You Don’t Have To Believe The Hype When You Can Feel It – An Interview w/ Dotcom and Protohype

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life

Where do I begin? I go to every event I attend with an open mind and ready to enjoy: the music, the people, and the environment. Every once in a while, a party comes along that just makes it impossible to have a bad time. When Protohype and Dotcom, with amazing local support from C-Lab, Kayatik, and Kthulu Prime, came to Republic New Orleans is one of these parties I’m talking about. The killer crew at 3rd Coast Music knows how to put an event together. They know the crowd came to be dazzled by creative displays and dance the world away, in a sea of deep BASS and pulse-pounding drops, and Republic is just the place to do it.proto9-1024x682
Everybody started off as an opening act at some point, and I truly appreciate it when the first artists to the stage play like they’re headlining a show at a soccer stadium, filled with eighty-thousand people. Free your mind and start stretching because C-Lab is the maestro for our introduction to the evening. From the jump, you can tell this kid is not messing around. He comes out “tommy gun-style” with a steady rat-a-tat-tat for the senses. Rising action is something that must be for trance enthusiasts alone because he brings us directly into the mayhem that we seek.

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Without missing a beat, another dose of Nola BASS-Traptasm, in the form of Kayatik, takes the stage and keeps the party going. Blending high-energy and “wop wop get loose,” seamlessly, is something that just comes naturally to this guy. You never know what you’re going to here when he’s in charge because originals, remixes, and that in-between flow freely. Check your pulse and stay hydrated because we’ve barely scratched the surface of this evening.

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If Jimi Hendrix was reincarnated and his musical inclinations were towards electro-house and grimy dubstep, he would be manifested as Kthulu Prime. He is another local up-and-coming phenom that is consistently establishing his proficiency behind the decks by mesmerizing the audience with all-out audio warfare. I look around and I can’t make out any faces because everybody won’t stop dancing.

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The time has arrived for the first out-of-towner to break the audience off a little. Dotcom is ready to bring his signature Philly-grown style to Nola. He manages to keep a poker face but you can tell that he is super focused on taking this party to the next level. I’m about to remark on his remarkable level of composure when he pops the lid off his enthusiasm and just lets loose. This is no time to worry about people stepping on your sneakers because they’re doing what you should be doing…dancing.

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Fresh off the SMOG City Tour with Dub and BASS giants, 12th Planet and Datsik, L.A.-based Protohype is quick to make sure the intermission is short-lived and your senses aren’t given a chance to recover. Call it “Dubhop.” Call it “brain-stinger” music. Whatever you name it just know that you can’t fight it. I step away to the green room, for a few minutes, so I can have a little chat with Dotcom.

A’Damaged Pro – Who am I chilling with right now?

Dotcom – Chris Comstock aka Dotcom.

A’Damaged Pro – How did you come up with the name, brother?

Dotcom – My last name is Comstock…Dot-Comstock. Ever since the fourth grade people have been calling me a variation of that or Dotcom, specifically.

A’Damaged Pro – You grew up with the internet obviously.

Dotcom – Yep. Not too old

A’Damaged Pro – What brought you into the music industry? Given the internet you are able to be bombarded constantly.

Dotcom – I’ve was in a few bands when I was a kid.

A’Damaged Pro – What instruments do you play?

Dotcom – I play guitar but I can play pretty much any instrument.

A’Damaged Pro – Do you have a favorite?

Dotcom – I like the drums a lot. I grew up playing music and thankfully it stuck.

A’Damaged Pro – Did you grow up in a musical family?

Dotcom – Ironically, no. I was the musical one. At the time that I got into EDM, I was also in a band but there’s only so much you can do in a band because you’ve got to coordinate with everyone else’s schedule and everyone has to be on the same page in respect to releases and such. I started DJing in 2010 and it kind of just took over.

A’Damaged Pro – You produce as well as perform. Since you’ve dipped your feet in both waters, which do you prefer? There has to be an exhilarating feeling being in front of a crowd but at the same time where do you rank the process of creation to completion?

Dotcom – Good question. They’re different. The satisfaction that you get from producing is when you know that: you came up with a great idea, you know exactly how it’s supposed to go, you finish it, you put it out, and hopefully it does really well. On top of that, when you perform it and you get to see the tangible, in-your-face reality of what you spent ten straight hours working on in your bedroom and you get to see it come to live and the crowd’s reaction.

A’Damaged Pro – I can see it in your face that you genuinely relish that connection.

Dotcom – In this industry, at least I hope, it’s what moves everybody to want to make music to see the positive reaction from the audience.

A’Damaged Pro – The crowd, via the power in numbers, has to be a big part of the total process. When the track plays and you wonder why is the fucking floor rattling and it’s because you made them jump!!!

Dotcom – Absolutely. Then it all goes back to the ten thousand fucking hours I spent working my ass off in my bedroom trying to perfect my craft. It’s a balance. I have to say they are two very different things but you can’t have one without the other. Bringing my work live has to be the ultimate for me. Easily.

A’Damaged Pro – Ghost producing is a “hot-button” issue, currently. Do you have an opinion on artists that use them? I mean, you can get the crowd whipped into a frenzy with one of your tracks, mix in tracks from other artists, but if you’re not the one responsible for any of the creation, does it take something away from being a true showman?

Dotcom – I guess it depends on the person. I personally couldn’t do something like that. If there’s nothing from you in that track, you shouldn’t claim it as yours.

(We both take a pause because Protohype is going off right now)

A’Damaged Pro – There is a consolidation among the major players that produce electronic events and festivals. How do you feel this will impact the individual identity of the respective festivals/events? Will it be possible for them to retain their individuality or will there be some homogenous scene as a result of this corporate assimilation? Is there anything that an artist can do in order to ensure integrity remains?

Dotcom – I would have to say, if I understand what you’re asking me, that there will be some artists that will follow whatever rules that are laid out and say “Just give me the money,” but there will also be those that refuse to be branded and compartmentalized. These festival companies, that have been recently purchased, haven’t thrown their festivals under the new management yet, so only time will tell. If there is a blanket or umbrella thrown over the events, I think the ones that won’t rock the boat will be the commercial, ghost-produced “artists.” There’s trailblazers, in the commercial sense, that will do business over integrity and there’s trendsetters that are doing things that haven’t been done before. They have the balls to be insanely different.

A’Damaged Pro – We’re on the cusp of a fucking transition of the world’s evolution of understanding right now.

Dotcom – So true. Everybody is just going along right now and waiting to see what happens. There’s some kind of haunting demise that is in back of everyone’s mind. I guess back to the root of your last question (I’ll call it a global consolidation), I don’t what it means for these festivals.

A’Damaged Pro – For the artists that are already under some sort of regimented sponsorship, having performance parameters might not change the way they do things, but for the newer artists, who are trying to break the mold, how can they approach survival with this looming? Is there a battleplan?

Dotcom – The only option I can see is to persevere.

A’Damaged Pro – The word “commercial” has an asterisk next to it. I’m sure you’ve seen the meme that has Hardwell and Tiesto asking “Whose going to play “Animals” next? Don’t get me wrong. I love festival anthems, but I love hearing new music live before it gets played out on the radio.

Dotcom – With everything that is happening with “EDM,” to me as an artist, there are those that are trying to advance that seem to be overly concerned with whose shoes they have to fill. Who’s going to be the next Skrillex? Who’s going to get the recognition and get that break? I think some people are forgetting that it’s supposed to be about the music.

A’Damaged Pro – Is it sad that there are ascribed roles? Music is supposed to be expansive. There are only so many mathematical ways that you can arrange notes in music. If you could ask Mozart, Beethoven, or Bach, they would say the same thing. Your ethereal impression on the EDM landscape is supposed to be uniquely your own and illustrated through your work.

Dotcom – That idea makes sense on paper, but the unfortunate truth is that different, to an extent, isn’t popular outright. We’ll see where it goes.

(We have to cut it so Dotcom can go kill it side-by-side with Protohype)

Individually, these cats are monsters behind the decks, but when they perform their Voltron-tandem combo, I implore you to brace for impact. If there is an audio zenith for this evening, it’s happening right now. Hooks, drops, and watch your back because this mob of BASS-hungry people is alive. After the set is over, I head back to the green room to discuss the evening with Protohype.

A’Damaged Pro – How did you enjoy tonight?

Protohype – I really enjoyed tonight. The sound was great. The visuals were great. The crowd was amazing. New Orleans is great. This is my first time here, so it was really fun.

A’Damaged Pro – As long as you come on vacation and don’t leave on probation, we do have a great city.

Protohype – You’re right, and I’ve had a great time so far.

A’Damaged Pro – Let’s get right into it. Producing versus Djing. The ability to create versus performing. What provides the most solace for you? What provides that unlimited lifting factor?

Protohype – I would say that factor comes from producing…on a good producing day. On a shitty producing day, I feel like shit and I can’t make anything and my music is terrible..blah blah blah. I can always DJ. DJing is so easy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard to be incredible at, but it’s easy to just get it done. Producing is a difficult thing. You have good days and bad days.

A’Damaged Pro – Do you set benchmarks for yourself when producing or does that counteract the creative flow? Like I need to make so many tracks by such and such…?

Protohype – No. It’s normally, I just sit down at the computer and if I can make something, that’s great. A lot of times it works out like that and I can just sit down and come up with something. When it doesn’t work out, it gets frustrating and it’s tough. You get annoyed. On a good producing day, there’s nothing better. I would say producing over Djing any day. I started producing when I was 13. (How old are you now?) I’m 24. I started Djing when I was 21 so I’ve been producing for so much longer than Djing. So that’s where my passion is.

A’Damaged Pro – What does it mean to you when someone takes a track that you feel has been “mastered,” in its entirety, and remixes it? Is it a promotion of the track? Is it an accomplishment?

Protohype – I think it’s an honor. I think it’s a matter of respect. I think it’s great that someone would enjoy my track enough to spend time working on remixing it.

(Small break for Slapshot sponsored by Jack Daniels)

So, yeah, anytime that someone would get the desire to remix one of my tunes it’s very fucking humbling. Even if the new approach isn’t something I like, per se, I still respect that they took the time to do it.

A’Damaged Pro – When someone approaches a remix and they have free reign to choose to preserve or eliminate certain elements like: the baseline, lead vocals, etc., is there any personal separation that you feel when you hear the new version?

Protohype – That’s the cool thing about a remix. It’s a personal interpretation and they are entitled to change it how they see fit. Even if there is a part of a song that I might feel is the best part of the tune and they don’t use it, I can’t be offended.

A’Damaged Pro – Do people send you their remixes as they make them? Is it like a sign of respect?

Protohype – Yeah. It doesn’t happen that often. I’m really not that big. People aren’t just remixing my tunes all the time so when it does happen I’m really stoked about it. I try to put myself in their shoes and see how they approached it.

A’Damaged Pro – You were on the SMOG City Tour. Between 12th Planet, Datsik, and yourself, there had to have been some collaborative moments. What is it like being in that collective atmosphere? I would assume that they would happily help nurture your craft.

Protohype – The coolest part about it, and it means so much to me, is that some of the people that I have idolized for so long are now my friends and my peers. That means a lot to me. Even though they’re my friends, they’re still my idols. Datsik, for example, is one of my best friends now and we hang out almost every day. I mean, two year ago, I couldn’t have even dreamed of talking to that dude. Little did I know that we would end up speaking for, like, fifteen minutes and (BOOM!!!) realize we’re the same person. It still doesn’t change the fact that they are my idols, but it’s very cool to work on music with them and have them as my peers.

A’Damaged Pro – How does having people around, that you’ve looked up to for so long, influence the creative environment?

Protohype – When Skrillex plays my music and I see the videos, it gives me this crazy energy. Even though Sonny is one of my friends, that fool is like the best to me. It doesn’t change how I view him. Even as one of my friends, he’s still the best to me. It’s really fucking awesome to have him, and other people that I respect, to support me. It’s humbling. Surreal? It’s surreal and it’s inspiring.

A’Damaged Pro – As long as you see the positive.

Protohype – It’s nothing but positive.

A’Damaged Pro – Some people might get overwhelmed being surrounded by these BASS Gods and you have to remember that you have your own identity and your own goal to make new music for the people.

Protohype – If anything, it just keeps me motivated and inspired to keep pushing forward. It’s a blessing. It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling.

A’Damaged Pro – Everybody has a dream gig. What’s the platform where you think you could be the most effective and the most instrumental? Where would you enjoy it physically, emotionally, and spiritually the most?

Protohype – EDC Vegas or Tomorrowland, hands down.

A’Damaged Pro – How do you feel about the potential global consolidation of EDM festivals and events and its impact on an artist’s ability to preserve their integrity if they aren’t inclined to become “commercial?”

Protohype – It’s not about being “commercial.” It’s not about being “underground.” It’s not about labels. It’s about doing what you fucking love to do.

A’Damaged Pro – Those terms equate to someone who is undiscovered versus someone who has been playing for years and been accepted by sponsors and promoters alike.

Protohype – Maybe your favorite song that you’ve made ends up on the radio and that makes you commercial. That’s your favorite song. You love that song. It shouldn’t put you on a negative tip, you know. What really matters is that you give a fuck about what you make.

A’Damaged Pro – The fact that you said “commercial” and applied it to mean that you’re on a negative tip, implies universally that “commercial” has a stigma.

Protohype – That’s dumb as fuck. I hate that this term means something negative. It’s supposed to be about doing what you love. Don’t let a term define you.

A’Damaged Pro – What’s your mantra for progress?

Protohype – Find your unique sound. Stay true to yourself. Embrace what you’re good at and find what you’re shitty at and work at it. Do everything you can to improve on everything that you feel you suck at and you’re bound to make progress.

A’Damaged Pro’s final words…

Five amazing artists under one very hospitable roof normally equals a good time. This evening was a great time. I have to thank the crew at 3rd Coast Music and Republic again for bringing this event together. Trust me when I say that you can expect many more memorable evenings with these teams at the helm. I would be mad at myself if I didn’t remind everybody that the music, once again, is what made this all possible.

Connect: Dotcom | Kayatik | C-Lab