It is no secret that a largely accepted yet unfair critique of electronic bass music is that it’s not made with real instruments. From the outside, looking in, it may seem like a fair assessment, until you watch Jason Leech perform. A master on the keys, Jason Leech, aims to dissolve the pre-conceived notion of what bass music is one note at a time. Inspired by the sounds of psychedelic classic rock and artists like Flume and RL Grime, the Kentucky bass artist brings a profound and electrifying perspective to electronic music.
Breaking into the scene through live remixes on YouTube, Jason Leech caught the attention of some of the biggest artists in bass music. Before he knew it, he was offering live support to artists like GRiZ, Big Gigantic, Galantis, and more.
However, 2021 proved to be a breakout year for the Kentucky-based producer. From headlining his own shows to playing fests like Lost Lands and releasing music with the likes of Luzcid and CloZee, Jason Leech looks to carry his momentum into 2022.
His latest release, Derealization, featuring MOONZz, is his most complete release yet. Filled with trippy soundscapes, dark overtones, and electrifying piano riffs, Derealization showcases his talent as both a producer and a musician.
Whether he’s performing on stage, making remix videos, or producing his own tracks, Jason Leech aims to make live instrumentation an essential part of bass music.
The Daily Frequency caught up with Jason to talk his new single, live music, and more.
Check out the full interview below!
Congratulations on Derealization, your first release of 2022! I really love the ominous yet celestial vibe. Do you feel like you’re really coming into your sound?
Thank you! Yes, I think this song was a step in the right direction for me. I’ve focused more on melodies and groove, which I feel is my strong point. Sometimes I get too caught up in sound design and insignificant details, and forget that the music needs soul. I really kept that in mind from the start when I began to produce Derealization.
MOONZz’s vocals really compliment the track perfectly. What was it like working with her?
She was wonderful to collaborate with. I first heard her voice on CloZee’s latest EP with their track “Hold On”. I shot her a message after hearing that song, and she was down to work together. I was so happy to get her on this single. She offered a lot of helpful tips when I was trying to find the right mix for her vocals.
You note Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, as an inspiration for Derealization. How much influence does Pink Floyd have on your sound as a whole?
Pink Floyd is definitely my favorite band, and they’ve always inspired my music. I’m always in awe of what kind of worlds they create in their albums. I loved their early use of synthesizers, and the way they would blend them with psychedelic rock, jazz, and blues. Their guitarist, David Gilmour, played such interesting and expressive solos. I’m always striving to play keys in the same way David Gilmour played guitar.
Let’s take it back. When did you first get into music, and what drew you to electronic music and specifically bass music in the first place?
I was introduced to piano at a very young age. I started piano lessons in first grade, and stuck with them all the way through college. In high school, I really got into classic rock. My dad showed me the music he grew up with, and I really connected with it. It was really cool hearing piano and organs used by artists like The Doors, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin. I learned a ton of songs from these kinds of bands on my keyboard. Shortly after, once Youtube became big, I stumbled across some electronic music channels, like UKF. I remember hearing Zeds Dead and Skrillex for the first time and was completely blown away.
I always pictured a keyboardist as just a piece of a band, but when I heard electronic music, it seemed like the whole track could be performed with synths. Instead of guitar solos and lead singers, it was entire songs of synth melodies. I was very excited to find a genre of music like this, and felt like I had everything I needed to begin.
You broke into the scene through translating your favorite bass records onto the keyboard. When did you feel like it was necessary to make the jump from remixes to your own productions?
After I gained an online following, my community started pushing me to make originals. I’ve gotten many comments telling me that they’d love to hear some of my own songs. I honestly just love performing and making videos, and sometimes it’s hard for me to stop and just sit at a computer and create from scratch. I’m still trying to find that balance between the two. I believe this year will be the year I release the most original tracks.
Walk us through a day in the studio. Do you have a specific routine when it comes to production, or do you just go with the flow depending on the day?
There are three things I aim to get done with my day in the studio. I try to make progress on a performance video, an original song, and a collab. The performance videos come to me easiest, so I’m able to get them shot and uploaded quickly. Originals are a very slow process for me, but I try to make a step forward, no matter how small. I’ve been trying to land collabs by laying down some melodic tracks on the keyboards and sending them to artists I’d like to work with. My songs with Luzcid and CloZee both came from me just messaging them a dropbox link to some keys I laid down that day. I don’t always get to all three of these goals, but that’s what I’m aiming for when I get a day in the studio.
You have such a unique and incredible live show experience. What was the inspiration behind turning a live keyboard performance into essentially a DJ set and how challenging was the process?
I was making keyboard videos for a few years before even setting foot on stage. I knew that I wanted to perform live on keys in the same way I do in my vids, but I really didn’t know how to put together a set. All I had was my random song remixes. I did a lot of studying on how to blend tracks together, and how to keep the energy going in a mix. The first few years of performing live, I didn’t really have tight transitions, and noticed how I could lose the crowd’s energy. Just doing live sets over and over again is what really made me see what works in a live setting. I’ve also gotten better at designing sounds, so the synths I’m playing feel much more like the sounds you’d hear in a DJ’s mix. I’m really happy with what my live set has become. I think this past year is when I really figured out how to make a solid live show. Seeing this progress also makes me excited to see what my set will look like further down the road.
You definitely discovered a lane of your own. Do you see live instrumentation as the future of bass music?
I think live instrumentation is going to become a major style within the genre. I’ve become friends with several artists heavily using live instruments in their sets, and can see how fast they’re all growing. I’d say it’s definitely picking up steam, and for a good reason. People love getting that human touch within electronic music. I believe producers can achieve a natural feel in a live set without instruments, but there’s something about being in a room where a live instrument is being played. The novelty of seeing and hearing notes being played in the moment can be really special.
Lastly, you had such a massive 2021 playing huge shows and releasing tracks with the likes of CloZee, and Luzcid. What plans do you have in store for 2022?
I’ve got a few collabs in the works with artists I really admire, as well as some shows lined up that I can’t wait to announce. I’m really looking forward to performing more live shows this year now that I feel my live set is tightened up. As always, I’ll keep making my keyboard videos, and maybe finally get out an EP.