Socially conscious restaurant, Taste Gastropub, celebrated their one year anniversary on June 12, 2014. A percentage of the proceeds went to non-profit organization, Rock The Vote, whose mission is "to engage and build political power for young people in our country."
My mission for the night was to find out what a gastropub was and how it tasted. I hypothesized that a gastropub was an organ vital for the digestive process. My hypothesis was wrong. A gastropub is a pub that also serves high-quality food. The exterior tasted like bricks, and the interior had a finished wooden taste. In all seriousness, the food was good and from the amount of happy people I could only assume that the drinks were just as fantastic.
Once I remembered that I don't know anything about food or architecture taste, I did my job and interviewed musical duo Ludwig & Stiegler. DJ Stiegler plays house music and EDM as Spencer Ludwig plays live trumpet to accompany it. The duo has been playing at every imaginable location, bringing an interesting sound to venues across the country.
We talked about their musical background, their strangest musical experiences, and what advice they have for local musicians on reaching their music-related goals.
H: You guys have played at a lot of different types of places. Do you change your style to fit each venue?
DJ Stiegler: We definitely change our style, and the set we just did was a complete improvisational moment where we sat down and we noticed that the crowd was still having their dinner and we didn’t want to go in there and blare them with house music and dance music the whole time.
When we go into a room, we never have a planned set. We walk in, we check out the crowd we kind of see, based off of anything, from people, like what they're dressed in or what their styles are like and how the DJ is already performing and the crowd’s reaction to how that DJ is performing. It all makes us change what we’re going to do. Even as the set goes on we are continuing to morph it based on crowd reaction and also our own moods and how we’re feeling that day.
H: Spencer, you’re involved in a lot of different things; you have Capital Cities, a gypsy-punk band, and playing over live house music. How do you get comfortable performing in such a large variety of music?
SL: Well, trumpet is a unique instrument. Horns in general are unique because they fit in so many different genres. And as a horn play you really have to go with the flow of work.
I looked at what you need to do in order to support yourself through music and attempted, and still am attempting to, basically, form my own style so that I can continue to support myself through what I’m doing.
You just basically have to get good at it. You have to get good at performing, have good stage presence, to be good at recording, writing. You just have to do a lot of it. It all started from just an innocent young place and realizing after high school that you have to be good enough to get opportunities that will support yourself, whether that’s performing or writing. You have to continuously learn and grow.
The gypsy ensemble was started by myself and a very good friend of mine in LA, who were looking to basically make money playing in French restaurants, so we learned French music, which evolved into a more Eastern-European original style of music.
But if someone like Capital Cities says “Hey, I want to work with you,” you have to find your place in that style. So I’ve been able to walk into various different musical situations with my own Spencer Ludwig style, but also learn how to adapt to the other style that I’m supposed to work with.
I love collaborating and I’m open to collaborating with absolutely anybody because I think that’s the really beautiful thing about trumpet playing; the trumpet will just draw you into these situations that you have to figure out how to make music out of.
I’ve got the gypsy thing when I’m in LA, all the time with Capital Cities, sometimes I play with Foster The People, sometimes I play with RAC, I just played with Cherub the other night. It’s just being open to collaborating, and being open to opportunities, who knows where they can take you?
H: So how did you originally get into performing and sharing your passion for music with other people?
DJ Stiegler: Personally, even aside the Ludwig and Stiegler project, I started DJing when I moved to Los Angeles, as kind of a still feeling creative in the music world when I once was performing onstage. When I moved to LA I was focusing more on production and wasn’t onstage. [DJing] was a good outlet to be able to still kind of control the room, as far as music goes, express yourself, and still be in the frontman position without singing or playing an actual instrument instrument. Your instrument is now controlling an entire sound of music
SL: Well, I went to a very supportive musical creative elementary school called Oakwood School that encouraged me to try things out. And I’ve always just been doing it for fun since that influence. I still feel like I’ve been able to maintain that vibe as far as feeling like I’m just doing it for fun, and it’s just turned into how I support myself. That elementary school pushed us to perform once we learned how to do something on the instrument, and since we were performing in school, it only felt natural to form groups outside of school.
I formed lots of groups in high school, and I decided that trumpet was how I would not only spend my free time and enjoy myself, but how I would support myself. Performing is an aspect of doing both.
H: Have you studied sound production at all?
DJ Stiegler: *laughs* No, actually, all of my production experience comes from hands on experience, but I learned a lot from my father who was in music production To this day if I have a question I’ll call him up and ask him what he thinks about a certain scenario. The questions have gotten more bold over the years from talking about something like simple compressor to moving onto controlling the sound in an entire venue space.
Even now, he’ll send me an email article from time to time about audio nerd stuff, and we’ll laugh about that. But no, no formal training, it’s all done from pretty much throwing yourself into the ring.
H: That’s pretty impressive, it’s difficult to engineer, even with classes. What programs do you usually use?
DJ Stiegler: Right now for DJing I use Serato, which has been incredible for me. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Serato I would have never got into DJing in the first place. That digital aspect is what really pulled me into it.
For production I’m using Ableton, and even on the trumpet when we’re doing live performances, all the trumpet goes through the effects in Ableton. From the delays and the reverbs, to the compressions.
H: What’s the strangest experience that you’ve had because of your music?
DJ: *laughs* I don’t even know if I can think of the strangest. There are many. We’re always shocked by the people that we meet and the situations that we’re in, not in a bad way. There are too many to list, and we get ourselves into meeting people and interesting situations all the time.
SL: That’s a good question, because yesterday was probably the strangest thing that happened. I was doing an event for Red Bull and they had me get driven into the middle of the desert via hummer to convene with a group of employees that were sitting on top of a rock formation where i proceeded to freely improvise trumpet while the sun was setting in Joshua Tree. Super weird.
H: A lot of our readers are people who are just starting out in the industry, and are looking for people who can support them and opportunities to get further in their careers. What advice do you have for people who are looking for a way to support themselves through their music, to have new opportunities to perform and share their music with other people?
SL: a) Say yes to every single gig, even if it's a gig that asks you to take a hummer into the middle of the desert
b) Attempt to collaborate with as many people as possible
c) Create as much material as possible Always create, always write, continuously practice, always put things out of yourself into the world. The benefit is just growth, personal growth.
And put music on the internet.
DJ Stiegler: For me, I have to be honest, it was very much luck, god, if you will. I think that for anyone else you’ve got to stay true to yourself. Don’t conform, don’t go after what you think will be the next big hit or the big song, you really want to just play what’s in your heart. As cheesy as it may sound, keep it real. Do what you love. Because if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, regardless of how much money you have in your pocket, you’ll always be happy.
True success is born out of real music and real people doing something that other people are going to attach to.
We’re in the days of the internet, and social media, blogs, and spotify. It’s so simple for a silly song, even something that was written as a joke, I’m thinking of that song “What Does The Fox Say”, that was written as a comedy sketch, and it blew up because people thought it was cool. It’s so simple for people to be able to do that now, and launch music via Mp3 on Spotify or something.
For sure, be very real to yourself, do what you love, but also, hustle. and make sure that your music is visible to a large market.