Machinedrum (née Travis Stewart) dropped his newest record, Human Energy, today on Ninja Tune. The anticipation for this record has been growing, with singles like “Tell U” and “Do It 4 U” garnering buzz from outlets like Thump, FADER, and Papermag. He is no stranger to collaboration, and this latest record features artists like Dawn Richard, Rochelle Jordan, and Kevin Hussein – and yet again, it showcases Stewart’s uncanny ability to recognize exactly how to capitalize best on his collaborators’ strengths. With over a dozen albums under various aliases under his belt since his first release in 1999, this album promises to be a lighter, brighter take on the unique space within electronic music Machinedrum has carved out for himself. Here, he shares a bit about the new record, the importance of setting in creativity, and his previous collaborations before his live set at (le) Poisson Rouge October 13.
Tell me about the new album. How will build on previous releases? How will it differ?
The new album was written from January through beginning of April 2016. I wanted to create something fresh with positive intentions, using my new home and life in LA as inspiration. This new album is much brighter and less melancholic than my previous couple of albums. It’s very celebratory. I want to shake people out of their comfort zones and put a smile on their faces. It may come as a shock for anyone who’s built up any sort of expectations for what the next album “should” sound like.
You signed to Ninja Tune in 2013. How has your career changed since then?
I’ve been taken much more seriously as a musician. It’s mainly just given me comfort that I can express myself musically without having to worry about how I can share my work with the world. They’ve been very supportive of me and are always on board to help bring my ideas to life.
You’ve lived in NYC and Berlin, and now you live in LA. How has your different settings affected your creative process?
To be completely honest I’ve done some of my worst work in NYC. I can’t think of much that I did there that I consider my best work, other than collaborations with some of my friends like Sepalcure, Azealia Banks and Jesse Boykins III. I was constantly pressured by high rent and chaotic lifestyle and while it forced me to get really serious about my career I think it confused me, screwed with my priorities and my output wasn’t very focused as a result.
Berlin was a great place for me to slow down the clock and get refocused. With low rent and a highly active music scene I found myself very inspired. I don’t necessarily make techno but being immersed in the scene in Berlin was highly influential. It taught me to let my songs breathe instead of just beating you over the head with an idea as quick as you could.
LA has also had a similar effect of slowing me down while keeping me on my toes since theres so many amazing musicians living in LA right now. The easy access to nature and urban environments together has been incredibly inspiring. It’s important to have balance in your life, you can’t just be “go go go” all the time. LA has brought a good amount of that balance to my life.
Your list of previous collaborations is impressive – Theophilius London, Azaelia Banks. Who are some artists you’d love to work with?
I’d love to work with Steve Reich, Oneohtrix Point Never, Busta Rhymes, Rihanna, Aphex Twin, Young Thug
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Touring, my wedding, honeymoon and more touring! Did I mention touring?