“Dominating the bass music scene for nearly a decade, Terravita has run the gamut when it comes to crowd-smashing, mind-melting electronic music. From the days of Drum & Bass to the era of contemporary Dubstep, Trap and everything in-between, Terravita know no limits when it comes to crafting the most staggering, bone-jarring bangers around. From their industry-leading sound-design to the razor-honed precision of their drums, Terravita are undeniable experts at their craft, and will inevitably remain so for many years to come” (EDM.com).
After their heavy hitting Safe In Sound set at Myth in Saint Paul, Terravita sat down with Dan Crittenden to talk about their history, their music, plans for life after Terravita, and their newest EP, Fuel To the Fire.
TBM: Hey guys thanks for meeting with me, can you introduce yourselves?
Jon: I’m Jon from Terravita
Chris: I’m Chris from Terravita
TBM: So where are you guys from?
Jon: We’re originally from New England. Chris and Matt are from Rhode Island, I’m from Western Massachusetts and we all lived in Boston for like ten years. We just recently moved out to LA in the past two years, and we live there now.
TBM: Can you tell me a little bit about how you all got together to form Terravita?
Chris: So Matt and I worked together for a while, and we were working with another emcee who decided to show up drunk one day to tell us we didn’t know what we were doing producing music, so we no longer worked with him. So then Jon showed up to a couple shows and then we sat in with him and the chemistry was right so we kept him and then kept the name Terravita. That was like a decade ago.
TBM: I heard earlier that you also produced house music under a different name; was that what you began with or did you begin as Terravita?
Jon: Nope Terravita came first, and then we started Hot Pink Delorean after our release schedules got backed up for like three years. We had nothing else to do, and we were signed exclusive so we couldn’t put out any other music as Terravita so we started putting out music as Hot Pink Delorean and it was pretty fun.
TBM: Do you still intend to keep the two projects running simultaneously?
Jon/Chris: We haven’t really done anything new with that in about two and a half years. Terravita just kind of took over and we didn’t really have time for both. We’ve been dabbling a bit lately, but who knows what’s going to happen with that. We’ll see.
TBM: When you were signed to Firepower Records, did that at all shape your musical direction?
Chris: It didn’t change our musical direction.
Jon: We were with Troy when he came up with the idea. I think it was EDC Orlando actually, and we were all in a hotel room at like three in the morning, you know, after-partying, and he threw out the idea. He was like, “Hey guys I really want to start a label and I really want to do it right. Everything for the artists, the way it’s supposed to be. Would you be willing to release with me?” Of course we said yeah, so that’s how that relationship got started off.
TBM: So you were basically there from the very inception?
Jon: Yeah definitely.
Chris: I think we were like their third release or something.
Jon: Troy has never really told us what we have to do musically. Sometimes he’ll offer us some constructive criticisms but he’s never once told us to change something.
Chris: It’s always been like, “If I were to do this song I would do it like this, but it’s your song so do what you want.”
TBM: So with that level of musical freedom, where do you see yourself going with your music moving forward?
Jon: We’re always working with collaborations with other people, trying to get some different perspectives with music and combine them with our own. Lately though we’ve been trying to go back a little more to our original sound, with more bass-heavy mid-range stuff. Kinda to take it back to that 2010 kind of sound.
Chris: We’re into more of a hip-hop swagger, kind of like focusing on the groove of the beat, rather than seeing how crazy the noises could be.
TBM: So Jon, I noticed you were doing the emceeing on stage today, is that your primary role?
Jon: That is indeed my role.
TBM: Given that, what is your work flow like in the studio?
Chris: Matt is typically our studio mastermind. So either him or one of the other members will come up with an idea and go from there and it cycles through all our input and winds up with Matt mixing and mastering. We’re unique in that we’ve got three different people in the group so we each bring our own preferences and influences. I think that’s why we can have such a diverse sound.
TBM: At what moment did you recognize that it was time to put everything else on the backburner and dive full force into Terravita?
Jon: It was shortly after “In the Club” and “Lockdown” came out. We didn’t know anything that was going to happen, you know what I mean? We had just recently gotten out of our deal with Technique and we had a new lease on bass music, and that’s when dubstep was starting to become popular. We didn’t really jump on the dubstep bandwagon because we kinda felt like we would be selling ourselves short, and that’s when we started making drumstep, which at the time didn’t even have a name. For us it was just halftime drum and bass.
Chris: Fast dubstep.
Jon: We wanted that dubstep vibe, but still keep it at 175 bpm because we were always drum and bass guys. Those tunes really didn’t even take us that long to write, but all of a sudden Skrillex is playing them main stage at EDC. Next thing you know, shit just started rolling forward. We got really lucky, we’ve had a lot of good people who were trying to help us out and support us.
Chris: Also, there was a point where the two acts (Terravita and Hot Pink Delorean) were equally popular, and the reason we chose Terravita was because that’s what we did first, and our passion is bass music. Hot Pink Delorean happened kind of as a fluke because of this contractual thing that happened, but afterwards it was just the logical choice to go back to Terravita and we’ve been doing that ever since.
TBM: So what were you guys doing before you found success in the music scene?
Jon: I was a bartender in Boston. I worked at a bunch of places, but I worked the door, worked the bar, waited tables… pretty much any job that you can do in a bar or restaurant. Fine dining! The pleasures of having Jon Spero serving food.
Chris: I pretty much have always done music. There were times when the economy got tough and doing music was pretty hard. There were about two years where I sold cars, but other than that I’ve basically done music since 1998.
TBM: Chris, what were some of your earliest musical involvements?
Chris: Mostly throwing raves.
TBM: So you were the one orchestrating things and making it all happen?
Chris: I would be the promoter.
Jon: We all kind of started throwing and promoting shows. I was also emceeing solo for a while, at which point I was not very good at my job. But I thought I was.
TBM: So how did the raves go?
Jon: His raves went great; his went really well.
TBM: Did you encounter frequent problems with the police?
Chris: Oh they hated us. It wasn’t commercial at all at the time, there were little to no corporate sponsorships. It was hard when you told them you were doing electronic music and they were just like, “NO.”
TBM: Even today with the overwhelming rise in popularity with electronic music you’re still met with hesitation.
Chris: Less so, though.
Jon: The thing is that there’s just a stigma to it. Music has always been associated with drug use. That’s never going to change. I read an article the other day that 50 people got arrested a Toby Keith concert. Some people were raped, there were violent arrests as well as drug arrests, but nobody is talking about that, but one person passes out at an electronic show and everybody is talking about drugs and molly. I think they need to stop calling them “overdoses”. Nobody is overdosing on molly, they’re just overheating and passing out. Secondarily, that’s just the way it is. Music and drugs, they go together. I don’t like it as much as the next guy, but at a certain point you have to come to grips with the fact that it’s just never going to change. Whether it’s Woodstock, Rock n’ Roll, Reggae, any of it, it’s all going to be associated in some way with drug use because it’s mind altering and it helps creativity, but at the end of the day, I’m not your parent. Do your thing, just be smart about it.
TBM: You guys are no newcomers to the scene, do you have any crazy tour stories that you’d care to share?
Chris: Not anymore. Mainly now we just work on our music and focus on our tours. We’re actually pretty fucking boring now. If you caught us 18 months ago, maybe not so much.
TBM: So after the novelty or shock of the whole experience has worn off you think you’re calmed down a bit?
Chris: Eventually you get into your early thirties and decide that there are things more important than partying.
Jon: You just get burned out, man. I mean, how many years can you go partying and partying and running around doing crazy shit? We’re all practically married now and are kind of toning down our lives a bit. You eventually realize that life is a real thing and you need to save your money and move forward. You don’t have a 401k or insurance or anything, so if you’ve got a family in mind you really have to be careful what you do. Once people stop booking us for shows is the minute our income stops, and what then?
TBM: Do you feel that you’ve all taken that into account and developed contingency plans for when the journey comes to an end?
Jon: Yeah I think everyone’s got a bit of a backup plan. Chris works with SG throwing festivals and stuff.
Chris: The Safe in Sound brand is from Maureen, our manager’s company, SGE. Her and I are kind of the ones running the show, and obviously there are many more people working on it beyond us.
Jon: I just started a company, a vaporizer company, so that’s something I’m planning on using in the background.
Chris: To be honest with you, we’ll probably be doing this until we’re 40. We’ll stop playing when people stop coming to see us, I guess.
Jon: That or when my whole entire body just gives up.
TBM: Well to wrap this all up, why don’t you give us a plug and tell us a little about your new EP?
Jon: It’s called Fuel to the Fire coming out October 14th, it’s a four-tracker coming out on Firepower.
Chris: You can tell it goes back to our old sound, with a little more hip-hop influence. By hip-hop, I don’t mean trap, I mean we’ve got some hip-hop vocals and that hip-hop beat with the dubstep sound.
Jon: That’s were I come in, and that’s where Master P comes in. We actually really like this sample from “Make Them Say Uhh,” we played it tonight and we hope people enjoy it as much as we do.
TBM: Sounds great! I loved that track. Thanks for meeting with me, guys! I hope the rest of your tour goes smoothly.
Buy Fuel To the Fire – EP now on iTunes.
Buy Fuel To the Fire – EP now on beatport.
Article by Dan Crittenden
Photo and Music Compliments of Terravita