(Pictured above: Ravenscoon Performing at 40oz Wonderland, Photo by @ramonsview)
Before electronic dance music took the world by storm in the 2010s, it was generally considered a niche genre in the US, far removed from the radio and generally associated with social outcasts. But as artists like Skrillex, Avicii, Calvin Harris, and Swedish House Mafia gained in popularity, electronic music pushed further into the mainstream to the point where pop music became almost synonymous with a certain variety of electronic dance music. Its influence is unmistakably everywhere: on the radio, in movie trailers, consumer product ads, the X Games, and even at this year’s Indy 500 Snake Pit. Ten years ago, the idea that bedroom DJs and producers would dominate and reshape the world of music was unthinkable. While that commercial brand of electronic music, typically labeled as EDM, is unavoidable in the pop world, an entire subcommunity of producers, DJs, artists, and fans exists deep in the realm of the internet, dripping in talent and possibility.
While it’s typically considered a necessity for artists to distribute their music through as many online platforms as possible, like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, that’s not where you’ll discover this group of independent artists. Instead, you’re more likely to discover these underground artists on Reddit, Soundcloud, and in Facebook Groups, largely untethered from the mainstream and removed from traditional label influence, where a different set of rules exist. Prowling through these avenues is where you’re likely to find Paul Conversano, better known by his stage name Ravenscoon.
Conversano, currently a San Francisco resident, had little formal training, having only played the trumpet for two years in his elementary and middle school years. Instead, he learned about music in the bustling scene of Atlanta, where he is originally from: “I was born and raised in Atlanta. I guess that’s where a lot of my inspiration and music tastes originally come from. I grew up listening to everything from Sound Tribe Sector 9 to Gucci Mane—completely opposite sides of the spectrum.” Although he was not a traditional instrumentalist, Conversano’s depth in music knowledge is impressive, which he attributes to his interest in the music and arts scene from a young age:
“I’ve been messing around with music since I was a kid. I collected CDs and even when I was like two or three years old, my Mom said when I was at weddings I would run up to the DJ and request songs. So I’ve always been into art and music and I just would share things that I like.”
In addition to his affinity for STS9 and Gucci Mane, Conversano lists off a range of other styles and artists that influence him:
“Since I was a kid I’ve had a morbid fascination. I was into death metal, grind core, emo, and punk music as soon as I first heard it. I really loved the HEAVY stuff. Job for a Cowboy, Suicide Silence, As I Lay Dying, and Old Bring Me The Horizon.
I made my Mom take me to the mall so I could go to Hot Topic so I could buy all the black shirts that said shit like ‘I hate you’ and stuff. She hated it. I was raised Roman Catholic, so it was a bit much for my Mom.”
He mentions that his first concert was Green Day on the American Idiot Tour in 2004, which his Dad accompanied him to. “I always loved anti-establishment music and music that got in your face.”
His preferences don’t just skew towards dark and heavy music, however, explaining that while his peers in Georgia were listening to country music, he was perusing Grooveshark.com and listening to trance artists like Armin van Buuren. 2007 seems to be the year that really had a big impact on him, as that’s when a friend’s sister introduced him to Bassnectar. He was instantly hooked. Around that same time, he was discovering artists like Rusko, Zeds Dead, and Pretty Lights, while exploring genres like early dubstep and breaks. In 2010 he witnessed his first Bassnectar show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta for New Year’s Eve, where face value tickets were selling for only $15-20. Reminiscing on the show, he explains his excitement:
“I was super hooked. I had never seen anybody mix music like that and I was like ‘fuck, I want to do that’ you know? I had never heard anybody blending hip-hop, vocals, and bass music. I thought it was so cool.”
Attending his first Bassnectar show may have been the catalyst for his music ambitions:
“Over time I started making my own mashups and stuff. I think the mixing style is something that inspires me. There’s a couple of other artists that I was also inspired by—like Nero, Minnesota, a lot of those guys that were creating super rush bass music at the time. I want to say that they’re my biggest inspirations and Bassnectar being one of them, but I don’t want that to overshadow my music and what my sound is like. I think that’s something that is difficult in the music scene—being inspired by something, but not being a copy of it and making your own twist. Because everything is just a twist on something else. Everything has been done before.”
As he started making his own mashups and remixes, he would share his creations with friends, where he found encouragement to continue down the music path:
“I eventually got more serious. I chose a name: Ravenscoon [an anagram of his last name]. I started uploading everything on the same Soundcloud. From there, it’s just really taken off. It really does help, especially being well connected in the bass music community and knowing a lot of people. I’ve been doing it for 10 years—going to shows and concerts. I guess I’m unashamed about showing people my music. I was never afraid to put myself out there. Tell me it’s bad. Tell me it’s good. I want to know what people think.”
A driving force of his popularity has been his mixes that he curates, performs, records, and releases on Soundcloud, one of the more popular ones being his Wrapped in a Dream Mix. The mixes serve as an opportunity to display his versatility, releasing mixes that focus on a theme, like Halloween, downtempo, dreamtempo, heavy bass, and everything in between. They all feature a plethora of song styles, acapellas, and mashups.
When it comes to creating mixes, he mentions that he typically targets a specific energy: “Most of the time, I base the whole mix around the first song and how the first song made me feel.” Once he gets the first song in place, he says: “I look at it like putting a puzzle together. I have that first piece and then I fill in the rest of the mix around it.”
He takes pride in his ability to mix things up:
“I’ve definitely been trying to showcase that I can do different genres and that it doesn’t matter if it’s dubstep, trap, hybrid, or weird bass or whatever they call it, or downtempo. I can do it and I can do it well and I want to show people that. I also don’t want people to expect the same thing from me all the time. … I want to do everything.”
When asked if he ever ran into legal issues due to his use of acapellas, remixes, and mashups on Soundcloud, he explained that his first Soundcloud account was just for fun: he was buying songs, downloading them, mashing them up and uploading them to share with the world, with no ill intent or profit motive. He uploaded a few mashed-up songs of a particular artist and explains the issues that came as a result:
“At my fault, I didn’t properly credit him or ask permission. He reported my songs and my Soundcloud ended up getting deleted. He had messaged me first and asked me politely to take everything down. I hadn’t logged into my Soundcloud and seen the message, so I think he thought I was ignoring him. I was totally in the wrong. It was my fault. It was a learning lesson. I lost my Soundcloud. I had a couple of thousand followers. It was a wakeup call to do things the right way and be more original. That’s really when I got serious about what I was making and the project that I’m doing and making my own music. It was a good thing.”
Since then, he’s rebuilt his Soundcloud account, having just surpassed 3,000 followers. On top of that, he’s performed a number of live shows in 2018, including his debut performance in a national park on a beach in San Francisco, accessible via a mile and a half hike through the woods, culminating in a large staircase that winds down to a secluded beachfront. His friends help organize renegade parties; this one featured sound equipment, DJ tables, bonfires, and a crowd of about 50 people. They upped the ante a few weeks later when Bassnectar came to town for his September 2018 Be Interactive Charity event. Conversano and friends returned to the same secluded beach, where he was able to perform in front of a crowd of about 200 people. This gave him the confidence to play more live shows. With the help of his girlfriend, he created an email alias and started reaching out to promoters, eventually getting booked for a show in Denver at Your Mom’s House. He explains his experience in Denver and how things capitulated from there:
“Actually I was the headliner and ended up selling it out, which was really cool to sellout my first headlining show and my first show at a venue. After that, I started getting a bunch of offers to play shows. I played 40oz Wonderland in Orlando, which was a music festival. Super cool. There were a lot of really awesome artists on the lineup, so being a part of that was great. I played the pre-party with Mr. Bill for Bassnectar New Year’s Eve in Greensboro and then a week later, turned around and flew back to Greensboro and played a show [Create 2 Year Anniversary] with TVBOO for the same promoter.”
He recently signed with A 40oz Collective, an independent label and collective based out of Orlando and has a mini tour scheduled for later in the spring with dates and locations yet to be announced. Prior to the tour, he will make an appearance at Bassnectar’s inaugural Deja Voom in Riveria Maya, Mexico, February 27-March 2, where he will have showcase his talents as one of twelve artists selected for the opportunity to perform an Open Decks slot. He will also be joining SoDown’s Motive Tour stop at Aisle 5 in Atlanta on April 6, 2019, alongside Dofex Bos and Homemade Spaceship.
He balances all his tour activity and producing in addition to his primary career (for now), where he works in digital advertising and marketing. When asked how he balances his professional career with his artistic ambitions, he responds:
“I just make time for myself. My girlfriend and I live together. She works a lot at a restaurant, so when she’s not home, I’m working on music. She works every Sunday so I work on my music for 8 hours. I get home from work at 6PM and sometimes I’ll just work the rest of the night on music. I just really have to fit it in where I can and when I can. … Sometimes I feel inspired at work, so I’ll write little notes down about things I’m thinking or songs that pop into my head. It’s definitely difficult but it’s necessary, because San Francisco is so expensive and I’m not to a point where I can afford to pay my bills off of music. But also it’s beneficial because I’m learning so much about digital advertising and marketing that I can use that to help market my art project Ravenscoon that I’m working on.”
After studying at college in South Carolina for his bachelor’s degree in marketing, his work with CBS Media Company resulted in a move to San Francisco, a change that he relished. He comments on how his experience in South Carolina was a difficult time for him and that he had always wanted to live in California, so when the opportunity to move there for work presented itself, he was onboard; the move “was definitely for work, but also like a spiritual thing.”
He describes the San Francisco arts scene as a great place to stay motivated and inspired, having met a number of like-minded people who balance professional careers while also sharing his affinity for the arts: everyone from graphic designers to event producers, painters, and fulltime artists.
“It’s just really inspiring and nice to be around people that are artistic and talented. And seeing the city—there’s so much art, there are murals all over the buildings everywhere, there are people playing music in the streets. Bands that tour all come through San Francisco because it’s a must-stop for everybody big and small. I’ve seen everybody from Korn to Mindset at Wormhole which is this small weekly bass music underground scene that’s in Oakland every Wednesday. … It pushes me to want to express everything that I’ve been feeling and drawing inspiration from.”
Conversano’s personal, professional, and artistic journey has brought him to a point of critical mass, where he’s ready to release his first EP of all original music: Beautiful Chaos. The EP consists of six songs, including two that have already been released as singles: Moon Theory, Accelerated Mortality, Broken Flowers, Beautiful Chaos, Slime Time, and Déjà Rêvé. He makes note of some of the tempos and styles of his songs: Slime Time is a slow 120 BPM “weird trappy bass” song, Accelerated Mortality is 175 BPM “halftime drum & bass with nasty growls,” Déjà Rêvé was inspired by his experience with dreams and night terrors as a child, and some of the other songs are slow and melodic 140 BPM dubstep tunes. With an opportunity to get an advance peek at his track “Moon Theory,” Conversano’s trance influence is clear: the track “starts off at 130 BPM with some arpeggios,” which give way to trance beats, eventually kicking up the tempo to 136 BPM and culminating in a melodic dubstep drop, with the remainder of the song weaving between trance and dubstep styles. The track feels like a nod to an earlier era of music, where juxtaposition of heavy and beautiful sonic exploration took precedence over the pressure of fan influence to create the loudest and heaviest noises possible.
Conversano works closely with his friend Ariel, a professional mixing and mastering engineer who is based out of Miami and goes by the name of Andrumeda Music. Conversano comments on his importance:
“He’s pretty much taught me everything I know about production. We’ve been going through the songs after I create them and the original idea is done. We break it down. He gives me feedback on the different sounds. Then he does the mastering work. … The mastering and mixing work that Ariel does is instrumental to me. I think everybody should have a great engineer that they work with.”
The EP is mostly finished, aside from some mastering work that still needs to be done. In addition to the music, each song has companion cover artwork that was created by Conversano’s friend Joe Hickey at DRIP Graphics. He originally planned to have separate artists create cover art for each track, but after Conversano got a look at some of DRIP’s designs, he liked them so much that he commissioned him to create cover art for each song, plus the album cover. In addition to the album cover, DRIP recently finished up the official Ravenscoon logo, which sports a pentagram overlaid with Baphomet—The Goat of Mendes, a nod to Conversano’s previously mentioned “morbid fascination.”
The official release date of the album is to be determined, but expected at the end of February. The Ravenscoon platform of choice is Soundcloud, however the album will be available on all major music platforms: Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, and approximately 50 other online music stores.
As the conversation with the mastermind behind Ravenscoon came to an end, he had these words to share: “If you like what I’m doing, tell your friends. I really appreciate everybody’s support so far. It’s just getting started. There’s so much more to come.”