Estate Interview

Recently landing a pair of spots on national television, Minneapolis' Estate is continuing to expand its audience outside of the Midwest. Recently speaking to [City Pages] about the new found exposure, the duo of Dan Kramer also Josh Johnson also spoke candidly about their unique approach to performing live and their affinity for creating remixes.

For those who haven't seen you live, how would you describe the mix between media and music in your shows?

Estate: Like the question implies, our live shows are a blend of audio and synchronous video which was created by both our friends and ourselves. Each song has a unique video made to fit the mood and feel of the song. They're edited to the rhythm and feel of the music. We really like how they reinforce each other both on stage and on screen at home. During the show we project the video on a large screen right on stage with us. We like when other groups give the audience options on what to pay attention to. Watch the band, chat with friends, dance, watch the video, or all the above. It's up to you. We spend a fair amount of time as freelance sound designers so we know the synergy that can arise from mixing interesting audio and with awesome visuals. We love it. We had always been really impressed when we saw bands incorporate a visual element to their show, and the idea to play live with the videos came about after we were in contact with Jon Thompson (local animator and awesome guy) about creating some videos for songs off our first album. After he had finished a few videos for us, we thought to ourselves, "Man wouldn't it be awesome to have these things going while we play live." Easy solution; our musical computer software (and bread and butter) Ableton Live started incorporating video at the same time Jon finished some videos for us. The goal of our live shows is to create an evening of experiences and the visuals are one aspect of the many experiences we hope the audience takes away with them.

When you're recording your music, do you keep in mind how it might transfer to the stage. Or rather, how it might transfer to the way in which you showcase your music?

Estate: We don't seem to feel the need to stick to a single formula which is great for us. It ends up giving us the freedom to experiment as well as lending a unique flavor to each tune. Whether or not a song will work for us live comes very late in the writing process. A few brews, a nice beat, and some new synth sounds usually kick start our songs.

The birth of an Estate song is like a dysfunctional childhood. It's born at an unexpected time and we don't yet know how much love it's going to receive. All songs are kept, but some are favored. If we decide it has potential to become a productive member of (Estate) society, we keep nurturing it. If over time, and two or three Estate dads still feel like it's a really bright bulb, it will make it to our full three person practice. This is often when we decide if the songs graduate to maturity aka the stage. Very few do. Most are neglected. Some songs, maybe more, work well for recordings but not the stage.

Our writing, recording, production, and editing happen concurrently so we are constantly tweaking them all as we go. We do however, typically divide the writing process into two phases. Phase one is the birth of the song. It is the time when we create the sonic qualities, characteristics, melodies and grooves of the song. The second phase is much more analytical as it is when the structure starts to take shape and a majority of the editing is done. At this point, we've boiled down the big sound elements we're working with and now have to figure out how to make them fit together.

If we have a song that has graduated to further practices, we take a listen and say, "OK. Who wants to play what?" (aka Dan you have guitar and synth lead, Josh you rock the bass, vocals and wind sample, Jessie - you blend the acoustic drums, and MPC with the prerecorded beats and rhythms.) Next we give it a try and see what needs to be stripped out of the computer mix and what we can add, if anything. We try to showcase our music live by making a hybrid of what you'll hear on the album and what you would expect from a live band. The end results is something that is has the energy and drive of rock with the smooth sexiness of highly produced electronic music.
Our first concern with our music is making something we'd want to listen to. Sometimes we put a song down for a few weeks and pick it up again, throw on some headphones and see if it catches our ears. If so, that song-child might have a future.

How have the many remixes of your songs helped expand your audience? Last year's split with Nobot was awesome--are you working on producing any other remixes yourself?

Estate: Remixes are one of our favorite things. Whether it's us making one or having one done for us, it's always gratifying. It can breathe a whole new life into a song. When you're working on remix for someone else, you have all these awesome elements to play with and add your sound to. Super fun and rewarding.

The icing on the cake is that the remixes can only help expand our audience. Plus we end up meeting great, like minded, bands/peeps. We have a Toronto remix connection with Madrid and the Cansecos which are two awesome groups, and we know our name is much more familiar up there as a result. Same goes for Nobot and Gigamesh. Every group has their own friend/fan base and it's a great way to get exposed to new people and return their efforts with the same. We end up performing some of these remixes live as well. We liked the Gigamesh remix of our tune so much we ended up performing it instead of our original! We are always interested in working on remixes of interesting groups.

How'd you end up landing your recent national television spots?

Estate: We were approached by a small company out of LA that focuses on commercial placement. We didn't know what they could do but gave them a shot. They've landed some cool stuff for us so far and seem to have more in store. These TV placements and our new album coming out this winter have kept us excited and busy.

[This article was originally published by City Pages.]

Avenpitch Interview

This weekend the TC electropunk scene is celebrating the release of its fifth compilation with a show at Club Underground. In preparation for the event I had a few words with Todd Millenacker of Avenpitch, the band which will be headlining the show. In addition to giving away free copies of the new album to fans who attend the show this weekend, the collective is also offering each of the previous compilations as free downloads via

How has electropunk evolved in the Twin Cities since the first compilation?

Todd Millenacker: I don't know if really has. For me, it's still a motley bunch of musicians throwing stuff against a wall and seeing what sticks! In terms of the "Electropunk Scene" bands just keep coming out of the woodwork. Over the course of five years TC Electropunk has been associated with 43 acts and it seems like interest just keeps on expanding.

It's always hard naming names, but who are some of the rising stars in the local scene?

Todd Millenacker: To be honest my perspective is so warped on things that I really have no clue who is becoming successful outside of each band's own little circle. In terms of Volume 5, I know OBCT, milkbar, Thought Thieves and Pop Inc all seem to be working it pretty hard and I'm hoping someone breaks through eventually.

Have any bands on the compilations had any solid national exposure?

Todd Millenacker: Screaming Mechanical Brain, who was on Volume 4, is probably the most well known. Those guys are road warriors, have a great work ethic and have definitely earned the national attention they've been receiving.

As for the rest of us, every so often a little ray of hope shines through. I know Avenpitch has been pretty lucky in getting music placed in video games, indie movies and (most recently) a TV series.

Who are some of your favorite local electropunk bands?

Todd Millenacker: Obviously my band Avenpitch, but also I'm quite fond of the few bands that have been on all five TC Electropunk compilations - Mach FoX, Thosquanta and Uber Cool Kung Fu/IKKI.

What inspired you to get involved in the genre?

Todd Millenacker: I really like the general attitude behind it. The whole do-it-yourself mentality of getting a guitar, plugging into your computer and making some noise!

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Har Mar Superstar Interview

The more you get to know about Sean Tillman, the more it seems like the guy never stops living the American Dream. That is, of course, if your version of the American Dream includes becoming a spokesman for a vodka company. And winning an onscreen dance-off with Ben Stiller. And making out with Kate Moss. And touring Australia with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Add to it that he just released his fourth album under his Har Mar Superstar moniker last month, celebrating the release of Dark Touches' first single by inviting his personal friend Eva Mendes to star in the music video—dude's got a grasp on the American Dream, indeed.

In addition to his new release, Tillman played a role in Drew Barrymore's Whip It, which premiered in theaters last month, and is in the process of developing Stitch N' Bitch, a new show for HBO he's been working on with Ellen Page (Juno) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development). Not bad for a guy who spent his formative teen years in Owatonna. Tillman recently spoke to us via email, discussing Dark Touches, his acting roles, and his competitive dodgeball team, the Juggalos.

Are you originally from Marshall or Owatonna?

I was born in Marshall and lived there until I was nine. Then, we moved to Owatonna. I stayed there until I was 15 and went to the what is now the Perpich Center for Arts Education. After that I stayed in St. Paul until I was 24. Then I moved London for a year, and I've been in L.A. for the last six years. At some point I lived in Chicago for a about a year. Can't remember when.

Do you still have any family or friends there? When did you head back there last?

My parents are still in Owatonna, so I end up back there a lot. There are a lot of good people there that I like to visit. Just go to the bar at the bowling alley and everyone's there. Convenience.

What was the inspiration behind performing again recently with Calvin Krime at the Uptown recently? Ever thought about taking Sean Na Na or CK on the road again?

The people at the Uptown Bar contacted me about doing a Har Mar show before closing the doors. I was all excited to help out and get a chance to rock the place one last time. After I thought I about it a bit I realized that I never really did many Har Mar shows there. Calvin Krime would play, and during that era I watched countless bands through the window just dying to turn 21 so I could go in. I got a wild notion to get Jon and Jason to play a few songs, they agreed, and we rocked the encore. It was super fun. I would like to play more with those guys. No official plans. It was just nice to dust off the bass and scream. As far as touring goes, I'm always threatening to do more Sean Na Na shows. If we got a good tour offered I'd put the band together. It's kind of brutal on the road these days though, so no promises.

What sort of impact did Michael Jackson's death have on you?

I was really surprised. Michael Jackson's death was so sudden. I came out of a movie and heard the news. It didn't seem real. I don't think I actually cried. I was more relieved for the guy. He was under such constant scrutiny that it must have been hellish. I feel like he finally got a little bit of peace. I love his music and his life story is legendary. Anyway, I hope his dad goes soon. Motherfucker.

Do you think that songs like "Dope, Man" or "Turn it Around" would exist had Jackson not?

Obviously M.J. was a huge influence on me. Thriller was the first album I learned every word to. I was in kindergarten and would come home and listen to it every day, dancing next to the record player with these giant white headphones on. I think that really shaped my point of view and love for R&B. Simply put, most of my songs wouldn't exist without Motown in general.

When did you guys have the idea to include [Eric Wareheim] in the video?

Eric and I have been trying to get together and make a video for a while now. He was super busy working on Tim and Eric while we were shooting this, but he was all about dropping by and getting slimed. It all came together nicely.

What's the continuation of the DUI theme about in your music?

I think I only reference Dialing Under the Influence once on Dark Touches. I guess it's something I'm prone to doing. Drunk dialing is a blessing and a curse.

"Game Night" has this strange hardcore-synth sound that reminds me a bit of Lords of Acid. How much do you listen to artists like that—or maybe Peaches—who are almost over the top with the openness of their sexuality? Does that sort of music influence you at all or is it the opposite—are you influencing someone like Peaches?

I've never really listened to Lords of Acid. P.O.S handed me a disc of beats and I really liked that one. It's just brutal and awesome. I love that bass sound. It's so gritty and huge. The song kind of wrote itself from there. As far as influencing people, I can't really answer that. I am friends with Peaches, and I think her shows are amazing. In that respect, I totally look up to her. We're peers though, so it's more of a mutual admiration. We've both been at it for a LONG time.

Forget old man Timberlake—think that you're bringing sexy back with Dark Touches bringing?

I love Timberlake. I think he's awesome. I think Dark Touches is my best album yet, so I'm really excited. I think this one's only 75% about sex. It's mostly about jubilation... which normally ends up with sex I guess. I don't know. I can't help it. People want to love me.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

A Plus D Interview

When did you start making mashups?

A Plus D: We made our first mashup back in 2004, when we mashed up Missy Elliott with The Cure, and produced "I'm Really Hot Hot Hot!!!" Back in those early days of bootlegging, someone once said that your first mashup should always be made with either Missy Elliott or Eminem, due to the tightness of their raps, making them easier to sync up with other music.

But of course, we had been downloading and listening to mashups since 2002, and had already been DJing them at our Bootie parties for over a year. But being so intimately familiar with the art form by the time we finally started making our own definitely helped our craft.

Was there any other mashup producer, or producers, that inspired you to get started?

A Plus D: We hate to sound cliché, but it's the usual suspects: 2manyDJs, Freelance Hellraiser, and Go Home Productions all initially inspired us to start producing our own mashups.

Have you had any legal threats or issues arise surrounding any of your bootlegs?

A Plus D: Shockingly, no! In fact, we've even been clandestinely approached by representatives from a few major labels to help them mash up their own artists on the down-low!

What is the last mashup you listened to that wasn't yours?

A Plus D: DJ Tripp's "Just Stop Believin'" (Lady Gaga vs. Journey). Damn, now there's finally another "Don't Stop Believin'" mashup besides our own that we actually like!

Who are your favorite bastard-pop producers?

A Plus D: [As] the curators of the monthly Bootie Top 10, we have SO many favorites. Can we just go crazy? In no particular order: DJ Lobsterdust, DJ Schmolli, the Illuminoids, DJ Earworm, DJ Fox, MadMixMustang, Dan Mei & Marc Johnce, Divide & Kreate, Titus Jones, Loo & Placido, the Kleptones, DJ Y Alias JY, DJ BC, Zebra... these are just off the top of our heads, so if we left anybody out (and we're sure we did!) don't hate us, we're sorry!

How many mashups do you think you've made in your life?

A Plus D: We actually keep track! We number each mashup in the MP3 ID tags! So far, we're up to 52 officially-released A Plus D mashups... although we have at LEAST a dozen more that we've never actually posted online yet.

What is your favorite mashup of all time?

A Plus D: Of all time? That is SUCH a difficult question! We used to say "Rapture Riders" (The Doors vs. Blondie) by Go Home Productions, but now it's getting a little long in the tooth. We can probably say what our "Mashup of the Year" is though, and that would be MadMixMustang's "I Got More Than A Feeling" (Boston vs. Black Eyed Peas). But check back with us at the end of December when we release our annual "Best of Bootie 2009" compilation album!

[This article first appeared on Mashuptown.]