Exclusive Interview with Vello Virkhaus, Founder of V Squared Labs


While covering Ultra Music Festival in Miami last weekend, we had the opportunity to catch up with Vello Virkhaus, the founder of V Squared Labs (http://vsquaredlabs.com/project/ultra-worldwide/) and official VJ of Ultra since it’s inception. Mr. Virkhaus was recently named #35 on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 50 people in EDM to date. What followed was a candid discussion about his past, present, and future projects, along with some of the more intimate details of how the amazing visual production at Ultra comes about.

TMN: Vello thank you so much for coming and speaking with us at The Music Ninja. Our readers are really interested to hear about what you’re doing and where you’re at. So first of all, how’d the show go today?

Vello: Everything is running really smoothly and it’s great to see the vortex come to life. I happen to love vortexes, they’re a personal favorite.

TMN: Now what do you mean by Vortex exactly?

Vello: As a visual artist, this stage. The designer who created it made it in kind of a radial array that recedes in space, so it has an effect that’s like a tunnel almost, which we call a vortex, or wormhole, which has a lot of movement. So it’s a really complicated surface and it’s awesome to see it mapped out. I’m really proud of our team this year. On an engineering and deployment level, we’re pretty small scale for a large festival like this, which has been good. We have more room in front of us, which is nice.

TMN: How did V Squared get started up?

Vello: I guess my first big entertainment project was with Korn in California. So Korn got me in to doing more concert visuals for rock bands…EDM actually lead to Korn, and then Korn went back to EDM so we’ve all been spinning in strange circles with people like J Devil coming out with his whole, evil-self, dubstep thing and being progressive. So it’s a nice circle. So we started there and it’s been growing slowly every year.

TMN: You have an art background correct? You went to Kansas City for a while I think?

Vello: One year there, and then I had my little rebellion, and then I moved to Chicago and went to the art institute there. So yeah I did my tenure, climbed the pole to my bachelors and then went in to post-production.

TMN: You had some other projects prior to V Squared as well?

Vello: Well, we really started in Ultra with Rabbit in the Moon. They were our first collaborators, and that brought me to Florida. And through Rabbit in the Moon, and Dave, and all the original people who were in this scene, they brought me to Ultra and brought OVT, our first company, in to do visuals. It’s been a cool growing process. So, from the beach to here, on the yacht, is like a time warp almost.
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[Hip-Hop] The Roots – When The People Cheer

When The People Cheer
The Roots
When The People Cheer

If you’re like us here at TMN, Mondays probably aren’t your favorite your day of the week. After a long day back on the grind, it’s surprises like this that really can make it all worth it.

As they get set for the release of their first LP in nearly three years, The Roots have decided to share with us the lead single from the project, “When The People Cheer.” Contrary from what you might perceive from the title, the song is far from celebratory. Pensive in nature, the track features Black Thought utilizing a more melodic flow to start, before switching to a quietly thoughtful, yet emphatically determined cadence after the chorus. This is all balanced by some rhythmic drums and refined piano work provided by ?uestlove and the rest of The Legendary Roots Crew.

While a song like this won’t necessarily move the needle, it’s great to know that the band can still produce quality music over 20 years into their respective careers. Keep your eyes peeled for The Roots’ next album,  And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, out via Def Jam on May 13th.

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[Hip-Hop] SZA – Babylon (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Babylon feat. Kendrick Lamar

Just a day away from the release of her debut album, SZA keeps the buzz high letting loose a track featuring her fellow Top Dawg Entertainment  signee Kendrick Lamar. “Babylon” fits nicely with the tracks we have already heard from the project as SZA displays her uniquely airy sound over mellow, but heavy instrumental from DJ Dahi, the producer of a number of recent hits including “My Type of Party.” As expected, Kendrick delivers an amazing verse delving into the themes of introspection and solitude initially introduced by SZA. Enjoy this track above and look for on iTunes tomorrow.

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[Electronic/Indie] Chrome Sparks – Goddess

Chrome Sparks

Brooklyn producer Jeremy Malvin, better known as Chrome Sparks, has released the first track off his upcoming EP Goddess. Having already released a series of EPs, the most recent being 2013’s Sparks, Malvin takes his latest title track through the cosmos and up into the heavens. Ethereal waves of electronic exploration build on a foundation of celestial synthscapes and astral beats that can only be described as sublime.

Goddess is available to pre-order on iTunes here.

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[Alternative] Cosmo Sheldrake – Solar

Cosmo Sheldrake

Cosmo Sheldrake is a 24 year old producer from London. And a bloody good one at that. Solar is the B-Side to Cosmo’s debut single ‘The Moss’ and it’s about as bizarre as it is incredible – and believe you me, this song is off the incredible scale.

For me a lot of the reason I love this track so much is the weird and wonderful methods used to produce the otherworldly sounds you’re hearing. Sheldrake actually used the Sun as an instrument here. Thats right – the Sun.

In a technique known as ‘Stellar Seismology’, Cosmo used recordings of the Sun, manipulating the sounds to create something that is truly unique. I can safely say I’ve never heard any song before that was composed using the sounds of celestial bodies. It even seems bizarre that we’re talking about the Sun having a sound. But nope – there are producers out there so talented they can use something as seemingly ridiculous as space noise as an instrument. Go figure.

Compared to the Sun the other aspects of this song seem outright mundane. Which is silly considering that Solar also features field recordings of Ecuadorian flutes and the singing of the Aka Pygmy Tribes of Central America.

But that’s not all, to top it all off Cosmo recites a verse from ‘I Woke Up At The Dawn Of Day’ (a William Blake poem) in a bleak and ghostly tone that makes the hairs on the back of neck stand up. I love this song because when you take its individual components, there just seems to be no way it should come together at all. But it does, and it’s fantastic. Enjoy.

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Inky Jack – Freedom [TMN PREMIERE]

Inky Jack

As we prep ourselves for the craziness that is Coachella, we’re lost in a sea of interview questions, meeting coordination, and planning out both our poolside and after hours jams. Thankfully we have a new track to throw into the mix that seamlessly blends into either of those carefully selected playlists.

Culminating in a swirling blend of rock, reggae, electronica and punk influences, Brooklyn based Inky Jack has concocted a peculiar and overwhelmingly addictive sound with their song, “Freedom.” Blurring the lines between genres effortlessly, this tune carries a strong message through its lyrics. Coming via lead singer Kwame, these words are displayed through a truly one-of-a-kind vocal tone that is both refined and a little rough around the edges. He’s able to hit high notes in a soulful manner, calling on associations of CeeLo and Tunde Adebimpe from TV On the Radio.

Dipesh Sinha and Kwame Bulter (aka Inky Jack) have set quite the trajectory early on in their career. Their sound casts a wide net by the immense amount of genres it so fluently flirts with.

Make sure to keep an eye out for their EP, Infrared, which will be out later this year. Beyond that, don’t be surprised when you see this name on some major festivals next year. That time is drawing near for this stellar duo.

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Joel Fletcher on Melbourne Bounce, Nike’s, & The Juicy Wiggle [TMN Exclusive Interview]


Last Thursday night was easily one of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended at the Yost Theater. I have been attending HAVOC Thurdays for quite some time now and that night, by far, topped them all. With the line-up tailoring to everyone’s musical desires, I knew that it was going to be absurd beyond belief. Before I was able to get down to some funky Melbourne beats and upbeat progressive house music, I first had to have a one-on-one conversation with one of Australia’s finest Melbourne Bounce producers, Joel Fletcher, to get the dish on what the music scene is like down under.

Joel Fletcher & Savage
Swing (Original Mix) OUT NOW!

TMN: Hey Joel! Nice to finally meet you. Welcome to the States! How was the flight from Australia?

JF: Thanks! Nice to meet you as well. It was an easy flight. I didn’t go to bed when I left Melbourne so I just crashed on the plane for 10 hours. I’m not really jet lagged so it’s great!

TMN: So, now that you’re finally in the U.S., tell me what you are most excited about regarding this tour?

JF:  It’s obviously my first trip out here and the scene is really starting to blow up so I’m really looking forward to see how everyone reacts. I believe I have 15 shows on this tour, so I’m just as excited for the 8th show as I am for all of the other shows. But, I’m really looking forward to going shopping!

TMN: Shopping? What do you want to buy out here?

JF: Shoes. Definitely shoes.

TMN: What kind of shoes are we talking about?

JF: Nike’s – as you can see. I have about 20-25 pairs of them back home.

TMN: You beat me on that one because I don’t even own a pair of Nike’s…

JF: (Laughs) Really? I’ll get you a pair.

TMN: You’re the best. Any who, let’s get back on track about music. Did you play any instruments growing up?

JF: Ah, yes. I started playing the drums when I was about 8 years old and stopped when I turned 14 which was about the time I started DJing. There were actually a pair of DJs where I grew up called the Electro Rockers, and they played a lot of progressive house and I guess you can say they really inspired me to start mixing. Continue reading

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