Pop music is frequently regarded as an escape; a genre anointed with playful melodies, addictive hooks, and an abundance of good bass lines. That outlook on this genre isn't restricted to contemporary music's critics worldwide, and even some of the night club culture advocates support this view. But to think in such terms and to stop there is a failure of creativity, and imagination, and a refusal to expect more of the characters and tones that move us.
This narrow view on the genre has led to the progressive degradation of pop music in the commercial front and some of the experimental corners alike, as it has been uprooted from its origins in modern culture. But on "Dark Lines," Spin Maddox—the Artist originally from Pittsburgh, now LA-based, reminds us that pop music can also be a source for total acceptance into an uplifted state; pop is only a measure of how much the Artist can bestow themselves into it.
Here, that means sensuality. "Beauty, B-b-b-beauty beauty, looking for someone to use me, you wanna do it dirty and I want it dirty too," swoons Spin Maddox in the song's pre-chorus, as distant claps and heavy synthesizers oscillate—it sounds like a something out of a Daft Punk reminiscent breakdown.
As he flourishes throughout the chorus with cascading backup vocals stretching the expanse of the mix, Maddox loops us around his fingertips, swaying and rocking us with his sultry hook. "We could cross some dark line, know you got a dark side, why you tryna run and hide when we could cross some dark dark lines."
He utilizes his command over the tantalizing mix with a continuous and tasteful sequence of banging hooks and chimes while a texturized acoustic guitar chugs, and sections spin 180 degrees into breakdowns.
Spin Maddox mainly hones in on his seductively provocative tone for this song: "it's a damn fine thing, crossing the line together, holding on to nothing but the bodies of each other.". The well-rounded mix crashes back down for one last tour around our dancing hearts. It might seem like a cliche in a different song or a paperweight for a more profound sentiment. But here, in the setting of Spin Maddox's booming soundscape, the concept of disappearing into the some of the cookie-cutter regurgitations of Pop music's past is as a far-fetching idea for this LA native.
You mention starting out by being a runner for a recording studio early on. What were some of the critical lessons you obtained from this roll that you feel allowed you to pursue this career full force?
My time as a runner was filled with extreme highs and lows. Right when you’re getting started, you learn very quickly that there’s sort of an “order” to operations in a studio. There has to be. There are very specific roles for everyone, and there are right and wrong ways to talk and behave around certain artists... It’s so different from artist to artist, but that’s part of why I fell in love with the atmosphere... you learn that (for the most part) it can be what you make of it. While I was there, I learned how to be in a creative space with professionals, how to handle myself if issues arise... it was also there that I got behind my first professional microphone, and that’s where I fell in love with recording. When I eventually left that studio, I realized nothing else made me as happy, so it lit the fire for me to go out there and really do the damn thing.
Who are your main musical inspirations, and how do you feel you tap into their influences on you?
I never really understood I had musical influences until I’d been writing and recording for a while. At first, I just wanted to be working all the time, so I was writing whatever I thought “worked” formulaically. I’ve only more recently been able to actually sit down and say “No, you’re doing something more than crafting something that sounds good, you have the opportunity to tell stories here. You have the opportunity to journal, to make someone else feel less alone in what they’re feeling... to do something a little different.” So I really oftentimes find myself asking, “what would Justin Timberlake do if he felt “xyz” like I do right now?” Sonically, I pull little inspirations from all sorts of artists and sources... if I see something I think is crazy dope, I definitely get the itch to put my own spin on it. I like how Gaga packages her albums, I like how The Weeknd’s work has 80s elements in the production, and that his voice pulls you in and makes you listen to the story he’s telling. I like how offbeat Janelle Monáe is and what she’s been doing with her music videos. So many specific things about specific artists that I really appreciate and that inspire me.
Do you feel like moving out to LA was a critical move for your musical career in terms of connections and atmosphere?
This is a really important question for the time we’re in right now. I think when I first moved to LA in 2013, the climate of the music industry was in such a different place, so YES, I definitely think this was a move that was critical for many reasons. I met some of my closest friends to this day my first two years here... and it was also before everyone had their own bedroom studio, so back then it was a bit more of a hustle to get behind a nice microphone and in a room with someone who knows what they’re doing. What I would like to stress about where the music industry is today, especially with the availability of social media, I no longer think it’s critical for new artists to make the move to LA until they’ve already started to really get some traction. People are consuming things differently now, so there’s less sense in spending all of this money doing things the old way when you have just as much of a chance AND AUDIENCE if you were to make music in your bedroom. Now, for performing live shows, that’s a different story. The number of venues in Hollywood and the surrounding areas for people to perform is almost limitless, so if you want to gig it up all the time, it’s actually a great place to be. If something in you is telling you to move, then, by all means, do it!
Thanks for joining us Spin Maddox! Can you give us a hint of what's next for you artistically? Are you planning any exciting collaborations?
Absolutely! I’ve just begun the process of releasing my first EP. I’m still trying to name it. Right now I’m playing with a few ideas. It was going to be “The Bloodstained EP” but I’m getting a not-so-great reaction on that from friends right now... we’ll see. I’ve also started recording my first full-length set, so I’m ridiculously excited about that too. For collaborations, I’m working on one right now with another amazing pop artist, Holmes (@girlholmes). She and I have been in studios together for the last 4 years, but we’re just now getting around to finding the right song and vibe for both of our styles. I think I’ll end up collaborating a lot in the coming year because I feel like it’s time for that. I’m also talking to a really cool electro-pop artist, Exxy, who I’m trying to convince to direct my music video right now haha. I want to see what other artists can bring out in me and vice versa.
What has been keeping you inspired in 2020?
2020 has been quite a roller coaster for everybody so far, huh? Some days have been harder than others, but fortunately, I recently did a few studio sessions over Zoom & Skype, and it’s actually very do-able. I didn’t have much faith going into that set up the first time, but we were able to accomplish everything we needed to and then some. I was impressed and inspired by those sessions and they made me realize- if this is the “new normal” I’m going to have to find a way to push through and continue creating during this time. I’m also inspired by other independent artists visibly grinding and taking this time to hone their craft. I'm inspired by tragedy. I’m inspired by people doing good things. I’m inspired by my parents and my brother and sister. And sometimes you have to inspire yourself. I’ve learned that you can’t always find the inspiration you need externally, and there are real power and confidence in taking a step back, looking in from the outside and saying “today, I inspire myself.”