Without a doubt, Joshua Elliot Thompson (“LAIKA BEATS”) is tearing up the electronic music scene in his home state of Colorado and across the United States. Never afraid to dive into the unknown, he maintains a unique perspective through his tracks by blending genres in unprecedented ways. As he infuses elements of dubstep, trap, hip-hop, future bass, house, and breakbeats through his use of intricate synths and sound design, audience members are consistently left in awe as he transcends our traditional notions of bass music.
LAIKA BEATS recently released his fourth EP titled ‘Mile High City’, which has been available worldwide on Spotify, SoundCloud, and all major digital music stores since February 2018. As hinted by the title, the five featured tracks are a heavy-hitting, dark, and psychedelic ride through the city of bass: Denver, Colorado.
Check out our exclusive interview with LAIKA BEATS here:
How did you come up with the alias LAIKA BEATS? Have you used or considered any other stage names in the past?
“I’m a big fan of the group Gorillaz and I originally discovered the name laika from them. They released a dub remix album called ‘Laika Come Home’. I always liked the sound of the name and how it looked, so I searched it online and found the story behind it:
Laika was the first dog sent into space, I think it was in the 1960s. It was sent up by Russia, so technically, it was the first Earth animal that was sent into space. I really love that story so I adopted it. But I’m originally a graffiti artist and Laika actually kind of started out as my tagging name. Once I transitioned over to music, it has remained as my alias.”
How long were you working as a graffiti artist?
“Just six years, but I really don’t showcase my art anymore. Music has completely taken over in the last few years, so I haven’t been able to do it as much as I used to.”
Who is your biggest musical inspiration? Who do you listen to in your spare time?
“I listen to so much different music so it’s hard to just pick a few! Starting out, I’d say it was Skream and Benga…they were the ones that made me want to start DJing. When I first saw Pretty Lights and Bassnectar, they were the ones that made me want to start producing. They both take their live performances to the next level, always maintaining their own unique style. They were also never really a part of any major labels and didn’t have some huge organization backing them… They both kind of just did it on their own, independently. I really respect and appreciate that, so that’s the same direction that I’m trying to go toward as well.”
What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t making music or performing at shows?
“I’m a huge skateboarder and snowboarder! I really like fast and extreme sports, so I like to create music that inspires that kind of energy. I also love being outside… I’m really grateful to be living in Colorado where it’s sunny all the time! There’s pretty much always something to do outside, regardless of whether it’s the summer or winter. So, if I’m not in the studio, I really do try to get outside as much as I can.”
Where are your favorite spots in Colorado?
“I really love the city of Denver as a whole. I also really love Summit County, and I probably snowboard the most in Keystone. It’s the perfect balance… I enjoy city life, but really appreciate mountain life too. That’s what’s cool about going snowboarding, I can go up and visit the mountains pretty often, but I don’t necessarily have to live there.”
You just released your Mile High City EP. What do these tracks mean to you?
“When I first got into bass music, I’d say the first promoters that really brought bass artists around Denver were part of Sub.Mission. When I first started going to those shows, it was before Denver blew up, so they were really intimate events. There were like no fancy lights, lasers, or production. Instead, we were in a small, dark room. It was cool because the same community of about a hundred people came around to the shows pretty frequently— it really had a family vibe to it. I love the big shows nowadays and how everything has gotten so huge in Colorado, but when I was making those tracks in my EP I was really trying to think back to that point where it all began for me. Bass music wasn’t really big yet, Colorado wasn’t really big yet. It was purely about the music.”
How long have you been producing music? How did you learn to produce?
“I’ve been producing electronic music for 8 years now. Before that, I’m a guitarist and I played piano as well. You know, I was playing in bands and stuff. So, I’ve been involved with music for about 12 years total.
I was pretty much self-taught with electronic music. When I first started, I would basically just watch YouTube videos every day. I’d make sure that I spent at least an hour a day focusing on music. Eventually, I enrolled in an audio production program at a school in Denver. While there, I focused on music engineering, specifically on doing live sound for bands. The program didn’t really offer much when it came to electronic music, but having that different approach did allow me to refine my own music as well.”
Can we expect another EP for 2018 or even more!?
“Yeah, absolutely! I have so many unreleased tracks right now… so my goal is to release an EP about every 2 to 3 months this year. I have two that are already completely finished and ready to go.
Making music has become so natural to me, I kind of just create tracks without even thinking about it anymore. I just wake up and start making music, it has become such a habitual part of my life.”
Any advice to give to other aspiring musicians?
“When other people try to come to me for advice, I always try to emphasize that consistency is most important… even if it’s just for one hour a day. If you are making music or even just watching videos on YouTube, reading about mastering, or just critically listening to your favorite artists and taking notes on how they produce their music, it all adds up in the end. So yeah, I always try to stress that to people who want to get into production. You need to do it every day… at least something for a set amount of time that revolves around music. The more you work, the more output you will have, then you keep getting better and better.
I think sometimes people get a little caught up too… Maybe they’ll make one really good song and kind of spend a lot of time afterwards trying to send it to labels, stuff like that. Then they’ll wait months to hear a reply only to find out that it’s not going to work out. Then it’s like 4 months later, and they figure it’s time to just release it themselves. But by that time, as an artist, they may be bored of that track since it’s not as fresh or they could have created other great songs in the meantime.”
I noticed a lot of your tracks dabble into different genres, like hybrid trap, dubstep, and house. Where does this transition into different genres come from?
“It depends on my mood! I’ve pretty much been going to shows every single week since I’ve been like 15 years old. I’ve always been really obsessed with music, and I’ve never really had a specific genre that I have liked over another. I’ve always tried to go to as many shows of different genres as possible… so that’s how I kind of came up with that hybrid sound. I just wanted to put all of those different influences together and combine them. It was something that I wanted to do for a while, but when I first started trying to do it, I had a hard time making it work out the way I wanted. I think I just wasn’t at that level yet. Eventually, everything just started clicking.
So yeah, it’s really dependent on my mood. I’ll go through phases, like seasonal almost! In the spring I might be really into bass music, in the summer I might be into house. For the people who only listen to one genre, I want to maybe nudge them in a direction to discover more or expose them to different sounds…show them how the connection between different genres really plays out.”
Do you have any last and final words you like to say to your fans?
“Definitely! I love you all so much. Where I am at right now is 100% because of my fans. I really don’t release with labels and I haven’t put much money into serious marketing, so this is pretty much because of word of mouth and people sharing my stuff. It’s really cool to watch it all blow up organically.
My first kind of break was Bassnectar dropping one of my tracks titled ‘Owl Eyez’ during one of his performances, and even that was totally organic. He just found me online by searching for new underground artists! All in all, I really appreciate the way my name has gone out there through my fans. I’m honestly blown away with the amount of support people have given me…thank you.”
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