If the name Don Froth sounds foreign to you, take this as a sign to familiarize yourself with a man whose schizophrenic production techniques are only rivaled by his musical depth. His music sits comfortably nowhere and he’s not content with tossing out different variation of the same track. Growing up on a healthy dose of punk and jazz has shaped him into someone who loves music as a whole, bypassing genre lines. This is most apparent when both NOFX and Shuggie Otis are cited as musically important to him. Hailing from the city of angels, Los Angeles, but not bound by one geographic location, Froth has received stamps of approval from Truants favorite West Norwood Cassette Library and the heads behind Phonica White.
As a producer each of his releases has been sonically different, from the slow melodic house of his “Foam EP” to the stomping drums and stuttering grooves of “Balboa / Von”. What links them is the controlled chaos at the heart of each track. Held loosely together by the constraints of phrases he berates his audience with an unruly amount drums that often move in and out so quickly they could take the place stabs. Somehow his methods never result in feelings of claustrophobia instead he’s left with an arsenal of peak time material. Only four releases deep here is another example of quality over quantity. This September will start his end of the year rush with his track “Liftin Weights” featured on West Norwood Cassette Library’s “We Are Family Vol. 1” 12-inch and a release on UNO NYC due out before the year’s end. We had the opportunity to chat with the man himself as he lounged at a park in Amsterdam. He touches on his musical influences, fan appreciation and the ear pulling he experienced as a boy in a British boarding school.
Stream: Don Froth – 10,000cc (Phonica White)
Hi Julian, what have you been up to lately? “Music-wise, I left Los Angeles a couple weeks ago and I went to New York for ten days, which was a little bit longer than I thought’d be there. It was great; I played two events, one at 285 Kent where it was hot, sweaty with water cannons blasting off. I’ve never seen so much water on a mixer. There were good vibes. Then I played Tammany Hall for Gobby’s release party with Gobby, Physical Therapy and some other residents from the Mass Appeal crew.” And now you’re in Europe, right? “Yeah. At the first stop, Bob (West Norwood Cassette Library) invited me to Soul Jazz and we played there at a record store in SoHo. It was with Paul Hammond of Ultramarine, he’s a legend. Those guys are great: Bob and I have a deep email relationship along with similar interests. That makes it a lot easier when we link up since we can talk about a lot things besides music. The event was really cool though; it was during the day and people were filing through. Everyone was supportive and enthusiastic about the music, which is everything at the end of the day.”
How’d you get involved with Bob and the guys at Phonica? “After I put out my first record, Simon at Phonica contacted me and we had a quick chat. He said he liked the record and asked if I was interested in releasing anything on there to give him a ring. For me the creation process is so abstract that I struggle with any type of schedule in terms of productions so it’s really hard for me to schedule a release. I can’t remember how much longer after it was, but I sent him a couple of tracks and we ended up putting out “10,000cc”. Bob and I linked up through a Texas DJ named Doctor J who we both love and are really entertained by his show. I think he contacted Doctor J asking about a track of mine and we ended up chatting. Bob is a visionary with his label, he keeps it real in every way, I respect that and I’m very pleased to be a part of that team.”
You’ve hinted at your creative process, what is that like? “Very experimental. I can’t reproduce the same type of track twice. I’ve tried and it always backfires on me, so for me it’s completely starting on a fresh palette. One big value I have in the process is being really open to making mistakes. A lot of the time I throw something together, get in the zone, listen to the loop, eyes closed, in front of the monitors, hearing what sounds work with each other. After a page of notes, I go in and start operations EQ’ing, mixing and adding sounds to compliment the rough draft. This is the longest part of the process aside the final mix down which usually haunts me. A lot of times I’ll have an idea of where I’m going but by the end it turned out like nothing I set out to do in the first place. It’s almost like I’m doing it blindfolded in a way, but that’s what I enjoy about it. It’s not formulaic aside from some of the processes, but I’m always experimenting with other tools and sounds.” That explains why all of your releases sound completely different from the previous ones. “I really enjoy all spectrums of dance music. It’s like a doubled-edged sword for me because when I hear something versus playing something out it’s all environmental, relative and instantaneous so for me I enjoy the gamut of dance music in general. All ends of the spectrum inspire me, for me to produce something that’s just house or whatever wouldn’t work. I like it all.”
Your musical taste is clearly very broad, what kind of music were you raised on? “My dad was a jazz and soul guy and my mom is German-Czech with traditional tastes. The music was always around the house, so whether I took to it or not it was always being pumped through the air. There was not a lot of television around, my parents were very into the arts so there was a heavy focus on process and detail with anything and everything, even down to sweeping the leaves. It drove me crazy then, but now I embrace it. My dad played acoustic bass in Chicago where he was surrounded by Count Basie and Gene Krupa. He opened for those guys a couple of times. So he was in the jazz scene there during the heyday and he brought that enthusiasm to music when I was younger. Both of my older brothers were heavily in to music, Mark my oldest brother is a fierce, athletic, a hammer of a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. I was always lurking around his music, he showed me the light.
I grew up in England where I went a boarding school. They had a solid music program there. I was learning the trumpet, but I was always eyeing the drum set in the corner. I would sneak off and go play the drums for as long as I could get away with before they’d grab me by ear. I took the drums and ended up playing in punk bands as a teenager in San Diego. I was into anything from Strike Anywhere to NOFX and Pulley. A lot of the Fat Wreck Chords stuff too but that is just one side of it, 88.1 Bossa sessions were just as big at that time. In 1995 my dad brought me a double CD pack back from London called “KISS Garage”. He asked the store fella, who loves drum & bass, to give him something for his son. That was the best misinterpretation of human interest working out. It turned out to be this music I had only heard bits of on the radio in UK like repetitive beat driven music. I did not understand why every song started the same but I loved it, I felt the energy right away. I remember playing it for my band crew in the car, and them all looking at me in confusion. That started the electronic obsession.”
Do you play the drums or trumpet live on your tracks or is that in the past? “The trumpet I never made it past a note or two, but whenever I get a chance to be around a drum set, even if it’s recording in to some little tape machine, I take advantage of that. I love working with whatever I can get my hands on instead of trying to find the most refined source of input for mixing down. Not everything’s perfect, I love putting stuff into the red when I’m making music. You have to pay certain attention to some detail, but you can let other things fly out too because it’s no fun if there’s no dynamic there.”
You mentioned in another interview that you make music aimed at the dance floor. What elements are most important to you? “That’s an interesting one. In the beginning I wasn’t really conscious of what I was making, it was less about the dance floor and more about the sound. I didn’t even know what I going for, but the more I started playing and going out I started to notice what people were receptive to. I like idea of getting lost in a track, but also a lot of the stuff I do there are a lot changes. That’s because for me, production wise, it’s fun to make. I always try to make records that work, where you can drop out half a bar or have a bar of silence. It’s sort of like having a breaks element, but with house or whatever else I’m making.” Is it a mix between what the dancer wants and what will keep it interesting for you? “At the end of the day I have a vision as to what I would like hear personally. I like that the taste of each person is so finite yet most serious listeners are up for something that is not so predictable or open to a different sound. That’s why I’m so appreciative of support from labels and people who are into it because it’s just me putting my ideas out there and if it works it works. I can’t predict where a crowd will like it, but sometimes it works on the dance floor when you least expect it. I can’t say I’ve figured anything out.”
At Kent we saw you bring a whole bunch of records with you. Do you test your records out beforehand, as in cut them to dubplates? “Yeah, on this trip I cut everything on dubplates because it’s my way of having quality control. Some of the places don’t have turntables, so it’s a dilemma half the time to play vinyl. I’m lucky to be in touch with a quality guy who’s still pressing vinyl, Oscar at Turnstile Dubs. For me it’s an investment, I try to keep a low overhead in my life so if I’m spending money on music, production gear, or records it’s all worth it. I’m not into buying wild cars or any hyper curated nik naks. Plus if you go out at night, you sneeze and you’ve swiftly spent your cash on drinks, so yeah, pressing up a few vinyl is quality time for me.”
Both WNCL and UNO NYC have hinted at releasing some of your material, can you elaborate on that? “Yeah, there’s the “We Are Family Vol. 1” EP Bob is putting out on West Norwood Cassette Library. He’s releasing four tracks by four people who have released on the label previously. There will be a track from Milyoo, Knowing Looks, West Norwood Cassette Library and myself. I’m also doing a record for UNO. I did one remix for the label earlier this year for Kuhrye-oo’s record as well. There’s going to be 12-inch and a surprise format bonus record. We’ve haven’t decided yet. It’ll be six or seven tracks though; I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve been working on it for close to two years I think. It’s been great working with them because they’re organized, something I know nothing about when it comes to the professional side of music.”
Stream: We Are Family Vol. 1 EP (WNCL011)
Very cool, we’re definitely excited to hear that. What are the plans for your label Froth’n? “We have a party set for New Years at the Rave Haus Room at Fabric, I think Tiësto has confirmed… haha. I don’t have plans for the label, we want to keep it abstract and unexpected, delivering something fresh when ever it works out. With that said, there is a plan for a release very soon.”
Alright, time for a few speed round questions. What are a few things that have you excited for the next year? “New West Norwood Cassette Library, Jason, Presk, and Morse.” And what records have you been listening to that may surprise people? “I’ve been listening to a lot of lot of latin rhythms, more lately. I’ve always been intrigued by the Brazilian sound and spirit. I see so many similarities with Latin music to (electronic) dance music. If you listen to the bands, they all have such attention to the precision of their rhythms and are responsible for playing their one instrument for the entirety of the track with swing and style. The panning of the mix as well, the way the sounds sit in the speakers. Crisp! The Ocho records have really kept me excited. An endlessly good record me is Shuggie Otis’ “Inspiration Information” which I always step away from and come back to and it’s always better than the first time I played it. What he was doing with synths and multi-tracking as a single producer was really next level for when he was doing it. The real deal, Eden Ahbez. Currently, the newest WNCL release “Coming On Strong”, I just cannot get enough of that tune.”
And our standard last question, what’s your drink of choice? “Ice cold Modelo with a lime!”