"Music is my best friend." Interview with psychic electronic funk artist Salami Rose Joe Louis
Ahead of their live performance with Mejiwahn at Public Works, the Bay Area producer discusses their relationship to music, the upcoming album, and more
Just like there are icons in the mainstream, there are icons in the underground. For the Bay Area, one of these is Salami Rose Joe Louis. Originally from Crockett in Contra Costa County, the songwriter and producer has by now released several years of celebrated psychedelic, downtempo, electronic funk and established relationships with many of the best west coast crews, including Hot Record Societe, SMARTBOMB, and Brainfeeder—the LA label founded by Flying Lotus. We’re honored to have Salami Rose Joe Louis playing White Crate’s first live music showcase at Public Works on Thu Sep 29. Ahead of that show, we connected with the artist to discuss her formative years of music appreciation, the upcoming project, and more.
How did your relationship to music first start?
The first time I can remember falling head over heels for a song was when I was around 5 or 6, I was driving with my Aunt and Bob Marley came on the radio, and a whole universe of feeling and stories opened up in that car. My aunt was kind enough to get me a Bob Marley CD for my birthday and after that collecting CD’s for my Walkman became quite an obsession. My dad had a lot of amazing Zappa, Hendrix, and Herbie records too that were in heavy rotation and were very foundational. I think I was a music appreciator and deep lover of music first, before ever making music. As a kid, I always had the walkman on at school, in between classes, etc.
I didn’t start playing music until my mid/late teens. My first foray into music making was playing a blender (the household appliance) in a punk band. After high school, I got very deep and heavy into piano. And a couple years later into production. It became an enormous obsession, and I don’t think I ever recovered from this obsession. Oftentimes I will catch myself saying “music is my best friend” hahaha. I am working toward finding balance with it. However, I am very grateful I spent so many years as purely a music lover and appreciator first, before becoming a music maker, because I think having a foundation built around awe and love for music, and listening to so many genres and feels, has helped me immensely as a composer and producer. And I try to remind myself to be a listener first and hold the awe for music forever close to my heart.
Tell us about your most recent project.
I just finished my next record. It will be coming out next year. I am so so so excited about it. My hope for this project is to provide the landscape for discussion and thought about how to emotionally, societally, and spiritually grapple with a changing climate and world. It explores humans relationships to one another, to technology, to plants and symbiotic ecosystems. Some of the songs are songs of mourning, some ask questions.
We live in very intense times, times where all of the sci-fi stories of our childhood are coming to life and I felt like I wanted to provide a sonic landscape to collectively grieve, explore ideas, and hopefully come out with a renewed sense of hope. On a music level this record was so fun for me because I was able to collaborate with many of my favorite musicians (and also visual artists!). I truly can’t wait for y’all to hear it!
How do you know Mejiwahn, and what do you like best about their work?
To keep it 100 percent, Mejiwahn is probably the reason I do music. I've had the honor of being his friend for the last decade and back when I was working in labs, he persistently encouraged me to release my solo songs on cassette with his label, Hot Record Societe. At the time, most people I had shown my music to had told me it was too weird and lo-fi. Mejiwahn my only champion, he was so encouraging and supportive from the jump. I am forever grateful for his support and belief in me. Over the years he has been such a kind and giving friend, always sending me incredible tunes for inspiration, putting me on to Litto Nebbia, inspiring me with his endless curiosity and creativity.
I love that Jamie is able to create such a depth of feeling with his music. Every time I play his music, I feel like I am transported instantly into a magical world of healing and calm. It is a testament to his kind heart that the music is like a warm musical hug. I am beyond excited to do this show with him!
How does the Bay Area influence you or the music you make?
Moving to the Bay Area was like being accepted into a school of great thinkers, philosophers, artists, poets, and musicians. Through my good friends Cheflee and Mejiwahn, I was introduced into the Smartbomb community. There I met so many creatives and experimental dreamers, artists with such a willingness and enthusiasm to explore experimental sonics together, a space so open to hosting such exploration, and a community so receptive and supportive. Spaces like these provide the foundation for the growth of ideas and collaboration. I would not be the musician I am today if it wasn't for the people I have met up here and the spaces that have nurtured me. There is a genuinity in the music and art scene that is incredibly rare and an intention in community building that is so beautiful.
What music (songs, albums, or artists) have you been listening to the most recently?
Recently some friends have introduced me to some really special artists such as Oskar Sala, Ursula Bogner, and other experimental synth players. I also am forever getting beautiful recommendations from Mejiwahn in the realm of Egberto Gismonti, Litto Nebbia, and Rodolfo Alchourron. My go-to album this summer, which I bumped maybe 1,000 times to be precise, was a return to the legendary Olesi: Fragments of an Earth record by the greatest of all time, Georgia Anne Muldrow.
Any Bay Area artists you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I dream of making a record with Dakim. I would love to work with Sandra Lawson-Ndu and Jada Imani. I also would love to do something with Mejiwahn and Asonic Garcia.
Any great shows you’ve seen recently or have tickets for that you’re excited about?
I recently got to see a very very special show in San Diego. Flying Lotus, Hiatus Kaiyote, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Niki Randa, and the San Diego Symphony. It was absolutely breathtaking and magical. I also was fortunate to catch Charles Hayward in London. He performed an experimental solo set and it was very very inspiring. I was hoping to catch Cortex in Los Angeles, but sadly the tickets are sold out.