Douglas Appling is Emancipator, an instrumental electronic producer from Portland, Oregon, who has grown his one man trip-hop act to a full-blown band with a captivating live experience.
The debut tour for his four-piece Emancipator Ensemble stops at the Regency Ballroom on Saturday March 29. We spoke with him about performing with music industry titans such as Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Bassnectar and what new music he has in the pipeline.
Where did you first learn to DJ and how be a producer?
I started messing around with some drum machines and some computer software. I was more of a producer than a DJ. Eventually, when I started touring, I learned all the necessary skills for all of those kind of DJ performances.
What about trip hop music convinced you to go pro and release your first record when you were only 19 years old?
I was really inspired by trip hop and instrumental hip hop from DJ Shadow and Thievery Corporation and some other ambient and instrumental hip hop. That’s the direction my music went naturally at the time.
How did you originally get big in Japan?
That was the first opportunity that came my way after releasing my album online. Eventually I got hooked up and spent a couple weeks touring in Japan. That was just the first opportunity that came my way.
What did you learn from touring with Bassnectar?
That was the first time I toured any venue of that size. I did two weeks with him across the Midwest. I learned a lot about live shows, being a professional and getting used to being a performer. That was in 2009 when I first started touring. It was an amazing learning experience.
How did you decide to transition from a solo act to an ensemble?
I had been thinking about performing as a band for years and finally got the chance to put it together. The point was to better hear songs and music more focused for the live setting. I’m learning a lot of performance instrumentation. It’s expanding my skill set and stepping out of my comfort zone, but it’s a lot of fun playing in a band.
What does your four-piece live band ensemble consist of?
Colby Buckler is on drums. Peter Thatch is on bass guitar. Ilya Goldberg is on mandolin and violin. I do the beats, play guitar, do some keys, do samples and all that.
Do you have any fond memories of San Francisco from your New Year’s Eve appearance this past year at Sea of Dreams?
Definitely! That was an amazing show. It was a great way to ring in the New Year and it was a really fun night. We ended up going all over San Francisco, drinking champagne on the beach, going to Treasure Island, going to the redwoods. That was a lot of fun.
What type of custom large scale visual experience can fans expect to see at your live show?
We change it every tour. This time around we have rectangles that have video content projection maps, controlled by Joey Paulekas who designed and built the whole visual rig. He’s out there jamming out to each song, controlling videos along with us, as well.