Boston, Massachusetts native and Berklee Music alumnus Tanner Ross has been a pioneer in the underground electronic music scene by way of his skillful cross pollination of synths and soul. His latest round of cosmically smooth grooves can be found on Deniz Kurtel’s The Way We Live album where he collaborated with the Turkish born artist on “I Knew This Would Happen” and “The Beat Drops.” In addition, Tanner casts his sonic spell in a new EP on Double Standard that features collaborations with PillowTalk, Slow Hands, and Jules Born of Voices of Black. In between doing a million different things Tanner talked to us about the projects he’s been working on, his influences, and also his progression as an artist.
Nancy Lu: Your RA bio says you’re a Street Fighter Alpha II champion so some obvious questions from that. Favorite Street Fighter character to play? Favorite Street Fighter character you would want to be?
Tanner Ross: That part of the bio is just a joke, however when I did play it like a mad man at the ages of 12-16 I thought I was a champion plus I whooped everyone back then. I don’t really have a favorite to play I usually picked random. If I were a street fighter I would be Ryu because he is the MAN!
NL : You’ve done some remixes for Voices of Black and also have some upcoming collaborative releases with Jules and Baba. What’s it like working with them?
TR: Jules and Baba are the younger brothers I never had. We spend quite a bit of time hanging out and talking about music. The three of us are from New Jersey and I believe there is some kind of connection with artists that are from the Garden State. I was going to release Frequent Flyer as an instrumental but I really wanted Jules on the new Double Standard Ep so I sent it over to him and he sent me back the vocals in 3 hours. I get nervous sometimes when people work on my music in that vein but Jules did some Jedi mind reading trick and delivered exactly what I was hearing in my head. As for Baba he has a very deep musical background and together they are a serious force to reckon with plus they are in their early 20’s!
NL: How did you get involved with Wolf + Lamb?
TR: It is a pretty long story but basically I lived with Charlie from Soul Clap for 4 years before they were touring the world over and over again. Charlie and Eli became tight with the WL crew and at the time I was doing much different music for Claude Vonstroke’s Mothership imprint with Catz N Dogz, my brother from another mother Monty Luke and Maetrik aka Maceo Plex. As time went by, I shifted stylistically into what I am doing now and Gadi was starting to notice the shift in my sound. On top of the change I also started to spend more time hanging out with Deniz and Gadi and I really started to take to them as my very close family. Right after Bside (on no.19 music) was released Gadi and Zev asked me if I would be interested in doing an album for WL and that is pretty much it.
NL: Your mom bought you a drum machine at 16. What do you think of the phrase “drum machines have no soul?” Obviously it’s something purported by live musicians so where would you say the soul of music comes from?
TR: Drum machines can have soul it just depends on how you work with it. The soul of music comes from within. You can make soulful music with all electronics.
NL: Has being a jazz musician influenced your production in any way? How important do you feel a professional education in music is? Do you feel like it has contributed to your success?
TR: I think studying and understanding music theory has helped me with my production but I would say that these days Hip Hop, Funk and Soul music is what influences me the most. I believe it is beneficial to have some musical knowledge as it is another tool to use when being creative or attempting to spark that creativity. Sample based musicians have their samples to use in their palette but it is also important to be able to know how to create a sound that you hear in your head or you will spend more time searching for that sample.
NL: How did you transition from just messing around with synthesizers, drum machines, etc at 16 to producing music professionally at 21?
TR: I spent a lot of time in my bedroom messing around and copying ideas from other artists to understand how it all works. After time I met some people who were doing the same and I shared my music with them. Eventually, some of this music got signed and ever since I have been trying to push myself further down this path that I am walking.
NL: What are you working on right now and can you tell me more about the album you have in the works?
TR: I am working with Deniz Kurtel and Voices Of Black on some projects to be heard in the near future plus I think I will have another Double Standard EP out this year. Also, I have been working with Slow Hands a ton and we already have about 8 tracks to finish up which we are looking to put out by October with a live PA to follow. As far as the album goes I have been gathering ideas to help me progress to the next step but it still hasn’t struck yet. I think once all of these other projects are finished and I move into my new studio I will begin working on what will be my solo album.
NL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TR: I can’t stand Corona but learned that if you put it in the freezer for 15 minutes that shit is refreshing as hell on hot summer days. :0)