Exclusive Q&A with musician Evan Baker for MADE
Portland based composer and producer Evan Baker aka Ritual Hedon makes music that will always be in service of the hedon in you. His music is equal parts breezy disco, raw soul, irresistible pop, and lush electronica, weaving a vivid sonic tapestry of rich melodies, fluid grooves and pleasure-seeking aesthetics that belong equally on the decks at a feel-good house party or the booth at a runway show. Evan sat down with MA.DE for a Q&A and talked about his influences and plans for the future.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on my debut release “Except When It Isn’t” and booking shows in the Portland area!
How did you get your start doing what you do?
I grew up in a household filled with music and art. My dad spent much of his free time painting and playing guitar, so in retrospect my drive to be creative was probably fueled by equal parts old Peter Gabriel records and the lingering smell of paint thinner that permeated our house 😉
Although I was a big visual art club nerd in high school, I didn’t start writing or playing music until my junior year of college. At that point I was feeling a strong sense of regret over a failed relationship and increasingly found myself doing a lot of free-association journaling. That writing quickly transformed in objectively awful breakup poetry aided by my then obsession with artists like Brand New and Elliot Smith. The more I listened the more I wrote, and the more I wanted to try and make my own music.
So I started messing around with apple loops in GarageBand, progressively weening myself off pre-made loops until I felt comfortable enough to start writing my own parts, my own melodies and have just kept at it since.
What’s the best and worst thing about what you do?
Best thing: For lack of a better phrase, it is the feeling of “getting high off your own supply”. Striving for that moment where I feel like I’ve somehow managed to capture and crystallize something ethereal – a certain groove or aesthetic. The closest thing I could describe it with is like being an archeologist on an expedition. You have to be driven enough to be ok with spending hours digging only to come up with nothing of interest, but then to set out again into the unknown out of pure wonder/excitement. Then once you arrive again at something worth excavating, you have to have the patience to mindfully brush away the extemporaneous in service of the artifact you’re trying to uncover and display. That said, it’s also just as satisfying/ interesting sometimes to break shit and see what you end up with.
Worst thing: Spending too much time writing and recording in my studio and not enough time performing out in front of people sharing the love! There are week-long stretches sometimes where I feel like I turn into Jack Nicholson at his typewriter in the Shining. I’m fixing that though this year!
Who was your hero in high school?
Do Pyotr Smirnoff and the development team of Diablo 2 count? High school was a blur.
In college though I really looked up to two of my academic advisors because they were both so worldly, intelligent, classy and down-to-earth in a positive, aim-high kind of way. Also, as cheesy as it sounds I would also be remiss to not mention my dad. He’s the embodiment of ‘the renaissance man’ (an encyclopedia of knowledge, uber-talented artist, capable handy man, outdoors enthusiast etc etc…) which I aspire to be.
What are you most afraid of?
Up until I was 18 I had a incredibly irrational fear of Ghostbusters 2. The scene with the judge and the electrocuted ghosts flying around was some serious nightmare factory stuff. Oh and heights. I’m always 5% scared I’m gonna jump.
Piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were younger?
Don’t build a cage for yourself with other people’s expectations.
What is your proudest career moment to date?
The day I decided to “quit my day job” and focus on my music. It’s been a continual learning process for better and for worse. The most recent accomplishment was seeing my other project’s – The Analog Affair – Spotify account average 150,000 listeners a month this past year.
What’s your most played song right now?
“That Kind of Love”. Vogue Korea used it in a social media campaign advertising their collaboration with various brands.
What song makes you lose it at the club?
That’s a tie between a couple ‘older’ songs: Rüfüs – “desert night” and breakbot – “baby I’m yours”. I’m more of a disco/funk/soul guy.
Biggest pet peeve?
People who don’t think it is fair to judge our President based on the things he has said… especially about women.
Biggest turn on?
Curiosity/ Someone who isn’t afraid to show enthusiasm about nerdy and obscure things.
Do you think you’d be a good rapper?
Good? No. Adequate? Mayyyyb- No. But I still love to try and have done it a little bit on a couple unreleased tracks. I’m fascinated with artists like Blackalicious, Mos def and Talib Kweli. Lyrical gymnastics are real.
Favorite Instagram account?
@rickandmorty – “that’s the difference between you and me Morty, I never go back to the carpet store…”
Any life hacks you want to share?
Get an hour of exercise every day. On days when you feel tired, even though it’s counterintuitive, you have to ‘make’ your energy.
Predict 2017’s biggest trend.
I’m terrible with predictions, however I have always had an idea for an ethical/sustainable fashion line that I got when I lived and travelled in southwest China. Traveling through rural areas exposed me to a wide array of Chinese ethnic minorities and their unique styles (the area I was living in was home to 26 of the 55 nationally recognized minorities). The ponchos and jackets, long pleated skirts, legging wraps, and converse style sneakers all accented with bright colors and intricate patterns always struck me as a beautiful combination of traditional identity and function with rebellious and vivacious tones.
I’d still love to make something like that happen, though I’m guessing it’s probably already been done.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m planning on finishing up a batch of new material, and, through the generosity of insightful and amazing outlets like MA.DE, getting it more integrated in the fashion world. I feel at home in a creative sense collaborating and want to find ways to use my art to help add value to others’ in a way the melds into something unique and beautiful. I am always on the lookout for those types of new and exciting opportunities to collaborate and would love to work with more people in the fashion world, so anybody out there reading this feel free to drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
In short, I am compelled by the intersection of fashion and music. The forms, aesthetics, rhythms, and tonalities of both disciplines overlap so seamlessly to me so it’s a joy to create music everyday in service of that, and ultimately in service of the Hedon that lives in all of us 🙂
Before I go I just wanted to say that I love the work you guys are doing here at MA.DE. Thank you for your time!