With The Big Up Festival just a few weeks away, I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with The Big Up artist, DJ Harrison Waxenberg of Horizon Wireless, to talk about his upcoming set at the festival.
Jenni Wilson: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the music industry? Tell us a story about a day in your life.
Harrison Waxenberg: Okay well I’m 5′ 8″ on a good day, I’m prone to mania induced encounters with inter-dimensional energies and beings. I’ve piloted real spaceships, and even crash landed one once! Oh, and I have dimples… which from what I understand is a common and endearing physical attribute amongst Libras. When I met George Clinton he asked me if I was an alien.
I started playing piano, clarinet, and saxophone when I was younger, and began playing drums in different bands when I was in middle school and continued all the way up through my senior year of college until I moved on from the drama that comes with playing with too many other strong personalities. Simultaneously, I had been experimenting with programs like FL Studio and Garageband as well, kind of unaware that an “electronic music” scene was developing, or even had existed. So on my 22nd birthday my dad got me an APC40 and Ableton (he knew I was about to hang it up with my band) and I just kind of ran with that.
I guess I first decided I was really going to go for it when I was at Summerdance in 2009 I believe. I was in a drum circle with Michael Travis and some of the guys from Lotus, and I got to lead for a bit. After that, some old black guy with a lot of soul slapped me on the back and was like “you got it dude!” and poured some wine in my mouth and I was all like, “ok cool I can do this!”
JW: How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?
HW: I guess I would say that I like to take a lot of sub-alien tech funk and psychedelic break-beat grooves, and blend them with some minimal house and trance elements, all the while sprinkling in some pop culture elements throughout.
JW: What are your biggest musical and non-musical influences?
HW: My biggest musical influence is probably my dad, I don’t think I’d be playing music if it weren’t for him. My biggest non musical influence is realignment of the Andromeda and Milky Way schism. Oh, and love too, although I think that could be considered a musical influence.
JW: What goes into your process of creating a new song or album?
HW: Well I used to play my productions out when I first got Ableton (actually my first show doing that, and even using the moniker Horizon Wireless was at the first edition of The Big Up), but over time my computer started not being able to handle anything so I began to do mash-ups and remixes for a while. Through this I discovered a fun way to mix over 5-6 channels simultaneously and blend infinite sounds and samples to create new things on the fly all the time, and that’s kind of what I became known for. I do like to tell a story with every set, and nothing really goes into what we do that doesn’t have some sort of meaning or relevance to the overall Horizon story. I just got a new computer though and my drummer is finishing up production school so we’ll see what the end of 2013 holds in terms of an EP. There have been many producers I admire who have reached out to me about coming on board with it and that is very humbling.
JW: How do you feel about DJs you use novelties/masks on stage, such as Deadmau5 with his mask, Destroid and their costumes, etc…
HW: We all wear masks. Everyone.
JW: What would you say is the hardest part of being a musical artist today?
HW: I’m not sure, everything is very accessible today like it never was before. I suppose the hardest part would be coming to terms with the divide between what you thought the music industry would be like when you first decided you wanted to be a part of it, and what it actually is today. As soon as you accept the changes that have been made, and see the community for what it truly is, you start to realize how much better it is as a network of artists, friends, and music lovers, and you become grateful for any little amount of success you have at all.
JW: You play a majority of your shows in New York, are you originally from here?
HW: I was born in Florida, lived in Indiana and Maryland for a bit, and then moved to New York. I live on Long Island so the city is a pretty good place to play… I hear if you make it there you can make it anywhere!
JW: You played this years Camp Bisco which is a pretty big fest. How was your experience playing a festival that size?
HW: I’ve been going to Camp since 8, managed a stage there for 10 and 11 and closed out the festival at 11 and 12. It’s always a pretty fun time, and that’s where I would be going anyway so it’s a blessing to be able to play there and be exposed to a lot of new fans each year.
JW: What do you want attendees to The Big Up to expect from your performance and how will it differ from what they may have seen at Camp?
HW: Well at The Big Up I’m playing with my live drummer, Monty from Digital Frontier, and these sets are always a lot different then solo sets like the ones I do at Camp (Bisco). It’s also the anniversary of Horizon Wireless and the theme is Star Trek/Star Wars so it’s very fitting. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a set than this one (which I find myself saying a lot, but it’s always true, ha ha), so I think anyone who comes out to it is going to be very glad they did.
JW: What advice would you give to other artists at The Big Up festival?
HW: No matter what time you’re playing at or in front of how many people, this is a very important festival. I did my first Horizon show there as a thirty minute set break between Ultraviolet Hippopotamus and Consider the Source in front of probably thirty people at like five o’clock on a Thursday in a barn, and now three years later I’m closing out the woods with a Zonrise. It’s a huge platform, especially for artists that are just starting to get some decent exposure, so give it your all.
You can catch Horizon Wireless Saturday August 10th at The Big Up Festival in Claverack, New York. If you catch Horizon Wireless August 3rd at the Santos Party House in NY, NY you will be automatically entered to win tickets to The Big Up Festival.