From Julliard to EDC, Mako’s Journey from the French Horn to Dance Music

Violin solos and a live band is what Alex Seaver, Mako’s frontman, producer and songwriter, brings to electronic dance music.

Mako is a project that started in 2011, including Seaver and producer, Logan Light, who later decided to become a full-time lawyer, leaving Seaver to keep on with Mako as a solo project. Seaver talks about what he loves about music, how he was introduced into being a musician, and what has meant to him to become a soloist.

Seaver performing at the Lowbrow Palace in El Paso, TX. Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

Aimée Santillán: How do you describe the crowds that you have liked most?

Alex Seaver: It’s just the energy, like, if people are just there to enjoy music and be reactive, it’s really fun. And it doesn’t always scale to how many people there are, it could just be a small group that’s super excited. One of my favorites from our last tour was Montreal and that was like forty people there who were just so happy to listen to music, so it just made the whole thing fun.

Aimée: This is your first tour by yourself?

Alex: This is actually the second. I did, after we released “Hourglass”, I toured with the band, the same setup and Logan was already- he’s a lawyer now so he works in New York as a fulltime lawyer, so he joined us for like two or three shows but the whole tour was just me.

Aimée: And when was that?

Alex: That was last year during our Hourglass tour, so I think we hit the road probably this time last year.

Aimée: This tour he’s not going to join you?

Alex: He came for a couple of shows. He was in Michigan and he’ll be in New York with us because he lives out there. And Salt Lake City, he was with us.

Aimée: How would you describe the different feel from being a soloist now to when you were a duo?

Alex: I would say the biggest difference isn’t so much that I’m a single artist now versus a double, it’s more that I was DJ-ing and now I’m with a live band. That’s probably the biggest difference in and it’s like a whole other universe for me. I really like it. I love electronic music and I love DJ-ing, but when you’re DJ-ing you’re playing mostly other people’s music, it’s kinda more like a crazy party atmosphere and I probably like going to DJ shows more than I like playing them. I still love going to DJ shows but being in a band and singing just purely your own music, the words you wrote singing them to fans in the room with a band, two live musicians, making the sound in the room, so it’s just got a different energy to it. I really really like it.

Aimée: How would you describe your music? I know that you had a single out, ‘Breathe’, and you described it in your website as beautiful sounds; is that how you describe all your music?

Alex: I don’t know. I guess is kind of shifts. It’s a fusion between electronic, pop, cinematic movie music, and indie rock, so if we’re talking genres that’s what it’d be. I think definitely, like characteristically, for me, it has to have an emotional component. It’s generally quite melodic, so there’s gotta be a lot of beauty in it for me to want to release it. That’s why I probably don’t make a lot of aggressive music or make like super groovy music is that I also really love when it’s pulling at the heart strings. That’s probably a good way to describe it.

Aimée: And sound wise, what is beautiful to you?

Alex: Well, you mean sound as in what instruments you can play to be beautiful?

Aimée: Yeah.

Alex: A lot of things can be beautiful. I find electronic music very beautiful in an epic kind of way. Electronic music is generally not so subtle, it’s quite loud and present. The orchestra is probably my favorite ensemble for beauty. I mean all the way through college I was a classical music freak so just listening to Ravel, Debussy, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, any of those composers that are just so beautiful to listen to. And I find a lot of indie rock really beautiful. There’s something about the style of singing in indie rock that portrays a lot of personality and authenticity that I really like so I listen to a lot of bands to try to reference singing.  And I love progressive house, when Logan first introduced me it was like Swedish House Mafia and Alesso and Avici and I found all of it to be really beautiful and melodic.

Aimée: What would be your favorite classical music composers?

Alex: Probably, Gustav Mahler. He’s an Austrian guy. I was a French Horn player and he wrote really epic French horn parts that I really liked. So, Mahler is one of my favorite composers, but there’s a couple of other French composers that made music during the Impressionist era that I just fall in love with. So Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel are two guys that I also really love a lot. There’s so much great classical music but I think those three probably have stuck with me the most.

Aimée: And what about indie rock musicians?

Alex: I really love bands like Radiohead, bands like Sigur Ros, M83; I like a lot of that kind of cool textural stuff that incorporates a lot of beauty with a traditional ensemble. I like those bands too ‘cause they are kind of split between two electronics and band. I think just electronic music connects something so interesting and then pairing that with organic instruments is really cool and that’s probably what our album ‘Hourglass’ is kind of an even split between organic instruments and electronics so a lot of inspiration from those guys.

Aimée: And how would you compare electronic music and organic music?

Alex: Well, I mean, by definition, electronic music is synthetic, it’s not created from a real instrument, it can be created from an analog synthesizer which is in some sense an organic instrument but kind of corrected on the computer so it’s mathematically perfect, it’s in time =, intonation is always exactly the same, rhythms are very put together in sort of not a live atmosphere in a way a band would go into the studio and record themselves. Electronic piece of music can just be made by one guy in a studio over the course of a year. I mean I’ve worked on a song for a year before just changing little sounds, tweaking knobs and everything like that. I think that when I’m talking about organic, I’m talking about guitar, violin, piano, things that you would see performed live as much as you would hear them recorded.

Aimée: But how would you compare it in the feels it creates?

Alex: Yeah, there is something unusually beautiful about electronic music, it’s why we love Daft Punk and Porter Robinson and all those guys. I mean I can’t really describe it, but when you hear really cool electronic music it reaches out at you in a way that organic music doesn’t, but organic music does so much that electronic can’t do and I think something about just like having or maybe it’s a lot of us just growing up on videogames the way we did it, our generation were hearing so many synth melodies and all that stuff, it just has personality and nostalgia to it that really connects with us. Then also just tonally like every note is exactly in tune so there’s a beauty to the perfection, it’s kind of like why we like Bach, it’s just so mathematical sounding and electronic music feels like that to me. I think that it could be very different for other people, I don’t think this is universal, whereas organic music is imperfect, every single note you hit is a different volume than the last one, you can never truly recreate a thing, it’s always going to be slightly different and that is just so human. There is something just so human about that. I think when you’ve got the two together, for me, I just really get inspired, it’s like the best combination of things.

Aimée: How were you introduced to music?

Alex: I picked up a trumpet in middle school because my middle school band, or my middle school curriculum was like, take a bunch of boring classes or join the band, and, so I didn’t even play music or think about it I was just like I’d rather just pick an instrument and figure it out. I think something just clicked, we all have things that are just easier than other things, I am terrible at math and science and am generally a pretty dumb person, and then the second I have an instrument like I feel in control and it just spoke to me immediately and I think I just rather than think about it I just follow that kind of natural thing until I, all of a sudden, realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I kind of discovered it on my own, I didn’t have anyone who just showed me cool stuff, I just kind of, we all have the internet growing up so I just started going crazy listening to one piece which led me to another and this composer and then that producer and it just kind of happened.

Aimée: How did you decide to do it as a career and become a musician?

Alex: Well, I went to school to be a French horn player, so I went to the conservatory in New York called Julliard and at a school like that you kind of only go if you’re going to be a musician, you can’t really go and be an accountant or work in business, they only have one thing you focus on and I think halfway to high school I just realized this is clearly my passion, this is the one thing I need to do and so I just followed it to school. And then the interesting journey was going from French horn to electronic music, which is not as smooth of a Segway, but I met Logan when I moved to Los Angeles after college. He took me to see the Electric Daisy Carnival. Somehow listening to all these Dj’s spoke to me as much as French horn did and it’s all music so I just felt really comfortable even though the genres are so different, but something about it just made sense to me, kind of like speaking several languages. When you hear music it kind of feels like, OK I get all this, none of its foreign it’s just right there. And I’ve just been in this space ever since, switching between genres is one of my favorite things.

Aimée: You recently did a single with two bands, Illesium and Kill the Noise, what was that experience like?

Alex: It was cool. I think it was a little different than a lot of other collaborations, it was kind of just an internet thing. Millennium hit me up maybe two or three months ago and said “hey do you wanna work together” and I was like “sure”. So if I had anything I was working on to send it over and I sent them a couple of songs and he immediately gravitated towards the one we released called ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ and it’s just my voice with a vocoder, it wasn’t really instrumental and a couple of months later he hit me up and said “Hey I’ve been working on the track with Kill the Noise, what do you think?” And it was what it was which is just great so it was very impersonal, it was just passing files around which is kind of how a lot of electronic music collaborations happen, because we’re all in different cities all the time, but I’ve never met any of those guys and we have a track together, it’s kind of unique to this era.

Aimée: Your last album was in 2017 right? Are you working on anything else?

Alex: Yeah, I’m working on another one right now.

Aimée: When do you plan on releasing it?

Alex: Really just as soon as I can finish it and I’m very slow. I really am like a perfectionist, so it takes me a long time, especially a ten track album is just such a commitment. I’ve got a lot of cool ideas that I’m excited about, but I’m hoping it’ll be amazing if in 2018 I can release another album, that’ll be the goal, I’ll strive for that, but you never know it can take a little longer.

By Aimée Santillán

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