*** Interview took place in Tucson Arizona on Saturday May 5th 2012 – this is the first feature in my “From the Vault” series***
Basic Physics or Alex Syse as his friends and family know him is only 22 years-old and already one of the top mash-up artists in the world, as well as the best thing to come out of Wisconsin since Brett Favre. The Madison local started making music as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and has since gone on to graduate and play with the likes of Skrillex, Hardwell and Steve Aoki. He recently hit 1 million views on Soundcloud and continues to be a hit on The Hype Machine and all across America as a result of putting on unbelievable performances and making multifaceted tracks that transcend the common conventions of mash-up music.
Mash-up artists are often criticized for not making truly original music, but instead borrowing specific songs or sounds from other artists and attempting to pass them off as their own. But to think that way about any artist let alone a mash-up DJ is incredibly ignorant because it overlooks the ever-evolving nature of all art. The creative cycle is actually a form of recycling; it inevitably repeats and re-makes itself by incorporating past influences and present technologies into fresh forms of expression. I like to think of the mash-up artists mixing music together the way a painter combines different colors to create an entirely new shade or in this case song.
Basic Physics may not be a painter, but he is an authentic artist and with a dash of pop hits, a splash of obscure samples and a bit of bass heavy backbeats he creates highly catchy and colorful songs. I caught up with Alex in Tucson Arizona while we sat sipping some cold beers by the pool only minutes off of his flight and a couple hours before he was due to open for Hardwell. Here’s what the up and coming DJ had to say about standing out as a mash-up artist and living the life of a Wisconsiner with tons of frequent flyer points.
AKcreative: So how was your most recent show at Texas A&M?
Basic Physics: That show was actually pretty wild. I got into College Station and didn’t really know what to expect and they drove me forty minutes out to the middle of nowhere. They had a custom built stage with like balcony seating all around and they brought in four truck loads of sand and had a really sick lighting rig. Before me they had an eighties cover band which was weird but they got the crowd going. There was probably over a thousand people there just out in the middle of nowhere who got brought in by the bus load. It was a great show and I played till the cops stopped me at 2 in the morning.
How did you react to getting the opportunity to open for Hardwell?
I was so excited. First off I’ve never been to Arizona before so that was a good look to come down here. Hardwell has always been one of my favorites, his originals and his bootlegs are all top notch and very influential so it’s going to be great working with him tonight.
Who’s your favorite artist that you performed with and/or met?
Oh man. I really enjoyed a South by Southwest showcase I did with Steve Aoki, he was pretty crazy so that was definitely a good show to perform at. Also me and 5 & A Dimeplayed a couple shows together and our styles work real well together. We definitely had a blast, especially at some shows out in Boston that were super fun.
Where was your favorite show you’ve played this year?
Probably Puerto Vallarta down in Mexico at Bounce Music Festival (recap video) we brought a bunch of people down and the venue was really sick there. They had LED lighting in the floor and there were hundreds of people behind me and in front of me, it was really wild.
How does it feel to hit 1 million views on Soundcloud?
Man I never thought I would get to that point. I released a track called “The 300 Club” which was at 300,000 and that was in October I believe so now it’s the first of May and I’m already at a million so things have really picked up since then. It’s a good accomplishment, but I think I can get to 2 million much quicker.
Do you have a good relationship with your fans as far as staying in contact with them and receiving their feedback?
Yea I’m always checking my social media stuff and every once and awhile I like to do a Twitter hour where they can ask me whatever they want to ask and I give feedback on everything from sports and music to the Grammys that were on a little while ago when everyone was asking me about that.
Speaking of the Grammy’s, it was a monumental moment for electronic music this year to have Deadmau5 performing and Skrilllex win 2 awards. How do you feel about EDMs steady movement into ‘the mainstream’?
Oh man it’s amazing and for everyone just a few years back it didn’t seem possible yet slowly but surely it’s breaking in and I think two to three years from now you’re going to see it explode. You can definitely see it now at music festivals, how big investors are starting to take a look at how profitable it is and I think that’s going to really boost EDM as well.
Who or what inspired you to start making music?
I used to see jam bands live and everything back in my early years of high school but then I got ahold of Alive 2007 by Daft Punk, which was like a game changer. When I heard that I was like ‘Wow” this is amazing. I also saw Girl Talk live for the first time at Summer Camp when I was a freshman in college and that really turned me onto the mash-up idea and finally I got ahold of Ableton Live and while my boys were playing Xbox I was just up in my room trying to figure this insane program out by myself and I’m from Wisconsin so there’s not many DJs around.
That is a very unique spot to come out of as a DJand I was wondering what the music scene is like there?
Well it’s definitely not up to par with the rest of the country. They’re kind of stuck with whatever you hear on the radio, country is really big there, your standard pop, and slowly but surely it’s trickling in and I’d like to think that I’m having an impact. Definitely in Eau Claire where I went to school and in Madison where I’m originally from so I think it’s catching on. You see a lot of big artists coming there, like Skrillex played new years in Milwaukee a couple years ago so that right there tells you that there’s a fan base.
What role has the Internet and all the various forms of social media played in your success?
I mean I wouldn’t be anywhere without the Hype Machine I think, my first track that hit number one was “Stuntin’ with a Milli” that kind of put me on the map and then I released “Ghosts on a G6” which hit number one as well and got over 100,000 listens in less than three days. From that point on I think I’m up to maybe five tracks at number one and ten tracks in the top ten so that’s been really nice so obviously social media is huge. I mean it’s your way to grow fans it shows that you’re progressing to people maybe looking to book youand if you have a steady fan-base growing that’s obviously a good sign.
What’s the meaning behind Basic Physics?
My buddy used to have a music blog and it was the first music blog that I ever checked out. I was a freshmen in college, named it Basic Physics and it kind of stuck. Once I started making music it was only natural to go with what influenced me and take that name. I also thought that it was a pretty unique.
How would you describe your specific style of music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
Well my grandma is always asking what I do and no matter what I say to her she just had no idea. I’ve produced mash-ups thus far, but my mash-ups aren’t typically 1 v. 1, which are what a lot of mash-up artists have done in the past by taking one song and mashing it with another. I try to expand it to where you’re mashing multiple genres and artists all on one track. I’ve been known to put 8 to 10 samples in one song and then the new track takes on a life of itself.
Is it difficult to stand out in mash-up world?
I think so and like anything that’s ‘blowing up’ there are a lot of people trying to do it so you need to set yourself apart and to do that you have to produce good, quality stuff. You have to do a lot of marketing on top of that cause you can produce the music but if nobody’s hearing it then what’s the point? So you have to have a good style and really work to get it out there as well.
What’s the biggest difference between this time last year and now?
I mean I really wish I knew then what I know now as far as the connections that I’ve made throughout the past year and all the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired.
What are your plans for this year as far as making new music or working with other artists?
Well I’ve been working a lot on original productions, getting the right software that I need and also a brand new desktop solely for production. I mean there was a point where I was okay with just doing mash-up after mash-up, but now I understand what it’s going to take to sustain a career in this industry. I see myself moving from mash-ups to remixes and original productions and I think that will bring about all sorts of different collaborations and a lot bigger shows.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a couple collaborations, one of them being with Sex Ray Visionwhose another artists making mash-ups and original productions. We’re working on a track that kind of combines the two so we’re excited for that and it’s kind of bridges the gap between both which is what I want to do. There are also a few remix competitions that I’d like to get into in the next couple months. That’s what is on tap right now and once summer gets here there’s going to be a lot of original productions.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and anyone else reading this article?
Oh man I mean I’m so blessed and really humbled by my fans. They keep growing everyday and I’m real excited for this upcoming year. I promise I’m going to deliver on everything I just said so just stick around and get ready.
Download “Light Me Up (Volume 1)” here