The group EOTO, built of the two world-class percussionists Jason Hann and Michael Travis is going to be headlining a Conscious Alliance Benefit show at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado on December 8. Jason and Michael have always been known for their fresh, original styles, their improvised shows and their ability to give the crowd exactly what they want, a good time with mind blowing music. Some of you who have not managed to see the group before may be on the fence, but EOTO has always, and remains in a world of its own. It’s heavy handed, dub friendly, live instrumentals manage to throw out all styles during a single set. If you’ve seen them before then you know there is no need to worry as the set will never be quite the same on any two nights, each show they play is fully improvised, fully live and is truly its own entity on every night. I was able to catch their debut Red Rocks show this summer, and it actually was my first time catching the group, but as I stood by the stage trying to shoot some photography I had to remind myself of the reason I was there. Because the set they played made me want to toss away the camera, rage out and dance my ass off until the last beat lingered in the air. Next weeks show will also be featuring support from NiT GriT and VibeSquad, two DJ’s that hold true to originality and have the bass-friendly feel that is sure to melt some faces. Tickets are available HERE and be sure to check out our exclusive Red Rocks photo album from EOTO’s show earlier this year. Free Download of the Full 2012 Red Rock’s set available below and exclusive interview with Jason Hann of EOTO after the drop!
Article, Interview, and Photos by Michael Ligget.
We were recently able to chat with Jason Hann about their recent tour stops, their debut Red Rocks show, how EOTO came to be and much more. Check out the full transcript below.
MMIBTY: Hey Jason, it’s Michael Liggett with MyMusicIsBetterThanYours, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. You guys just finished up on the road, right? How’d it go?
Jason Hann: Yeah, it was really great. This part of the tour was sort of a continuation from the spring and summer portions, but we had a really great time and everything went really well.
MMMIBTY: What were some of the favorite stops you managed to take during the the Fall/Winter portion of the tour?
JH: Wow – it’s hard to say a little bit. Each one was a little different. We just played a show in Urbana, IL – um, our Halloween show… that went off in a different way. Columbia, MO, which we played Saturday. We did a Baltimore show that was insane. You know, for the first time there wasn’t really a preference and nothing in particular really jumps out at me. There were really a lot of really great shows and really great stops that we had during this part of the tour.
MMIBTY: Were there any festivals that stood out this summer that you felt had a different feel to them and were somewhat revolutionary in their setup?
JH: Top festival where I’m completely inspired is in British Columbia – Shambhala. Horning’s Hideout and Electric Forest were great, of course. But Shambhala is the one festival where it’s about 80% producers and the sound system is incredible where it’s really exciting to get up to play there. It’s also a festival that that’s the launch of lots of the new music where I find myself just being like, “Woah, what the hell was that?”? and it’s really a great experience and an amazing time to get up there to see and be involved with.
MMIBTY: Speaking of shows played – one of the shows you had early on in the run was at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO – I know you had played at this venue with String Cheese before, but this was EOTO’s first time playing there, how was this show different from playing a SCI show there? Did it feel to you like something fresh and different?
JH: Oh yeah, we were both really giddy to play Red Rocks as EOTO. We had just played there with String Cheese and it seems like it’d be similar, but it was a very big deal for us. You know, going up to the show we were super excited to be able to be up there as EOTO, which has become it’s own entity and it felt like a really different experience for us. With the amount of work that we’ve put in with EOTO tour wise, it’s really great to see how things are really blooming at this time. You know, to be able to play Red Rocks and to be able to play Denver Fillmore it’s like WOW – this is really happening. It’s a long road to get to there and to now have a feeling like EOTO’s become a thing of it’s own — we’re really proud of that for sure.
MMIBTY: The Lotus stage design debuted in Boston – How did this concept come about and what was the inspiration behind choosing a lotus flower?
JH: Well, we had toured for a year with a big projector screen behind us and Zebbler, the video guy, came up with amazing psychedelic material behind us, but after a year we wanted to step it up. With a lot of the EDM acts really pushing forth with their setups using projections and LED’s, we wanted to sort of move into that direction. I’ve always been excited about the projections we had – you know, like some crazy meteors and other projections – and then Amon Tobin, he sort of confirmed that it didn’t have to be a $100k single night act. But the projector stuff I really had pushed for, and I had come up with the design for the lotus and initially it was two different lotus flowers and [Michael] Travis was going to be in one and I was going to be in the other, but with our setup being so close together it just worked better to have it be one bigger lotus flower. But the change from a projector screen to the use of the video mapping and using projection and LED’s on the lotus really opened up some new opportunities as far as presentation for us on stage and really draw people in.
But as far as the lotus flower – with it being a symbol of beauty that grows in the muck, you know in Indian tradition and others and it being a flower that always blooms in the most unlikely of places – it seemed like a really cool and beautiful symbol and image to use that would sort of enable this same sort of concept onto the stage.
MMIBTY: Yeah, it was a really cool way to see you guys at Red Rocks. It was my first time I had seen the setup like that – and with this big lotus on stage it really drew my eyes onto the group and to sort of wonder like, ‘what the hell’s going on over there?’ and seemed to really interest myself and others in the crowd to really pay attention to the band.
And aside from the stage, the band is founded upon the idea of improvised shows. With the influx of electronic music and DJ sets that seem to include an abundance of backing tracks — why’d you guys choose to go this route instead?
JH: Well we started out from first and foremost musicians that play instruments. I had done a lot of programming in the studio over the years I had enjoyed doing that and I love that part of it but we really wanted to play live music. And there were a couple of bands that were doing it that were really inspirational that were all live – one of which [Michael] Travis was involved with and then a group I was involved with. Then we’d see groups like Massive Attack where they never recorded anything and you’d have to go see them live in order to see what they’d be putting out.. and they sat in this world of producers and festivals and stuff like at Glastonbury and whenever they’d be featured on stage it really brought attention to them, and even though I had never seen them play live it really allowed us to move forward with the idea of something that could only be seen live and would be new every single time.
MMIBTY: Being fully improv, how are you and Michael Travis able to establish the chemistry that makes this work so well?
JH: Well, it’s a lot of kind of – it was a lot of playing together and jamming around when we weren’t even trying to put a project together. You know we were just — I came out here for String Cheese practice in Colorado and we would just set up in his room with these different instruments and play from 10 at night until 4 or 5 in the morning every night and listen to music and take breaks and go back into it. So, it was something that you just got used to being in that mode of just making music and it was fun for us. Then, when we first started recording ourselves we started being more aware of what we – what we actually sounded like – because at the beginning we were like, “Oh my god that’s horrible…” and then little by little we just knew that was the formula for us getting better. It was listening to ourselves and trying to get ourselves excited about what we were doing. And we knew that the more that we played, it felt like the better we got. So, when we really started trying to book EOTO a bunch and go on the road we found that was how we were going to be able to get ourselves in and out of ruts – cause we were trying all the time. If we get stuck with certain themes that would be the same night after night you know, we’d talk about it but you sort of gotta switch it up and do something different – because that would be even worse – being an improv band but being stuck with the same ideas, then you’re not really improvising. So we put it on ourselves to – if we feel like we’re sounding the same that we just have to mix things up and push it, and that usually pushes us to the other side and we’re like ‘Oh wow – it was nice how we broke the mold there and did something else with it’.
MMIBTY: And then, what’s your personal feeling about the new boom of electronic music?
JH: I love it – it’s great. I mean, I do DJ sets – I’m doing one this Thursday at Cervantes’ and that’s all about just playing modern stuff that’s out right now. Cause I’m convinced that I hear enough good music out there, that it’s not just like this, kind of, wasteland of imitators trying to do the Skrillex sound. There’s still a lot of really creative music out there, so I’m big in it and that’s one of the things where I like about doing the DJ sets because it forces me to just like look for new music all of the time – and usually I’ll try to play music that’s been released in the last 2 to 3 months. But it takes me a while to find that – I’ll be on the Internet for a little bit trying to see what new producers are out there. And chances are there’s some sixteen year old coming out with just the phattest track and you’ve got to look around for it.
MMIBTY: Absolutely – who are some of the guys you listen to the most?
JH: There’s not necessarily a most – but there’s been some guys lately that I’ve really liked, like Blunt Instrument out of Australia, and jOBOT – I’ve seen him on some festival lineups. Um, Skeptiks… Let me think… off the top of my head… I like some of the new Savoy remixes that have been coming out… Yeah, I’d have to kind of go through my DJ set – I think Seven Lions is another one.
That’s as far as electronic music – but then I listen to all kinds of others — sort of world fusion music and I listen to jazz and all of those things. But, as far as straight electronic music, there’s a lot of fresh things coming out but you do have to look for it because a lot of what generally comes out can be pretty generic.
MMIBTY: Nice.. and for the show on Saturday, just to mention that a little bit – with Colorado being the big state that Cheese got started in, do you still feel that sort of homecoming vibe with EOTO shows here?
JH: Oh yeah, that’s going to be amazing. And, the closer we get to the date – it feels even better because there’s one thing where – you know, we get nervous when we know it’s a hometown show. For us, the pressure’s on [for us] that it’s the best attended show and that people still care about us even though we just played Red Rocks a little while ago. You know, all these things come up and it’s mirrored pretty directly through ticket sales and other things that drive those feelings. So, we gear up for it and we just kind of hope that the city’s gearing up for it, too. But, we can feel it as the days are approaching.
MMIBTY: Great, and with Conscious Alliance – I know this is a benefit show for them. How’d you guys link up with them? You know, who contacted who to have you guys be the headlining act for the benefit show?
JH: Well, it kind of worked out – because were definitely looking for ‘How do we follow up the Red Rocks Show with Lotus?’ and we knew we wanted to play our own show before the end of the year and we knew that we wanted to possibly give the Fillmore a try if the people at the Fillmore were up for it and feeling good that we could sell tickets. As that was coming together, that date came up with Conscious Alliance and we have a good relationship with Conscious Alliance anyways. Even aside from String Cheese – there’d be some Conscious Alliance people usually out on EOTO tour usually some Conscious Alliance people out on EOTO tour – and it just kept making more and more sense that that was going to work. And, to coincide they’ve been doing these Alex Gray shows lately and it just kind of seemed like, “Oh, that’s what’s supposed to happen is that date” and all that.. and I love it when things like that come together.
MMIBTY: Alright, just one last for you – like you mentioned Alex Gray is going to be painting that night and it’s always interesting to see different forms of artistry cross over into one event. I’ve heard of certain lyricists or certain people mention, “Oh I watched a movie or I saw a painting and it inspired me to create these tracks..” Have there been sort of any non-music related artists that have inspired you personally?
Non-music related… Oh, sure, all of the time. Yeah, I also look online usually for some amazing poetry or some amazing artwork that someone’s doing and you definitely get an inspiration from that. Some of the guys like Android Jones – he’s really doing some cool stuff, and Crystal Smith, is a friend of mine, who’s a friend of mine – and she started at the same time that EOTO started, she did her very first live painting at an EOTO show and now the stuff that she’s putting out now – it’s great because we can both reflect on it that we sort of grew at the same time. So, yeah, it’s all becomes part of how we influence each other.
MMIBTY: In general, any last comments?
JH: You know, we feel like we’re just kind of hitting our stride now where people are really getting down to our music but also understanding that we are creating it all live and doing it all on the spot. And, we’ve been kind of craving that for a while – we don’t want to necessarily preach from the stage like ‘This is what we are doing! [laughs] and give a music clinic because that would be dumb. But, you know, at the same time, we’ve been waiting for it to come together to where people in general know that when they go to our show, one of the reasons why they are going is they’re going is that they’re going to see us make up music. As opposed to just a dance party, which is cool, which is what we’ve relied on to get our reputation out there. You know, with live instruments you can get down really hard, but knowing that we’re doing it all on the spot just represents the whole ‘What’s going to happen?’ type up to a bunch of other notches.
MMIBTY: Very cool – well I look forward to the show and thanks again for a great time at Red Rocks. I know a lot of people will be there, ready to take off and have a good time.
JH: Ah, thank you so much and for the interview and getting the word out. I really appreciate it. See you there.