In the week leading up to this past Valentine’s Day, I set up an interview with Big Gigantic to talk about their new album, ‘The Night is Young,’ ahead of their tour and their show that night at the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis. Jeremy got stuck in traffic with JMac/Manic Focus on their way back from sightseeing and a ticket giveaway at Legoland in the Mall of America, so it wound up being a one-on-one interview with Dominic Lalli.
I got stuck as well when all my coworkers left early or called in sick, so I had to scramble to find a replacement to cover the interview. Then I realized it was February 14th and knew I only had to ask one person.
I’m sure the last thing my girlfriend expected to receive on Valentine’s Day was a meeting with Dominic Lalli, but when five o’clock rolled around, there she was all the same, face to face with Dom in the green room at Skyway Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
ElectroJams: Thanks for making time for us. We’re huge fans of you guys, and the new album. I’m also personally a big fan, and I’ve seen you about twelve times.
Dominic Lalli: You have? No way! That’s fucking awesome, thank you.
EJ: Yeah, so this is pretty awesome, kind of like a Valentine’s Day gift, I guess.
DL: Yeah! (laughs)
EJ: So, this is the 5th disc. What’s new? What’s different from “Nocturnal”?
DL: Yeah, so it’s like the latest descendent of Nocturnal, it’s a continuation, and I think we did a good job, sort of building off of that. Although I think on the new album I really wanted to go someplace new. Just in terms of chords, the whole presentation of it. Just something a little lighter, a little fresher, where maybe Nocturnal was a little a darker, and we even moved key centers up, and did things to make it seem a little brighter.
On top of that, kind of doing some things we’ve done and also doing stuff we’ve never done. So it’s kind of like putting our sound in a different setting.
So with this one, we did this track with Cherub, ‘The Night is Young,’ we’ve really never done a vocal thing like that, and on top of that, doing something like that dance tempo, we’ve never done that.
Even with Shooting Stars, the last one, is something really chilled out, which we’ve kind of done a little bit, but we haven’t done it quite like that. I think it’s kind of our thing, yet trying to push our boundaries a bit and trying to grow as a band, as musicians and songwriters.
EJ: Would you say “The Night is Young” is a collection of songs, or is there a common theme or story you’re trying to tell with it?
You know, we’re always kind of trying to tell a story with it. But at the same time, especially when you’re writing instrumental music, conveying a general theme is a lot harder because there’s nobody saying, “The night is young, I’m happy, we’re having a great time!” You have to go like, how do you say you’re happy and you’re having a great time without words? It’s a little easier said than done in terms of putting a generally large theme over something.
How it happened was I finished Touch the Sky, I kind of had sketches of a bunch of different stuff, but “Touch the Sky” was the first song that got done, then “The Night is Young,” and those are two pretty different kinds of songs, and then “Blue Dream” was kind of already there, so I had those and I was kind of like, “What else do I need?” And I’m like, okay, I want this, I want this and you kind of fill the rest of it out.
So as much as it’s like “We’re going to make an album about this,” and then start writing for it, it doesn’t always…ideally if I was at home more, and I could take like a month and be like, “I’m going to go to a fucking log cabin, and like work on ideas and write these things about this and like live this life that this album is gonna portray,” kind of a thing, then we could do it like that. But you know, it’s hard to find the time with our busy schedule be able to take a whole, whatever, month.
EJ: Yeah, you guys are touring fools!
DL: (laughs) Yeah.
EJ: In terms of recording, do you guys have your own studio, do you work in other people’s studios, do you record while on the road on the bus?
A little bit, a little bit of all of that. Mostly just at a home studio, I’ve got just some speakers and stuff and I record all that stuff there, very simply. I sit in this chair, I work at my computer, and when I record sax, I move the chair out of the way (stands up and mimics kicking his chair aside and playing his sax) and I have to get something to sort of block the sounds so it dampens the sound a little bit, so I’ll throw my jacket over the chair and just play into the chair.
EJ: I’m a violinist, so I definitely know about that. I don’t record, but sometimes you definitely have to dampen the sound. So, kind of shifting gears, you and Jeremy have been playing together for quite a while now. You’ve dabbled in different collaborations, you’ve got the Gigantic Underground Conspiracy, Big Grizmatik, have you guys considered a third member? You know, I hear Murph is available…
DL: (laughs) I know, right? But yeah, we get that question fairly often, and you know, we could literally do anything, but I think I’d like to the keep the band as it is, you know? I don’t want to mess with anything that doesn’t have to be messed with. But we love collabin’ with people, whether it be like one person like Murph and we’ve done a number of things with him, just to do some special stuff, and other gigs like that. But for now, we’ll just keep the duo thing rolling. But you never know, side projects are always fun.
EJ: Absolutely. Having studied classical music, having your Master’s from the Manhattan School of Music. Is there a specific concert, album or moment that kind of shifted you towards electronic music in your background? Was there a moment where you were like, “I want to try this.”?
DL: It was more like a time period. Before I started Big G, I was playing in this band The Motet out of Colorado, and we were playing Afrobeat music, which is like boom-boom-boom, it’s like House music with African shit, like horns, you know, just like dance music is. I was listening to, like, stuff like the Brazilian Girls, Radiohead and bands using electronic-y sounds. So we started doing shit where we’d do this whole Afrobeat tune and in the middle, we’d just be like, okay, everything’s open, let’s just like, jam, but electronic shit. Just like build it, and this when jam music was still real prevalent. Anyway, that was kind of the moment where I was like, there’s a lot here that can be done, you know? And I’d be sitting in with DJ’s that would come into town, just jamming out with them, and I was jamming out with Sound Tribe.
EJ: Is there anyone that kind of stands out?
DL: There was this band called the Pnuma Trio that we were hanging out with a bunch. I don’t know if you know Paper Diamond, but he was a main guy in Pnuma Trio, and we were hanging with them a bit, sitting in and learning, and at a certain point I was like, “Okay, I think I know what I need to do to make this start happening.” And then I started making a bunch of songs, and then we started getting gigs, and we didn’t have an album out. So that’s why I put out “Fire it Up,” because it was all the songs I’d made up until that point, and none of them had sax on it, but it was like, well shit, we’d better do something because we don’t have anything out, you know? So I put them all out, made them the best I could, and put ‘em out.
Then, we did “Wide Awake,” it was like, “Okay, I don’t even know how this is going to work.” And we just did it, because nobody had done that kind of thing, so we were just trying it out. And we just keep trying to refine it, to find and develop our sound to get it how we envisioned it.
EJ: For someone listening to Big G and wants to venture into the world of saxophone, where would you have them start, or is there an album where if you’re into sax, this is what you should do?
DL: You know, there’s a lot of different avenues, there’s the James Brown and Maceo Parker-like funk kind of stuff, there’s this band called Tower of Power that did a lot of funky horns. Fela Kuti does another Afrobeat thing with saxophone. There’s some other guys, Joshua Redman is a great saxophone player doing some more funk stuff, but jazz stuff too. Then there’s the old school greats like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, that stuff’s timeless jazz saxophone music, those guys really are the kings.
EJ: What is your first recollection of a rage stick? What is your most memorable staff? Do you love them or hate them?
DL: Probably Camp Bisco would be my first recollection of a rage stick. I think they’re cool from where we’re at, but I see people online, being like, “Get your rage stick out of here, I can’t see shit!” (laughs)
EJ: Yeah, but they’re so fun to dance with!
DL: But yeah, I love em. I like it when people put up funny signs.
EJ: Well, it was great to meet you, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
DL: No problem, thank you so much.
For a good-looking, successful musician, it could be very easy to nurture a large ego, but Dom remains firmly grounded and genuine. When he talks about music, his enthusiasm and passion are immediately apparent. Dom and Jeremy have come a long way musically and personally, and neither seem to have intentions of slowing down any time soon.
Catch Big Gigantic on tour this winter and watch for them later in the festival circuit, where they’ve already booked Coachella and Firefly. Take it from somebody in the unofficial Big Gigantic Dirty Dozen club, these guys throw down hard live and get everybody on their feet, and hands high.
Special thanks to Cassidy Gardenier for rescuing this interview.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.