“Everything Can be Put into House Music”: An Interview With Compton House Producer, AshTreJinkins

Sam Ribakoff speaks with AshTreJinkins about the origins of house music, the LA beat scene, and California's Wild West.
By    April 28, 2016


When you think about your average techno or house music fan it’s easy to imagine a tall, lanky white guy dressed in all black, and not think of the originators from the American Midwest – who were all black. The vibrant spirit of both styles has been kept alive in the underground music scenes and dance clubs around the country, especially its ancestral roots in Chicago and Detroit. Since the beginning, house music has touched the mainstream, but its popularity first explored in Europe, causing a lot of the originators of house and techno to make it a second home.

Recently house music has been slipped back into the American mainstream. Even DJ Mustard has been flipping Robin S like she was the first one to show him love. As for L.A. producer AshTreJinkins, he’s trying to make sure people don’t forget about the hands that made that original house and techno music. I talked with Ashtre about his most recent album, Zone of Enders, how he got into house and techno music, the Low End Theory scene, and Compton, at FingerPrints record shop in Long Beach. —Sam Ribakoff

How would you describe the music you make? I guess I wouldn’t describe your music as any particular genre, to me it’s more like a feeling of driving late at night in Los Angeles.

AshTreJinkins: Oh shit. Thanks man. I mean, shit, it’s an electronic mess, or like an electronic stew. I don’t know man, electronic dance…no, trip-hop, maybe.

What about house music?

AshTreJinkins: That’s a fair characterization. There were some intentions towards house on Zone of the Enders. That’s definitely what I’m trying to do now, more house kind of stuff. I’d say house is the foundation, or the starting point of all my music.

 What’s your relationship to Low End Theory?

AshTreJinkins: When I was 14 or 15, or maybe 13, I heard Flying Lotus. I’ll never forget it. I was watching Adult Swim, and I remember the transition of them having those bumps in between commercial breaks that used to be just stills of old people getting out of a pool, and then them having the bumps with Flying Lotus’ music. I saw it said music by Flying Lotus, looked him up on Myspace, and damn near found everyone else on Myspace who’s killing the game right now.

When I was about 14 or 15, my family moved from Carmel to LA, or to Santa Clara specifically, and down here I heard about Beat Cypher going down in Leimert Park. I met Dibiase through there, saw Ras G there, Pudge, and I just kind of linked up with those three. I met a lot of people who would eventually start the Low End at the Beat Cypher.

What was the first thing that got you into production?

AshTreJinkins: Oh, it was a Nujabes song. I loved Samurai Champloo, the show, which Nujabes did the music for. I think it was “Peaceland” that I first heard that I was like, “I want to make this kind of stuff.” After I heard that I got into making beats, then Flying Lotus put the visual aspect into the music, and he kind of got me into the style.

The first tracks I started making on Fruity Loops were closer to the Low End Theory sound. At that time, I didn’t see many kids my age doing that, so I thought I should definitely be that kid. And that’s the sound I stuck with for like eight years, hard, but then I just got reality checked one day at a show, and that’s what made me move into house and techno.

What happened at that show?

AshTreJinkins: Just seeing people grow up was a reality check, and seeing their sounds change. Just evolving I guess. I just went through some changes that made me not want to make that kind of stuff professionally as a career anymore. I feel like a lot of people lost their individuality in that scene. Like, a lot of people just became carbon copies of a sound. The mainstream kind of poured down on that whole Low End Theory scene. But anyways, I just got personally tired of thinking that I could make it with that Low End Theory sound. Did some research, wised up, then started making house and techno tracks.

Why house and techno?

AshTreJinkins: Man. To be honest, I didn’t know black people did it. I didn’t know that they did it, and more so, I didn’t know that they started it. I didn’t know that. The first thing I heard was Moodymann, and after that it was kind of like hearing really good gospel music for the first time. That peaked my interest. Especially seeing pictures of Moodymann, you know? He looks like he came out of a blaxploitation film. Have you seen that Red Bull interview?

Yeah, that’s such a great interview

AshTreJinkins: Oh man! I fucks with it really hard. He’s just so in his own era. But yeah, doing my research and seeing how house and techno music started, realizing that black people started it, is what made me start making house and techno. And after listening to a bunch of that music, it just started feeling like the final form of music. You know what I mean? Like, everything can be put into house music.

So you’re perception of house and techno music before you started researching it was that it was kind of European background music?

AshTreJinkins: Yeah, I guess so. I thought of it as kind of the background music you heard in the first Blade movie. And yeah, there would only be a certain type of people you could imagine listening to this music. I just thought it was straight European, and that’s all I took from it. It really flipped the script for me when I did my research. I mean, no hate on the Europeans, they’re doing it hard, and I like that.

Have you played house clubs?

AshTreJinkins: I played The Lash in downtown L.A. They throw a lot of house events there. But I haven’t played The Black Lodge yet, or Moony Habits, those two places are clubs in LA that have promoters that are really bringing fools out here, like Robert Hood, and Ron Morelli, Theo Parrish, Marcellus Pittman.

Like, there’s a lot going on in LA with techno and house music. I live in Compton, and I rep Compton, and I’m surprised there aren’t more kids that look like me, black kids, making house and techno music. I think I might be the only one.

What is Compton like for a young house producer?

AshTreJinkins: People are always surprised, that aren’t from Compton, when I say that I make house and techno and that I live in Compton. Living in Compton, it’s cool, because they’re trying to be suburban, but it’s still very unpredictable, but I still feel like Long Beach is more unstable than Compton. They’re trying to calm down in Compton. It’s different having such a futuristic mind and being in Compton.

I feel like I almost get a taste of Detroit, but Detroit is on a whole ‘nother level than Compton. But you know what’s funny? I just recently found out that there’s a strong punk and screamo scene in Compton, and there’s a lot more of that scene than any other scene. But yeah, the house and techno scene is in downtown LA. I wish it was more in Compton though. It would be great to throw a techno party and just throw people off. People still think Compton’s stuck in the 90’s, but it isn’t. It’s more mature now for sure. It’s very business now, not wild west. But Long Beach is getting wild west-y.

Is Zone of Enders about living in Compton?

AshTreJinkins: Zone of Enders is kind of a concept album about me going away, going on a vacation for a little bit, then coming back and seeing all my friends as ghosts. I started making it in 2014 and finished it in the summer of 2015, so I’ve been sitting on it for a minute. It’s probably my most personal work yet. It’s kind of like my book.

 So how do we get more kids to listen to house and techno?

AshTreJinkins: Man. They gotta watch a documentary. You know? They gotta see the faces of the originators. That’s what did it for me.

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