Freddy Todd is a crazy man. He is one of the true oddball creatives in electronic dance music that delights in smashing barriers and bending genres freely.
He’s entertaining and fearless live, and wildly prolific in the studio. Today, Todd released the Chrondor EP on Wakaan, and it’s stunning, surprising, and delightfully weird.
“Chrondor Crunkedelia“ sounds like if Vulfpeck’s 70’s funk launched into hyperspace. “Digitally Sizzlin” with kLL sMTH has some wonderful squelching scratch breaks set against Adult Swim-style sunshine synths. This writer admits that while he loves every track, he’s listened to “Won’t Make It” with Pipus at least fifty times leading up to this release. It’s a seething, moody trap banger for the hippies, and Pipus’s rap verses are bizarrely compelling.
We conducted this interview with Freddy Todd in June 2018 and talked about his life mottos, obsession with new sounds, and his projects past, present and yes, very VERY future.
Get an inside look into Todd’s mind below.
River Beats: You’ve got such an exciting production style, with plenty of live instrumentation. When I saw you, you whipped out a Korg keytar! Can you explain your philosophy towards making your shows so unpredictable? It seems like you’re not playing by any rulebook but your own.
Freddy Todd: “My philosophy behind making shows unpredictable is basically this: “go with the wind! have fun. but crush. that. shit. all whilst being a kind professional, with the motto: “the show must go on (unless there are no subwoofers.)”
“I grew up in a live band setting as a drummer, idolizing the unpredictable hippy rock star. Classic rock stuff, Jimi Hendrix shit – burn your fucking guitar on stage type shit. There are no rules!”
I know you’re a big fan of working with analog synths, what are favorite elements about creating and performing with them, when so many producers work solely with software?
“Gosh, my journey into analog synths (after years of trying to master the digital realm) began after I moved to Oakland, California in ~2013. I got to hang out a ton with my longtime friend and super talented producer as well as mastering engineer, Drewmin (Andrew Johnson). Drewmin really brought the science to the table and taught me the difference between analog and digital in terms of the spectrum between compressors, limiters, EQ’s all the way to synthesizers. He taught me certain things like how an analog compressor will usually nicely bell curve off the top of a signal off by curving it and rounding it in an eloquent, warm, silky electric way versus a digital compressor which will just haphazardly slice the top of a signal off with a sharp and jagged cut. Little things like that, once I started to understand what it looked like, I began to hear the difference in analog warmth versus digital abrasiveness.”
I still use solid digital compressors like Native Instruments SuperchargerGT on every single composition, as well as digital synths like the VSTs Serum, Massive, FM8, Harmor, and Zebra, I love to combine the worlds. But what I DO do, is pay money to ship my tracks to people like Drewmin or, our mastering guy overseas in the UK, to run them through expensive analog gear that I don’t have for the final warmth and signal boost that it needs (also making sure each track on an album is brought up to the same volume and compression level).
as Duncan Trussell has said, controlling the electricity running through these things with our fingers physically on the knobs which control the voltage and how it’s affected is a very trippy experience. Conjuring creatures with affected voltage.
Tell us about your early days with SplaTTerboX (early DJ project with Griz) and what playing those shows in Detroit taught you?
“Splatterbox was tight! Although it formed when we were in college, we probably started making beats when we were in high school together living about 10-15 minutes away from each other. We met in middle school and were in school band together (I was on percussion, Grant was on sax – we were even in jazz band together). Grant went by DJ GK for a while (short for his name Grant Kwiecinski) in college but switched to Griz at some point shortly after. I used to drive an hour or so from Southfield, Detroit, where I was going to school at U of M Dearborn, to East Lansing where Grant was going to school at Michigan State. I would drive up there every other weekend to hang, party, and work on beats with Grant. We wrote about at least four or five lil ditties that maybe the world will hear one day, one of the tracks I believe is in the one and the only mix on our SoundCloud, a live show in Chicago at the now defunct and infamous Kinetic Playground, where we actually had Jacob Barinholtz, now drummer for Manic Focus, drum live with us.”
“We had a lot of fun making beats together and then sending each other stuff and hyping each other to keep creating cool stuff. We were super inspired by guys like The Glitch Mob (who we saw play in East Lansing on Halloween and then proceeded to rock a Splatterbox afterparty, walking across campus with my trigger finger midi controller and laptop and him with his MPD and laptop in backpacks jumping fences drunk in the dark to an insane co-op house party that we absolutely destroyed), Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, and Big G.. (earlier influences of ours include Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, and that era of awesome IDM, which first got us to download FL Studio, Reason, and Ableton way back in 2004-ish). We played a handful of shows like that in East Lansing, downtown Detroit, and in Chicago. You could say those were our first ever b2b’s, preparing us for that hype in the future.”
You’ve played with some of our favorite bass producers, from Thriftworks to Russ Liquid, and you’re now a fixture on the massive Wakaan roster. What artists do you really look up to these days, bass music or not?
“I love those guys! But MAN — that’s a tough question because I find myself listening to more and more stuff my friends or myself are working on so technically I really look up to all my talented friends who are in the scene crushing it. I do have to say a very inspiring set recently was Koan Sound at Psychedelic Sleepover in New Hampshire They played a bunch of new stuff and a bunch of neuro funky bass stuff from other people that they are currently digging. They fucking crushed it, very musical, pushing the boundaries, and some seriously slurpy bass stuff and insane sound design. Those guys are whats up. Would love to link with them in a studio or even over the deep dark web. Also, Mr. Bill just showed me his new album and OMFG. It’s incredible. All I have to say, look out for the future ;)”
The Southfield LP (2017) has such a cool futuristic thematic, song to song and right down to the cover art. What inspired you creatively during the making of this album?
“The Southfield LP just kind of grew organically into what it is. Internal issues with labels actually turned into a good thing because it let me take a while to figure out where it was going to go, so that freed up time to really create the universe, commission the right artwork, fill it with 13 songs, decide which to pull which to stay, include an intro, extensively pick song order, dial everything in, exhaustively mix 13 songs down, get them mastered, and THEN, after all, that was done, gave me time to shop it around to its proper home ultimately landing with the Wakaan family, a beautiful bunch – shouts out my brothers Liquid Stranger and Space Jesus. To answer the question beyond the boring internal stuff, actual inspirations would have to be everything that I consume through my senses, so a lot of that is really fantastical media like video games, I love a good fantasy RPG, I think I was playing a lot of Dark Souls III at the time, I also love physics based stuff in video games so Rocket League, GTAV and the like are super fun.”
“Anyway, back to Southfield – the actual title is named after the town I grew up in (Grant also lived there early on), Southfield, MI, a flat suburb of Detroit about 20 minutes from downtown. However, I did want this Southfield to be ambiguous and kind of whatever you want it to be, could be an ancient Southfieldian city, could be the current Southfield in the future, could be completely fictional, could be a prediction. Either way, I kind of envisioned that each song is a different sector, alleyway, or area of the city of Southfield. Another cool thing is Adam Psybe created the city art by hand painting it, and he also just made the Space Jesus and Digital Ethos MARS album art, which is also an ancient/future sci-fi city-scape that, given our close friendship, (we are the Guccimen), I like to think of as just another part of that universe, another city, or another planet designed by the same architect. Shouts out Adam Psybe of Colorado!! Everyone go check out his art: www.instagram.com/psybevisual”
In this exciting rush of free-form bass music recently, how do you step away and gather your thoughts? Are you one for escaping temporarily for mental clarity?
“How I step away: I try to listen to non-bass music, like afro-beat, rap, classical, funk, jazz, etc. I will also jam on a live instrument, like the drum set (my forte). For example, recently I was jamming on the drums and got the idea for a funk song in my head. I was like damn I need a live band to jam this to. But then was like wait, lemme just write in MIDI what I’m thinking real quick using things like Kontakt on FL Studio for super real sounding live band stuff (rhodes, clav, bass guitar, piano, organ, strings). An hour later, boom, I have a groove to jam to. But a few days later I come back with some coffee wanting to crush some bass design and “smash some dubstep” taha and kabloom I just wrote the tightest song ever, a super funk groove that twists into a sweet bass drop then twists the melodic funk stuff back in. I’m having fun!”
“Another way to escape for mental clarity is going hiking in the Appalachian Mountains with my beautiful sweet girlfriend of almost 10 years, Christine, and just getting out into nature. That’s like recharging a battery. I love lakes and grew up going to Lake Huron every summer.”
What’s your next step creatively? Where do you want to take your sound and your onstage presence in the upcoming year?
“Next step creatively, I’m pushing boundaries with sound design and bass music but finding a common ground coming back to funky melodic stuff. Really inspired by 60’s and 70’s funk lately, check out the 70s cop show CHiPs and its soundtrack haha. Love creating live band sounding stuff, as I described above, and then resampling, so its 1000% original, no samples. I think we’re gonna see some classic melodic stuff brought back melding with otherworldly sounds, next level sound design and bass, delving deeper into it. On stage you may see me bring back a live drummer here and there and you also might see another new project entirely: I have been jamming with my drummer friend Matthias Sayour, of Aligning Minds, creating an all new live project altogether. It’s almost a future version of Ozric Tentacles: mathy, spirally psychedelic live drums and arpeggios and pads synthesizer stuff. but that’s a project in its infancy and we are trying to add a 3rd person into the mix”
Besides my new Chrondor EP out on Wakaan, other projects I’ve got in the barrel are:
“Working on my chiller stuff, Moonflavours Vol. II. My hip hop project with the rapper NOTE, “Uneaux Momenteaux” a 4 or 5 track rap fusion EP.”
“The Guccimen Remixes (my project with Space Jesus, we released a 3 track EP a few years ago and had about 13 close and badass producer friends remix those) – we will be releasing the remixes in a 3 part EP series also towards the end of summer, announcing very soon.”
“I also have two unreleased collabs with Esseks and two collabs with Of The Trees, one that just released on the Wakaan compilation “Convoy” and another new one we have yet to figure out, but is an absolutely insane dubstep banger I’m excited to play live.”
Last one, what’s surprised or excited you about touring and performing on the festival circuit in the last few years? How have the crowd reactions propelled you?
Its always a surprise when a crowd is waiting for you, every time. Like, I’m just a guy, its crazy y’all are here to hear my super weird music I made in my basement, it blows my mind. Crowd reactions are usually the ONLY thing that propels you, as well as touring with super inspirational crushers like Liquid Stranger. Obviously, you can get inspired listening to random stuff in your car, BUT getting that real visceral reaction from a crowd and sharing that energy that you are ultimately the conductor of, is powerful stuff. It has certainly led me to want to make more bangers, but at the same time, I still have my off days where it’s raining, I’m hungover, and haven’t drunk any coffee, where I’ll write stuff for my chiller series “Moonflavours.” Also, listening to other awesome artists on large sound systems like at festivals I’m playing can be pretty propelling and inspiring. The community is so important!