At first glance, what most people notice about Justin Blau is that he’s a young producer that writes some incredible mashups. While this is enough for some people to know, we wouldn’t be very good bloggers if we didn’t try to shed more light on this up-and-coming producer. There’s way more to 3LAU than meets the eyes or ears. Yes, he is a talented producer making party-inducing mashups with top 40 vocals and filthy beats, but sitting down with him for 20 minutes opened our eyes to the depth of his artistry.

We met up with Justin at Global Dance Festival at Red Rocks Ampitheater two weekends ago. Here’s what he had to say.

’Zedd feat. Matthew Koma – Spectrum (3LAU Remix)’

TMN: Welcome to Colorado, and most importantly, one of the most amazing venues in the world at one of the best events in EDM.How does it feel to be here at this Red Rocks, playing at Global Dance Festival?

3LAU: Thank you. I didn’t even realize that Global Dance Festival was at Red Rocks until a couple of weeks ago when I was like “Oh, I have Global Dance Festival, let me check this out.” Obviously I had heard of Red Rocks and I’ve never been here . I’ve heard only the most amazing things, and then I show up here and it’s mind blowing. The opportunity is incredible, thanks to Ha and all the Triad Dragon guys for doing this.

TMN: You also had a chance to be on Beatport live this afternoon down in Denver with Krewella. Talk to us about that experience a little.

3LAU: That was a lot of fun. I had never done a streaming set in a situation where there wasn’t a crowd, so it was kind of different for me. It was reminiscent of me when I was first practicing DJing. The Beatport guys were unbelievably hospitable. Matt, the owner, was so awesome.They gave me a pair of the III Beatport headphones, which was super nice of them. I got to play a bunch of my friends new tracks, and some of my new tracks. I think the feedback was pretty good for the most part.

TMN: As you tour and get to experience more cities all over the US, is there any particular difference between playing on the east coast as opposed to the west coast?

3LAU: Everything is so different. The way people interact with the music, what they like, and not just geographically. I play for so many different types of crowds. From the younger kids to the college kids to the rage heads even. I kind of play poppy music so I often cater my sets in different ways. I think though, the top differentiating factor is age. The second is geographic location. I think that the northeast is pretty into dance music, I think the west coast is into dance music, and I think that everywhere else is still learning.

TMN: (Grinning) Except for Denver, right?

3LAU: (Laughing) Yeah yeah. Except for Colorado. And Chicago.

TMN: Something apparent in your remixes is how much you enjoy combining Top 40 vocals and samples with filthy beats. Talk to us about that style and how you came up with it? It’s perfect party music. Talk about blending pop vocals with…

3LAU: Good music? (Laughs). You know, there were some people doing this when I started. I think that, for me, it started out as a hobby. I had heard some of the other mashup artists around and though, “this is interesting, I could do something like this too.” That’s kind of where I started, with multiple acapellas over the same beat, and multiple acapellas over multiple beats. I was going to these parties and people were playing remixes of songs, and people were just getting bored. What the mashup does is thrive off of ADD culture. That was my original inspiration.

Now, I’ve kind of moved away from the mashup stuff. This late album, Dance Floor Filth 2, is kind of the end of that. I’m still going to be doing them, but I’m going to be doing them whenever I feel like. I will still play them at my live shows, but I won’t necessarily be releasing them. I might on beatport. My idea is essentially to keep working on my remixes, and working on my own stuff.

TMN: And that’s almost a natural progression for an up-and-coming producer. Work on mashups, work on remixes, then start to work on original tracks.

3LAU: Exactly.

TMN: So you’re following that trend, but just at a higher level.

3LAU: It’s kind of weird. It is at a higher level because of the amount of amazing fans that I have. It’s interesting for them to watch me go through this process because I’m still struggling just like anyone else would.

TMN: Knowing that you have an indie rock background, who are some of your favorite artists?

3LAU: I have my top 5. The Antlers, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, M83, Interpol. Three of those…this is going to sound like I’m trying to a hipster. I don’t give a shit whether you heard the music first or I did. I’m not wearing a fedora right now. But I’ve loved M83 from before Digital Shades, from before The Dawn Heals Us, and I guess their first album was self titled. I got into that from one of my teachers in high school. He had given me a CD, and I was like, “this is mind blowing!”

But Anthony Gonzales is a huge inspiration of mine. Radiohead, Thom Yorke, is like my favorite voice and music ever. Interpol just did something really unique for their time. The Antlers, I remember seeing them at my school, at a 300 cap venue, and going up to Peter Silverman when I was 18 years old. This was before I had even listened to dance music.

Sigur Ros is kind of the closest to what I’m trying to do in dance music. I would love to create the epicness of post-rock.

TMN: Touching back on your musical background, you know how to play piano, guitar, and drums. What’s your favorite?

3LAU: Drums I’m not nearly as good at as the other two. I can play the drums but I can’t sit down and throw down some crazy-ass… anything. I love playing the guitar. There’s something really cool about the performance of playing the guitar. You can’t really perform on a piano. Like with the guitar, you can stand and feel it, and on the piano, you’re sitting. I recently read an article from Business2Community suggesting the best Bovada alternatives, which got me thinking about different forms of expression. For me, I think piano is my favorite because it’s become visual. I say that because in making dance music, you see the piano roll. You see the notes in the order that they appear on the piano. So you play the piano, and you can edit the notes.

I also just love the sound of an epic piano.

TMN: When did electronic music just click for you? What made you go from DJ to producer?

3LAU: The time that dance music clicked was – I went to Sweden. I hadn’t even listened to dance music, and my best friend was from Sweden. The experience there, listening to house music, watching people react to house music was so different than the reactions to any other kind of music. It was fascinating to me, and I felt like I wanted to be up there performing it. There was just something about it that was so cool for me.

TMN: One weird musical fact, you’re grandfather was a sound tech for Jimi Hendrix?

3LAU: My grandfather actually engineered electric lady. He engineered the speakers and all that with Eddie Kramer. My whole family has been in entertainment. My dad ran an entertainment company, my mom was on Broadway, my grandpa was an engineer, my uncle is a creative consultant for party planning, so it definitely runs in the family.

TMN: You are gradually becoming one of the most prominent producers in the dance scene; tell us more about how your life has changed in the last year. What has been the one moment that completely left you in shock?

3LAU: I think I’ve had three. Two were performing, and one was in my studio. I think the first was in January, when I played Boston Royale. It’s a 1200 cap venue, and I was a nobody back then, and I sold it out. The people that were running the show were like, “who the hell is this kid, to come in here with no production and bring in 1200 kids?” It was the first realization that I had fans.

The second realization was when I was working in the studio on one of my unreleased tracks and I fell in love with the chord progression so much that I begun dancing around my room to it. That’s when you know you have something that’s truly unbelievable. It gave me a lot of faith in myself to keep doing what I’m doing.

The most recent moment was at Camp Bisco last weekend. I was playing the same set time as Amon Tobin and he’s obviously massive with so much hype. People started slowly filtering into my set. Ten minutes after I started – packed with 6,000 people. The reaction and the feedback from people from that set was like so amazing. That kind of reaction is so great to hear because I work so hard and I pride myself on my live performance.

TMN: You have had to balance yourself between preforming live and going to school as finance major, two completely different paths. With such a promising DJ career, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years.

3LAU: Finance actually isn’t going really well. I’m not going to be in that world, ever. I know I’m not. I’m going to be a DJ. I’m going to do music for the rest of my life whether that’s as a DJ or as something else I could possibly do in music.

I see myself hopefully making more amazing music and getting big as I possibly can, and continuing to play and doing as many charitable things as I can. Just trying to leave my imprint on the world in a positive way, and doing that through music.

TMN: Talk to us a little bit about your philanthropic efforts.

3LAU: We raised $25,000 dollars to help build a school in Guatemala. That was based off of raising money from the sales of my first Beatport single. So we sold my first Beatport single, and I matched all of the proceeds. We raised the money in about 2 months, and I’m going to be going there to oversee the final stages of the school being built.

We’re going to have another fundraising page up for building a second school. My webpage has everything, all the information.

TMN: Ok, one odd ball question. You’re from Vegas – if your music were a Vegas hotel, which one would it be?

3LAU: Cosmopolitan.

TMN: (Laughing) Look at that! You already knew that answer like it was right off the top of your head.

3LAU: It’s just the coolest fucking hotel there is. I love it. I hope my music is the coolest out there right now! (Laughing) I wish. But if my music could become the Cosmopolitan of music, I would love that.

TMN: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

3LAU: Just released Dance Floor Filth 2. Check it out, it’s on my facebook – you can download it for free. Also, thanks to The Music Ninja, thank you for all your support and everything you guys have done to help build my following.

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Matthew Koma