Elektro Exclusive: Interview with GTA
We met up with Matthew van Toth and Julio Mejia, better known to you as GTA, while they were on tour with Rihanna to talk about their experience with the pop superstar, their signature sounds, and all things GTA. Check out our exclusive interview below, along with their gritty new remix of Kaskade’s tour anthem, “Atmosphere” available on Beatport
You guys opened for Rihanna on the European leg of her Diamonds Tour. How did the tour treat you guys?
GTA: Pretty good. We did about two months. We ended on the 29th
How’s the road treating you guys?
It was alright, we had to get used to it. Traveling in a van with all our furniture haha It was a pretty cool experience. We just took in all the sites so it was pretty cool.
Where were you guys musically before you met one another? What kind of sounds were making?
GTA: Me (Matt), I was pretty much was still learning how to make tech house and tribal house, stuff like that. I played guitar all through high school and I wanted to record myself. I wasn’t in a band or anything. I ended up going to Ultra for the first time in 2008 or so and saw Benny Benassi play and he killed it. That really inspired me to really get into four-four beats electronic music and pure craziness. And for me I used to be in band since middle school up until college. Then I decided to try out producing out for a bit after a friend recommended a program to me. I had fun making little rap beats and then that was basically how I got into producing. Then after I met Matt he was teaching me how to make electronic music. I basically got into everything we’re making now through what Matt taught and I was able to just pick and choose whatever I wanted to make.
You guys met through social media. Were you both in Miami in the time? How did it end up working so well?
GTA: We were both born and raised in Miami. We met through a mutual friend who also live in Miami. We ended up meeting up with each other and making music. It’s very convenient for us to work when we’re back home cause all our stuff is there. We actually live 10 minutes away from each other which is really awesome. It’s pretty easy for us to communicate and keep in touch with each other.
How’d you form your signature GTA sound?
GTA: I think the thing we’ve always known is that we both like everything… and by everything we do mean everything. One time Julio and I literally made a salsa song out of nowhere. Any kind of sound or genre we make is Latin-influenced I guess cause of our background in Miami. A lot of our sound has a lot of tribal drums and real Latin sounds. I’d say those sounds stick out and then we just try to bring in every other sound into that.
In a world where everyone’s a DJ, how to do think you were able to break out?
A lot of the stuff we do is everywhere. We try to make everything that appeals to DJs, vocalists, or just people who like music in general. The cool thing about that is that we can make any genre. We can have anyone from Diplo to Kaskade play our shit. We’re just making whatever we want. A lot of DJs in Miami feel like that they have to do whatever is popular to get noticed. For us, we do just do whatever we want. You have to make music you like to make and keep an open mind. It’s really just about making music people enjoy. And for us it’s just so happens that it’s music people like.
Can you tell us how you mix open format when you guys perform?
GTA: We read the crowd a lot and have an extensive amount of music on us. We try to keep an open ear to what people like and get to know the area we’re playing, especially in the States with the East and West Coast. We do our research and talk to other DJs from other areas and make it work. We play a lot of our stuff and that can be a little bit of everything [genre-wise]. But then some other stuff might work here where it won’t work there.
You guys played to thousands of people on tour with Rihanna. What has that taught you about crowds and playing for them?
It’s been like learning how to ride a bike again. It took a lot of getting used to. We had never been close to having that amount of people in one room. It’d be on average 20,000 people. To get that many people into it at a Rihanna concert, where it’s a pop crowd that’s not there to see you, was tough. We’re used to playing club sets. But over the tour we learned. WE smashed pop vocals over clubby tracks. We’d get a Britney Spears track or Calvin Harris track and then put it over a track we would play at a club. Our main goal was basically to turn an entire arena into a club and have that party vibe. It really worked for us. It was different, but we adjusted. We get new tracks every day, too. So we mix that in and bring in new sounds you wouldn’t have heard if you weren’t there.
What do you look forward to taking from the experience and applying to whatever you do after the tour?
GTA: Working on new music was hard for us to do on tour. For us now, we pay a lot more attention to detail in terms of how we read crowds. It’s a lot more accurate. The crowds in Europe are diverse; you can be two hours away from another city and the crowd’s response can be completely different. In the States it’s a different animal. You can kind of guess “Oh this song will go off” cause everyone knows this song. Another thing we took away from it was getting more involved with crowd interaction. Before the tour we’d dance a little but not a lot. Now I think we’ve gotten more confident and want everyone to come up with us and dance around. We get on the mic a bit more now.