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From jamtronica to liquid bass music: Catching up with Prophet Massive on his first solo headlining tour [Interview]

When Jason Hann isn’t busy on the road for The String Cheese Incident‘s 25th-anniversary tour, or blowing minds at Electric Forest as one half of EOTO, it’s a wonder how the Los Angeles-based percussionist and jack-of-all-trades manages his time. In the midst of all the music festivals and stopping off at world-class venues, Hann has chosen 2019 as the year of Prophet Massive.

For those less familiar with Hann’s side bass music project, Prophet Massive has humble origins. The project was birthed randomly one evening in Missouri when a DJ canceled an underground sound event and Hann agreed to fill in last minute. Equipped with a catalog of his favorite underground bass music tracks, along with his extensive knowledge of Ableton, the show ended up being a hit.

While Hann hasn’t yet taken the full leap into writing original music under his Prophet Massive moniker, he is taking the next step in the project’s development with his very own liquid bass tour. Beyond playing Sonic Bloom, Hulaween, and Electric Forest renegade sets, this is the first time fans will see Prophet Massive out on the road.

After selling out Atlanta’s Aisle 5 last weekend, Prophet Massive is now making his way to one of Dallas’ most beloved music venues in Deep Ellum Art Company. Hann was kind enough to take a few minutes from his hectic travel schedule to answer a few of our questions.

CE: It’s been 6 years since you’ve been active under the Prophet Massive moniker. What inspired you to resurrect the project, especially in the midst of so much going on for you right now?

JH: I hadn’t thought about it much except for the three regular times per year I’ve been doing it (Electric Forest Renegade set, Sonic Bloom, Hulaween). Eric Noble (promoter from St Louis) asked if I was still doing it and that he was in a position to try and book some things if I wanted, and it made me think about putting things more together in a club venue touring environment.

It’s another skill set that I really enjoy doing, so I move some things around in my head first (ha) and aim for a schedule that includes Prophet Massive sets.

CE: Prophet Massive seems really dedicated to a throwback dubstep sound, with nods to UK garage, breakbeat, and ragga/jungle. Was this at the forefront of why you chose to create the side project? 

JH: More so, I just wanted to play the style of bass music that I enjoy when I’m doing a set under that name. It’s actually all music that has been released recently with my own takes on tempo and some subtle remixing that puts it where I really enjoy it. I definitely prefer the more underground version of bass music versus rave bangers.

The project also keeps me constantly looking for bass music to be inspired from. I still enjoy checking out what’s coming out, that seems like a look to the future of bass music, and it’s great to showcase what’s inspiring me and hopefully introduce new music to people that enjoy that style as well.

Photo credit: Tony Nicholson/Do816.

CE: Tell us about Prophet Massive’s origin story. What was the moment you landed on your alter ego’s name?

JH: There was an event called Underground Sound in Missouri. it was the sixth one, I believe. A DJ canceled and Vibesquad asked Travis (EOTO bandmate) if either of us wanted to do a DJ set. Travis asked me, and I was down for collecting tracks that I had been listening to and using Ableton to make the set happen.

Our EOTO crew guy, Chris Gewald, and I were having fun laughing and brainstorming what my DJ name would be. He came up with Prophet Massive, partly because of the way it would be pronounced with an English accent, but also the many play on words – prophet (future seer), massive (software keyboard name, and everything is “massive” for awesome things in England), profit (making cash)…anyways, all of those things together made for some funny possible scenarios and we were having a good time with the scenarios.

I had a killer time and got awesome feedback on it.

CE: With EOTO, you guys keep it downright improvisational and even pride yourselves on live mixing without pre-recorded music. Do you have a similar plan with Prophet Massive on stage?

JH: Naw. EOTO is incredibly unique like that. Not even jazz artists will do a set of music without chord changes, or without music charts, or calling out song form – let alone, mix and remix themselves during a performance.

Prophet Massive sets are very much a mix of songs of other artists but I’ll write transitions, change the tempo of the original song, add other instruments or beats, and be very active with effects and sounds on the fly, to give it some kind of improvisational performance quality.

CE: The same goes for String Cheese. You’ve said before that y’all try to pin down your setlists but then always ended up changing it up day of show. What is your take on producers using pre-planned sets in general?

JH: It depends. For a high production show that involves synced video and lights, it’s great that it’s a pre-rehearsed show. The spectacle is a thing.

It sucks to think that it could be so pre-arranged that the DJ isn’t really doing anything that he/she looks like he/she is doing. When you see an eq knob being moved, or barely touched, and the music reacts in a different way than the eq mixer know reacts, it’s more acting then performing and a false representation of what’s happening.

But I know some DJs have each song coded with sync, can move parts of their song around on the fly, and the sync follows their musical decisions. That’s pretty cool.

I know Ableton really well, and have tried to make it as interactive as possible, short of looking like I’m doing a science project on stage, during my Prophet Massive sets. I don’t think you want to be so far committed to “doing things” in the moment that you’re only entertaining yourself with how much only you know is going on 🙂

Photo credit: Roger Gupta.

CE: Denver’s Black Box Theatre is on your schedule. That’s one venue that been gaining huge national traction as a top spot for UG bass. How do you feel about going in there and what do you have planned?

JH: I’m so psyched about going to play in there. Nicole has really curated a unique venue for underground bass in the US. I go there when I’m in town for SCI rehearsals because I always see something solid and get inspired to get back into bass and sound design mode. The hype is in the music there – no doubt.

CE: Take us into a PM show. What does it look like? How is the vibe?

JH: If you haven’t seen it before, it’s always a surprise. Probably more bass than you would think, but not in a harsh lawnmower/drill bit sense. A little bit of a face twister but not in a way like you’re at a construction site.

My ear has a slant toward rhythm, so I think my sets, overall, have a little something extra. Lately, I’ve kept some things in range of what Ivy Lab and G Jones might throw down on.

It’s all still about dancing and going hard in the paint, and I try to see the whole set as a story by the time I get through it all.

CE: Where can we expect to see the PM project going? Any new music in the pipelines? Perhaps a new album?

JH: The thing I really really need to make time for is writing original music for the project. When I’m home (Los Angeles) I’ll write music for lots of other projects, but I haven’t taken the time to write for my own Prophet Massive album or EP. That’s where the time crunch really happens because my taste seems to shift from when I start on something to when I get back to something.

I have some things in the works. When I start releasing Prophet Massive tracks, that will be another step in the direction of pushing Prophet Massive to another level.

CE: Finally, mental health is always a topic of importance for us. You’ve got so many projects under your belt that it’s mind-boggling how you manage to stay sane, not to mention balancing a family at home. How to manage to keep making music, touring regularly, and maintaining your “chee”? 

JH: The best technique is sleep and naps. I can do a 2-minute countdown to sleep so airports aren’t as taxing on the mind and body. Ha. The second best technique is balance. When I’m home, my schedule is waking up early, doing some boxing at the gym, hanging with my wife when she gets home from work, not taking gigs when I’m at home, we don’t even have alcohol in the house – not because we don’t like it, just that the brain is so switched to another mode and it feels great to not be in party mode at home.

I think it all gives a freshness going back and forth from the road to home and being revved up and excited about both frames of mind. That balance allows for appreciation of it all and not getting burnt out or bored of either.

Featured photo: Chad Smith Photography.