EOTO's Jason Hann on Their Early Days: "We Were the Only Ones Who Liked What We Were Doing"
A native of North Miami Beach, String Cheese Incident percussionist and one-half of the blowup livetronica duo EOTO, Jason Hann is a lighthearted beat machine. He has an easy sense of humor and a love of life on the road. Along with his musical partner in crime Michael Travis, the pair plays 200 shows a year, perfecting their unique ability to deliver impromptu audio goodness for a curious fan base that spans from the jam band diehards to electro delinquents.
In lieu of EOTO's October 3 show at Revolution Live, we spoke to Hann about EOTO's sound setup and how the act fits into a scene dominated by button-pushing producers.
New Times: Lemur, Korg, MIDI, and Ableton Live - sounds like circus from outer space. For an outsider, the sound setup of EOTO seems drastically complicated. As a duo, how exactly do you guys do it, and have you added any new tools to the operation lately?
Jason Hann: The way that we are able to do it is partially because we've played 800 shows since forming in 2006. Back then, it was one tiny keyboard and one MIDI controller, and doing all that we could just to keep track of playing our instruments live.
Now, this many shows into it, every step of the way is dedicated to fluidity and control. It's been a real journey. Now, it just feels like playing one big instrument. We're used to transitioning, and at this point, it's about those ideas, more than how we are making it happen.
As for new equipment, Travis, on his iPod, uses Animoog developed by a keyboardist from Dream Theater, where he is able to access all kinds of sounds. I'm into different effects for my vocals and drums, but not using a particular piece of gear - just the computer trying to do certain effects.
You've been playing music with Michael Travis for nearly 20 years. Does your chemistry together as EOTO stem from your prior percussionist/drummer relationship that was born from the String Cheese Incident?
Well, I think it became the incident for us wanting to do music together outside of String Cheese. I moved out to Colorado for SCI practice, and after, we would just break out instruments and play - without the purpose of performing, just as a project, messing around. So, that is our connection, remedially, through SCI -- us both being drummers with a strong sense of time. Recording ourselves live and in the moment, there's a certain type of connection that drummers and percussionists hold on to together. To lock into that and tour all the time gives us the ability to click and really be accurate. It comes from a strong rhythmic background and being really tight.
How do you think the strong emergence of electronic sub-genres in the past few years has paved the way for a live act like yours?
In some ways, the electro scene has become prevalent with DJs and producers, and it can be hard for a band to have a pristine sound and be mixed just as right as a DJ can get just by playing tracks off a computer that are already produced. It's a challenge to play in these environments. With the number of DJs out there playing that music, we think we hold a unique spot in that category.
We are playing all our instruments live and making things up. It's a whole other level of appreciation, playing these live instruments, and the music being heard is actually happening in front of the audience. And, so our quest is to know that that's what makes us unique, and that's what we really want to pass on to the people who take another minute to see what we're doing is all on the fly.
Tell us the story behind integrating Lotus Stage into EOTO's live show. How did the concept develop, and how does it enhance the show?
Last year, we were just doing a video screen behind us, and we really wanted to step up our production. Everyone is, a lot of the bigger DJs and bands. But, now, everyone is doing it on the club and theater level, and as we were going to the bigger venues, our manager convinced us to go for a bigger production and to find animators.
We just set out for another animation team that was hungry, and excited about working on a project like this. I had come up with the original design of us playing in different lotus flowers, and then I threw one big lotus flower into the mix. The person who actually made it for us was Blake Courtney. He sculpted it into its present shape, and the projectionist got the animations innovated into it, and we were just really happy to put it together. It's been nothing but a pretty amazing response.
A few weeks ago, EOTO released its 500th recorded of 800 total shows together. When the side project formed in 2006, did you ever imagine it would grow to such great heights?
Not at that time, we were up against it when we first started. We were the only ones who liked what we were doing. Our first big tour together was when we knew SCI was breaking up. We weren't doing what everyone expected us to do. Older Cheese fans came to see us with our computer on stage, and were like, "What they hell are you guys doing? You suck." And we were like, "Thanks!" But, we were having fun with it, and we could tell we were getting better.
And then, a lot of the younger kids thought it sounded cool. Those people really tried to make other people see we were doing this live electronic thing, and that nothing sounded like it. People have a really fresh perception -- the ones that are open to electro. We really didn't know what we were doing, and then we got a little chip on our shoulder...
EOTO with Liquid Stranger. 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 3, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $17. Visit livenation.com.
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