On this special day, we at The Dankles get to show you a small glimpse into the life of Ear Jerker, a producer/DJ who for some may just be an artist with a uniquely-titled alias. But to us, this man is nothing short of special. Now, what makes this day so important is that we not only have an exclusive interview for you all to read, but we also got Ear Jerker’s awesome new EP, Breakfast At Chevy’s. So go ahead and take a listen to this 3-track tropical bass/moombahton release, and read a little about the life of the one and only Ear Jerker!
Interview conducted by: Smokey
The Dankles: What’s happenin’ man? First off, thanks for giving us this opportunity to delve into the mind of Ear Jerker! In our interviews, it’s customary for us to get the basic info out of the way first before we get things really poppin’ off : what’s your real name, age, and current location?
Ear Jerker: My name is Henry (Hank) James Kalleen. I’m 22 years old and currently reside in San Francisco.
TD: Who would you say were some of your early musical influences, and what was initial spark in interest into becoming a producer/dj?
EJ: I grew up playing electric bass both rock and jazz. Rage Against the Machine was a huge influence. I started making hip hop with friends when I was about 15. I had friends that could spit and friends that could play so I did live instrumental hip hop originally then moved on to beat making on the computer when I attended Berklee College Of Music at 18. At that point I had discovered Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada who influenced me to make experimental electronica that was very different from my sound today. Gradually I moved closer to dance music but the “spark” was when I met Baan.
TD: With such a diverse and multi-faceted music scene, San Francisco is home to a broad variety of producers who are constantly trying to create a name for themselves; what do you think separates you and your music from the mainstream?
EJ: My main goal is to move dance music forward, I believe in the music not the image. I do like paying attention to trends but more from an outside point of view where I can put my own personality into a genre. I also never make a song I don’t care about for the crowd. I want to be proud of everything I’ve made for the rest of my life. To sum it up I make sure that all of my tracks represent my own personality voice, not a regurgitation of someone else’s.
TD: What would you say is your favorite part about the always blossoming Bay Area scene?
EJ: The bay area scene seems to be composed of every kind of person from every kind of scene. I really like that blend of all fashions, interests and tastes engaging in the same scene.
TD: Now, to please some of the techies that read our interviews, we were wondering if you could give us a quick lowdown on your studio set up?
EJ: I am a minimalist and a huge fan of digital. My favorite keyboard in my studio is the caps lock keyboard! I do use a padKontrol for the MIDI roll function but I really like making MIDI patterns and editing them “in the box”. I bounce between Logic and Live and I will occasionally use Absynth to pre make a bunch of my own sounds before production. Besides that I often don’t go too far beyond Ableton’s “analog” and it’s native FX, you can do so much with so little.
TD: How about your mixing equipment? Got any specific rituals you like to follow before your perform?
EJ: I use my own Ableton Live template and an APC 40 and do all my own mapping. I set it up like 3 decks and do live sampling/looping with some custom FX as well. I really enjoy walking to a gig, it gives me clarity. Sometimes I park just a little farther away so I can get that feeling.
TD: What tips would you give to some practicing producers and dj’s out there?
EJ: FOR PRODUCERS: DJ!!! Learn sound synthesis if you plan on making synth-oriented music. With a true understanding of how synths, FX and DAWs actually work you will cut the time it takes to make a track in half. Also take breaks and let your ears rest and ask non musicians what they think of your music.
FOR DJ’s: PRODUCE!!! Don’t play the same tracks everyone else is playing.
TD: Moving onto your personal career, we’ve been following your music for quite some time now, and are really excited to hear the full release of your newest EP Breakfast at Chevy’s! What can you tell us about the process of creating this diverse EP?
EJ: It’s interesting you mention diverse, all three tracks originated from the same project file! I stumbled upon a sound that I had never heard before but it stuck with me….the title track “Breakfast At Chevy’s”. It was the first time I felt like I was able to blend dark and warm together. I liked it so much I kept coming up with variations and tumbled down the rabbit hole. Before I knew it there were three separate tracks that had completely unique characteristics.
TD: Do you have an intended direction when creating a song or do you take a more free-lanced approach to each track you produce?
EJ: I make a bunch of 10 second loops all of the time, exploring small and weird ideas until I find a sound that I really want to pursue. That part is extremely open. As soon as a track breaks that first step it usually carries itself to being 90% done, I feel a track can often make itself if that makes any sense. That last 10% is the not so free part. It’s when the mixing aspect comes in as well as details in the arrangement that give the track a more natural flow for the first time listener.
TD: Now, when you are just kickin’ it at home or in the car, who are some of your favorite artists you like to throw on?
EJ: I spend a lot of time working on my own tracks, Bad Shoes Records tracks and clients for my Mixing + Mastering business Hear For You so by the time I’m free I really enjoy silence! Right now I’m into “Lucid” and “Bosstone” as well as “Jack Sparrow”. I spend most of my listening time with older music to put some prospective on where music is right now. I like jazz vocalist from the 1960’s, as well as salsa and latin big band.
TD: What about outside of the music world? What could we find Ear Jerker partaking in while not creating new music or performing on stage?
EJ: I really like exploring the lesser known parts of the city during the day, especially abandoned buildings or just really old areas. If I have more time I try and get as far away from my everyday life as possible, weekends away really help inspire me.
TD: Looking towards the future, what do you have planned post-release for this EP? Got any shows or events we can expect you to be twerkin’ at in the next few months?
EJ: Right now I’m preparing for an Australian tour! Hopefully sometime in February. Also, I will finally release the much anticipated “Poppy Fields” single in the very near future! (Any of you that have been waiting I’m sorry but I assure you it will be worth it, I’ve added a vocalist!) I’m also working on a full length album to debut my own vocals as well as some guests. Other than that I’m mostly playing in SF. There will be some house parties coming up, an outdoor BBQ in the warehouse district and possibly another headlining spot at Vessel SF at Dim Mak’s “Obey The Kitty”.
The Dankles Quick Q’s
TD: Who was the last artist you saw perform?
TD: Dream artist to perform with?
EJ: Hudson Mohawke
TD: Last place you traveled to on vacation?
EJ: Tennessee for Bonnaroo!
TD: Finest celebrity on the planet?
EJ: Monica Belluci
TD: Favorite movie of all time?
EJ: Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’
TD: Well this just about wraps things up with our interview, we wanted to personally thank you again for giving us some time to learn about the career and interests of the one and only Ear Jerker! We’re gettin buck to this new EP, and I know everyone else will be gettin’ down to it to!