Come mid-August Solasta Festival is slated to return to its pristine stomping grounds of Spirit Crossing in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Solasta has positioned itself amongst the ecosystem of transformative art festivals as a premier domain for conscientiousness and communal values. Its musical lineup is filled to the brim with major contributors to electronic music's past and present including Solar Fields, Grouch, Jade Cicada, Detox Unit, Bluetech and so many more. Above all else, it's being presented by a plethora of industry players who explore their own artistic expression within music, as well as curate and operate various audio-focused companies of their own. Ranging from labels and production companies to publications and professional audio crews, the talent undergirding Solasta in 2018 is no less than exemplary. Through the Sound of Solasta series we'll explore the inner machinations of these multifaceted individuals and their outlets. For the first installation we're casting a spotlight on the weighty northeastern producer Saltus.
Beyond his amorphous musical project, Will Saltus is the co-founder of Rezinate, a Boston-based label and production company. Rezinate has been providing New England with top flight electronic artists for the last four years steady with no slowdown in sight. They've been brought onboard the Solasta team to assist in the operation at hand. On top of being graciously provided his smashing set from Solasta 2017, The Rust had the opportunity to prod a bit at the brainwaves of Saltus, and he most certainly responded in kind.
The Rust: Tell us about Rezinate. What’s Rezinate’s position within the Solasta infrastructure?
Will: Rezinate is a bass music focused brand & community, cultivating deep, full, reverberating sound for a discerning audience. Based in Boston, MA, we host a range of international acts in town on the Hennessey Sound System, and curate music and original content from guests & residents.
We had been doing MASS EDMC (est. 2007) for a while and growing that brand. Always digging for new, unfamiliar and forward-thinking sounds however, we felt the need for a project that more closely represented our musical interests and the direction bass music was going in. Adam and I then came up with the idea for the Rezinate brand & concept at Envision Festival in 2014. That is Rezinate: music which resonates with us - innate, second nature, deep, and psychedelic.
As to our connection to the festival - Hasan of Solasta is actually my good friend from high school and college. Ironically enough, in High School we were both ‘the guys who were really into music'. I remember when he told me about Bassnectar back then and I was like “who?” I think thats when 'Mesmerizing the Ultra' was out and that sent me for a crazy trip.
We’ve been close ever since & remained in touch as we progressed through our respective music journeys - and as our roads began to cross more frequently after college, whether it be through booking artists Hasan represents, Bassnectar related activities, or in the jungles of Costa Rica, we increasingly spoke of collaboration.
We are proud to lend our support to Solasta Festival through our marketing & the Rezinate community. We love what Hasan has put together with Solasta - it’s mission, musical curation and all - and it feels like a collective network of our friends, creatives, and peers. Our values are closely aligned and we’re thrilled to be a part of the festival’s growth.
The Rust: What were your impressions of Solasta last year? What are you looking forward to this year?
Will: Aw man, it was the last festival of the summer for me and it was so beautiful and the perfect way to cap off the season. About a half hour out on the drive I knew it was going to be special. Wait until you see these grounds: a pristine stretch of land surrounded by woods and a river that runs through it - which I believe is actually the cleanest in the United States! The Funktion-one system was incredible of course. That paired with a small fest of friends & family and a curation of amazing international talent made for one of my favorite festivals from last year, for real. Can’t wait to see how they step things up this year. I actually really look forward to hanging out with the owner of the grounds again. He’s a really cool guy. I spent some time exploring his crazy array of instruments and learning from his history rooted in Nashville guitar culture. Aside from that, there are too many artists on the bill to mention that I’m excited to see!
The Rust: Talk to us about your gradual evolution with tempo. Where did you start, and what pathways did you eventually follow?
Will: The Saltus project began with exploring 85 & 140 tempos, and still today those are the two main tempos I focus on & play in my sets. Recently, most of the music I’ve been writing is 85. I don’t know, I am so fond of the tempo and I find there to be so much room for me to grow in it.
I will say though, when I began playing gigs in the past two years or so, I became more drawn to write music that moves people & dance floors. Before, I was just writing to write and for any listener who may want to tune in on the other side. So now it depends on my mood, sometimes I want to write a banger, and sometimes I just want to express myself or an abstract idea.
The Rust: What’s the ideal environment to experience a Saltus set?
Will: Where people feel the most comfortable and lucid to experience music, so probably the outdoors. Somewhere you can kick off your shoes and really let loose and immerse your spirit into the music. Don’t get it twisted though, I also love rocking renegades, house parties, and basements where it's dark and people loose sense of time & everyday bullshit.
The Rust: The Saltus project seems to be rife with experimentation and you don’t seem to have boxed yourself in to any one style. Can you speak on some of your influences with your own musical endeavors, and your personal vision for Saltus?
Will: Well, to tell this story I’ll have to rewind it to the beginning, when my Dad put me onto the classical guitar in the third grade. He’s been a guitar player most his life, with a focus on blues, bluegrass, & folky kind of stuff. I might have been drawn to the guitar anyways but he had a major influence on me and that was my introduction to music. He would always play my sister and I Jazz to fall asleep.. and lot’s of Bob Dylan. So yea, I was nine at the time and once a week I’d go to the classical music school and take lessons (I did this until I was 18). I began writing some original stuff onto sheet music and learning basic music theory. In Middle School I bought an electric guitar and learned some tablature and the classics. Shortly after I started jamming regularly with my friends. Fortunately one of them, who is in a talented family of drummers & musicians, had a jam room that we could practice in whenever. We started a band that was inspired from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I was really really into them. Our band evolved into another group in High School and that’s when we started writing a bunch, playing gigs, and learning how to record and mic ourselves. We were jamming every day, and looking back I realize how profound an impact this had on me and the way I approach my music. Searching for that peak riff or chord progression and that synchronistic moment when the music takes you deeper and your eyes start to roll to the back of your head.. and then you hit the record button and try to capture it as best you can.
Ironically I got kicked out of the band for not being good enough and I dropped music completely for the rest of that year. The next Summer I went to Italy, my first international trip without my parents to visit my cousins in Rome. I was 16 and we got drunk on Sangria one afternoon. I had somewhat of an epiphany watching an Iron Maiden Live DVD at the apartment afterwards. I had heard them in Guitar Hero 2 and it totally blew my fucking mind (I’m a big gamer, which I’ll touch on later). I picked up my cousin's guitar which was missing a string, fixed it up, and that night learned their song "The Trooper”, which was by far the most complex electric guitar piece I had learned at the time. Iron Maiden can be considered “Neo-classical”; they play mostly in minor and are rooted in classical influence. I think their music appealed to my musical background and eagerness to rock out. This moment really kicked my passion for the guitar and music back into gear and soon lead to exploring more old school metal and then metalcore, most noteably As I Lay Dying. This was when I realized I loved dark & heavy, yet beautiful & emotional music. Contrasting energies. During this same time Electronic Music was growing on me. My friends and I wanted to throw a ‘rave' for a birthday party, and we downloaded a “Top 50 Techno / Trance Anthems” compilation from iTunes. I’m pretty sure we just typed 'Techno’ into iTunes. That record changed my life for good too. I remember the first time smoking weed to it in the car (we had just gotten our drivers permits) and it was a big kapow. I distinctly remember beatboxing & humming where the beat was going and my friend said, “How did you know it was gonna go there?” That definitely made me reflect, “Huh? Do I have a knack for this?"
When I got to UMass Amherst it escalated of course. I found Pretty Lights, Rusko, Deadmau5 and rode that Skrillex, Zedd, Porter Robinson Electro & Circus One Records phase like a lot of other people. I actually had Pro Tools & Ableton in High School, but didn’t dive into it all that much. But when Skrillex started releasing music, I was in my Sophomore year at the time, it really inspired me and I began spending time in Ableton and writing Electro & Dubstep. I spent many late nights writing in College and watching Youtube tutorials during lecture halls. Soon after I was introduced to MASS EDMC and met Adam & Bobby. MASS EDMC and its story/role in my life is its own entire conversation - Adam and I still dedicate a lot of our waking hours to the company. But yeah, I remember feeling how exciting it was to be able to share music and talk about it for hours with people who were even more passionate about it than me. Bobby heard that I was learning Ableton and wanted to trade production lessons for DJing. I learned a lot from his philosophies and general energy as a human being. He taught me all the basic 101 about DJing and pushed me to begin playing at house parties. I will never forget when he suddenly left the decks mid-party after a MASS EDMC event to go chase a girl. He said, “you’re ready” and put the headphones on me and took off and left me to keep the party going. He really believed in me and my music and that meant a lot to me. The next year (my Junior year) my beats reached a point where they were at least somewhat enjoyable and had a few minutes of an arrangement. I was essentially jamming on my guitar, and then transposing the melodies and progressions I liked to Ableton. I started playing some open mic nights on campus and sharing my music. I had an idea to keep my guitar on my back while I was DJing and then I’d mix in some of my tunes and shred a bit, and then back to the decks. This was definitely the first foundation & ‘vision' of the Saltus project; classical & metal influence, live instrumentation, and dark and emotive soundscapes.
Mr. Carmack, Emancipator, and similar producers were a huge influence for me in this era - showing me further how beautiful and expressive music can be. I always imaged Mr. Carmack to be writing music on the beach in Hawaii, pouring his heart & feelings into his music. His work was so beautiful... I listened to it on repeat. Writing has always been a form of self-therapy for me, channeling my emotions into the music, so I really resonated with what they were doing. When I moved to Boston after graduating college, I finally had a creative space that I could call home. I increased my focus on collecting gear and putting intention into my room. I was still writing music based mostly on my guitar, but I knew I had to learn real sound design & engineering in order to take it to the level I wanted to reach. I started to put my head more into audio effects, processing, mixing, collaborating & learning from others, etc. and my guitar took the sideline for a bit.
I think the next influential turning point for me was discovering Synkro and seeing him perform at Shambhala in 2015. I had never heard anything quite like it - dark, dubby, industrial, inexplicable sound design & quality, ridiculous percussion & break beats, and above all how deep & intelligent his music was. I gained a profound respect for him, Indigo, Samurai records, Cosmic Bridge, and half time drum & bass as a whole. These cats weren’t afraid to push the limit on abstract & emotive boundaries and it was crazy inspiring. They are still some of my favorite producers, and this realm of sound is one of my primary focuses in my productions & performances. After Shambhala I became more passionate about producing; I was writing more frequently and started to find a balance of working it into my daily schedule. I was determined to express a deeper-self through my music. This translated into my first body of work, “inhalexale," which I am still very fond of. It was the first time I was recording my own samples and blending them with pads & ambient soundscapes. I had purchased a Tascam DR-40 and was recording samples on my travels. I grew a sentimental connection to these recordings and my ear for catching sounds was improving. This definitely inspired my music further, it was exciting to be forming an original palette & direction. Generally today, every song I write incorporates field recordings. I always have my Tascam or phone with me and recently I’ve been honing which recording devices to use when, to capture a specific result. To be honest for a long time I considered producing to just be a private hobby. I feared sharing it with anyone or anywhere (outside of quiet releases on Soundcloud) and didn’t really care to unless you were a close friend or came to my room one night after a party and caught me jamming. Fortunately I have amazing friends, and they pushed me to begin releasing my music and share it with people. After snowboarding one day I was showing my friend my music, and he said, “My mom once told me, live life with no regrets. If you don’t go for it and at least try, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” That hit me hard.
The last piece I’ll share of my ‘vision’ for the Saltus project is that I’m a big dreamer. I’ve been reading fantasy books & playing video games since I was really young and developed a bit of a habit for lucid dreaming in college. I find that there’s an intense cross-over between our imaginations, dreaming, and creative endeavors like writing music or any sort of art form. When I write, I try to take the flow as deep as possible to reach a place where I’m no longer present, totally lost in the music and focused on exploring the visuals in my head and the feelings the soundscapes give me. It's kind of like daydreaming I guess. In the past year or so I’ve been trying to hone this skill more explicitly. For example, my song “Arrival” was inspired from watching the movie Arrival; I looped certain scenes from the movie while I wrote the track to preserve my imagination & inspiration from the film as long as I could. To summarize... deep & emotive bass music with a focus on field recordings, experimental resampling, organic sound design, live instrumentation, and classical music influence.
Understanding the people behind Solasta is in and of itself part of the ethos of Solasta. Behind the speakers, the decks, the sound pits, the lineup and the logos are individuals answering their own personal calls to action. They're finding ways to give back to a community that empowers everyone involved. Saltus was more than generous to provide such articulate insight into the noosphere of his art and business, but it's just the tip of the spear. Be sure to catch Saltus perform at Spirit Crossing this August 17-18 if you make the expedition to Solasta, as he's sure to deliver a most unique interpretation of bass-weight.