Interview: Groundislava

Jasper Patterson produces sounds in the vein of video games and ’80s chiptune nostalgia. That description sound a bit boring? No worries, there’s more to his sound—a general melancholic vibe that doesn’t seem to go along with his home of Venice, CA and all the beach vibes you would usually link to that. But even before Bret Easton Ellis we’ve know that there is a bit of a dark side to all these endless Xanax Summers and generic surf romance. In aptly named songs like ‘Suicide Mission’ or ‘Living Under A Rock‘, Groundislava builds beats around emotional states of detachment and confusion that turn the narrative sounds of video game soundtracks into tales of despair and longing. In our conversation we discover his roots in said video games and talk a bit about his collaborators, illustrious names like Clive Tanaka, Shlohmo or Baths.


I was listening to your album, and the first thing I noticed was a collaboration with Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld.
We both went to the same high school for a few years, and we were actually in the same music courses and have a lot of mutual friends, and were hanging out all the time.

I can hear a lot of similarities in your music; not in a bad way though, it sounds like some sort of scene is developing where you guys are from. Do you think that’s because you went to the same music course?
We had this class together and had all this time to do our thing. For me that time was when I taught myself using Reason and Ableton. I also learned how to use the keyboard properly for making music. All the basics.

When did you start to make your own music?
I started when I was about fifteen. I never really knew what I was doing and didn’t really finish stuff, there were just all this random ideas. But nothing that was really representative of what I wanted to do. Then I’d say around the time I turned seventeen, eighteen, I started to be able to express what I wanted to say.

How old are you now?
I just turned twenty-two a month ago.

Where does the name of your project come from?
I think a lot of people had a similar game when they where kids, we jumped from chairs and tables trying to get around the house without touching the floor – ‘the ground is lava’. And a while ago, when I was trying to come up with something I got really nostalgic and thought it sounded like a good name.

Nostalgic, that’s a good lead. Does childhood play a big role in your music? 
My music is influenced by video games a lot, and I think I’m going for a general nostalgic feeling. With my music I just try to create stuff that I would like to hear. I like that amateur approach to it.

What’s your favorite video game soundtrack? 
I think one of my favorite soundtracks is from Bomberman 64. But then it’s not really a particular game, it’s a lot of different soundtracks – I guess I’m just really inspired by music that is connected to a narrative, like in movies.

Your tracks are titled bleak, like ‘Suicide Mission’ – that sounds a bit rough…. 
Sometimes I make song titles that dictate where the song goes, but in that case I had the song and didn’t really know what to call it. So I based the song title on the emotion it had, it had this really intense emotional feeling to it. Before we had lyrics to the song it was called ‘Rescue Mission’.

What is the song about?
I’m not a hundred percent sure what it’s about, but Will sings ‘I’m heading out now, I want to do some bullshit and get myself hurt’ but it’s not specifically about one sort of scenario or one kind of direct meaning, it’s just about this general emotions.

On your EP ‘TV Dream’ there is another suicide song. Is that a theme that runs through your music?
I wouldn’t say it’s a theme—that title is just kind of a weird catchy phrase, so I built the song around it.

How was it working together with Clive Tanaka on the Song ‘TV Dreams’?
He’s kind of a mysterious guy, I just sent him the track and probably a week later he sent me some chopped up vocals back and I basically just put together the song. It wasn’t a very personal exchange, but I think that song is one of the strongest songs i ever made. It represents, not stylistically, but structurally the sound I like.

And your collab with Shlohmo?
I went to middle school with Shlohmo and we were always hanging out. I was out in New York for a couple shows and staying at his house, so we just did some tracks.

Groundislava’s EP ‘TV Dreams’ and his LP Feel Me are out now via Friends of Friends.

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Virtual Pacifism

Virtual Pacifism Recently, reports of pacifist gamers revolutionizing the virtual first-person shooter landscape have been making the media rounds. According to the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio, winning expressly violent games by running away, hid- ing, or bringing fallen comrades back to life with a defibrillator has become all the (anti-)rage. But as Andreas Lange, director of Berlin’s Computer Game Museum tells us, there’s nothing new about virtual pacifism.

A.J. Samuels: How long have people been trying to win violent video games by nonviolent means?
Andreas Lange: I think the first examples of “pacifist” run-throughs can be traced back to the eighties. In the seventies, games didn’t have the complexity to allow for alternative ways of playing, much less alternative ways of winning. The programming just wasn’t far enough. But as soon as so-called “jump and run” games came out—Super Mario Bros. being perhaps the best example— people realized they could decide on their own how they wanted to win. Some opted not to trample the Koopa Troopas or the Goombas, even though they knew it would cost them points. Others tried beating the level as fast as possible in “speed-runs”. I see both more as an act of rebellion than anything else. Ultimately it’s about knowing how and rejecting to play by the rules.

So playing games like Deus Ex or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim without killing anybody is less about pacifism and more about defying the order established by the game’s creators?
Absolutely. It’s first and foremost a challenge to the system. Look, if you’re playing a first- person shooter game on a team, and all you do is sneak around to avoid conflict, or help bring injured team members back to life as a medic, and then they go on to blow somebody’s head off, you’re hardly a pacifist. However, there is a pretty long tradition of pacifist games, or at least ones that reward nonviolence. I believe the first was Balance of Power, which was a Cold War simulation cre- ated by designer Chris Crawford. There you got to decide whether you wanted to be the American President or Soviet General Secretary, and from there on out, it was all about diplomacy. I mean, technically you could nuke your enemy, but that wasn’t the point. More recently we’ve seen “serious games” brought out by organizations like UNESCO or the Red Cross, which are designed around conflict resolution, mediation and nonviolent peacekeeping. The problem is that most people find them incredibly boring.

A few years ago, the artist and activist group Third Faction Collective started staging game internal “interventions” in World of Warcraft, demanding the right to “. . . reflect on the underlying code and architecture on which a game environment is constructed,” and promoting democratic thinking and player sovereignty— essentially a progressive code of ethics. Why do ethics matter in an imaginary game context? Isn’t the whole point of video games having the ability to do things virtually that you can’t do in real life?
That’s certainly an important aspect of gaming, but not the only one. The larger and more interactive video games become, the more game-external ethical conventions apply. This is where the borders between games and real life start to blur. Think about it in comparison to a “normal” game: A soccer match doesn’t go for longer than ninety minutes, and out of bounds is out of bounds. In World of Warcraft, you can build up a character for months or even years. You can spend so much time, energy and love in creating this . . . thing. So when it dies, it’s a big deal. And it feels like much, much more than a game. But is it life? Not really. It’s something in between. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that artists are there to point out. ~

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Del Rey is a bag

Del Rey is a bag Lana, again. The poptress of the moment is the latest starlet to inspire a Mulberry design. The new bag comes in a variety of styles and will be available in May for £630. The 25-year-old singer, who was a front-row guest at the brand’s runway show in London yesterday, later performed at the Saville Club in Mayfair to an audience packed with very well-known celebrities. Believe it or not, here in our EB-Office I’m the only one left who’s with Lana. Who cares? I still dig how refreshing and unrefined she is, and the tragic undertones in her persona make me weep. Judge yourself; watch the snippet below:

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