The American DJ and producer behind the renowned Seven Lions tag is a man of all trades. Whether you’ve noticed Jeff Montalvo through his distinctive and smashing dubstep remix of Röyksopp’s ‘Running To The Sea’, the progressive house masterpiece ‘Strangers’, or his recent full-blown trance tune ‘Cusp’, it’s evident that he knows how to create songs that last forever. It would be splendid if we could unearth where the ability to produce such a broad range of genres comes from. Luckily for us (and you), Seven Lions explains!
Allegedly, you grew up as a metal and punk-inclined drummer, only to segue into electronic music years later. Could you take us back to the moment when you first crossed paths with electronic music? Has it changed your musical preference in such a way that a career in electronic music was inevitable?
There were basically two things that happened at different times that got me into electronic music. First, when I was the drummer in a punk band, a friend gave me a copy of FL studio. I didn’t like electronic music at the time, but I realized I had the ability to compose and record music all on my own with this program. I wouldn’t have to wait up for band mates, which was awesome.
The second was when I moved away to college. My cousin let me borrow some CDs, which he never got back. Tiësto’s ‘Revolution’ double disc album, specifically the Darkside mix (CD 1), blew my mind. Got me listening to electronic music.
In what way has your internationally acclaimed versatility as a producer influenced your DJ career. Do you ‘switch it up’ often, or do you stick to one specific genre when DJ’ing?
Yeah, I always switch it up. In an average set, I play Dubstep, Drum ‘n Bass, Psy Trance, Big Room, Trap, Trance, and sometimes even some techno if it’s big enough. It’s a lot of work crafting a cohesive multi-genre set, but I think it’s totally worth it.
If you had to pick, what would be your favorite genre and why?
Honestly, I don’t think that is possible. To me, genres are like songs on an album. Sometimes you want to hear the bigger faster ones, sometimes you want to hear something nice and mellow.
‘Cusp’ is an amazing piece of music, but trance isn’t the main thing people think of when a new Seven Lions record emerges. Is this a genre you’d be willing to explore more often?
I used to make trance back in the day under my name Jeff Montalvo. As a matter of fact, all the music I make is pretty much inspired by big trance melodies and atmospheres. This song was just going for a more traditional approach. But then it got weirddddd!
Some people seem to think different genres demand divergent methods of triggering inspiration, while some feel that there’s just one big pool of creativity to tap from. Could you tell us your personal opinion on the matter?
I think it’s definitely a big pool to tap from. When I am starting a track, I ask myself if this is a dance floor song or if it is something timeless and totally out there. And then it just happens.
Do you ever ‘plan’ to create music in a specific genre, or do you make it up as you go?
I usually have a plan when I am getting started, but the song will definitely take its own path once I get going.
What would you recommend to other (aspiring) producers wanting to create songs in a wide range of genres? Where do you start?
Just try new things. Figure out what it is about a certain genre you love that makes it mean something to you and then try and take it somewhere new.