Ash Riser Takes A Road Less Traveled
Earlier this August, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ash Riser, a talented singer based in L.A. who’s affiliated with rapper OG Maco’s OGG record label. Ash’s trajectory through the music industry is so unique, I have a hard time synthesizing what I learned into a summary. Ash started his music career as the frontman for a rock band called Pistol Pistol, who drew comparisons to bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. After the band broke up, Ash began producing Dubstep under the alias Ashtrobot, eventually signing to Buygore.
While working as an engineer and producer, Ash received a call from MixedByAli, a high school friend who remembered Ash’s talent for singing. This call landed Ashtrobot on the hook of Kendrick Lamar’s “Ronald Reagan Era,” fostering a professional relationship between Ash and TDE’s eclectic roster of artists. Ash’s debut solo album, And the Villains Keep Winning, will be out on Good Villains Records later this year, featuring a style that is as distinct as Ash’s career path.
Cypher League: So, you were on Blank Face?
Ash: No, I wasn’t on it. I had worked on it, like I had gone to the studio. “Str8 Ballin” was the song that I had recorded for, but I wasn’t on the actual album.
CL: Didn’t you say that you had strained your voice the first time Schoolboy asked you?
A: Yeah, that was the worst possible time I could have gone to the studio. My voice was fucked up. I couldn’t even hit the note. I was drinking a lot at that point, so that was just a bad day. That was just ironic because I went to my mom’s crib to go duck off (sic) and then, like, that day I get hit up by Q, and I was like, god damnit, alright. So I go back to LA and go all the way up to the valley, you know what I mean? It was some random studio. DJ Mustard was there. It was pretty chill.
I was pretty pissed off at myself. I was like, “fuck dude.” You know what I mean? but [Schoolboy] was cool about it. He said, “come back next week when I’m back from Paris, and let’s keep working on it,” and then I went back and did some other shit.
Other than that, Soulo and I have been working on some shit. Not currently, but he came over, we worked on a song.
CL: Wasn’t it part of the JMSN project Ab-Soul was involved with?
A: Apparently that wasn’t going on so we said, “let’s vibe and see what we can do.” He came over and we worked on some shit, and he had some ideas that he wanted me to do, and it was over a beat that I had made, so we kind of worked on that, and it was funny, because that fool made me record, maybe 80 vocal tracks on that one song.
CL: He likes those type of things, like on These Days, there’s a lot of gospel and harmony stuff going on.
A: That’s what I’m saying. His stacks are hella intense. I bounced Soul all the stems. He actually called me last week randomly and said, “I need you to stay focused” or some shit.
CL: That’s a pick me up right there.
A: Yeah it was around 3:30 in the morning. He was probably listening to those tracks, thinking, “fuckin Ash.” (laughs) That’s always been my shit, like, I’ve been so all over the place because I did rock n’ roll, I did dubstep, and I did hip-hop.
CL: Last time were talking, I said your voice kind of gave me Arctic Monkey vibes, and you told me, back in the day, it was either Pistol Pistol or Arctic Monkeys?
A: Yeah literally they had just came out, and there was room for an American Response. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until Kim Fowley, who found Joan Jett and the Licks, pulled up to our show at the Troubador, and half of the cast of the fucking OC was there. I was like, “what the fuck?” That shit was crazy. We were outside and all of sudden, I remember it so vividly, you know that ghoulish –it sucks because he passed away now– but you know the Landlord from Aqua Teen Hunger Force? That was kind of what Kim Fowley looked like you know? You know what he looked like?
CL: Uh I’m not actually sure who that is.
A: He’s just this old rock and roll legend dude. And he just came in, and I looked up behind me and there he was.
CL: Where was this?
A: It was outside of the Troubador. I remember looking out [on stage] and I saw Mischa Barton and a couple of other people, and I remember looking at our guitar player and being like, “fuck dude.” Because it was our record release party, and we were chilling with them. That was the night that I realized shit was really starting to pop.
CL: Obviously, the Rock N Roll route, at least with Pistol Pistol… You’re no longer with them, but you’ve dabbled in so much since then, are you kind of happy it worked out that way? Did you want to be a rock star or do you like where you’ve gotten to do since then?
A: I think since then.. I was thinking about that last night. I was watching the Jimi Hendrix movie. But the way he played guitar… I used to literally go to bed every night and play guitar because I heard that fool played guitar to fall asleep, and then I realized, that I traded in my Guitar Amp for Rokit 8s when I was 21.
CL: So you traded in your amp for your first pair of studio monitors?
A: Yeah so I literally look at my laptop as “this is my guitar. I traded in my guitar in for a laptop. That’s just how I envision my laptop now, it’s an instrument. It’s not just a macintosh, you know what I’m saying? That shit is how I express my music now. It’s my band, it’s my discography, it’s my everything. I do all the guitar, and bass and all my shit, and the drums are mostly samples, but I’m planning on going over most of them myself.
CL: You were playing me some of your upcoming album the other day, and you have a really unique lane right now, that’s hard to even describe. It’s kind of hip-hop, and it’s kind of alternative rock at the same time. I feel that kind of came about because you’ve been in so many sectors. You’ve been in dubstep, been compared to Arctic Monkeys, had a tape with Metro Boomin beats…
A: Yeah that shit’s crazy. I got all the beats from [OG Maco]. I was pressing Maco for this folder for a month, and then one day, he finally just gave it to me, and then that weekend, I did the whole project, and then I put it out on Wednesday. I barely slept that weekend.
CL: A lot of people are doing vocoding, and rappers you never expected to hop on the vocode wave taking a crack at it, but you’re just, basically, straight singing.
A: I use auto tune on certain shit I do, like that track I did with Fredo Santana, I used it like an instrument. I was layering it and putting it through [Autotune]. I think that’s the Kanye, you know what I mean? When you layer the autotune and throw the distortion on it and you chop it up, that’s the Kanye West and Travis Scott shit.
CL: Yeah, your voice can break. Like that time in “Studio.” It’s really like an instrument.
A: Yeah, and I didn’t sing for 5 years because I was DJing and being a successful producer.
CL: Let’s bring that back actually. So you ended up on Borgore’s label, he’s an Israeli Dubstep Producer, how the fuck did that happen dude? The Wikipedia page does not do this justice.
A: When Pistol Pistol finally broke up, I started producing and I had this alias Ashtrobot and I was using it on some Kendrick shit, and I was really trying to push that brand, so that’s when I really started doing dubstep. Then I started playing underground shows in LA and there was this blog called US Dubstep, and these dude who were were involved with it, Steven Pale, and Kennedy Jones, I met them, and Steven ends up becoming the label manager for Buygore, and he called me one day, and said “I want to come to the studio and check it out,” and then he started managing me. That’s how the introduction got started because at the time, it was Buygore management, and it was me, Kennedy Jones, and the rest of the label.
CL: It seems very Los Angeles to be involved in all these different fields. Sonny Moore went from making emo music to taking the world by storm as Skrillex. It seems like Rock music had a lot of crossover to Dubstep.
A: Also really melodic. You could really experiment with it. It really shaped my engineering skills, and my sound, and my mixing and mastering, so I can do everything here, and I have people who come and help me with shit if I’m lazy, but at the end of the day, I’m going to go back in and check it out.
CL: Since you were doing Dubstep, producing, and also doing these TDE tracks, it kind of made sense for you to come back into this world?
A: Yeah exactly. I wasn’t singing at that time, and so the only time I was singing was with Ab or that camp.
CL: And that’s because you went to highschool with MixedbyAli?
A: He lived in Gardena, but somehow he was going to school in Redondo, but I think he got kicked out after two weeks. But yeah we knew each other from junior high. I think he came in 8th grade, but I knew him going into high school. He knew I did music and we kept in touch through Facebook or MySpace or whatever the fuck… Myspace! Fucking Tom. That’s wild. Jesus Christ.
CL: So back at it, these days, you’re doing stuff with OGG. I saw on a website the other day that you were quoted on OG Maco’s current condition.
Obviously he’s okay now. How did that come about? I guess I would say they’re kind of similar to your style, you know blogs these days want to throw everything under “trap” or… I guess “Atlanta” is even more all encompassing at this point, but you guys do a lot of singing, a lot of layering.
A: Even Maco’s new album that he’s working on, I call it like, “Stadium Urban” it’s weird. It’s really good weird. Because it’s new. It’s like chanting and shit. It’s fucking crazy because it’s dark and pretty catchy.
CL: That “Bright Lights” track with Pablo Dylan. I really enjoyed that.
A: Dude when him and Pablo get together, that kid’s wild. Pablo is one of the craziest producers I’ve heard in a long time.
CL: That’s awesome. Is he on your upcoming album at all?
A: Actually, unfortunately… fucking no… I should probably holler at him on that.
CL: Let’s talk about your new album because that’s one of the reasons we’re here today because I heard it, and it’s fucking fire.
A: It’s interesting because it’s the first full length album I’ve ever really worked on by myself –because I’ve done EPs by myself– but when I was in Pistol Pistol, we did a full length, and that was the only time that I had a whole group of people to bounce ideas off of, so in that sense going into it, I looked at it as a challenge where I kind of just try to one-up everything I ever done, and at the same time, make shit I would want to listen to 30 years on the road. Like, how I feel my EP Home is because it’s something you could listen to in 30 years.
CL: Yeah because, sometime I listen to songs I enjoy today, and I’m wondering, am I going to be playing Aint No Fun if I have a 3-year-old daughter?
A: And Late Praise is completely a snapchat of this timeframe in my life, and working with OGG, and living where I live, and living how I live and doing what I do… these projects before the albums are definitely screenshots [too] because everything is about to fucking change. I want to be able to look back and be like, damn. Because my timeline goes back through “what was I doing musically at that point?” Because all I really had before was hockey and then I broke my back skating –all this crazy shit happened– so I couldn’t really play anymore, and I chose not to because I was petrified of fucking up my back, so I found a guitar in the garage and I never really had a passion for anything aside from skating and hockey, until music came around.
I guess it was just really for me more than anything else was, so I felt that shit and I understood it because I never really did well in school as far as grades or show up –I just fucking hated that shit, but I always was at band practice, I was always at shows, so I just think the way I perceive things is different than most people. I think that’s more understandable now because it’s been explained through different [projects]. It makes more sense. Where I’m at now, musically, is crazy, and the next step is the fucking full length, and that’s why having that arsenal… you know, like, one of the biggest songs on the project, I made it four years ago. Mixed and mastered it 4 years ago, haven’t touched, and now it’s going to be on the album, which is called And the Villains Keep Winning.