As I reported earlier this month, local dubsteppers EshOne and Misk recently founded the website ElkBeats.com to showcase their music, promote shows and sell weird elk-related stuff. But on Thursday night, the Elk goes live. The two producers will face off against each other in a show at Kava Lounge billed as "Dead Tech vs. Live Tech," flexing their skills in the analog and digital realms—EshOne with vinyl, turntables and a mixer, Misk with the Monome, a button-grid controller used in electronic music. Over email, they chatted with me today about their differing philosophies, their friendly competition, the taste of elk meat and more.---
CityBeat: Why are you doing a vinyl versus digital night?
EshOne: I think it's a way of making fun of how much we care about how we present our music. It's not like a genre versus genre night, where the crowd might go to support a particular style of music; this is more for us to really give people a look into the process of what we do. People that come to have fun with it might be interested in the work that we're putting into the programming and presentation process, and not care so much about who's playing what, but how who's playing what.
What's the allure in continuing to use vinyl?
EshOne: When I started DJing, vinyl was just how it was done. My friends who were into techno, hip-hop, and [drum 'n' bass] at the time used to say stuff like, "CDs are for house DJs!" I'm not sure what that meant, but I sure as hell knew that I wasn't about to be playing them. I really like the idea of having a physical object with a sound-wave cut into it. It's badass.
What's the difference with using a program like Serato? Or a Monome?
Misk: Playing with a Monome allows for maximum flexibility in a way that neither Serato or vinyl does. It allows you to get creative in ways that were previously not possible. It's completely live. You're literally building the beat in front of the audience's very eyes, and that is both exhilarating and scary! Anything can happen, and it often does. I'm kind of a "mad scientist" when it comes to producing music and I feel like the Monome allows for an immediate expression of that lunacy on the dance floor.
Another thing: The Monome is live. Not like Ableton live, but really live. I'm not just doing re-edits of other peoples' tracks and twisting the filter knob all dramatically for a reaction from the crowd. It's quite possibly one of the most organic electronic music performances you're going to see in San Diego.
How do your performance philosophies differ?
Misk: I think I like to get a little weird and unexpected on the dance floor. I love dubstep and I love bass music in all its forms. It seems like Esh is a little bit more of a purist. He digs grime a lot, as well as having a slew of El-B tunes to play. I really dig the whole Juke movement, as well as more experimental styles coming out of the U.K. right now from the likes of Hessle Audio and Night Slugs. Esh is really into "more bounce to the ounce," and getting people to just dance. I love getting a little experimental and seeing how far I can go before I get people off the dance floor, just to bring them back on again.
Originally, DJing and performing was all about feeding your audience, and educating them. I like to educate. We're not just here to perform, but to show people what is possible and what's happening. When you get up on stage, or behind a mixer or whatever, you are music for that moment in time. That's a huge responsibility, and I don't think it would be fair to people if I just pandered to them the whole time. I want people to walk away thinking, "That was something new, that was fresh and different." I'm about giving people a new way to look at music. It's way more fun on the edge anyway.
How might this showdown divide Elk Beats? Or will it only make the Elk stronger?
Misk: I don't believe that something as simple as this will divide Elk. There is always an attitude of friendly competition between Esh and I. This showdown is just an extension of that. I'm sure that when we're done with the show, regardless of who won, ultimately we'll both be happy with the outcome. That being said, I'm going to win, but I'll gladly buy Esh a drink after his set.
What this showdown does do is make us push ourselves, as we're both so competitive with each other, I know that we're not gonna be pulling any punches. I'm gonna be light speed from the starting line, and I'm not gonna stop until my set's over. We both try to give people the best, most original sets we can each and every time, but this time will be special.
You guys told me in an interview recently that you think of the elk as your "spirit animal." Why?
Misk: The elk is a symbol of stamina, agility and strength. They can run for a long time, without tiring. We're in this to win it, and we both think the elk is a good symbol of what we're trying to do with our music. We're not just some passing fad, but instead we want to build slowly, and have something solid to stand on that we're proud of. We're not about releasing tunes that are a reflection of whatever may be popular in electronic music at the time.
Have you two been eating a lot of elk meat in preparation?
EshOne: I'm not sure that Misk has access to any right now. I just spent a couple weeks in New Mexico and had some steaks, and also some chile con carne made with ground elk meat. I meant to bring some back to SD with me but I forgot to pack it up.
What does elk meat taste like?
EshOne: It's a pretty majestic flavor. You can also run faster and jump higher once you add it to your diet.
Misk: Musky, like venison. But not gamey—clean and strong.