A Man of Many Talents
by Vee Manzerolle
Eric Solomon is a man of many talents; he sings, he's a multi-instrumentalist and he's a songwriter. This past November Solomon released his highly anticipated debut full-length album, 'Time Bomb.' Fans have been drawn in by his catchy singles—like "Addicted"—and his various remixes for the likes of The xx and Passion Pit. In March, Eric Solomon hit the road to tour with Dragonette making pit stops across Ontario—including stops in Kingston, London, Waterloo and Toronto. SoulMatters had the chance to talk to Solomon about music, his upbringing, and his upcoming tour with Dragonette.
SoulMattersMag: When you were very young your family relocated from Montreal to Kinshasa in the African Congo, what was it like growing up in the African Congo?
Eric Solomon: I always describe it as the life of Tom Sawyer in the jungle. It was wild and open, there were dirt roads, smells of burned wood in the mornings and you'd never know what you'd find in your backyard—a scorpion, a snake, a monkey, a giant deadly spider or a parrot that would become your friend for years to come. At one point, I swear we had a zoo in our house—I loved it. The beat of the Congo always plays inside of me; I'll always be a jungle boy at heart.
SMM: Is music an integral part of the culture there?
ES: Definitely. Congo musicians are known as some of the best in Africa, I would say even in the world. It's vibrant and energetic, it moves you whether you like it or not and puts you in the mood—its got LIFE!
SMM: Your initial hands-on introduction to music was through classical piano, what drove you towards making electronic pop music?
ES: My dad wanted to be a classical guitar virtuoso and spent endless hours practicing for years but after he met my mom he said to her, "Vicky! It's you or the guitar. And I choose the guitar." My mom knowing him well shrugged her shoulders and said, "OK." The next morning he came begging for her back. After that my dad put his dream on us—I like telling that story. As for electronic pop, I always loved pop music with its interesting production—TV on the Radio, Prince, Calvin Harris and Theophilus London. I came from the musician world where I played in bands; I played guitar, keyboard, drums and danced. I was still computer savvy but it was about doing that killer solo and doing that crazy riff. A couple years ago I went to WMC in Miami and it changed my life. I thought I went to a house music festival but what I saw was a punk movement—they were doing new things with synthesizers that I've never heard before and I had to be part of that so I jumped in!
SMM: Your debut EP, Antarctica, was self-produced and recorded in your studio in Vancouver and mixed by Dave Ogilvie (NIN and David Bowie)—what was that experience like for you?
ES: Amazing. I always get nostalgic when I listen to that album. The team was Dave and Colin Janz also known as Frederic and I. I swore that I wouldn't do anything for the whole time we're recording—drink, go out, smoke weed or whatever! I would just stay focused and live it to the max. We really dug in and tried to come up with something fresh and organic. We would basically meet up everyday at noon and not leave until 4 am, and when it was time to mix we were like fucking zombies—"yea, I think it's good? I don't know anymore." I am SO proud of this album! Dave Colin and I always say "we'll always have Antarctica."
SMM: On top of being a singer/songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist you're also a re-mixer—you've remixed songs by Owl City, The xx, and Passion Pit. What drives you to remix songs by certain artists?
ES: My friends at the time were like, "dude listen to this and mess it up!" To tell you the truth, I really didn't want to. I didn't like remixing, it seemed pointless, everyone was doing it and I just wanted to write songs—but I dug in and started finding a groove. It was tricky cause a lot of these tracks had no acapellas, so I had to remix on top of all the tracks that were already there and they weren't locked to a beat sometimes. By the time I was done the Passion Pit I hated it but that's mostly because I'm a perfectionist. I was really surprised that it went to number one on Hype Machine and got me a mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine as "an artist to watch out for"—now I love it. I would probably be more inclined to remix an obscure indie artist over a super pop one. Check out my mixtape.
SMM: This past November you released your debut full-length album, Time Bomb. What kind of response has the album received so far from music enthusiasts?
ES: I have a lot of fans that tweet about it saying they are blasting it in their car, the shower and at house parties—that's exactly the kind of response that I wanted. Antarctica was made with more depth and Time Bomb was made to party, hence the name...get ready to explode. It seems to be therapeutic to a lot of my fans so I'm happy bout that...BOOM!
SMM: Is there an overarching theme and/or vibe to Time Bomb?
ES: The theme is to party. I remember reading will.i.am's interview in Rolling Stone where he said something like "people wanna party, nobody wants to get to deep today because we are all bombarded with so many problems, bills, wars, disease, relationship problems, unemployment etc…the last thing I think people wanna hear is how depressed I am or how this world is fucked. WE KNOW!" The reason why dance music is so popular is because we need a release. We need to get stupid until the sun comes up and make memories—hopefully be able to keep them—and create good moments in our lives that give us hope. So there it is, that is the sentiment behind Time Bomb. I'm gonna explode glee all over the place! (Laughs.)
SMM: You're opening up for Dragonette this March, how did the opportunity arise?
ES: I'm a live act, even more than a recording artist. I'm a true musician at heart and live for the stage. I did some pretty big tours last year and gained a lot fans from it and the attention of The Agency Group who have been championing me with gigs like this one. I'm very lucky for all these opportunities and I am so excited to play with Dragonette—what a good bill to be on.
SMM: Is there anything in particular that you're excited for during this upcoming tour?
ES: New audiences. Last year when I went on tour I gained so many fans that my name was trending on Twitter. Everyday I communicate and feel very close to them. There is no greater satisfaction than having fans that love you and that you love back—it's a perfect relationship. I have never played in the areas we are touring in Ontario and this will be a cool underground crowd—music lovers, tastemakers and people I can play my darker stuff too. I'm really excited and terrified at the same time...it'll be ok, right?
SMM: Will you be going on your own headlining tour soon?
ES: That's the plan. I'm releasing a new single very soon with a dope video so hopefully soon after that!
SMM: What can your fans expect next from you?
ES: I've been writing some pretty cool stuff and can't wait to get it out! I feel really on top of my game this year. My music is coming out in the U.K, Canada and in the U.S. I'll be releasing a lot of material on the radio, a lot of cool stuff online and will be touring quite a bit. I have a new interactive website that is almost done where you'll be able to get all my music, news and merchandise. I feel good about 2012; I have wonderful fans and a great team. Thank you for the interview and see you at the show!