Michael Travis plays keyboards, bass and guitar in the improvised live-looping electronic group EOTO and the drummer of the jam band String Cheese Incident. He caught up with Michael to talk about music, paragliding and the evolving coalescence of the jam and electronic festival scenes.
Do you draw heavily on your experience as a drummer and percussionist when you’re making electronic music or does it come from somewhere else?
Well keyboards is a very percussive instrument and I maybe play more arpeggiated-type lines because of my drummer training. And as a drummer in String Cheese I have learned a lot about composition by watching from the back as the other players create harmony or dissonance.
Can you give us a quick rundown of your EOTO rig?
My rig is several hardware synths and Reason (being run as audio from a second computer) and a guitar and bass being run into a mixing board then into a MOTU Traveler and into Ableton that is being used as a live looping device. There are no clips or other music in Ableton when we start a show. The Keith McMillen SoftStep is what I use to tell Ableton to start and end record each clip as I’m entering it live.
Jason’s part is a total mystery to me. Lots of effects for his vocal affairs and he has samples to be triggered through a MIDI Fighter. He has many parameters controllable through iPads and is connected to the main computer via ethernet.
From your time on the jam scene with The String Cheese Incident to your current electronic project EOTO you’ve been a pretty consistent figure on the festival circuit. How have you seen it change over the years?
Well as the electronic scene and the jam scene continue to coalesce there seems to be a merging of ethos and habits. I also notice the fading of the classic “wookie” paradigm. I’ve noticed at the end of a night at, say, Electric Forest, as I watch the folks leave, that almost everyone was sharp and clear and ready. Seems there used to be a bigger culture surrounding getting so messed up you couldn’t function than there is now.
String Cheese Incident and EOTO are both on the independent label, SCI Fidelity, that the band started in 1998. What’s your take on the state of the music industry and major labels today? Do you have any advice for musicians who are navigating labels or considering starting their own?
Seems to me labels are dead. For the most part selling songs is dead. There has to be solutions to musicians getting paid for their music, but there is such a wave towards streaming and other ways to functionally get music from musicians without proper compensation that it doesn’t seem apparent right now. Doing it all on your own certainly cuts costs and helps make the trickle seems larger. Pretty sad state…
What’s been inspiring you lately?
Paragliding is a huge love in my life. I had a 2 hour flight yesterday. Solitude has been very inspiring. When I’m home I make a point to hang out by myself a lot. And I’m finally able to make songs on Ableton without having to go looks at tutorials every 3 minutes, that’s inspiring!
Anything else on your mind that you’d like to talk about?
Check out recordings of many live sets on EOTO’s SoundCloud here: