The Gaslamp Killer: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

The Gaslamp Killer

So far, we’ve previewed this year’s Psycho Las Vegas festival with profiles on Witch Mountain (playing with their “reunion lineup”) and Yakuza (fronted by Psycho mainstay Bruce Lamont). But what would a musical festival be without a top-notch DJ, especially a festival lasting three days (four if you include the Thursday pre-party)?

Helping cap off the festival on Sunday, August 21 — technically the wee hours of Monday, August 22, for you hairsplitting types — will be The Gaslamp Killer playing a rock-centric set. Originally from San Diego but now based in Los Angeles, the DJ spoke with The Bad Penny last week about how psyched he is to play at Psycho.

While the Gaslamp Killer might be new to many of the festival-goers, he certainly won’t be a stranger behind the scenes. The DJ has opened shows for Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, both of whom are also playing Sunday night — and he’s a big fan of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, who are billed second on Saturday’s lineup.

He’s also shared a festival bill (in Serbia, no less) with thrash icons Suicidal Tendencies … and has had probably more close calls with fire than most of the metalheads attending Psycho.

Don’t believe it? Keep reading …

Hey man, how’s your day going?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: It’s exciting. I just announced a single with my friends Eprom and Alix Perez for their group, Shades. We just announced our single [that came out Friday].

Yeah. “Putrification,” is that right?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: “Purification.”

Sorry, thinking too much about Psycho Las Vegas! Got Cannibal Corpse on the brain.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Haha, no problem.

When did you guys record that track and why did you decide to release it now?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: We made it years ago. We just hold onto it for a long time until it was ready. Basically, Shades had a lot of other tunes that were really incredible. It’s hard to know when to put stuff out when you have so many tunes. They’re kind of touring based off their music, whereas I tour as a DJ. I don’t need a release to get booked. They were strategizing when to release it based around how they could make the most of the album and the songs. It makes sense.

Traditionally, [agents are] always asking me, “Hey man, when is your next record [due]? Let’s plan a tour around it.” I say, “It takes me five years to make a record, and I’m not in any hurry.” If people want to book me, they can book me very easily. I always answer my emails. I answer my DMs. I love playing. It’s kind of what I’m known for, being a performer — even more than being a producer. I’m fine with it. I know my body of work stands on its own, and I love it. I’m grateful that I was able to get so much good music out. But I’m not the kind of guy that sits at home making records all day.

Along those lines, how did the booking for the Psycho festival come about?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: The same. It was kind of an unsolicited reach-out.

So [Psycho founder] Evan [Hagen] hit you up, not vice versa?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: I feel like Evan and I have crossed paths over the years. So he got my email [address] and reached out to me.

Were you familiar with the festival before receiving the invitation?


You’ve played Austin Psych Fest and Eagle Rock Music Festival, so it’s not like you haven’t crossed over before.


Is it important for you to reach new audiences? Are you excited to play in front of music fans who might not otherwise seek you out?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Yeah, of course. I have a real heavy rock influence in my stuff. And I have a really good set already prepared. I’m always playing heavy rock sets when I get the opportunity. So, in my opinion, it’s meant to be.

As soon as I saw the lineup, I was like, “OK, there’s really only six or seven artists on there that aren’t purists.” Which is exciting. They grouped me in with Wu-Tang on the promo! [Laughs.]

Is there any opportunity for collaboration there?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Well, I’ve worked with GZA before. I DJ’d for him, and I was a guest on a TV show of his that never aired. I’ve opened for Ghost, Rae. I used to go on tour when I first got my start with MF Doom, Digable Planets … I love hip-hop, I try to work with it when I can. But as far as MCs, I don’t work with many vocalists, so I wouldn’t be actively pursuing that. It’s nice just to be a fan.

Are you planning to stay for the duration of the festival?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Unfortunately, it’s my close friend’s wedding that weekend, so I’ll have to just do the Sunday lineup.

Presumably it’ll be a late-night set you’ll play?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: I think it’s midnight. I don’t think it’s too late.

Are you going to make it a point to see any other artists while you’re there on Sunday?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: That’s tough. I’m a huge fan of a lot of the people on there. Obviously Wu-Tang. But on the rock side of things, I saw Suicidal Tendencies when I was 12 years old, in 1994. It was at Brown Field [in San Diego] with Metallica and Megadeth. Then I played with Suicidal Tendencies when Thundercat was their bass player. We played at a music festival in Serbia [Exit festival in 2010].

I’ve known Warpaint for a decade. We’ve been friends for a long time. I played a show with Boris in Japan a decade ago. I love Boris. I saw Bone Thugs also not too long ago! They were incredible. Allah-Las are really good. Beats Antique, those are good people. I really like those guys. And I’ve always wanted to see William Basinski.

But I don’t know if I’ll be able to see any of these people. To be honest, I’m just shouting out the people I’m fans of.

Well, you’re familiar with the lineup, which is great to hear. Sidecar Tommy from Beats Antique told me that he was most excited to see you at Psycho.


He said you guys go back a ways.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: That’s so sweet. And yeah, we do. It’s rare to see people mixing international stuff with beats, so as soon as I heard them, I was like, “Oh, shit. These guys know what they’re doing.”

Anything else Psycho-related that you wanted to touch on?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: The 10-year anniversary of my first album, Breakthrough, is coming in September. I’ll be promoting that at Psycho fest. My big song is called “NISSIM,” named after my brother who passed away. It means “miracle.” I’m going to be promoting the anniversary of the record by releasing some singles around it. I’ll have a rollout of merch on my Bandcamp too.

Well, that must make your agents happy! When they ask if you’re promoting anything, you can tell them you are.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: That is true, yeah. [Laughs.]

What about Vegas in general? Do you have an attraction or an aversion to it?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Every time I’ve played there, it’s super-fun. I like the place. I just … I don’t drink, I don’t gamble, and I hate cigarettes. So I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite place. But I did a great show there in February and got to go to Meow Wolf [at Area15]. It’s incredible. It’s an interactive art gallery. It started in New Mexico; they had me playing there. As soon as I heard they opened up Omega Mart in Vegas, I made a point to get my flight so I could [go there]. I’d go to Omega Mart over a casino any day. Or a show. It’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.

You’ve checked all the boxes on my scorecard in terms of social activities. Psycho is also special in that it fosters a real sense of community. It seems like you’ve played an integral role in encouraging music fans to come together as a community in Los Angeles with your monthly performances at Clinton’s Republic.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Yeah, it’s an oddities museum that has food, drinks, dance floors and stuff. I started in April, but next month is the four-year anniversary of the party that it’s based around. It’s called Airplane Mode. I’ve been doing that for four years. It’s my attempt to get people to put their cellphones away and live in the moment.

What’s the best way to do that? By having more interactive elements onstage or a visual component — or simply announcing to the audience, “Hey, pay attention to what’s going on up here”?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: It’s not even, “Pay attention to what’s going on up here,” it’s more like, “There’s a lot of fun stuff going on.” Especially in that venue. There are little side rooms and adventures that you could go on. There’s just so much to do. And the music is also top-tier. I just want people to look at it and enjoy it, rather than try to document it. ‘Cause they’re never going to watch the videos again. I rarely watch videos that I took at concerts. I wind up going back into my phone [wondering], “Why is this full?” I watch every concert one more time — then delete each one. [Laughs.]

Do you keep rough drafts of your material?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: What do you mean?

Well, when you go about putting together set lists …

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Oh yeah, I keep those rough drafts. I’ve heard this from a lot of musicians: When we’re making stuff, we can imagine what it’s going to do to said audience. The more you visualize the outcome being positive, the more chance you have of the outcome being positive. I’m a firm believer in that.

So, when I put my sets together, I imagine the audience and how they’re going to respond to each track I play. And that’s how I decide what order I’m going to play them in. I try to keep the energy high. Not in an uptempo, dancey way … there’s a lot of songs that have the same BPM or tempo, but the drumming or rhythm in it isn’t really the same energy. I try to keep the rhythm consistent so that you don’t have to stop bobbing your head.

You don’t have to change your internal clock too much when you’re listening to my set. I don’t really play dance music, so it’s my way of trying to make a smoother set for people without sacrificing my integrity and what I like playing.

What do you do if mitigating circumstances interrupt what you had planned for a set? Do you improvise in those situations?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Of course. I have so many playlists and label them very simply, so I know how to find what I’m looking for when I’m searching. I can always switch my set if I have to.

How similar will your set at Psycho be compared with your set at, say, the B-Boy Summit [in San Diego]? Congrats on getting that relaunched, by the way.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Oh, thank you. So B-Boy Summit asked me to do a breakdance-oriented set. Even though it’s not for the battles, my friend Drumetrics and I, when we play live, we kind of play a rhythm section of drums, bass and sound effects. We’re trying to improvise on classic funk rhythms with a lot of Italian library and psychedelic feeling in it. So it’s way different than what I’ll be doing at Psycho.

I feel like people Psycho fest, at that hour, on the last night of the festival, want to get hit hard by some crazy stuff. I don’t feel like it has as much of a dance floor. I’m going to be focused on blowing the crowd’s head off.

Do you think you might pull out a Suicidal Tendencies song to sample?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Yeah. I’m planning on it.

Where and when did you see them play?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: It [was in 1994]. My sister was a concert promoter. And God bless her — I’m so lucky to have been raised by my sister … my Mom and Dad are amazing too, but my sister Becky … was super into taking me to shows and introducing me to bands. She worked at Soma, the only all-ages venue in San Diego when I was growing up.

My first show was the Specials. Then I got to see Sublime, No Doubt, Swindle, L7, Pennywise, Blink, that kind of stuff in the ‘90s. There were also hardcore shows, but I wasn’t trying to get stomped. Every time I’d get in the pit and get knocked down … the security guard knew me and would scoop me up and put me between the stage and the dance floor.

Do people try to climb onstage at your shows?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: From time to time. Mostly at festivals. I play a lot of hippie festivals, so there are fire spinners and hula hoopers and dancers that dance with the performers onstage. It’s kind of a normal thing. When I was younger, I’d have an aversion to that, but these days, if they’re good at what they do, go ahead. It’s part of the visuals, I guess. Part of the show.

Well, yeah, you really can’t … well, I guess you can go wrong with having a fire-breather onstage.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: [Laughs.] Yeah, there have been some scary moments where I’ve thought, “This can really go bad.”

What jumps to mind?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: I just see people clearly high on something working with fire. Obviously it’s never happened, thank God, but I was playing a festival in the forest in Northern California two weeks ago, and there was some wild shit going on. I’m not going to name names, but I was thinking to myself, “This guy is coming real close to hurting himself, it seems like.” But then the festival sent me footage of it, and I was like, “Oh, I guess this is his style.” He’s probably burned himself 10,000 times practicing his routine, so he doesn’t get fazed.

Like a magician.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: Exactly. Like, you poke yourself enough times, you’re not afraid of getting cut anymore or something.

What are you most looking forward to about the Psycho fest experience?

THE GASLAMP KILLER: My favorite part of it is, I already know I’m going to like the Psycho fest audience. I like to be around people who — like, my punk-rock, metal, hardcore friends are so down to earth and so sweet. The reason why they rage so hard is because, in their day-to-day life, they’re gentle, sweet, real, authentic people.

When you’re an alternative-living person, you look different, you dress different … a lot of us have been made fun of since we were kids, so we have a real camaraderie with each other. When the freaks come out, we see who we are, we know that we are nice people even though we get picked on our whole lives for being different. Those kind of people grow into really great adults, for the most part.

That’s very insightful. Sometimes it takes someone who’s not part of the entrenched metal community to be able to have a perspective like that. I’ve interviewed a lot of musicians over the years who play heavy music, but I can’t say I’ve heard anyone describe [the subculture] as astutely as you just did.

THE GASLAMP KILLER: I’m glad you feel that way. It came from the heart.

For more Psycho Las Vegas 2022 features, check out the Bad Penny’s new profiles on Witch Mountain and Yakuza.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: