Embracing the individual as an evolving entity is something that comes naturally and periodically for Edwin Garro (aka UFO!). Although he is best known as one of the instigating influences of American drum and bass, an intelligently in-depth interview provides proof his celestial creativity could never be so easily categorized.
“UFO! is more of a state of mind; pushing the limit, doing something different, not copying the other person, and giving people another world of music,” said Garro. “I’m one of those guys trying to get the most out of every fucking day. Doing things over and over, just like walking into the same house over and over, I get embarrassed and feel like I’m not advancing. I feel I’m not moving forward or exploring all the possibilities.”
Pushing the limits began for Garro when he was young. Having always struggled with school, he found himself heading down a destructive path fueled by the confusion on what to do with his life. Skateboarding became his first outlet of expression, which eventually led to one of the most pivotal moments of his musical journey.
His carpenter father, who constantly insisted on an education, decided to build (upon request) a skate ramp. When Garro launched himself off of the ramp and into the air, his father immediately got up and left. Returning some time later, his father equated the sight of his son’s feat to that of a bird’s freedom in flight. Convinced Garro was capable of succeeding in whatever he wanted, his father decided to follow suite and pursue his own dream…to be a musician.
Garro and his crew were then blown away when his father pulled a Yamaha organ out of the truck he had just returned with. Through confusions and comments of Garro’s father being “too old,” the 57-year-old man declared it was never too late to do what makes you happy.
“Bringing the organ into the house, and by us kinda like studying this father-lust that decided to take this new route, I think slowly but surely I started to be really influenced by him. What really pleased me about the whole organ thing was the lowest key in the organ ‘cause it generated this really low tone bass. And you could hear this low tone bass in the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, ‘Hello Brooklyn.’”
Around the same time, Garro shares how his Bay Area homeland was making a transition from rock to hip hop. He began paying close attention to the radio DJs and the music they were playing such as Run DMC, Public Enemy, NWA, and 2 Live Crew. This led to his immersion and speedy success as a mix mastering DJ in the battling circuit, which he eventually introduced to the club scene in his cultural motherland of Costa Rica.
Shortly after his return from Costa Rica, he decided to make another change by getting away from the destructive crew he was kicking it with. And the search for his next progressive transformation didn’t take long as he was introduced to the then emerging sounds from London, drum and bass.
But it wasn’t until he met Goldie, and was invited by the musician to join him in London, that true inspiration flooded his creativity and music.
“Goldie was a huge influence because he was already doing what I wanted to do. So by me looking to him, I felt like it was a lot easier. I understood my past a lot better, and I understood myself more in some weird way. Then going to London was the biggest mind-opener ever because I was like, ‘These dudes are doing it, and they are doing it so well. We need to establish a group. We need to establish a family. We need to establish a crew of people who are all striving to do the same thing, to become the best that they can be. And that’s how Phunckateck was made basically.”
He co-founded Phunckateck in 1996 with the then and now strong belief in creative collaborations. The collective DJs are credited for the west coast flooding of jungle, drum and bass; playing alongside other notable drum and bass DJs such as Goldie, Roni Size, and Dieselboy. Several remixes and releases eventually led to one of Garro’s most successful drum and bass creations, the 1999 hit ‘Enemy Infiltration.’
Eventually the crew broke up, but the collaborations didn’t stop. Moving from San Francisco to New York in 2000, attempts were made by Garro for some time to put together a band, and continue fusing sounds. The end results were several projects which included Eskimobot, Back of The Buss, and a musical production for the show CSI: NY.
But Garro soon got fed up with music and decided to explore the world of art. He got a job at MoMa’s PS1 in New York City, and spent about three years of assisting artists and setting up art installations. Interesting encounters with different types of artists (like an artist who shot his arm in the name of ‘art’) were experienced, along with the inspiration to produce some of his own paintings.
“It was a good insight to the possibilities of art and music. And it gave me a break from music. I really needed that break.”
Ultimately a void in his life could be ignored no longer, and he knew the only way to fill it was to start making music again. Around the same time he went to a party where he was introduced to a live dubstep set.
“What we were listening to was the distorted, mental little brother to drum and bass, who smoked a lot of weed, and liked hip hop. He loved the bass line of his drum and bass brother, and thought he could do it all better.”
Although he liked the new sound, he still wasn’t clear what he wanted to do. So to figure it out he moved back to Costa Rica to study rhythm. Another highly influential person he worked with was a young drummer named Frederico Gomez. The two collaborated on several songs which they released under the name Cosmetics. Recognition and praise for their work eventually led to a coaxing by several for Garro to return to the states.
Since he’s been back, Garro has been hard at work maintaining his forward momentum by mixing several styles and genres. Although he still respects and incorporates drum and bass with his new stuff, there are a lot of other twists and influences added in order to achieve his goal of breaking all the genre binding restrictions.
“I feel like I’m on my second run towards music. But this time I kinda feel like it’s not just drum and bass anymore. It’s just kinda for self identity for music. I want to demolish the whole genre of drum and bass, or moombahton, or dubstep, or whatever. I want to let people know that it’s not about tempos. I feel like kids get caught up in one tempo and then they become these soldiers. And if someone doesn’t like something then this whole hate thing starts up and it turns into, ‘Fuck dubstep, or fuck the new drum and bass, or fuck this guy playing moombahton.’
I want to demolish all of that. People and artists are special enough that they can grow and create their own sound. But I feel like genres always hold people back from really blowing up the beauty and the possibilities of music. This year I plan on doing the same thing but with a creative group of people. That’s how all the best things are done. That’s how the nation that we live in got started, with a bunch of mutha fuckers who got together and were like, ‘Let’s do it our way, and let’s go against the rules.’”
Let’s ALL help UFO! demolish The Mousetrap this Thursday, October 27, 2011 during a special Halloween edition of IndyMojo’s Altered Thurzdaze. We’ll be doing things IndyMojo’s way with a costume contest and a rare 4 deck tag sets from Adam Jay & Shiva, Kodama & Hollow Point, and a special birthday set from Gizzmo.