Going into my interview with 3LAU I was skeptical. I was expecting to meet a young fratty kid that had happened to hit it big after a couple mashups. In fact, 3LAU is a smart, charismatic, articulate and promising young talent that embodies everything we should look for in today’s up and coming artists. Never have I met an artist that better understood the electronic music world.
I was curious to hear where Justin Blau saw himself in today’s mess of DJs and producers. And more importantly how did he ascend from finance major to today’s big venue rocking and producing 3LAU?
“It started as me sort of messing around in college playing frat shows…then all of a sudden I was getting booking inquiries left and right. I was just a DJ at that point. Since the time of getting bigger and now I have been learning (how to produce) through friends spending most of my time in the studio. After two years of time sitting in the studio I can now say ‘ok, now I have something that is comparable to all the great stuff out there.’ I am not going to release something that is half-assed like I would say 95% of, even already established, producers do.”
As of right now 3LAU has yet to release a track, but this will all change in the end of June after one year of work:
“I have been sitting on this track, which is my first release, for a year. It has been a year-long project for me. The track is coming out on Hardwell’s label, Revealed, towards the end of June.”
3LAU is a part of a new generation of up-and coming DJs. This is a generation that has thrust themselves into fame, mainly by using the internet to their benefit:
“Most DJs and producers that are big right now were really good in the beginning and then a manager found them and developed them. My story is a lot different. I exploded from viral internet things, and now I am playing catchup.”
Alongside time playing gigs around the country and working in the studio 3LAU has also put a lot of work into charity. He works with the non-profit Pencils of Promise to help build schools in South America. His work is not “publicity-based” as he says many other DJs charity work is.
“I was really excited to go to Guatemala. I have always been involved in charity my whole life. When I got into music, I took a long pause from charity in order to work on my music career. Then when I got to a point when I felt like I had just enough influence to be able to do something I said ‘screw it, lets go, lets do something.’ It got pretty big at first, but in the last 8 months it got way bigger.
We are going to be doing some more really awesome work with Pencils of Promise.”
I was then curious about how he approaches a mashup. A lot of people seem to look down at mashups as something that doesn’t require very much work. Seeing as 3LAU rose to fame rising the backs of his killer mashups, I figured I would ask how he approaches a mashup.
“A lot of people are critical of mashups but what people don’t understand is that there is a reason why people like it and it isn’t very easy to do successfully, and perfectly. For me mashups never really come about in the same way. For instance, I love the vocal on I Knew You Were Trouble, I have no shame in admitting that (laughs). I think Taylor (Swift) killed it. Do I like the track? No, it’s terrible. But the vocal is so catchy. So I decided I was going to find something that worked, so I could play it live. I took different pieces of different insturmentals, layer it, mix it and then you have a finished product that everybody is going to like more than the original because it is actually better than the original as a song. Will it be as big as the original? No, because there is no marketing behind it, it’s a free release. But is it a better song? Yes. Is it my song? No, it is a mixture of things I really like. It is not like I am just sitting at my Ableton project and I drag two things together and then boom I have a mashup.”
It also just so happens that Justin Blau hails from Las Vegas which is quickly turning into one of the hottest spots for dance music in the United States.
“I am beyond lucky to happen to end up there. We moved there when I was 13. I wasn’t going to be a DJ back then but now that I am it has been massively beneficial to my career. You can’t compare Vegas to anywhere else. It is sin, it is greed, it is everybody’s dreams and nightmares packaged into a vacation deal on expedia. But, it is ‘dreamland’. For electronic music, Vegas is going to continue to grow and will beat Europe instantaneously because there is more money, thats the bottom line.“
So what’s in the works for 3LAU? Whats next?
“I just finished a long tour and this summer is just going to be music making. I am doing like 7 or 8 festivals and a lot of my time is going to be in the studio. I have at least 10 tracks. I have been saving the first one because I think it is the best. The rest are unfinished. I have a few tracks that are close to done but a lot of stuff has to happen between the 95% point and the 100% point in a track. A lot of stuff that isn’t even audible to the average person, but to me they are, I am a pretty big perfectionist when it comes to that sort of stuff.”
3LAU is one of the most promising talents in electronic music. He understands what it means to be a DJ and to be a producer, and that will go a long way for him. Be sure to look out for his original productions the first of which will be out on Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings at the end of June.