As Kill the Noise, Jake Stanczak rode the builds and drops of bass music to mass acclaim in the brostep era alongside peers Skrillex and 12th Planet. While he’s gotten famous for his pummeling music, his latest Kill the Noise LP, ‘Occult Classic’ on OWSLA, showcases a more introspective sound that, as the 34-year-old producer tells it, reflects his personal evolution as a whole. Currently on tour behind the album, Stanczak connects with DJ Mag USA to talk music and magic.
Words: KATIE BAIN
The cover art for your last few releases has been dark, full of skull images and whatnot. This new one looks more like an abstract oil painting. Why the shift in aesthetic?
“I just didn’t want people to look at it and think, ‘This is electronic death metal’, because that’s definitely not what the record sounds like. Some of the older stuff I was doing was super over the top. This record has a lot more facets of personality.”
Why, and what facets?
“I’m at a different point in my life. I’m evolving and growing and learning new stuff. I’m also having a kid in January. I’m becoming an adult [laughs]. I grew up listening to metal bands and rock music, so there’s always going to be an edge there somewhere, but in the past I was kind of afraid to try some of these other ideas that I had. But, the older I get, the more that I’m like, ‘Man, what are you afraid of? You’re kind of holding yourself back creatively and not giving anyone any clues that you’re interested in other things. You’re just showing that this is the only thing that you do and the only thing that you like, and going back to the album art, people take one look and get an idea of what the music is going to sound like, so you’re kind of putting yourself into a corner creatively.”
What’s your take on the current status of that aggressive sound you helped forge?
“The first couple of records I put out as Kill the Noise on OWSLA were right when I moved to LA and met Skrillex. He signed my first record right after he put out ‘Scary Monsters [And Nice Sprites]’, so we had a similar game plan and a similar audience too. It really felt like there was all this energy around this rock-infused version of dubstep. It went from feeling like a rave scenario to going to a rock concert. There was a different kind of energy when I was making those tunes. I was really hoping that I’d make these tracks and people would be moshing and going completely insane.
"That peaked around 2013, and it feels like there’s been a release from that. Now it feels good to go to the club and listen to someone play Disclosure or Flume or Duke Dumont. People are dancing differently; there are different people in the club, and there’s a different kind of energy. It’s a nice contrast to the over-the-topness of the dubstep stuff and even the big room Avicii and Hardwell pounding hands-in-the-air stuff. It’s nice to go out at the peak time of the night and listen to stuff that’s groovier and you can dance to.
"And now in 2016, that sensibility of aggressiveness [will] stand out again. We’re in this moment where you can play a set that goes from the more introspective, chill, groovier stuff into pretty heavy stuff. It’s exciting and it’s fun too, to be able to cover all that ground."
The new album is ‘Occult Classic’ and you also released the ‘Black Magic’ EP. Are you into the supernatural, or just wordplay?
“There’s definitely some meaning behind it — the whole magic element of the music. From a technical aspect, there are people listening to the music and saying, ‘How did you do that?’ I did a Reddit AMA [Ask Me Anything] recently and most of the questions were about the inner workings of the process and also how I went from being a guy who likes music to being a guy who gets to travel the world playing music. It’s shrouded a little bit in mystery, where people are trying to figure out what they need to do to be able to do or make something like that. There is a little bit of magic in that.”
When is the last time you thought, “I killed it”?
“It’s tough for me to get in that space where I’m like, ‘Yeah, I just killed it’ [laughs]. I’m always looking for ways I can do better. I almost feel that when you say that you killed it, you’re not focusing on things you could improve. Hearing praise from someone I really respect though, that’s how I know I killed it.”