A Chat with Big Gigantic

By: Dennis Cook

Big Gigantic is currently on tour behind their new album, Nocturnal. The duo plays for the next five days at Mayan Holidaze and then return to U.S. on February 2nd in Tallahassee, FL. Find full tour schedule here.

Download the new album for FREE over here!

Big Gigantic
Big Gigantic is a great band name. It could be any kind of music, and it strikes one as funny – and lucky for Dominic Lalli (keys, programming, sax, production) and Jeremy Salken (drums, programming, production) – that no one got to it first.

“I was walking down the street in Boulder [Colorado] and I thought, ‘Big Gigantic. That’s a good name. No, that’s a GREAT name!’ When I started on a side project [from his gig in The Motet] I was going to call it Dominic Lalli’s Big Gigantic, but as I thought about it I found it a bit weird and decided to leave my name out of it,” says Lalli. “I was pretty into Karl [Denson] and dug the Tiny Universe, so that may be why I wanted to put my name in front of it, but it didn’t work out [laughs].”

A lot of faceless music abounds in the electronica realm but Big Gigantic has quickly differentiated themselves from the sea of homogenous assholes with Abelton software and an 808, something abundantly clear on their brightly shimmering, booty activating new album, Nocturnal (released January 11 and available for free download here).

Big Gigantic by Brad Hodge
“That’s the key to anything being successful,” says Lalli. “It just needs to be its own thing.”

“One of the big things about why we wanted to do this project was the two of us seeing all this live electronic music coming around four or five years ago. I was an intern at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, and I played music around town in random jazz and funk bands with Dom and different Motet guys,” says Salken. “We kept talking about the electronic scene and how nobody seemed to know how to play an instrument. It was all producers without the musical background of knowing melodies, chord structures, different modes, etc. and how that could elevate the music if they knew those things.”

“There’s so much we can do,” remarks Lalli. “There’s a production side of it – EQing and trying to get the kick drum sound just right – that I’d never dealt with before, and just crafting the sounds themselves is like learning a new instrument. The music part, the piano parts is easy because I played keyboards all through music school. But in terms of creating synthesizer sounds and bass tones, that’s a learning process every day, which is really exciting. I love to learn and grow.”

Dominic Lalli by Chad Smith
One aspect of Big Gigantic that’s become more surefire as they’ve evolved is their understanding of electronic/DJ culture’s obsession with build and release dynamics.

“That’s also what’s so appealing about the jam band world. Musicians and fans love when bands build and build. This is a different kind of build and drop, but we’re working hard to refine that. It’s such an important part of the music,” says Lalli. “In terms of production stuff, it goes back to reading and watching videos on YouTube every day – I can’t believe how much stuff I learn on there all the time. We’re working on getting the music to sound professional and to flow in our own way. With the new album, I tried to represent a whole bunch of electronic music styles, but perhaps put into a different tempo than normal so it feels like Big Gigantic.”

“[A lot of] electronic music is extremely repetitive. There’s a lot of tension and release with the builds, which is why a lot of jam band kids like it. That’s what they dig in Phish, where they do that on top of the songwriting,” says Salken. “In the 90s, younger people were really into the jam band scene and it was growing strong with Phish, Cheese and lots of band on the rise. In the later 90s, it was Karl D, Soulive and all those bands kicking ass and selling out multiple nights everywhere. Then the electronic thing came around and there’s a new generation that’s excited about this new kind of music. But somehow it got more mainstream [than the jam scene] with people like Skrillex and Pretty Lights.”

New Album
“I think having access to music everywhere is making a difference. Before, you had to buy a CD, or hear just part of an album on the radio, or trade with blanks & postage. Now, you can go online and get almost anything. It makes it easier to get music around to people,” says Salken. “Facebook is a huge tool for spreading music and giving it to people, and just for publicity and hyping stuff.”

The generation that’s most taken to electronic music is also a generation that’s grown very comfortable not paying for albums, downloading most of their music for free, whether authorized or otherwise. This is a problem to some but Big Gigantic has some insights into this situation.

“Because we have computers in our homes now, you can make an album for practically nothing,” remarks Salken. “Before you’d have to go into the studio and spend 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars making an album. Now, it’s almost free except for your time. You can buy $600 of software or get it for free, so that’s one of the reasons electronic artists can give albums away for free because we’re not going into debt. It’s like a side bet to the live show. It’s a bonus and an underlying thing that makes this whole scene happen. We just want to get it into the hands of everyone we can so that they come see us. The real thing is the live show.”

As true as that may be, Nocturnal is still more musical than much of what’s out there in this field, an album one can listen to and enjoy without the huge amplifiers and crazy light show of a concert.

Big Gigantic Audience by Brad Hodge
“Dom definitely approaches each piece as a song with choruses, intros and bridges of traditional songwriting,” says Salken. “But he also likes using different techniques he finds in all kinds of music as well stuff in electronic music we find that works. There’s definitely stuff those guys do that works and people love and we love and it makes a song cool and interesting.”

One of the elements that makes Big Gigantic stand out from the pack of DJs and electronica bands today is Lalli’s saxophone, which often emerges as a warming blast, a descendent of 70s FM radio redolent of Steely Dan, Gerry Rafferty and the like.

“When I have a horn in my mouth and I’m trying to do lead/solo stuff, my head is completely in jam band world. I’m thinking of guitarists – what would Trey do? As a saxophone player, my natural inclination is move like I do in the jam or jazz world, thinking about what I can do to kick it up a notch,” says Lalli, spotlighting how the horn helps cut through some of the ADD stroking tendencies of most electronica. “It’s a different thing but it’s still music. Everyone is dancing but it’s a whole different mentality. The crowds are SO awesome. I’m speechless about them. Our whole fall was basically spent opening up for Bassnectar and Pretty Lights, and even at those shows people came at 7 at night and were right up front ready to go. Very colorful audiences [laughs].”

Big Gigantic by Brad Hodge
“There’s a fear with younger kids that they’ll get bored, but we like playing a show that’s action packed all the way through anyway,” says Salken. “We like to go full force for two hours – wear everyone out, wear ourselves out – so it feels like a workout by the end. But we still want a flow to the evening. We used to dip down more into the mellow but kids get bored really quick. The bigger we get, the more we know that people are there to see us and we can take more liberties.”

The evolution of the band has taken them from being an electro rarity in jam scene to a slot at Ultra, the world’s biggest electronic music festival, this March.

“The music industry and music itself is changing. Everyone can see it,” says Lalli. “So, we don’t want to count ourselves out of anything. The point for me doing this project was to get the music out to as many people as we can. So, we’re really trying to get it to the jam band people. We’re really trying to get it to the electronic cats. We’re really trying to reach a younger audience AND an older audience – bridge a bunch of gaps. That’s why we’re really excited to reach people who don’t know who we are, to get to them with some music they might really like.”

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[Published on: 1/26/12]

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