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From Glass Slipper to Always Friends: Brad Eller’s evolution in electronic music

Brad Eller’s musical journey has been anything but ordinary, from the soulful depths of St. Louis to the vibrant rhythms of Chicago and the eclectic vibes of Oakland. Now settled in the sizzling heart of Austin, Texas, Brad, known for his pioneering work with Glass Slipper and Duo Electro, introduces his latest project: Always Friends. This new endeavor is a testament to his evolution as an artist, embracing a more melodic and dubby sound that stands apart from his previous work.

In our recent interview with him, we delve into the inspirations behind his latest project, his creative process, and the influences that have shaped his unique sound. From his early days immersed in Chicago’s house music scene to his current explorations in deep house and dub techno, Brad shares his insights and experiences with us. Join us as we uncover the story behind Always Friends and get a glimpse into the mind of an artist dedicated to pushing the boundaries of electronic music.

EG: Hi Brad, welcome to EG! Where are you right now?

Brad Eller: Thanks for the invite. I’m in sizzling hot Austin, Texas. It’s 100° outside right now- perfect studio weather!

EG: Your journey in electronic music has taken you from St. Louis to Chicago, then Oakland, and now Austin. How have these different locations influenced your sound and approach to music?

Brad Eller: I moved to Chicago in 1996. I got into the scene not as a DJ or producer but just as a 20-something dude going out clubbing, trying to meet girls, and blowing off steam. My education also came from all the mixtapes I used to buy at Gramaphone. I quickly realized the music wasn’t so much about the pounding beat- it was all the complex, swingy rhythms in between those kicks. And it had soul. It was a Black thing. New Black music resonated with me even more than hip-hop, jazz, or funk. In Chicago, I learned history, attitude, and dance moves.

I moved to Oakland in 2000 to escape the cold and ended up at a full moon party on my first night out. We were somewhere south of San Francisco, up high on this cliff, with the moon reflecting off the water below. I sat around a roaring bonfire across from this massive sound system that was rocking some psychedelic version of what they played in Chicago. I looked around at all the dreadlocked kids and the beautiful nature surrounding us and thought, man, I’m definitely not in Chicago anymore! San Francisco taught me about community, collaboration, and finding my own sound.

EG: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your new project, Always Friends, and how it differs from your previous work with Glass Slipper and Duo Electro?

Brad Eller: When Lisa left Austin, it just made sense for me to start a solo thing. Without a vocalist, I decided to make tracks, not songs. I have to be much more creative in my arrangements and sound design to keep things interesting. In one sense, I have the freedom to do whatever I want now. But with this project, I can’t rely on her incredible singing and songwriting skills or her on-point musical opinions.

EG: Your debut EP ‘Significant Other’ has received a lot of attention. Can you talk about the creative process behind this EP?

Brad Eller: I made a track every two weeks with the intent to release everything myself. That removed any subconscious pressure for label approval. I made a few rules for myself: no samples, no MIDI packs, and no outside contributors. I experimented with faster BPMs and keys I normally don’t mess with. I’ve been listening to dub reggae since I was 13, and I just said screw it let me run wild with that influence. Oh, that’s another rule: no patois vocal samples going “Jaaaaahhh!” (laughter).

“We’ve had way too many middle-aged, potbellied, straight white guys enforcing the “rules” and gatekeeping. Who made them the authority of this music?”

EG: The remixes for ‘Significant Other’ feature a diverse group of producers. How did you choose the artists for these remixes, and what do you think they brought to the original tracks?

Brad Eller: I know all the remixers in real life, except for Soledrifter, who Juan Mejia linked me with. I’ve been following these dudes for years and have deep respect for their work. I chose each track specifically for each remixer based on what I thought would be the best fit. Each brought its own unique sound, and I truly believe everyone did an outstanding job.

EG: You’ve mentioned that Always Friends combines elements of deep house, dub techno, and intense vibes. How do you achieve this blend in your productions?

Brad Eller: I’m referring to sonics and sound design mostly. Like, I don’t think many hardcore dub techno fans would regard Always Friends as the next Deepchord, ha! But the palette, the vibes, that’s what I was going for. I mostly classify this project as deep house, even though it’s faster and super dubby.

EG: As someone with a background in visual arts, how does this influence your music production and performance style?

Brad Eller: The art I used to make was very heady, abstract, elitist. Music is way more accessible and visceral; it’s not intimidating to the average person like contemporary art can be. My music is utilitarian- it’s for dancing. That’s a million miles away from “art for art’s sake,” which wasn’t satisfying to me after a while.

EG: You took some piano lessons recently, correct? How has learning piano impacted your compositions and overall sound?

Brad Eller: With Glass Slipper, I was obsessed with writing sophisticated progressions with extended, complex chords that were, quite frankly, beyond my skill level. I often relied on MIDI chord packs and hired guns to pull it off. After a year of piano, I’ve gone the complete opposite route and just play triads now (laughter)! Seriously, Always Friends stabs and chords are dead simple- the fanciest I’ll get is a 7th chord. My lifelong obsession with Reggae music comes into play here- those dudes kept it simple- why can’t I?

EG: What trends or changes in the electronic music scene are you most excited about right now?

Brad Eller: I like seeing women and queer folks getting more exposure and opportunities these days. We’ve had way too many middle-aged, potbellied, straight white guys enforcing the “rules” and gatekeeping. Who made them the authority of this music?

“Most of the big underground labels don’t really do much for your release in terms of promotion, royalties, or providing any real opportunities besides bragging rights. One exception: the label that got us the Atjazz remix”

EG: What advice would you give to aspiring producers and DJs who are just starting in the industry?

Brad Eller: Do it for fun, for creative satisfaction. Make your living some other way.

EG: If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Brad Eller: Ahmad Jamal because he’s the first real jazz guy I ever saw live, way back as a teenager in St. Louis. It would be hilarious because I’d try to explain ‘Piano House’ to him, and then he’d ignore me and play something way better instead (laughter).

EG: What’s the most unexpected or funny thing that’s happened to you while DJing or during a tour?

Brad Eller: Years ago, I played a warehouse party in Oakland but was too high on shrooms to work the turntables. My friend Amit took over while I “selected.” He can mix anything, and I was peaking, so I was pulling the most random shit like the Rick James ‘Give It To Me Baby’ 12”, then a jackin’ record, then a wacky bootleg, then who knows, whatever! I think it worked… it was definitely fun as hell! I’m sober now, so I don’t have to worry about my hands not working at gigs anymore.

EG: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about the music industry?

Brad Eller: Most of the big underground labels don’t really do much for your release in terms of promotion, royalties, or providing any real opportunities besides bragging rights. One exception: the label that got us the Atjazz remix.

EG: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Brad!

Brad Eller: Thank you!

Always Friends’ ‘Significant Other (Remixes)’ is now available via  No Way Black. Stream and download here

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