SHOOTING FROM THE LIPP
A siren sounds faintly in the background. Cars speed by and weekend drivers lean uncharacteristically on their horns. Even now, during a phone interview on an early Sunday afternoon, it’s clear that Eliot Lipp is once again on the move.
While much has been written about the producer’s various residences starting from his hometown of Tacoma, Washington moving on to San Francisco, then east toward Chicago and finally back to L.A. what immediately sticks out after a listen to his newest LP, Tacoma Mockingbird, is how much it bears the mark of Detroit, a city Lipp has yet to call home.
“My heaviest influences when making the record were West Coast rap and definitely Detroit techno,” he says while taking a stroll around his Los Angeles neighborhood. “I was listening to a lot of Carl Craig and Jeff Mills at that point in time,” he continues. In a way, Tacoma Mockingbird sounds like the perfect combination of West Coast nostalgia and the digital signature of the Motor City. It is a marked departure from the sample-heavy sound of his first self-titled record, a 2004 release on Scott Herren’s Eastern Developments imprint.
“On the first record I was starting all the songs by layering samples,” he reveals. “And I would just write a little synth melody that went along with whatever samples I had going. On this one, I would begin with melodies written on the keyboards.” Which is one of the reasons Lipp has moved into a much more electronic direction, substituting the sampled hooks for less organic, but by no means less affecting and melodic hooks. It’s a relatively simple sound palette some analog synthesizers and a handful of classic breakbeats but like a house built from playing cards, Lipp does wonders creating something so rich from such a minimal duo of components. Some may call it instrumental hip-hop but even Lipp himself agrees that’s a bit of a misnomer these days.
“If you’re making anything close to instrumental hip-hop people are going to bring up Shadow,” he says. “When I listen to Shadow, it makes me wonder how people compare us. I don’t double the drums. I don’t do a lot of complex editing. And especially with this record, I don’t see any comparison.” And he’s absolutely right. Lipp’s most recent releases including a fantastic Immediate Action 12” on Chi-town’s Hefty Records follow the lead of the techno, house and hip-hop that have inspired him over the years. A relative latecomer to the world of electronic music, Lipp crafts tracks that rely heavily on melody. And though they are significantly slower than ‘90s influences like Speedy J or Plastikman, you can just imagine him accidentally playing Hawtin’s Musik at 33 1/3. “I didn’t really get into electronic music until like 2000,” he confides, “and some kid sat me down and played me Autechre, Oval and Aphex Twin, all this shit at once. I had no idea any of this even existed and it tripped me out.”
Yet, like a well-seasoned traveler, Lipp refuses to permanently close any doors, always leaving an open option to travel back to a musical time and place that suits his needs. For those fans feeling his earlier work, worry not, because Lipp has no intentions of abandoning his sampler. “I’m getting back to sampling,” he vows. “I like working on really played-out samples, something like the Isley Brothers’ ‘Between the Sheets’ most people will hear that and think of the Biggie song. But to try to use that sample and find something in it that someone didn’t bring out before…that’s the challenge.”
Another challenge for Lipp is how to translate his sound to the live setting in an age increasingly defined by unrest for the typically humdrum laptop performance. Live, Lipp hides himself behind a host of classic analog hardware and a snake pit of tangled 1/4 inch and RCA cables, triggering his breaks on a laptop or MPC with nearly flawless timing. “I’m kind of wanting to phase out the laptop part of my set, but at the same time I’m having fun with it,” he says. “I’ve seen laptop shows that were super-boring and I’ve seen ones that were really exciting. A lot of times it depends on who’s behind it.”
Eliot Lipp, the guy behind the table, seems to have settled comfortably these days into his L.A. digs, discovering a substantial underground network of suburban Hollywood neighborhoods that boast artists as diverse as Daddy Kev, Daedelus and edIT. “Every little neighborhood on the edge of Hollywood has a little scene going on that’s cool,” he says. “And everybody kind of knows each other but there’s room to do your own thing.”
And all that Lipp has done thus far over his short yet productive stint as a producer is indeed his own thing. It’s highly likely that his next record will sound nothing like his first two. And for a producer interested in maintaining longevity, there’s no better way to play this often frustrating game. “I always like the idea of making a record that could have been made 15 years ago. I’m into technology but I’m always skeptical about really cutting-edge shit,” he reveals. “A lot of dudes will get caught up in the newest, coolest editing tricks, but a couple of years later [their records] will sound like they were made in a specific year. I try to keep it a little more timeless.”