If there is a single lesson you can learn from Tim Wu, it is to follow your dreams. Working a corporate job fresh out of college, he knew that he had to escape to pursue his passion to make music. Becoming Elephante, he started making noise with sickening remixes (Kaskade, Clean Bandt) and has progressed to making original productions (Closer, Age of Innocence) that have captured the attention of many. If you are looking for the next rising talent in the electronic music world, Elephante should be on the top of your Soundcloud list.
RS: Is this your first conference?
Elephante: This is not my first, it is my second conference. Last year was bit of a test run on how to survive the week. I definitely learned to pace myself a little more this year.
RS: So you are no longer innocent?
Elephante: I’ve lost the age of innocence but I’m always trying to go back.
RS: I love the video for “Age of Innocence,” it is really cute. Was that inspired by your corporate life?
Elephante: It was actually, I hadn’t really thought about it explicitly but when we were writing the treatment and trying to put together ideas it was definitely something that was lingering in the back of my mind. You nailed it!
RS: Does your name have something to do with it also?
Elephante: It does. Elephante is a reference to the elephant in the room and the elephant in the room being when I was working at a corporate job. It was a great job and great people but I was really unhappy because all I wanted to do was make music. There was this big thing that I wanted to do so it was about quitting and embracing the elephante and becoming the elephante in the room.
RS: How did your parents react when you went from the corporate world to DJing?
Elephante: It’s funny, my mom is always so supportive but it took a little easing into with my dad, but he has come around. I haven’t asked him for money in the entire two years so I think that he is okay with it.
RS: Do they ever throw it in your face “we paid for you to go to Harvard and now you are a DJ”?
Elephante: They joke about it but at the end of the day they just want what is best for me. It was an absolutely crazy thing to do financially and a little bit foolish but I have been very lucky in that things have been working out. I think that all is well that ends well.
RS: And it is going very well. Speaking of which, how did the collab that you did with Trouze and Damon Sharpe come about?
Elephante: I had been working with Damon,. I did a couple of EDM covers. I grew up a singer-songwriter and I played a lot of covers in my acoustic shows and I decided to cover some of the songs that I love. He helped me record the vocals and we have just been working together. He is awesome and he played me a few demos. When I heard “Age of Innocence” I was like this is awesome and asked if we could work together. One thing led to another and we worked remotely on it and out came “Age of Innocence.”
RS: Was “I Want You” the same way? Were you in the studio with Rumors?
Elephante: That was another remote thing where we had heard them and wanted to work with them. They had some awesome stuff and we heard a demo for “I Want You” and decided to do it. With touring and being on the road so much it was hard to get in the same space as them but I think creatively we are on the same level so it was super organic.
RS: I love on your SoundCloud you are tagging some of the songs as #phante, what is the phante sound?
Elephante: I don’t know how to put it into words but I think that it is funky, uplifting melodies with some electro grit and some cool rhythms and happy, uplifting moving melodies.
RS: And then “Black Ivory” seemed to come from out of nowhere.
Elephante: The funny thing is that I make stuff like that all the time just for fun. When I am bored on the road I just whip out the laptop and mess around and this is one of the first ones that I felt could be something special. I ended up getting in the studio and finishing it and thought that it reflected a lot of the music that I was listening to and what I was inspired by. It was very different but it still sounded like me.
RS: My favorite mix of yours is the Mako’S “Smoke Filled Room.” Was that a challenge to work with the original tempo?
Elephante: Mako are good friends of mine and I think that they are some of the most talented guys out there. I heard that song so I shot them a text and I was like “dude, Alex you have to let me remix this,” and he said of course! That was one of the things where there was no agenda and no preconception of what it had to be or what it should be it. I loved the vocal and I loved the song so much that I just went with it, it just literally flowed out and I am so proud and happy of how it came out. It was just because I was lucky enough to call Alex a friend and shoot him a text.
RS: You have also done alot of big pop remixes, you did Nathan Sykes, Katy Perry and Jason Derulo. Have you ever heard back from any of them saying that they loved your mix of so and so?
Elephante: Yeah we heard back from Jason’s team that they loved the remix. It was really cool because they had just put out the video of “Want To Want Me” which was the most viral video of the entire year and they took the time to send out an email. The best one probably is when I remixed Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” a couple of years ago. At the time it was not strictly legal, it was a bootleg and it was going really well. We got an email from Capitol, her label, and my heart sank, I thought I was going to jail. My manager talked to them and I told him to give me the bad news but he said that they loved it and wanted to license it. Katy loves it! That was a really cool moment as well, going from the depths of depression to having that happen.
RS: Do you have any connections with Interscope because I would love for you to do a track with Elliphant the Swedish ragga singer?
Elephante: I am a huge fan but I haven’t had the chance to meet her yet but I know a bunch of people at Interscope. We actually get confused a lot so I want to get in the studio with her and make a banger and just confuse everyone even more. She is great and she is brilliant and we have very different sounds but I would love to work with her.
RS: This one is kind of personal, there are not a lot of DJs of Asian or East Asian descent, do you think that has helped you or hurt you?
Elephante: I try not to think about that kind of stuff but it certainly has surprised people when they find it out. I think that with a lot of people it is unexpected at first but there has certainly been times when people have asked me if I was Steve Aoki’s cousin or whatever and I’m just like haha, very funny. I try not to worry about that stuff, if it helps that’s great and if it hurts then I just have to brush it off and keep moving. What am I going to do about it?
RS: May I ask what your background is?
Elephante: Yes, I am three quarters Chinese and one quarter Japanese.
RS: Nice. Let’s say that they are doing the movie of your life, which actor is going to play you?
Elephante: Steve Aoki! Naw, I don’t know, I don’t know many young Asian actors out there. The kid from Fresh off The Boat kills it and he is the only little young Asian actor that I know so let’s go with him.
RS: What is the strangest question that you have ever been asked in an interview?
Elephante: “Do you call yourself elephante after your trunk?” or something like that.
RS: That’s a little too personal. This is probably the most important question- why is it that all DJs wear black?
Elephante: I don’t know, it is just the uniform. We were in Barcelona playing a party, it was spring there and everyone was wearing shorts and tank tops. You could walk around and play the game of find the DJ so easily, all of us were wearing black jeans. I think that a lot of it is that when you are on the road so much you just need a uniform. I will say that I am wearing white right now so I am bumping the trend.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Elephante: Thank you so much, it really is an honor to have people listen to my music. I grew up dreaming of making music for a living and I always thought that it was kind of a pipe dream. To actually be able to do it and play shows and make music for a living is the most special thing that I could ever hope for. Thank you so much.
Interview conducted March 2016 during Winter Music Conference.