Big Gigantic talks EDM and San Francisco’s Summersalt festival

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Rounding out the West Coast music festival circuit, San Francisco’s annual Summersalt will transform the historic Pier 70 into a daylong dance floor for the Bay’s alternative EDM community. From Diplo to DJ Shadow, Summersalt has featured the biggest names in trap and alternative dance music. Heavyweights Keys N Krates, Big Gigantic and G-Eazy will headline this year’s festival, which takes place Saturday. The Daily Californian spoke with percussionist Jeremy Salken of Colorado-based Big Gigantic  to talk about his exploration of new genres, unique live instrumentation and opinions within the current EDM scene.

DC: What do you find different about the EDM scene in San Francisco?

JS: West Coast in general is a little bit different. It’s kind of the same everywhere, young kids come out and they’re trying to rage. However, I feel like out West, it’s a little different. Maybe because you guys see so much music, it takes a little longer to get people into it. They don’t — what do you call it — rage quite as hard, but they’re still having fun.

DC: Can you tell me about the subgenres you’ve been exploring and what makes you interested in them?

JS: We’ve literally been checking out everything. The new track we did with Zhu, that’s whatever you want to call it, the deep house kind of vibe. But what’s great about it is that it’s really just funk music. It’s got that nice four-on-the-floor beat, but it’s also got a swing and bounce to it. When (producer) Dom (Lalli) and I played in bands before Big Gigantic, we would play funk bands, jazz bands, whatever, and we would play stuff like that. It’s cool that it’s coming around in EDM, so that we can play it again in a totally different way.

DC: Your former music was predominantly electro-dubstep, but now I’m hearing deep house, nu-disco, etc. Are you moving forward from dubstep, or do you think you’ll be returning to the genre?

JS: Who knows? At our live shows, we try to do everything from the deep house you mentioned to more break-beat and drum and bass to dubstep to hip-hop. We literally try to touch on every genre we can just to keep everybody on their toes.

DC: What drew you to dubstep in the first place?

JS: For me as a drummer, it was playing the heavy groove. It’s really fun. It’s got balls behind it. To me, if you listen to our older stuff, it was mainly hip-hop, a little bit more funky. Jam-y if you want to call it that. Then we had a drum and bass tune, we had a house tune, stuff that changed tempos, so we weren’t necessarily stuck to dubstep, like Bassnectar is stuck to it.

DC: I read that Dom has studied jazz in graduate school. Are you also interested in jazz?         

JS: I am interested in it too. That’s how we both got our start. I’m more self-taught. I took lessons locally from different guys, but I’ve been playing jazz since I was a kid, and it (has) a huge influence on me.

DC: Do you and Dom have different approaches, since you’re self-taught and he’s more formally trained?

JS: Dom produces all the music, but we do have unique approaches. Dom has put in so much time in school … He knows how to write. He can score a symphony. He can write by hand all these charts. I don’t know how to do any of that. So his approach is more from a classical perspective. He’s a great writer.

DC: Who do you think is the most important producer in the current EDM scene?

JS: That’s hard to say. There are so many guys who are pushing boundaries, and I feel like everybody’s influencing everybody, which is really cool. You’ve got guys in Denmark like Cashmere Cat, Trippy Turtle, Lido. There’s the Australian contingent, with Flume and What So Not and Wave Racer. Dom and I dig what those guys are doing, but we hang with Diplo and Skrillex a lot, and those guys are killing it constantly. They’re revolutionizing it all. They’re producers, but they also run record labels. They’re finding new people out of nowhere, bringing out the best in them. Innovation’s coming from every angle — from guys just starting out to the more established.

DC: Which performer at Summersalt would you be most interested in collaborating with?

JS: Isn’t G-Eazy on there? He’s a bad ass. That’s definitely one dude we’d like to work with. I remember seeing him at the Firefly (Music) Festival on the East Coast, and he was killing it. We’re homies with the Keys N Krates guy, with Grandtheft, the Gaslamp Killer — he’s brilliant.

Big Gigantic will be performing at Summersalt in San Francisco this Saturday.

Jason Chen covers fashion. Contact him at [email protected].