Interview with Jason Hann of EOTO
EOTO was formed in 2006 when Michael Travis and Jason Hann (of String Cheese Incident) began experimenting with their love of electronic music. It didn’t take long before their unique live shows were packing houses as they toured relentlessly around the country.
Using no pre-recorded sounds whatsoever, EOTO crafts their loops live on stage to create a one of a kind experience at each show. Add in killer visuals, and a rabid fan-base, and you have the recipe for live-tronica perfection.
For their upcoming tour they have teamed up with crunkstep creator Crizzly to bring yet another dimension to the show. Before we catch them in action on February 8th, 2013 at the Theater of the Living Arts (you can enter our contest to win free tickets here) we caught up with Jason Hann to answer some questions for us.
Independent Philly: Who came up with the name EOTO and what (if any) special meaning does it have?
Jason Hann: Travis came up with the name EOTO, which stands for “End Of Time Observatory”, and we had gone through about twenty names and already had our first gig booked and didn’t know what to call ourselves. So we went through all of these names and one of our other names actually appeared on the first flyer, and by the time the show came around we have changed it to End Of Time Observatory. The meaning just felt like a reflection of being in a world where there are so many other dimensions going on that you don’t even feel time as a separate dimension. We live in 3-D, we don’t really feel the 2-D world as much; and having that kind of relationship to time, where it’s so deep into the other dimensions and possibilities that are happening, that accessing the time dimension seems trivial.
IP: It’s been been several years since your last studio album, do you guys have any plans for a new one in 2013?
JH: Right now, no. We’re having fun releasing just our live shows. We both produce on our own but it seems with the way our schedules have been, because we’re on the road so much, that getting an extra week in our off time to make that happen seems like a little more of a burden. It wouldn’t feel fresh, kind of like we were just doing it to do it, and we’re gonna try to work on (while we’re out on the road), having a recording situation where, at sound check or something like that, we can work on some new material or some set up where we can record ourselves. I’m not really sure what we want to do with it, if we just want to make it our own thing or if we want to collaborate with other producers and have them remix our stuff. Live, we feel like we’re just exploring all the time so there’s a lot of satisfaction when we put out a live-recording where you can really see the enrichment of our development.
IP: Did you make the conscious decision from the get-go to never use prerecorded sounds in your live sets, and if so, what went into that decision?
JH: It has been with us since our inception and the project really came out of us not trying to put a project together and just setting up random instruments and jamming on them from like 10pm til 4 or 5am. We got in the habit of doing that on a night to night basis, and just having fun playing different instruments, and as we recorded ourselves, the stuff that we thought sounded most interesting was when we would emulate some form of electronic dance music. Those always seemed to be more inspiring than if we were just trying to do some rock-fusion thing or funk thing. When we would hear ourselves back, it just kind of gave us the incentive to say “Hey, let’s do this in front of an audience”. It was just two of us but knowing that we could play for hours and hours on end, gave us the confidence to know that we could do that night after night and just make stuff up. It was really hard at first, we didn’t fully realize what we were taking on, but we really learned how to work through any kind of writer’s block, or player’s block.
IP: You mentioned a moment ago collaborating with other producers, and we know you’ve worked with several producers and artists in the past across a wide range of genres. Are there any specific people you haven’t worked with before that you’d love to in the future?
JH: Wow, that’s a good question. It’s funny because when we were coming up, it was right around the time when Bassnectar had broken open pretty big and Glitch Mob had broken open and I remember there was more talk around that time about doing some collaborations with those guys. You know if we just sent them a stanza of what we had. We haven’t talked with Tipper about doing something together but we talked with Tipper about doing some remixing in relationship a to String Cheese (Incident) project and yeah, it’s one of those things where there’s really a lot of young producers out there that it would be really cool to just get our material to and see what they have. I feel like everyone at this point could be pretty worthy of that. So part of it is us just getting together and recording all of our tracks in a multi-track forum. Right now when we do our live shows we just record to stereo output so we don’t have control of all of the individual instrument tracks, so we’d have to update our live set-up in a really different way to pull that off. It’s kind of one of the reasons that we haven’t tried to go for the studio thing.
IP: What can fans expect from a live EOTO show if they haven’t seen you perform before and are there any new elements that you’re unveiling for the new tour with Crizzly that maybe no one has seen before?
JH: Yeah. Visually we are adding stuff to our projection mapping. We have quite a few new images that we had our animators work on. We have a unique sort of laser production that we’re adding to that show too so there’s all this kind of visual stimulus, from our lotus sculpture projection mapping set up, and we’re looking to add some other visual textures with the lasers, like showing them on these sort of transparent films so it looks like holograms floating in the air and not just shooting lasers from the front of the stage to the back of the stage. So there’s definitely things we’ve done to try to make the show more unique from a visual perspective. Musically, our last gig was at the beginning of December, we were integrating all of these sort of new concepts of productional music that had just recently come out. Trap music is the thing that might be building around, ad nauseum to a certain degree, but there are no live bands that are pulling that off so we just really found a way to hit that style hard, and then some minimal techno stuff, and discovering this gamut of what we did before but adding new styles to it so it’s just a bigger journey musically.
IP: Sounds great. You guys are known for doing these grueling stretches with your live shows. How do you prepare mentally and physically for a long tour?
JH: Well usually it’s back to back to back, so it’s not anything we’re preparing for necessarily, it’s just more like a continuation. It’s almost never ending. Going into this tour was actually pretty different for us. I’ve had the last three weeks off and I’m a little bit curious. This week I’m really starting to play and sing on a day to day basis so that all of my stamina is there for when we dive in because we haven’t done that before. In the six years we’ve been together we did a festival spring tour, right into summer tour, right into fall tour, so in all those years we really haven’t taken much of a break. We’re just kind of doing our own thing now in terms of trying to relax and just enjoy home as much as possible, so I’ll let you know when tour starts where our heads are at but I think we’re both feeling really refreshed and ready to dive into the music.
IP: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at one of your live shows?
JH: It probably gets X-rated at some point but I’m not sure I want to go into that… here’s a nice safe thing, there’s definitely some shows we’ve gone to with some haunting experiences with like ghosts and stuff. That’s kind of lame huh? (laughs)
IP: You mentioned ghosts so, Bigfoot, Martians, Zombies, and Ghosts… which of those do you believe in?
JH: Definitely ghosts. Martians in the sense that a lot of us are kind of Martians. Bigfoot? Maybe not in full-on Bigfoot form like you would picture as a Yeti or Sasquatch, but there are definitely other species that haven’t been discovered. What was the other one?
JH: Oh yeah, Zombies, I freaking love Zombies! I only believe in them in the sense that I’ve been to Haiti before. There’s a lot going on down there in the form of, people that are influenced by a certain chemical made from plants that can definitely alter your body’s functions so that you could come back in a state where you don’t have your mind, but maybe not in the sense of “The Walking Dead” Zombies where they’re up and eating people. They do have them, but that’s more Bath Salts. I don’t consider that Zombieism; that’s just bad drugs.
IP: Yeah, drug induced Zombies don’t count…
JH: You have to only be able to die by being shot in the head to qualify as a Zombie. But I do love The Walking Dead. I’ve followed it since the fourth issue of the comic, or graphic novel. When it was first starting, someone turned me on to it and I was like “Oh my god, this should be on TV!” and now it’s on TV, so there.
IP: In addition to graphic novels, have you read any good books recently?
JH: I’m not much of a book reading guy these days. I’m a full news/political junkie guy. On a certain topic or news story that’s going around I’ll fully dive into the politics of what’s being put out. One of the last books that I read is “Best Democracy Money Can Buy” by Greg Palast. Man, that was just a fascinating book. He’s an investigative journalist, and you know, they don’t make investigative journalists anymore. Journalists on TV tend to be so careful because if they report too bad of a story they won’t get an interview with other people again because there are so many other people that was to interview important figures that they don’t want to rock the boat. They’ll go PG on it unless it’s super obvious that some crazy crime was committed. But other than that, investigative journalism is really a lost art form. So Greg Palast is probably the best in the world right now for what he investigates, which is mostly big oil and voting fraud and stuff like that. But it’s real nuts & bolts and when you read his stuff it’s like you’re looking into a crystal ball because he’ll write some stuff that was two or three years ago, especially with the voting laws being put into place, and suddenly election season comes around and all of these things have been put into place. It’s scary somewhat but it makes sense with the nature of politics and power grabbing. So that’s what fascinates me even though I’m ultimately jaded.
IP: Can you tell us something about EOTO that would surprise or even shock our readers?
JH: Nope (laughs), nope, we’re open books. There are so many navigational tools I’m going through right now but let’s go with a cool fact on Travis’s side…Travis’s dad, his name is Neil Travis, has an Academy Award for Best Editing for that movie “Dances With Wolves” with Kevin Costner. With me, I don’t know whether you have my particular bio but I played on the 2001 “Chronic” Dr. Dre record.
IP: Both things we did not know.
JH: Well look at this! And we didn’t even have to get all dirty and freaky and creepy.
IP: We’ll save that for the next interview.
We can’t wait to check out EOTO’s new visual aesthetics, as well as the incorporation of new genre’s of sound into their live show, when they play the TLA on February 8th! For those of you not in Philadelphia, you can check out the tour schedule here before it kicks off on January 31st!