthead. Since the Datsik news broke in March of 2018, Hauser has released just two Ephwurd-branded tracks: the uncharacteristically emotive, “Everywhere I Go,” and the aptly named collaboration with SWAGE, “Hectic,” which arrived early February.
The former came equipped with a letter to his fans last July, in which he addresses the claims brought against his former partner and the ways in which he and those associated with the project felt the reverberations directly.
“…Within hours after the news broke, everything we worked so hard to build had completely fallen apart…
Next to losing my father, those first few days were some of the hardest I’ve ever faced. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone.
As for the accusations against Troy, that’s not the guy I know. Coming to the mutual agreement of removing him from the project was a heart-wrenching day for me, but it had to be done. I am respecting his decision to stay private and wish the best for him…” wrote Hauser.
Today, the “Check It Out” producer says his pipeline is brimming with new material. As of now, he’s putting finishing tweaks on 20 odd tracks, many of which will see release in coming months. His main goals: making sure the genre-specific sound doesn’t become too “stale,” and bringing Ephwurd’s former glory “up to date,” by way of borrowing from formerly untapped inspiration.
“I want to experiment with [genres], be it sampling old jazz or funk records or coming up with chord progressions that can be applied to bass house,” Hauser says.
A scandal of much lesser proportions than Datsik’s could be liable to end the career of all those formerly associated with the accused. But, for Hauser, turning the lights out on the Ephwurd project, which he affectionately deems his “baby,” was never an option. Despite any contention left in its wake, Hauser does not see Ephwurd as beyond salvaging. In fact, his perspective is quite the opposite.
“I thought about it for a long time,” Hauser says of his decision to breathe a second wind into Ephwurd’s sails. “At the end of the day, I put in so much time to this project: literally blood, sweat, and tears. I love this project… If you love something, you nurture it and you don’t just leave it. If you really love something you push forward, and deal with the good and bad and try to persevere.”
Below is a lightly edited transcript of Dancing Astronaut’s conversation with Basie Hauser on the future of Ephwurd. The interview was modified for clarity and readability.
Tell us about how you started making music, where did your journey begin?
My dad was actually a vocal singer in this group called The Manhattan Transfer. He ended up becoming an accountant and hated it so much that he quit his job and became a taxi driver, singing on the side. Eventually he started this group, The Manhattan Transfer, which went on to be nominated for/win like 16 Grammys.
I grew up traveling the world with him, going to jazz festivals, meeting all these legendary jazz performers. I’ve always been immersed in music. I like jazz, but it was never my favorite genre of music. Around high school, you know that time when you really discover what music you like. Everybody hears the Beatles or something and gets this immediate reaction like ‘Oh my God! This is amazing.’ For me that was when I heard Aphex Twin. My first time hearing electronic music was the likes of SquarePusher, Boards of Canada, these like early ’90s Warped Records artists. I went from hearing rock ‘n’ roll and jazz to this crazy production I’d never heard before.
Bit by bit, I started doing my research and finding elements like ‘Oh, I wonder what sampler this guy used to make this.’ This is before Ableton or Logic or DAWs were widely adopted by people. It was cool because I started learning a lot about analog synths and old samplers, kind of just figuring it out from there. And near the end of high school I discovered Ableton and I’ve been on it ever since.
Ephwurd experienced a huge upward swing in 2017. How do you plan to regain that momentum now as a solo venture?
Making as much music as possible. I’ve taken almost a year off now and every day now I’m either in the studio or even if I’m just lying in bed, I’ll have my laptop with me coming up with ideas to take to the studio later. At the end of the day music is the most important thing, and the more you have of it the better. I think consistently putting out content will probably help. Back in 2017 we were writing a ton of content and I think that’s what helped us so much. As long as you’re constantly making music you love, you just hope people will listen and follow.
Stylistically, what changes can we expect?
I want to keep the heart of the Ephwurd sound intact, but introduce new ideas; evolving as an artist always involves that. I’ve always loved funk music, so I want to experiment with that—be it sampling old jazz or funk records or coming up with chord progressions that can be applied to bass house. Finding ways to bring those genres to bass house. Experimentation is the key to growing, so I hope to do that for the rest of my life.
A genre gets stale if you hear the same thing so many times.
What forces drove your decision to continue producing under the Ephwurd masthead despite the potential risk of contention?
I thought about it for a long time. At the end of the day, I put so much time into this project: literally blood, sweat, and tears. I love this project; it’s my baby. If you love something you nurture it and you don’t just leave it. If you really love something you push forward, and deal with the good and the bad and try to persevere.
When the allegations against Datsik surfaced, and compelled you to step back for a while, how did that affect you individually?
It was heartbreaking. I decided Ephwurd had to cancel all [our] shows and to kind of take that time to regroup and rebuild everything. I think it’s been one of the healthiest things for me because I got to take the time to just be a human—taking the time with my family and friends, not just touring. I’d been on the road for the past six years, and it’s exhausting. The time off was a godsend because I was able to keep working on music and discover new things about myself. I’m actually really appreciative of it.
What can we expect from the revamp in 2019?
There’s a lot of stuff in the works, in terms of new music. From the past six months I have like 20 tracks that are finished but I want to make sure they’re the best they can be. You can expect a lot more music. New sounds and the old sound too, but bringing it up to date.
Hauser has asserted that he and Datsik split up the DJ/production work evenly; regardless, a segue to manning a solo act stands as a momentous task even without such a controversial catalyst. Fortunately for Hauser, he has industry know-how, unequivocal resolve, and redemptive battle wounds in his corner, affording him a chance to take back the success he only just began to taste back in 2017.
Photo Credit: Ohdagyo