Through out its long-standing history, Los Angeles has always been able to stand out from the crowd as a collective of diverse culture and ethnicity. Its far-reaching roots have served as a haven for creativity, being home to several powerhouses such as HARD, Dim Mak, SMOG and countless others. Both major and up-and-coming artists are able to call this city their home, using the unique and galvanizing attitude of the city as their inspiration.
Ian Macpherson and Rob May in many ways owe their career to the city of angels. It was there where the two first met, and served as the launching pad for their production collaboration known as Bixel Boys. The Bixel Boys have established themselves in 2013 as a DJ duo to watch, and in turn have set themselves up for a highly successful future ahead. Their year has included a tour with acts such as Cyril Hahn and Ryan Hemsworth as well as countless remixes for artists like Goldroom and Drake.
Their style is consistently eclectic, drawing from their love of hip/hop and R&B style vocals and infusing it with deep house or even trap percussion. Their debut EP, Black December takes on a much heavier sound than we have previously seen from these guys, busting right out the gates from the very start. Lovingly labeled as “big room deep house”, Black December is an EP that takes its old school and 90s dance rave influences and layers them over with punches of hard hitting bass.
We recently sat down with Ian and Rob to talk to them about their beginnings, Sweat It Out!, and what’s in store for their future.
The Dankles: Hey guys, thanks for sitting down with us here at The Dankles! Let’s start with some basic introductions, tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you would describe your music.
Ian: Ian here. I’d describe our music as eclectic, nostalgic, festival ready deep house? Or just dance music. [laughs]
Rob: Hello. I’m Rob. Someone called our stuff ‘Big-Room Deep House’, so let’s go with that.
TD: How old were you both when you guys started producing / DJing and how did you start working together? When was your first gig together as Bixel Boys?
I: I have been DJing in LA for the last couple years. As far as producing, I have only been involved for the last 8 months or so since I met Rob.
R: I DJed for awhile in my early teen years when I thought I was some hip-hop scratch legend. I started producing some 3 or 4 years ago as a hobby. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend and we sort of just creatively vibed from the start. I think our first gig was in Santa Monica, and we had no idea what we were going to play. It actually went off really well and I think from that moment we knew that it was something that we wanted to pursue full time.
TD: What were your early influences and how do those influences shape your music today?
I: Janet Jackson and Lauryn Hill are two big ones for me. I think influences like that really bring a soul and heart to our tracks.
R: The Prodigy was the first CD that I ever purchased with my own money, I must have listened to it a hundred times in the first week. I think some of those early electronic pioneers inspired me to find those moments of translating soul through technology.
TD: In the past few months you guys have released a slew of remixes and edits of R&B and hip hop tracks, but with a deep house or even trap style influence. What is the process like for you guys when you are working on a remix? Does the process differ when you are working on an original track?
R: It’s important for us to retain the essence of the original work when we remix / edit things. We are very conscious of not doing the original a disservice by cluttering it to the point where you take the life out of it. We also try not to force a genre on to anything we remix, which is one of the reasons why our stuff is pretty eclectic. Working on original tracks is a more ‘guerilla’ approach. We can be in the studio for hours just pushing buttons and tweaking knobs and still not get anything recorded. I know that when I hear Ian scream after I alter a sound or lay down a drum track, that it’s time to save and move on. [laughs]
I: I think guerilla is about right – I let out a pretty specific hoot if something perks my interest. Remixes are really about retaining the heart of the original track we’re working with; we never set out to steal from the original intentions of the track.
TD: You are LA based, but you have been playing shows all over lately including recently playing a show here in Chicago at The Mid. How has the reception been when you have played outside of LA? Do you notice a difference in the crowd?
R: I personally don’t really notice a difference in the crowd, but I think that just shows you the sort of ‘globalization’ of dance music. The fact that people from all over the world can get together in a room and connect with you and your music is an amazing thing.
I: I actually felt a bit of a difference in Chicago’s crowd specifically. I felt like they were pretty in tune with songs that were playing; we were getting tweeted questions about the track ID’s while we were playing them, which was pretty cool. Maybe it has to do with the history of house in Chicago, but maybe I’m just romanticizing it a bit – either way, Chicago has definitely been one of our favorite stops.
TD: Your EP Black December recently came out, what was your inspiration behind it and how long did it take you to finish it?
R: At the time when we were brainstorming ideas for an EP, we had just gotten off of a string of edits and I’d say more a happy / poppy brand of music. The idea was clear right off the bat that we wanted to go a little darker and more mature. I would say all in all it took us a few months to get everything to the point where we wanted it. Black December was actually a song I had started 2 years ago an revisited. So, I guess you could say it was 3 years in the making.
I: It definitely was / is important for us to approach our originals with some seriousness and with a different and specific tone. I think our collective experiences and tastes lead us to this sound, I don’t think it was something we were specifically looking for – theres a lot of truth there for us.
TD: Black December is out on the famed Australian label Sweat It Out!, how did that come about and what was your experience like working with them?
R: Sweat It Out! has been great for us. We actually have had them and their artists on our radar for awhile. In the early stages of making this EP, they were actually who we had in mind for this EP right from the start. The fact that it all worked out so perfectly is pretty amazing.
I: I echo everything Rob said – Sweat It Out! was the the first choice when we finished the record; its was / is the perfect home for that EP.
TD: What does the future hold for you guys and are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I: We have a release coming up on Nervous which we’re very excited about, as well as a new remix for a legendary electronic duo. We’ll also be focusing some time on developing a manifestation of our #freelife project which will start to take shape in 2014.
Bixel Boys’ EP Black December is available for purchase now on Beatport, you can order it here.