Time messes you up sometimes... You look forward to something for so long, it comes and goes and then you realise you haven't done anything productive in the run up thanks to the anticipation and expectation; still, its a great thing to be able to come back and go big the very first day...
Evan Gach, a little more commonly known as Cloak and Dagger, had us enraptured with his very first release at a dubstep tempo; his 12" for Immerse, 'Crimewaves' b/w 'In The Cut,' making the grade for our radio show straight away, fusing gloriously with the minimal work of people like Joe, Blawan and James Blake. We caught up with him to reignite the SR mix series and get the low down on his music and life choices...
Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
Cloak & Dagger: I’m 27 years old, from San Diego, California, and have been located in Japan for the past four years or so. After DJing for a few years, I first started experimenting with production in 2003 making mostly drum & bass, and I’ve had a few drum & bass releases out over the past couple of years on labels like Intasound, Offshore, and Subtle Audio. I’ve been focusing increasingly on slower tempos over the years, and for the past while have been really enjoying working with the possibilities of 130-145 bpm range.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily? Where are you based etc?
I recently finished a master’s degree in Environmental Policy focusing on global climate change policy - that’s been taking up the majority of my time over the past few years. I just relocated to Tokyo for work, so it’s looking like I’ll still be quite busy with that. Most of the little free time I have is dedicated to music, but when I’m not doing that I enjoy messing around with photography or hiking when I have the chance.
How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do so?
I bought a guitar when I was 13 with money I saved up and played in a few punk/hardcore bands with friends since then. Around the same age, I was introduced to jungle, and for the first time I felt like I heard a style of music where you could seemingly do anything. I was always into a wide variety of music, mostly from having two older brothers, and hearing a genre where you could incorporate any of those was eye-opening for me. By 15 I was buying records with every spare bit of cash I had. I’d always been interested in electronic production, mostly because I had no idea what the producers were actually doing to make their music- it was all a big mystery to me. DJing was fun (and still is), but I always wanted more than anything to actually make music where I felt like the only limit was my own creativity. When I was 20, some friends showed me the basics of Reason one night, and I just got hooked; the experience of seeing a crowd of people enjoy music that I enjoyed making is still the best feeling in the world to me.
Why the decision to switch styles, slowing it up from a d&b tempo to a dubstep speed?
It was never really a conscious decision. Production-wise, d&b was my first love, but I always enjoyed the UK garage I heard. In America we were never really exposed en masse to the commercial side of the genre, it wasn’t really getting played in San Diego, so it was easy to weed that stuff out and just enjoy the sounds that were closer to d&b in their aesthetic; people like Wookie, Zed Bias, El-B, Horsepower Productions etc. As this stuff developed into dubstep, I heard in the music what I loved most about jungle - a mash of influences, a drive to experiment and develop a unique sound, and the idea that you could have a general aesthetic (tempo, bass, etc.) and just push it until it was almost something else, yet still accepted within that genre.
Even when making drum & bass, I had always still experimented with slower tempos, and I was finding it a little hard to make music at 170bpm that didn’t sound like d&b; a lot of the stuff I was making was deliberately trying to push (or at least blur) the boundaries of the genre’s conventions, which is what I loved about the genre in the first place. It wasn’t an act of defiance or leftfield elitism or anything like that; it was just how I thought it was supposed to be done. At the same time, the scene seemed to be splintering more and more into predefined subgenres, each with their own set of rules, and I was finding that I could go to a drum & bass night and not really identify with the majority of what I was hearing. I think this is pretty natural for a music genre that had seen as much growth and different “eras” as dnb had and new producers and DJs come into the scene after being influenced by a particular sound or era.
However, as a producer, hearing a lack of “grey areas” between subgenres and a lack of outside influences as a fundamental part of the genre was frustrating, but I found that at slower tempos, the opportunities for mixing genres, influences, and experimentation were overwhelming. Overall, I find this more interesting and more challenging, and so this has led me to lean naturally towards the 130-145 range.
Cloak & Dagger - Crimewaves [Immerse]
What’s your production set up like? What’s your favourite bit of kit in the studio?
I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea that it’s not the gear that you have but rather what you do with it. All of my favorite electronic music - jungle, electro, techno, hip hop, whatever – was made on so much less than what’s available to bedroom producers nowadays, so I never really fully understood when I would talk to other producers and they would tell me I couldn’t make good music using certain software or without a particular piece of gear. My setup itself is pretty minimal; apart from a few cheap toys, a couple of low-budget midi controllers, a mic, and a pair of monitors, everything is done on my PC. I use a lot of free plugins and have more fun getting interesting sounds out of those than a lot of the professional, powerhouse plugins that are available. Up until recently, I was using Reason as my main software, so even the ability to use and experiment with different plugins is pretty exciting for me!
Where do you take inspiration from when making music?
More than anything, inspiration comes from my environment and surroundings. I’d been living in Nagoya (Japan) for the past four years, which has a very industrial vibe, similar in some ways to Detroit in atmosphere, as well as a lack of sunny days throughout the year, so my music would often reflect that in its sound. If we had nice weather for a week, my next tune would generally be more upbeat and dancefloor-friendly. I didn’t realise quite how influential my surroundings were to me until I played in San Diego last year and realised how out-of-place some tunes felt compared to Nagoya and vice versa. Other than that, I listen to very little dubstep and don’t follow the scene that closely, so musically a lot of my inspiration comes from various other genres I listen to and trying to incorporate other philosophies, ideas, and attitudes from my influences into my own music.
Your moniker suggests hidden talents or an underlying intention. What was your thinking behind it?
I think it encompassed the attitude I had when making music; it’s always been the subtle things and little nuances in songs that I’ve loved the most, even in really simple music. Also, I’m a small guy, so the characters in books, movies, video games, etc. that have always left the biggest impressions on me were the ones that weren’t physically strong or socially/politically powerful, but rather came out ahead through wit, deception, and skill – spies, ninja, detectives, all that cool stuff. I’ve just always dug the idea that there’s a whole world behind the scenes that we can’t see.
Cloak & Dagger - In The Cut [Immerse]
How would you describe your sound?
This is a hard one for me to answer. Knowing that what I’m about to say is extremely cliché, I’ve come to realize over the years that, first and foremost, I make music for myself rather than for others, and at this point it’s more of a therapy than anything else. I never feel comfortable sticking to a particular sound, and on the contrary my motivation comes from pushing myself to make something I didn’t think I could or experimenting as a learning experience. Even so, I’m sure there are similarities in my approach that can be pointed out - as I said before; I love the idea of making music that doesn’t sit completely comfortably within a particular style but at the very least flirts with the grey areas between them. Percussion and rhythm is the driving force behind my music, and overall I think space and groove are the most important elements to a track…
Your first release for Immerse comes out shortly. Whats the deal, what can we expect from the release?
I’m extremely happy to have both of these tunes released and even happier to have the support of a label like Immerse behind them. I think both tunes showcase the genre blending I’ve been going on about so much; you can hear dubstep, garage, broken beat, drum & bass, and other influences in there. Both are percussion driven, but ‘Crimewaves’ takes a more upfront approach, whilst ‘In the Cut’ is a bit subtler and darker. I think they both represent my sound really well and hope others dig them as much as I do.
What other projects have you got in the pipeline?
Hopefully I’ll see more releases, but anything regarding that is too early in the pipeline to mention. But I would definitely like to try and get more of my stuff out there; not following the dubstep scene so much is great for my music, but not as good when it comes to getting my music to DJs and labels. As far as gigs go, I’ve been DJing less and instead doing a live set of my own tunes over the past year and just remade it from the ground up, so I’ll continue to perform that when I have the opportunity. I also just moved and started a new job, so I’m expecting my output to slow down for just a bit as I get settled in.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s supported me over the years, whether it be through buying or playing my music, attending a show, giving me feedback and criticism, or teaching me a bit about the business. Props to Immerse and every other label who’s stood behind my music, and thanks to Sonic Router for the opportunity to provide a mix and rant about myself a little.
Hope you guys dig the mix, and words of wisdom… stay positive!
DOWNLOAD: Cloak & Dagger – Sonic Router Mix
Africa Hitech – Blen [Remix] (Warp)
Loefah – Fire Elements (Rephlex)
Uday Napoleon – Crack Crack Crack (Flogsta Danshall)
Kidkut – Lilt (Applepips)
Addison Groove – Dumbsh*t (Swamp81)
Soft Pink Truth – Big Booty Bitches (Soundslike)
Cloak and Dagger – Snaketopus (Dub)
Untold – Gonna Work Out Fine (Hemlock)
Akufen – Synthaxis 2 (Source)
Cloak and Dagger – Raspberry Beretta (Dub)
Eero Johannes – Finnrexin (Planet Mu)
Midwest Product – Swamp (Ghostly International)
James Blake – CMYK (R&S)
Slicker – Frustrache (Hefty)
Paperclip People – The Climax [Basic Reshape] (Basic Channel)
Hyena – Puma [Cloak and Dagger Remix] (Dub)
Cloak and Dagger – Slither (Dub)
Two Fingers – Broken [Stance] Rhythm (Ninja Tune)
Late – Phantom Papers (Immerse)
Cloak and Dagger – Thrive Un Oncertainty (Dub)
‘Crimewaves’ b/w ‘in The Cut’ will be out in July on Immerse Records