Wiley Webb is a freshman progressive house DJ from Malibu who was born with a stage name. His common app essay began “At my first rave” and his two latest singles, ‘Humour’ and ‘Ambrosia’, dropped in April.
Stanford Arts Review: How would you describe your music?
Wiley Webb: Eclectic. Fun. Unclassifiable.
How would you describe your music to someone deaf?
Champagne bubbles and polished chrome. Yeah.
Warmth. Warm summer winds; not hot but energetic and playful.
Why do you describe your sounds in themes and images?
EDM [electronic dance music] is more abstract — with acoustic music, it’s clearly defined. EDM can be transformers having an argument, a romantic vacuum cleaner encounter. Visuals are a big part of the production process. I like to imagine things of a different sense and then try to translate it into another sense. There’s a detachment between you and what’s creating the sound since it’s all synthetic. It allows for room for imagination
Why is EDM blowing up right now?
To start, the technology is available and being used for music. As that becomes more widespread, popular taste becomes accustomed to electronic music. Honestly, it’s more fun, it’s more interesting, and to my aesthetic taste, it’s superior music. EDM is designed for live environments, and people are down with losing themselves in the moment. In other types of music, you’re forced back into reality in between songs at a concert. Dance music shows, until the recent emergence of celebrity DJs, were about dancing and not about the performances.
Do you think the great musicians of the past would value EDM?
What would John Lennon like about your music?
What type of hypothetical John Lennon are we talking about? Like, has he listened to Skrillex?
Let’s say this is an open-minded Lennon — he’s looking for positives.
Lennon would love the sound design and cohesion. Cohesion is a big thing for my music. As a producer, I’m working with a conglomeration of sounds. I’m trying to sew them into a Frankenstein of melodies, where you can’t see the seams. Every sound should work towards the song as a whole, which is what separates amateur from quality producers.
What about Biggie?
The booty bass section of ‘Humour’. It’s basically a fat kicking bass with a wonky synth over it. And the main part is very rhythmically conscious.
The hook. He’d like the hook.
You’re generally not the biggest drinker or drug user. Is it weird that there is such a strong drug culture surrounding the type of music you produce?
Yeah, it’s a little weird but never disconcerting. It’s never really been about that for me. If you look at someone like Kaskade — he’s a 42 year old Mormon dude. It can be done.
Kaskade is 40? And Mormon?
Who are your favorite artists right now?
As for EDM, out of the big guys I do like Kaskade, as well as deadmau5 and Daft Punk, of course. As for lesser known guys, I’m big on The M Machine, Madeon and Porter Robinson. I actually got to open for Madeon at Ruby Skye in January. Outside of the genre, I’m getting really into the artsy electronica scene. Flying Lotus, James Blake, Bonobo all came out with albums in the last three months, so I’m really happy.
You think they’ll influence your own work?
Yeah. They’re starting to sway me towards stronger songwriting as opposed to straight production — song, notes, melodies as opposed to sound structure, arrangement and mixing. I’m starting to use a lot of non-traditional chord progressions and my stuff is very melodically based. If you’re not starting on the piano or in some melodic way, it’s just not really going to sound like music.
Do you always start from the piano?
Yeah. Or in the shower. I thought of ‘Humour’ in the shower.
What’s next for you, career move-wise?
Here’s where I’m at now: I feel like I’ve developed a unique sound that I can call my own. This summer I’m going to do a lot to try and release some tracks and see what kind of traction I can get with those. From there, I’ll try to figure out if I’d like to remain independent or try to produce for other people. I just met with a manager to produce for a pop-rock singer looking to expand her creative sound. It will be a new experience to try to work within her style of rock while making it more interesting and danceable.
With Skrillex and Diplo testing their waters in hip hop, would you consider doing work in that genre?
Yeah. There’s still a lot of room for individuality in creating hip hop beats, even if you’re doing it for someone else.
Is working in hip hop selling out?
It’s a way to flex production muscles in a different way and in a different environment. You dress up in different clothes to go to the gym than you do for dinner, but it’s still you. Different settings demand different applications of yourself.
Is DJ Wiley Webb different from Stanford kid Wiley Webb?
As far as I can tell, no. It’s a lot easier not to have to think a character you’re constructing.
Did you know DJrankings.com has you ranked as the 10,730th best DJ in the world?
What will it take to get you to crack 10,700?
That’s been my dream since day 1.
Wiley’s two latest singles, ‘Humour’ and ‘Ambrosia’, can be streamed and downloaded at http://wileywebb.com/. He’ll be opening for Deorro at 715 Harrison in San Francisco on Sunday, May 26 for Glowchella. All proceeds from this event will go to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Check out the event here.