Tim Wu’s parents were understandably proud when he landed a place at the prestigious Harvard University. And then they were understandably “super-pissed” when, having majored in economics and landed a well-paid corporate job, he gave it all up for progressive house and Ableton Live.
Fast forward a few years, Tim Wu, popularly known in EDM circles as Elephante is a progressive and electro house producer/DJ based out of Los Angeles. Reminiscing the past, 26 year old Wu says “It was a fantastic job, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted out of life. Outside of the office, I was spending 30 or 40 hours a week working on music, putting together bootleg remixes and digging deep into Ableton. That’s where I was at my happiest, and eventually I just said to myself, ‘Tim, why spend your life doing something you don’t want to do?’ You gotta follow your heart, right?”
Speaking to musicradar.com, Elephante spoke his heart out on his music,
Did the idea of a career change come out of the blue?
“Not exactly. I’ve been studying piano since I was a little kid, and I taught myself how to play guitar. Music has just been… there. My mom likes to tell this story about when I was about four or five: if I was naughty and wouldn’t do as I was told, she would put on Walt Disney’s Fantasia and I would immediately calm down.”
From what we remember about Fantasia, it’s quite… trippy. Dancing horses and brooms that work on their own. No wonder you ended up making dance music!
“[Laughs] Man, you could be right. As I got older, I did start to drift away from classical; that’s why I picked up the guitar. I would listen to a song on the radio and then pick it apart, work out the chords. I wanted to know how it worked. Why did this chord follow that chord? How come that harmony sounded so beautiful? You have no idea what you’re playing, but something will suddenly jump out at you. It’s as if you know inside when something works.
No matter how many lessons you have and how many tutorials you download from YouTube, there still has to be that natural thing that goes on in your brain. Music isn’t just technique; it’s also instinct.”
About his move to electronic music and his switch to Ableton Live, Elephante fondly remembers “After college, I moved to LA, thinking that I’d do a few gigs, get my demo to a record company and make millions. Unfortunately, after I got to LA, I realized that everybody was a singer/songwriter, and everybody was going to get their demo to a record company and make millions. The one advantage I had was that I’d given my singer/songwriter act a technological twist: I was working with a laptop, complex delay pedal setups and an MPC, layering various noises and melodies into a sort of folktronica groove. Yes, I used GarageBand, but I’d also experimented with FruityLoops and I knew my way around sequencing and MIDI. Once I’d realised that the computer could be my entire studio, I immediately headed down that road. Switching to Ableton was the final piece in the puzzle. It was super-liberating.
“I tried FruityLoops, I tried Pro Tools, but as soon as I loaded up Ableton, I discovered a direct link between the ideas in my head and what was happening in the computer. Ableton made everything else seem kinda clunky and slow. I don’t mean they made the computer run slow; they made my ideas run slow. With Ableton, you get an idea and you can get it down in seconds. User-friendly, intuitive… call it what you want, but Ableton never gets in the way of the music.”
Asked if he has ever been overawed by a remix, Elephante responds “I’m a huge Miike Snow fan, so getting asked to remix Galantis was a real honour. That was one where you think, ‘C’mon Tim, don’t f**k this up!’.”
He signs off.