Alex Wagner, formerly known as one-half of production duo Ari and now producing once again under his solo moniker ASW, presents “A Garden Overrun.” This is the first single off of his forthcoming Dahlia EP on San Francisco-based label Popgang Records. He sits down with 6AM to chat about his new single and EP along with advice on focusing on your mental health.
“A Garden Overrun” marks the first single off his upcoming “Dahlia EP” on Popgang Records. It features ASW’s swooning, haunting and captivating falsetto vocals over a pulsing, contemplative deep progressive house groove; it takes you into a new world of sound that you’ve never felt in the club before – it tells a story.
His mental health recovery has led him to volunteer 200 hours over the last year with CTL, listening to people and bringing them to a state of calm.
ASW’s work with Crisis Text Line, a crisis intervention non-profit providing free health services
Another notable project he’s been keeping busy with is his involvement with Crisis Text Line, a non-profit providing free mental health services. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013, Wagner was placed on an involuntary hold for a week in a hospital’s mental health wing. Since then, his mental health recovery has led him to volunteer 200 hours over the last year with CTL, listening to people and bringing them to a state of calm. In the midst of an isolating global pandemic that saw the number of people with symptoms of mental health disorders climb from 10 percent to over 41 percent in less than two years, Wagner’s mission is to soothe those struggling with his volunteerism and music. With the recent death of popular producer Piece Fulton at the hands of depression, the focus on supporting artists and fans alike with their mental health is on the forefront. A survey of musicians reveals around 50 percent of them report symptoms of depression, compared to 25% of the general population. ASW’s work and the work of organizations like Crisis Text Line are extremely important for musicians and fans alike.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with 6AM. What first got you into electronic music? At what moment did you decide you wanted to do this as a career?
I blame Super Mario 64 for being here today, specifically the water world level. Something about those “mallets” and swimming around finding a dinosaur got into my brain and hooked me. That and Ocarina of Time, the scores in that game moved me in a way nothing else did.
I was always so drawn to these compositions that I only wanted to hear music from the video games I played more so than the radio. Wave Racer had a very “dance music” centric soundtrack that captivated me. The first tinge of wanting this as a career came around Tiesto’s “Traffic” in 2000. I saw someone blasting this music, and people were enjoying it. I was 10, but I understood. My fantasy had already started with The Beatles; this started to tip me over the edge. By 14, I was convinced a career in music was what I wanted.
Your new project ASW combines alternative rock, psychedelia, progressive house, and more all under one hood…what was your desire to bring these diverse styles together?
I have had a hard time over the years producing a singular style in the sake of “this is a drum and bass track or an electro track.”[I] like playing analog instruments, [and] these confines felt limiting for me too.
My natural state is an amalgamation of my past, present, and future. My past is rich in The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Video Games, Death Cab for Cutie, Depeche Mode, David Bowie. My present became labels like Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep. [I also have] a love of Mau5trap, artists like Flume and Wolfgang Gartner, Mat Zo.
My present and near-past showed me the power of psychedelics in regards to the expansion of the mind and the studied properties for the enrichment of mental health. My future is becoming a representation of the past with a present and unique sound palette.
My desire to bring this all together comes from wanting my most authentic voice to tell the stories that are in my head, and playout my dance vibe, which is a genuine sound that comes from inside me. I could produce and sound like “other people,” but then, that wouldn’t be me.
“I want listeners to hear that it is okay to feel vulnerable. It is okay if an event impacted you […] Acknowledging the dark, gives so much room to the most powerful element of all; the light and joy…”
ASW describes inspiration behind his new EP
Your new EP Dahlia follows a theme of someone blooming despite the struggle of mental health issues. What message do you hope listeners take away from this EP?
I want listeners to hear that it is okay to feel vulnerable. It is okay if an event impacted you, and it is okay if that plunged you into a place of entropy. I want them to hear that letting that out, acknowledging the dark, gives so much room to the most powerful element of all; the light and joy and beauty that intrinsically is there all along; natural beauty like a flower, unadulterated by ideology.
May is Mental Health Health Awareness Month. You’ve been open about your experience with bipolar disorder and volunteering for mental health services. What’s one thing you hope the music industry can do to better support artists and fans also experiencing mental health issues alike?
Let’s be honest about it and discover healthy ways to enhance the beauty of our unique minds through highlighting resources tactics and more that help us do so. An example is this, take your tour, take your show, and point not even 100 percent of it toward simply a positive resource out there that musicians and fans can use. I’ve seen more of it in the past year, and I hope I’m just one more egg in the basket of simply vibing for good in the world while not ignoring the bad.
“Staying strong is being vulnerable and honest with yourself. Be open with yourself and allow yourself to feel whole, be open with those close to you, and know that being strong is also utilizing the resources around you to help you.”
ASW’s advice for self-care and mental health
What advice do you have for other artists who might have underlying mental health issues on staying strong in this industry?
Staying strong is being vulnerable and honest with yourself. Be open with yourself and allow yourself to feel whole, be open with those close to you, and know that being strong is also utilizing the resources around you to help you. Strength isn’t “tough this out alone” anymore. You are not alone and do not have to be alone. Reach out to people like me; we are here for you. That’s why I work with labels like Popgang Records and Brooklyn Fire Records, and these are families that support the wellness of the mind and progressiveness in the way that betters all. Staying strong in this industry means acknowledging the place of everything in your life: sleep, substances, sustenance, and more.