Etheral Interview

In this exclusive Music Mondays Interview we sit down with Ethereal to discuss recent projects, early influences and much more in this one of one MM interview.


My friend Twofold reached out to me the week before a show she frequents called Jungle Gym. She said some industry guy would be there for a DJ set, so I got curious and looked at the flier. I was stunned. Ethereal, the Awful Records and Opium legend would be playing a show with a reach of around 400 followers. Later that week, I had the opportunity to listen to Shiva Child, Lavi, Spliffany, and Ethereal spin jungle, rap, DnB, and ghettotech records during the day in Shiva Child’s backyard with around twenty other people.  Breaks whirred alongside ripping saw waves in a beautiful patchwork. I sat on the grass, laughed at the Joe Biden samples Shiva Child threw in his set, and danced some. Spliffany and Lavi threw down a rambunctious ghettotech set, and finally Ethereal pulled up fashionably late. The set was ephemeral, esoteric, and exciting. He layered artists’ vocals like Carti, Alli Kat, and Bear1boss over his then unreleased atmospheric DnB tracks.

As the sun set, Ethereal wrapped up his set, and I meekishly approached him murmuring something about a magazine I write for. I asked for an interview, and he kindly said yes. Right after Ethereal’s set, Shiva was chopping breaks with his drum pad over newer underground rap artists like Homixide Gang and Sllimesito. We sat down in Shiva Child’s driveway while speedy jungle music rushed around the corner. Our conversation went as follows.

Ethereal: I’d have to say a big inspiration of mine overall is Squarepusher. Let me say first that a big inspiration of mine is all the records that came out in the 90s and early 2000s. Squarepusher is a big influence of mine overall, Goldie. 

R: So like the busy stuff and the more atmospheric jungle? 

E: Oh yeah for sure. I played some of my new album tonight. I really like melodic- I like music that has a melody and a driving break: it’s busy but also simple. I think that a big core of my music is making as busy as I can and also as simple as I can.

R: So I noticed you blending some rap with some breaks [during your set], has it been difficult mixing those styles together?

E: Um, in a way, yea. It’s been done before of course.

R: But not with the Atlanta sound.

E: The jungle and the drum and bass mixed with the rap from the earlier days is completely different from what's going on now because rap music has changed a lot. So not to knock anything from the earlier days, but of course things get built on. The rap music that is out today is a little better for this stuff. Because it's a lot more melodic. There’s more singing in rap now. There are rap songs where its singing. Rap was not singing at first, and now singing is part of rap.

R: I think someone who really opened the door for that were artists like ILOVEMAKONEN.

E: Yea for sure definitely.

R: Any opinions on PinkPantheress? I can hear a slight influence with the female vocalist plus the breaks.

E: I have nothing but good things to say about what she’s doing. I think it’s challenging to make music you really enjoy and that you want to share with people that’s very different from the mainstream. She’s doing a great job bridging the gap between mainstream pop and dance, jungle, garage: whatever you want to call it. I think she’s breaking a milestone from the fact that it’s in America. You can tell with artists like Uzi, who’s doing Jersey music.

R: Do video games and VGM have any influence on your sound?

E: I think that’s the biggest influence. In the 90s OSTs were a lot different than today. Today it switched roles with movies. Back in the 90s movies had soundtracks with big radio artists, and you have music like this [atmospheric jungle] soundtracking the games. 

R: Games like Jet Set Radio or Need for Speed?

E: Exactly, Need for Speed, any racing game, pretty much any game in the 90s. That was probably the biggest influence on my style because it was the first thing I was subjected to, playing video games and hearing the music loop over and over again. It got to the point that I would turn on the game and not even play it.

R: Do you like dazegxd at all?

E: Shout out to them.

R: Yea Shoutout!

E: Them and gum and Swami Sound: they’re all doing a lot to bring this sound to young America, specifically to the black generation because we had a lot to do with how this music came to be. And we don’t know that and people don’t know that. So shout out to PinkPantheress and all of them for doing that. 

R: And now there’s clones of them! Which is good!

E: Yea because when I tried it ten years ago it did not work. And I knew that and I understood that. It wasn’t the time for that. But, everything is a circle so I knew that it would come back. It was big in the 90s so it was only a matter of time.

R: Switching gears a little bit, do you consider yourself a part of the original cadre of Plugg producers? I don’t see your name brought up often in that conversation. 

E: No. In a way yes, but in my opinion Plugg really started with Carti because Carti was rapping on a bunch of MexikoDro beats before anyone was. I will say that Carti was the big catalyst to the Plugg sound. But now it’s a completely different thing with PluggnB.

R: Like Popstar Benny and stuff?

E: It’s sick. I think I was a part of the generation of Soundcloud that made that sound more available, but I won’t say that I’m a Plugg artist just out of respect. They have their thing. I love it. If anything Carti’s the godfather of it because I was engineering him on a bunch of Plugg shit. 

R: Speaking of engineering people, I watched the Awful Records documentary when I was 15 and I came across Slug Christ. What were those early sessions like? 

E: It was a bunch of close friends hanging out. We just realized we all made music and were really good at it. We became more of a machine later. It was honestly just a bunch of friends just experimenting with each other and it ended up working better than we expected.

R: Slug Christ-

E: There wouldn’t be a lot of things without Slug Christ. He did a lot for Plugg. He did a lot of things for Emo [trap]. This motherfucker was in a crazy band called Annihilator. It was like math, scream, metal. They’re sick. He was a big influence to Peep. Rest in Peace to Peep. Those were Peeps words: that Slug is the godfather. 

R: It was a confusing yet super eye opening experience listening to Slug. These are questions from one of our staff members xoarctic: Throughout the storied history of Awful Records, who has been your strongest inspiration? Closest Collaborator? Who in the group do you feel like never got their shine?

E: All of them are my closest collaborators, but Alexandria is a person that I hold close to me. She is an amazing writer and an amazing artist. She has an amazing story. Her music is amazing. She’s a powerhouse for RnB and for women all around the world. She has such a big voice and so much to say. I would say she’s my biggest collaborator out of Awful. We were together before Awful was a thing honestly. I was a person who brought a lot of people into Awful. Alexandria specifically is my right hand. Everyone is getting their shine. Alexandria deserves to be heard around the world. 

R: Do you see a label like Awful Records growing the way it did in the current climate?

E: I’ll say yeah because the people before us probably didn’t expect us to work how we did. If there’s a will there’s a way. It wouldn’t be the same, but it could be possible. I will say with Awful Records; it was a special and specific point and time. Honestly I have to recant my statement. I don’t think 16 people could just come out of nowhere, and they’re each their own person when you look into them. Each person in Awful had their own thing going. Even people who are dormant or on a sabbatical are just extremely huge forces of energy in terms of music and music we hear today.

R: Do you have a personal favorite song you worked on?

E: A song that I really like right now is a single I just dropped with Alli Kat. I think it’s an amazing song. I think it’s a testament to what I’m trying to segway into and what I think the future of music is. I honestly love all the music I’ve worked on. Bomb is a really good song people love. Any song from any of Alexandria’s albums: that was some of the best production I’ve ever done. Alexandria really turned me into a real artist and engineer…

R: A well rounded producer?

E: Yea producer in general. A producer in the old sense of the term. A person who doesn’t just make a beat but puts the whole album together. And helps the artist understand the whole flow of the album. I think she had the biggest influence on that. Pretty much anything from any of her albums, I’m truly in love with. We were really in tune together. The chemistry we had when making music was pretty much unmatched. I wish we got footage of some of those sessions, but it’s history. That’s how organic stuff is though. It’s for the people who made it then for the people.

R: How was it getting the plaque?

E: Flo! It was sick! Shoutout to Flo Milli. Amazing artist as well! She did a lot for me. She really took- with Beef, it's like songs with Chief Keef: there’s songs he didn’t register. They’re diamond in the streets, but they don’t have plaques. I think I was fortunate enough that she’s such a great artist that did what she did on the song and blew up. She was gratuitous enough to share that moment with me. We got a plaque from it. I love her. 

R: That’s a super sick moment. That’s super inspiring. Who are some lesser known producers you want to put on?

E: Shiva Child obviously. There would be no Ethereal without Shiva Child. He taught me how to make beats with the DAW I use called Reason. People want to know what I use: I use Reason. I always love Jungle and Drum n Bass, but he helped me understand how to make it. Another one is Loudy Luna. She’s got tracks with Future and shit. She’s just lowkey. She’s not undervalued or anything. She’s like the younger me. She’s a producer who’s also an artist. She’s about to drop some stuff and go up. She did stuff with D. Hill. Rest in Peace D. Hill. He was her sensei in a way. Now she’s my protege. I’d have to say shout out to Loudy Luna. Loudy, Alli Kat, Shiva, we’re just bridging the gap for what music is going to be perceived as. Dance music and uptempo music are becoming more mainstream. The times are changing.

R: Everything is speeding up.

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Written By Rei Low: