INTERVIEW | The Greatest Hoax

The Greatest Hoax, pseudonym used by Taylor Jordan, is a DC-based climate scientist and ambient, post classical pianist who creates stunning and notable chill out music. His compositions explore the crossroads of ambient, classical and electronic music.  He released his debut seven track album, Enso, in November 2015 and in March he released an EP titled, Special Cases. I had the pleasure of speaking with Taylor to have a candid conversation about his music and upcoming plans, in addition to discussing his thoughts on the DC music scene and more.

K: I was doing research to find what concerts are coming up that are ambient, downtempo, or chill electronic music. I am trying to discover and showcase the artists that are making notable chill out music in DC.  I initially discovered your music when looking up upcoming shows at Velvet Lounge.

T: I’ve never actually been inside the Velvet Lounge. It’s going to be exciting for me!

K: What surprises are in store for your Velvet Lounge gig this Wednesday, June 1? 

T: I have four songs that are not yet released that I am playing. Four of them are from an album I released in 2015. I’ll also play one or two of the songs from the Special Cases EP that was released earlier this year, which are more electronic and will liven up the set.

K: What other gigs do you have lined up for this summer?

T: I know one’s going to be at Velvet Lounge, again, in July. Then, at a fashion store, Kit and Ace, in July or August. I find my music is more conducive to an art museum, or a fashion store, etc. Not at a dance club, where your purpose is to get people sweaty.

K: I could see your music in a lounge environment, in an art gallery, or used in film scores, based off what I heard so far. For example, I took the time to listen to your first album, Enso. So, tell me about your process in creating this album.

T: As far as my first album, that was a fun experience because I didn’t know that many people in DC, so I did it all myself. With my background in music composition, I wrote the parts initially for piano and strings. But since I didn’t really know any string players, I would just use string parts and make them a synthesizer part instead. I had to make up for the fact that I didn’t have a group of people to help me with this.

Besides myself, I did have a producer, that helped me with the process. His name is Jon Zott… he’s done really well in interpreting my sound. I’ll write these huge pieces that have too many parts and will be ten minutes long. People in DC don’t have time to listen to that. The attention span of listeners are usually a lot smaller. So he was helpful in filtering the music.

I also self-released that album because I was trying to establish myself and feel out what the whole scene is like within the genre. There are a lot of great artists that are making ambient and modern classical music, such as Dustin O’Halloran and Nils Frahm.

K: Nils Frahm is incredible!

T: All these composers are mainly in Europe, right? There is a scene there for this type of music. But there really isn’t a scene here. So, I wanted to establish myself first, release a self-funded album. I didn’t do a label or anything like that, but I got some really great press from that release through The Washington Post and The Washingtonian. It’s given me a little bit of notoriety so that I can move to the next step.

K: The Washington Post article mentions you wrote your album for the policymakers who need to chill out. Did they listen? 

T: No, no! They didn’t listen or chillax on my music at all! Which is pretty funny to me. That’s a thought process I dropped. Climate change is a heated topic, and I wanted to chill them out. But, I’ve moved on.

K: Is releasing another album is your next step?

T: Yep! Almost done with it, and in talks with a couple different labels about releasing it. It means the first album was a success enough to evolve into the next step.

K: What’s your intention of this upcoming album? 

T: There’s a whole concept behind the album. I was struggling with the concept of the first album. There wasn’t a solidified concept that translated to people. But this one is called Expiration Compositions,  and it’s all about Death, because I am very afraid of death.

K: Who isn’t? Are you almost done with writing it? 

T: It’s eight or nine tracks. About 45 to 50 minutes. And right now, I am talking to a couple of labels to see what kind of release I can get. I hope to release late summer, or early fall.

K: What do you do to stay focused on your goals?

T: To a fault, I am an extremely structured individual. Everyday, I get up. Go to work. I come home and go for a run. I eat and shower real quick and then work on music every night until I go to bed. It’s 2-3 hours of writing compositions, playing piano, fiddling around in the studio. It’s hard pressed if I do anything else besides that. People will say, “hey, come do this,” or, “go on a date.” I hardly do it. I just do what I do. It’s kind of selfish, to tell you the truth, but it’s working for myself.

K: Well you have results! You released an album in late 2015. Then in March of this year, you released the Special Cases EP. 

T: Yeah, and another album this year. It’s just what I do. I always ask people, what are your hobbies? I don’t know what other people do. People tend to say they don’t have time. To me, that’s just an excuse. I find time, I make time.

K: In the EP you have a song titled, “X-Plane Joy Ride.” I’m not sure exactly what that song was about. But, as I was listening to the song, I was actually reading an article about Leonardo DiCaprio taking a private jet to accept an environmental award. Which is completely absurd! 

T: Haha! That song was specifically about actual X-Planes, or these experimental airplanes that conduct covert missions. What if, hypothetically, you were inside one of those? Cruising around in the upper atmosphere. Nothing crazy at all about that…

K: That’s fascinating! With the other song on the EP, “Pyrogens,” I am not sure what that’s about either. But, when I listened to the song it reminded me of The Postal Service

T: Pyrogens are substances that induce fever in the body. It is something that makes you warmer. You could draw the conclusion that maybe I am picking at something climate change related. I don’t want to just come out and say it, I want to be more tame about my opinions on climate change and instead make subtle hints or suggestions about the topic.

K: I am always curious as to the reason people name their tracks. 

T: I try to steer away from that in the Enso album, because all the tracks are named Opus. I hate whenever a song is supposed to make you feel a certain way.  I want my listener to figure out what they feel, from a blank canvas. My songs aren’t like, “she dumped me and I left her.” It’s “Opus 25.” Is it a happy song or a sad song? You get to decide as the listener. It’s not my job to tell you what to feel. Having said that, on the new album, they all have names. It’s not just Opus.

K: I’ll be on the lookout for it! Another thing I wanted to ask you about, earlier you told me you were headed to Moogfest last weekend. How was it?

T: I didn’t get to go! I missed my bus! I was supposed to hang out with some of my favorite artists in the world. It was Ben Frost, he and I have a connection. We’ve exchanged ideas before. It’s a funny story, actually. One day on the internet, he randomly asked if anyone had any contacts who knew about jet propulsion systems. Because I work in the field, with climate science research and technology, I connected him with these contacts and we built a relationship around that. He’s even promoted my music a little bit, which is great! I am very grateful for him. When the lineup came out and he said he was playing Moogfest, he told me he’d put me on the guest list. But, then I missed my bus and I am super bummed about it!

K: What a bummer! 

T: I was looking forward to Ben Frost, followed by Tim Hecker, who is a god in the ambient field, these days. And then, after Tim was another legend, Oneohtrix Point Never. His real name is Daniel Lopetin. They were playing Saturday night at the festival. So yea, I was super bummed about missing it. But, it’s okay. I got a lot of work done.

K: In terms of living in DC, what are some of your favorite venues?

T: My favorite venue is Sixth and I Synagogue. The acts they bring in are more geared towards a slower, more chilled out, ambient show. I saw one of my favorite bands there, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, which is a collaboration between Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie. It’s a beautiful venue. It lends itself to modern classical music, which I am really into these days. Besides Sixth and I Synagogue, Black Cat is pretty cool. 9:30 Club is okay. I am not a huge fan of it for some reason, kind of too big.

K: What are your thoughts on the local music scene here? Do you connect or collaborate with other artists easily? 

T: I don’t collaborate with other artists easily because I feel the DC music scene is disjointed and genre oriented. Maybe it’s because of the genre I am operating in, but no one has really come to me and offered to work together or offered to be a part of this clique or squad or whatever the kids call it. There’s this huge Facebook group, DC DIY SHOWS! page, where people go to promote house shows. It’s mostly punk and noise, which is cool, but there aren’t a lot of people doing what I do in that group. I am doing something that has space to grow. There isn’t a huge music scene. But maybe, I am not cool enough to be involved in it, we’ll see.

K: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today! Actually, on my way walking over to this coffee shop for our meeting, I passed by Red Onion Records. After this interview, if I stop by there to shop for records on my way back to the metro, what would be the five records you would recommend? 

T: I would recommend Nils FrahmSpaces, Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus 7, Erik SatieGymnopédies, Steve ReichMusic For 18 Musicians and Brian EnoAmbient 1: Music for Airports.

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