This week we want to introduce you to the Chicago-based producer and EDM music artist, Taroko. His signature sound combines the feel of modern electronic dance music with oriental sounds and sampling techniques found in hip hop. Check out our interview with him!
S&F: Will you tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started in music?
I started composing songs on the piano at a young age, possibly around 7 years old. At 13 years old, I switched to Cello. My interest in music really grew in 8th grade when I discovered Vans Warped Tour and rock bands. During my high school years, I was blown away by what you could find on the internet and various blogs. My addiction to the best new music began there, and hasn’t stopped since.
S&F: What does music mean to you?
Music is everything to me. I believe it brings people together from around the world in a special way that nothing else can. It communicates feelings and emotions in ways that seeing and touching cannot. When music is played live, all your senses bring you new experiences. The incredible feeling of discovering music for the first time is something that will never die.
Music is a companion, something that takes you through your life and is whatever you need it to be. Whether you’re in the elevator, or it’s the classic bad breakup song mix – once you’ve heard a song enough, it becomes you. What music you listen to is a reflection of your identity – who you are, what you believe in. That’s why to me, it’s everything. Don’t get me wrong, it can be nothing as well. But it serves a purpose for each individual whether large or small.
S&F: How does music play a role in your travels?
For me, music plays a critical part in how and when I travel. I think about music as the soundtrack to my life (and yes, I love that Kid Cudi song). It creates another dimension to being in a different place. If I have time, I try to put together some playlists beforehand: tracks I love, tracks I want to listen to more, and tracks that I’ve never heard.
Tracks that I love are familiar. They make me feel safe. I return to those when I’m losing hope or things don’t go as planned. With these songs I remind myself that life has it’s ups and downs.
Tracks that I want to listen to more, are those that I want to tie to that specific travel experience. Since I’ve heard them no more than 5 times, they haven’t hit the point where I am familiar or bored. I naturally associate the songs with my memories from the trip.
Tracks I’ve never heard combine the experience of traveling somewhere new with a new experience sonically. This is usually where I’m most surprised by what I think about or how listening will trigger ideas. I think travel is inherently about being open minded and music is one way to help keep yourself open.
S&F: Does where you go impact what you listen to?
To a certain degree, I will listen to music based on where I’m traveling to gain another perspective on the local culture and heritage. Using music as a lens, I hear things that I wouldn’t normally hear, which inspires me and helps me think about sound in new ways.
S&F: How does your own music develop?
Constantly having new experiences makes it easier to be creative, whether it is in music or whatever field you might be in. My songs come from short sound ideas. I start with a melody or sample and build upon it. Not getting caught up in the small details until you’ve figured out how something is laid out is important.
My most recent inspirations came from travels in Asia, from my time abroad during undergrad. I backpacked throughout Asia to garner more artistic and musical influences. I am trying to tell my story and identity through music which is why you’ll hear a lot of oriental sounds in my music. Whenever I travel, I take voice memos on my iPhone to collect sounds to put into my tracks. Adding real-world elements, having a vision, and a purpose for each track helps me finish them.
S&F: Anything else you want to mention to readers?
About a year ago, I finally threw my hat in the ring to start making music as Taroko. I have been making anything and everything. The ability to create music that sounds good, just on a computer and headphones is an incredible thing.
If you want to do something you’re passionate about, start right now! Don’t wait 23 years like I did to work on something I truly enjoy. Also, hit me up anytime! I’m open to discussing music or what inspires other people. I like what Stone & Fern is about – creating authentic commentary on food and culture that comes from creators, not gigantic media companies.
S&F: Where can we find your music?
My latest release and self-titled debut EP, ‘Taroko’ is out on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, and more. My goal was to bring listeners to places that I’ve traveled to through sound. A careful selection of eastern samples allowed me to re-create how I felt when traveling in Asia. It is also during my travels when I first listened to future and experimental music, making it natural to incorporate such elements in my tracks.
Stone & Fern is a travel and lifestyle blog started by friends who have a passion for exploring cities, capturing moments, and trying new food.