Written by Al Mannarino
Over the last decade, electronic dance music become one of the most popular musical genres — scoring huge on Billboard charts, iTunes sales, national tours and even the festival scene, in particular the Electric Daisy Carnival and Electric Zoo have become some of the biggest music events in the world.
The rise in the genres popular has led to a massive amount of EDM artist flooding the scene. For those new to the genre or are just casual observers, it might be hard to hear a difference between each act. That’s why some of these acts need to be seen live to fully appreciate their talents.
One such act are residents of Colorado, and decided that they were not only going to enter the EDM scene, but also try to redefine it. In 2008, Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken formed Big Gigantic. The name could be a reference to not only their explosive sound, but also their incredible live performances. While most artist play recorded tracks Lalli plays his beats over live saxophone, while Salken plays the drums. Together they create a phenomenal live act that is brining something new to a very crowded genre.
Pop-Break’s Al Mannarino recently spoke with Dominic and Jeremy about creating their sound, their next album, and their upcoming New Year’s Eve show at the Roseland Ballroom.
Pop-Break: By mixing real instruments into your songs and playing those instruments live at shows, Big Gigantic really sets themselves apart from a lot of other EDM acts. How did you come about creating your unique sound while staying within the EDM genre?
Dominic Lalli: That’s the name of the game. Jeremy and I were both instrumentalists before I got into producing so we’re players crossing over into the EDM world. It’s just kind of a natural thing for us because we’re just always playing and jamming with our friends. [Jeremy] is always like ‘Well, let’s just do this all ourselves.’ That part came naturally. We try to keep our own sound and fit in a lot [of] the electronic side of things and just mesh right in there with everything. That helped us create our own style and [that] separated us from a lot of other acts.
Jeremy Salken: Dom and I have been both playing our instruments since we were kids. We have both been in a bunch of different bands that have been more traditional. Playing our instruments is a very natural thing. We were very into electronic music as well, so Dom got a laptop and started making these tracks. We talked about the concept and we thought it would be great to take the DJ/EDM vibe of having a set that never stops or flows from one thing to the next and then combining that with our instruments — where we do builds, drops, and solos combining our band with EDM. We saw that it wasn’t really happening in electronic music and thought it would be really cool to bring that live energy you would get from a live band to an electronic music show.
PB: Since forming in 2008, your act has become one of the biggest names in EDM. What has it been like to have so much success in such a small amount of time?
DL: Yes, it’s the truth. We are super blessed and really lucky to be able to do what we’ve done in the time we’ve been a band. I feel like we’re starting yet another kind of chapter, we have a new album coming out early next year and [we’re] just getting really excited about the next chapter. We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up in terms of new music and a new stage set up for 2014 and all kinds of different stuff … so I’m really excited about this coming up year, it’s going to be a good one.
JS: We are super-psyched and always working really hard. We get to enjoy the success, but at the same time we are always looking forward to what we could do next. It keeps us humble with the whole thing. We couldn’t be happier to be doing what we are doing.
PB: How do you approach your live shows? Do you mix everything live? Or are some aspects pre-recorded?
JS: Dom creates a set — a skeleton of a ton of different tunes. It’s kind of a general flow that we worked out. We want to keep the energy of the show up the whole time, and if we jump around too much it would break away from that. So there is an outline, but at any time we can jump around, if the crowd is super-hyped at that point and we want to keep that going, we can play another track that is more energetic. Or, if everyone is just chillin and we need to pick them up then we will do that. Our options are kind of endless. We keep our set list going with the flow.
PB: You have had great success sharing your music through streaming services such as Soundcloud. What advice would you give to artists trying to make a name for themselves using these types of sites?
DL: I think it’s just about putting yourself out there — put your music out there and be consistent with it and your networking on there and stuff like that. I think that’s the way to do it — just really trying to stay as current as you can with everything with all the stuff going on online with music these days. There’s a lot to keep up with but it’s important to keep up with all of it and just really keep making quality music.
JS: I would tell them to get their stuff on those sites as soon as possible. Having stuff on Soundcloud, Facebook, and iTunes, really putting it everywhere on Spotify and Pandora. It gives people access to your music that might not be able to get to it. Some people only download music on iTunes and that may be the only way they find out about new music. You want it there. Some people only look on music blogs for their music, so you need to have it there. Some people stream from Soundcloud all day. I think in this day and age it is very important to have your music everywhere.
PB: What is the recording process like?
DL: I honestly make all the music in the studio so I’m in my little lab where I’m currently right now. There’s a lot of ways to go about it, sometimes I’m just making drum beats and other times I’m working on a particular thing. It all comes together in a lot of different ways. I’ll sit here in my studio, play a bunch of the stuff on my sax and all kinds of different shit here. We kind of took a big collage of a lot of different stuff — styles within the EDM world but even in music in general. [We] put them all together and did a Big G kind of thing, that’s what we’ve always done.
PB: Is there any room in EDM for improvisation? In the way rock groups will add new solos or combine songs?
JS: We think there is. That’s what we do. Dom kicks solos every night. I think we are the only group that does that at this point. Griz kind of has solos sections in there, but because he doesn’t have anyone to build with [so] it’s harder to improvise. But Griz is a homie and we love that dude to death. He is crushing it and we are super proud of him. We think there is room for improvisation and hopefully more people will pick up on that.
PB: Who are you biggest musical influences?
DL: A lot of our inspiration in the jazz world comes from a lot of really great improvisers because that’s what we do. So some of those guys on the saxophone are John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter and [pianist/keyboardist/producer] Herbie Hancock put out a bunch of music that we were inspired by. So many people inspire us so it’s kind of hard to say. We just like good producers and guys who we hang out with here in Colorado like Pretty Lights, Paper Diamond and Griz out here and even Bassnectar — they’re always inspiring us and doing really big things and really great things. We’re just trying to do our own fit in somewhere in there.
PB: Many people view EDM as being an independent scene. To what degree do big labels have influence on the scene or with your music?
JS: I think the big labels are starting to get the idea and seeing how they could be apart of it. I think for a while there was so much independent music and labels wanted to do what they usually do as far as giving an artist a contract and taking it over and the artist never making any money from it. But now I think there is this new wave of distributing music and labels are finally getting the idea of how they could be apart of it. But it didn’t really exist up until now.
PB: How does it feel to headline the last New Year’s Eve show ever at the Roseland Ballroom?
DL: It’s an honor and the venue is an iconic venue — it’s like every band, every and any band who’s a band has played there you know. So it’s an honor — we’re going in and we’re like going to bring the house down. It’s like we’ve only really done New Year’s in Chicago but every time we do it we do it like massive so we’re excited to finally bring it to New York this year and really just rage it. It’s going to be cool the venue is awesome. It’s not like too big it’s like a great size and we have a great lighting rig specifically custom for New Year’s Eve that we’re bringing in. So it’s going to be sick. We’re going in, we’re doing the whole nine yards.
JS: Man its crazy. We are really psyched. My grandparents use to dance there back in the day. There is obviously so much history in that place and it’s an honor to be apart of it.
PB: When can fans expect to hear a new album?
JS: We are looking at like February. We are putting the last finishing touches on it and in the next month or so we will start doing press for it. We are going to release a couple of tracks for you guys to check out over the next month or so before we release the album.
Big Gigantic will perform at The Roseland Ballroom (for the venue’s final New Year’s Eve shows) on December 30th with White Panda, Manic Focus, DJ Green Lantern and Brillz. Click here for tickets. They will also perform on December 31st with Paper Diamond, Two Fresh and DallasK. Click here for tickets.