“Oh my god,” Jason Drake says with a laugh. “I've been smoking so much weed lately.”
The 33-year-old producer/singer/songwriter behind the popular indie electronic act Cassettes Won't Listen and, more recently, an instrumental hip-hop project called Dfalt, adjusts his white Obey snapback and contemplates his long-running relationship with the sticky green. “I've always smoked weed, ever since I was a teenager. But yeah, I think weed has had a big influence on both Dfalt and CWL. Maybe it's helped make me as prolific as I have been.”
What started as a slow trickle of tracks under his Dfalt handle has turned into a steady flow, with a late 2012 EP, Greyscale, followed this month by his first Dfalt full-length, Helsinki Beat Tape (Part One). “I go through these phases,” he says. “It kinda just hits me and I'm like, I gotta sit down and work.” Helsinki Beat Tape will eventually comprise a trilogy of releases, all of which he hopes to put out over the next year via his own audiovisual label, Daylight Curfew.
Yeah, he runs a label, too. In addition to Helsinki Beat Tape, they're also gearing up to release limited-edition giclee prints by street artists Bishop 203 and Sek3. “I love visual art and I don't see a lot of people treating it like you would a record…having release dates for specific artwork and prints. That idea's very exciting to me.”
Listen to Helsinki Beat Tape on Soundcloud
Then there's Cassettes Won't Listen, which Drake plans to reactivate in July with CWL, the sorta-self-titled follow-up to his 2011 space-pop opus, EVINSPACEY. But more on that in a minute.
Right now, Drake is leaning back in a rolling desk chair in the windowless workspace he shares in Venice with his Daylight Curfew partner-in-crime, rapper/visual artist Bisco Smith. He's wearing a gray-green camo T-shirt and black jeans. It's a hot early summer afternoon and the beach is just blocks away, but in here it's dim and cool. He and Smith moved their base of operations from downtown to these artists' lofts about a year ago, and he's been appreciating the “secluded” vibe, away from the beat scene epicenters of the Eastside. “Lately I'm more interested in just writing and making music than being out in the scene trying to wheel and deal and network.” Plus, when he moved to L.A. from New York City five years ago, “the whole goal was to live by the beach.”
The music on Helsinki Beat Tape reflects that more isolationist mindset. Despite the name, its 10 moody, atmospheric tracks don't cry out to be slathered with freestyles and slotted into somebody's mixtape. They stand wholly on their own, from the ominous chopped-vocal arias of album opener “The Beggars” to the tumbling breakbeats and restless synths of “Moon Milkshake,” which could pass for a J. Dilla remix of Boards of Canada.
“It's where my head's at right now,” Drake says. “I'm very into production. I think L.A. has pushed me in that direction.”
That brings us back to the new Cassettes Won't Listen stuff, which is going to surprise a lot of people. He's already released one new CWL track, “Transmission,” and it's a full-on EDM anthem, with dirty/pretty synths and Daft Punk-like robot vocals.
“I'm a fan of mid-'90s Astralwerks stuff, like Chemical Brothers,” Drake says, explaining the influences behind Cassettes Won't Listen's harder new direction. “This was a record I've always wanted to make. Some of the tracks people might lose their minds to–in a good way or a bad way. It'll be interesting to see people's reaction.”
As for Dfalt, Drake thinks he has a pretty good idea what kind of audience he'll attract: “I feel like it'll be a good record for people who smoke a lot of weed.”