Big GiganticInterviewed by: Amelia Waters and Katy Beightol 

Big Gigantic, which consists of saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, have been a force to be reckoned with in the electronic scene for over the past five years.  The live-tronica duo has completed various sold-out headlining tours, including Red Rocks and played some of the country’s most major festivals, such as Lollapalooza,  Bonnaroo, Ultra, Austin City Limits, Hangout, Electric Forest, and Outside Lands, among others. Getting ready to celebrate their headlining performance at North Coast Music Festival, Big Gigantic sat down with us to talk about their last few years in the spotlight, their new upcoming album and their love for Chicago.  Make sure to check them out on their headlining Sky High tour this fall in a city near you.  Get all the information on the tour here.

The Dankles: What are your names and ages?

Jeremy Salken: Oooo dang…my names Jeremy I’m 13.

Dominic Lalli: My Names Dominic and I’m 14.

JS: He’s the older brother.

TD: How did you choose the name Big Gigantic?

DL: I was literally walking down the street and the two words came together in my head and I was like, “I’m gonna save that.”  And then I started a MySpace page, this is back when MySpace was poppin’ and that was kind of the beginning of it.

TD:  How did #ABGF (A Big Gigantic Family) come about?

JS: That was our fans, our fans started a Facebook group and then started doing that hashtag and we have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate our whole family, community and street team.  It happened really naturally, which is super cool.  Our fans are like taking it to the next level and it keeps growing, it’s cool. That’s the core name for our street team.

DL: You know like Derek, Pretty lights and Bassnectar had similar things.  We kind of  just got to the point where kids were coming out like, “Guys we need to figure out a name and we’ve been calling it this,  so I hope that’s okay.”  And we’re like, “That is fuckin’ awesome!”

TD: The past four years have been extremely successful for you both, what has changed in the way you record and create music since your albums Fire It Up and Wide Awake?

DL: Man, back then I literally had no idea what I was doing.  I had written music.  I mean, I just got a computer, like I barely even knew how to use the fuckin’ computer.  Let alone, a program on it.

JS: Yeah, when he got a computer, we were living together. That was not that long along, like 6 or 7 years.

DL:  At the time, I was doing so much jazz and writing, you know?  Writing music on a piano and scores. Anyways, so back then I just really had know idea.  But now that I know production, I know how to make the drums sound like all the stuff that is in my head.  What I was doing before was kind of like a sketch, where is now I get to use all the colors. That’s the exciting part about the writing process and the making music process.  Back then I was just like, “Let’s just do this and see what happens!”  Now with the intention, I can kind of create it more clearly. Still a long way to go, everyday I learn something new and that opens another door. It’s always humbling.

JS: Dominic makes all the music.  The core concept of what we do is live and it has always been there, but it has developed as we play a lot of the tunes out.  Dom will write a track and we will start playing it the day after he writes it, we don’t necessarily wait.

DL: Like tonight! [Laughs]

JS: Like tonight, we are playing stuff we’ve never played in front of like 15,000 people and it’s cool cause you get the energy like, “Ah it’s so new!”  But yeah, he’ll write stuff and then we will go back after we play it live and be like “Oh, I liked that, I didn’t like that.” And kind of feel it out like a band traditionally would and it’s kind of cool that we can do that and  make changes on the fly.

DL: The interesting thing is that, as you simultaneously write music for an album or something; I’m writing for our live set though. So since I’m doing both, so much of it is inspired by how we play, that if I notice it didn’t work, I can go back and make changes to whatever. It’s very inspired by what we do live.   I’m like making a vision for an album, but then I’m like, “Oh how is going to fit live?”  So I have to step back and look at it from different ways.  I look at it from this way and then I run to the other side and I’m like, “Oh, well that needs to be tweaked, Does it work live? Ok, it’s going to work on an album.”  It’s a good perspective because there is listening music and then there is dancing music.  On this album, we are definitely going to try to have both listening and dancing music.  Also, some good songs and song writing because it’s like,  fuckin’ why not? Especially cause we can make it  sound good now and also we will have some singers to make some fuckin’ songs.  We have been making these melodies, ya know? No words, and we can hear them them in the audience singing it and we’re like, “Man, if we can make some lyrics.”  Like “Sky High”, everyone is like, “Badadabada — Bum bum buh!”  It’s funny, I hear it every night.

TD: As we know, you’ve been working on a new album to be released in the fall, what can we expect from this album and is there anything you’d like to tell the fans before the release?

DL: Well, the first thing we’d like to tell the fans is unfortunately it’s not going to be released in the fall.  That was the intention and we even put the word out there.  I even said it.  But, the further we got along with it the more we realized that it’s something we need to take a little extra time with. When the whole vision came together it was like, “Ok, cool. One month.”  It’s not going to happen, if we want to do it right, it’s not going to happen.  The cool thing is we just put out the Macklemore remix, which we weren’t even going to put out.  But now that it’s out, it’s great,  and I think people like it.  It’s a good one.  So that’s cool. We will be releasing singles along the way because some of the album is done or close to done, but a good portion is not done too.  So it won’t feel like we will disappear for three months and be like, “Hey, guess what? Remember us?”  We will be giving more music out as we go and it will all be tied along with the album. We did the exact same thing with Nocturnal.  We were going to release it in the fall and decided to wait.  It was like déjà vu, I was like, “Ya know what?  This is exactly what we did for Nocturnal.”  I don’t want to give people shit, not that it’s shit, but that shit is a piece of my heart and I want it to be in tip top shape and I don’t want anyone to see it until it is.  I’m not trying to have it all fucked up. [laughs]  I want it to be like “Ding!” [high pitch voice]

TD: What song or songs do you love to perform the most and are there any songs you wish you could incorporate more in your sets?

JS: As far as songs that I like to play, “It’s Going Down” is always one that people freak out over.  Just the build and the drop of that song is insane.  That’s probably my favorite.  The Macklemore remix is really fun too.  There are a lot of new tunes that rage super hard and it’s cool to start playing them cause they evolve and the way the we play them live evolves even though the track kind of is the same.  The way we put different inflections and start feeling out the phrasing and stuff like that and kind of get in the game plan.

DL:  Oh yeah!  I love playing “Nocturnal.”  That’s one of my favorite songs.  I like playing that new Macklemore remix.  All the stuff like, “Sky High,” that melody is real nice on my horn, super funky.  “Fantasictic” is really fun, I like that chorus.  I wish we could incorporate some more of our old stuff in our set, which I’m currently working on.  I’m working on bringing “Polarize” back.  You’ll see, we have some stuff planned for Red Rocks.

TD: Do you guys have any pre-show rituals?

JS: Jumping Jacks.

DL: I mean, we change into our whites.  We get a little minute to stretch, focus and warm up.  Maybe run on the treadmill.

TD: The last two years, The Dankles have spent New Year’s Eve ringing in the New Year with Big Gigantic, what made you choose Chicago for your New Year’s shows and what did you think of your performances?

DL: Well, Chicago is one of our second homes.  We love coming here and have great support in this city, so we just really wanted to do something special here.  New Years really worked out the first year we did it.

JS: We were suppose to play the Vic and then it sold out so fast that we moved it to the Riviera because we needed a bigger venue.

DL: And then that sold out.  So we were like, “Ok. The turn up is real here.” [Laughs] So we did that and we wanted to come back again and The Aragon is such a fuckin’ awesome room.  Sometime we’ll come back and do two nights there for sure.  So like, yeah, Chicago is fam!

JS: We use to play Kinetic back in the day.

TD: After seeing you play on a side stage at North Coast Music Festival in 2011, how do you feel about headlining this year’s festival?

DL: Yes! It was raining.  I remember that one.  It was so rowdy! It’s an honor.  When they asked us to do it, we were like, “You know it! Family!”  We played before Major Lazer and I remember Diplo and all those guys were in the back and we talked for Wes for a second.

JS: I’m like who’s the guy in the suit?

DL: I thought he was like the manager or something.  And then he took his shirt off.  He can do whatever the fuck he wants though.   If I was Diplo, I’d take off my shirt off too. I mean, if you follow him on Instagram, you already know. [laughs]

TD: Are there any artists in particular that you are excited to check out at this year’s festival?

DL: Aloe Blacc cause of “I Need A Dollar.”  We tried to see if he would get up with us, but I don’t think he got back to us.

JS: He had a scheduling conflict.

DL: Nas.

JS: Conspirator.

DL: Gramatik, who I’m trying to go play with.

TD: Now that your fan base has reached over 100,000 likes on Facebook, how do you feel about the ever increasing popularity and has this affected your personal life in anyway?

DL: [laughs] You’re definitely taking that question! [laughs] Just kidding.  Bro, you’re dating a superstar!

JS: We’re really psyched that we have such a great response to what we’re doing.

DL: [laughs]

TD: How do you take it all in?

JS: It’s kind of just like all happening.  It’s not like we are The Beatles or something.  Luckily, I can put my hood up and my hair down and I can blend.  I’m a good blender.

DL: The way you soak it in, you go like, “Oh woah! Oh my god.  Thank you!”  That’s what keeps you working hard.

JS: We work so much that you don’t even get a chance to sit back.

DL: That’s how it’s been the whole time.  You get so busy.  When you look back on it, like last year, we played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and sold out Red Rocks.  You just have to keep on a roll.   You kind of look back, but you just have to keep moving forward.

JS:  That’s just the nature of it.  I feel like in 20 years or whatever when we are remembering, I feel like I might be like, “I wish I was more present.”  Not more present cause we are pretty present, but when you’re in it, you just have to be in it.  Crush it.  It’s awesome, we love it, it’s great.

TD: How did you get involved with GRiZ and Gramatik to create Big Grizmatik and what is the experience like working with such high caliber musicians?

DL: Yeah, that kind of happened randomly.  It kind of just started, me and Grant started working on a track together.  This was right when Grant, ya know GRiZ, moved to Colorado.   At the same time, Grant was working with Denis, Gramatik, on Grizmatik.  So they were kind of working on stuff and simultaneously us hanging at festivals and on similar vibes and what not. I don’t know how it actually came together.  We were kind of like, “We play drums and sax, Big Grizmatik.”  It kind of happened around Electric Forest, not this past year, but the year before that.  It was like, “Oh, I think we are going to do something in the forest in two hours.  Are you here? Can you do it? Ok, cool. Yeah, let’s do it!”  We even tried to get the drum set, but it didn’t happen.

JS: We couldn’t fit it on the stage.  I was there with a full kit.  It would have been the full kind of thing you saw at Electric this summer.  But, we were like, “Oh yeah! Let’s do some shit together, we have the instruments, they will let us take over the stage.”  It was cool that it worked out that way, that it was kind of the secret preview of what we did this summer.

TD: Do you have any other collaborations in the works? If not, what artist/artists would you be interested in working with?

DL:  We have some collaborations in the works that we’re not quite ready to put out there.  Some singers, some MCs.  Trying to get together on a Big Grizmatik track, like an actual track with all of us, which would be cool, but it’s hard because everyone is busy and it’s hard to get together.

TD: Who is your dream artist to collaborate with?

JS: Stevie Wonder.

DL: Herbie Hancock would be amazing to collab with.

JS: Sting. The Doors.

DL: All dead people. [laughs]  Jimi Hendrix.

TD: What is the creative process like when designing your lighting and stage setup and how involved are the both of you?

JS: We are really involved.  It’s been a big thing of ours to get our lights and production as rowdy as possible, to kind of go with the band name and go with the sound.  Our lighting designer, he will just sit down and crank out designs.  The one we debuted on New Year’s in 2011,  he wrote it on a napkin.  We had been working on it for months, all these professional designs, and nothing was really right.  And we were on the road, and we we’re like, “that’s it!”  We are super involved in the process of figuring out how to make that come to life and if we can afford it and how to budget it.  That’s kind of what I do, is go over numbers.

Fun Questions:

TD: Last place you visited and never wanted to leave?

DL:  Minneapolis. OH!  I mean, Toronto.

JS: Toronto’s awesome, it’s like a clean New York.

TD: Do you guys have any other interests or talents you’d like to share with us and how do you like to enjoy your relaxation time away from music?

DL: We don’t relax.  We like to hike, go for drives in the mountains.  I just got my first car, so that’s cool.

JS: I can juggle.

TD: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, do you have any last words for the fans?

DL: Thanks for the support.  Everyone throughout the years, you guys, and all the fans.  We just appreciate it so much.  Lot of good, new, stuff to come.  Sorry about the album, it’ll be ten times more amazing.  We have big plans, just be on the lookout!


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About Amelia Waters