Austin Peralta is a 20-year-old pianist living in Los Angeles, CA. Involved with jazz from an early age, Peralta has been making major albums since he was 14 with high-caliber players alongside him like Miles Davis’ bassist Ron Carter. His most recent release, Endless Planets, is the first since Peralta joined Flying Lotus’ label, Brainfeeder—a label almost entirely comprising electronic musicians. These new surroundings show through on Peralta’s Endless Planets, which couples his standard contemporary jazz compositions with electronic manipulations from artists like Dr. Strangeloop.
Austin Peralta – Epilogue: Renaissance Bubbles by BRAINFEEDER
How would you compare the Los Angeles jazz scene to one in a city like New York?
Different is a nice way of putting it. Actually, I lived out in New York for a year—last year—just to sort of check it out. Compared to New York there is no jazz scene in L.A.—it’s a very small one. There are a handful of excellent players here, but to call what we have a scene, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. We’ve got some good creative stuff going on here, but it’s all over the place, and it is dispersed across a large piece of land.
You recorded your first two albums, Maiden Voyage and Mantra, when you were 14 and 15 years old. How did you get paired with colossal players like Ron Carter and Buster Williams for those projects when you were so young?
That was pretty much pure chance. A Japanese label contacted me out of the blue because they had heard something that I put together as a demo when I was even younger. But to be honest, I don’t think of those albums as representative of myself because I didn’t get to control the sort of output of the record. It wasn’t really my vision per se. It was sort of the producer telling me, “Okay, you need to play these standards,” and in retrospect I don’t support those albums… Nor do I like them.
Endless Planets certainly exemplifies the shift in your musical surroundings since signing to Brainfeeder. Was it Dr. Strangeloop who first got you in touch with Flying Lotus?
Yeah, he did. I think it was about a year and a half or maybe even two years ago now. David Wexler [Dr. Strangeloop] took me over to his house, and he introduced us to each other. It was at that time that I actually had a copy of what was to become Endless Planets, and I gave it to [Flying Lotus] that night. Lotus quickly called me back, telling me that he loved it and he wanted to put it out on Brainfeeder.
It seems as if the live aspects of Endless Planets were completed and then the electronic manipulations were added later. What was the process like?
As far as the actual acoustic live elements, all of the main compositions were recorded with a live group all playing together. Once I had that and I was figuring out how to arrange it, I went over to David’s house, and I felt like there was a missing piece. I wanted to link it all together, I wanted to find some sense of cohesion. Then we just put the music into his computer, and he started messing around—bridging together the films with these little electronic motifs, which I just thought worked brilliantly. But that all came after the live session.
Did you have any personal interests in electronic music before you met Flying Lotus and before you began working with Brainfeeder?
Most of it is older stuff. I was very much touched by the psychedelic influence of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix and all of the things that they were doing, a lot of which was experimental electronic music in different ways. The way that Hendrix would manipulate the feedback from his guitar, and the way that Pink Floyd would use these sort of psychedelic electronic soundscapes in their music. It always invoked a really powerful place for me. That’s why I was totally open to produce music with Strangeloop.
It seems that introducing electronic music into the jazz world is not only bringing new life to jazz music, it’s also validating electronic music in the eyes of jazz listeners.
Yeah. It’s working in both directions. Also, the spirit of jazz is a spirit of freedom to embrace all sorts of possibilities. It’s working to validate electronic music and to reinvigorate jazz. It seems to work on all levels, which is cool. For a jazz fan to box electronic music in and say it only has “this much” capability is sort of absurd.
What are you working on now?
I have touring work happening right now, and I’m always writing new music. I have a whole record’s worth of material written already that’s just waiting to be recorded. So we’ll see what happens with that. I’m also doing a lot of session work around L.A. I recently joined Cinematic Orchestra, so we’ll be doing some touring as well.
What are you listening to right now that’s not jazz?
I listen to a lot of classical music, but it’s always changing. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of this cat Prokofiev, who is a Russian composer, Janis Joplin, Björk—the more I listen to her the more I’m inspired by her—but it’s always different.
What have you been working on in your own playing?
I’m just trying to open my ears, you know? Constantly opening them, and by that I mean to really hear music deeply and interpret it on the fly with an open heart. Learning to really interact in an improvisational sense in the moment with authenticity. Just keeping the channels open so that you can receive information and transmit it.