A couple of months ago, I got an email from somebody promoting a music project of Steve Sandberg, the composer of Dora The Explorer and, by extension, Go, Diego, Go! Fast-forward to now, and I'm happy to present the following interview and guest mix from Sandberg, whose Just The Tip EP, under one of his monikers Elastic Plastic Generation recently arrived via Teknofonic.
Sandberg is a three-time Emmy-nominated composer, and besides scoring the music for Dora and Diego has also made music for educational apps by Literary Safari, toured with David Byrne and Bebel Gilberto as keyboardist, arranger and vocalist, as well as composed music for Broadway. His own music, as Elastic Plastic Generation, is self-admittedly "crazy and uninhibited," (he's placed a few of these tracks in the mix) whereas a new project under the moniker Alaya is more world-music-oriented, wherein he's crafted "music from a country I’ve never been to but always wanted to visit." He's placed
See below for an interview with Sandberg; underneath that you'll find the mix he has kindly contributed to YES/NO – it's filled with house, Motown flavours, and a sprinkling of samba, showing the musical influences at work on this musicmaker.
When did you first start making music? What inspired you?
My parents bought an upright piano for my older sister to learn on. I had a ritual - every time I passed it, I had to reach up as high as I could to touch and play a key. I must have been 2 years old then. Then I started taking classical piano lessons from a local piano teacher. I guess I just loved sound and was inspired by having an instrument that could make beautiful sounds that I could play.
How did you get to be a composer for Dora the Explorer?
Through a friend I met walking my dog in the park! She was doing some temporary sound editing for Dora before it started airing, and was in the room when the musical director quit. She called me - "Steve, this is your gig! Call this number in 5 minutes - she gave me the number of the executive producer - and tell him you're a composer." She thought I'd be right for the show because I had spent many years playing with NY salsa and Latin jazz bands, and also knew how to score to visuals.
What is it like making music for something like that?
It was a lot of fun because I had never written for a TV show before, and I actually thought I'd be really good at writing for animation. It was something I wanted to do. So I had a great time making up themes for the different characters, creating a musical palate for the show - which turned out to be a mixture of Gil Evans, classic cartoon scoring and salsa - and basically forming a whole style and vibe for the underscoring. I also worked on songs, which was more collaborative. Of course we were all very happy when the show became such a big hit and it went on for many years and spun two sequels. It becomes a bit different when you write season after season - you have to invent new things to keep yourself interested and keep it fresh.
Who are your favourite artists right now?
Me'shell Ndegeocello; Gil Scott Heron; Harry Partch; always Stevie Wonder from Music of my Mind to Fulfillingness' First Finale; Pedrito Martinez live are a few. It's hard to say because I tend to have favorite songs at this point, not favorite artists. And I love old school. Today I was really enjoying listening to Bobby Womack, If You Think You're Lonely Now.
What do you think has influenced the sound of your EP?
That EP came out of a lot of different musics that I love. To name a few:
Old School House Music
Stevie Wonder's keyboards
That EP was a labor of love. I had a block of free time and just played around with my DAW and made music I thought I'd enjoy moving to. It's pretty crazy and uninhibited.
How would you describe your own music?
I actually write many different kinds of music. This project, Elastic Plastic Generation, is a kind of iconoclastic world house dance hiphop or something like that? But I also have a worldtronica project -Alaya - coming out in September on the same label, Teknofonic, that is very different - it features breath-controlled synths, my own vocals, and eclectic writing inspired by Eastern European, African, Latin, and other world musics with an electronic palate. Kinda jazzy too. You can hear excerpts on my website, stevesandbergmusic.com.
• Ｔ Ｒ Ａ Ｃ Ｋ Ｌ Ｉ Ｓ Ｔ •
- 1. Eddie Palmieri – Carnaval en Camaguey
- 2. Elastic Plastic Generation – Just the Tip
- 3. Marshall Jefferson – Move your Body
- 4. Frankie Knuckles – The Whistle Song (Jojo Flores Mix)
- 5. Everyday People – I Like What I Like
- 6. Elastic Plastic Generation – Lollipop
- 7. Jackie Moore – This Time Baby
- 8. Double Exposure – Every Man Has to Carry
- 9. The Intruders – I'll Always Love My Momma
- 10. Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives
- 11. Brainstorm – Lovin is Really My Game
- 12. Elastic Plastic Generation – UU uu UU