Groundislava: Synth Symphonies and Digital Dreamscapes

Groundislava | Photo: Courtesy of Friends of Friends.

In partnership with Friends of Friends, a record label and creative marketing hub based in Los Angeles linking like minded artists, labels, brands and media outlets in unique and forward thinking ways.

The airy, minimalist sounds of Venice Beach-raised Groundislava, aka Jasper Patterson are laptop jams at their best. Digital textures flow alongside, lushly orchestrated sine-wave sweeps; further proving that electronic artists aren't just musicians, they're composers, laying down beats and synthetic symphonies one note at a time. He grew up a video game fiend, and their 8-bit, bloop-bleeping soundtracks, interweave into his songs. Game composers scored adventures, encapsulating emotions in just the few tones possible in the caveman days of gaming. Amid these constraints, they found freedom; the way that haikus grow within the rigid structure of syllables. Groundislava does the same; he creates simplicity, in a world of infinite possibility.

Groundislava provided the music for Artbound's video feature on the Art of Kelly Thomas exhibit in Fullerton, and his new album "Feel Me" comes out August 28 on Friends of Friends records.

We recently caught up with Groundislava to talk about his oceanside stomping grounds and the intricacies of composing via computer.

How did growing up in Venice influence the way you learned to play music?

It's a very art and music kind of neighborhood. It didn't teach me about my craft so much as set the tone that it was acceptable and normal to focus on creativity over other things. A lot of my friends had parents that were studio musicians or music teachers, artists, etc. I never thought of this as anything but average - probably the reason why I never thought twice about putting my musical "hobby" in high school before all my other school work.

What art forms outside of music influence the way you make music?

When I was younger, I always had illustration and comic book-style art on my mind. If were to peer inside any of my notebooks, middle through high school you'd find every margin filled with characters and explosions, guns and writing and shit. Just like visual throw up on every possible surface. At a certain point I found myself getting my ideas across better through my side hobby, music, and just changed my focus. Now I find myself really influenced by film and video games -- not so much the sound work, although that is a big part, but more the atmospheric qualities these mediums can invoke. I seek to create these same sorts of environments in my music -- specific elements that invoke tension, tranquility, etc.

What is your songwriting process like?

I get ideas and stuff during the day, when I'm walking around, driving around. I sit at a keyboard at least once a day. I've got them set up all around my computer. Each one has different qualities that change the workflow and therefore the songwriting process -- some of them can only play one note at a time, others are tiny and sound like toys, some sound wide and lush, and of course there's the computer which can basically do its own version of any of these sounds. From there I start working on melody. This is the first and most important part of the process for most of my songs. For most of work, my process centered around the computer, with any sort of hardware supplementing that. Right now I'm working to shift my process to favor hardware. I've found the tangible and hands-on quality of working with hardware to be very inspiring and enjoyable.

Groundislava | Photo: Courtesy of Friends of Friends.
Groundislava | Photo: Courtesy of Friends of Friends.

How does electronic composing differ than traditional music composing in regards to process?

It all depends on how the user approaches and uses the software, and I think this is the biggest part that makes it unique. Of course, there are different ways to approach real instruments, musical notation, etc, but the number of ways in which you can approach software like Ableton live, Reason, or Logic is infinite. You can cobble together real music with no knowledge of theory, structure, etc. If you're willing to put the time in, you can really create anything.

When do you feel most creative?

I often make stuff right when I wake up. There isn't much going on in my head yet. This isn't necessarily the most productive time, but definitely one of the most creative.

How do you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

This is one of most difficult things for a lot of electronic music makers right now. I have really stopped trying to describe it when people ask. I make stuff that can fall into so many genres, too, so I really feel like I limit myself by trying to put a few broad keywords on top of my music.

What is the perfect environment to listen to you music?

I like the way it sounds in the car, on the freeway (sans traffic).

Groundislava | Photo: Courtesy of Friends of Friends.
Groundislava | Photo: Courtesy of Friends of Friends.

Dig this story? Sign up for our newsletter to get unique arts & culture stories and videos from across Southern California in your inbox. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook and Twitter.

Story continues below


We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading

Full Episodes