With jazzy saxophone riffs overlaying thunderous drums with electronic beats, Big Gigantic is a truly unique live experience.
The two-man instrumental crew from Boulder returns to San Francisco on Saturday for a headline appearance at Summersalt festival, located this year for the first time at Pier 70.
We spoke with saxophonist and producer Dominic Lalli about his biggest inspirations, his recent birthday celebration, and why San Francisco is one of his favorite cities.
How were you originally introduced to the saxophone?
I’ve been playing it my whole life. I started in school in band and just kind of stuck with it. I got my Master’s Degree in a small conservatory in New York and then started to get into electronic music.
I started melding all the sounds and different things that had been introduced me, working on it, and put it into a new project called Big Gigantic.
Did you have a fallback if Big Gigantic didn’t work out?
I was kind of trying to be a jazz musician and got introduced to electronic music. I was really into writing. I got a computer and started writing electronic stuff. I didn’t even expect it to be what it is. I was just kind of messing around with stuff. [laughs]
Before this, I was actually touring with an afrobeat band from Colorado. We just slowed down a bunch and stopped doing as many gigs and tours, so I just decided to start my own project and this was it. Five years later, it’s crazy where it has taken me.
How did you meet Jeremy Salken and decide to form Big Gigantic?
Jeremy and I used to be roommates. We played funk gigs, local bars gigs, wedding gigs, jazz gigs, all kinds of different shit. When I started getting the idea for Big Gigantic together, I definitely wanted a drummer involved. Jeremy and I were great friends. We weren’t living together at the time but I was like, he’s the perfect guy for the job. It’s really worked out great. He’s been awesome.
Who are your biggest electronic and jazz influences?
It’s pretty wide and diverse. I like to just keep it current in terms of how I’m getting inspired. I’m inspired by a lot of things happening right now. We’re touring with Skrillex this fall and we’ve done a bunch of stuff with Bassnectar and Pretty Lights — those guys are my friends. They’re always inspiring me in a lot of different ways.
I get inspired by a lot of things like classical, jazz and different pop music. I try to take all those elements and the things I love and bring them in some way to Big Gigantic. It’s pretty diversely inspired by different styles, people, ideas, and actual pieces of art and stuff like it.
Having played with a lot of big names in electronic music, what have you learned from those acts?
Honestly, I really just try to pay attention a lot to what those guys are doing. One thing I’ve noticed that is a common thread is that they are incredibly hard workers—always working on either their music, their brand, the video work or something artistic. They’re always working on it, always looking forward, looking to do something new and fresh.
They also have amazing ideas. I’m kind of the same way. I’m always working on stuff, just trying to keep being inspired by those guys because they are the ones that are inspiring everyone else out there right now.
How did you celebrate your birthday the other day?
Yeah! It was September 6. We were playing this festival in Oklahoma City. It was a great show and a bunch of my friends were playing. It was a pretty fun party. I got pretty wasted by the end of the night.
Why do you think live jam bands are not as popular today as they were in the 60s and 70s with groups like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers?
We definitely came out of the jam scene. I feel like, it’s interesting. The one thing you can guarantee in music, always, is that it’s gonna change. It’s gonna evolve. If you’re statement about jam music not being popular anymore applies to classical music 100 years ago, it’s just a cycle. It’s like any cycle of life. It happens, they grow, they become popular, they die, and then they’re re-born later.
The jam cycle had quite a day, not that it’s gone by any means. Obviously Phish is still doing great things, still at the forefront of a lot of things, and selling massive amount of tickets. It’s not like it’s dead. In part, it has a lot to do with the computer. Everything changed after the computer when it became personalized and everyone can own it and use it all the same and get information they want, etc.
Mostly it’s just a cycle. The kids rule the music scene.
Any fond memories of San Francisco when you played at the Independent last year?
Yeah! We always love coming to SF — it’s amazing food, amazing people, and it’s a great city. We live in Boulder, Colo., and a lot of people say it’s kind of like a sister city. We feel Very at home there.
We always go to the Boom Boom Room, late night and get crazy because there are always homies playing over there. We always play a show and see someone play somewhere else.
It’s always fun to play in San Francisco, and we’ll be back this weekend.