Interview by Parisa Eshrati
I had the chance to speak with Josh Sidell of Psydell before his trip to Tucson for the 9th Annual Gem and Jam festival here in Tucson. We discussed his new EP, his background as a drummer, and being made of stardust.
You just released your EP, Overview, ten days ago and it has a great concept behind it. It describes the mental transformation astronauts go through when they've seen Earth from space and feel a sense of togetherness. Can you elaborate on this a bit and how this theme relates to your overall approach to music?
I feel like it's a thought that a lot of us have had for awhile. It's the togetherness. It's humans working together for a common goal instead of a profit. That's pretty much the baseline. It was inspired by this documentary that my girlfriend and I were watching. There are several stories from astronauts saying that when they come back, they just have this feeling of awe. It's so overwhelming when they are out there free floating in space and looking back at the Earth and it's just something hanging out there in the void of space. The small little problems that people have disappear and they see us as a whole - we are all one giant being floating in space. It's really just derived from that.
It's a pretty good message that I want to put out there with my music: people coming together, being themselves, just living their own lives and being happy. People coming together and not being afraid to be who you are and just do your own life and be happy. Help each other out. That's pretty much what I'm all about.
The first track off the EP, "Omni-terrestrial", suggests the idea that we are all made from stardust. What implications do you think that philosophy has for human consciousness?
It really ties back into the whole theme that we are all one being. We all come from the same thing. We all are going to have an end, and we're just borrowing this energy for now and eventually we'll have to give it back. No one is really better than anyone else, we're all unique in our own way. I think that you'll find that pattern throughout this whole dimension and galaxy. There are only so many elements that we have discovered. We're all made from pretty much the same stuff. I wanted to open people's minds more and make them think about their surroundings.
I'm curious about the process of you turning these ideas into an electronic piece. How are you able to convey your ideas about these topics without words and let it speak through the music?
I think the first music created was just sound, not necessarily with any vocals. Of course a lot of people connect with vocals - there's a human element to that. For me, I'm a drummer so drums are a big part of that. It's really what brought us together. Music as a whole brings people together and lets you see into someone's soul when they're performing or playing. I want to convey that message and put people in that mindset when they listen to my music. It's quite a long process. Obviously the music comes first. I'm sitting in my studio for hours and hours and staring at a computer screen. I'm so lucky to have a girlfriend that puts up with it. Not only puts up with it, but she's very supportive too. But yeah, I just want to put people in that mindset. I want to bring these ideas about and hear what other people have to say about it. It's an idea that's not unique to me. As I've said, as a human whole we have these things on our mind and I just want to touch base on that.
It's interesting how you started off playing music as a drummer. What made you transition into being an electronic music producer?
I think it was a long time coming. I'd like to think that I stumbled into electronic music. When I wasn't making music with my band, I would come home and my dad, believe it or not, got me into electronic music. He had a Moog and PS404 emulator and stuff like that, a bunch of free-ware that was on the internet. So I'd come home from band practice and still want to make music, and that was the way to do it. I got on my computer and started making beats and just went from there. It's been a really long journey, it's been about nine or ten years now. I had no idea back then that I'd be doing anything like this. It's brought me a long way. I've seen a lot of exciting things because of it, so I'm glad it all happened.
What kind of music did you play with your band?
We were into metal, believe it or not. A lot of people from the electronic scene have a metal background. I'm no different. I have evolved since then, but still have my roots. But yeah, I love making electronic music. I love sound synthesis, that's what I'm really into now. It's been quite a journey.
You've noted that colors are an influence to your sound. Do you feel a sort of synesthesia effect while you're making music, or do colors affect you in another way?
I guess it' moreso about my mental state and what I'm creating. A lot of times when I'm writing music, I'll write so much and then I'll sit back and listen to it and see where it takes me. A lot of times random colors will pop up. Sometimes it's even just going outside and being influenced or feeling a certain emotion from looking at the blue sky or green grass. It's a big part of our lives, so it's definitely a big influence.
You've done some killer remixes from artists like Eastern Sun and Spankalicious. Do you have any other remixes in the works?
Yes, I've always got so many things going on. It's a lot different from a band, where a band usually works on one song at a time, I've probably got 50 different projects I'm working on right now. I've got a few secret remixes that I'll be announcing soon. I've got some people working on remixes of my tracks, so that's something to look forward to in the future.
It seems like your beagle, Penny, plays a major role in the production process. There are some pictures of your dog wearing headphones and checking out your tunes, which is pretty fucking adorable. What kind of role does Penny play in your music career?
Oh yeah [laughs]. Number one and foremost is making me happy. I don't know what me and my girlfriend would do without her. I can't even imagine it. She sleeps in our bed, she's with us all the time. She gets me out of my bad moods I guess. It's a pretty big role of hers. I love her. She's a huge part of our lives. I'm definitely a dog person, can't help it [laughs]. She's my little companion.
In just a week from today, you'll be out here for Gem and Jam. What are some of the other artists you're looking forward to seeing?
There are so many people I want to check out this year. First and foremost, my friend Spankalicious. He's playing one of the after parties down there. Krooked Drivers and Sunsquabi are some homies, I'm really looking forward to seeing those guys. Thriftworks as usual. The headliners are just insane. I love Papadosio. I'm stoked for all of it really. Not to mention Alex and Allyson Grey, that's a whole show within itself.
And you'll playing one of the after parties as well, right?
Yes, on Friday. We're playing the Galactic Center. It sounds like a good night and early morning. I have a special little sunrise set planned.
Last year seemed pretty busy with you playing at festivals and it looks like you already have some lined up for this year. What are some other events you're looking forward to besides Gem and Jam?
We'll have to see still. I played Still Dream last year which was an amazing festival out in California. It was a little low key, but it was quality over quantity with that one. I also played Arise last year, and I'd love to go back there. You can't beat beautiful Colorado. Infrasound might be something I'll be checking out this year. We'll just have to see, I'm taking it as comes.
You have a pretty sweet show lined up in Chicago this year.
Yeah! It'll be like a mini-Gem and Jam out there. It's in April out in Chicago. Thriftworks, Papadosio, Desert Dwellers and Alex and Allyson Grey will be there. It should be really amazing.
We're just about a month in 2015, did you make any sort of New Year resolutions?
Hmm, yes and no. I've never had a definite "this is what I'll do this year". My plan is just to step it up this whole year, and things are already off to a good start. I really can't complain with what's going on right now. I'd like to do a few more shows this year. Mostly I just wanna spread the word and spread the message!
For more information on Psydell:
For more information on Gem and Jam:
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.