The 2008 Rothbury Festival in Rothbury, MI was kicking off the first day of their summer hodgepodge of performing arts attractions, and Gammon Favreau-Young and his mother, Gabrielle Favreau, were in the thick of it.
Gammon wiped his long hair out of his eyes and turned his attention to the festival schedule he was handed upon entering. He skimmed down the list, his gaze finally landing on a disc jockey seminar halfway down the page. The description stated that “Motion Potion,” a DJ from San Francisco, would be focusing mainly on funk from the 70’s.
Gammon told his mother he’d meet her later and set off in search of the seminar.
Upon arriving at a hulking stage in the middle of an open field, he found the small crowd of festival-goers standing in front of Motion Potion’s set-up. Gammon quickly joined them, brushing past people and positioning himself to be as close to the DJ as possible.
Lecturing from the outdoor stage, Motion Potion explained the magic behind the music. He described how to DJ with the electric turntable the CDJ and how to use vinyl and how to respect the ancestors of the mash-ups. It was inspiration.
During the two remaining days of the festival, Gammon made a return to the DJ stage, in search of good music and answers to his remaining questions about DJ-ing.
Once the festival was over and Gammon was back in his Westwood home, he went online and ordered a CDJ of his own. He wanted the opportunity to borrow words from other artists’ tracks and make them his own.
The next summer, Gammon would hand Motion Potion his first album.
From an early age, Gammon showed an aptitude for music. Gammon’s mother remembers him expressing an interest as early as 10 months old.
“When he was still crawling, he would go over and turn on the CD player and turn up the volume and pull himself up to the coffee table to dance,” said Gabrielle. “This is a kid who had the ‘Beatles phase’ when he was in first grade.”
In second grade, Gammon was remixing music on the family computer, speeding up the tempo and mashing different melodies together. He treated it as a pastime and didn’t think much of it other than a way to have fun.
Since acquiring a CDJ-400 in the summer before his sophomore year, Gammon had been experimenting with CD scratching — he kept a note book with him to jot ideas down for potential songs; he rounded up dozens of old CDs to use for his tracks; he spent as much time as he could during the remainder of the summer creating mixes and mash-ups on the MacBook his mom had purchased for him for that very purpose.
“I’m a strong believer that any time someone is inspired by an activity and loses time in a creative endeavor it is something to be supported and nurtured,” said Gabrielle.
Gammon found himself record ing not only the mixes from his CDJ, but the ambience of organic sound. He held up his laptop and pressed “record” any time he had it on him and was in a crowd, attempting to capture raw human emotion.
“Crowds are kind of like my music, I guess, a collage of voices,” Gammon said. “They also give the music a sense of life which is a little difficult to do when there are no or ganic recordings.”
At first, he used the CD remixes as well as the human ambience, blending the sounds together using GarageBand, a program on his Mac Book. Starting this past summer, he has begun adding his own organic beats, recording his own tapping and scratching to create his “own kind of drum kit” and recording bits of himself playing guitar.
Even though he could produce quality songs using Garage Band, the lack of advanced programming gave Gammon limitations that he eventually wanted to break through. He began using the program Abelton Live to edit his music, which cut the production time nearly in half. The program is able to analyze a song the second he drops it in, and then easily complies with the quirks and tweaks he applies to the music.
Though Gammon had purchased his CDJ a year earlier, he started to get serious about his music last summer. Before he knew it, he had created hours of short experimental songs. He wanted to get his music away from his Abelton Live library and out to the masses, and he began posting select tracks on LastFM, a Web site used to stream music online.
After a few weeks of posting, Gammon was noticed.
Last June, an online producer named Simon McClure signed him to ROFLtrax.com, McClure’s record label of compiled artists.
Gammon adopted a stage name, calling himself “Vaervaf.” This DJ alter-ego is his last name spelled backwards, with a “V” replacing the “U,” as a tribute to his middle name, Valor. He didn’t want his stage name to be “inflated or mysterious”, so he went with a close and catchy variation of his name.
Within the span of three months, he had produced three separate albums under the name Vaervaf. Each album is 30 minutes long, and with the addition of his fourth and most recent album, “Skidtooth,” he has two hours of music released on the internet available for download.
Though Gammon has been working on his experimental ambient music for less than a year, he has found himself to be reasonably successful; being featured on ROFLtrax has opened doors for him as an artist. He receives positive reinforcement from those who frequent ROFLtrax, and constructive criticism from first-listeners.
“Skidtooth has been a little controversial because it is much slower and more drowned than my other albums and I’ve gotten feedback that it is too slow,” Gammon said. “I try to make something new and switch the style every album, so I think it’s good that I’m shaking up the audience.”
Gammon has learned not only from his own audience but from others on the Web site, giving beginner artists advice on their work and receiving feedback on his own.
“Vaervaf is nothing if not a cul tured man of good breeding; his patchwork masterpieces are a veritable donkey ride to earhole heaven,” wrote Breakmaster Cylinder, a fellow online artist.
Gammon views his aptitude for music as something fun and pastime-worthy, but not necessarily a career path. He’s glad to be able to broadcast his music to other people, but he isn’t sure of his future in music.
“I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere,” Gammon said. “I mean, this either gets me famous or I end up just being a dentist somewhere. I’m enjoying it for now. It’s just going and going and going.”