Where to start with Machinedrum, aka Travis Stewart? The American-born, Berlin-based DJ/producer has been a key part of the bass music revolution that has swept through underground dance music. He's the spearhead of a post-everything generation that gets a real kick when numerous sounds, styles and samples collide, responsible for multiple creative projects, sweat-drenched shows and a solo career that gets stronger with every release.
As Machinedrum, he juggles UK funky, future garage, footwork, jungle, hip hop, r'n'b and house. The tunes he cuts to wax are often unpredictable but wholly engaging and live shows always skid across a number of genre boundaries, causing crowds to melt. This year he's put out the 'SXLND' EP on LuckyMe as well as releasing under his Dream Continuum guise (alongside Om Unit) and has started a new collaboration with Jimmy Edgar called Jets, which has so far resulted in one incendiary EP and even more newly discovered bass music possibilities. He also turned in a Mix Of The Week for Mixmag, which is currently nearing on 30,000 plays.
As the year comes to a close, we catch up with one of the artists who has set 2012 ablaze. Get ready to hear about how Americans are adapting to underground dance music, the joy of collaboration and plans for a new Machinedrum album...
Why is it important to be based in Europe?
I was getting booked more in Europe, I was gravitating towards it more and more, not only because of shows but because of my sound and also friends in Berlin.
Do you feel more of an affinity with what’s going on in Europe?
I did at the time but I feel like going away from America has made me appreciate the things that were kind of cool about it. The scenes and the music and whatnot. It was interesting to look back at it more positively once I was away from it.
Your stock has risen in Europe but are you having success in America?
I am now. Basically, ever since I moved things have changed back there. Whether that had to do with the move or a somewhat successful album coming out, whatever, but I’ve definitely noticed a change in America.
We cover a lot of EDM and it’s easy to see who’s doing well in that scene, but have you come across a thriving underground in America? What’s interesting you over there?
It’s hard to say if there’s so much of an underground in America. EDM has become recognised since I left, it’s happened so quickly. It’s been accepted nationwide, this new kind of electronic music. EDM is all encompassing of many things stylistically. I kind of like that Americans are waking up to this kind of music but at the same time I feel like there’s a lack of underground, a lack of people pushing the envelope. There’s certain scenes, of course. I love what’s going on in LA with Low End Theory and Brainfeeder and the Percussion Lab guys in New York. There’s select things but the underground side could be stronger.
Will EDM kids start to develop a taste for more experimental sounds?
Without a doubt. We’ve already seen it happen. I’ll have played certain venues in 2010 and played the sort of sound that I’m into, a bit faster, a bit more experimental, and I would clear entire dancefloors and really feel frustrated that people in America were stuck in this brostep dubstep zone and they coulnd’t really explore outside of that. But in a year I feel like people have already changed their attitude, they’re looking for new sounds. Maybe from that a new underground scene will be birthed. I’m not going to give up on America just yet.
Do you feel like you have more freedom creatively and in terms of playing shows in Europe?
In general I feel like I have been able to test out a more experimental direction.
How’s Jets going? Has it been more successful than you thought?
I knew people were going to be happy about it but I didn’t expect the kind of reception we’ve been getting. It’s been an awesome experience and it’s happening really fast, which is nice but a bit scary.
Do you have plans for any more records?
Yeah, we have a lot of projects planned for the future. Be that records or live shows, Jets is a collaboration that will continue for sure.
You also do Sepalcure with Braille and Dream Continuum with Om Unit. Why do you like linking up with other people?
Collaborations open me up to new sounds. I really think when you’re working on your own you lose perspective of what you’re doing. You get so sucked into the details that you forget the magic of creation and when you’re experiencing that in the flesh, something that works with someone else, it’s a really good feeling. It puts you in the present moment more.
With those projects you’ve also jumped around between a lot of sounds. Is that a symptom of electronic music in 2012, the freedom to move around?
Some people do really well at focusing on a very specific genre, like a study. But I listen to so much music that it all just ends up in a big ball of sound.
What’s coming up for Machinedrum in 2013?
I’ve got some big news coming up. There’s definitely going to be a Machinedrum full length in 2013.