Like a lot of teenagers in 2003, Jasper Patterson was obsessed with The Matrix. Then his mother gave him a copy of William Gibson’s groundbreaking cyberpunk sci-fi novel, Neuromancer. “This is where it all started,” she told him.
Ever since, Patterson, who produces electronic music under the name Groundislava, has been a huge cyberpunk fan. And with his forthcoming third album, Frozen Throne, due out in September, he’s finally incorporating that obsession into his music.
Speaking by phone from his home in Mar Vista, the 24-year-old member of Shlohmo’s WeDidIt collective explains how he even briefly attended animation school, hoping he could turn his own cyberpunk visions into reality. “But I could never do it justice.”
So he put the cyberpunk aside and got into music instead, working both on his own and in collaborations with WeDidIt cohorts Shlohmo, D33J and RL Grime, as well as Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld, a classmate at Hamilton High School in Palms. (He, Shlohmo and other WeDidIt members go back to middle school: “It’s kind of a whole network I grew up with.”)
As Groundislava, Patterson’s early efforts were equally influenced by Low End Theory’s bass-heavy instrumental hip-hop and two other things his parents turned him onto: classic 8-bit videogames and ‘80s music. (His father, Michael, directed the iconic ‘80s A-Ha video, “Take On Me.”) His 2011 self-titled debut and its 2012 follow-up, Feel Me, alternate between pretty synth-pop reveries and tracks that evoke Super Mario tossing golden coins at pixelated strippers.
But cyberpunk was never far from his mind. So when he began working with the electro/R&B duo Rare Times on Frozen Throne, he had an epiphany: “They do amazing vocals, so I was like, fuck, let’s just tell a story.”
Lead single “Feel the Heat” and its accompanying video (directed by his brother, who does visuals for Skrillex under the name SuS BoY) introduce that story: a romance that begins inside a virtual world and turns, for the love-struck narrator, into an obsession, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.
For Frozen Throne’s music, Patterson found inspiration in the cinematic soundscapes of M83 and Boards of Canada. But he also dove back into the music he was listening to when he discovered cyberpunk: early ‘00s house and trance.
“It’s funny…it’s new for a lot of people to hear me doing housier stuff. But that’s what I grew up on. In middle school and early high school, I listened to lots of trance.”
His guilty pleasure from that era? ATB, the German producer behind such epic slabs of trance cheese as “9 PM (Till I Come)” and “Ecstasy.” “A lot of it’s fucking trash,” Patterson admits, “but there are certain elements to it that are so effective.” Especially when applied to a cyberpunk concept album about doomed romance.
Groundislava plays the Glass House in Pomona with RL Grime on Saturday, July 26.