MORE

Proximal Record's Co-Founder Jeff Elmassian Tells the 'Narrative of a City'

Telling the story of the city by sound.
Telling the story of the city by sound.

Tonight L.A.'s Proximal Records is unleashing their debut release, Proximity One: Narrative of a City at the Echo. The show will feature performances by members of the Proximal Crew Benedek, Lawrence Grey, and label co founder Sahy Uhns, along with knob twister Daedelus and queen of the beat music scene, TOKiMONSTA.

For a closer look at this new label, West Coast Sound spoke with Proximal co-founder and producer/ composer Jeff Elmassian about the future of small labels and the vision that drives Proximal.

"There is no music industry today," he says, "It's gone, done, over and finished! Whatever is leftover from the old paradigm is hanging on by its last desperate breath and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. "

Read the interview and listen to the entire Proximity album after the jump.

Stream the entire 'Proximity One: Narrative of a City' comp here

L.A. is a pretty crowed house when it comes to labels, what made you decide to throw your hat into the ring?

While it is true that Los Angeles is probably home to more labels per capita than any other place on earth, none of them are truly "local" labels. Carl (Burgin) and I created Proximal to be local in the sense that everything we do is driven by our passion for the entire local arts community. This is music by Los Angeles artists for Los Angeles audiences.

What specifically is Proximal doing to confront the issues of the music industry today?

There is no music industry today. It's gone, done, over and finished! Whatever is leftover from the old paradigm is hanging on by its last desperate breath and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. What we are doing has nothing to do with "industry" at all. We're building a community of artists one song at a time and then creating a support structure for them out in the local community. Everything else flows from that.

This album is called "Narrative of a City," what story is it trying to tell?

Every great album is a journey meaning different things to different people. I grew up in Los Angeles. Anyone from here can tell you it's sometimes frustrating to find a coherent identity to the city because everything is so spread out. The story Proximity 1 tells me is that under the surface of all our disparate neighborhoods is a single community, one that you can hear in the music.

It's customary when you finish a record to give a listen in the car, (what could be more L.A. than that). The album starts with a laid-back funky track by one of our artists, Benedek and it seemed perfect I was starting my drive at the beach in Santa Monica. I headed south on the 405, east through Inglewood then up La Brea through the city into Hollywood. I then went Downtown and into Elysian Park and ended up in Silverlake. I've done this a dozen different ways since then and the story I get is different every time. A perfect metaphor of L.A. and a testament to all the great artists on the compilation.

What do you think has created this new surge of L.A. beat makers?

I could probably give you dozens of good reasons why so much great music is happening

and they would probably all be valid. The simplest, most important reason though, is in the answer to your second question. The music industry has died. Long live good music!

Much of L.A.'s beat scene is based off of original pieces, not merely on sampling. Why do you think that is?

I bought my first sampler in 1989. (Did I say that out loud?) It was a Roland S550 mono sampler with a funky little floppy disc drive in the front that was always breaking. I think it had a total storage capacity of 10 megs. (Yes, for all of you under the age of 25 that's "mega" not "giga".) The first thing I ever did was sample myself playing little 8 second phrases on bass, drums, clarinet, ocarina - anything lying around. This was the beginning of my love affair with digital technology; a love-affair always based on originality and analog performance. Sampling is a great musical technique in any genre if its function is to enhance an original idea.

Which artists made new tracks exclusively for this album?

Every track, except for "Chasm" by [post-foetus], is new and exclusive to the compilation. We decided to leave this track on because most people know Will Wiesenfeld as Baths now. While we are all huge fans of his most recent work, we admire his earlier period music as well and thought it deserved to be showcased.

What are your plans for future releases? Proximity Two?

We're going to be putting out a release by Sahy Uhns (Carl Burgin) this fall as well as an EP by Benedek and I'm sure there will be another Beat Stew mix for the holidays. Then, we'll be staging a massive four-part electronic opera called the eRing for robot orchestra

and autotuned choir. (That last one is a joke.......I think.)