By Nicole Frederick
Three years ago in a galaxy not so far away three guys came together to grow their ideas on music, art and events in Los Angeles. This collaboration culminated in the birth of the Los Angeles Music Project or, LAMP. Randall Bass, Joshua Brooks and Alex Slater have spent countless hours curating numerous mixes, running an on point music blog, throwing some of the best events around LA, and managing some top tier local DJs including Templeton and Sleepy Cat. Not to mention, Brooks and Slater are also DJ’s themselves, going by the monikers PZB and MR PUZL. These guys eat, sleep and breathe music and Kismet Collective is all about it.
LAMP is celebrating three years as a label and music collective. This is quite an accomplishment, being that it started with just you guys, and now LAMPs a family of twelve artists and a few blog contributors. Tell us a little about how LAMP’s journey began.
Randall Bass: Alex threw a party under the brand PUZL and booked Josh to play. I was acting as Josh’s manager at the time and already had my eye on PUZL as a design brand, so when he asked me if he should play, I remember thinking, “yeah, these guys have a great design sense, you should do this party.” Then I found out it was one guy, Alex, and was, even more, impressed. Alex said to us “Your Music needs art, and my art needs music.” With those needs established Alex started collaborating on a party Josh, and I were throwing called PZB and Friends and from there the rest is history.
Alex Slater: Randall summed it up pretty well to be honest. The only other thing I want to add about our first encounter was listening and watching Josh play. He had an old Zone 1:D mixer and was pumping out amazing tunes. I hadn’t seen or heard anyone play that type of music since my brothers spun wax when I was a toddler; I felt like this dude was my long lost relative or something! LAMP as a narrative became more formal after the three of us had been working together on events and artwork for a while. I began sharing Randall’s studio while still running PUZL at the time and he and I would collaborate on a host of ideas, but nothing solidified until we started thinking about LAMP as it’s own standalone idea. It manifested into a lot of things, and it remains elastic and organic in that sense. In a nutshell, we had a focus and an outlet for all of our creative endeavors and that permeated through all facets of what LAMP has become.
Photo by Anastasia Velicescu
Where does your passion for curating music for others come from?
Joshua Brooks: Music has been my passion my entire life. I started playing instruments at a very young age and never really stopped. My passion for helping other artists came from my own struggles of trying to get a foot in the door and learning the steps that are important to make that happen. I’ve gone through the trial and error of trying to put music out and make a name for myself as a performer. The goal is to apply that knowledge and help propel some of the extremely talented and young producers that we have been lucky enough to cross paths with over the last couple of years.
AS: I started making mixtapes on CDs and Mini Discs when I was younger. There was just something about hearing a particular song and thinking “Shit! My friends really need to hear this!”. I’d be asked to make playlists on people’s computers and iPods for them and their parties, but I never had the resources to buy any DJing equipment. I’d done some crap mixing and spinning on a few friends turntables but really only got the opportunity to learn properly when I started working with Josh. After bugging him a few times to show me the ropes he threw me into the deep to see if I could swim. I spent hours watching him over his shoulder at shows and at his studio and eventually he let me take a few turns. That feeling of curating live was only matched by my enjoyment in discovering and reviewing music.
How do the three of you believe LAMP differentiates itself from other record labels and collectives?
JB: We are fairly new as a full-fledged record label and as such I’m not quite sure how to answer that just yet. This whole thing started as a passion project and our love of music, especially House. One thing I think that will really sets us apart from other labels though is our blog and weekly mixes that we do. It has given us an avenue to talk about not just our own music but also sharing music from other labels we really enjoy. There is a level of support within the record label community but I believe we take that up a notch. We don’t limit ourselves to what is fresh and new either. There is so much music out there that people are not aware of and it’s our goal to help them discover it. Thats the big thing when I’m looking for new artists and music. Besides the production quality which is first and foremost, I’m always asking, “Does this sound new and interesting. And, is it engaging?” Were not necessarily looking for the next big EDM hit. I feel like our focus is more on exploring and discovering. ‘Coexist’ by Leo Islo and Tontario is a perfect example. It is not your typical dance song, in fact its not a dance song, but we both heard this tune and recognized immediately that this was something people needed to hear.
RB: The idea that LAMP, LAMPing, PUZL, the Cushdon Casa, PZB, MR PUZL, etc… are all components of what we’re creating and not the main focus is what sets us apart. For a long time, we didn’t worry about how we were categorized and I think that’s helped us grow organically. Even we as the drivers of this vehicle can’t be sure where life will take us in the future. There’s a feeling that music is the soundtrack to a world in which we want to live in, and the people creating it are the family members we’d like to be with often.
AS: To avoid being redundant I’d just say the LAMP does not try to separate itself intentionally from others but rather to inspire and motivate others to outdo themselves every day.
You’ve had quite a year with showcasing not only LAMP artists but have also released some great weekly guest mixes with the likes of Whitney Fierce and Durante. (Congrats on hitting 100 mixes this year!) Who’s on your wish list for guest mixes in the future?
JB: Jonas Saalbach, Soul Button, Matador, Doorly, James Zabiela, Underworld, Chemical Brothers. I could go on forever.
*We will make Chemical Brothers happen.
AS: Yeah like Josh said tough call, but if I had to rattle off a few; Greco, Low Steppa, Super Flu, Monkey Safari, Finnebassen, 909 Till Infinity.
RB: Daft Punk…?
What’s one track each of you can’t get out of your head right now and why?
JB: Bucci Bag by Andrea Doria. it’s one of my favorite tunes of all time and recently I got a chance to bust out some old vinyls and play it. It’s definitely one of those tunes that’s hard to get out of your head once it’s in there. Not necessarily a bad thing in this case.
RB: Raphael Saadiq ft. Q Tip – Get involved (Jean Tonique Edit). Don’t get me wrong, Electronic music runs through me like a current of energy matched by no other frequency, but with so much electronic music everywhere, I’m really leaning towards brass sections, sustained vocals and jazz/funk/soul sounds lately.
AS: I feel like my head is constantly on shuffle so it would be hard for me to pick one but if I had to pick, my favorite track to play would be ‘The Thump Thump’ by Low Steppa.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to attend, but I’ve heard of your label periodical trips to the desert for LAMPing. Please tell me what shenanigans go on at these events and how people can get involved.
RB: LAMPing is where we go to re-charge. It’s the pinnacle of creation meets chaos. It’s our respite in the desert. Josh first scouts a location (we have a few). Then we bring all of our art, sound, a couch, some giant leather chairs and a fire; and invite all of our friends to set up our own little dreamland for a day. It’s where all the DJs can try on any new ideas or sounds they’re feeling.
JB: Ooh LAMPing. This is something that has always been of great interest to me. You always hear about desert parties happening but I never really knew anybody throwing them and so I never experienced what it was like to camp under the stars while dancing your face off until I went to Burning Man 2014. We all came to the realization that hey we have all of the equipment one would need for such an expedition so lets do it. I went out and did some scouting and found a few prime spots off the beaten path. Typically our events are very intimate with about 30-40 people attending. At our main location there is a rock pile about the size of a three-story apartment building that Randall lights up superbly with the help of MR PUZL while I set up our sound system which you can hear from a mile away. A good size fire is built and kept throughout the evening while we DANCE till the sun comes up! Typically the DJ’s are people from LAMP and our friends with the occasional surprise guest.
AS: We select a location a few weeks before hand, then pack up our light installation pieces, some furniture, loads of fire wood and fuck ton of sound equipment. We invite our friends and set up a pulsating hub of sonic vibes deep in the desert. It’s a place where our artists can experiment with new material away from the lights, and dance floors and for our friends to simply enjoy the company of one another under some incredible starry nights.
What are some obstacles LAMP has endured and overcame over the years?
RB: Figuring out what our identity is. Not that it’s defined so clearly now, but we have roles that we work within, and we understand what we’re doing as a collective.
JB: I’d say the biggest obstacle is figuring out how to communicate with people and share what we are trying to do. Getting people to understand what it is we do on top of attempting to figure that out ourselves. Really making sure we stay up to date on what is happening in the ever-changing music scene and keeping the brand relevant.
AS: For a brand, LA is finicky and loyalty is sparse, so we always battle with the idea of marketing ourselves heavily and letting people find us organically.
What made you guys want to do a pool party in January? I can’t be the only person who has asked.
RB: You’re actually the first person to ask! We wanted to do something different, something we hadn’t done yet. It’s our three year, and we wanted it to be special. I mean they have a glass dome over the entire pool area, who could pass that up?
JB: We like to try new things, and we really enjoy the Mondrian/ Skybar. It isn’t that much of a stretch to be honest. The Solarium at Skybar is completely covered and heated along with the pool as well. People in LA love pool parties, and we do too, so it just seemed like a perfect fit. When we were discussing the event with the folks at Ouija Entertainment and L’Affaire Musicale it just made sense. If you’ve never been when the Solarium is up you will be pleasantly surprised, and we look forward to the uniqueness of the event.
Video by Pentatonic Productions
Best memory you guys have with each other and why.
JB: There are many great moments but for me some of my most memorable are when the three of us come together after an event that we have thrown, whether it be a desert party, a house party or one of our club events and we look at each other and with out saying a word we all just sort of go yep that was awesome. We have been fortunate to have many of those and I hope we will have many more in the future.
RB: There are so many. No bests.
AS: The ones we have yet to share with one another are what I look forward to most.
So, you’re celebrating three years of LAMP greatness – what’s coming up in year four?
JB: The big thing for us this year is trying to increase the volume of music we release. It’s tricky though because the quality has got to stay the same or better. One of the things I will be working heavily on is finding that music. We are currently working on our first compilation album were hoping to release in April as well as a few other EP releases and remix packs. One thing that kind of got away from us last year was putting events together so we are also trying to get involved in more events throughout the year. With our 3 Year Anniversary around the corner and an extremely rowdy house party last weekend we are off to a good start.
RB: More physical art.
AS: All of the above maybe a little trip to Burning Man for some R&R?
The Anomaly: Join the celebration at LAMP’s 3 Year Bash, Saturday, January 23rd starting at 12pm. Grab all the deets here.