In the past year, 3LAU (aka Justin Blau) has had a meteoric rise in popularity and turned into a national phenomenon. Remix Nation had the opportunity to sit down with him before his set for Duke University’s Last Day of Classes (LDOC) concert and talk to him about his musical background, influences as well as his aspirations for the future. 3LAU has been extremely successful, juggling being a full time student and managing an ever expanding musical career. It was truly a fantastic opportunity to get to know more about him both as an artist and a person. 3LAU’s new remix of Back to New released today, so please go check it out here.
Here’s the full transcript from the interview:
Remix Nation: How did you come up with the name 3LAU?
3LAU: It’s pronounced Blau and the three just came from thinking to myself, how am I going to make sure that people are going to be able to find me. That was the first thing, making sure that I was google-able, I just wanted to make sure that the people who were listening to my music could find out where my music was. The three has a more significant meaning than that, you know a personal philosophical meaning, it’s more personal…but it also has the meaning of the things that I do, which is sing, produce and DJ and those are kind of the things that my career has been moving towards.
Remix Nation: I know this past year has been phenomenal for you, what are some of the emotions that have been going through your head?
3LAU: I’ve been going around all these schools, I visited Duke three years ago thinking I wanted to go to school here. It was one of my top choices, just getting around seeing all my old friends from high school at all these different places. Being here and working, but not really working, having the best time of my life. It’s surreal…it doesn’t really make sense, it hasn’t hit me yet…I’ll be honest with you. But I’m still really getting the most out of it.
Remix Nation: I guess as a college student, this is especially applicable. For a large part of your career, you’ve been balancing a college curriculum with being a DJ and performing all these shows, how has that worked for you?
3LAU: I think it started to take shape a lot more this year. Last year, it was really tough for me to get motivated with school to do well. I really wanted to focus on my music, but at that point I didn’t really have the momentum that I needed to make sure that this could be a sustainable career choice. This semester, since January, things did take off and I’ve been so lucky that my professors have been so flexible and that’s like thanks to Wash U, seriously, because if it wasn’t for me being at Wash U, I know a lot of other artists at a lot of other schools, who aren’t granted that flexibility, and the fact is they just want me to do what I love to do and they just want to support that. That’s what universities should be doing for their students. It’s really great.
Remix Nation: Definitely, that’s awesome. Just in terms of your musical career, who are some of your biggest influences, in terms of EDM music or in general?
3LAU: I just put down Porter as my favorite producer of all time and my biggest influence. Not only is he 19 and destroying it, but I think he is one of the few producers that other producers can’t replicate. Skrillex might be the best sound designer out there, but a lot of people try to make music like Skrillex, but I don’t think that’s really under the artist’s control. I don’t think that. If you can do something that no one else can do, that no one else can even come close to, it says something about your creative character. To me, you know, that’s Porter. He’s able to master Trance, Electro, Hardstyle, all these different genres that he has his own imprint on, but everything’s different. So how you add that thread of artistic similarity in between your work, but also being able to balance so many different genres, is amazing. I don’t know anyone else who is doing that right now and that fact that I was able to meet him and that we’re now on a first name basis is just incredible.
Remix Nation: What was your musical background, before you got into EDM music?
3LAU: I play guitar, I play the piano, I play the drums, I sing. But I never really worked well with other people, I never really worked well in a band setting, I was frustrated by it. So I recorded an album all by myself, under a different alias, and that was when I was about 18 years old. It was really reflective of the musical style that I was working on at that time. And then I went to Sweden about a year ago, and decided well this could be great. So having a background in so many different musical instruments and having the background of already recording and knowing the experience of recording an album, I think really jumpstarted me to where I am.
Remix Nation: So I’m always curious about this stuff. What are some of the songs that you’re listening to right now?
3LAU: So Language, by Porter Robinson has been one of my favorite tracks of 2012, but I’ve also been going back and listening to some of the older, like not within a month old tracks, Arty’s remix of Punk, which is a Ferry Corsten trance track. I’ve been kind of searching for tracks that have a lot more depth than they do uplift. I mean levels is such a revolutionary track and I give Avicii so much credit, but I don’t think levels has the depth or any Swedish House Mafia track has that depth, maybe Greyhound is getting there. When I say depth, I mean it makes you feel something outside of that uplifting feeling and to me, I’ve been searching for those type of tracks because that’s the direction I want to go in. For me, it’s not about kind of the house formula that a lot of people have been starting to use, I’ve been trying to do something completely different, so the inspiration comes from those tracks.
Remix Nation: So I know you’ve recently released a lot of new stuff, especially in your philanthropy efforts, do you want to talk a little bit about what you plan on doing on that front?
3LAU: Absolutely, so I’ve been lucky enough to partner with Pencils of Promise, for children that are less fortunate than us. It’s really important to me because in my life, professors and musicians are the two people that have been most inspirational. And, the environment that they have created for me has been so essential in helping me reach where I am right now. And to me it just makes sense to give others that opportunity when they are young, when they couldn’t get that opportunity otherwise. It’s not just that, it’s also about harnessing the power that dance music has had as a movement. There’s so many people that are listening to dance music; the crowds that come to the shows, the hype around the entire scene on the internet or off of the internet, it’s all based in excess, it’s all based in partying and I think this whole charity campaign is about taking this excess from dance music and using it to give back to something that is a lot more than just the partying. It’s really for us to accomplish…I mean the fact that we’ve already raised 1,500 dollars just in donations without the song being released is unbelievable. I couldn’t even possibly imagine that.
Remix Nation: In your future, do you have any new tours or releases that you want to talk about?
3LAU: Yeah, on April 30th is the release of Back to New, and all the proceeds from that song will go to Pencils of Promise and I will be matching every single purchase, so it means that every purchase will be donating 5 dollars to Pencils of Promise and it’s 25,000 dollars to build a school. I think that we’ll get there pretty fast and we’ve gotten a lot of support from a lot of people. And then I’m kind of going to go into the cave over the summer and kind of reflect, figure out what I want to do next. The mashup, bootleg thing was really just a way to kick-start my career to make sure that it was something that I could sustain. It was never a plan for me to be labeled that. So, I have an EP out in September and then this summer I will be playing a lot of music festivals, we haven’t announced them all yet. I’m on a lot of shows this summer, and so I’m really excited.
Remix Nation: Sweet, best of luck with your future and thanks a lot for sitting down with Remix Nation.
3LAU: Awesome, yeah I love remix-nation man.
You heard it from 3LAU. Also, did I mention he killed his set on the main quad and thousands of undergraduates went wild only an hour after the interview ended? It was a pleasure to get some perspective from an EDM artist with huge plans for the future. I want to give a shout out to Ross, Justin’s manager, for fitting us in during his hectic schedule.