Producer Ian Ewing has poured us a tall glass of musical smoothie for Relaux’s 12th edition of the VIBE.QUEST series. Chilled through and through, the ingredient list is heavy on hip hop instrumentals, but also spiced with bass frequencies and garnished in jazzed creativity from a bevy of emerging beat maestros. An unreleased Ewing creation is sprinkled in too, a secret ingredient if you will.
Beyond our VIBE.QUEST mix-series, these elements are at the core of Ian’s growing online discography and scene-allegiance. A self-professed supporter of humans eating hummus, you might pause and wonder why that is relevant to his music. But it all seems to make sense after getting hooked on a succession of songs: like trying a new flavor of hummus dip, people are often skeptical when they hear the term “internet hip hop musician”, but skepticism dissolves after a particularly smooth experience comes across the palette. You then end up consuming more than first expected.
The Milwaukee-based musician also took the time to chat with us about his emerging career, already reaching a significant digital fanbase, touring nationally, plus catching the attention of numerous blogs, labels, and fellow artists. Be sure to not only hit ‘Play’ on his mix, but keep an eye and ear out for Ian’s music after you learn more about him…
Describe the musical landscape around you in Milwaukee. Are there any artists, events or otherwise that have shaped your young career?
Ian Ewing: I absolutely love Milwaukee, but it’s interesting how my relationship with music developed here. Right as I started making hip-hop based music I didn’t really feel a musical connection to Milwaukee at all. But after getting into the Soundcloud scene a little bit I actually found a few Milwaukee producers who had the same philosophies about music as I do. These producers ended up founding an artist collective named Noh Life, and they reached out to me to join the crew. It was crazy, it completely revitalized my desire to stay connected to Milwaukee musically. All the members are amazing people and awesome artists that I get a lot of inspiration from. We have a lot of cool things planned for, including a few boat parties this summer (you should check it out doe!).
Beyond that, I get a ton of inspiration from jazz musicians in Milwaukee. Three of homies Tyler Beck, Anthony Deutsch, and Kenny Riechart are amazing jazz musicians who really keep me motivated. There’s also this little venue right down the street from my crib called “The Jazz Estate” that hosts some incredible jazz acts. I get crazy inspired every time I see a show there, but sometimes the musicians are so good, I leave like “damn, I might just have to quit music”.
You’re finishing your studies at UW-Milwaukee, so how has the college process affected your music pursuit?
I actually graduated this May! Yeah, college affected my music pursuit in different ways. On one hand I felt as though it was really taking away the time and energy that I wanted to spend on music, and that frustrated me a lot. But I also grew to realize that creativity comes any time of the day and from anywhere in your life. Like, it doesn’t give a shit if you have class or not. So I began to learn that inspiration was inevitable, and I just needed to manage my time wisely if I wanted to develop creative thoughts into something more. With that said, I’m incredibly thankful for this next chapter of my life where I’ll have a bit more time and concentration that I can dedicate to music and other creative pursuits.
We got in touch after hearing Rootnote’s collective release of”Root’d” (featured at 3:50 in your mix), give us a quick hit on your work with them, as well as your other affiliations.
Well I just joined the Rootnote roster about a month ago, and my Root’d track was an “announcement release” of sorts. I genuinely love this collective and am super grateful to be a part. I’ll be releasing an EP with them in the very near future as well.. so.. stay tuned… if you’re into that kind of thing.
I go way back with Blvnt Records, as I contributed to a few of their compilations they released early on. They eventually asked me to join, and we’ve grown ever since. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a good friendship with Harris Cole, who is a member and co-owner also. It’s really exciting because Blvnt definitely started as a collective deeply rooted in that smooth/jazz/lo-fi hip hop sound, but we are adding a number of members who have a very creative and progressive style, and it’s really expanding our sound as a whole. I’m pumped to see what we can do as a team in the future!
And as I mentioned, Noh Life is a sexy collective of sexy Milwaukee dudes who are just trying to push some sexy music.
You’ve had a chance to work with some very interesting names that are gaining national attention. Is there a particular artist or collaboration opportunity that made a particular impression on you?
I can very honestly say that I’ve loved every collaboration I have been a part of. Each one brings new inspiration and I’m definitely super proud of every one. One that stands out is with Flamingosis because we’ve been making tunes together consistently over the course of the past year. We’re getting pretty close to having enough material to release an album, so we’re really looking forward to that. He is just a great dude and we have always seemed to vibe together very well musically and personally. He was a big inspiration to me from very early on, so I really value the friendship that’s developed there.
I also made a tune with A Sol Mechanic called “TrustInYou” that will always hold a special place in my heart. Online collaborations can be interesting because there’s such limited personal communication and you have no idea where it might go. But with this song, we were on some telepathic communication or something. I really love the tune and I can’t say enough about A Sol Mechanic as a musician and a homie.
Likewise there are many artists who deserve a greater audience, who is someone who you feel warrants “discovery” by relaux-type listeners?
My guddnesss, so many! There are a lot of “undiscovered” guys in the Noh Life, Rootnote, Blvnt, and Melody Soul rosters for real! I sincerely encourage any Relaux listener to just cruise through those Soundcloud and Bandcamp pages. I guarantee you’ll experience excitement, inspiration, overwhelming joy, and arousal, but not necessarily in that order.
To single one out, I think my buddy Kenny deserves some discovery. He just started a solo project under the name kkami. He’s definitely got a great sound, and it is no doubt right up the Relaux alley.
You’ve earned praise from heavier bass producers like Tsuruda and Noer the Boy. Do you feel like you’re being drawn to that heavier zone of the musical spectrum or that your work stands as an opportunity for other to expand theirs?
I would say both for sure. Ambient/downtempo is kind of where I’ve gravitated towards as a musician, but I am absolutely in love with heavier, high-energy type music as well. I think that’s a huge goal for me in terms of where I want to go musically. I really want to blend electronic and acoustic elements in my music. And in that same vein, I want to blend heavy/hype elements with the ambient elements in a tasteful way.
Tsuruda and Noer are total masters of the heavy vibe! So it’s amazing to get support from guys like that. And it’s totally an opportunity for all of us to expand our sounds together. Like I can ask them “yo how to you get it to be so deep and heavy and arghgh yea!” and they can ask me questions like “do you just use windchime samples in all your tracks?”.
Saw a tweet from aforementioned scene-star Harris Cole that you two were California-bound this summer. Any events or touring info to share?
Yeah! We have a few things that we are working out but one confirmed event at the moment. We’ll be playing a show in Pomona for the Beat Cinema collective with DJ Harrison, Sound Genesis, and Kone. Needless to say I am super excited. (deets! https://www.facebook.com/events/1573877659533338/).
Harris and I set up the trip with the mentality of connecting/networking with people as a primary, and trying to book shows as a secondary. So we’re both just excited to cruise around and link up with a lot of really cool individuals over the week that we’ll be out there. Hopefully we can get some opportunities for some in-person collaborations as well!
I’m also trying to explore that LA food culture though, like what’s goin on out there? What can I stuff my face with?
Any last thoughts of wisdom you want to impart with the mix you’ve shared here?
Well per usual, my mix is best paired with hummus. Personal recommendation is a classic roasted red pepper. Gather up the pita chips and baby carrots and vibe out to a mix dedicated to the Relaux family and friends.
Thanks to all the listeners and thanks to Relaux for the opportunity! <3
Summer’s End – Kenny Segal
Rosetta – Raava
Root’d – Ian Ewing
NohLife – Ian Ewing
American Spirits – Zuper
Slowmo – Kayloo
Fanfare – Nobuo Uematsu (Evil Needle x OriJanus Remix)
I Want You – OriJanus
2015 – Beatmachinearon
*Unreleased* – Ian Ewing
Pupunanny – Losco
The Fall – Whispa
Trip to the Stars – Giorgio Oehlers
Get It – KNDL
Traced – Su Na
Beach House – KidGhost