We’ve had a chance to interview one of the most interesting musicians so far, DJ Trotsky, and talk about his new release “God will you say if you still love me” and much more.
In this fiery era of unrest, uncertainty, and existential pandemic-lockdown angst, LA-based producer and songwriter, DJ Trotsky, asks the heavens for a spiritual response with his latest single, “God will you say if you still love me”
Trotsky sends his musings skyward with crunchy guitars, thick distorted bass, hefty hooks, synthy-looped beats, and electro-ambient textures. The track’s adventurously futuristic vibe lends it a vulnerable immediacy that recalls the pop production-forward sensibility of artists like Grimes, Chvrches, and Crystal Castles—artists who make grand emotional overtures utilizing cutting edge production within catchy songs.
Perhaps, it was a case of ironic divine inspiration, but Trotsky woke up one morning with the song’s intriguing vocal melody and the lyrics: God will you say if you still love me/Even though we disagree on/Some important topics now and then. Twenty minutes and a double espresso later, he completed the lyrics. However, Trotsky spent weeks contemplating the song’s intention and tone and, ultimately, it’s meaning.
“In the moment I wrote it, I felt like it was coming from a sarcastic, cynical, ironic place, addressing the Creator of the Universe with lyrics like if you’ve got the time, you can sing along,” Trotsky reveals. “As I shared the song with people, I got extremely strong responses. People took it as sincere, and that had me questioning my perspective on it.”
The song’s “why have you forsaken me” questioning reminded Trotsky of hearing author and spiritual sage Marianne Williamson describe how “sometimes we wonder if God lost our file.”
It also recalls powerfully confrontational sonic statements such as XTC’s “Dear God,” The Roots “Dear God 2.0,” and Vampire Weekend’s “Ya Hey.”
Trotsky’s singing, and his words on “God will you say if you still love me,” are full-spectrum emotional. Here, his vocals here are impassioned but weary, conjuring hope, resignation, and anger as he navigates the turbulently expressive passages.
He wrestles with God boldly with such lines as: Yes, I know it’s so important to keep a little distance to keep a mystery . . . I know and you don’t speak directly except to certain interested parties who have taken on the task.
He is ambiguously sincere during moments like: and I know you can see me watching from above but I don’t understand the way you show your love. Trotsky also gets playfully irreverent with lines such as: and I hope you can hear me the words to this song if you’ve got the time you can sing along.
The production aesthetic of “God will you say if you still love me” represents an intriguing entry in Trotsky’s artistic continuum. It’s an organic mashup of DJ Trotsky’s roots as rock bassist and guitarist with his emergence as an electronic producer and writer with a gift for pop songcraft.
Lisa: What is a mission of DJ Trotsky?
DJ Trotsky: Hi, thanks for these great questions. My mission is to create a world of emotional authenticity through music, creativity and coaching. In my music creation I’m looking to combine all forms of music that I enjoy. Combining traditional acoustic instrument with electronics. Classic pop sounds with contemporary pop.
Music for listening, for dancing, for thinking, for touching. As I have explored electronic music around the world I’m fascinated to see the way different sounds and genres have traveled and been transformed. And how traditional forms blend with the new forms. And since my main interests as an artist are around lyrics, words, melodies I’m particularly interested in exploring how to add lyrics and melody to electronic music.
Lisa: You have an old school vibe, and I love it. But the sound is very unique. How would you describe your music to people?
DJ Trotsky: The truth is it’s hard to describe. Partly because I have so many styles and sounds inside me and each song borrows a few genres from my inner encyclopedia of sounds and influences. Some are so embedded in me that I can’t even hear or identify them. Then someone else calls out what is now obvious.
I definitely come from a rock vibe and am influenced by guitar-based music and I have played in and produced many rock bands. But I’ve searched out the rock- based artists who are embracing electronic and loop elements without apology.
Though I often think I’m sounding so modern, the old school vibe always shows through.
Lisa: How did it all start for you in the world of music, and who were your early influences?
DJ Trotsky: Growing up my parents loved all sorts of music. Jazz, opera, showtunes, blues. Folk. Calypso, as well as the early classic rock bands, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who.
I took piano lessons as a kid, then switched to trumpet in school, then sold my trumpet and bought my first bass amp because by then I had taught myself to play bass and was in band with friends who lived across the street.
And growing up in NY and NJ there was great radio everywhere. From the NYC pop and rock stations to the Philadelphia Motown and Soul stations.
And living near NYC, my parents took me into the City to see Broadway shows, movies, concerts, and all sorts of great culture.
View this post on Instagram
Lisa: Your latest single “god will you say if you still love me” is amazing. And you say, while writing the song, you’ve asked the heavens for a spiritual response. I love that idea, and it makes me wonder are all great songs a response from divine entity? And tell us a bit more about the song please.
DJ Trotsky: Thank you! During the summer of 2020, while the pandemic raged, protests were in the streets, and the lunatic in white house lied and tweeted . . . America was in a bad place. For many of us we had to question the nature of the country that we lived in. Is this a democracy? Is our health care system able to keep us safe? Can the police and government be trusted?
One morning, this song burst forth quickly. I heard the first line and melody while still lying in bed. I knew it was something special so I ran to find my phone to sing it into the recorder so I wouldn’t forget.
My initial feeling about the words that were pouring out (especially after my morning espresso) was that it was making fun of anyone who could believe in a higher power, divine being, or other unifying force of the universe. I was expressing sadness, anger, sarcasm and more towards the so-called “creator” who may or may not have been keeping watch.
The song was very much my intuitive response to the situation I felt America to be in. I was sad, angry, and sarcastic. Then I shared the song with others, including a songwriter friend who is a pastor. He suggested that the song fit into the category of “angry with god” songs. Or questioning the reality or integrity of god. Another friend said “this is like a garage rock version of ‘Song of Job.’”
So . . . my divine process in this song was . . . not to overthink it. Be true to the original intuitive impulse. Do my best to honor the flash of inspiration and stay true to that impulse. Let it out. Move fast. Be unattached.
Lisa: What types of change do you feel your music can initiate?
DJ Trotsky: The great poet and teacher David Whyte says this: “Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.” So to me, that means . . . music helps us realize our emotions. And let out our emotions. And the words trigger ideas, and the sounds and rhythms have their own interpretation of the words.
And in general music helps us feel. And get out of our heads. And helps us remember that nature exists. Beauty exists. Love exists. And maybe on a good day. . . that a god of some sort exists.
Lisa: How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
DJ Trotsky: I don’t take a lot of pictures during the creation process but . . . I immediately sang the melody into my phone. Then made an espresso. Then dictated and typed the lyrics into my phone. Then wrote a sort of gentle drum program. Then found a more complex, active drum loop that moved my body differently. Then I plugged in my bass and played along while figuring out my part.
Then cranked up the distortion in the bass . . . which seemed to express the anger and frustration in the song. When I had a version with lyrics and vocals I sent an mp3 to some friends of first rough mixes . . . always with the headline “so I wrote the crazy song.” They were very enthusiastic. I heard a lot of “don’t change a word!”
Lisa: Describe your approach to recording.
DJ Trotsky: Most songs come to me with either a melody or a bassline or lyric idea. I sing them into my phone as quickly as possible so I don’t lose the germ of the idea. Then I know I can come back to it. By the time I open up my Ableton software I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what sounds I’m hearing in my head.
Then, even though I’m primarily and guitar and bass person, I play the part on my synth, because I know I’ll probably be changing the key or tempo and that makes it easier if it’s all in midi on the computer. But the problem there is then I have to go scrolling through lots of bass sounds or piano sounds or synth sounds. . . which is incredibly frustrating . . . or more specifically . . . distracting. Because scrolling through sounds each sound sometimes suggests a new song idea . . . but I’m already in the middle of one song. Let me finish this one please!
Lisa: What non-musical entities and ideas have impacted your music?
DJ Trotsky: In a past life I worked in the film and tv industry and for a long time my goal and dream were to write and direct movies. I spent many years pursuing that goal and made good progress as a film producer. But in recent years I could not resist the urge to focus fully on music.
Before the film, tv and music bugs hit me I was a huge fan of the writing of JD Salinger. I love his books, Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters, etc. I’ve read them all many times.
I think I resonated with the honesty, vulnerability and self-deprecating POV of the narrator’s stories. And upon reading the whole set many times, and also getting more mature and worldly myself, it became clear that the characters in his books were also having essentially spiritual conversations. Salinger himself spent many years studying Vedanta Buddhism and his spiritual quest informs his characters and stories.
So in retrospect there’s probably a good chunk of JD Salinger influence in this song.
Lisa: Where do you think music industry is heading, are you worried or optimistic?
DJ Trotsky: -It’s never been easier to make music due to computers and inexpensive quality instruments and it’s never been easier to listen to lots of music inexpensively. On one level the economics of the industry are always changing and these are tough times for songwriters who do not also perform.
With social media everyone can “release” and “share” their music and that’s great but of course getting paid, getting heard, breaking through the noise, getting a following . . . those things are challenging. So everyone can easily get access to the joy of making and listening music. That’s good. And not everyone can make a living making music.
That’s always been challenging unfortunately. This is why Mozart needed to do commissions for the King, and why Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays on commission to a theater company. I’m grateful that I have the tools and skills to make music to express myself and share my thoughts. And by YOU sharing this interview on your blog I get to share my thoughts and music and ideas with people I would never get exposed to.
So we are all just floating the river of music and the internet . . . not know where we’ll land.
Lisa: What is your view on technology in music?
DJ Trotsky: I think it’s great. Trends and tools always change. New ideas come and go. They are “everywhere” for a while then they are integrated.
On one hand it’s become incredibly easy to make a song that sounds almost like everyone else. It’s great that the tools allow a quick rise to somewhat professional. But on the other hand, music starts to sound the same.
So it’s the true artists who are creating something new who will lead the future. Sonically in terms of sounds and production. And lyrically, emotionally. It’s the artists who are being true and open and wise who will learn to create via technology, and connect and be discovered via technology.
But the ones we will seek out are the ones who have something to say about living lives on earth right now. Ones who are speaking out. Softly. Gently. Loudly. Whatever. These are strange times and we need artists to help us process our lives, feelings, experiences and societal changes.
Lisa: What are you working on right now and what are your plans for the future?
DJ Trotsky: I’m looking forward to travel again when I can. I love connecting with the diversity of humans all around the world.
Musically I’ve come to terms with the fact that rather than focusing on one genre I will always be doing rock/alternative music, as well as pop/electronic music. And sometimes those two will blend together.
As a DJ I tend towards electronic music, house, funk, pop. Movement music with less lyrical content. I’ve become very interested in “Ecstatic Dance” as a DJ. It’s an alcohol-free dance floor where people really come to dance and they will find a way to move to almost anything.
I DJ those events here in LA, also in Europe and in Bali and Thailand. It’s become a great way for me to share my extensive knowledge of old school music, and blend it with hip hop, techno, house and Drum ‘n’ Bass. And that is inspiring a whole new form of music creation for me.
During the lockdown I was writing and recording dance oriented world music grooves with electronic beats. Bringing different ideas, loops, vocals, sounds and instruments into the mix. I just hired a choreographer from Russia to create a dance video for the song via Fiverr. I can’t wait to see what she does! And when the lock down ends here in LA I can’t wait to rehearse and record some new sounds with my rock band.
Thank you for asking such great questions !
Follow DJ Trotsky: