“I Just Like Throwing Shit at the Wall and seeing What Sticks”: An Interview with Gangus

Will Schube chats with Gangus about his debut LP, collaborating with the late Dr. Derg, and his relationship with Dome of Doom.
By    March 27, 2018

When Christian Emmett decided to move out from his mom’s place to pursue music full-time, he settled upon the relatively musically-desolate Denver, Colorado. To paraphrase Emmett, it’s a city where all the big acts come from out of town. He moved there to collaborate with his friend Matt Brenner (who performed under the name Dr. Derg, who tragically passed away just over two years ago. But in their collaborative tenure, the duo started creating an innovative brand of dubstep infused IDM that helped bring about a new wave of production styles in Denver. Now signed to LA’s most impressive young electronic-leaning label, Dome of Doom, Emmett—who performs under the name Gangus—is out to prove his genre-melding creations have lasting value. One listen to his debut LP, Anti-Self confirms what many following Gangus’ development already know: Christian Emmett isn’t a flash in the pan.

His debut spits out a rapidfire concoction of dance signifiers, blending Burial-esque dusty electronics with two step, grime, and dubstep—all within a single track. He’s a part of the internet age of producers—young experimentalists with no interest in formalism or adherence to a certain code. If something sounds good, Emmett’s going to pursue it. Ahead of his Low End Theory debut, we caught up with Gangus for his first ever interview to discuss Denver’s increasingly impressive electronic music scene, what ‘anti-self’ really means, and Oskar Blues—Colorado’s best brewery. —Will Schube

You began this project when you were unemployed and living with your mom. Was that your first foray into serious production?

Gangus: No. I went to college for audio engineering. I was making dubstep and stuff back then, but I was only kind of taking it seriously. I’ve been making stuff on my laptop for a while, but I decided to try harder and find a distinct sound when I was living with my mom after college.

How did you go about looking for those new sounds when you were diving into the Gangus project?

Gangus: I was making tons of hip-hop sample beats, just as a different project. I was doing that with my buddy Nick who produces as Kin. He started showing me this other side of electronic music that was starting to come up—the beat scene, stuff like that. I was getting pretty into it at that point. I was trying to make that sort of stuff but I didn’t have it figured out yet.

Around that time I was listening to stuff on Alpha Pup and I heard Flying Lotus for the first time. I was a little late on that [laughs]. I got into Team Supreme stuff and that opened so many doors for me, so much shit I hadn’t heard before.

Is that the same sort of stuff that influenced this LP?

Gangus: All those influences lead up to where this one is. As the beat scene progressed and people were making crazier and more experimental stuff, I got inspired to do this project. Where my sound is now takes bits and pieces from everything. I’ve always loved rap music, and for a while I was into punk, metal, and hardcore. It’s just a little bit of everything. And a lot if it is also grabbing influences from the people around me. I don’t have a set goal in mind when I make something, I just fool around until something happens. The techniques have been gathered from working out things on my own and working with friends—just finding the sounds I’m enjoying from others.

What was the electronic scene like in Denver when you first moved out there?

Gangus: It was mostly dubstep. That was going strong out here. Being that I made a lot of dubstep I knew some of the people from the internet. The beat scene was going on a little bit, but locally it was mostly promoters bringing artists from out of town. In terms of beats, there wasn’t a strong scene in town, as far as I could tell. But it’s really picking up now. A lot of people are crossing beat-style stuff with dubstep.

Was there a moment you can point to where you started to feel like you were making it as a musician in Denver?

Gangus: I made a collaborative track called “Old Chub” with Matt [Brenner, the late producer who made music under the name Dr. Derg]. We busted it out in a night out of nowhere when I first moved to Denver. I posted it on my Gangus page, which had been dead for a while because all of my followers were dubstep followers who weren’t really happy when I posted non-dubstep tracks. “Old Chub” did really well, way better than we expected. That was a big moment of change for me because I felt like a musician gaining some new fans who were into the sounds I was exploring, the new direction I was moving towards.

I made a few tracks on my own, like “Skfunk,” which did really well, and “Tim Allen is My Dad” did well too. That all happened over three or four months. That was a big moment for me, a big point of success in doing this type of music.

Is “Old Chub” named after the Colorado beer?

Gangus: [Laughs] Hell yeah. We drank a bunch of those.

How did you link up with Dome of Doom to put out this record?

Gangus: I’m really good friends with Huxley Anne. I heard about Dome of Doom through her because they put out her tape. I’d been keeping an eye on them because I really liked what they were doing, but I’d never been really interested in releasing on a label just for the sake of doing it. I was at a point with music where I was releasing singles and really unsure of what I was going to do next in terms of taking my sound somewhere. I was really torn between a couple different things, which has been a recurring theme in my relationship with music for as long as I can remember. One day though, Wylie added me on Twitter and asked for my email. We got to talking and he asked if I wanted to do a release through their label.

I was shocked at first because I didn’t even know I was on their radar. I was scared to do it because I have trouble putting together a body of work. A lot of the tracks are backlog tracks, too, but once he reached out to me I decided to do it. Because it’s an album, Wylie reminded me that the whole thing didn’t have to be nuts, like with my singles. That made it easier.

Did you have a lot of songs already done for the new record?

Gangus: The record is nine tracks and five of them were songs I’ve released over the past year. I didn’t think I’d be able to have a full album of tracks done in time because I work slowly, but then Wiley presented the fact that none of my old tracks have proper distribution. They’re not on Spotify or iTunes or anything like that. It was his idea to do half new tracks and half older tracks. It becomes a body of work when you put it all together. I scrapped so much I had been working on before the final tracklisting. My hard drive just got too full of ideas that were maybe for the album.

Was it challenging to get the new works to fit aesthetically with the tracks you’d already completed?

Gangus: It wasn’t that hard because without necessarily intending to, my music just sounds a certain way when I work on it over a period of time. I did have a thought in my head that I needed to reach a certain level on each track in terms of how I felt about it. It was difficult to make sure each track was up to par with my standard because sonically, it’s all over the place. That ties into my concept of ‘anti-self’ and a division of the mind. Like, one side of me is always pulling away and stopping myself. The tracks represent the ups and downs, I think.

A lot of the songs touch on many ideas in a short duration of time. Do you think some of that could also be attributed to your mindset as a singles artist? Just showing your audience what you can do in a shorter amount of time?

Gangus: That might be it, but I also have musical ADD. I just like so many different types of music. I’ll just be fooling around on a project and something will happen where a bunch of different ideas come about. It’s almost like a puzzle, all these different pieces together. That’s just the way it is for me. I might be overcomplicating things, that’s something I have to be mindful of. But I also like the progression my tracks make because artistically I appreciate that. It’s a mixed bag of not being sure of what I want to do and liking a bunch of different stuff. I just like throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Is that a general philosophy for your songwriting style?

Gangus: Definitely. It’s more creative for me that way. I get outcomes I didn’t plan for, but I end up really liking the way they come out and sound.

Can you further explain the title of the record and this idea of ‘anti-self’ versus a ‘true self?’

Gangus: I’ve always gone through ups and downs in terms of creative flow and how I feel about my music. That’s part of why it takes me so long to finish things. I was dicking around, trying to work on things for the album, and I was frustrated. I was hanging in the studio and I was starting to feel hurt because there was this other side of me, this anti-me, that was messing with what I, the real me, actually wanted. There are two sides constantly fighting to get where I want to go and be happy with my music. Sometimes I’m super stoked with what I’m working on, and then I can get super frustrated.

I started doing some research and I came upon the whole anti-self concept, and I realized that’s what was going on in my head. I was fighting this psychological battle to put things together and make tracks I’m happy with. It’s the same with depression as well. It all plays into it, this broad umbrella of my process. The album sounds so different and has so many different vibes. It represents that up and down, that push and pull—where my head’s out.

Are you happy with the way this record turned out?

Gangus: Absolutely. I’m really, really proud of it.

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