We had the distinct pleasure recently of dialoguing with Moses Abrego, the man behind the San José solo electronic act 1990. Twitter is truly an amazing communication tool, allowing the most unassuming of bedroom blogs to kick it with the big dogs (or at the very least, people who actually make art). We’re all huge fans of 1990’s sparkling brand of retro downtempo production. After being chewed up and spit out by his most recent full-length The Chassis Collection, we were naturally squealing like a pack of pre-pubescent Japanese schoolgirls when he agreed to answer a few questions that were keeping us up at night. We hope you have as much fun getting to know this intelligent and intrepid young beatmaker as we did, and we urge you to delve into his bite-size portfolio at his Bandcamp page. Almost all of his work is totally free to the masses, but if you find yourself as entranced by his vibes as we all are, please consider grabbing his newest release, the four-track Summer Time Slow Jams Vol. 1, and donating generously. Thanks again, Mose! Without further ado, 1990!
1. What is the story behind the moniker “1990”?I actually get a lot of references to the year 1990, it actually has nothing to do with the year. About two years ago I started producing/making beats and I was sending ideas back and forth to a young woman friend of mine in San Francisco, I decided to create a myspace music account and upload my ideas and have her dissect them and give me her feedback. During the process of creating the account, myspace asked me for my artist name, I didn’t have one nor did I give it any thought. So I was looking around my apartment for an idea. As I was staring down I saw a bill from verizon wireless, they were charging me for going over my monthly allowance of minutes, and the amount was for $19.90. I got sidetracked and repeated “1990? how the fuck did I go over 1990?” so I was just messing around and typed in 1990 and I remembered a teacher once mentioning that people naturally remember numbers when reading a body of words, that the numbers stick with us because the symbols differ. I liked it, it was short, simple, and easy to remember.
2. I know everyone hates being genre-tagged, but how would you describe your own music?I actually noticed that I’ve been classified as chillwave on different blogs and websites. I never purposely intended to create chillwave. I always just wanted to make bright electronic music. I always envisaged creating music that would be played in a futuristic dance hall. Bright, electronic, floating. I’ve heard my music be classified everywhere from glo fi to wonky and pretty much everything in between, if someone absolutely made me choose I would probably settle with wonky, but it’s literally never been a priority of mine to classify it. It just never occurred to me.
3. What are your greatest influences (artists, experiences, weather, etc.)?Artist-wise I have a few major influences and they’re very wide ranging. First and foremost would be Fleetwood Mac, I fell in love with Stevie Nicks’ voice at a very young age. I always loved that gypsy feel to her image and music. The first time I had ever heard beat music was on accident, I heard “Knock Knock” by Mike Slott in the beginning of 09’ and it completely changed my life. Structurally, I always envision a song to be synonymous with the structure of a house. You have a solid foundation, in which you build on, then you add little cute shit like flat screens, and jacuzzi’s and the dynamics change with every room just like the dynamics change in every verse and every chorus, bridge etc. I learned this primarily from the metal band Thrice. They display such a solid understanding of the mechanics of songwriting, and I’ve always admired that. I made it my goal for about a year to study every genre of music, and just meticulously dissect every aspect of what makes it appealing, and every aspect of that genre’s identity. I would spend two weeks studying Japanese traditional, and then the next week I’m listening to Hank Williams Jr. and Patsy Cline. I’ve always hated when people completely shut themselves off to other genre’s.
4. What is your opinion on the ever-changing structure of independent music?I was actually just talking about this with a friend the other day. I firmly believe this generation is so truly blessed to have all of the tools and music outlets that we currently have at our disposal. I can find an artist and download their entire collection within minutes, and I can find at least 20 other artists I would like based on my interest on the original band. All of the music blogs and websites working indefatigably and tirelessly to deliver to us the best of underground music is a beautiful and unique thing exclusive to this generation. I think it’s absolutely beautiful. The fact that I’m a 22 year old bedroom producer being mentioned in the same breath as some truly amazing musicians is solely attributed to the hard work of the online warriors preaching and supporting, which is so awesome and would be impossible without the underground online music community, I am beyond thankful.
5. Does making music pay the bills? Is it more of a dedicated hobby?This is double sided for me. I am an independent artist but at the same time I’m a freelance music producer for hire. I work for rap artists/singers producing popular mainstream music which provides my income and supports my habit of dabbling in glitchy electronic collections which I offer up on my bandcamp. So one supports the other.
6. What do you do for a living, and do you like it?I’m currently producing music full time. I’m about to begin audio engineering school. I’ve decided if I want to pursue a music career in composing/producing for film, video games, artists etc. I should prob be as well versed in all aspects of the game as possible. I strongly believe preparation and dedicated hard work can trump and bypass all luck. I always have back up plans to back up plans. Everything is about lists and being organized for me. Even when approaching music, I have itineraries and schedules for every clap and synth that gets recorded.
7. What are some other things you enjoy about life besides art?I actually just recently started playing video games. I had gone all 22 years without playing video games and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I’m pretty hooked now. I actually have this uncontrollable tendency of losing a lot. I will play x box live and just get destroyed by all these kids from all over, and they’re like half my age. I might not be much now but I’m confident by summers end I will definitely step my game up. Eyes peeled for that release.
8. As a known music fan, what are some of best musical experiences you have had with other people’s music?I have two moments that stand out the most. The first I remember being very little in a child seat in the back seat of my mothers car and she was playing “Lookout Weekend” by Debbie Deb and that beat just possessed me. The laser sound FX, the big hard hitting kicks, the futuristic synths, the computer robotic voice singing with her. That was where my love for that whole scene began. I absolutely adore high energy/club music from the late 80’s and early 90’s like Debbie Deb, Expose, Stevie B, Shannon, etc. I have to admit that genre is my biggest influence today. I actually sample “Lookout Weekend” by Debbie Deb in every single song I’ve ever released. Whether it’s miniscule or a Main Character it is in every song from my first beat tape (Mixtape Edit Vol. 1) to my most recent (Summer Time Slow Jams Vol. 1) My second most memorable experience would have to be when I was 9, my father took me to a Santana Concert and we were at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA and I remember laying on the grass staring at the sky listening to “Samba Pa ti” which is my favorite song of all time and just letting the music completely take over me.
9. Also, what are some of the most memorable moments for you in your own musical journey?I’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazingly talented artists from all over the world. I’m always truly honored whenever an artist specifically selects me to produce for them. One moment stands out to me and will always forever. I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a few years recently and I decided to compete in an iStandard Music Showcase competition for producers. The judging panel was filled with popular artists and label exec’s and after I played my 5 beats, the first judge to speak was Willy Northpole who was recently signed to Ludacris’ label Disturbing the peace. His response to my music was this exactly, “Do y’all want me to be real or do y’all want me to be fake?” of course a heavy response from the crowd requested he be real, in which he continued, “1990 please don’t ever play your beats again in public. I saw the crowd bobbing their heads, and I don’t know how, I couldn’t catch the beat. I feel like you’re surrounded by yes people who are telling you your music is good when it’s really not” I was crushed and I seriously contemplated quitting music, and as I was smoking outside I realized I needed to hear that, because it was fuel for me. I worked harder and harder, and it wasn’t out of spite but it sparked something inside of me in a way. I’m thankful I went through that. I learned a lot that night.
10. Ever have anything particularly weird happen while touring or playing shows?I’ve only played a handful of shows but I would have to say that the weirdest thing that ever happened was when I was playing a show in Tempe, Arizona and in the middle of my set someone accidentally activated the sound girl’s microphone and you could hear her conversation she was having on the phone over my music. I think the audience just figured I was trying to be eccentric and that I recorded a phone call and played it. It was actually a very nice ambiance. I might add that in future pieces, or just try to get in touch with her and ask if I can sample her voice or something.
While debating in my head what recent musical find to showcase today, I was ushered into this Tumblr site by an unknown force (probably related tags). I have always been a huge fan of collages, even in my pre-hipster days. Inner city kids stay inside during howling inclement weather and entertain themselves by building two-dimensional babies in carriages with yarn, glue, and buttons, right? And what child doesn’t give their mother at least one macaroni Mothers’ Day card? As a high schooler, back when burned CD’s were the newest big thing, I myself used to sheath my compilations in elaborate mixed media works of art, bent and warped to fit the compact disc insert size and shape. I even have a good friend that has an excellent portfolio of collages that he has created both with Photoshop and in IRL. All told, though, I do believe that Bryan Olson’s “Glass Planet” Tumblr has us all easily beaten.
Retro photography and art collide in several pieces featured on the blog, each montage carefully juxtaposed in order to best bring out both the stark contrast and the symbiosis of suburban sprawl and of raw, untamed nature. Old world science and mathematics rear their non-user friendly heads in very public settings. Reading Rainbow makes its presence known in the exotic, remote rainforests of Laos and Cambodia. Citizens shop for life-sized power geometry in Dark Age open air markets, and Arthur C. Clarke’s monolith evolves into a space age inkjet, relaying to us unschooled meatbags the graphics of a brave new world. All this and more can be found at “Glass Planet”, a Tumblr devoted to the artistic exploits of Bryan Olson, every hipster’s newest favorite collage artist. Do tha right thing, and check out this intrepid artistic explorer’s full site here as well. I particularly love his “Ultrastructures” series that follows:
After one month and one more good load of great tracks, both old and new, Tsq Vol II-2 has arrived for your listening pleasure. Featuring spectacular artwork by ambitious designer Alex Varanese, the second installment in TSQ’s second volume of monthly playlists is eighty minutes’ worth of my top latest finds in the hipsteriffic independent music scene. The overall atmosphere of this month’s collection is in the vein of the good old fashioned early chillwave movement, represented fantastically by artists like Seabright, Skai Nine, and Onthe88. Vol II-2, which aggregates quite a few of the artists and jams that have been featured here lately on the blog, also compiles other glo-fi, chillwave, underground hip-hop, experimental pop, downtempo, and IDM greats, along with the odd shoegaze, indie rock, synthpop, and darkwave tune. No explosions here this time around; just a beautiful sunset set off magically with loads of pitch-shifting, flanger, and space echo. As per usual, great care has been taken to ensure the most enlightening listening experience possible. In conclusion, I truly hope that Tsq Vol II-2 either delivers exactly to you what you already know and love, or broadens your musical horizons this month. Do tha right thing, and download it here today. If you enjoy what you hear, please repost or recommend via your favorite social network or online forum. If you want more, leave a comment, and I’d be glad to post a short collection of the other gems that just barely missed the cut due to time constraints this month. As always, if you hear two or three jams you absolutely adore, please seek out the artists responsible and purchase their albums and EP’s. These artists deserve support and recognition for their talent and hard work; and if I can do that, so can you. Happy listening!
Tsq Vol II-2
1. DIVE how long have you known?
2. UNICORN KID pure space
3. RACES big broom (7” version)
4. DIGITS because it’s wrong (nite jewel remix)
5. SEABRIGHT power play
6. SKAI NINE azul
7. SHAKY SNAKES post supernova blues
8. CLARK com touch
9. PHANTOM POWER space junk
10. ONTHE88 what wouldn’t i do for you?
11. GALAPAGOS i am my love
12. COM TRUISE datebar (dadaisme edit)
13. 3PEAD las voolab
14. WARM GHOST once one
15. PRURIENT bermuda drain
16. RA CAILUM i know that you’ve known
17. STARFAWN 12,000 b.c.
18. RIMAR holding on lay deep: break
19. SUN GLITTERS everything could be fine
20. ELITE GYMNASTICS here, in heaven 4 & 5 (cfcf remix)
(artwork courtesy of Alex Varanese)
Peer-reviewed site Listverse (“List Universe”) has a particularly nostalgic list on its front page that was published just over a week ago by writer Brett Weiss. Listverse’s list-based format and scholarly rigor has resulted in two book releases, a dedicated fan following, and probably lots of money for learned Kiwi creator Jamie Frater. For those of you who gleefully fondled Colecovision, Atari, or Intellivision games and systems as children, and for those of you who vividly remember them as adults; enjoy this short, well-illustrated list full of alternatives to the typical sports fare.