Jason Hann and Michael Travis may be known for their work with The String Cheese Incident, but they’re now generating a new source of notoriety for their work with EOTO (End of Time Observatory). Their eclectic music, a mix of House, Dub-Step, and Electronica, is making its mark throughout the country. With a new album, Fire The Lazers, the project has grown from something that was just a thought to a full-on, stand-alone creative masterpiece.
The album consists of some of the hardest hitting synth-beats that one can fathom, and the fun that they are having spews forth from the stage and takes form in a collective fashion throughout the crowd in each venue through which they pass.
Hann took time while on the road to share EOTO’s creative process, his insights regarding the effect that the project will have on the upcoming String Cheese shows, and even how he keeps up with that very busy hair of his….when not in South Carolina.
Honest Tune: With the improv-at-its-finest concept that you guys are using with EOTO in the live setting, and in listening to the new record, which truly is mind-bending, I am wondering what you guys approach to the studio is and if it is the same process of which you employ in the live setting?
Jason Hann: Yeah, absolutely. The only thing that we do different is that we will go about deciding on actual songs. With the record, we actually listened to a bunch of tracks that we liked by other producers and when we found one that really stood out, we would make an effort at replicating some of the sounds, whether they be bass sounds or percussion glitch type sounds and try to actually build those into our setup. It was nice because it really gave us an opportunity for sound exploration.
Then once we had a feel for actual sounds, we just hit record and did exactly what we do live. But instead of hanging on a theme for five or so minutes as we do live, we would hang out on a theme for fourteen or fifteen minutes and then just take what we felt was the best six minutes. So what is being captured on the CD is improvisation and in the moment but it is definitely a selection chose from a bigger jam.
HT: In terms of improvisation at the live shows, do you guys approach it with a "this worked really well last week so maybe we should head in that direction at this show" mentality or is it all 100% shooting from the hip each and every night?
JH: It is straight shooting from the hip. Our main goal every night is to keep everybody dancing. If we happen to be in a particular genre like dub-step or electra or house then we will just try and do something different than what we have ever done before or can remember having done before. (Laughs)
HT: Well whatever it is that you guys are doing, it is definitely working as evidenced by sold out gigs, multi-city and cross country tours, etc. This year you guys have taken the club and smaller venue world by storm. How has this response varied from what you and (Michael) Travis had as expectations or preconceived notions about how the project would be received?
JH: Well, we knew that it was going to be fun and it has been. We were not really sure how much it would remain to be known as just a side-project of String Cheese or just something to do for fun as opposed to actually being something that stands on its own. Since it was so different from what we do with String Cheese, it didn’t really click at first as far as getting a following. No one really wanted to take us on as far as management or booking is concerned. So, it was quite the uphill thing at first.
In retrospect, this was a good thing because we were still trying to find it ourselves. Eventually we just found ourselves surrounded by solid people who did not see it as being just a side project but rather as something that is strong and unique on its own. Right when we got that part sort of seamed together is when things really started taking off musically, creatively, and from a business perspective. Basically we are thrilled with how it all has come together.
HT: Obviously the sound that is created with EOTO could not be more polar opposite from the sound that is created with String Cheese. But is the general approach to the music and the creative process more similar than the sound? For example you, Billy (Nershi), Keith (Moseley), and Michael (Kang) are in the studio and then you go into the studio with just you and (Michael) Travis- is the attack different?
JH: It really is different. I mean so much of DJ music is done on the computer whereas with a String Cheese thing, we know we are going to go into the studio at a particular time so let’s just bring in all the songs that we are going to do and slowly start working through them. Then the best ones will move up to the top and it is a super lengthy process. It is great for what we are doing there, but from the beginning with EOTO, it has just been let’s make this thing as easy as possible. Like we are not rehearsing and while we will be in the studio for a bunch of hours there is not a producer in there, and we do not have to get micro on each of the parts. The EOTO thing is just more free form if you will.
HT: I noticed you were at the NYE Phish run soaking in that sound from the soundboard and a thought crossed my mind because by then we were all certain that String Cheese would be coming shortly. I was thinking about what the different members of Phish did while on hiatus with their various projects and their own thing, much as you have done and Billy has done with his work with Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon and obviously Kyle with his band and their recent studio release. So now that you are all coming back together, are you bringing elements from your individual music experiences that you have incurred while being apart from each other?
JH: To a certain degree that is bound to happen. One of the reasons that we try and go off and do these other things is because everyone has their voice and place in the band. Everyone has their personal direction that they would like to go and doing other projects satisfies that.
But at the same time when you take what Billy did with Drew Emmitt, he will tell you that the experience caused him to focus solely on that acoustic situation and made him better at that aspect of his play. So I am sure that when we do a bluegrass song in String Cheese, Billy will take the helm and suggest going for a certain vibe. Then if we dive off into an electronic section with a String Cheese song, they might defer to me and (Michael) Travis. Basically we look to play to everyone’s strengths and everyone is getting stronger as we do our different things.
HT: And finally, Reid Coleman from Birmingham, Alabama submitted a question. Reid would like to know what kind of shampoo and/or conditioner do you use to keep that mane of yours so pretty?
JH: (Laughs heartily) That is some funny shit! Well, you know that my mane recently actually got shorter courtesy of the folks in South Carolina. However, when it is long, I use Nexxus conditioner to keep the matting and knots to a minimum and Pantene Shampoo/Conditioner in my efforts to keep the body. (Laughs again)
EOTO on tour
Mar 19, 2010 – The Limelight Nashville, Tennessee
Mar 20, 2010 – 412 Market St Chattanooga, Tennessee
Mar 21, 2010 – The Boone Saloon Boone North Carolina
Mar 22, 2010 – The Pour House Music Hall Raleigh, North Carolina
Mar 23, 2010 – The King Plow Art Center Atlanta, Georgia
Mar 24, 2010 – The Cider House Knoxville, Tennessee
Mar 25, 2010 – New Earth Music Hall Athens, Georgia
Mar 27, 2010 – The Hat Factory Richmond, Virginia
Mar 28, 2010 – Awful Arthur’s Towers Roanoke, Virginia
Apr 9 & 10, 2010 – The Fox Theatre Boulder, Colorado
Apr 20 2010 – The Bourbon Theatre Lincoln, Nebraska
Apr 23 2010 – The Cabooze Minneapolis, Minnesota
Apr 24 2010 – The Portage Theater Chicago, Illinois
Apr 25 2010 – Bluebird Bloomington, Indiana
Apr 26 2010 – The Intersection Grand Rapids, Michigan
Apr 27 2010 – Blind Pig Ann Arbor, Michigan
Apr 28 2010 – Big Orbits Soundlab Buffalo, New York
Apr 30 2010 – The Westcott Theater Syracuse, New York