As the creator and executive of the Los Angeles-based (and world renowned) futuristic-steampunk-circus-performance troupe Lucent Dossier, Dream Rockwell is a busy woman, especially as she and the rest of the Lucent crew are getting ready for their Winter Solstice show at the Fonda Theatre on December 21 – grab tickets for that performance here.
Rockwell took some time away from rehearsals to talk about her love for Coachella (where Lucent Dossier performs yearly on the Do Lab stage) and the craziest thing she’s ever seen while on stage. Check out her 21 questions with LAC below.
1. How are you today?
I’ve got my sunny side up.
2. What have you been up to lately?
Lots and lots of rehearsals.
3. What did you have for breakfast?
The best fruit smoothie ever! It’s my every-morning delight. All organic peaches, raspberries, blueberries, banana, spiralina and super food greens, maca, turmeric, hemp oil, flax seed oil and chia seeds. I LOVE it!
4. What are you doing tonight?
Recording a new song we just wrote. It’s called “What if We Were Angels.” ‘Cause that’s what i’m wondering about these days.
5. What’s been on repeat in your headphones?
Our rehearsal sessions. When we’re working out new material I record the sessions and listen to them over and over to hear what’s working and what needs love.
6. Coachella or Burning Man?
Ohhhhhhh that’s so hard. They’re like our mom and dad. We love them both. And they have both birthed us and given us life. We have played Coachella 7 years running and this year we’ll be doing a super big show there so we adore Coachella. But Burning man is what inspired all of this… it was our first breath of life. So no way to ever choose, we love both our parents equally 😉
7. If you had an extra $50, what would you spend it on?
I’d buy a box of clown noses and deliver them to the LAPD. I think they could use them.
8. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the audience while on stage performing?
One time at Coachella one of our performers, Fernando, was vibing with this cute girl in the front row. And in the middle of a song he just ditched the choreo and laid down on the stage and started making out with her. He was supposed to do this lift with me and I was looking all over for him and there he was, laying off the front of the stage, in the throws of passion.
9. Favorite outfit you wear during Lucent performances?
I’m wearing this new white silk dress that’s 30 feet long and blows in the wind. I feel so mystical and powerful in it.
10. Favorite era for music?
’80s. Come on. But I also love early ’60s Elvis and rockabilly. And electronic music rips my soul open. haha, Can I have it all?
11. Favorite song of 2013?
“Happy” by C2C Ft. D.Martin
12. Proudest moment of 2013?
Our show at Lightning in a Bottle this year. It was such a huge feat. We were very ambitious. Projections, new costumes, new apparatuses, new performers, new numbers, new music. But we did it. And when the crowd screamed at the end of the show my body started to shake and didn’t stop for about 30 minutes. It was insane. And amazing.
13. Thing you laughed hardest at recently?
Psychedelic Bingo at Symbiosis was so crazy. I laughed so hard a nearly peed.
14. How do you kill time when you’re in traffic?
Books on tape. I have millions of them.
15. Eastside or westside?
Westside, the air is fresher and the hiking is rad with the ocean views. Ohhh but eastside, the vibes are so yummy and styley. Torn between two lovers.
16. How many tattoos do you have?
17. Which one is your favorite?
The one I haven’t got yet!
18. What inspires you?
Creative people. People in bloom. Love. Nature. Good music. Giggles.
19. Decaf or regular?
Neither I’m a chai tea girl.
20. Why should people come to see Lucent?
So you can drop your jaw for 75 minutes, meet amazing, rad people and dance your bootie off. Three of my personal favorite reasons to leave the house.
21. Staying in or going out for New Year’s Eve?
I’m sitting in ceremony. New Years is always a moment to check in and go deep. It sets the tone for the whole year so it’s usually introspective for me.
I first grew to love Kalkbrenner’s music when I heard a track of his featured in a James Holden compilation. “Gebrunn Gebrunn” – of course! Everyone started to hear about Paul when that track came out. It was fresh, exciting, different, emotive. It was lush with sonic textures that many had not heard before, and all signature Paul. For whatever reason, I thought I was different. I had been listening to dance music for so long before that, starting with trance giants like Paul Oakenfold and ATB before settling on progressive, electronica, drum and bass, and techno by the mid 2000s. I thought I had heard everything EDM had to offer, and yet this still blew my mind.
Electronic Dance Music. I guess that’s what they called it back then. A phrase that once held much innocence, with noble intent to democratize drum machines and synthesizers, EDM has now become synonymous with a growing trend of mainstream insipidness and instant gratification. The same time I first heard “Gebrunn”, Deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner laid down the roots to what was a radical shift in the way we think about something as typical-sounding as electro house, allowing the meteoric rise of new talent like Skrillex, Martin Garrix, and Hardwell. These young and admittedly skillful producers connected with a crowd much different from the longtime “fans” and “die-hards” of the “underground” music scene. But it’s not necessarily that these artists put out soulless music; on the contrary, their music inspires so many to follow their successful formulae that the music world gets saturated with the same sounds. Why does it have to be this way? Why does electronic music have to straddle this false dichotomy between allegedly tasteful esotericism and bro-tank stunner shade ubiquity?
Paul has somehow tactfully avoided the trap altogether, eschewing musical influence completely while simultaneously having extensive popular appeal in Europe. When asked if there were any contemporaries who commanded his attention, he chuckled and said he didn’t really know of anyone. This wasn’t spoken with any hint of egocentrism, but more as a revelation of his peculiar work ethic. “I’m not a DJ,” he stated rather matter-of-factly, “so I’m not into interchanging. I only play my music, and my goal is to stay intentionally inspire-less.” He describes most of his day as reading novels and blogs, spending time with his wife, and keeping to himself. It was indeed an interesting take on what appears to be an issue of every new, popular artist: with everyone following the same formulae, that “inspiration” soon becomes paradoxically uninspiring.
“People absorb everything around them, whether they try to or not,” he continues. He isn’t commenting on the beauty of human nature, but the danger of being an artist when natural tendencies are to perceive and interpret the world. “I can’t put my finger on it, but [my inspiration] is inside. I try and want to make music, to tell some kind of story, MY story, and tell it again. I don’t want to tell someone else’s [story], or influence the world; my music doesn’t have the power to influence the music of the world. Charts are just popular music. I make music that calls to me, and I will not change.” It highlighted a recent collective desperation for a “savior” of electronic music. Those more wise than most will say that an entire world of music doesn’t need a savior, but as history has revealed, society oftentimes requires a central figure to anchor doubts and fears. If any of you have had a pseudo-religious experience listening to music you love, you already see how the analogy works.
But Paul doesn’t want a church erected for his worship, despite the fact that he has his followers. I first saw him perform at Coachella earlier this year, and he barely acknowledged the crowd’s presence. It was early in the afternoon and the larger-than-life Sahara tent was quite full, and Paul’s intense gaze on his synths and racks was coupled only to his rhythmic bobbing to his own music. His inspiration is introspective, his storytelling unaffected by those peering in from the outside. “I am just very happy to play. Yes, these stages get bigger and bigger physically, but they become more lonely. The huge stage, the huge sound.. [I am just] working. I feel [the crowd] but I’m not really looking at them.” Like a fire that burns without anyone watching, Paul seemed perfectly content with the hypothetical notion should no one choose to like his music. But a fire that burns as bright as he does is bound to have a few people looking over their shoulders, and perhaps it is this flame that will set ablaze the boredom of today’s music scene.