During one of the stops on his TerrorVision Tour, which combines gruesome video clips with his infamous bass music, we had the chance to catch up with the legendary DJ/producer himself, Figure. In an honest, funny, and intriguing interview, Figure opened up about why he fell in love with horror, what it was like growing up, staying true to bass music, which DJ would die off first in a scary movie, as well as provided insight into the enigmatic life of Space Laces, who’s best known for his work with Destroid. Chatting with one of the most talented and yet down-to-earth artists was both an honor and privilege, and I am pleased to present our interview below:
What fascinates you most about the horror genre?
It always changes but it always starts with the same thing – when I was young there was a period of like 7 years where I lived around all these really big, over grown bully dudes, and I was this little dude so I couldn’t go outside and play much because I got bullied and all this shit, but I would just stay in my grandpa and grandma’s basement and I had a couple of horror movies, well these aren’t horror, but like Beetlejuice, Adam’s Family, the first Aliens, random shit like that.
So for years I kept doing that. I would try to watch like Doug, and stuff like that, that you would watch at that age and I couldn’t stand it. I just wanted scary stuff. I liked feeling like there was something over my shoulder. I think I turned into a little more of a normal kid when Ahh Real Monsters came on.
That shifted, I got older, and I started getting into grimier kind of music; typical punk rock like the Misfits and The Cramps. Still to this day, they’re my daily staples. It started all to tie together and I loved everything themed. Even the Misfits used to play shows and they used to play horror movie clips in the background and stuff. That’s where I got the influence for this show. The more I would try to watch comedies and funny shit, I just wasn’t in it. Even darker things in general – I didn’t like nice, bright days. I loved when it was creepy outside, and kind of cool and rainy and thunderstorms. It’s all so typical. I’ve grown up with it; it becomes a part of you. It just slowly rolled up, and then intertwining it with all the electronic music, I became even more obsessed. And then the collecting started, collecting all the memorabilia, and VHS. I have like thousands of VHS and DVDS. Just wanting to watch more and more movies all the time. I always try to watch two horror movies a day.
What’s your all time favorite horror film?
It changes so much. My biggest comfort films are The Shining and Aliens and a couple of really old bad movies, Street Trash. One of the funniest movies is what I named the tour after: Terrorvision. It’s a movie. It’s just completely ridiculous on all levels.
So is growing up with all of that and falling in love with the horror culture what inspired the monsters series?
Yeah, I didn’t sit and go “What am I gonna put right here? I’m missing the drop” – The first one was Vampires. I was making this song and was like oh it says Vampires, that’s cool. And I just did it. It was more of an idea, there’s a logic behind it, it wasn’t like I put something in there and that was the theme of the song. And then I made Zombies after that. And I was like “OK. That’s it.” There’s certain chord structures that are a bit more dark. If it’s not in F or G then I don’t like it. Those are the darker tones and those are what resonate with me. Even when I play piano, it’s always descending, dark things. Maybe it’s because all the music, movies, and soundtracks I heard growing up was that.
What methods do you use in your production to make something sound actually ‘horrifying’?
I mean, the main thing is finding the sounds, at first. And they just have to have this “bite” to them. And if it’s not there, then the song doesn’t happen. I don’t go “Well, I’ll go ahead and find a sample.” I make the drop or climactic part, and I’m like “That kind of sounds like this” or “that sounds like a leather face chain saww-y thing” or something. Or I’ll have ideas sitting around so I’ll have hundreds of little samples that I know I’ll have in the back of my head and it’s kind of like having a little devil on your shoulder, but I’ll have hundreds of them being like “Use this, use this!” and I’ll just start throwing shit in and being like “that works!” And I can start designing the sounds to fit more into what the song sounds like.
Space Laces was added to the TerrorVision Tour to “complete the package of a good show” as you mentioned, which is both an oddity because he doesn’t tour very often, and a delight for fans to see- what has it been like working with him on this tour?
It’s good. One thing is we’ve known each other for years because he’s from Louisville, Kentucky and I’m from Evansville, Indiana and that’s only an hour and a half away and altogether I have lived in Louisville 8 years. I keep moving back and forth and stuff. But he used to come over and play video games and drink beer and shit at the apartment all the time. And he had his name, Space Laces was his name, but he wasn’t working with Destroid yet or doing all of that stuff.
He would show us music and we’d be like “You’re so good, what are you doing?” and he’d be like “Well it’s jut a minute long. I don’t want to actually use it.” I’ve known him for a while. He’s just a really calm dude; he’s not insane or anything. He doesn’t disappear or miss a gig – no one I’ve ever toured with has ever done that but I’ve heard stories. He’s really talented. We’ve all known about him for so long and played clips of his songs. He’ll send us minute clips, for the past like 5 years and we’re like “This is the craziest shit” and he’s like “I don’t even want to finish it.” So we’ll just loop it and use it, and other DJs are like “what is that!?” It’s just a clip that he made that he doesn’t care about, and it has sound design that people still aren’t messing with.
And the way he approaches it all is great. He’s not trying to make a hit. He just really wants to make a track. And if he makes 30 seconds of a track and that’s all it needs to be to appease him, then that track is fucking done and no one’s going to hear it. It’s good. He’s a good DJ too, 95% of his set is all his own music and I love that. I always strive for that.
You still live in Indiana- why did you decide to stay close to home instead of the big name cities other artists end up in like LA or NYC?
There’s 2 reasons. 1- It’s home and 2 – it’s insanely cheap to live- this has nothing to do with me, it’s just the economy there. The way I live there is how the richest doctor would live in Philly. For $1500/month I have a three-story house on the river with all these sliding glass doors. It’s insane. I’m like “Why the hell would I move to a closet in New York?” You know what I mean? And be worried about getting robbed all the time. There’s fresh local produce, you live on the water, there’s an airport 10 minutes from my house because I live outside of the city. I love big cities though, they’re nice, but a week in LA and I’m like “Get me the fuck out.” Like this is insane. And there’s nothing really there for me; if I move there I would just see other DJs all the time that I don’t really know. I’d be like moving there to make friends that do what I do. But we’re already friends because we see each other. We don’t know each other; we didn’t grow up together.
I have one music friend where I live and every one else is completely outside of everything. Like they know it, they like it. But one of my best friends is still one of the guys that’s on most of my songs.
Despite the trends that come and go in music, you always seem to remain true to your bass roots- What has that journey been like? Was that difficult- were you worried about keeping your fan base?
At first you see other people kind of morph and then get booked at way better slots that you got booked at, stuff like that. But what it all boils down to is, if I don’t make music I like, then it just turns into a job, and then I have to play shit like that at shows and it will attract people I don’t want at the show who will like stuff like that, so I just keep doing it. You also have to consider, I always consider – the jobs I had before this, and how much you work and how much you don’t get paid, compared to this. So even in my worst year it’s still better than a paycheck from the fucking Gap and Guitar Center-$300/month and you can’t do anything with it. So I’m like alright that’s cool. I’m not getting a thousand Facebook fans at this part of the year a day, but it’s still an overpaid, insane job.
Do you have your sights set on any up and coming artists?
My favorite artist is Midnight Tyrannosaurus. He’s creative. He’s so A.D.D. and weird and no one sounds like him. He has his own thing; I instantly know what it is. I had him on the second show on the tour and he fucking killed it.
If you had to cast a horror film with just DJ/producers, who would you cast as the psycho killer? Who would die first? Who would be the hero?
Borgore would die instantly because every one who has sex in horror movies dies. So he would be dead… in the trailer…of the movie before it…
Destroid already has the protection so I would grab them…but they don’t have weapons, they have equipment so you’d have to hire like Steve Duda and BT, the biggest nerds ever, and they would make the weapons.
But then instantly in this breakout, Skrillex would right away get in this mothership and he would just leave.
But twist…You’re like “Aw, what a fuckin’ asshole, you’re the nice guy, I never thought you would do that.” Right as everything is shitty, he would just come back down and he’d bring all these aliens and shit and they’re gonna help save everything.
But the part 2 is that the [aliens would] go “Well, we helped you, so you’re coming back with us”
So it ends with all these DJs, and we all have the same backpack, we’re all wearing black jeans and black V-necks and getting into this spaceship.
And then the spaceship goes off and you see Excision’s dinosaur like holding on, freaking the fuck out
I have no idea how to recover from that answer.