LITRONIX: UNDER THE CONTROL OF ME
photography by stefano galli
Kevin Litrow: I would probably say that. I don’t like to sound religious. I’m not part of any religion. I was born Catholic. My mom is from England and they’re Irish Catholic, and I was brought up on that. But I read all religions too. I look into Ayurvedic [knowledge] and the Bhagavad Gita and read about the Kabbalah, and martial arts and Qigong and and Buddhism. I enjoy all of it. But the spirit is the spirit—it has no religion really. Honestly. It’s the feeling of going out into the middle of the street with your really nice shoes on and stomping as hard as you can and jumping up and down—that feeling is more like the spirit. That would be me, if you stripped it down. Or that’s what I would want to be or feel … not to sound pompous or anything because it’s not a pompous thing. It’s just a real thing, it’s just raw—it’s in us. It’s in everybody. But people don’t really know about it or think about it so they don’t let it out. But everybody has it.
Even back in interviews with your prior band 60 Watt Kid, you talked about how the concept of freedom animated a lot of your work. Are you as free as you want to be now?
Kevin Litrow: Definitely. At this point in my life I feel like I’ve grown so much and learned so much and I have things that inhibited me back then, even in my San Francisco days. My mom was passing away and very sick. Things were happening that were really hard to deal with that I never dealt with before—crazy life experiences and struggle and survival. At this point in my life I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been doing my best to figure out how to be disciplined. I think discipline is the key to freedom. It’s the yin and the yang. You’ve got the freedom—the yin—and if you don’t have the discipline, shit can go haywire. So you gotta have discipline. And my level of discipline even for musical practice is about the four elements of life that are very important. Money, which is stability. Spirit, which is like why are you on earth? What are you here to do? Health—without your health you might as well not have money. And your career. I try to separate money from career, even though it can connect. You gotta discipline it separately. I think that musically it’s also because I’ve really grown into looping. I’ve acquired more pedals and more things that I like to use in an interesting way, and I don’t have to deal with a band anymore.
You’ve described Litronix as a music machine. Why a machine specifically?
Kevin Litrow: Probably the loop pedals.
So you mean it literally.
Kevin Litrow: Yeah. Everything is loop fuel. That’s my band—these pedals. They’re what makes the music. You come up with a loop and suddenly that loop is the basis of a song. Then you put other loops or other layers and that creates the pop structure but the base is some loops that you randomly came up with. That’s the machine at work. To me, all these loop pedals are swirling drills and machines making something. They’re creating something but they’re running on their own.
An autonomous creativity algorithm.
Kevin Litrow: Basically. That’s what it does: it runs itself. But I control it. Never are those machines running on their own. They’re still under the control of me. They’re basically under supervision.
So they’re like your kids.
Kevin Litrow: Yeah. They’re little kids under supervision. And I never let them get out of hand. Everything is created in my room and everything is set up so I come home from work and I just work on music and there’s different ways for me to make beats or make a sound. As far as my whole life, all the bands I did were crucial to come to this point. I took all the ways I used to play music in all different bands and sounds and just put it into one big pizza pie—one big pizza, with all the toppings.
But it’s also the opposite—it’s purifying your sound, in a way. All that extra noise has just been dissolved away. And it’s just the core.
Kevin Litrow: It’s the core. It’s become one thing. I love being in bands, but at this point, I don’t want to argue with anyone. And it’s hard to deal with people, especially in music—we’re all crazy. I’m crazy. And we all get insane sometimes and the arguments can affect the music. I really believe that. And when you’re not arguing with anyone, wow. Things open up.
This really reminds me of ‘Good Life’ because you talk about all those elements in the lyrics, right? It almost seems like an instruction manual for people who want to do what you’re doing right now.
Kevin Litrow: I mean, I kinda created my own instruction manual on how to live life. Maybe one day I’ll write a self-help book but at this point I’m using it for myself. Once you finish helping yourself, you know it works.
How did you synthesize all this together? These ideas about discipline and freedom—did it come from music you’re making? Or did you use them to make the music?
Kevin Litrow: It comes from shit going haywire. So for instance … money starts going haywire and all of a sudden you’re spending all your money eating out at restaurants, and you’re not going to be able to pay your internet bill. That’s when I’m like, ‘OK, let’s fix the problem.’ It’s years of trying to come up with some basic structure that keeps you in check. I think I finally came up with one that works. You make your own self-help book, and your self help book is the four structures that I said: health, spirit, money and career.
And this crystallized through your observation of the gas station.
Kevin Litrow: Some of the people you watch at the gas station are scary people. It starts making you go, ‘I don’t want to end up like that.’ I don’t live there anymore. I moved a year ago. And I’m very happy. Healthier. The noise level on that street was insane. Now I’m living in a peaceful spot on the west side. Almost suburban silence.
It’s funny that observing this mass of humanity for so long scared you into taking care of yourself.
Well yeah! And that’s where the yin and yang comes in. You need the darkness to know there is light.
What is the story on ‘Men Are Good’?
Kevin Litrow: It’s all poetic. The song is just a theatrical fantasy: What if all men were good? What if all of mankind were good? What would the world be like? There’s part one, part two, and part three. Part one, the woman is protecting herself. She’s got a gun. And when the man says, ‘We’re on the same team!’ the woman drops the gun: ‘No one’s ever said that to me before.’ And then the man and the woman are walking together hand and hand and they come to a creature, and the creature is part two. He’s pulling a gun on everybody: ‘What do you want?’ ‘Why can’t we just say hello?’ And that’s pretty much what would happen if all men were good people, but since they aren’t, it’s only a fantasy. By the end of it the creatures and all the men and all the women and all the whole world is coming out and dancing on the street but they don’t know why they’re dancing. There’s two men on the side of the street with guns—they’re not dancing. And they put the guns to everybody’s faces and they say ‘Why are you dancing?’ and we all say ‘We don’t even know but guess what? It feels so good.’
Kevin Litrow: That tryptophan.
In ‘New Age’, when you say ‘does your life ever change / it’s like a river, it’s never the same,’ is that from the Greek philopspher Heraclitus?
Kevin Litrow: I just made that up.
Are you excited you came up with the same bedrock philosophical concept as a lost Greek philosopher? He said, ‘no man ever stepped in the same river twice.’
Kevin Litrow: I didn’t even realize that. But that’s true. A river is always moving. It’s never gonna be the same. Like the ocean waves. You go to that same beach every day, it’s always gonna look a little different.
Is that a happy thing or a sad thing for you?
Kevin Litrow: It’s both. I think I’ve come to terms that nothing ever lasts. When my mom passed away, that pretty much tells you straight up, ‘We’re all going to die.’ We’re in these bodies for a minimal amount of time. We don’t even realize how minimal it is. I mean, all these rock stars are passing away at 50 now, and it’s scary to think about it. But at the same time, once you kinda come to the conclusion that nothing ever lasts, I think that’s one step into gaining a little more knowledge into … like cosmic land. That’s where you can look at things a little differently. You realize that you don’t want to waste your time on negative stuff and drama and war and hate and crime. You want to do something good, whether it’s like creating something rad, doing something for the people out there, or just making something that’s positive and loving and warm, or inventing something that’s going to help everybody.
Are you talking about this record?
Kevin Litrow: I’m talking about just in general—inventing something for the world.
As someone who’s listened to the record, I feel like you could be talking about the record.
Kevin Litrow: I appreciate that. Thank you. I just want to make music as true to myself as I can. That’s all that really matters to me, and if it uplifts the people, to me, that’s mission accomplished. Somebody told me when I played live that the music uplifted their spirits. They were in a bad mood before they came to the show. That to me is awesome. That makes me feel good.
LITRONIX’S RECORD RELEASE WITH ALINA BEA AND AVI BUFFALO ON THURS., JULY 27, AT THE HI HAT, 5043 YORK BLVD., HIGHLAND PARK. 8 PM / $5 / 21+. GET TICKETS HERE! LITRONIX’S PUMP THE GAS IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM PORCH PARTY RECORDS. VISIT LITRONIX AT FACEBOOK.COM/LITRONIX1.