THE INTERVIEW: ASH RISER
Ash Winston Riser (born August 29, 1989), also known by his former stage name Ashtrobot, is an American recording artist and music producer from Los Angeles, California. He embarked on his music career when he was 15 years old, forming a rock band called Pistol Pistol (stylized P!stol P!stol). Due to differences between members, the band broke up in 2009 and Riser subsequently began to put his focus on music production, fusing electronic and hip hop music, among other genres. Riser later began working with longtime friend, Derek Ali of Top Dawg Entertainment, who introduced him to West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar, with whom he began heavily collaborating. Riser then signed a record deal with Israeli music producer Borgore's record label, Buygore and also has a production deal with Chest Rockwell Entertainment. Riser has played multiple sold out shows with fellow label-mates and musicians such as ETC! ETC!, Kennedy Jones, Ookay, Flinch, Protohype and Dirtyphonics.
• Where are you from? Have your surroundings shaped you in a creative sense, and in what way?Ash Riser:
I’m from the Southbay of Los Angeles, grew up in the city of “Redondo Beach”. The area is predominantly known musically for it's roots in punk, birthing bands like The Descendants, Pennywise and Black Flag. Growing up there I just wanted to get out, I have this saying “sunniest place with the shadiest people”. I always associated a lot of negative shit with that place, just over the years losing friends, etc. So, obviously that would come through in my writing.
• What’s your background like? Where do you stand on the music scene in your area?
My musical background is super diverse, I always thank my mother for that. Being from Los Angeles, especially living in the city for the last 7 years or so, I love the music scene here. Underground hip hop and indie rock is very much so still alive thanks to platforms like “Bananas” and “Ham On Everything” just to name a couple.
• What did you start doing first, producing or singing? How did you get started?
I was in a rock band first, singing and playing guitar. Production came into the picture next when I fell in love with dubstep, drum and bass.
• Do you have anyone that you consider your mentor? How has their help or advice shaped you?
Yeah, a few actually. They’ve all really helped me out over the years, but I’m thick headed as fuck and usually don’t listen. Learn from my own mistakes.
• What is one experience in life that, without it, you wouldn’t be the artist you are today?
• What do you hope to accomplish this year?
I set my yearly goals usually at the beginning of every year. Really wanted to just make a second album that I felt was better than my first one. I think I’m pretty close.
• What does your work aim to say?
Hopefully exactly what it DOES say. Like everyone has shit they go through and I write my music about personal experiences to let people know that they’re not alone you know?
• Who are your biggest influences and what do you like about them the most?
Probably Jimi Hendrix, He was just able to take something so simple, an electric guitar, and make it sound like nothing anyone has ever heard before. Even since him I haven’t heard anyone who is able to bend sound like that.
• How would you describe your own style?
My music has a strong sense of nostalgia to it, almost like it’s familiar even if it’s your first time hearing it. The producer mentality in me sets that initial vibe, for example, if I really love a sound I hear from a band or an artist. Like let’s say I fall in love with the way the tone of a guitar or a synth sounds on a specific record. That tone alone will inspire me to sit in front of my laptop or grab a guitar, and channel the overall vibe that the tone or sound made me initially feel the fist time I heard it. Not a riff or chord progression, just the raw sound of the instrument and its presence in the arrangement. I let that tone flow through me, as it does I add my signature to it, making it my own. The rest of the song will flow from there. It’s all about that vibe.
• In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
I’ve done so many different genres over the years, experimenting with my sound as an individual, that I’ve almost come back all the way around full circle. My newest music sounds more like it did when I was 18 or 19 now more than it ever has, in the sense of the raw energy I’m putting into it. It’s just polished and seasoned now.
• What are the main inspirations for the lyrics you write?
Life, the art of story telling.
• What would be your dream venue in which to perform?
Coachella is a stage that I’ve had my eyes on for years. I’ve built this pedestal and placed it on top of it, like, I won’t even go to the festival until I’m on that lineup. To this day I’ve never been. It will happen. I’m also going to add the Hollywood bowl to that for sure.
• What’s a song you have stuck in your head these days?
Today it’s been “Are You Mine” by the Arctic Monkeys because I saw them at the Hollywood bowl last night.