At Dustpan Recordings, we are all about living life to the fullest, pushing our boundaries and reinventing ourselves for the better. Our latest series looks into the personal lives of our artists beyond music and what inspires them.
Our first feature is Portland’s Trevor Vichas. Trevor with his dog, Kio, recently relocated to his studio in the mountains. He spends his days finding the perfect climb, going for walks, studying and making new beats. His recent releases include “Back On The Block” on Mark Farina’s Great Lakes Audio as well as EP “TJ Hooker” with fellow Portlander, Jamar Hughes on Dustpan Recordings. We chat with Trevor Vichas and get a glimpse of his current life.
Hi Trevor! How’s it going man?
It is going very well! Summertime is the best time on the mountain! Easy living.
Tell us where you’re writing from?
I am writing to you from South Lake Tahoe, California located about 2000m above sea level in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
What’s the weather like?
For the last week or so, the weather has been almost perfect. Clear skies with temps around 23c and a little breeze. It was a little warmer the previous couple of weeks, causing thunder-storms in the late afternoon. There are now a couple of forest fires in the area, so it may get the wrong kind of smoky around here. In the last couple of years, there has been at least one week that we get hit with smoke from a nearby fire.
What’s life staying in the mountains like?
Living in the mountains is great during the summer/fall and pretty easy living. Just have to be mindful of the bears. They love to eat people’s food and will break into your car for it. I have not really locked my car since I moved here for that reason. Once winter rolls around, life gets a little tougher and everything takes a little longer. On an average year, we get around 3 meters of snow at lake level and double that at higher elevations. Winters are a lot of fun around here but also involve a bit of shovelling snow.
Tell us more about Kio!
I got my first dog a little over two years ago. It was love at first sight when I saw him. Kio is half Australian Shepherd and half Border Collie. I got him when he was five months old as a rescue. Before I got him he was supposed to be a working dog on a ranch in the middle of nowhere Nevada. Luckily for him, he’s a mountain dog now and gets to almost everywhere with me.
What have you been up to these days? Work, life and music.
These last few months have been pretty strange in America to say the least. I was laid-off from my day job a few months ago. Which has given me more time to focus on school, getting outside, and making music. I am a year away from completing my bachelor’s program majoring in Global Business Management and a minor in Economics and Finance. School and rock climbing have mostly consumed my life over the last four years.
Tell us about your latest journeys!
With the state of California and the rest of the country being mostly shut down, I have not wanted to travel very far! Luckily, living in South Lake Tahoe I can walk about five minutes and be on a trail. I have been checking out all the alpine lakes that I have not been to yet. The last big trip was to Tuolumne Meadows inside Yosemite National Park for a couple of days of rock climbing. The park is mostly shut down and only allows 1700 cars in a day. It was really quiet and peaceful inside the park.
What’s a day like in your life?
For the last few months, a typical day consists of a morning walk or run with Kio. Followed by coffee and breakfast while listening to records for sampling. Depending on the day, I work on music until I have class in the afternoon through Zoom or it’s too hot to be inside. Most days I spend a little bit of time outside rock climbing, swimming, hiking in the afternoons. Evening time is mostly for homework, relaxing, and maybe working on music for a little bit before bed. Doing my best to stay socially distanced with people.
Tell us more about your music studio and your approach/style to beat making?
My studio is pretty basic. I have an MPC 1000, TR-8, TR-3, Drumtrax, Sixtrax, Casio CZ 1000, Mirco Korg, Volca Key and MFB drum machine for outboard gear. I have been using a Mackie Onyx mixer with a digital interface that allows me to track all 16 channels into Cubase. My desktop computer runs Windows XP with dual screens.
When it comes to workflow, after I have found the sample that I want to work with. I’ll pitch it to the tempo I want to work on the turntable, record it into my MPC and chop the loops up. From here I start to either filter the sample to get a bassline or write my own for the track. Next step is building the drums around the sample and bass in a 16 bar loop. From here, I start recording into Cubase and work out the arrangement of the track – fills, effects, and everything nice to finish them off in Cubase. If I am writing a tune from scratch, I start with some simple drums (kick, hat, clap/snare), then make the bassline. I will start to build the drums more and incorporate chords and lead lines next. Once I have a nice sounding 16 bar loop, I will start recording into Cubase using the same process above.
What’s been motivating you to stay creative?
I do not ever take what I am working on too seriously. A lot of times I turn my gear and just mess around for a while. When I am done playing around, I turn it off. This allows me not get too attached to anything I am working on. If I really like what I have going, I will get something recorded into Cubase so I can finish the track. I might play with the sample a few times before I come up with something that I am feeling. Records, records, records!!! I love digging and finding new samples. One of the things that has really kept me motivated over the years is all the positive reinforcement from my peers. When an artist that I have looked up to forever tells me something I made is hot and has been playing it. This drives me to make more music every time. As an artist, most times I think my tunes are wack. Do not get me wrong here, sometimes I know I got something super hot cooking and those tracks generally take much less time. Usually, I have listened to the song so many times, that I am just over it by the time I finish it.
Trevor Vichas & Jamar Hughes present “TJ Hooker” is out now and available from these stores: https://orcd.co/tj-hooker
Follow Trevor Vichas on Instagram to get updates on his latest travels: https://www.instagram.com/trevorvichas