When did you first meet your drummer Cory Eberhard, and when did you guys start the Pretty Lights group?
Derek: Well, I mean I started Pretty Lights by myself. I had known Cory for several years. We actually played in a band together, and a lot of the experiences from that band kind of turned into a lot of the ideas for Pretty Lights. From us struggling to sell CDs for $10 as a group no one had ever heard of and trying to tour to places that had never heard the music. It was a struggle to be in a band like that and trying to make it all happen. So that kind of changed my mentality of how I wanted to approach it. But that’s was with Cory. And the band kind of stopped playing because at the time we weren’t really into it, and I wanted to focus on the Pretty Lights project.
Was it dance music like you play now?
It was like live electronic and hip hop music. I played bass and flute and MPC, and it had a DJ and a keyboardist with samples. It was sort of like Sound Tribe meets the Beastie Boys. But anyway, when I first started playing shows with Pretty Lights I hit up Cory and wanted to see if he wanted to play drums in the live setting, and it went well. And so I like to have a drummer.
What does he add to it, or why do you feel the need to have another person?
From my perspective it’s fun because I can play off another person, and he can add different energies and elements to the music sometimes, and I can communicate to him where I want to go, and we just kind of do it together. It’s just that sort of energy on stage I like about it. But it also adds something to the live show. It’s more like a live band and I’ll be the first person to say I am not a big fan of watching people behind a laptop especially if they’re not doing anything. That’s why I always try to get as involved in actual music performance as possible even though I am using electronic gear and doing all my own production. But I just feel like having a drummer adds something for me, and adds something for the people at the show and the live experience sonically and just sort of overall. But I mean as far as like producing all the records, and releasing all the music that is something I do completely as an individual.
And as far as Making up a Changing Mind goes, how long were you working on it for?
What’s your songwriting process like? When you start off, do you have a list of samples that you want to use?
No I’ll usually start it another way. Maybe for like a little more than half I’ll write chord progressions and get the idea for the track and tempo and match samples to it later. And then sometimes I’ll start with a sample and work it out and chop it up to a way I like it, and then I’ll work on sample matching, collage sampling. My style uses samples, but it’s far from just taking a sample of a track and then like putting bass and drums around it. A big part of what I do is sample matching, which is taking different sounds from different genres, and different artists, and even different decades and making them work together in ways where it seems like they were meant to be together like that. And through that approach, I can find new feelings, and new soundscapes, and combinations of timbres that haven’t been heard before through that approach.
How did the idea for covering “After Midnight” and “Midnight Rider” come about?
Well, they both start with the word midnight. I wanted to do something special for New Year’s, so I tried to think of as many songs as possible that had some sort of theme, some obvious connection to that moment. Whether it’s midnight, or the Final Countdown thing with New Year’s. And then I just spent some time making them work together, and building a new song off of that tempo and key, but then it all works together. It was actually one of the most exciting moments for me on stage yet, playing that song right after the ball dropped, right after we did the balloon drop in Chicago at the turn of the decade. Something about the energy right then, and that track, and thousands of balloons bouncing around in the place, it was pretty cool.
What’s next for you?
I have a spring tour that starts on March 20. Ultra’s going to be on the first week of the tour, and I start the tour in South by Southwest in Austin. And this tour I’m not going to Chicago, and I’m not going to Atlanta, and I’m not going to New York City. This tour, a big part of it, is trying to go to cities I’ve never been to. I just did the fall tour, and went to a ton of different places, and now we’re doing markets, venues, and cities I did not make it to last time around. That’s a six week tour.
Is Colorado not on that list then?
No I am playing Colorado, I’m doing five shows in Colorado next week all in a row, but Colorado kind of exists outside of the concept of what cities to hit when touring because that’s where I started, it’s where I grew up, it’s where it’s the biggest. But yeah after this tour, I’m going to be doing festivals for most of the summer. I’m doing a European festival tour in June and July, and hitting a lot of the festivals in the U.S. Different ones though, not the same ones as last year. I’m not sure if I’m doing any of the same festivals I did last year, maybe one or two…
Well Camp Bisco, I just saw that today?
Was that announced?
Yeah that was announced today.
So I’m doing Camp Bisco, I did that last year. And then I’m going to do a big fall tour and go back to all the major metropolitan cities we didn’t hit this time around.
And you still have the two EP’s around all that.
Yeah, I’m basically going to be touring and releasing music all year round. It’s going to be a busy one.
What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Probably when I headline Red Rocks.
That’s not until the end of the summer, I can’t say the date, I’m not allowed to…