By: Aaron Z. Lee
Cassettes Won't Listen is a one man band named Jason Drake who got his start DJing and remixing in NYC. Since then he has gained critical acclaim from SPIN, and countless blogs everywhere. Cassettes Won't Listen is also salon.com's number one unsigned artist. He recently moved to California where the sunny landscape inspired him to make an instrumental album called 'Into the Hillside'. I had a chance to correspond with the continent travelling musician about his new album and what inspires him.
Where does the name ‘Cassettes Won’t Listen’ come from?
The name sort of popped in my head back in 2005 when I was searching for a name to go by. A ‘cassette’ is a term that describes a certain type of person that gets played by their surroundings. They are the people who don’t think for themselves and whose style or taste is dictated by what is popular at that moment. These are the types of people I didn’t think would listen to my music when I first started releasing it.
What were your favorite musical artists growing up?
I was always into hip hop growing up. Some of my all time favorite artists were Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, The Fugees, and The Wu Tang Clan.
How did you get into the DJing/remix business?
I stole my parents turntable when I was 14 and wouldn’t give it back to them. From that moment it was on. I started collecting vinyl and really getting into DJing and from that stemmed my interest in creating music myself. I haven’t DJ’d for a while because I’ve been so focused on songwriting, production, and remixing. Remixing came about from basically remixing everything that I came across. I was working next to a company that handled business for Midlake and Morcheeba and I asked to hook up a remix for both bands. The bands loved the remixes and everything started rolling from there.
What about moving to California made you think of 70’s instrumental production?
After living in New York for so long, a move to California was quite a shock to the system. I still feel like I’m on vacation living out here. When I was writing this record I got really into old school surf movies. Not big budget surf movies but ones that people were doing themselves back in the 70s on supper 8mm film. I wanted to give the record more of a dirty electronic vibe to it, sort of like the dirt on the film of these old movies. Everything seems so clean nowadays so I was interested in creating something that would fit well while on vacation at the beach in the late 70s / early 80s.
What was your favorite old technique/piece of equipment that you used on ‘Into The Hillsides’?
I enjoyed the techniques I used while recording the album the most. I really wanted to degrade the quality of the sound and so I did a lot of resampling, feeding music through pedals, guitar amps and so on. It was freeing to step to this project and not worry about keeping everything super clean. A little dirt to the mix gives it character.
You recently moved from New York out to LA what brought about this change? Are you on staff for the Conan O’Brien show?
Actually, I think Conan heard I was moving out here and then decided to move his show. I also heard that the Lakers heard I was out here and decided to win the championship.
Speaking of NBC shows, your ‘Freeze and Explode’ was featured on ‘Chuck’ recently, did you watch the episode? And if so was it weird hearing one of your own songs on television?
I actually did catch the clip of the show and it was a bit surreal. I thought someone turned the track on in my studio while I was watching the clip and then realized the music was coming from the TV. I thought they used the track tastefully, the music supervisors over at Chop Shop know what they’re doing and I trusted them to use the track in a respectful manner.
You’re releasing an iphone application with the new album that allows users to manipulate the songs on ‘Into the Hillside’, are you excited to hear what some users might create out of your songs?
I’m actually very excited to see what fans can come up with. I’m also excited that I have a new platform to deliver new music to people and offer it in a new interactive way.
What’s in store for Cassettes Won’t Listen after the release of the new album?
I’m already about halfway finished recording my next album. This will be a proper follow up to my 2008 album Small-Time Machine so all of the tracks will have vocals. I’ve been thinking of releasing an instrumental album every other album, it keeps me sane.