Los Angeles-based musician, designer and visual artist Jared Lee — known by the stage name Duckwrth — has been on a rapid ascent to stardom over the past few years.
From having a song featured on the major motion picture “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” to his latest album “SG8,” he continues to produce work that emphasizes both sounding and feeling good. Duck spoke with the Daily Cardinal for a quick conversation about his new album “Chrome Bull,” his current tour and what goes into his art.
Duckwrth will be performing at Madison’s Majestic Theatre on Saturday, Oct 1. Tickets are $22 plus fees.
What’s one thing you are looking forward to most about your performance in Madison?
I’m just excited overall for this tour because of new choreography, new music, new band members, every component of the tour … every new place I perform at is just insanity. So there’s just overall excitement going in to perform in a new place.
Are there any overarching visual themes on this tour, and were there any influences?
Not on the LCD screen side. We’re going to more so work with some type of light play setup with reactive, responsive lights that work with the music. I wanted to minimalize it because it’s so focused on the dancing portion of the show. I really just want people to feel the music and the groove — and just feel fully liberated to dance. So that’s why I think lights work better than having specific visuals.
What differences does putting dance at the forefront present to you?
It’s a challenge for me, but it will be fun. To me, music and art should always be a challenge and something new to take on. I’m really stoked to do it.
How has your degree in graphic design coupled with your music career given you a unique perspective?
Really it’s in all forefronts … like when I’m done with a song it’s like, “Alright, I’m finished with the mixing and mastering and now I’ve got to work on a cover.” So I go into my graphic design bag, think about every tool and technique I learned in college and before that and come up with a cool concept.
I even bring in other people who do 3D-design and rendering and be like, “This is the bare bones of it, let’s develop it more.” Say for instance, the Beg cover I had … I was able to work with a photographer.
We shot the photos — I was able to manipulate it in photoshop — and I found this cool textured background … but I wanted it to move, though. I wanted it to be auto-responsive where every time the bass hits, it moves.
With tour visuals behind me — like the chrome bull behind me took like three months to make it — I was thinking, “I’m a Taurus,” and I wanted something to represent me as a human. I wanted the horns to be a bit more abstract. I sent it to 3D rendering people and added a chrome texture to it. It’s really nice to go back into that bag and bring it into music. It’s a nice back and forth.
What do you do to place yourself into a creative headspace?
To tell you the truth, it’s very reflective of my regular life. For example, I’ve been riding this Onyx moped, which is like an electric motorcycle, for like a year now. It became a more important, integral part of my life recently — as of this year. So in my mind, I wanted music I could listen to on my moped, music that had motion to it and was a bit faster, a bit quicker.
I wanted the character I was representing in music to always have a motorcycle with him. It was the whole two piece suit motorcycle vibe, and it gave off this James Bond effect in that sense. I like to bring in real life.
Life reflects art, art reflects life. I think that’s the best way for me to work unless I really study a whole other character in another culture. I think the most authentic way I can make something is if it’s really from my life.
You’ve gone on record asking people not to “F– up my lyrics,” is there any particular time when the fans let you down?
I remember when I did “I’m Dead” back in the day. I was saying “skull emoji” but people were saying “squirrel emoji.” It totally just killed the whole plot, the whole metaphor. For years people were saying “squirrel emoji.” Also, even “MICHUUL” to this day people say “Mitchell.” And it’s my fault because I spelled it “MICHUUL” … I spelled it that way because the label was scared we were getting sued so I was like “whatever, you guys suck.” And I had this thing going on with UU, with Extra Ugly mixtape, so the whole thing was UU. And I ended up f–ing myself because people still call it Mitchell.
You were featured on the “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” soundtrack — how do you think the presence of movie mixtapes has changed the game for better or worse?
It’s just another avenue for artists to make their craft and get promoted. It’s an avenue for artists to be creative instead of trying to make a smash hit all the damn time. With movies, they give you a theme and characteristics; they give you the whole character breakdown.
If you write for a specific scene, you have to keep it in mind and subtly write about it. You have to tap into something that’s beyond your usual and write about something that’s not about what you usually write about. I think that’s cool as f–; that’s really sick — also because they are trying to make albums that may even have the potential to be on radio. Like “Sunflower” with Swae and Post, and that was in the top charts for mad long and they fully made that for a film. And “Black Panther,” and that opens up way more. Like you can make a good soundtrack that works for radio too. You want to make a soundtrack that people actually want to listen to instead of a bunch of random chords for a scene.
Did Hans Zimmer influence your decision to be on “Into the Spiderverse”?
I wouldn’t say Hans Zimmer inspired that, because I wasn’t so much scoring as creating a song with a specific feeling. If I was making something with big peaks and low ends that would be more on the Hans Zimmer side, but I think I’m just more of a character myself with my music. I’m very animated when it comes to my music. Like when I was on Republic [Records], it was very energetic and bouncing left to right, but that’s sort of the character I was so it just worked.
Is there any score in the future or past movies that you’d want to work on?
They’re working on “Tron 3” right now, and I would love to be a part of that soundtrack for sure. It would definitely fit with the vibe I’m moving towards with “Chrome Bulls,” the EP I’m about to drop — it’s some more electronic, much more dance moments. It’s a precursor to where I'm going, so I would say my focus is set on that.
Do you consider ‘Chrome Bull’ to be branching out or building onto your other work?
I think ‘Chrome Bull,’ because it’s not so set on electronics … it’s more foot-on-the-floor dance-based. For me, I always wanted to make a project that was solidified in that space. But there are like two moments that are just more minimal and just straight electronics. They are building blocks for where I want to go; I love nostalgia but I feel like we’ve been in nostalgia-land for too long.
I want to imagine what the world is going to look like. I want to create what the world is going to look like and going to sound like. I’m stepping into my futurist bag, and I want my music to respect that.
Do you see your new album as building on the past or shifting towards the future?
I have a foundation as a musician for sure, and I have that locked in. I came from a gospel family, and I’ve been exposed to classical and jazz early on — and in college hip-hop and punk. So I can pull from any place musically. There’s one big, happy question mark in my life and the way to get there is through electronic sound.
I was watching this Björk documentary, and at first she moved to London because she was in a punk band before that. She didn’t like that you can predict guitar chords in punk music, so she moved into electronics, but then she got complacent and felt like she couldn’t find a soul in electronic music, so she started going into organic sounds.
My main goal is to maintain this soul of electronic music and make it minimal so you can focus more on feeling. Of course I’m a rapper — and rapping is all about wordplay — but I would like to explore more feeling because that is like the most basic thing to a human. But this is one big, happy question mark to me … so I need months to just play around and tinker. But I’m excited to be in this space right now of ‘I don’t know.’
What’s one thing people should look forward to on your new album?
For “Chrome Bull,” a solid groove, man.
From beginning to end, it’s playing in so many realms of dance and soul. You will find elements of soul more than once, and I’m also pulling heavily from the UK. There’s one song that has heavy drum and bass influence.
I’m pulling from all these areas and also just bringing in certain experiences and memories I have — being in London and in Paris — so it’s like bridging a gap between here and Europe for me and my fans and also just delivering a solid groove you can dance to.”