The week of November 8th was a very difficult one, for America and across the globe. The most unfavorable election to date in American history resulted with horrifying results: a known sexual predator, misogynist, homophobic, racist, xenophobic fascist was elected to be the 45th President of the United States. Shock, anger, and existential dread crashed in the form of 50 foot waves upon millions of people.
The unshakable fear for the future was at the forefront of everyone's minds, and made going about daily life, let alone partaking in anything entertaining or joyful, was excruciatingly difficult.
Somehow, though, dozens of artists found themselves pulling through and continue to to perform in the midst of this unrest for the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival. One such artist was FaltyDL, who was scheduled to close out The Panther Room on November 10. I had the chance to sit down with FaltyDL (Drew Lustman) on the roof of Output before his set.
Kaitlyn: This week has been stressful to say the least. How are you handling the stress of everything that's happening and needing to perform?
Drew: The performance doesn't feel like a burden right now, actually it's a nice relief for me. I wish everyone had a job they could go to right now that felt like a relief. I think we all need that personal pressure valve. DJing for me is that in a way, if it's going well, if the crowd likes what I'm doing. I've actually made more music in the last two days than I have in the last couple months.
Kaitlyn: That's awesome!
Drew: Yeah, I mean it's probably related to what's going on but if not, it's just lined up very well. In a good way!
Kaitlyn: Generally, as an artist, outside pressures do fuel creative juices.Have you ever found previously that anything political has fueled that for you or has it been more personal experiences?
Drew: It's tough, you know? Sometimes it feels like [I'm] watching other people's experiences because I'm a white man in America making music, and I have a much different experience than a lot of my friends do in this industry. I dip in and out of trying to be as empathetic as possible and understand the climate for other people, and sure it affects me as well. When I'm actually making music, I don't think I'm really thinking about anything. I think I'm - it's some form of meditation. I'm in the "flow zone". What's it called?
Kaitlyn: I know what you mean, but I'm totally blanking on it's name.
Drew: It's like the flow method maybe? I'm not even thinking, I'm just trying to channel what's coming out of me. It's a tricky thing, I feel like I have a great responsibility as a member of a greater community, and a smaller one in music, and I try and find what is the best way I can be helpful in it. Both politically and musically. And if the best I can do is just make music that'll help entertain people, then I feel like I've at least done something. But often it doesn't feel like enough. That's the truth.
Kaitlyn: It's tough! What do you feel is the role of an artist in times of such unrest and protest?
Drew: To help create avenues for people to relate to. If an artist can show frustration in a way, or some sort of emotion that's really tangible, then I think other people can relate. It helps them work it out. There's that responsibility, or if not a responsibility, there's that byproduct of being an artist during politically tumultuous times. But it's club music... I care about people having enlightening experiences, but people are here just to get drunk and dance away the pain. I think I'm just soundtracking other people's crisis [laughs].
Kaitlyn: And that's absolutely needed.
Drew: Yeah, someone needs to do it. And I just hope I do a good job.
Kaitlyn: Oh, totally! What are some current artists (or anything really) that you're currently drawing influence from?
Drew: Younger artists. And the way that they do things, the DIY aesthetic of running your own label and releasing your own records. I think that these waves used to come in six or seven years of new generations making music, but now it happens quicker. The cycle feels very quick now, almost within a year different movements can come and go. I'm inspired by anyone who comes up with something that sounds completely fresh, and then all of a sudden there's this community around it. That's really inspiring. I came from a community of people in New York making music at the time, and a lot of those people have moved away or are older now or whatever. You see people come and go and a lot of changes. I'm not trying to be vague, I'm not sure if I have any specific artists I'm listening to. But the 25 and under crowd, the real youngins!
I briefly divulged my short residence in Brooklyn, and how quickly I've seen turnover happen. From the rise and sudden fall of dubstep and EDM to discovering deep house, and the Williamsburg club TBA (in Drew's backyard and one of my favorite spots).
Kaitlyn: When did you start producing and DJing?
Drew: I was in bands for a long time, but around 2002 I started messing around with software at home, just sort of as a hobby. As a way to get the frustrations of being a bass player in a band out; I wanted more control, I could do everything if I was producing. It was seamless because I was always listening to electronic music. I sort of knew what I wanted to make right away. But I've been doing it now for 14 years. I've put in what feels like my 10,000 hours in a way. I don't know if that means I've gotten good at it or not, but it's my skill set and I don't have a Plan B. So this is what I do.
Kaitlyn: I have not reached my 10,000 hours of music yet... one day [laughs].
Drew: Music's funny though - everybody starts ingesting music at such an early age. You start learning all these ways to take it in and to absorb it. I think you set patterns at a young age of how you react to music, and it's fun to pay attention to that and see how that stays with you. There's a little abstract idea...
Kaitlyn: Are you from New York?
Drew: No I'm from New Haven, CT.
Kaitlyn: Had you already relocated to New York when you began producing?
Drew: No, I was still in New Haven. I moved here in 2007, it's about my 10th year here. I feel like a New Yorker now. It's when you have your first really weird subway experience that you become a New Yorker. When you see something creepy on the subway, you're a New Yorker.
Kaitlyn: Then it all starts to seem normal. When you're writing, do you have any type of format that you follow, does any layer tend to come first?
Drew: My go-to if I don't have my shit together is to search for a sample first, something I haven't used before preferably. I like to look for sounds I haven't used, and then see if I can build some sort of melodic structure around it and then add drums. Most recently I got a piano, which is really cool, so I'm trying to step away from the computer and just have a little bit more of a real musician experience going on. So I'll write something there, but I'm not recording it which is cool, I'm making music and then it's just gone. It's like a zen letting go experience because I'm so precious about recording music... I'm trying to just do the opposite.
Kaitlyn: Where do you normally pull samples from?
Drew: It used to be YouTube, YouTube is the best place, I think. I've sampled pretty thoroughly my entire record collection; I still buy records and look for samples, or friends send me things and I sample them. I really like to sample jazz records... It's fun to sample records because the audio quality is really good and I feel like I'm being a musician and not ripping something off YouTube. It comes from anywhere, I'll hear a passing melody down the street and it'll be inspiration and I'll go home and try to recreate that. To be honest, I feel like most often, if I have an idea going into the studio, I have a hard time executing it. If I don't have an idea and I just go in wanting to experiment, it's a little more successful.
Kaitlyn: It's crazy, creating music. I've only been doing it for a few years but I still have no idea what I'm doing [laughs].
Drew: Neither do I, it's all experimentation. Every time I'm somewhere I'm like, 'I can't believe I'm here doing this.' I've been doing this for long enough now that I feel like I've gone through what was going to be the life of a musician, and I feel like I'm in overtime and I'm just grateful that I'm here. Which is nice, because there's less pressure, I can just do it now.
Kaitlyn: Do you have a favorite venue in the city?
Drew: I really like playing at Good Room, I love playing at Cielo. I guess I like the better sound systems, I really feel a difference in there. But I'm also not above playing some Bushwick warehouse party or anything like that on some shitty car stereo system. Those are fun too!
Kaitlyn: Do you have any touring plans?
Drew: I do these long weekends now, I'm half always on tour. I was just in Amsterdam and Berlin last weekend, now I'm here, in two weeks I go to Japan, then I come back for another gig... I used to go to Europe for a couple weeks, but I don't do that so much anymore. I like to be home a bit more, so I do these crazy suicidal weekends where there's no sleep and you just go go go, and come right back home and sleep when you get home...It's better for my mental health to feel like I have a home base. I like to be a little more grounded.
We talked a bit about if there is any logical approach to touring, and how the entire music industry is a crap shoot these days where no one seems to know what they're doing. Before wrapping up and letting Drew hang with his family and friends until his set began, he offered some closing thoughts on BEMF.
Drew: BEMF is really cool, I think Brooklyn could use more things like this. We don't really have any weekender camping festivals other than Sustain-Release and the failed [Ray Ban/Boiler Room] one that happened this past weekend and got shut down halfway through. That's a real bummer... But this is great! This is the third time I've played BEMF, I play every three years or so. It's nice of them to still think of me!
FaltyDL recently released Heaven Is For Quitters, featuring "Drugs (feat. Rosie Lowe)". Take a listen below, and keep an eye out for his next Brooklyn show.