Seattle is best known for being home to grunge. Sometimes it feels like people forget that The Sonics (the band, not the team), Kenny G, and Quincy Jones are all from the city, too. It may be a long way from where it started, but electronic music is no exception to the genres that Seattle has produced great artists in.
This week Alda Agustiano, better known on stage as Chong the Nomad, took the time to answer some questions about her illustrious career at the young age of 25. Her music will make you rethink what “electronic music” is in the best possible way. The EDM scene is dominated by white dudes, but Agustiano, a queer Asian American woman, has carved out a space of her own and collaborated with a number of other local artists including Hollis Wong-Wear and Ben Gibbard. Her new EP “A Long Walk” was released last month.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What bands/projects have you been affiliated with?
I have done remixes for Real Don Music, Phebe Starr, Nile Waters, and Death Cab for Cutie. I co-produced a song for the Australian singer/songwriter Wafia. I have also written music with BIIANCO, Hollis Wong-Wear, Ben Gibbard, Ben Zaidi, and Perry Porter.
How long have you lived in Seattle?
I was born and grew up in the suburbs (Kent, WA) for the first years of my life and moved around as a teenager. Eventually moved to Seattle to attend school in the city and have been here for five years.
What has kept you in the city?
The environment/community. I’m a city girl, but a ginormous city such as L.A. or New York would be overwhelming for me to navigate. Seattle has that big city feel, but more compact. I’m used to it. Getting from one side of the city to another in less than 30 minutes doesn’t feel impossible (usually). I made a name for myself here and I would like to continue being a part of the community that gave me a chance.
How would you describe the Seattle music scene? Why is it so strong?
I like to say that everyone I know has their own speciality — or “corner” in the scene. There’s no copycat or super-similar artist within the Seattle community, really. You have so much room to grow as your own individual artist and the community celebrates that.
Favorite local venue you’ve played in Seattle? Favorite local venue to see a show at?
Always had a soft spot for Neumos! Played one of my first “big” shows there and have had my most memorable ones there as well. There’s something really special about being familiar with a venue like that. Not quite like a second home, but a close friend’s house. Also a big fan of Barboza, The Sunset Tavern, and Showbox Market.
How did you get into music originally?
I was 14 when I started producing, 16 when I started DJing. I had a circle of friends in middle school that were really into techno/trance music and had started to write using Fruity Loops studio. I downloaded the program too and slowly fell in love with it. I was acquaintances with people in my breakdance club in high school and got into mixing music and the “art” of DJing.
How would you describe your sound? Who are some of your influences?
I like to tell people “Bedroom groove.” I’ve moved away from a lot of the more EDM stuff I used to make but my inspirations remain strong to this day: Madeon, Porter Robinson, and Deadmau5 made me fall in love with electronic music. Artists like Kaytranada, Sango, Max Martin, Solange, and Channel Tres have also helped me influence my sound.
The electronic music scene is largely dominated by white dudes, how have you carved out a space for yourself?
Keeping my head down and just…staying on my own path. I’ve seen a lot of hopelessness from my female identifying peers (especially women of color). Rightfully so! It’s disheartening to see the industry lack SO MUCH in diversity. Questions like this (no offense) make me a little angry to answer because it’s still important to point out the imbalance. But I feel like if that gets into your head too much, remembering the type of unbalance and discrimination that happens in this field, it gets in the way. It shifts the focus away from the music. Focus on the music, keep working, know your worth. That’s what got me through it.
How would you describe Seattle’s electronic scene?
Super interesting! I had the pleasure to be on the selection panel for a Seattle beat battle (Beatmatch, I competed in the first year) and the amount of different genres we received submissions for was mind boggling. So many styles/textures/grooves!! The area is definitely lesser known for its electronic scene, but honestly I don’t think that will be the case for much longer.
Any plans for the near future considering all live music has stopped for the time being?
Write, write, write! I’ve been blessed with some live streaming opportunities here and there. I recently signed a publishing deal and I’ve been kept busy writing in online sessions with other amazing producers. I just released an EP and am looking forward to the next big project.
Where can people find your music? How can they support you and other local musicians during this pandemic?BANDCAMP! I have my music on all major streaming platforms but Bandcamp has been a godsend during this pandemic, especially during their “Bandcamp Fridays.” Probably the easiest way to support an artist is to buy their music through there.
Favorite song from a Seattle area artist OR about Seattle/the PNW?
Sugar Mama – Soultanz
Chocolate – Parisalexa
Ego Slave – DoNormaal
Killing Jar – Guayaba