When Klayton of Celldweller completed his new studio facility in Detroit, the intent was always to have two additional FiXT artists working full time out of the B and C suites of the studio – three artists consistently pumping out top notch tunes. Bret of Blue Stahli has been happily occupying Studio B for some time now, but Studio C had been left waiting…until last month. Josh Money, newly signed to FiXT, has answered the call, moving to Detroit and setting up shop. With classical training in guitar and piano, past experience in sound design and soundtrack composing at EA Games, and a growing collection of tightly-produced EDM tracks eating up the Beatport charts, Josh is going to make some big things happen, and FiXT is proud to now list him as part of the family. FiXT caught up with Josh a bit after he got settled into Studio C; read on to learn what he’s bringing to the table.
FiXT: Well Josh, whenever we get a new artist onboard, I like to start by asking them for a quick “this is who I am” intro – tell me who you are and where you came from!
JM: Well I’m Josh Money, musician, composer, producer, recently moved here from Orlando, Florida but born and raised in GA. A Southern boy by birth but world citizen by nature.
FiXT: Something that sets you a bar above many other EDM producers is that you actually have some classical training under your belt, dating all the way back to piano lessons as a kid. Tell me what got you started in music that early and how your interests and training developed over the years.
JM: My mom got me started on the piano when I was 5. I wanted to learn and it just seemed like a natural part of growing up for me. She taught me for almost 5 years I believe.
FiXT: Did she play? Was it a musical family?
JM: Yes. She played piano and my dad strummed guitar a bit. But one day she discovered that I hadn’t really been learning to read the music properly, that I was just memorizing what I heard and playing it back. I soon quit lessons which was fine because by this time I had become more interest in writing my own music anyway. Even though my dad played guitar, I didn’t take an interest in it until years later. He had an old Martin and the strings were really high and it was painful to play, so for the longest time I thought the guitar was a horrible instrument.
FiXT: What eventually brought you around on the guitar?
JM: When I was about 13 one of my brother’s friends had an electric guitar and one day he invited me over to play it. I had never even held an electric guitar and after a few minutes I had already learned to play some songs from Green Day, Bush, and the Cranberries. It was probably the most magical experience of my teen years. I still remember it like it was yesterday, thinking how natural it felt to play it.
FiXT: I myself never got very far in learning to play anything, but the few times I did figure out a song on my brother’s guitar or my sister’s piano as a kid, I remember feeling pretty good! So evidently this ‘discovery’ made a deep mark on you as I’ve read that you then went on to complete an AA in classical guitar and followed that up by enrolling in Full Sail university.
JM: Yeah, I hate to sound melodramatic but it literally changed my life. We were pretty poor so I bought a cheap little red electric guitar at a pawn shop and an all-in-one zoom effects processor and played it for 3-4 hours every day. There’s a photo on the internet of a nerdy guy standing beside a homely girl. In the next photo he’s holding a guitar and standing beside a beautiful girl. This was pretty much what it felt like at the time for me. I had always been the nerdy artist in my class and picking up the guitar gave me a confidence I never had before. When my best friend at the time told me the most beautiful girl I had ever seen wanted to go out with me, I really thought he was joking. I’m not saying it was the guitar but…
FiXT: So with that in mind, was it a natural path from playing guitar and piano as a kid to pursuing music as an education and a career?
JM: Actually up until college I had maintained plans to be an artist and by artist I mean someone who draws. I was good at music but I didn’t think of it as a career; I loved it too much as a hobby and had always thought of hobbies and work as two separate things. Only when I began reading up on producers like BT did I realize there was a chance that I could really make something out of this. So my plans changed from SCAD to Full Sail.
FiXT: Your mention of BT brings up what, to me, is one of the more exciting questions – what was it that made you jump the rails from classical instrument training to electronic production?
JM: I had always been a fan of film composers like John Williams and Hans Zimmer and at the time, electronic music was still considered very fringe by a majority of people in the US. Most of the electronic music that actually made it to the radio was very corny and I even remember making fun of “people pushing play on keyboards”. But after listening to BT and hearing the sonic possibilities, it opened up a whole new world in my mind. I began to see it as the future of music and my earliest attempts at writing were mixing my classical knowledge with the world of electronic music.
FiXT: Very true. Growing up, I had a rather dim view of electronic music and it wasn’t until The Prodigy jumped the pond and blew my brain open with The Fat of the Land that I started to rethink some of my music appreciation ‘rules’. It’s fantastic, these days, to see that the meshing of classical elements and electronic elements has achieved a much higher threshold of acceptance, especially in the soundtrack world. FiXT has more than a few friends in the professional realm who compose hybrid soundtracks for triple-A titles, such as Tom Salta (Atlas Plug) and Sascha Dikiciyan (Sonic Mayhem/Toksin) Which, of course, brings me to your next career highlight – EA Games. Tell me all about that!
JM: Sure thing. About 2 weeks before graduation, an internship that I had spent the entire school year securing fell through. Not wanting to let that stop me, I decided to stay in Orlando and moved in with some roommates, knowing that one of the guys worked at EA. This led to me getting a position as a game tester. Honestly even though I had work, I was a bit depressed. I felt far from the direction I wanted to be heading in but I knew that no matter what, I had to stay connected to the world of electronic media and video games were the closest thing that I had available. I worked extremely hard by staying late, requesting audio specific testing, excelling at finding A-list bugs, and running errands to the audio department. After 3 months I was given my own room to do 5.1 audio testing as well as handle some voiceover design documents and other audio assets. That eventually led to me being rehired as an audio editor and eventually a composer.
FiXT: That’s fantastic. The only things I know about game testing I learned by reading the true stories over at the web comic site The Trenches, and it doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to do even on a good day. But if it took you only 3 months to get your own audio testing room, it sounds like someone recognized the fact that you knew what you were doing. What games did you compose for, and what sort of material were you writing?
JM: The first game I was able to compose something for was Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. I was just the audio editor but whenever my editing tasks were done, I would write music in the few minutes I had. Pete Lehman (Oscar-winning sound designer / effects editor) and EA Audio Manager Jesse Allen took notice and asked if I wanted to include the song I had been working on in the game and of course I’m sure you know the answer to that! It was a chillout type of electronic track with acoustic influences and even had my voice singing ambient “oohs” in a couple parts. The response I got was good so I went on to work on quite a few other sports games, providing individual tracks as well as menu music. NFL Blitz was my first time writing where I was specifically commissioned to write the theme song as well as license some of my own music for in game use.
FiXT: And it is this licensed music that now appears on your first EP for FiXT, is it not?
JM: Yes! When EA came to me for Blitz, they were aware of the success I had had on Beatport. They asked if I had any music I had been working on that would fit in a hard hitting game like Blitz, so I auditioned the EP I had been working on. They loved it so much that they ended up licensing almost the entire EP for the game!
FiXT: So this was after you’d also started releasing original tunes to the EDM scene – a whole different ballgame compared to creating in-house production music. What is that half of the story? When and why did you start making your own ‘artist’ tunes, and how did you come to find yourself charting on Beatport?
JM: The funny thing is a lot of people who produce for the club want to have their music in games. I was writing for games, but wanted my music in the clubs. Up until Blitz, there had always been a structure I had to follow, boundaries I had to stay within. I had even contributed vocals to a few trance hits but I was ready to just break away from all of it. After a series of emotional events in my life, most notably the conception and birth of my son, I just couldn’t stay in the corporate world exclusively anymore. I needed some release and writing for myself helped me find that. My first attempt at writing outside the box led to a metal / dubstep hybrid called “Bullet for the Bears”. “Let Go With You” was the follow up to that and ended up charting at #2 for nearly 6 weeks on the Beatport Dubstep charts.
FiXT: Which is quite an accomplishment – this was your very first solo EP release, correct?
JM: Yeah, “Bullet for the Bears” was just signed as a B-side to another EP and I had released a couple odd singles and remixes before that but “Let Go With You” was the first “this is me” release. [Editor's note: the Ridin / Bullet for the Bears split EP with Afrowhitey and the Let Go With You EP were both released by Sludge Records; another vocal dubstep release, the Love Like That Again EP, was released by Sludge last month]
FiXT: So from that point, trace the path that took you to here and now, when you’ve signed on to FiXT and moved up to Detroit to work out of the FiXT studio next door to Celldweller and Blue Stahli.
JM: Well whenever an artist has a certain amount of sudden success, there’s always the question of “what now”? Of course I planned some additional dubstep releases with Sludge Records who are some really great guys, but I knew personally, that if I was going to grow as an artist, I needed to surround myself with people who approached music with the idea of an artist as an identity, people who didn’t just work within the confines of the traditional DJ and Dance Music scene. Although I do have some other stuff i did for [Sludge] that’s not out yet, such as the Let Go With You Remix EP.
FiXT: The first ‘interaction’, so to speak, that you had with FiXT was your remix of Celldweller’s “I Can’t Wait” for the Complete Cellout Vol. 01 release. How did that come about?
JM: Klayton and I actually had the same booking agent for a while and that’s how we linked up. Jimmy of FiXT had invited me out to Detroit to visit the studio and the remix was a result of that visit.
FiXT: Tell me a bit more about this EP that’s about to drop, The Android Factory. It carries exactly the sort of energy that FiXT gets excited about – hard hitting modern EDM that also incorporates elements of outside genres such as, in this case, metal. What’s been your composition process with this material?
Josh Money - The Android Factory EP
Josh Money’s Beatport dubstep hit “Let Go With You” was only the opening salvo from this classically trained producer. Five new cuts now march forward from the assembly line, and the current chart-toppers had best step down. The Android Factory EP throws down complex electro with a side of dubstep that pulses like the circuitry of a positronic brain, while precisely calibrated stabs of metal guitar portend the new era of EDM fusion.
JM: Well, one of the first questions that probably comes to peoples’ minds is that since my Beatport success was vocal dubstep, is that what the focus of this album is, and the answer is no. What I tried to do with the sound is take the tone and energy of new dubstep and apply it to very emotive 4 on the floor dance music. It’s sort of a return to your roots but bring the new stuff with it type of sound. I don’t believe the reason Dubstep blew up so suddenly was necessarily due to the halftime rhythm, I think it had more to do with the fact that it was evolving into a genre that wasn’t afraid to do anything sonically. So no matter what kind of beat I’m writing, I try to keep that ‘anything goes’ attitude. And I think Android Factory captures that.
FiXT: So what are you working on currently? The Android Factory EP will certainly satisfy listeners, but what can they look forward to after that?
JM: One of the advantages of working with a company like FiXT is their connections to a variety of multimedia outlets. Having worked in the game industry, this is something I’m right at home with. So I’m currently working on quite a bit of heavy hitting production music that will most likely find it’s way to not just video games, but commercials, TV, and movie trailers. This will immediately be followed by new artist material that I’ve already begun developing some new concepts for. I want to make sure that no matter what, the next single, EP, album that comes out hits people with more emotional impact than anything before it. I don’t like the idea that today people focus on creating entire genres simply depending on where the kick and snare fall. I believe if the emotion and musicality is there, it won’t matter what genre or tempo you’re writing, you’ll connect with people and ultimately that’s my goal, to connect with the deepest parts of humanity with the art of sound.
FiXT: My last question is just a bit of curiosity – what’s inspiring you these days? Whose tunes are turning your head?
JM: Well Celldweller has always been a staple of course. I’m waiting on Empire of the Sun to release a new album! Honestly most of what I listen to isn’t classified as electronic: Santogold, School of Seven Bells. I’m excited to hear the new Garbage album actually. Just got the new M83 and it’s great. I’m pretty scattered when it comes to what I listen to as I usually just let Pandora play with a station of any of the above mentioned bands. Oh and if you haven’t’ heard the The Irrepressibles, please do.
FiXT: A wide variety of influences is always a good thing for a musician to have, in my opinion. That’s all I’ve got, so thanks for taking the time to chat with me! FiXT is happy to have you on board.