Mija And Ghastly Are Breaking the Rules of EDM [Interview]
For Los Angeles-based producers David "Ghastly" Crow and Amber "Mija" Giles, dance music is more than just a beat, a genre, or a movement - it's a way of life. They eat, sleep, and breathe the sounds of energizing synth melodies and bone-rattling basslines, and 2014 saw just a small glimpse of what these stylistic producers have to offer. From their numerous genre-blending collaborations such as "Crank It" featuring Lil Jon, to their respective performances at Burning Man and at the Black Butter Records stage at TomorrowWorld, these on-the-rise acts are taking the scene by storm, and they are on the track to becoming EDM's next biggest household names in the coming year.
EDM.com caught up the dynamic artists along with their "party liaison" Megan at a bar in downtown LA, where we got the inside scoop on their careers so far, perspectives on the scene in 2015, and most important lessons they've learned yet. Take a listen to Mija's set from TomorrowWorld and dive into the minds of EDM's next biggest acts.
"I'd say the starting point of my music career was the first time my brother played Metallica for me on his acoustic guitar. I immediately thought 'Wow, I really want to do that!,' and the rest was history. Before that, I was just another kid trying to learn karate and other nonsense," stated Ghastly.
Growing up on a goat farm in Arizona, Ghastly first fed his hunger for music as the lead singer of a metal band while learning DAW's on his computer in his free time. It wasn't until 2008 that EDM came into the soon-to-be-DJ's life, and his background in aggressive music undoubtedly had a lasting impact on his style today.
"Metal is what brought me into EDM in the first place. When dubstep first started gaining traction in the US, it was constructed just like metal but with robot farts instead of live instruments. My first 'dose' of EDM was when I went to the Bloodfest warehouse in Arizona back in 2008. It was this underground rave where they had a giant bag of blood hanging above the crowd that they slit at midnight, totally coating its attendees. Mind you, this was all to the tune of a heavy-duty hardstyle DJ," cited Ghastly.
Mija's musical influences also came into her life externally, as she initially learned to DJ from a boyfriend of hers some time ago. Her first official project Deux Yeux mashed together French house vibes with indie dance energy, something like an offspring of Louis La Roche and Alex Metric. She had attended a number of Crow's metal performances in the years before their eventual meeting, but it wasn't until they found a mutual friend through Ableton plug-ins that the two were able to cultivate a relationship and build a musically-inclined bond. They began working together day-in and day-out, utilizing their backgrounds and goal-driven natures to push the envelope on everything they had previously heard in the realm of dance music.
In 2012, Ghastly received his first taste of success with his release on OWSLA's Free Treats Vol. II, a track which demonstrated his unique blend of bass-heavy synths and pounding drum patterns. He followed with dubstep and electro releases on Rottun and other labels, but the immediate success he found with the Los Angeles-based label posed a powerful opportunity for him, and Crow felt the need to take his craft to the "city of angels" so he could make his next career leap. Throughout this time, Mija was also cementing her place in dance music. Providing killer set after killer set at venues across the country, it wasn't until Bonnaroo '14 that she was able to truly showcase her talents to a broader audience, and unlike any performance beforehand, she didn't do it alone.
"Surprisingly enough, I actually booked Skrillex for a rave that I hosted a few years ago, so when I saw him backstage before my set I totally thought he wouldn't recognize me. He said he knew who I was, and then brought up playing back-to-back. I totally didn't realize he meant 'right now,' but next thing I knew we were both playing together, going track for track," stated Mija.
It didn't take long for news to spread of her surprise guest performance, and it undoubedly helped garnish her the recognition and momentum needed to win the Black Butter Recordings x TomorrowWorld contest for the renowned Atlanta-based festival. Her performance was lauded as one of the festival's favorites, and ushered her straight into the family of 2014's biggest up-and-comers to watch. Ghastly was also making strides of his own, performing his Bassrush residency at Exchange LA, Burning Man, and releasing his collaboration "Kill It With Fire" alongside Sullivan King on Buygore Records. With the momentum of their respective careers in full force, the duo decided to take their first leap with a collaborative remix of Diplo's "Biggie Bounce."
The remix's unique combination of Travis Porter's raw vocals, festival-catered synth stab melodies, and chest-thumping 808 drum patterns was an instant success. The unification of their styles presented an even greater opportunity for the self-made musicians, and it only made sense that they continued the wave with an even greater track. After going back and forth on a few original ideas, they finally made the next move and sent it to OWSLA.
"She didn't even tell me when she sent the collaboration to Sonny. She knew that if she did, I totally would've said that we needed to 'fix the EQ' or something and not send it. But I won't ever forget when I got her screencap of Skrillex saying “yo this is tite." I literally jumped out of my chair and began dancing at work like “I don't have to work here, I’m gonna get the fuck out!" stated Ghastly.
In December of 2014, the duo released their long-awaited original collaboration "Crank It" featuring Lil Jon on OWSLA Presents: EGGNOG Vol. 1, and it demolished any doubt that these two had a strong future ahead of them. In a polar fashion to their initial release, they proved to break the boundaries of dance music, delivering mind-numbing bass house synths to a dancefloor-certified breakbeat style. The track verified once again that their sound and direction were the perfect fit for Skrillex and his illustrious imprint.
"You dont have to play a specific genre or sound. For a while I played just house music because that was the music I was digging for, but when you look around there's just so much good music out there, it’s truly all about figuring out who you are as an artist. DJing might be one thing, but as far as producing goes, I don't think I’ve exactly established my sound quite yet," stated Mija.
2015 had big start when Mija signed to AM Only, one of the most respected and renowned booking agencies in dance music. There has been no telling what other big things they have planned the coming months, but after cementing themselves in the dance music realm, these rising acts plan to collaborate and perform at even more events than ever before.
"2015 is going to make people realize anyone can make anything, and if it's dope, it's dope. There’s literally no denying it when you hear it, because you’ll feel it too. If I had to predict 2015, people are going to hear eclectic genres from bass house to heaven trap to genres that don't have names yet on every stage," proclaimed Ghastly.
Our most insightful aspect of the interview was when we asked them individually what their biggest influences and lessons were thus far in their careers. After some pensive contemplation for both parties, they responded:
"The biggest lesson I've learned is to treat everyone equally, from the panhandlers to labelheads of our industry [ironically, a homeless man asked us for change at that exact moment]. I used to think as success started to fall into place, I would inevitably succumb to the strain of the industry, and for lack of a better term, become a douchebag. But honestly, it has all really taught me to never take things too seriously and to really keep your humanity," stated Ghastly.
"The biggest influence of my career so far is definitely touring. It really motivates you and tells you that this is something that you can be doing. Being able to travel to different areas of the world to perform, and going to showcase your music in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people at festivals like Bonnaroo and TomorrowWorld is absolutely lifechanging," stated Mija.
We wrapped up our interview with some last minute shout-outs from the eccentric pair, and they ultimately were condensed to "OWSLA, mother nature, every human on this planet for being alive and affecting each other and continuing this mystery we call life, the color black, Mija's mom (and moms everywhere), buffalo sauce, and last but not least, Megan!"
Be on the lookout for Ghastly and Mija in the coming year, as we can expect them to take their wisdom and talents to unprecedented heights and untraveled regions of EDM.