Before the current pantheon of A-list dubstep acts like Skrillex, Kill The Noise, Knife Party, and Excision were deemed the most intense EDM producers of the decade, the heavy side of the dance music spectrum was held up by the drum ‘n bass scene. While the hub of the DnB scene was (and still is) in London, and the Netherlands brought forth some of the heaviest-hitting DnB groups in the world (i.e. Noisia and Black Sun Empire), one of America’s best contributions to DnB is the trio from south of the Mason-Dixon, Evol Intent.
Amongst purveying a medley of dark and unrelenting DnB singles and remixes throughout the 21st century, Evol Intent’s biggest artistic achievement, both personally and to the scene at large, was their 2008 LP, Era of Diversion. Along with employing vicious basslines and synth leads that would pave the way for dubstep to reach its next level of intensity a couple years later (not to mention the fact that Kill The Noise was involved in a couple of collaborations on this album, under his former DnB moniker, Ewun), it would also show Evol Intent expanding their sonic horizons, wrapping all of it together with a socially-conscious theme.
March 4th marked the seven-year anniversary of the album’s release, and to celebrate, Evol Intent are giving away the album for free for the next week. I got the opportunity to speak with Mike Diasio (better known by his stage name, Gigantor), the current operator of the trio (while Nick Weiller is busy as Bro Safari and Ashley Jones is busy as Treasure Fingers), about the making of the album, as well as what’s on the horizon for Evol Intent.
How’s the newfound reception for Era of Diversion?
It’s going great! I’ve popped back in to look at the social media to see how well things are going with this record giveaway, and it shocks me, man. Whenever we do something like this, we’re really blown away by the amount of support that we get, and the people who are interested in it. We’re really thankful.
It’s a fantastic record. More people really ought to know about it because it did a lot for heavy Bass Music back in the age before Skrillex. Not only that, but it shows Evol Intent branching out into new styles, making Era of Diversion this awesome, multi-dimensional record.
Yeah, people really just know the drum ‘n bass tracks from the record, but what means the most to us on the record are the more experimental tracks that were made outside of the drum ‘n bass box. So we’re really glad to have people listening to those other artistic sides of us. And I was listening to it when I was packaging up everything for the free download, and it brings back a lot of memories.
How was the process of making this album? How did three minds work in the studio together back then?
We still work together – there’s some misconception that we’ve split up just because Nick and AJ have their own projects and that it’s just me now. I get it, because I operate as a figurehead, but generally we all work on music together, and we’ve always done it by sending our tunes back and forth amongst one another. Even when we were living in Atlanta, we were all working on music separately. Nick and I would work in the same room at the same time back when we lived together, but when you’re sitting at the computer, there’s really only one person driving. But the great part of being able to work efficiently by sending tunes back and forth is that it doesn’t matter if we’re in the same room or in different cities. Ableton’s great for that style of collaboration, and Splice makes it even easier to do.
Whose idea was it to include the IDM-style tracks on the album?
All of us; we all love that stuff. The experimental guys like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher are what originally got me into making electronic music. What’s funny is that those tracks were so much easier to make than the drum ‘n bass tracks—even the super-fast glitchy stuff like “The Oscine’s Lament”—because that just flowed out of us. It took us three years to make Era of Diversion and it was mostly because we put so much pressure on ourselves to refine the drum ‘n bass stuff and make sure it was done just right. With “Middle of the Night,” we were bashing our heads against the wall *laughs*.
On “Smoke and Mirrors,” the track features vocals from Aaron Bedard of the hardcore band Bane. How did that come about?
We found out he was a big drum ‘n bass fan. There’s a press photo of Bane where Aaron’s wearing an Evol Intent shirt, and we were like, “fuck yeah, we gotta get him on the album.” So we worked on this loud, heavy guitar tune and sent it over to him. He came up with some lyrics for the song, and then we flew him out to Atlanta to track it.
That especially complemented the theme of politically-charged concept of the album. How did you guys decide on going with that concept?
When we made the record, it was during the Bush administration, so a lot of what we saw happening at the time was the whole record and the whole concept. It was way worse back then than it is now, but maybe I’m just saying that because I don’t live in the south anymore, where Fox News is forced down your throat *laughs*.
Much of your music has gone hand in hand with your political views. Has that been polarizing to your fanbase?
It surprises me that there are people who don’t expect it. I posted some politically-charged things on our Facebook recently as a joke, and some people were upset about us “getting political.” And I’m like, “you do know we’re the same group that put out an EP entitled Police State.”
And you guys sampled a Bush speech in the self-titled track of the album! It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.
I realize that some of these young fans we have aren’t familiar with our older stuff, which was much more political. For some people, Era of Diversion came out when they were in middle school. But we do have some fans that are right-wing, and while we have different political leanings, we still want to make music that those guys can enjoy, too.
But nonetheless, if you want to express your views in your music or outside of it, that’s your prerogative.
Yeah, if I post an article that shows people something, and it changes someone’s mind and gets them to give a shit, that’s a win in my book. If it pisses people off and gets twenty unlikes— which has happened—I don’t give a fuck, I’m just happy that someone’s learning something. But when it comes to posting about political issues, I think it’s better to leave the information there for anyone that wants it, and not shove it down everyone’s throat.
With that being said, do you think there’s room for politics in EDM?
I think there’s room for it. Gridlok had this party in San Francisco that was based on the Occupy movement a few years ago. I played a set there, and I thought it was a really savvy idea. It’s cool that his fans are into that. But as for mainstream EDM, it’s harder for me to imagine, because that image is all about “party, party, party,” and politics and religion separates a lot of people, so not many people talk about that. But I’m hopeful that people will become more political.
Well the social awareness in EDM is one thing, but how do you feel about the current state of the scene, musically?
We all know that the powers that be are trying to shove deep house—well it’s not even deep house, it’s garage for fuck’s sake—down everyone’s throats; and it’s not 100% working. Personally, there are few things that excite me in EDM today; but when I hear shit that feels new or interesting, it excites me in a lot of ways. I discovered so many new producers with the remix contest we just wrapped up for “Middle of the Night.” It was hard to whittle down just a few winners from the top ten, because all of them crushed it. But the Middle of the Night Remix EP will be coming out March 24th, and along with a Bro Safari remix, it'll feature the winners of the contest: Bl4ck Owlz, Jorts, and Teknian & ZeroZero. We’re super excited to get this out and give these new guys exposure, because whenever we hear stuff we believe in, we wanna help get them out there. So there’s still life here. I see so many articles saying EDM is dead, and I don’t think it’s dead, but I do think that the future’s not deep house *laughs*.
Aside from the genre trends, another prominent issue that has people divided in EDM is the strategy of giving away free music – some people believe it to be beneficial, while others believe that devaluing music like this will only be detrimental in the end. With Evol Intent being avid practitioners of giving away free music, how do you see it?
Three words: adapt or die. Anyone can type Evol Intent and a track name into Zippyshare and get it instantly. I’d rather people get their music directly from us – come to our Soundcloud, come to our website. It sucks that putting out your product for free devalues it. But here’s the thing: when you have a business model that flies in the face of human nature, there’s nothing else you can do but adapt and move forward. Art is value, and that’s my point. Why would you keep making records? Because you’re making art. You’re not in it to make dollar bills; you’re in it to make art. If you’re worried about getting paid, make whatever’s hot at the moment. But many of us don’t do that, because we’re passionate about our art. Don’t be afraid to put stuff up for free. If you have a song that connects with people, that’s gonna take you pretty far.
Yeah, we’ve seen a number of people climb the ladder from bedroom producer to household-name status with that way of doing things.
If you’re making good music that has a timeless appeal to it, that’s all that matters. I think we accomplished that to a certain degree in Era of Diversion, especially with “Maybe We’ll Dance Tomorrow.” I still listen to that tune and get a bit of that magic feeling back. That song in particular felt really fresh and awesome to me when we made it, and I wish we could do an LP that all sounded just like that.
Well with that being said, will we be hearing new Evol Intent music soon? Will there be a follow-up album to Era of Diversion?
Well, the easy way to answer this is that there’s definitely new music on the way. We’ve been working on more dance-oriented stuff that we’ll probably just keep chucking out as Evol Intent. The interesting question is what we’re gonna do with the tunes that aren’t for the dance floor. We’ve talked about making a new project for that stuff and putting it out there as something else.
Why not just make an album that includes both styles of songs like Era of Diversion?
We actually have enough half-finished tracks to make another LP that’s all experimental-ish stuff; non-dancefloor songs. But we’re all at the stage where we’re thinking, “if we do an LP, there won’t be any dance music on it.” And if people are expecting each Evol Intent release to contain DnB, maybe we should just keep it separated. But who knows? Now that more people are hearing what we did on Era of Diversion, maybe fans will start to realize that there’s more to us than dance floor smashers, and if that’s the case, then great, maybe we could release a non-dancefloor LP as Evol Intent. We could do a record of real songs in that sense and have people embrace it as Evol Intent.
An LP says so much about you, musically. Era of Diversion means a lot to us, because it shows us as more than a drum ‘n bass group. So more than anything, we want it in people’s hands. That's the best way the listener can get a feel for us and understand what we're about.