Experimental mid-fi and lo-fi electronic artists have been on the rise and ONTHE88 are one of them. Well really, he is one of them. You see, ONTHE88 is one man: Drew Porras. Porras’ mid-fi electro is anything but ordinary. Listening to Dingy Dreams is a unique experience of dark, moody, synth-driven electronica that continues to alter my state of mind while it’s playing even to this day. His original viewpoint is something that provides interesting things to hear on every listen. If only he would just talk to us. Well, after casually bullying him for weeks, he finally agreed to sit down with us and talk about his life, influences and enormous collection of ceramic… well, just read…
Violent Success: How long did take you to complete your debut EP once you began writing it?
ONTHE88: This can be a very complicated answer if I want it to be. However since this is the first introductory question meant to ease myself as well as the reader into this profile, I’ll give the easy answer. Dingy Dreams is a collection of tracks all produced between May and October of 2011. I compiled and released it this year, as a way for listeners who might not have been listening early on, to grab some tracks that weren’t online anymore.
VS: Did you give much thought to the band name? Was it supposed to embody specific ideals?
ONTHE88: ONTHE88, as I originally envisioned it, was going to be much more atmospheric with piano at its core. The first two tracks I produced (and released for about two seconds) as ONTHE88 were composed in that style. The 88 is a common nickname for pianos, and ONTHE88 felt like a short, neat, and succinct way to get that idea across. However when I started work on the third track, the idea never came together properly. So as a creative exercise I started working on a new track in a different style. Lo-fi, pop, and synth oriented (dare I say chillwave?). This ended up yielding ‘Coastline Drive Byes’ and ‘What Wouldn’t I Do For You?’. Surprisingly pleased with how the tracks came out and with this new little outlet as ONTHE88, I decided to release the songs under that name and its stuck ever since.
VS: How long does it usually take for you to complete a song? Is it typically a trying process or something that seems to come together pretty quickly?
ONTHE88: It varies. And wildly at that. Some tracks seem to produce themselves while others fight me along the way, usually resulting in a complete change of approach or, rarely, even abandonment. An interesting and solid rhythm section goes a long way for me. Providing a strong foundation for a catalyst of ideas to flow on top of.
VS: What would you classify your music as?
ONTHE88: Since I have such a warped perspective of my music, being its creator, I’ve come up with my own genres that I feel I jump back and forth between. Those being Synthgaze and Synth based Alt Pop. As you can tell, synths are the name of the game. Though from what I can tell on the ol’ interwebz, I’d most likely be lumped into the “Dreamwave” category, which is just fine by me.
VS: I have a pretty good idea of who I would compare you to musically, but who are your biggest musical influences?
ONTHE88: I listen to such a wide range of music, that some of my biggest influences have nothing to do with my sound. The Mars Volta for example are probably my biggest influence. These guys hold a special place in my heart, as they were the first band to TOTALLY deconstruct my thoughts on music. How it was played, what I thought I liked, everything I knew, gone in a flash. The one characteristic of TMV that I could apply to my own music is atmosphere. They were the first to turn me on to atmosphere being used to take the listener to another world. In contrast some influences have a much more pronounced role in my music, such as AIR. AIR played a huge role in the genesis of my sound. Well before I even began truly creating music, AIR planted a very potent seed in my psyche. The blissfully sedative effect their sound has, struck a major chord with me. I dare anyone to listen to Ce Matin La and not end up with their eyes closed and a smirk across their face by the end of the tune. Then there’s tons of 70s jazz/fusion/prog, Pre-post-and-everything-else-
VS: You obviously don’t have a conventional sound… Is that something intentional or unintentional?
ONTHE88: Its not intentional, though I am very clear on how it comes about. I come from a rock and guitar oriented background. I’ve been a guitarist since I was 11 years old (soon to be 24) with roots in punk rock, though I’ve moved considerably from those roots, and am totally foreign to creating electronic music. In fact, two tracks I’d made a few months before my maiden experiments as ONTHE88 in March 2011, were my first attempts at the genre. As a result, I approach the production of my music as if I were recording a tradtional “rock” band. I don’t sequence. I don’t work with MIDI data. Everything is audio signals. Whether from my virtual synths and drum machines or my Poly-800, I only deal with audio. Perhaps this is to my detriment, as working with a DAW geared towards sequencing (such as Ableton) seems to streamline the production of most electronic music. However I am also an audio engineer, and for me, nothing comes close to Pro Tools’ workflow for mixing and mastering. Most likely in the future, I will create a hybrid workflow for myself, using Ableton to produce and PT for mixing and mastering. But for now, my sound will continue to be the product of my possibly “incorrect” way of creating electronic music.
VS: Assuming music is your first love, what form of art is second closest to your heart either as a maker or appreciator?
ONTHE88: Film. Without a doubt. At this point its just as part of the audience, though I would love to get behind the camera someday. I’d actually like to say audio engineering, as I see it as its own art, though at this moment for this questionnaire, that just seems like semantics. Besides, it is really a balance between an art and a science.
VS: Being a resident of Los Angeles, how (if at all) has it influenced your music?
ONTHE88: Other than being a southern Californian and having a preference for all things chill, I can’t say that Los Angeles has had all that much of an influence on my sound. I’ve often looked to other cities’ (Chicago, NYC, London, Manchester) scenes, and imagined myself partaking in the art there, regardless of small issues like decades and miles between me and those scenes. Maybe the influence is so embedded that only outside parties can hear it. I will say that being in Los Angeles gives you a nice up close view of how INSIGNIFICANT little indie artists such as myself are to the “BIG TIME”. Being in the central media hub of the United States (and essentially the world) with tons upon tons of entertainment acts vying for attention, essentially junkyard dogs fighting for half a bone the junkman left, doesn’t really instill the greatest confidence. That’s why I don’t worry about it, or look to the city for inspiration. I just focus on my sound and vision, learning all I can to better reinforce those ideals.
VS: How do you see your songs developing in the future?
ONTHE88: Hard to say. There are so many avenues that I want to and plan on exploring, who knows where they’ll take ONTHE88. Currently, I’d like to reach a point where my music gives the impression of Tangerine Dream making dancey-pop music, but we’ll see how long I stick with that. However, I will say that well before I ever attempted to record my music or ONTHE88 was even an idea, I’ve wanted to create an album that blends My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless and Aphex Twin‘s Selected Ambient Works Vol.1 85-92. Whether that idea ever comes to fruition, remains to be seen (or I guess, heard).