LOUD, HEAVY AND MAD BEATS VERSUS AN INCREDIBLY HUMBLE AND A GOOD-HEARTED PERSONALITY, THE CONTRADICTION JUST COULDN’T BE ANY BIGGER. WE HOOKED UP WITH CHARLES DICKERSON, BETTER KNOWN AS MUSICAL ALTER EGO MONO/POLY, AND TALKED ABOUT LUCID DREAMING, FRUITY LOOPS AND GOOD COSMIC SOUP.
Thank you for taking the time to do this, it’s much appreciated. Can you tell us something about your path of becoming a producer?
I was introduced to music through my dad, he had some electronics in a small studio. I especially remember the Juno keyboard. There was this one Hoover-sound that they used from the juno synth in early techno music and I loved that sound and I was like ‘…how the fuck are they making and using that sound’? I Guess I was like five years old or something but I never got to work on it to much. I got into junior high and I found this freeware program that had a step sequencer but it didn’t have much of anything else. All you could do in that program was tune the drums and tune the steps in the sequencer. It was limited but I realized it was really good for me because it helped me be able to do more with less. After this sequencer I started using Fruity Loops and this was all in 2000/2001. Then eventually I started using hardware like the MPC. It took me until late 2006 where I started giving music out to people that weren’t my close friends.
I used to go to Andrew Meza’s radio show. I saw his playlist and he had some really good music so I came to the show and just sat there and listened. Andrew started sending some of my music to people. I met Eric Lau at his radioshow and he said he would show Benji B my music. At the same time I was also sending Benji B my music because I was a fan of his show. Benji B may have been the first to play my music on BBC radio. The next year I started officially releasing music. Now, I’m here.
Did you learn making music all by yourself or did you have education in it?
I usually say that I learned it by myself, but I realize I had certain people around like my dad’s friends. I remember going over to one of his friends’ house named DJ Sparkle, and he was showing all his gear and he was like ‘Yo, I got this new AKAI…’! As a kid I only remembered the word ‘sampler’ so a decade and some years later I searched for it online and it was the AKAI S1000. So there were a couple people around but I was mostly solo in the learning process. I only took bits and pieces of knowledge from certain people. I’m kind of happy I learned my own way because it helped me be more original.
Have you always wanted to become a producer?
I guess you can say that, because I always listened to beats and stuff, and I liked how bassdrums felt. That’s probably why I take a lot of time making bassdrums and sometimes making whole drumkits with synthesizers. I really like the process of it.
Who are your biggest influencers nowadays?
I think Current Value is one of my favorite producers right now though I have many favorite producers, he is a new producer who I really got into. I also always forget to mention Dimlite as a favorite as well. Next time I get asked this question I’ll probably mention some other producers since I have many favorites.
Our first encounter with your music and the whole L.A. Beat scene was through a podcast from 5 years ago, you had a track called ‘Slide Past’.
Oh yeah, I never really released that version. It was actually released on ‘Paramatma‘ without drums and it was named ‘1000 Pedaled Lotus (Awakened)’. It was the ending of the album and it was all based on the chakra-system. It was used symbolically as birthing anew.
The whole philosophy with chakra, how do you get inspired by that and put it in your music?
I was watching this Anodea Judith video and it inspired me to tie my album with the chakras and different evolutionary stages of the human. Later I realized many other people tie the chakra system to different levels of consciousness and different evolutionary stages of the human as a whole.
By programming ourself; we can go into different dimensions by changing the way we think and the way we put out our emotions. I’ve been experimenting with this a lot lately and I realized the world Isn’t what I previously thought it was. It’s totally fluid and changeable.
'IT'S ALL ABOUT ENERGY, ALL JUST A GIANT COSMIC SOUP, I GUESS.'
— CHARLES DICKERSON
And so is your music. I was reading about lucid dreaming; when you fall asleep, you head into another mind-state and you’re floating and see yourself from another level or something.
When I was making Paramatma I was experimenting with astral projection. I saw my record in the astral world. It wasn’t in music but it was visual. In the beginning it was scary just like the album. It looked really dark in the beginning. I was running from people and at certain point I was thrown in the ocean. I was drowning and there was barbwire in the water and I was like ‘fuck it, Ill at least hang on to the barbwire to save my life. There were people drowning and I said ‘just hang on, just do it.’ And out of nowhere I came out of the water and some guy that I believed was my higher-self personality- came to me. He wasn’t talking in words but it was kind of telepathic. Basically he was saying: ‘You’re the one creating this’.
It’s the state between being awake and asleep, then you have a whole another area of experiencing life.
Yes, and that’s the state I would like to be in throughout the day. People who are more into meditation are probably more in that state: the balance-state.
What kind of drugs were you on when you produced Crew? Because it inspires us to get high and shit…
We don’t do that bad stuff.
Honestly I’ve had the best outcomes with music, not getting high. Everybody often talks about ‘I gotta be high’. I think it’s a different process for me. For me it’s easier to do it sober and come up with a new idea and just go with it but I do get really great ideas when I’m high!
Different people, different philosophies, different lifestyles; people tend to look at differences. Such a variety can divide but also reinforce each other. Let’s take a look at the Low End Theory. You’ve played a couple of times there, what makes it such a special place?
It has always been the special place for me. I always felt at home there. I can make some new music and people are usually ready for the new things I show them.
And how would you explain the stream of upcoming talents with their typical LA sound, becoming so popular?
During the tour with Free The Robots while we were in Paris. In Paris Nosaj Thing was there as well as Kutmah. Everybody was talking about ‘the old Low End Theory’. Which is a topic I seem to bring up often. Even though I started going to Low End around 2008 the vibe back then was very special because everybody was learning from each other. Everybody was excited and coming up with something new. It was just a bunch of musicians who really appreciate everything. I think having Low End Theory in LA and it’s appreciation for creativity is what made so many LA producers become popular. I don’t want Low End Theory to ever lose it’s creativity and innovation!
What is your true passion: producing, remixing, playing for a live audience?
Producing. Though I like playing live now I didn’t like playing live in the past because I used to be nervous and I sometimes still am. Most of the time I get over it and just have a good time. I’ve learned to get use to playing live and it’s a good thing because it broke me out my introverted side.
Talking about the audience, imagine yourself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.. Which instrument in your studio would come out most handy as a weapon?
The Access Virus TI.
Do you have a specific rapper that you would like to work with?
I’m liking Danny Brown’s music. I like the energy in it and it’s fun to listen to. Another band i’ve been listening to throughout the tour is ‘Lost Children of Babylon’, with this album called ‘Where the Light was Created'; it’s really fucking cool. I’m so into beats so I usually just skip music if the beat’s not dope but they make the music work with their raps alone. The ‘Where the Light was Created’ album puts me in a good head space.
Do you make your beats for rappers as well, or with certain rappers on your mind?
Yeah I used to do that more when I first started making music. Now I just like to explore sound and compose most of the time. Rappers still ask me for beats though. I like to do remixes every once in a while too because I find it fun.
So what are your future plans?
I want to release more than one record this year but I have to be focussed. I’m working on a record thats isn’t dance music. The record i’m working on now is relaxed and mellowed out. While working on this record I thought to myself: ‘Just relax and have fun with this album and see what happens.’ It’s almost done and it will be an album where i’m also working with vocalist. I think this album is even more original than the stuff I’ve done in the past.
So the album will be more mellow and dreamy?
Yes dreamy, that’s the good word for it.