Rock, punk, pop, electronic… Does it really even matter? Not in the opinion of James Guttman, the multi-talented singer, songwriter, and producer who has arrived with his new project HIGHSOCIETY. Guttman initially found his footing as a musician doing more traditional rock n’ roll, but his interests and musical goals began to change, which led him now to the more explosive, EDM sound you hear with HIGHSOCIETY. Combining stadium-sized bass, heavy metal-influenced dubstep, and red-hot trap, Guttman very capably mashes up various musical styles and makes them coexist in perfect harmony.
You’ll get a load of what we’re talking about with the brand new single “Going Under,” just released via FiXT Music. The song features another former rock guy who has found success in electronic music, Micah Martin. Martin is well known for being the lead singer of the rock band The Zealots. What made this collaboration such a no-brainer is that both Martin and Guttman share very similar musical backgrounds and interests, but they also share a lot in common regarding what they want to get out of a song. “Going Under” combines metalcore, dubstep, and rock overtones to create a truly memorable track that goes above and beyond anything you’ll hear in a rock, metal, or EDM song.
Joining us today is James Guttman, aka HIGHSOCIETY, to discuss his unique musical style, his creative process, the new single “Going Under,” what artists he’d like to work with, and more.
How would you describe your own music?
James Guttman: “I coined my own style, ‘DATAMOSH,’ as a way to encapsulate my sound in a concise way. My music is the ultimate fusion of rock energy with a bass-heavy electronic foundation. It pushes at the boundaries of rock, dubstep, industrial, metalcore, and futuristic EDM. In any given song of mine, you’re likely to hear insane electronic sound design blended together with heavy guitars, screamed vocals, and glitchy textures. I think it’s pretty unique!”
How would you describe your creative process?
“This has changed a lot for me over the years, but as my career has progressed and things have gotten more serious, it almost entirely revolves around discipline. I don’t rely on ‘inspiration’ at all. I wake up extremely early in the morning and force myself to get into the studio at the same time every day. Just by getting into the room in a consistent fashion, ideas begin to flow, and I hit a creative rhythm relatively easily most days.
“Outside of the studio, I keep notes and folders of things I see/hear that could be incorporated during the previously mentioned deep focus time. If I ever hit a creative wall, it’s good to have a bucket of references to pull ideas from.”
Tell us about the new single “Going Under.” What was your experience of making it? What went on behind the scenes? Any notable moments that stand out?
“I had originally written the ‘Going Under’ instrumental for another artist, but the collaboration didn’t end up happening. I had been familiar with Micah Martin’s work for a long time, as he’s collaborated with a number of bigger producers in electronic music. I reached out to him about potentially hopping on the song, and we had a quick phone call. We talked about our shared love for rock/metal and fusing genres together, and I knew he was the right guy for the job. I was blown away with what he sent back, he recorded some incredible vocals in a single day, and I barely had any notes/changes. His larger-than-life vocal delivery was the perfect fit for the song.
“To round it out, I enlisted my friend Brian Skeel of Void Chapter (another FiXT artist) to throw down some guitars on top of the whole song to make it a bit more rock-leaning and fill it out.”
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
“Generally, I’m looking to collaborate with big rock artists or other electronic artists that blend in rock elements. Some artists I think I’d work well with are: We Came As Romans, Motionless In White, Sullivan King, and PhaseOne. I like to collaborate with artists that can bring something different to the table so we can get unique results by working together.”
What’s the best criticism you’ve ever received about your music or performance?
“Some of the best criticism I received early on was that I was throwing way too many different sounds/elements into my tunes. As a younger producer, I always thought ‘more was more,’ and it led to my songs being a bit jumbled and lacking a cohesive, clear vision.
“As my songwriting has progressed, I’ve taken the approach of having just a few extremely well-designed elements working together. It makes the song more memorable, and it’s easier to get high-quality mixes/masters with fewer elements.”
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
“I suppose this is more of an observation about society as a whole that also affects the music industry, but the role of social media. I am not anti-social media by any means, but I am concerned and apprehensive about what it is turning into and the impact it is having on art and artist mental health. I am extremely grateful for how social media allows me to connect with my audience on a personal level as well as promote my music. But the same platforms that allow this can create a sense of pressure to constantly produce content and maintain an online presence, which can lead to burnout and exhaustion.
“In some ways, I feel that considering ‘what will perform well’ online is antithetical to making great art that stands the test of time and, most importantly, provides fulfillment for the artist making it.”
Do you have any touring plans coming up?
“I’ll be playing live all over this year! Right now, I’ve got a handful of fly-out dates announced in Detroit, Cleveland, Phoenix, and St. Louis. But I’ll be locking in a bunch more dates as the year progresses, hitting a bunch of cities I’ve never played before and potentially returning to Europe for some shows toward the end of the year.”
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
“One that comes to mind is releasing my last single, ‘Burn’ with Craig Mabbitt of Escape The Fate. I have been listening to Craig’s work in Escape The Fate (and his previous bands, Bless The Fall and The Word Alive) for over 15 years, and he’s one of my all-time favourite singers. It’s been a bit surreal to work on a song with him and become friends. That track was my first true rock/electronic hybrid release, which was a very challenging and ultimately rewarding creative process.”
Politics and Music. Yay, Nay or What the Hay?
“Absolutely! Music has a long history of being used as a tool for social and political change. It is easy to forget that we are not just entertainers; we have a fundamental right to engage in politics. I would encourage anyone who thinks music and politics shouldn’t go together to dig a bit deeper into their favourite artists; chances are they have strong political views and use their platform to promote those views.”
How did you link up with the label for this release, and what about them was attractive enough to make you sign?
“I had been working with FiXT for a year or so, releasing one-off singles and remixes for their roster artists. I was actually pretty familiar with the label already because I have been a fan of the founder/owner Celldweller’s music since I was a teenager. As I started getting more into the idea of fusing rock and EDM together, signing with them was a clear choice as they’re pioneers in the rock/electronic hybrid genre. This latest release, ‘Going Under,’ is track #2 from my forthcoming album, so it’s really just the beginning of our working relationship, but things have been going great so far. Shoutout to the FiXT team!”