The bass music scene in Colorado is so massive that the force generated from the subwoofers attracts artists from around the world into its orbit. Ternion Sound is a three-man dubstep project that began five years ago at Infrasound Festival, a bass-centric festival in Minnesota, where they all hail from. They were familiar with each other as DJs in Minneapolis and were drawn together by music. The trio threw down a B2B set substituting for an artist on the lineup who couldn’t make it, and the magic that is conjured by festival collaborations bore some juicy dubstep fruit. Combining talents to create Ternion Sound has led the group on an impressive trajectory. Touring extensively, opening for huge names, and becoming a mainstay at festivals including some of the best in the game, they have established themselves as selectas to be reckoned with. Since the three amigos each bring their own unique flavor to the decks and as producers, their shows have a certain kinetic energy that keeps them fresh as a crowd favorite.
Their initial concept was to err on the heavier side of bass music with a brostep/riddim project. As they got more accustomed to working together, they have instead explored a spectrum of subgenres and BPMs, which makes sense given that they work on tracks solo before introducing them to the group dynamic. Drawing inspiration from their previous experiences making beats and rhythmic stylings from across the board, their Bandcamp, Patreon, Soundcloud are rich wellsprings of tunes and mixes. Digging around their discography for bangers is a rewarding endeavour.
In just the last few months, Ternion Sound made local appearances opening for Yheti at the Fox Theatre and at Wobble Rocks with Ganja White Night, Ivy Lab, Khiva, and The Widdler. They will join forces with The Widdler once again to ring in the new year at The Black Box with a two-day showcase featuring a retrospective first night on NYE proper, and on new year’s day, a glimpse into the future-shaping sensibilities. Both The Widdler and Ternion Sound are integral members of Sub.mission and Black Box favorites. Being connected to the scene in this way gives them access to all manner of dubplates, VIPs, and exclusives that the fans can’t wait to feast their ears on. The showcase is sold out, but check out our interview with Ternion Sound to find out more about how they get down.
Can you give us some background on how this project started?
Jack: We’ve all been friends and playing shows locally in Minneapolis for about 10 years now. At Infrasound 2016 we ended up filling in a slot for someone else who had missed their flight and realized how good our chemistry was DJing. In 2017, we decided to take it to the next level and start producing together. Originally we were going to make heavier music, but we wanted to switch things up and it’s a good thing we did!
How did you get involved with Sub.mission?
J: It all happened so fast I actually can’t remember who contacted who or when it happened, actually I don’t remember taking bookings without having one of our agents set them up for us, so it must have happened right near the start. It was a quick transition after having released on Duploc, Chestplate, and Artikal all within quick succession of each other.
Aric: I became familiar with Sub.mission in 2015 after meeting some friends that lived in Denver. They told me I should come out to a show someday and check it out. I ended up signing up for their DJ battles and completely fell in love with the Black Box, and the Sub.mission community. Once we started the Ternion Sound project together, Nicole contacted us to be a part of the agency.
How does working with different labels affect the process of putting out music?
J: Every label has little quirks but for the most part it’s the same. One of the major factors is whether or not it’s a vinyl release, especially in the past two years that process can really extend the length of time it takes between finishing writing the music and actually releasing it (sometimes up to a year or more). Lately we’ve been trying to think of new ways to create value beyond a WAV file, because vinyl is really just a pain, and it’s not great for the environment or people’s health either. Otherwise, labels mostly let us have full creative control, and a lot of the mastering is done by the same people, but each label has its own particular *style* and that impacts what kind of tunes they’ll sign from us greatly. We have a lot of fun trying to write and cater to each label’s individual style.
What were some highlights of 2021?
J: Of course we have to mention playing at Red Rocks for the Wobble Rocks weekend with Ganja White Night, that was a milestone moment for us. But I think we did so so so many cool events this year that might get overshadowed by that one big milestone. Earlier this year we played at the Mishawaka Amphitheater which is another outdoor venue in the mountains in Colorado, but further north and has smaller intimate vibes. We returned to Gritsy in Houston, Texas, where they hold it down with one of the loudest and most bass heavy systems in the country. We played again for the Rezinate crew in Boston at the Middle East Downstairs, which is one of my favorite venues to play at personally, great vibe and Hennessey Sound. Echostage in DC was also huge, a desert party outside of LA, both Infrasound events (our home festival), and all kinds of other really cool clubs and outdoor venues as well as festivals, it’s been a really fun year.
Tell us about your production/creative process as a trio.
J: It comes as a surprise to many people but we don’t actually spend time together in the studio and mostly we write separately until tracks get to about 70-90% completion when we usually send them off to Andrew for final touches and mixdown. In the early early days we used to get together a lot in the studio but sometimes it can be a “too many cooks” kind of situation, and at least personally I find I can get into more of a groove when I’m alone and not distracted. We share a huge library of samples and presets that we’ve created for ourselves, and we spend a lot of time discussing production techniques and sharing influences, so it’s not hard to keep a cohesive sound.
What was a memorable moment from your current tour?
J: Aside from all of the other good moments I mentioned before, probably the *most* memorable moment unfortunately was our set at Sound Haven when both the table with the CDJs fell off the stage and shortly afterwards a guy climbed and fell from the lighting trussing.
Where are your top three places to perform, whether it’s a venue or festival?
J: The Black Box in Denver is easily number one, Infrasound is pretty much tied for that number one spot as well, and after that it’s a tough call, so many places are great like I mentioned before, Gritsy comes to mind first though.
What’s a track that you keep coming back to when performing live?
J: Aside from our own tracks, I have played ‘epoch – Uzi Back’ in every set since we’ve gotten it. ‘Monty, Visages feat. PAV4N, Strategy – Hardware‘ is also getting a lot of plays.
A: Anything by Leo Cap, and Yoofee. They’re easily some of my favorite artists at the moment.
Andrew Hill: I don’t know if I’ll ever stop playing our bootleg of “My Pet Monster” by Caspa. Love the original and love our flip.
J: We’ve already worked with so many people we’ve looked up to for years, but this year we’re looking to do more stuff with vocalists, we’re fans of a lot of MCs like Flowdan, PAV4N (Foreign Beggars), JME, etc.
A: I’d love to work with Sorrow or Koan Sound someday. We’ve also been chatting with Monty about working together on some music. Collaborating with any of the artists on 1985 Records would be super exciting!
Have you ever been surprised to hear one of your own tracks played by someone you look up to?
J: Constantly. I think we’re all surprised by how quickly and widely played our tracks were. The very first year we started, having people like Distance and J:Kenzo find us out of the blue seemingly to sign us was a huge surprise, and seeing videos of all of the UK guys playing our stuff at Outlook that year was surreal.
AH: I’ll never forget Vaski playing one of my solo project’s tracks for the first time in Minneapolis like… 10 years ago. Hearing something you made in your apartment get played at a show on a big sound system for the first time is a surreal but amazing experience. I hope I can keep feeling that way for years to come!
Do you have anything special planned for the Black Box set on NYE?
J: We always write something new specifically for every Black Box set, so yes 🙂 There will be at least one VIP of a tune of ours, as is tradition now, and we all try to write as many new surprises as possible.
Other than playing a show, how do you like to celebrate NYE?
J: I’ve played or attended a show on every NYE of my adult life except for one, so I don’t know much else.
A: I like to try and take time with friends and family to reflect on the year and everything that happened.
AH: Retro games and chilling with friends.
Check out their set from Infrasound and keep a look out for their next appearance in Colorado!