Under the name Calm Tree, San Diego native Skylar Newman has turned countless years spent listening and toying with music into a tangible collection of his sampling repertoire. Night Visions marks the first album of the 18-year- old DJ, yet there’s no denying the nostalgia of decades past scattered throughout each track. That’s the beauty of this project; a definitive old-school meets new-school blend of synths and beats. In fact, it’s about as green as a musician can get. I believe Al Gore would approve of his method- taking seemingly spent tracks and recycling them for a progressive generation.
Calm Tree has a lot to say about Night Visions and the inspiration behind it. CoS sat down with him in his studio and discussed the new album as well as plans for the future.
As a new artist, when did you start to become serious about putting out an album?
I’ve been messing around with a sampler for a while. A buddy gave me a four-track of his, so I finally had a way to record everything.
The cover of Night Visions gives off an 80’s, living in Miami vibe. What’s the backstory behind the artwork?
I was at a Bar Mitzvah in New York of some extended family I barely even knew. To be honest I just wanted an excuse to go to New York. Out of all the people I met, only one guy stood out. My uncle Howie. This guy was on Quaaludes (I didn’t know they even made those anymore) and doing blow in the bathroom at his own son’s Bar Mitzvah. A true champion. When I was making the album, I was imagining what it would be like to spend a night with Howie, deep in his prime. The setting- South Beach Florida. The year- 1984. You know, that Tony Montana shit.
The tracks behind the cover are sample based and completely instrumental. Where did the majority of the samples come from?
A couple Alan Braxe and Fred Falke for the synths and various arpegiattors. Some Joy Division and Talking Heads for that punchy drum sound. Just a bunch of different percussion samples scattered over the whole album.
Without vocals, are you worried about how the album will be receieved?
Not really- I’d like to think of it as a blend of Daft Punk and Dilla. Hopefully people like both enough to give my album a shot. RIP Jay Dee
Is Calm Tree one of many projects, or is this your main focus in respect to touring and recording?
I’m always messing around with stuff I hear on the radio, and sometimes the puzzle pieces fit together. I’ve got a couple shows lined up to promote the album, there’s a few butterflies in my basket but I’ll do alright.
How did you get started sampling and mashing songs together in the first place?
First I started out using the program Reason, and got into sampling after listening to guys like Dan Whitford and Madlib. I thought it looked fun, turns out it was. Started getting equipment, picked up an MPC on Craigslist, and before I knew it I turned out an album.
Speaking of hardware, what other equipment did you use on Night Visions?
I basically recorded my Korg KP3 live into a four-track and mixed with Pro Tools. Not too much editing or mastering, that shits expensive.
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