BY AARON MARTIN
GENERATE is a new kind of experience set to drop on August 15, 10pm at Branx. Advance tickets are $10 and can be found here.
If Generate has been on your radar recently, you may be wondering what the deal is with this ‘visual art and music event’ promising to transport you to ‘a new world of energetic positivity and light.’ Oregon Music News caught up with founder Alex Wagner to find out just that.
For starters, what is your purpose with Generate?
I’ve been designing music for 17 years, so since I was 8. I’m also a Portland native. I don’t DJ anymore, but my purpose now is to give back to my city and to encourage arts and culture. I want to give different artists a chance to put their art out there. So all of this is an effort to ‘generate’ a new beginning, if you will.
How exactly were you inspired you to do this?
I love electronic music. I have since I was twelve. I love the environments that can be created that truly transport us. That’s the sort of thing that festivals like What the Festival do so well. I went last year and was like, “Oh my god.” I was utterly blown away. I realized this is how it should be. I wasn’t seeing people being pulled out on stretchers. It was just people having fun and expressing themselves. That’s the sort of experience I want to bring with Generate.
Have you taken on a project like this before?
I did one last year with a very different vibe called ‘Up.’ It was based on a song that I was working on that did really well, but the event didn’t do so great. I had just returned to Portland, for one thing. I also did two events at The Liquor Store this year.
Yeah, the venue was a challenge for one thing, being very removed from other bars in the area. One of the visual artists came to me and said, “You know man, it was a little hard throwing something together in two weeks. Imagine if I had a couple months.”
Who was this mystery artist that inspired you?
His name is Adam Paikowski and he’s one of the people collaborating on Generate. Him and some other members of this group called Second Story, they do a lot of visual art work in New York, Portland, etc. When he said what he said, it kind of stopped me. I felt myself constantly rushed. I was trying to do fine art, music, visual art, something different. I didn’t have enough resources or backing too so it was a struggle.
So you’ve had a couple tough learning experiences.
Oh yeah, without struggle there is no progress. I put everything on the back burner for a bit to think about the values I wanted. I needed to figure out what our goals were three years from now, five years from now, so on.
You wanted to make sure this time around things would be different.
Yeah, it’s so different this time around. We took the time and really began to plan, there’s been so much more interest, so much more support. I’ve had to put in so many hours into it but I haven’t felt rushed. I’ve felt stressed, but not rushed.
Portland has so many excellent venues to offer. Why Branx?
We wanted a different venue. It was either Rotture or Branx, and Rotture is no longer around. Branx is a great spot, for one, because it’s all dark so it’s perfect to get creative with lighting. And capacity is great compared to, say, the Liquor Store that has an 89 person capacity and this is 600.
And you’ll need plenty of space for the visuals too. Branx is so ‘stripped-down’ – like partying inside a big black box. How do you plan to liven up the space?
Without giving too much away, there’s obviously the main stage, there’s going to be some cool digital installations around that, and there’s a side space where most of the other digital installations will be, and segmenting the fine art between that side space and a back area.
So there will be exciting visuals to see in every room.
Generate’s Facebook page mentions some ‘fine’ artists in the mix with all these aural and digital artists – Jessica Anjuli and Jacob Adams. Why include them?
I wanted to give a chance to some great artists to display their work, get their names out there, meet some people. I’m still waiting on confirmation from one person, so there will be three at the end. Jacob’s never publicly displayed his work. It’s beautiful. It’s chaotic. It’s abstract. I love it.
I really like her style. She has some well known faces with this poppy flair. She said she would draft up some entirely new stuff for this so I’m excited to see that.
On the musical side of things, something must have made you say, ‘Hey, these guys are it. They’re gonna bring the energy I want.’
My whole thing is to take people on a sonic journey. Mainly I chose people who I’ve seen positivity from and I know it’s in, say, their record collection if you will. Ben Tactic was the founder of Bubblin’, which was a huge production group in Portland. I love the music he plays. He can go super dark or he can go super disco-ey.
Bennyrox is a good guy who conducts himself well. He’s very innovative and different. He’s all about old disco and funk just as much as he’s about trap, but also this year he’s had live groups play with him. He’s done drumming, I think March Fourth did something with him. He’s done Whiskey Bar, Branx, etc.
And then there’s Swahili are fromInternet Piracy Records, who also have Adventure Galley and Gold Casio which is a side project of those guys. Swahili, I was listening to them on Soundcloud and was like, “Hell yeah,” but I thought it was just like a DJ duo or something. No, it’s like a whole six-person group, so obviously I’m very excited to hear them live. The other thing I love about these guys – Natasha, the other DJ’s, you know, Benny and Ben, is that they show who they truly are.
Can you elaborate on that?
It’s all part of this positivity and light idea. It’s about breaking through the darkness that limits you showing your true self. People do suppress themselves, certainly. But as long as you feel that you are you, representing you, and you don’t have problems doing it, that’s what’s up.
In summary, Generate is a collaboration to create the sounds, sights, and energy to liberate people so they can express themselves.
We want to create an experience that strips away some of the party vibe. Not all the party – there is still this celebration of life in it, but a lot of the fog to just get messed up. We want it to be an experience to enlighten yourself, to talk to other people, to be yourself, to meet people who may be similar to you. Those are the kind of environments and experiences that I want to deliver. I really hope that Generate as an event makes a statement that ‘you can be okay with being uncomfortable.’ Be okay with being ambitious and putting yourself out there. I’ve had past failures, but look at what comes with that. We’re always learning, always growing. The title of this event says it all: it’s about ‘generating’ possibility and positivity.