Electronic Dance Music, more frequently referred to as EDM, is the rising genre of music taking popular culture by storm. But it’s not all about glow sticks, rainbow colored tu-tus and the proverbial best friend “molly.” Many people see their favorite DJ and make assumptions about how music is made, lives are lived and the character of people, and we are here to break the mold.
As I sit down with Indy’s own Adam Langolf of the DJ/Producer group Magnetic we dive deep into Adams past and current living situation. Come take a read as we discuss how a 33 year old DJ/producer balances raising four kids, a marriage and his aspirations of being a career musician. How he auditioned for a spot with Signal Path, opinions on the EDM scene and ultimately how it has all influenced the growth he’s seen as an individual, and as a musician, over the last 5 years of his life.
CL: To start things off, how did you first get into DJing and the EDM scene?
Adam: I started DJing in 1999, I was in bands in high school and I played bass guitar, my brother was into 80’s rock, and he was a big influence on me, and I also had some big influences through high school bands where I was like ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore, I wanna be a DJ because this is easy and I can do this by myself.’ So I got into the rave scene around ’99, played in Pittsburg and Chicago, just by myself. A young kid just booking shows at shitty raves.
CL: So then how did you, as Magnetic get started in terms of a first gig and bringing you to where you are now?
Adam: This is a really cool story, I went to Bonnaroo in 2005 and I wanted to do more with the band I was in but the band was kind of on its way out. So I had just gotten this iMac with garage band and so I put together some cheaply produced EDM tunes and made a CD and gave it to the band Signal Path. And they called me back and said they just lost their bass player, they could tell I was good at arranging and was a decent bass player. So they invited me out to try out for the band. They had two other people auditioning and they didn’t actually pick any of us. But a little after that they went on a little hiatus and that’s when Ryan Burnett went out on tour with Pnuma Trio and I actually got to open for them in Louisville and my name at the time was Metamora. I was just getting really started with Ableton and I did it for a little bit but I decided to take break and get a little more professional with what I was doing. So when I came back on I changed it to magnetic.
CL: So what is “magnetic” to you?
Adam: Attracting people through putting out positive energy and putting a lot of time into bringing really good music to peoples’ ears. And it draws most people in because its an experience they’ve never had before and honestly in the late 90s there was a lot of trance and progressive artists that were saying things like ‘were gonna take you on a journey’ and that stuff played out, but I really do take people on a journey with my sets, you’re not going to get your average DJ set with me. You are going to get a set with a lot of variety.
CL: Is magnetic a name that is conducive of your style in terms of drawing people in?
Adam: Not only do I think it is, but I think that I have evolved to be that way personality wise. So its like you say you’re going to be magnetic, well you need to work on your attitude and how you approach people, and treat people and it’s a constant thing. That whole persona pushes me to bring people in every way possible by being a good person and by playing good music. It’s the whole deal, it’s not just about music.
CL: Were you always more inclined to be the role of a DJ, or a producer?
Adam: Honestly I was always into instruments more than anything, I’m a bass player by trade, I’ve been playing bass for 16 years, and I really enjoy doing that. But when you do electronic, jamtronic projects, to play bass guitar and play the electronics, you have to have a drummer. And I don’t have a drummer, so I have to manage the beats all night long so therefore I cant play the bass otherwise its just a gimmick because the bass cant just slip in easily. So, I’ve chosen to do a lot of the bass lines, samples and synth, that way I can keep the mothership rolling tight.
CL: EDM music is becoming a very major scene, it is rising to become the dominating music genre, how do you see yourself as a prominent regional act in the EDM scene influencing the culture of Indianapolis?
Adam: Magnetic shows evolve into a huge energy-building party that provide an unpredictable experience for everyone involved. This includes myself and whatever musicians I may have dragged along for the ride. We’re taking chances and the sets are never planned ahead so I think that margin of error lends to the excitement. Live instrumental interaction always keeps things interesting too. The desired result is a packed dance floor of people getting silly, breaking it down and letting go of all the bullshit in life. As far as local influence, I first performed in Indianapolis spinning vinyl at some raves about 14 years ago. I met a lot of people in this area still into the local electronic scene that way. Then I played Bass with Interphase for about 4 years in various bars in Indy and throughout the midwest. Some of our influences were Phish, STS9, MMW and lots of music coming from Warp and Ninja Tune. I was starting to listen to a lot of electronic music. We had a cool sound and played a number of different venues in Indianapolis (The patio, Radio Radio, The Mousetrap, Birdy’s, MMS). Through that band I met a lot of people involved in the music scene in Indy and have been fortunate to have a lot of grassroots support.
CL: What inspires you onstage?
Adam: The things that inspire me are the sounds I play in my studio to make tracks. Honestly I have had enough people influence me where I know what I want to do with music, and now I’m more inspired by hikes in the woods with my kids, keyboard sounds or synthesizer sounds after I hit a bong, these are the things that inspire me. I’m not really sitting down listening to artists anymore and thinking I want to sound like them, that was me 5 years ago.
CL: How do you feel that drugs have influenced A) you as a musician, as an individual, and even more so, B) how do you feel about drugs in the scene, as a culture?
Adam: Well I think drugs are absolutely necessary right now. Because we have so many factors trying to constrain our minds, and keep us like zoned in little sheep. So its not that drugs are necessary for every person, but its like, as a whole you have extremes, and you need those because if everybody is centrist, then you don’t have those that express themselves. It does get out of hand sometimes, but at the same point that’s to the individual. They have definitely helped me, I’ve done every psychedelic I could get my hands on, and I feel like I’ve learned from it.
CL: Do you specifically choose frequencies to tune into on stage and thus play to for the crowd?
Adam: Well I consider myself an intuitive person and it’s the quality that I use the most when I interface with everybody in this world. Using my intuition translates into how I play live so when we walk on stage and I’m playing along side all these other artists I pretty much don’t know what I’m going to play when I first start. A lot of DJs have it planned out, but I have a lot of tunes to pick from so I just walk up to the stage and I feel out the vibe and I think about the last music they were just listening to and I think how can I change that?
CL: So would you say that when deciding how to start a set that you let it just come to you as you walk onto the stage based on the vibe the previous artists set the crowd to?
Adam: Well for me its kind of like you have all these options like a choose your own adventure book, and its fun because you don’t give yourself 8 million options, but 5 or 6, and each time I play a track I’m looking at the crowd and I’m thinking I could do this, that, or something else while thinking, ‘where is this going to take you?’ its like a game of chess where you plan 4 or 5 moves ahead. So no I don’t go up with a planned set, but I have practiced a lot of these tracks at my home and I know where each one can go.
CL: What is your biggest pet peeve about EDM today?
Adam: My biggest thing as a DJ and producer is that I cannot stand going to DJ shows and hearing a DJ spin one sub-genre of EDM for an hour or longer. If I go to your set as a DJ, its 2013, we have lots of technology, you have plenty of ability to meld and change the things you are doing and really create something new and different but so many people in the EDM scene, especially DJs, stick very strongly to specific styles, but if you’re a fan of music and are a DJ, a DJ is a purveyor of a variety of sound.
CL: What is your opinion on DJs or producers that have to plan the entire show days in advance because everything has to be synced with the lighting design? How do you feel about this?
Adam: I would never do that, ever. I would rather have a Phish style lighting designer reacting to my every move. I’m way more into lights than LEDs and the way the EDM scene does their visuals is not the direction I want to go. I want to go in the direction of what jam bands do, I like intelligent lighting.
CL: Taking things in a different direction, tell me how you find yourself capable of being a father of 4, a husband and a full time music producer all at the same time? How do you master that lifestyle?
Adam: My wife and I have alternated between who was the person in the family that held down the 40 hour a week job and who was the person that watched the kids. In this society a lot of people need a lot more money then we’ve needed, and we have coexisted on one income pretty much for ten years. We’d rather have a small amount of money and have the kids grow up with one of their parents in the house for all their life. So she has kind of gone the office route and my music has definitely, for the first time in about 5 years, been on the right path for me being able to do what I need to do to make this professional. By October I will be making the same as if I was working 40 hours a week with my resume, but by doing 8 shows a month. So its been a transition of where I used to make nothing and my parents and my wife and the people around me trusted me but were saying, “when will it get to the point where you can make it a profession,” and after the last 5 years, its here.
CL: Do you feel that being a DJ/producer is a career occupation for you? Is this your life or is this just one chapter in your Journey?
Adam: Well I’ve already written whole folk album that I don’t plan to release till I’m about 45, and I wrote that when I was 25. And I have multiple other aspects planned for my career.
CL: Have you met or talked to with any other DJs or producers your age that are doing the same journey with multiple kids and a marriage, balancing the home life with music?
Adam: There’s no one. I know a lot of people, I’m friends with many producers much bigger than myself, and I know people that have kids that are in the business and/or make music like I do and have one or 2 kids. But me and my wife have four, and I don’t know anyone in my scene with 4 kids that is in this hard-nosed business, trying to stay on the up-and-up and trying to push themselves, but my kids love it and I love it. I feel that the energy I’ve gained and learned from it taking this much time, is what transfers to the music I have.
CL: What kind of music do you try to expose your kids to?
Adam: I expose them to basically all varieties of music. My children are very intelligent, we listen to J.D. Crowe & The New South, we listen to Michael Franti, Jack Johnson, Phish and Herbie Hancock. I may even take steps to play them more variety than I feel like listening to so my kids can grow up with the knowledge to make their own musical choices. A little side-note and an interesting story, I was a waiter once and I waited on this old lady with kids and one of the kids asked ‘what dressing do I like?’ and the grandma said ‘you like ranch because it’s the best.’ I went home and said to Lindsey ‘lets never tell our kids what’s the best’ simply because I like to provide my kids with options. Hell, I could be making a beat or a track and I could think its pretty cool and one of my kids could come in and just be kinda meh about it, or there are days when they could come in and be breaking it down.
CL: So on that note do your kids influence the tracks you go with versus tracks you disregard and don’t work with?
Adam: Yes, definitely when I see a 1 year old, a 4 year old, a 12 year old getting down to my music, that means more to me then somebody whose spun out. Because that’s the future and they don’t sugar coat it, they only get down to what they like.
CL: How do you feel about raising kids in this scene, especially when you see parents that could quite literally live on the scene and raise their kids in it?
Adam: So my children get really good grades, they are very positively motivated people who have their own things they are interested in and they have their own hopes and dreams. I do not guide the dreams I just give subtle influences. I will take them to occasional shows, but I definitely feel there are appropriate environments for my kids, and I could have my kids at this festival, but the party level is a little higher then I usually like to bring them to.
CL: Do you feel that’s an element of the EDM aspect of this festival, so if it was more jam centered would you be more comfortable bringing them around?
Adam: Yeah honestly I totally would. And I also think that’s paradoxical because I play EDM music, but the EDM music I play I feel it’s a little different, and its for everybody, but I don’t feel the average EDM set is for everybody. But at the same time I saw a little kid getting down to hard-hitting trap music with his dad and it was a positive experience, there were no curse words but it was heavy stuff.
CL: As you’ve grown as a musician, have you seen yourself learning more about classical structures within musical genres and incorporating that into your style?
Adam: It was the opposite; I was very studious and learned my keys and theory on the bass guitar when I was younger so my theory was pretty decent. And I got to a point where I kind of let that go and started using my ear. And being in a jam band before where it was improvised all the time I got used to just using my ear and I realized that that was when I was really having fun, I don’t really have fun playing music unless I’m flying by the seat of my pants. If I don’t have something going on that can cause a massive amount of chaos and its too controlled there’s no element of fun in there. It has to be like one big Mac truck that’s on a wet road but it just makes it way home and everybody is happy.
CL: And lastly, what would you say is your favorite thing, or element about music?
Adam: I think my favorite element in music is that thing that’s kind of like a surprise, but its still comforting at the same time. That’s my favorite element of music, my other favorite is something that just touches your soul. Life is like a thrift store, it’s the thrill of the score and you want changes.
Be sure to check out Magnetic online at: https://www.facebook.com/magneticsound