The sun warmed my skin and the chaotic hum of a soccer game was playing in the background as I waited for Ross Edman and his white fluffy pal Bongo to meet with me at Glencoe Park. It was clear that this would be more than an interview; his blue eyes lit up and Bongo immediately indulged in the rub down I gave him when we finally met. We found a spot at a park table and jumped right into conversation.
Discussing the many hats that Edman, known as Datahowler, wears- musician, producer, graphic designer, artist, wizard- led to tangents on music influences, his introduction to electronic music and all the instruments and pads he uses both in studio and at shows. Considering himself a beat-driven, electronic musician, this dude definitely has an intricate music palette and mindset.
“I guess the art came first,” Edman recalled. “I started drawing when I was really young and that was what I wanted to do for a long time, my whole life basically. I wanted to be a comic book artist since I was three and it kind of progressed from there.”
Edman has been surrounded by a plethora of music since childhood. His many influences include his mom’s organ playing and her love for oldies, his grandfather’s work as a jazz musician and his dad introducing him to the Beatles and the rest of his massive music collection. Edman’s friends, a group that was immersed in hardcore, metal, punk rock and hip hop, have also helped him to cultivate his unique sound.
Artwork by Ross Edman from his limited edition art book featuring several pieces that were almost album covers.
The majority of his music career has taken place in drumming in hardcore, metal and punk rock bands. It wasn’t until college that Edman found his love for electronic music.
“When I first started messing with electronics it was in terms of scoring,” Edman said. “I’m really into ambient music and movie scores and that’s why I wanted to do electronics, but as I discovered hip hop culture it started to be more about beat-driven, loop-driven music. I just recently got into dance music, in like the last year or two. I didn’t know anything about dance music; it was all about hip hop for me.”
Revealing his hip hop influences, such as Madlib, J Dilla and DJ Shadow, he then went through a list of down-tempo artist like Thievery Corporation, Boards of Canada, Flying Lotus, Shlohmo, Dntel, Jacques Green, Sun Glitters, Stumbleine, and anything from the labels Warped and Friends of Friends- just to name a few.
Even though Edman has taken a break from music to focus on work, enjoying the outdoors and drawing new inspirations, spending time with the homie Bongo and learning more programming and languages (which he hopes to sprinkle into his new music), he still tinkers with his Abelton Push and a few monomes he just got.
Artwork by Ross Edman.
Having attended school for philosophy, Edman has realized that the message Datahowler is trying to convey is about more than just making you jam; there is a subtle Marshall McLuhan effect in which the medium is the message.
“I had to write a thesis to get my philosophy degree, and my focus was modern technology and how it changes humanity and how we interact with our surroundings. I guess to make a long story short, the crux of the argument was that technology has made our lives more difficult and we actually know less of our surroundings; we’re not very much in control of technology. We think we are but we’re not,” he said.
Edman uses Datahowler as a method to show people that you can control technology in a creative way.
“I think that there’s a stigma with electronic music, that you’re not using the laptop as an instrument but that the laptop is doing all of the work. You’re not really doing anything- just pushing buttons. I think that’s true for a good amount of electronic artist that I’ve seen, but there are also a lot of electronic artists where that’s not true.” Edman added. “They’re really owning what they’re doing and they’re doing a lot of programming in the background to make those things work live, to where they can play an electronic instrument as fluently as they can play any other instrument.”
Our conversation carried on as Bongo kept getting stickers stuck in his fur and the sun kept shining. The soccer game was over but we were still speaking of the journey of electronic music – which, we agreed, hasn’t quite blossomed in Texas as it has in LA, Europe and even Colorado. We transgressed to the ideas of traveling overseas and indulging in the Asian culture and food, our appreciation for art culture, and our wish that people would go to more art museums.
“Music trends are cool but there are certain types of art that capture the human conditions so well that it’s forever. I think a lot of artists don’t strive to be that because there’s not any benefit in that now. I wish more artists would try to capture culture as it is moving instead of being a part of it.”