For the Record: E-603
For the Record is The Steel Crew’s series of dialogue with leaders and up-and-comers in the fashion, arts, and entertainment industries. We are the inquiring minds, and we want to know more…don’t you?
This edition of For the Record is with E-603, New Hampshire’s finest mashup artist and DJ. We recently got on the horn with E, and picked his brain about his mashup style, his future as an artist, and the music industry as a whole.
Full interview after the jump.
The Steel Closet: Hi, Ethan? This is Alexander from The Steel Closet.
E-603: Oh hey, how’s it going?
TSC: Not bad man, how about you?
E-603: Not bad at all.
TSC: Cool man. Ready to do this interview?
E-603: Yeah, sure!
TSC: What time is it there, like 6, 6:30[PM]? You have any plans for tonight?
E-603: Uhm, nothing really, you know. Just trying to get work done.
TSC: Nice, nice. So…you’re from New Hampshire, right? How is that? Have you lived there your whole life, or is that just where you are for right now?
E-603: Yeah I was born and raised in New Hampshire.
TSC: Awesome! So just like, some basic information for our readers, we just wanted to know how you got your name, what your musical background is, how old you are, how you got started basically with all of this?
E-603: Okay. Well, I pretty much started making music when I was really young. I started drumming I think when I was eight years old, but I’m not sure. And then that just kind of took off into also playing guitar, and I always played piano, even though I was just kind of messing around because we have one in the house.
So yeah, I’ve always taken a strong interest in music. And then I’ve taken a ton of music theory and advanced music theory courses, so I’ve just got like a solid background. And then I started like, getting into turntableism, and scratching, and all sorts of like, producing…I started producing songs by myself when I was like, 12 years old (I think I started) and just recording songs, and those were entirely orginally composed songs. And then I started doing the samples and stuff when I started using turntables, and I guess it just kind of slowly transformed into me using samples, but now I actually don’t use turntables at all to make my music. I mean, I’ll like, fool around on them, but…
Yeah at first I started making really bizarre electronic music, like really….it was really obviously electronically constructed, and then using samples on top of it, like popular rap samples and such. And then, after that, I kind of, kinda changed into just using samples.
TSC: So, everything you do, it’s on the computer? You don’t use any turntables or mixers at all?
E-603: [laughs] No, not anymore. Just the computer.
TSC: That’s awesome. How did you get your name?
E-603: Oh yeah! Well, uhm, when I was in high school I was making beats for some friends of mine that were doing some silly rap stuff. And really, kind of at the last minute, we needed to think of a name for me just for this kind of makeshift performance, and so I kind of just thought of it, well it was kind of a collective idea. “E” stands for Ethan, like my first name, and then “603″ is the area code for all of New Hampshire. So it’s very basic [laughs], and although it may seem cryptic, it’s not very cryptic at all. It’s just very simple, but I kind of like the cryptic aspect of it. In retrospect I’m very happy with it, I think it’s kind of funny, like with musicians that come out of New Hampshire, like a lot of people don’t exactly think of New Hampshire as a music, like as ahead in the music scene. I think it’s kind of important to represent New Hampshire, I kind of like that.
TSC: Oh yeah, you gotta represent man. What other big musical acts have come out of New Hampshire? Or at least, your favorites, the ones you like?
E-603: Well, first of all, MANDY MOORE. Mandy Moore’s born in Nashua, where I’m from, but that’s like not even a big deal, she moved away when she was like three years old or something like that. But a couple of guys who are in various bands, like, ugh, let me think…like GG Allin, I don’t know if you know GG Allin, who’s like, uhm, a super-punk revolutionary, and he’s like the MOST fucked-up dude ever. He would do anything just because, like…he had this cult following of people who would do anything for him and stuff…he was really fucked up. If you wanna see how fucked up people get, just look into GG Allin.
So yeah, he was born and also married in New Hampshire. Yeah, I don’t know, just a couple other bands and stuff.
TSC: Cool, man. Let’s talk about your musical influences, not necessarily just for the mixtapes you’re making but in general, like what kind of music do you listen to or whose music inspires you…or you know, you hear it and you’re just like, “Yo I gotta make something outta this”, you know?
E-603: Yeah! There’s definitely moments when I’m listening to music when I’m like, “Okay, okay, this HAS to be messed with, I have to sample this and turn it around or something. Especially if it’s making a pretty big statement out of something, which is pretty rad. But otherwise, I listen to pretty much everything. I don’t really have a specific genre that I’m into.
TSC: I would ask you what’s spinning in your CD player right now, but I don’t know if anyone still listens to actual CDs, you know, it’s been a long time. So what’s on your iTunes playlist or whatever?
E-603: Right. I actually did purchase a CD pretty recently, and it was this band that I was a fan of like in high school, their first album, and I was like okay, I have to support these guys and buy their CD. To be honest it was because I couldn’t find a download for it anywhere [laughter].
TSC: I actually do that a lot too. If I can’t download it anywhere, I’m like, “Well I guess I gotta go to the record store now and buy it”, right?
E-603: Yeah, I guess I actually have to go and purchase it, yeah [laughs]. But yeah, I dunno, recently I’ve been listening to a lot of, uhm, The Strokes…it’s weird because I don’t go through phases of genres, I go through phases of artists that are entirely different from each other, which is kinda weird.
TSC: That makes perfect sense, considering what you do though, right?
E-603: I guess it does [laughs].
I’ve been listening to…I just downloaded the Young Jeezy album, so I’ve been listening to that.
TSC: Thug Motivation? Or the newer one?
E-603: The Recession. I don’t know if that’s the new one or whatever, but it’s new to me [laughs], so I’m listening to that a couple times. Uhm, I don’t know, I just kind of switch around a lot…whatever I’m kind of amped on at this moment.
TSC: Let’s talk about your first album, Something for Everyone. How’d you get around to making it? How’d you decide, “Oh, I’m going to make this album”? What was it like starting to self distribute it, put it out there?
E-603: Right. Well, I knew that no matter what, I wanted to make it free. Because it’s just a nice way of getting the music out and also it’s a nice little, it’s a treat for those that are looking for new music and that’s free. I actually made it over the course of a month, and I kind of just sat down and made it, after a suggestion. Because after sampling and stuff for awhile, doing E-603 for awhile, then I started doing this other project, this side project, and I was really occupied with that for awhile, and then my friend told me, “Just put out an E-603 album, you gotta get back into doing that.”
So while it had never like, died out, it was just kind of pushed aside for a little bit. And then I said, “Okay fine, I’ll sit down and I’ll do it.” It’s enjoyable for me, it just takes a long time to do it.
TSC: How long ago was this?
E-603: This was last January, a little more than a year ago. Over the course of January I just made the album, got everything ready for it, then released it I think in mid-February.
TSC: Was the online…was the MySpace the first thing you used to distribute it, did you use anything else?
E-603: Well I always had a link to where it could be downloaded on MySpace, because that’s just so important these days in finding new musicians. I just told some blogs about it, the ones that I knew of, and I just like kind of crossed my fingers, and I did not expect anyone to really be interested in it, and I was actually pretty shocked with the appeal that it got.
TSC: I was just about to ask, what was the reaction to the album, and what was your reaction to people accepting it?
E-603: Yeah, I was pretty shocked. The day of releasing it, some blog had already written about it, and I was pretty shocked about that. And then I knew this other kid who had been writing a blog in Boston, and he wrote one about it, he wrote a little review about it, and then I was just kind of shocked that people were actually listening to it. And after I saw how many “listens” or whatever I was getting on MySpace, compared to what I was getting before, I guess people were actually listening to it.
TSC: It’s definitely really good, I’ve been listening to it all week. I like it a lot.
E-603: Well thank you very much. I was expecting to make it, and then my friends or whatever would probably like it, I don’t really know.
TSC: Have you had a chance to do any live shows, any touring opportunities so far?
E-603: Uhm, the issue with me and touring is that…I’m actually a student. So I really have to work on the weekends in terms of that. Yeah I’ve definitely played a bunch of different schools at this point, and I love playing at schools, it rocks and it’s so much fun. Anyways, yeah, just schools basically contact me and then we just set up for a show over one weekend.
TSC: And I’m guessing that’s kind of like a target audience…real underground, new artists, I’m guessing a lot of people liked it?
E-603: Yeah, the majority of my audience is probably college students so…it’s great to play colleges, because then they tell their friends who go to different colleges, and it moves more into this fluid expansion of E-603 knowledge I guess [laughs].
TSC: Well, where do you go to school?
E-603: I go to school at this small, liberal-arts college in Massachusetts called Hampshire College.
TSC: How’s the reaction to E-603 there?
E-603: Well obviously my friends and people that I’m close with know about it, but I actually keep it pretty, uh, pretty hush-hush. I don’t really talk about it much at school or anything, because I don’t want kids that I’m in class with not being able to pay attention to my actual, academic work because I am E-603 or something like that.
TSC: [laughs] That’s perfectly respectable.
E-603: If I go to class on Monday, and if I make an argument against some kid’s point in class, well then [he'll say] “Well this kid was at a different college, standing on a table, chugging beer and playing music for other people, how can we take him seriously?” I don’t want people disregarding my arguments [laughs].
TSC: Of course. Well I noticed on a lot of Something for Everyone that a lot of it is pretty recent, pretty modern, a lot of rock and hip-hop and pop samples. Is there anything on future work…I mean, do you plan on expanding the breadth of your samples, or do you want to keep working within that same window?
E-603: I’m actually sampling on this newest album, that will probably be released in early May…this one’s got a lot more, older samples, more classic samples that a huge audience will probably know. It’s a lot less modern and dated. It definitely transcends time a lot more than the last album.
TSC: Nice. Is it still going to be free?
TSC: What’s your stance on the music industry…a lot of artists are kind of like, “No, you have to pay for our stuff”, but then there are guys like Radiohead who are like “Hey, take it for free if you want.” What’s your stance on that whole situation?
E-603: The thing is, for me, it’s a totally different story when I make an album, because I can sit at my computer and pretty much make an album for free, except for the fact that I have to spend hours upon hours on it. But other people have to go to a recording studio, and they have to pay for those expenses, and they have a whole band to support.
And starting off as a small-time band definitely isn’t easy. They’re not getting tons of money. I definitely see why…well, in Radiohead’s case, they’re already one of the biggest bands in the world so they could afford to totally do that.
TSC: Yeah that’s one of the things I thought about when they released [In Rainbows], you know they’re Radiohead, they can afford to say “Okay, take our music”.
E-603: Yeah, you know, they release that album, it gets insanely popular with everyone listening to it, and then their ticket prices go up. So you know they’re going to make back that money. Seeing a Radiohead show, live, is a huge investment, that’s going to cost you like, $100 or something.
TSC: Yeah it’s definitely not cheap.
TSC: So do you only plan on doing mashup work for the foreseeable future or do you plan on doing original musical work at any point?
E-603: I definitely can’t see totally going mashup, because I’m always making other types of music, whether I release it or not. I’m probably going to go into more original stuff. It might still involve samples, or carry references to popular culture and stuff, but I can’t see only doing mashup stuff for much longer.
TSC: Any of your side-projects or any of your bands that you want to give a shout out to right? ‘Cuz we’ll put it on man [laughs].
E-603: Well okay, well I’ve got a side project with two of my good, two of my really really close friends, called AIR BUD. Like the dog that plays basketball. That’s the name of it, and it’s all in caps because it’s supposed to yell, you know. It’s really different from E-603. I’m just trying to do different stuff. That, that band is kind of a joke.
TSC: [busts out laughing]
E-603: It’s just party till you die music. It’s all about going apeshit and losing it. It’s kind of electronic punk, but that’s just a side project I’m involved with.
TSC: That doesn’t sound bad at all. That sounds…great [laughs].
E-603: Yeah, I think it’s got a bit of a smaller audience than E-603. That type of music isn’t going to appeal to everyone.
TSC: You guys on MySpace for AIR BUD too?
TSC: Awesome. That’s going right into the interview. [laughs]
So with regards to other mashup DJs or other artists in general, who are your favorites right now? Who do you think, in terms of the mashup DJ game, who’s killing it right now?
E-603: Right now? Well I’ve always been a fan of Flosstradamus, and A-Trak. A-Trak’s doing a lot of production stuff now that’s not necessarily mashup, but every mixtape he puts out is unbelievable, in my eyes. And Diplo is insaaaanely good.
TSC: Oh, Diplo is ridiculous. All the M.I.A. stuff? Ridiculous.
E-603: Diplo is just, ah, insane. Out of the water nuts. But yeah, obviously, also Girl Talk. Huge influence.
TSC: Have you gotten a chance to communicate or talk to those other guys at all?
E-603: Uhm, yeah, every time I see that Girl Talk is gonna be in town, I usually let him know and then we’ll kick it for a little bit before or after a show.
TSC: Whoa. That’s crazy.
E-603: Yeah, I dunno, I’ve met a couple of friends that live down in Philly so I’ve been able to meet Diplo and talk to him for a little and stuff.
TSC: Awesome. So yeah, I guess I’m gonna wrap up this interview soon, but one of my friends was like, “Yo, you gotta ask him” and I was all “alright”, so I gotta ask, have you gotten any groupies or any sort of…have you gotten a taste of the rock star life at all thanks to the E-603 persona?
E-603: [laughs] Well, definitely not when I’m just like, kicking it at home, but sometimes before or after shows, especially playing at colleges…one time I went to this “Hall Crawl” like a couple students brought me to, which is pretty much just getting drunk in this one hall, and they brought me there, and people were just like swarming me, asking me about Something for Everyone and stuff.
And that was just a different experience for me, I’m not used to people, you know, so eager to talk to me. But there’s some people that are just really supportive of it, and frequently ask me questions like, “When’s the new album coming out”, “What’s the status” and stuff, and I generally try to answer them. I try my hardest to reply to every email and stuff I get. Sometimes when I go to shows in Boston I’ll be recognized as E-603 and stuff, and just strike up a conversation with a couple kids.
TSC: That’s great man, Boston’s not a small city. But for the record, when’s the new album come out, what’s the name? When should we start looking for it?
E-603: The name of the album is gonna be Torn Up, which I kind of named because my friend was over at my place at school and he’s looking at me edit and make it on the computer, and he’s like [laughs] he saw all the files I had in the program, all chopped up and I was doing a lot of work on the samples and stuff, and he’s like “OH JESUS man, that thing is torn up!”, I was like, “Okay, perfect.” That’s the name of the album, it’s almost perfect.
It’s gonna be called Torn Up, early May, the first week or so of May.
TSC: Cool, man. Any last things you want to tell our readers, any shout outs you wanna give out before we wrap this up?
E-603: Uhm, jeeeez….I dunno. I guess, uhm….I dunno. Keep it hyphy, I guess.
TSC: That’s what I like to hear. Nice.
TSC: Thanks a lot for taking out time for the interview, we really appreciate it.
Ethan was definitely one of the coolest people we’ve talked to here on The Steel Closet. Download his current album, Something for Everyone, 100% free at his MySpace site, and be on the lookout in early May for his newest work, Torn Up. Thanks again to Ethan for giving us this exclusive interview, and giving us his thoughts on music as a whole.