Last year Frankie Eder DJed at underground beat music club Low End Theory, joining the ranks of Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus. Pretty cool. He's no professional musician — in fact, he's just a regular eighth-grade kid. Still, the crowd went wild once he started playing his raw, dubstep-inspired piece "Ghost," even though he could barely reach the boards.
Today, a little more than a year later, Eder, better known as DJ Subjection, is attending a weekend Eagle Rock seminar in Ableton Live, a sophisticated music-making computer program. Now 13, he wears a mass of blond hair and seemingly is growing taller by the minute. Yet it's easy to see he's the youngest person in this room of seasoned musicians. Here to add some tricks to his arsenal, the bass-music prodigy is a master of making beats on his laptop. His complex technical orchestrations sound like they're from a composer who's been toiling over the controls for decades, not just a few years.
Eder's music education began with piano lessons at age 5. Five years later he won an award for his composition "Waterfall," a piece he now dismisses as "super repetitive." Indeed, his musical taste has evolved rapidly; he quickly got into house music and dubstep, and by the time he was 11, he announced: "Mom, Britney Spears just got into dubstep, it's all over."
Around the same time, Eder realized that instead of just playing sounds, he wanted to make them, too. So he began recording everything, from solar flares to airplanes, playing with frequency, amplitude and wavelength. Soon he was enrolled at an electronic-music production school called Dubspot — seemingly the only place willing to teach someone his age — where the young musician has since co-hosted workshops.
Don't get it twisted: Eder is no gimmick, no novelty act. He's a real electronic-music producer who has the respect of his (older) peers. "Not only is Eder an amazing producer and sound designer, but he is an extraordinary teacher as well," says professor Steve Nalepa, Eder's former instructor at Dubspot. "I was blown away by his ability to explain complex concepts with vivid lucidity to producers three times his age."
Eder, whose family lives in Tustin, has been home-schooled since the fifth grade by his mother, Kim Bauer Eder. She put the emphasis on the arts; Eder's 14-year-old sister, Austin, is an award-winning classical ballerina. "Having that environment and freedom just enabled him to get a mastery of [music] at a really young age," Kim says. She put her advertising career on hiatus to teach her kids, with support from Frank Sr. — an engineer-turned–investment manager with a Harvard MBA. Eder's currently back in "regular" school, finishing up the eighth grade. "I missed seeing my friends," he notes — though he admits he now misses sleeping in.
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These days, Nalepa and Eder's current teacher, Mike Parvizi, are trying to help Eder achieve his next milestone: getting a label to release his music, which includes 20 published songs and about 15 unpublished ones. Their style is "a bunch of different subgenera," Eder says. "If you made metal music without all the craziness, like, screaming — and then made it actually sound like robots or something — that's my kind of music."
Something like dubstep, perhaps, but rest assured, not the Britney Spears kind.