Some have said that advancements in technology were killing the music industry. They've claimed that the internet and file sharing have destroyed the music industry and eliminated people's desire to pay for music. Others have said that creativity has been lost and bands are not trying anything new. Justin Lassen shatters these views in almost everything he does. His rise to fame was not because of a some pop hit or jingle, it was millions of downloads of his classical-electronic symphonies. With remixes for Lady Gaga and Linkin Park, he earned the respect of the music industry, but it was his innovative use of computer generated art that earned him the accolades of the visual art world. Justin broke new ground by creating original music inspired by and matched to still CG imagery. A passionate DrumCore and KitCore user, Justin took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to let us know what he's working on, how he gets inspired, and how DrumCore helps his workflow.
What are you currently working on?
The most recent project I can talk about is a special remix for a film soundtrack. It's a 3D film called Quantum Quest. It's a large format 3D film with the glasses and everything, and it teaches kids about science and space. Shawn Clement, the composer asked me to do a remix for it. I met him at this year's NAMM where I met you (Daniel). I started working on the remix and he loved it. It should be out this month.
Are you a affiliated with a particular label or are you an independent artist?
I am so fortunate to be a truly independent producer. I didn't have to get a 9 to 5 job at a game company or studio. Being self employed is a challenge, but it's a fun one if you can do it right. It's really rewarding because you are not tied down in any way. Companies have things called "non compete" clauses in their contracts which basically say you can't work on any other projects with any other companies… that's too limiting for me. As an independent contractor I'm allowed to work on anything I want. I'm working on Quantum Quest in LA, a game for Konami in Japan, and various other projects. In 1995 I started my own company, Nihil studios. Any releases I do is all through that name. Any media, games, remixes, I do through that entity.
Being independent, you have full control of your career. You're known as an artist that's known for doing work in all kinds of media. Do you enjoy that freedom? The freedom to attach yourself to any project you find interesting?
Definitely. I am in the awesome position of being able to say no to things. I try to pick projects that I really believe in, projects that represent me. I've been offered some big things, but I feel that unless it's something I'm passionate about, it's not worth it. Why waste my time on it? Life is short, and I'd rather work on things that I can identify with.
It's interesting to me how these visual artists have been so enamored with your work. Do you think there is a connection between music and art?
Absolutely. Images and music are totally symbiotic. When I work on a game or film, I have to find images. You can give me a script and I just can't read it, I need images, matte paintings, or character sketches. To fully immerse myself, I need to know where these characters are. I'll put images everywhere to get inspired. I'm really honored that so many CG artists have supported my music through the years. So many huge artists will tell me how inspiring it is. The CG world has really adopted me and I don't even paint. I'm the only music composer that has been featured on CG Society on the front page twice. I'm humbled and honored. CG magazines and forums consider me a pioneer of taking digital art and digital music and bringing them together in a way that's never been done before. I started doing that in 2005. At the time, it was not done that way. No one was making music to still CG images. I started out by surfing the web for cool images to be inspired by. I would write music to them and then email the artists as a thank you present for making such beautiful work. I did this of a while and got a collection of these. I showed these to my contacts at CG Society and they featured me.
2003 was pivotal for you, that's when you released "And Now We See But Through A Glass Darkly," can you tell us about that project?
2003 was the major jumpstart for my career. That was the year I got featured in Playboy and Roland. Bigger magazines started noticing me. When I made that symphony, it was a hybrid of live instrumentations and electronic elements. There was no financial motivation at all. I saw an ad on Craigslist that asked for dark music for Dita Von Teese film. I contacted them and let them know that I was really interested. I made some cues and they really liked them but the project was canceled. I never stopped writing even though the project was scrapped. I got all my work together and decided to put it out not expecting anything. As soon as it came out, I got massive amounts of fan mail, remix requests, press calls, etc. Between the remixes and the symphony, I got the attention of the bigger magazines.
Synaesthesia is a series now. What can we expect for the future? I heard rumors of a CD release.
It started in 2005. I gave music away free for around four years. I had no plans of making a CD, but the fans had other wishes. I started getting emails from fans asking for the whole collection on CD. Finally, the demand got so intense that I spent a year collecting all the 24 bit sessions, multitrack mixes, and sound files. If I was going to release a CD, I wanted it to be remastered from the original high quality files. It came out last year and has been selling like hotcakes. We live at a time where people are saying people don't by music anymore. This CD proves people do buy music if they like it. This is a $40 collection and the fans like it, it's gotten great reviews, and it's a a lot of music. It's a "screw you" to people who say people just want to steal music. The fact that the fans pushed me to release the CD has meant so much. I had no intention of making money, it was pure fan demand, which is a huge compliment. I am so grateful for all my fans. During the entire mastering process, I received these motivating emails from fans that followed me every step of the way.
You're a DrumCore user, how are you using it? Do you use it in demos or your final productions?
I first heard about it with KitCore that came with Acid. I had reservations about it, but as soon as I tried it I thought "Oh my God! This is powerful!" I like to use the content in DrumCore, the audio and MIDI, in my final productions. In particular I like the MIDI because it gives me more control. I've used it in many DAWS and it just works perfectly.
In some of your tracks, it sounds like you layered lots of drums together. Is that how you work?
Yes. I usually start out with a starter loop, and then layer my own drum patterns on top of them. DrumCore is cool because I'm able to pull up a great loop and then underline it with some abstract electronic sounds. It's fun for me, so much you can do with it.
We heard you have a loop library coming out, can you tell us about that?
I have a new loop library coming out, a Sony premium content library. It's two DVD's of 24 bit loop content. It's called "Justin Lassen Presents White Rabbit Asylum." It's a lot of dark classical, victorian, tragic yet hopeful sounds and ambiences. Many of the sounds were from my travels through Europe. I recorded this material in WWII bunkers, catacombs, basilicas, etc. I'm very excited about this, I've worked really hard on this. The collection will be available on the Sony site, tons of music sites, and my website.
Where can our users hear more of your music?
I've got several sites that users can check out: http://www.justinlassen.com/, http://www.myspace.com/justinlassen, http://www.myspace.com/empireofmodernthought, http://www.thesixtyone.com/justinlassen, and http://justinlassen.bandcamp.com/. Lots of music in lots of genres :)