Happy Sadness by Guantamano Bae is a rich deep house/EDM track that hosts flavorful elements of production in this remix version by DJ and producer James Jager. The track is constructed with a unique throbbing drum sequence and shrewd atmospheric adlibs that add meaningful depth to the tune’s presentation.
Amazingly, the unlikely chemistry of heavy percussive sounds and bass against the grain of angelic chords of synth and high-pitched harmonics give Happy Sadness its cutting-edge sound. Guantamano Bae recollects that the inspiration for Happy Sadness stems from his real-life experience of working at a Guantamano Bay prison and feeling he had been isolated from society. In many ways, his experience makes the sonic language of Happy Sadness exceptional and certainly a dance track that life cannot do without.
How did you end up working at Guantanamo Bay and how do you feel it influenced you as an artist?
GB: I joined the Navy in 2008 to become a radar operator, but the “Needs of the Navy” dictated that I was immediately put into training to guard what they call “Detained Enemy Combatants”, that’s the phrase they used so they didn’t have to follow Geneva Conventions rules. It wasn’t a place you ever want to be. The sheer amount of anger and angst we shared for each other was epic in proportions. Can you imagine working next to someone who wants to kill you all day? And wanting to kill them back, even though both of you know nothing about each other? I can never work for the military again, I never want to hate someone like that.
It’s influenced my need to spread good vibes. People are living their lives in anger, watching 24/7 news, worrying about things they can’t change, arguing in comments sections, losing friends over opinions. I’m over all that. I want to help people feel, bring them together, remind them that things will be ok again.
How do you know Guantanamo Bae?
JJ: I met Zach when we were both out drinking in NJ, I wasn’t even sure of his status as a producer at first. Then the more we got talking more about producing the more I knew I wanted to work with him on a track. When the opportunity to remix one of his tracks came along I knew I really wanted to try and hit the ground running.
This remix influenced me a lot as an artist, mainly because it was my first real release on streaming platforms. Zach was great at helping me get my feet wet and it was really great to see it all come together on release day.
What process do you have for selecting the songs you want to play in your sets?
I was an open format DJ long before I produced any music of my own, and it really shows in my sets because I’ll play anything that the crowd wants to hear. I love playing at different bars/clubs because I enjoy the artwork of trying to work my own songs into the songs that people wanna hear.
All my music is organized into different folders based on the different vibes I might encounter. I always like to start in a folder that I know will fit the vibe, and try and move into similar folders later in the night. Its all about reading the crowd and responding to what they are liking.
What will happen with the New York scene in your opinion in relation to the Covid 19 pandemic?
The government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is absolutely abhorrent. Instead of asking us to find creative solutions so that DJ’s can still play, festivals can still operate, promoters can make a living, through something like a drive in rave, they told us to sit in our houses and watch Netflix, or else they’ll arrest us. Only after months of doing nothing have they “authorized” drive in raves and no club openings in sight. Even worse, this is a spring cleaning for mayors who don’t like their town’s nightlife, they’ll use this to attack bars and nightclubs they don’t like, which we’re already seeing.
We’ll see far fewer clubs, fewer festivals, more bankrupt artists, managers, promoters, owners, you name it. It’s no one else’s job to keep me safe, if you’re afraid I’ll get you sick stay at home. If you go out don’t visit people 65 or older. There’s no cure coming anytime soon. We’ve forgotten that life is chaos, we’re trying to control chaos and we’re paying the price with our livelihoods and our sanity. The coronavirus didn’t shut us down, the government did. Remember that.
JJ: It is very hard to tell. I know a lot of DJs in the NY scene that are really struggling right now because they have been out of work for so long. Its unfortunate to say but I feel like some of them might not be able to bounce back financially. This might pave the way for a younger generation to step in.
What is the most difficult thing you had to deal with in your life?
GB: Depression. I felt like any emotionless void after the military. That’s the thing, when you’re depressed people think you’re sad. You actually just feel neutral all the time, it’s like waiting all year for your favorite video game, then you arrive at the store it’s in your hands and you aren’t excited. You don’t even care, sure it’s entertaining to play but the hairs on your neck don’t stand up during the entertaining parts. You just kind of exist and you find things to do during the day. Going to therapy helped a lot, I’m a completely different person emotionally after three years with an EMDR therapist. Therapy isn’t just for veterans, it’s something we should all consider when we’re not feeling.
JJ: I feel like I am living it right now and it is trying to balance my 9-5 with my music career. Its a lot to come home and work on music but the burning passion of playing for people is what keeps me going.
Name a highlight from last year.
GB: Music has been taking off, but my biggest highlight was just putting stuff out. We make so many tracks that we just never release, we convince ourselves it’s not ready. If it’s bad you can pull it from stores once you put out better stuff, just get it out there.
JJ: My highlight from last year was defiantly playing a set right before the headliner at a small music festival called Impossible Festival in Philadelphia. Hosted by the Impossible Group and featuring mostly young artists from the area it was an amazing vibe to conquer.
Has your musical taste changed over time or do you think it will?
GB: Never heard a single dance music track until 2010, Skrillix and Deadmau5. Had no idea what I was listening to, not a lot of dance music in Missouri. Next thing I knew I was listening to Trance and Deep House. Those have consistently been my favorites, although I have to say I kind of miss progressive house, I loved ending a festival with some big room beats or something everyone knows, maybe that’s just me.
JJ: I used to only like EDM, but as I got older and started DJing more I got into all genres of music. Now I can say that my music library truly crosses the entire spectrum from Dubstep to House to Hip/Hop and Rock.
What process do you have for selecting the songs you want to play in your sets?
GB: I have about 100-200 songs that I like at the moment, I start with something really trace’ish usually, then I’ll go into some really feelzy stuff that’s a little more pop but gets the energy up and brings in those who are unsure about trance. Once I hook them I just go back into trance land and stay there, occasionally I’ll do an unexpected mix into dubstep if I see a lot of pent up energy. Never want to think about it too much, just read people’s body movements.
Have you ever experimented with mixing audio and video at the same time? If not, would that be something you’d like to try out?
GB: Have you ever seen how KSHMR tells these epic stories while he plays his sets? There will be breaks in his set every 10-20 minutes to tell a story of kings, knights, epic journeys, etc. then that flawlessly transitions into the next track, that’s my goal. Think Skyrim during a dance music set. It’s going to be epic.
JJ: I have never played around with this, and I am not sure if it would be. I really believe that as a DJ the most important thing you should focus on in the music and the crowd. Trying to focus on the VJ side of things seems like it would take away from that. I have worked with very talented VJs in the past and feel like it is better to keep the two separte.
Is there a final thing you would like to say to our readers?
GB: Go to therapy if you need it and talk about it like it’s normal. I see a therapist at least once a month for PTSD, have been going for 3 years, and I feel like a new person. It free’d up my mental space to pursue this passion of mine. I bet it can free you.
JJ: Hard work above all else. A grinder will beat someone who is naturally talented and lazy every single time.
Where can people find you online?
GB: Your favorite streaming platform
JJ: Instagram @jamesjagermusic
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
James Jager is a DJ and Producer who is currently based in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Finishing his engineering degree at Drexel University, James went on to pursue a career in the music industry.
Performing at venues that include NOTO Philadelphia, Rec & Royal and Warehouse on Watts, James has played alongside acts such as Bassjackers, DJ Hollywood and Morgan Page.
Continually seeking to progress his diverse creativity, James features both original, as well as “hand selected tracks” in his performances, with no genre being considered “off limits”.
Guantanamo Bae’s (GB) prodigious power to compose innovative and superior EDM tracks began as a pastime in college that fused into publishing on streaming platforms. Garnering responses from exuberant supporters, GB turned his attention to live performances, a serious-minded craft that is as important to producing the music alone.
Amid the global explosion of Electronic Dance Music, a genre that thrives almost exclusively in nightclubs and festivals of cosmopolitan cities, GB emerged from the small farm town of DeSoto, Missouri. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he relocated to New York City to attend college and the music passion began. Experimenting with GarageBand and advancing to Ableton GB., GB was able to share tracks with close friends at house parties and small club gatherings in New York City.
Guantanamo Bae understands everyone’s need for a diversion from these challenging. He accomplishes this by incorporating melodic mixes and uplifting elements that is a celebration on the dance floor. With sizeable performances shows forthcoming, GB is excited and focused to carry on his rapid rise out of a small farm town to the around the globe.