Dive into Computer Data’s world. In an effort to roll back the years, alongside other nostalgics, the San Francisco based producer slowly (but surely) makes his mark within the lo fi house resurgence. Lush pads, deep chords, rolling baselines and wisely sampled vocals not only symbolize his polished taste, but will surely make you regret not having been old enough in the 1990s.
SOUNDONTIME: COMPUTER DATA is a unique artist name, as well a clear reference to the impact technology has on the music you make. How did you come up with this moniker and how do you interpret it?
COMPUTER DATA: The name actually just started off as a joke, I never intended for my music to really reach any sort of audience. I was trying to think of something that would sound a little ridiculous, and the whole vaporwave schema of artist names definitely played a huge role into this. It’s become kind of an inside joke with my friends, since I study computer science at uni, and the whole term of `computer data’ generally sounds like something that someone uneducated in the field would say.
What were your main musical influences when growing up?
I owe a lot to my older sister for getting me into some really good music at a young age. When I was 5 or 6 I remember getting the first Gorillaz LP, which played a huge role in shaping my musical interests. I got into dance music at around the same time, when Daft Punk’s "Discovery" LP came out in 2001. I was also surrounded by a ton of 80’s music, cause I can always recall being in the car with my mom or at home and being exposed to a lot of 80’s pop. This definitely played a huge role in my admiration for synths.
I listened to a ton of the early french house stuff around the age of 10, and kinda rode the EDM train until around age 14 or 15. I really loved artists like Justice, Kavinsky, anything with that classic pulsating electro sound. In high school, I really refined my taste, I was really into the whole "future beats/bass/house" kinda thing for a while. I started getting back into deep house at this time as well, discovering artists like Leon Vynehall, Jesse Bru, Motor City Drum Ensemble. Stuff I still love to play out.
Can you tell us a bit more about earlier experiences you went through in your life, which made you realize music was what you wanted to do?
Producing electronic music never was an interest to me until I started listening to Chrome Sparks back in high school. I’d stay up all night just listening to his EP’s and bathing in those gorgeous synths. I wanted to make stuff like that, it was like something just clicked in my head. I started playing around with Logic (DAW) right after I graduated high school but didn’t ramp things up until the end of my freshman year of college.
I got horrendously sick and wasted an entire school year my freshman year of college, which ultimately ended up changing my life forever. I got diagnosed with Eosinophilic Granumaltosis with Polyangitis (EGPA) back in late 2014. It’s a rare autoimmune condition that pretty much ruined my life. I had to take 2015 off for treatment and to try to get into remission before heading back to uni. This was a terrible time for me, and by this point i’d gone through a couple of near death experiences that had really put my whole life in perspective. I had a lot of downtime during that year, so I took advantage of it by teaching myself ableton, spending an hour or two every night and developing my sound. I wanted to be able to have some sort of contribution to the world, something to leave as a legacy for when my time’s up here. When my music began receiving positive feedback, and people were actually enjoying it, feeling it, and sharing their emotional responses with me, that’s when i knew. It’s really empowering to be able to create art that crosses all language barriers, and that’s able to have a profound impact in someone's life. I don’t get a long time here, and to me there’s nothing of higher value than to be able to make music, and to be able to spread happiness into other people's lives here. It’s what I have to do with my life.
You’re from San Francisco, California. In what ways has that place and your environment shaped who you became as an artist?
One of my favorite parts of SF is the weather. It’s like this fantastic mix of miserable and beautiful days. I live in an area of the city where it’s super, super foggy a good portion of the year, and I think this definitely plays a role into me being able to get into the mood for making some deep stuff. Being in SF has also had a big impact in me shifting towards a more club-ready sound, the last couple of years here has really shown a positive change in the club scene, so i’ve been going out a lot to see the artists I love.
I think another thing that’s shaped me as an artist has been the friends I’ve made here within the community of artists in the bay area. Especially in the last year or so, I’ve made friends with people that inspire me every day. The community of producers is pretty small here, especially for the genre of music I make, so being able to connect with people here has been such a great experience.
Are you an "on the road" type of producer? Or are you more creative when you’re working on projects close to home?
I like this question. think i’m definitely statistically speaking more of a home producer. That being said though, I love working on stuff when I’m traveling. I’m usually sparked with some fantastic ideas and have written some great tracks whilst lounged up in a hotel bed. I’m usually hugely inspired by my surroundings while in Germany, or pretty much anywhere in the EU for that matter. I’m definitely frustrated with working “in the box”, and miss my synths every time i’m on the road.
In that regard, Alles - [PB002] and drei (r0 - sm) are two tracks that pay a clear tribute to Germany and more specifically Berlin’s clubbing culture. Have you had the chance to travel and perform there?
Genau. I’m in Germany all the time, either visiting family in the south or just staying in Berlin. Berlin without a doubt is my favorite place in the world, the scene there is just unlike anything else. I haven’t done anything major there yet, but i’ll be back this summer with some dates lined up. I’m really excited to hop across the pond for a while, and will likely make a permanent move sometime within the next year.
How would you compare the electronic music scene and club culture in California to the one there is in Europe? (UK, France, Germany)
California’s scene in general is an embarrassment compared to anywhere in the EU. We’re still slowly moving away from EDM here and it’s going to take a while for even the mainstream house stuff to have a bigger audience here. California’s entire nightlife scene is also severely hindered by the laws in place that require last-call to be at 2AM, you just can’t have a proper techno party here.
Although i’m not down there really at all, i’ve been seeing LA’s underground scene really start to shine in the last couple of years. They’ve been really embracing the whole underground house/techno stuff for a while and I’m friends with a couple of the crews down there that have been making waves. From my observations, they’re doing a great job of supporting local, new and upcoming artists, while also booking some bigger name EU talent. We still have a long ways to go here in SF. I think it speaks volumes that SF statically speaking is one of my smallest fan bases.
Out of all the OG “pioneers”, I think Mall Grab still is a huge influence and inspiration for me. His writes beautifully simple and catchy melodies, and I’ve always been a fan of how he makes a track move.
Your music is reminiscent of other Lo-fi House music producers such as Ross from Friends, DJ Seinfeld or Mall Grab. How much have these artists inspired you/ do they inspire you ?
My whole transition into faster, more house-y sounding music was fueled by the come-up of the guys who pioneered this genre/sound. Around late 2013 I remember hearing that Palms Trax song “Equation”, which got me following Lobster Theremin, and deep diving into the whole emergence of “lofi house”. DJ Seinfeld’s LP really struck a chord with me, it’s a beautifully emotional work of art, and it really inspired the type of “emotional” house I like to make.
Out of all the OG “pioneers”, I think Mall Grab still is a huge influence and inspiration for me. His writes beautifully simple and catchy melodies, and I’ve always been a fan of how he makes a track move. Seeing him develop his sound as an artist has been a joy, and I’m always excited for his releases. I think we share a lot in common artistically, and i’d love to get the chance to work with him someday.
Are there other artists that inspire you considerably today?
Absolutely! I’ll start with my close friend Momiji, who makes music under the name Qrion. She slid in my DM’s last June and we’ve been friends ever since. Her story as an immigrant and literally achieving the American dream, supporting herself through music is so inspiring to me. She’s faced a lot of hardships in her life that are translated into sound, she puts so much emotion into her music. We obviously make different styles of house from each-other, but I think both of us have a huge admiration for each other's work.
Going off the top of my head, the next one I’d say would be MATRiXXMAN. He’s from SF as well, but moved to the EU a while back to pursue his music career. His whole story alone is a huge inspiration to me, and it’s a similar story to artists like Avalon Emerson, who recognized they’d be much more successful in the EU in comparison to SF. From a producer standpoint, MATRiXXMAN is fantastic. He’s definitely one of my all time favorites, I feel like the man truly understands the beauty of simplicity and phrasing in techno.
In the realm of my style/genre, my buddy Jun, who makes music under the name Monolithic, is a huge inspiration. Ever since discovering his stuff on Spotify a couple years back i’ve been really keen on his sound design. Jun keeps his sound so constant, but so fresh and is continuously trying new stuff. I think we both really dig each other as artists, and we’ve been working on a ton of stuff behind the scenes.
Another one in the lofi scene would have to be Supreems. The man makes incredibly emotive tracks, and has a serious talent for putting together a cohesive release. I’ve been a big fan of his raw breakbeat style with the 606. Truly a fantastic artist.
Outside of dance music, i’ve definitely been hugely inspired by a former local band, No Vacation. A couple of the members actually used to attend my university here, so they have a solid reputation locally. They’ve really blossomed as a band in the last 2 years, and their last EP hits me in the feels all the time. Truly fantastic stuff and I can’t wait to watch them grow as artists.
Unfortunately I think I could go all day talking about every artist that inspires me, because there are a ton. It’s a little painful as i’m sitting here having a million names pop into my head, but I think it would take me 6 years to write out everyone.
All of your artwork (also available here) accompanying your various releases is well matched and thoughtful. Can you tell us a bit more about the process behind choosing and fabricating your artworks?
Thank you so much! All of the early artwork for my releases were all photos that I took, stuff that I just felt fit the music. I’m a little sad that I haven’t really had the time for photography for quite some time, but as the style of my music shifted so did my artwork.
I really love having full creative control over my art, and that’s why I really only ever want to do my own album art. The only release I didn’t have any say on the art was for “Emotional Shift”. Personally I’m not a fan of the art they chose for the release, but some people seem to really like it, so I guess it’s ok?
Emotional shift / EP/ Cover
I’m really happy to be working with a label right now that allows me to have this level of creative control, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to start my own label in the first place. I’ve gotten into graphic design a bit in the last couple of years, so doing album art is pretty fun for me, and I get to visually convey what I’m feeling, even if it’s relatively simple.
Without undermining your other pieces of work, why do you think “Healing” became such a successful and catchy track?
I remember writing/producing “Healing” about 10 months ago, it was a track that I banged out in an hour or so at most. I knew it was catchy, deep, and emotional at the time, but I remember hating the track within a couple of days. I sent it to a couple of my friends who gave me such an overwhelmingly positive response to the track that I knew it had to be half decent.
I think when I’m able to find vocals that I really connect with, I’m able to make some tracks that carry a huge amount of emotional weight. People from all over the world take time out of their day to send me beautiful, heartfelt messages about the song. It’s crazy to see how much of an emotional impact a single track can make in someone's life. For me, the song carries a huge amount of meaning that I think a ton of people resonate with, and that’s what contributed to its success.
In your opinion, which elements in the track contributed to its successful recipe?
Composition wise, it’s a relatively simple track, but the vocals really get you. That song has been stuck in my head since that day 10 months ago. It’s got that classic crispy 909 punchiness + a nice little groove thing with the toms + beautiful spacey vocals + absolutely massive pads. It’s just a solid recipe for a great track.
The song carries a huge amount of meaning that I think a ton of people resonate with, and it’s definitely contributed to the tracks success.
Nostalgia is a very powerful drug, it’s what’s kinda fueled all of these “algorithm age” genres of music, i.e. vaporwave and lo-fi house.
Nope! I’ve been sending my music to EELF since “Alright” and i’ve been so impressed with his ability to make videos for my tracks that I haven’t stopped since. He’s a big fan of my stuff and does a fantastic job at visualizing the vibes of my tracks, so I just send him the music and let him make some magic.
What’s your take on the recent popularization of Lo-Fi house?
I think I mostly take it as being a good thing. The whole term “lo fi house”, at least to me, seems to encompass a huge range of styles within underground house. There’s been a huge resurgence of fantastic house music and I’ve really appreciated the development of the overall sound within the last couple of years. Here in the US it’s definitely gotten a lot of people to pay attention to house music again, and it’s helped fuel the decline of EDM here.
I kinda worry a little bit about the low quality disco edits that get slapped around everywhere on soundcloud, because I think it makes the genre seem more fad, similar to vaporwave. That being said, the huge amount of quality music that’s being released seems to thankfully overshadow this stuff.
Is the nostalgia of the past, reflected through the purposefully raw sound a means of escape from the superficial society we live in?
Absolutely. Nostalgia is a very powerful drug, it’s what’s kinda fueled all of these “algorithm age” genres of music, i.e vaporwave and lo-fi house.
Creating music was a lot more free and open when I didn’t care about anyone’s opinion, and it definitely bothers me a lot today. I sit on releases for 6+ months and start hating my own tracks, it’s something i’m definitely trying to still figure out.
How do you see the electronic music scene evolving in the coming years, and Lo-fi house in particular?
I think in the next 5 years or so, the whole big room, cheesy EDM sound will fade away from the US. There’s definitely been a huge shift towards this mainstream tech house sound, and I think that trend will continue here. The “lo-fi” scene has definitely been shifting towards faster, club ready sounds and I think that trend will continue into the future. The guys over in the UK seem to be re-hashing the late 90’s rave aesthetic, and i’ve seen a lot of producers follow suite recently.
As an artist, is remaining relevant something you think about? Is it something that bothers you in the act of creation? Or are no (or few) barriers the recipe to unlimited creativity and successful art?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I think about, as much as i’d like that to not be true. 2 years ago I didn’t give a single thought about releasing anything, when I was done with a track I’d immediately throw it on Soundcloud because I didn’t really care, I wasn’t relevant. Creating music was a lot more free and open when I didn’t care about anyone’s opinion, and it definitely bothers me a lot today. I sit on releases for 6+ months and start hating my own tracks, it’s something i’m definitely trying to still figure out. At the end of the day though, I’m not going to sit around and wait 9 months for a label to release my tracks if I feel like they need to be released ASAP. I love hearing from my fans and seeing what they like, and I definitely take it into account when producing music, but overall I don’t think it’s hindered my creativity as an artist. I definitely spend a lot of time reflecting on this though.
Focus on the arrangement after you’ve got some good loops going, cause if you sit around fixated on a 32 bar loop for 2hrs you’re going to have a hard time going anywhere with it.
For the music producers who might be reading this interview, what would your advice be on overcoming creative blocks? How do you deal with those?
Creative blocks suck. For me, if I’m trying to finish something that i’ve listened to a million times I just have to step away from that track for a while, sometimes for weeks. I’ve always found that staring at a blank DAW rarely sparks any inspiration for me, so just banging out a pattern on my drum machine will usually spark some melodies in my head. I’d really advocate for buying some hardware you can make music with, endlessly staring at your Ableton window gets pretty old.
What is your best advice pertaining to workflow, finishing projects and improving as a music producer?
I have to be honest here and say that I would never recommend my workflow to anyone, because I think it’s severely flawed. On any given week I could have made 5-20 new Ableton projects while trying to finish up one track. I’m still pretty disorganized and I’m really trying to get better myself.
Some of my best tracks are the ones where I sat down and banged out the whole thing in 1-2 hrs, because I had a clear and concise idea of what I wanted the track to sound like, and just focused on getting everything done. Focus on the arrangement after you’ve got some good loops going, cause if you sit around fixated on a 32 bar loop for 2hrs you’re going to have a hard time going anywhere with it.
I’m always trying to further advance my “sound” in anyway possible. It would be extremely boring for me to use the same production techniques, plugins, synth patches, etc. that I was using 2 years ago. I’m always experimenting with my sound, and I really think that’s crucial to improving yourself as a producer.
What does your current studio setup (hardware & software) consist of?
Hardware wise, I’ve got a Roland TR-8, Behringer DM12D, Elektron Digitone, bunch of midi controllers, a UA Apollo Twin interface, and a MacBook pro. Software wise I use Ableton Live 10 as my DAW, and waaaay too many plugins to list them all. Some of the software synths i’ll occasionally use are Arturia’s Prophet V, Roland’s SH-101 and Jupiter-8 VST’s.
"VFP" is an abbreviation for "Valco Fashion Park". It was this old, very 80’s looking mall in the bay area that carries some super nostalgic memories from my childhood. The title track carries a lot of emotional weight for me, deeply rooted in nostalgia and a reminiscence of when life was a whole lot easier."
Your music is extensively sample based. How do you manage to find such unique samples for your tracks?
I’d say on average that 90% of my tracks consist of sounds I’ve synthesized myself or resampled from my own drums. The only time i’m really sampling stuff is for vocals, which is the most difficult part. It’s really hard to me to find the right vocals for tracks, and I do a lot of processing on my vocals to give them the feel i’m going for. I’m always digging really obscure vocals from weird tracks deep on youtube, and I think I mostly just get lucky finding stuff that clicks. I really wish I had better connections with some vocalists, because i’m always finding myself hearing vocals in my head, but my voice sucks.
I made VFP back in late September of last year, and the production style of that track is reminiscent of the stuff I was making around the time “Alles” came out. I honestly barely remember writing that track, but I do remember that I got the whole thing done in like an hour or so, it was a really concise idea that I was feeling at the time and was super easy to pound out. “VFP” is an abbreviation for “Valco Fashion Park”. It was this old, very 80’s looking mall in the bay area that carries some super nostalgic memories from my childhood. The title track carries a lot of emotional weight for me, deeply rooted in nostalgia and a reminiscence of when life was a whole lot easier.
The second track, “Blau” was actually made fairly recently, within the last two months or so. I’d been trying to make a track to complement VFP for a long time, and kinda gave up on ever releasing it until “Blau” came around. It’s a pretty minimal track but the spacey, super relaxed vibes of it seemed to really compliment “VFP”, so the rest is history.
What are your plans for the coming months and years? Travelling, touring, releasing new music?
I’m really, really excited for these next couple of months. I’ve got several releases lined up, with some vinyl releases thrown in the mix too. I love playing music for people, and I really want to be at a point where I’m able to get booked a whole lot more by the end of the summer. I’ll definitely be playing some shows in the EU during June - July, so be on the lookout for that. Music is what I want to do with my life, and I’ve been working hard to make this a viable career path for myself. I hope I’ll be around for a while!
Finally, what are some electronic music tracks and artists you have listened to recently that might have gone unnoticed and which our readers should take into consideration?
If you haven’t heard of Qrion yet, her music is fantastic. She just released a new single titled “Hope You’re Ok”, and it’s amazing. Really excited to see what she puts out this year.
I just recently discovered Nikolajev from his recent EP, “LEL”. It’s incredible stuff and I love hearing music that I can tell was made from someone with a true love for synthesizers. Incienso is a pretty cool label and I enjoy what they’ve been putting out.
Moving on, I’ve been a fan of DJ Physical since his first release, I really like his sound and I’m excited to see him grow as an artist. His new EP, “Memory Flow” was just released and you should definitely keep an eye on him.
I also recently discovered Lipelis, who put out a fantastic EP titled “Bordeaux Lovin” last month. Really excited to see more from them, really nice synthy vibes on their tracks.