Ezra Arenson, who goes by the name Contra Scandal is not your typical dubstep DJ. Immersed in the world of music at an early age, the Denver-based producer is a classically trained musician who has a knack for blending hip-hop and heavy metal with the intricate sounds of bass music. Whether he is shredding on the violin, strumming his guitar, or rapping over his own productions, Contra Scandal has created a style that is psychedelic and melodic yet intense and powerful.
On March 8, Contra Scandal dropped his latest EP titled Panther. Released on Veil’s label Street Ritual, the seven-track record blends early dub influences with the styles and sounds of modern bass music. Filled with mind-melting basslines, impeccable hip-hop lyricism, and a tangible energy you can feel throughout each track, the Panther EP is both groundbreaking and brilliant.
The Daily Frequency caught up with Contra Scandal to discuss the new EP, his musical roots, and a whole lot more.
Check out the full interview below!
Congratulations on the new EP! What was your inspiration behind the record, and what does the title ‘Panther’ represent?
Thank you! With this collection of tunes, I was planning on creating all of them within the 140bpm realm. I wanted to lean into the heavier side of things compared to my last album, Full Circle. I aimed for producing songs that were a bit edgier but also still maintained a bit of melodic elements within them. The name Panther wasn’t particularly planned, but it was the first track I made of the bunch, and I felt like the song title represented the album as a whole in its dark and mysterious nature.
You are not just a producer you are a classically trained musician. What inspired you to transition into making electronic music?
I’ve been interested in all kinds of music throughout my life. It’s been a slow, natural progression over the years. I feel like my current musical creations incorporate a whole plethora of styles and experiences.
I first started playing violin when I was about 4 years old, transitioned to clarinet in Middle School (for band), then picked up the guitar around the same time and joined a metal band with some homies. Around this time, I dropped the violin because I thought it was wack lol funny how your perception changes and how later in life, people seem to think the exact opposite.
I first started producing electronic music in 2009 after going to my first rave in San Francisco called LovEvolution (LoveFest). After moving to Denver, Colorado, in 2015, I witnessed a bunch of electronic bands and DJs that were incorporating live organic elements into their music and performances. This is what gave me the idea to pick up the strings again, along with some encouragement from friends.
I love how you incorporate violin and guitar into your productions and performances. Do you believe there is an unexplored realm of live instrumentation within bass music?
Like I mentioned earlier, I see a lot more DJs and electronic bands incorporating instruments into their music. When I first started producing, I feel like this realm wasn’t explored much, but now, if you look at these festival lineups, you’ll catch a handful of artists that incorporate a live element into their sets. It’s really exciting to see, and from my experience, the crowd appreciates it a lot more, rather than just a DJ spinning tunes.
I can’t think of any other bass producers that can flow on a track like you can. Who would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to hip hop?
You’d think I was a big hip-hop head considering I occasionally rap in my tunes but honestly, I rarely listen to any nowadays. Back in the day, mostly in high school and a bit of college, I was into more of the underground stuff like Jedi Mind Tricks, Andre Nickatina, and Atmosphere. The hyphy movement, including dudes like Mac Dre and E-40, had a big impact on me and how you can sound silly and eccentric but still deliver hard lyrics.
Whether it’s your new record Panther, Full Circle, or Simulation, you are really able to turn sound into a full experience. How important is it to take your listeners on a journey?
I kind of just go with the flow in my head and translate those ideas into a reality. It’s not much of a conscious decision. One thing I really enjoy about creating electronic music is that I never know where it’s going to go. I think I’ve only made like 5 songs ever where I envisioned something and tried to replicate it. I do like to make songs that have a bit of depth and almost a melancholy feel to them sometimes. I think having a dynamic track is really important as it can get a bit dull if it’s just a consistent energy and a plateau of emotion.
The bass scene is booming in Denver right now. Do you feel as if there is a certain energy in Colorado that influences your sound?
Yes, 100%, and it’s really always changing. My last album, Full Circle, was definitely a bit more psychedelic as there’s a really trippy subculture out here in Colorado. I’d say overall, though, the legendary venue The Black Box gives me the most amount of inspiration as there are so many dope underground dubstep artists that play there and the sound system’s low end really allows deep dubstep to shine to its greatest capacity. Even just seeing hella people out and about in public wearing various merch constantly inspires me. Being able to live in the bass capital is a beautiful thing and having many friends and fans out here that really dig what I’m doing is super motivating.
You recently released your own sample pack called Mile High Dubstep. How does it feel to have other producers use your sounds for inspiration?
I’ve always wanted to make a sample pack and just never put aside the time. Working with Gravitas Create and having specific deadlines and such really made it a lot easier. It feels great to be able to contribute my sound into the music scene as a whole. I hope having a sample or two in someone’s tune really makes their track pop that much more. I’m just waiting to hear the next banger being played at a show and being able to recognize a violin or vocal sample that I made in my little studio lol it’s exciting to me.
What can fans expect for the rest of 2022?
More shows and my first show in Canada! And some fun collaboration releases with artists such as Pushloop and The Widdler. Expect a release here soon of a remix I did for Morillo’s new album as well.
Panther is out now on all streaming platforms! You can check out Contra Scandal’s Latest EP Here!