I first met the talented Alexander Lewis at Tokimonsta’s exclusive dinner/listening in Silverlake. A few weeks later, I see him again at The Roxy performing on stage with Brasstracks at their headlining show. Now, a month later, I sat down with the rising trap star for an exclusive interview with iEDM.
Being a trombone player in any genre of music gives you the automatic praise and respect of being able to take control of such a grandiose instrument. Being a multi-instrumentalist, jazz musician turned producer, the Bay Area native credits his roots for his musical influences. Going to college and studying the art of jazz gave him the foundation he needed to later transition to the art of trap and hip-hop.
Now, Lewis celebrates the release of his new project, OMNI, a debut set in Ultra Korea, and many more notable collabs coming this summer.
iEDM: How would you describe your sound?
Alexander: That’s a good question. I’d say it’s definitely hip-hop influenced. Definitely Jazz influenced. It’s like a combination of hip-hop, jazz, and trap all melted into one pot.
iEDM: Can you talk about your journey with the trombone from beginning to now?
Alexander: I started at 11 years old, mainly because my grandma played trombone. She was a jazz musician herself, a singer/trombonist, and she always had Big Band music playing in her house. I basically grew up going to my grandma’s every single weekend. I spent a lot of time with my grandma every holiday. So it’s just kind of natural that I wanted to play trombone and also get into jazz, get into Big Band because it was something that I heard all the time. I just fell in love with it as a little kid.
Alexander: And then I went to Manhattan School Of Music for Jazz and Performance, and then somewhere towards the end of my college education, I started producing. I got heavily into hip-hop, like the beat scene, Team Supreme, Soulection, and kind of took a break from trombone. And then very recently, in 2015, introduced it back with the “Pay For What” flip. So that’s kind of been my “stopped playing trombone to focus on production,” and then really missed it, so I kind of wanted to reintroduce it.
iEDM: You’re from the Cali. How does that play into your life and music?
Alexander: I’d say the Bay Area, especially when I was in high school, the Bay Area jazz scene was pretty big. I was driving the Bay Area a lot to take lessons, so I think that shaped me as trombonist. And obviously Bay Area hip-hop growing, that influenced me a lot. I took a lot from that. I still take a lot of West Coast influences.
iEDM: Like the Hyphy movement? That’s what I grew up to.
Alexander: Yeah! I would say the New York City shapes a lot more of my career than California. Being a little more specific, just the New York hip-hop scene and New York jazz, it really, really shaped my career and the way that I think about music now.
iEDM: You actually studied jazz at The Manhattan School of Music. Talk about the transition into trap and hip-hop.
Alexander: Being in The Manhattan School of Music, it was trying in that the professors wanted you to learn a specific type of music or a specific era of jazz, and kind of force feed that to you. Anything else was kind of considered non-musical, so that was really hard. I always felt that at Manhattan School of Music, I didn’t really fit into a certain mold of jazz musicians. I think that kind of lead me to go into different musical directions. I’m glad that that happened, ‘cause I don’t think I’d be where I am today had I not felt like an outcast then. That led me into exploring with electronics. Obviously, two of my best friends (Brasstracks) were already into producing beats on Ableton and they got me into it. So from kind of feeling like I didn’t really fit in the jazz world led me into doing my own thing, which ultimately led me to where I am now.
iEDM: How difficult or easy was it?
Alexander: It wasn’t hard at because there was no expectation. There was no expectation of what you should sound like. It was just me experimenting with just whatever the fuck I wanted to hear, and whatever I wanted to make. So it was very freeing for me, I didn’t have to go by a set of rules. I think at that time it was a very obvious escape and it made me happier creating music than I had ever been.
iEDM: Congrats on the release of OMNI. Talk about the inspiration and creative process behind this project.
Alexander: The creative process was more of just a “create what I want and whatever genres I was inspired by.” OMNI is like “all” or “without limits.” I wasn’t tied down to one genre, my love for music goes beyond a specific genre and that’s what I wanted to convey in this project. I can do a little bit of harder stuff with horn drops and then taking it to a hip-hop joint, or taking it to a house joint with some feel-good vibes. That’s kind of what I wanted to convey in this project and just to do everything that I was inspired by.
iEDM: “March” really took off, hitting a million on SoundCloud. Were you expecting that kind of reception?
Alexander: No, I wasn’t expecting anything. I also wasn’t expecting it to be synced into an Eagles commercial for the Super Bowl. They synced it for some Eagles promo before the Super Bowl. I did well on Spotify too, for being an instrumental and having no vocals. I think it’s over two million plays on Spotify, so that’s actually the biggest tune off the EP right now.
iEDM: You’ve got MadeinTYO on the project, but you’ve also worked with Chief Keef. Can you talk about the collabs with all these lit hip-hop artists?
Alexander: For this tune, I just sent a bunch of beats to MadeinTYO. There wasn’t much of a working in the studio relationship. It was more of, “What beat do you want to hop on?” “Okay cool.” And that’s how it came about.
iEDM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Alexander: Having five Grammys, you already know what it is!
iEDM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
iDAlexander: I have no idea. I don’t even want to think about that, I love music too much. I can’t even think about anything else.
iEDM: Three things you need in the studio?
Alexander: I need a mini-keyboard. I need some type of whiskey. And obviously, a laptop… and my own mouse. Because a lot of people use track pads and I don’t fuck with that. I need my own mouse to be able to do my thing.
iEDM: Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Alexander: Probably Drake or Lil Wayne. It’s a toss up between Lil Wayne or Drake.
iEDM: Dream collab?
Alexander: Hell yeah. If someone was like, “Fly here for a guaranteed Lil Wayne collab,” I would just drop everything and go. I’d bring Justine too.
iEDM: Talk about your performance at Ultra in Korea?
Alexander: I have never performed at Ultra so I don’t know what to expect, but I’m very, very excited. The eighteen hour flight is little daunting, but most of all, just excited. I think everything’s going to be a flash. It’s going to be within like three days. It’s gonna be whirlwind. I just came off of a headline show in LA at Moroccan Lounge, so I’m ready to perform. My chops are ready, my set’s solid, so I’m just ready to perform. I don’t know what to expect — it’s a festival. It’s going to be dope. The 18-hour flight is a little heavy. [laughs]
iEDM: Anything else you want to let us know?
Alexander: Shout out J. Cole. ESKETIT!