FIGURE Talks About His Electro-House Days, His Upcoming Monsters Mix, and The Holy Grail of All Sneakers
Known for his insane bass music and hip-hop influence, FIGURE AKA Joshua Gard, has been stapling himself as one of the heavy hitters in the EDM and nightlife realm. Five years and over 100 tracks later, Gard is just getting this crazy year started with a quick stop at Beta Nightclub in Denver, Colorado.
I had the chance to grab a few words and a very strong drink with FIGURE before he stepped up to the decks.
FIGURE: I’m always excited to be here. It’s one of the biggest places for bass music in America, if not the Meca. Let alone it’s Beta, so I never have to worry about how the night’s going to be here. I just know that it’s gonna be good, and it’s gonna sound good. I just know it’s gonna be fantastic.
iEDM: Just a few years ago you were making some really bouncy electro house, what would you say influenced the transition into dubstep production?
FIGURE: I guess just hearing early dubstep. Obviously like the first stuff from Caspa, and sets from Malaa, shit like that. It reminded me of hip-hop. It sounded like beats in a kind of way, and kind of the same speed at times… and that’s what I come from in the first place so it kind of took what I was doing at the time with electro stuff and just combining it with what I grew up on, so it just kind of came natural and just made way more sense to me. So I made the switch and I’ve been sold since then.
I still make electro from time to time, but if I’m not gonna play it out then I’m not gonna make it. I don’t play that much electro anymore, so I don’t make that much electro anymore.
iEDM: It looks like it has been a while since you’ve release any electro
FIGURE: Yeah, I did an album 2 years ago and there were couple electro tracks on there, but they weren’t the key players on it. Sometimes I’ll throw them on my Monsters series but it’s kind of weird... if I make that type of stuff, my fans freak the fuck out. Like I’m changing everything and I’m leaving my route of what I’m doing. When in all honesty it’s the same noises and same drums… just at a different tempo. That’s what I look at it as. I hate the term, but the “drumstep,” dubstep, and electro all have the same noises, same drums, just different tempos.
I actually have some new stuff at the electro tempo for the next Monsters. So we’ll see how mad people get.
iEDM: When is that expected to come out?
FIGURE: I always try to correlate whatever number it is with the date. So it’s the 8th one, with 8 songs, and it’s coming out either September or October 8th… for 8 bucks.
iEDM: *Fan Question #1* What music did you grow up on, and how would you say it has influenced your musical attributes today?
FIGURE: I used to jump around a lot. I think it was because of the crowd I hung out with, versus the skate videos I would watch. So I would always hang out with older punk dudes that either already dropped out of high school or graduated and were just insane. Like almost junkie-type dudes that weren’t junkies. I don’t know… like crazy punk kids.
But then all the skate videos I would watch would have all this cool hip-hop that I never heard before because I didn’t have the internet. Like, I was just getting Soulseek at one point and it was just all the stuff from California that pretty much they had access to because they lived out there.
So the aggressiveness of all the old punk and metal is obvious because of the aggressiveness of the music, but maybe drum patterns would be the hip-hop you can hear in it. I don’t really try to reference it that much, it’s just part of my daily life. So when I sit down, everything that comes out comes out. I guess it’s from everything I’ve listened to in general. I still find myself only listening to the same shit I used to when I was like 16.
Of course new stuff comes out that I really enjoy, but there’s nothing like still enjoying old Slayer or Dead Kennedy’s. Shit like that. Also, staying out of the box and not listening to newer stuff and listening to shit that has nothing to do with it keeps your route different. So you won’t sound like super current, you sound like you.
iEDM: You have a couple of headlining shows coming up in other big nightclubs like The MID in Chicago with Dubloadz, Club Fantasy in Detroit with Buku, as well a few festivals.. like your appearance at Summer Camp in Illinois this May.. is there anything else that is coming up on your tour that has you jumping out of your seat?
FIGURE: I just locked in a new tour with someone I can’t say. (More info soon). Also a tour in Europe, and then we’re finalizing the booking now… but I do these video sets called Terravision.
I’m taking that to Europe, then Australia, and then Japan. Which I’ve never done. I play in Australia and Europe a lot, but I’ve never been to Japan. So I’m playing all these murder scenes while I DJ to Japanese kids. I’m really excited. They like the over the top shit. A lot of my friends are going over there to DJ, so competition is good and I want to compete. I’m gonna do this, as well as DJ.
So yeah, more tours. Of course there are other shows that aren’t announced yet, and other festivals that I just heard I was on... Random back-to-backs because I used to use turntables, but now I switched to CDJ’s so now I’m getting booked to do all these back-to-backs with my friends. Which is just the shit to me. For one, I only play for 30-minutes technically. And two, I get to DJ with my friend the entire time.
iEDM: When you step up on stage and walk to the decks, what is the first thing that crosses your mind before you start playing?
FIGURE: Nothing. I just make sure I have my USB’s, and then I don’t know. You can’t overthink. You can’t watch everyone that has played that night and overanalyze what’s gonna work. I think that’s when I just kind of zone out and start DJing. Then about six songs in I’ll finally look up and become a part of it. Like, I have to do my own little foreplay with myself, and then I’ll finally get into it with everyone else.
iEDM: * Fan Question #2 * Being that you’re a HUGE “sneakerhead,” what is your holy grail of all sneakers?
FIGURE: There are two parts to this. I stopped after a while. I wouldn’t wear them, I’d just buy them. I got my holy grail of shoes and then put holes in them. They were the Solar Nike Yeezy’s. They were like boots almost. That whole culture, the kids have to search and wait in line for them… or you could just pay a little more money and go to Flight Club and just get whatever the fuck you want. It wasn’t as special as it should have been. Eventually, I looked at all the shoes and realized I don’t touch any of them. So I donated some, I sold some, gave a couple pairs to my friends, and now I think I only own like 5 or 6 pairs of shoes. Every time I go buy a new pair I get home and I’m like “this is dumb, why did I buy these?”
iEDM: You’ve worked with a ton of different artists like Crizzly, KJ Sawka, and Bear Grillz just to name a few. Is there a specific artist that you have worked with before that you really clicked with music-wise?
FIGURE: The collab with Midnight Tyrannosaurus was really natural to do. The collab with Tommy Lee was really easy as well. Also, PhaseOne and I just finished something recently and he comes from a metal/rock n roll background as well. So that clicked really well. I honestly find it hard to work well with someone in the same groove. You both want to be touching things at the same time.
So my rule, and the only time I’ve broken this rule was with the PhaseOne collab, but I say ‘you give me the stems, you give me the parts, and I finish it. And that’s it.’ You don’t trade it back, you give me what you want, and that’s it. Because it just becomes monotonous, and the mixdown changes and shit, but he’s so fucking talented that we traded back a couple times and I was just like do what the fuck you want. He sent me back this ridiculous ass track.
iEDM: Any collabs coming up that we should keep an eye out for?
FIGURE: PhaseOne. One with Kool Keith which is like Doctor Octagon… you know, classic hip-hop. Those are the only two as of right now, everything else is out.
iEDM: * Fan Question #3 * What is currently inspiring your growth as an artist?
FIGURE: I’m not trying to grow as an artist. I don’t wanna make any moves to make myself get bigger. Because every time I do that, it’s almost a waste of time. I made this entire album called Gravity, it had all these different genres, all sounded like me, and it’s the lowest selling thing I’ve ever done… because I tried to get out of my box a little bit. So, at this point, I don’t care about actually getting bigger. I just care about sustaining what’s going. I would never want to be really really big, because you always just have to work on that level, or grow. At the level I’m at I’m not trying to skim or float by, I’m just trying to make sure I’m comfortable with what I’m putting out. Because if shit gets weird, of course I could just go ghost produce for some people or shit like that, but I’m not worried about growth. I’m worried about always being happy with what I’m putting out, and making sure I’m not doing it because of what’s going on in the industry.
iEDM: Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know?
FIGURE: I would just say go check out that new hip-hop album, and that I have an album coming out with Cas-One. It’s all hip-hop. Zero electronic music. You can hear that I make electronic music in it, but you can also hear that I didn’t just attempt to make hip-hop for the first time. I’m interested to hear the instrumentals come out so the music nerds can kind of listen to it. It’s kind of hard to hear production when someone is over it the whole time.
I’m excited to see if my fanbase will spread out and listen to it. If you grew up on nothing but Drake and shit, you’re probably going to hate it. But if you’ve listened to like Atmosphere you’ll probably going to be like ‘Oh I totally get this.’ So yeah, check that out!
A huge thank you to FIGURE and Rival Music Group for the the interview. You can check out more interviews with top artists at iEDM on Blast.