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Promo Spotlight: Inside the mind of Massive Music Collective co-founder, Colter Ulrich [Interview]

Photo credit: @malinataylorphoto/Instagram.

Given how music opens the connection to the soul, artists and their fanbases must represent the body. Promotional companies, then, are the heartbeat of the music industry. These are the local street teams, the social media hustlers, the business negotiators, the backstage bookers, and talent scouters — all working tirelessly at their tiers with management teams, venues, press, and so on to bring fans their favorite music. However, promotional companies often get overlooked by music goers, outshined by big names and line-ups. They don’t much care for the spotlight though, and they definitely don’t do it for the money. They do it all for the love of music.

That’s why CE is proud to present our Promo Spotlight series, where we scour the United States for local promotional companies to shine a light on the people working behind the scenes of music. They are, for all intents and purposes, music’s beating life force. 

Denver, Colorado has become widely recognized as “the bass capital of the United States.” From the number of producers who call the Mile High City home to its proximity to iconic venues such as Red Rocks and The Black Box, Denver has had no issue living up to this title. However, what truly makes Denver special is the ever-expanding underground bass scene, littered with rising musicians and a plethora of unique labels and collectives. Just look to how to Sub.mission first began building its mission of “moving people through sound, not hype” over ten years ago and has now grown into one of Denver’s biggest underground electronic music operations.

Separating itself from the fray is Massive Music Collective, created in 2017 to connect like-minded individuals through self-expression, with the goal of sharing knowledge and empowerment. The collective releases a wide range of bass music and boasts an impressive roster of up-and-coming electronic music artists. Recently, several of these artists have begun to make waves throughout the electronic music industry, with NotLö making her debut releases on both Deep, Dark, and Dangerous and Gravitas Recordings, and Sky Suite littering the scene with his tasteful singles, everywhere from SpicyBois to Street Ritual.

Massive Music Collective's Colter Ulrich

One of the minds behind Massive Music is Colter Ulrich, also known as Rydona, who is an electronic music artist from Denver, Colorado, and co-founder of Massive Music Collective. He has releases on Chrysalis Collective and Good Morning Collective, while continuing to perform the time-consuming responsibility of curating his own collective.  In addition to being an artist and curator, he is a software developer who is beginning to develop his own audio plugins.

CE was lucky enough to sit down with Ulrich and discuss his personal projects, the burgeoning Massive Music Collective, and his plans for the future. Read the full interview below.

CE: Who is Colter Ulrich?

Colter Ulrich: I’m a Colorado based musician, who releases under the aliases Rydona and Colter Ulrich, and I am co-founder of Massive Music Collective.

CE: What led you to where you are today in the music scene?

CU: I’ve always been fascinated by the ability to express oneself through music. I started playing drums and guitar around 12 years of age. In middle school, I started experimenting with some free DAWs and in high school I saved up enough money to purchase a laptop and Logic Pro. After moving to Colorado, I found some like-minded individuals to write electronic music with, which helped me express myself freely through more experimental means.

CE: What led to Massive Music?

CU: A few homies and I were living in Leadville and Summit County, with most of us working at local ski resorts. We would get together almost every day to write and record music. It was a blast, man. After getting a handful of tracks release-ready we were kind of stuck on whose page we would release them on, how best to market them, etc. We didn’t really want to release through any labels. We ultimately decided to start our own label, but with everyone’s voice being equal, which is why we feel that Massive is more a collective than a label. We landed on Massive Music Collective since most of these experiments were going down at my place, on Mt. Massive Drive. We always believed in supporting self expression by unique and experimental means, which is why the music we release is consistently evolving. We try to let the artist shine in whatever way they want as opposed to strictly enforcing an overarching aesthetic.

CE: Two of the goals of Massive Music are sharing knowledge and empowerment, how did you decide on those goals and how do they impact what you do through your collective?

CU: I wouldn’t necessarily say we decided on these goals, moreso we decided that we wanted a mission statement. We reflected on what is important to us and sharing knowledge and empowerment were on the top of the list. They are pretty intertwined concepts, as knowledge is power. I guess, at the end of the day, we place utmost emphasis on building each other up and helping the team be the best they can be, as opposed to getting streams or bookings. I think this really sets us apart from other collectives, and hopefully everyone on the team sees us in the light of a breath of fresh air. For us, empowering the homies is more important than clout.

CE: Recently, we have seen a few Massive artists, two coming to mind being Sky Suite and NotLo, start ‘breaking through’ and getting more attention throughout the electronic music scene. Why do you think this is happening now?

CU: With those two in particular, I think because they work incredibly hard. They release a lot of high quality content and play a lot of good shows. This applies to everyone on Massive, but those two have a great energy and are always networking. A lot of people have the mindset of, “oh, it would be nice to break through someday,” but Steven (Sky Suite) and Alex (NotLo) have the energy of, “okay, I am coming up” and the power of the mind and intention can produce great results. These qualities apply to everyone on Massive, with Relativity Lounge and Mindality being two others that have been killing it lately.

CE: Relativity Lounge’s output is crazy, man, I feel like every couple weeks he releases a new four or five track EP with absolutely no dip in quality.

CU: It’s ridiculous and between those releases will be a string of quality singles. I do not know how he does it.

CE: Building off the last question, if you were to predict the next Massive artist that everyone’s going to know about, who would it be?

CU: Rydona obviously. Just kidding. There’s such a fine line between determining when somebody is “up” or not, especially when you’re so familiar with the bass scene. We’ve already talked about NotLo, she just signed with Deep, Dark, and Dangerous, and Relativity Lounge. I find Slomato incredibly underrated, I see big things coming from him soon. Also, D3XTR. I could justify anybody on the team really if I wanted to. If I were going to say anyone though, I would say Relativity Lounge and Mindality, they have worked incredibly hard lately.

CE: Developing your own brand and label has become popular and, relatively speaking, easy these days. What would you say to anyone considering starting their own label or collective?

CU: I would recommend taking some time to ask yourself why you want to start your own collective and where you hope to see it be five or ten years from now. After honestly answering those questions, if you still think it’s a good idea then definitely do it. It does take a lot of time and effort which takes away time from your solo projects or other initiatives you’re involved with. I see a lot of people take the first steps before realizing they don’t have enough time to do it correctly. I would definitely recommend doing the project with homies since it makes things so much easier to divide work between people you trust. Having my homies with me helped with Massive a ton, it makes a difference to be able to divide and conquer and makes it a lot more fun doing it with your friends.

CE: What are your plans for the future of Massive Music?

CU: Just keeping it real, man. Releasing thought-provoking music by people with good intentions. Sharing knowledge, having fun. We aren’t trying to take over the world, just trying to better the lives of some humans living on it.

CE: Shifting the attention back onto you a bit, you produce and also create plugins, what is your next project?

CU: Currently I am working on an ambient LP to release under my Colter Ulrich project. What I’ve mainly been putting energy into is starting my plugin brand. Learning how to make plugins that are stable and won’t crash peoples’ systems. Also, creating plugins that are marketable and that would help change the music industry. I feel like the electronic music scene is in such a darling stage as all genres are beginning to converge and for the first time the electronic music producers have years of content to look back on and learn from and I’m hoping to make some creations that can help with that and keep pushing the scene forward.

CE: The internet has changed the game, man. The access to tutorials, resources, and lessons. It’s definitely helped push music forward. 

CU: Absolutely.

CE: I know I’ve really enjoyed using your plugins thus far. Would you have any pointers for anyone interested in making their own plugins?

CU: Absolutely. First and foremost learn C++, all plugins are made in C++. Also, use the JUCE framework, it boilerplates a lot of low-level code for you and has a very user-friendly interface to help you get right into the meat of things and start processing signals and adding sliders without having to spend hours setting up the typical framework. Learning digital signal processing is also useful. Finally, just be prepared to spend hours staring at your screen as you work on projects and getting a large amount of error messages. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of great resources out there for people looking to get into plugin development, but Will Pirkle has some great books out there on C++ that are useful.

CE: Final question, which of us do you think is better at chess?

CU: You are. You’re better at chess. We’re playing again soon, I’ve had time recently and you’re going to get smacked.

As Ulrich can attest, Massive Music is just getting started. Their growth over the past four years has been remarkable, but the team has done anything but rest on their laurels. Powered by Ulrich, the rest of the Massive braintrust, and a team of hard-working and talented artists, Massive Music Collective is certainly a name to get familiar with.

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