John Baylies freelance musician & audio technician

Sousastep Press Kit






Sousastep was born of a desire to play live dubstep with a tuba. Taking inspiration from video games, controllerism, livetronica, didgeridoo techniques, visual effects, and multi-effect processors, Sousastep aims to bring tuba-driven dubstep from gimmick to gestalt.


In 2014, after graduating with a bachelors in classical tuba performance, I came to the conclusion that electronic music was way more fun and forward-thinking. That winter, I’d return from cheap brass band gigs to my trashy Allston apartment and lay on the couch, listening to Dubstep Allstars mixes, thinking “I could totally play this on tuba if I can figure out how to connect my playstation controller to audio effects properly.”

All the bands playing live dubstep at the time didn’t sound that great to me, so I decided to give myself ten years to figure it out. I’ve never been the best at networking, and I don’t enjoy teaching, so I knew I’d have to succeed through sheer innovation. If it didn’t work out in a decade then at least I’d have the skills to switch to IT or something.

I started learning Ableton and found an app called Controllermate that could turn my playstation controller into a MIDI controller. I couldn’t get very far with it though because it didn’t support abstractions, and I kept encountering numerous bugs and workflow issues while trying to build a solid hour-long live-looping set with Ableton. MaxMSP seemed like the solution to my woes, but I had almost no programming experience outside of one MATLAB class, and the Max tutorials seemed daunting.

One day I noticed a concert that used the term “sonic arts”. I had never heard the term before, so I googled it and found out about Brooklyn College’s Sonic Arts program, which has a class called Dynamic and Interactive Media Processing that’s essentially a Max class. The program also provided 24/7 access to a hidden studio on a dilapidated part of campus, which was incredible. I spent a ton of time there studying Max, practicing tuba, performing in concerts, and organizing jams.

My laptop was starting to show its age, so I was psyched when my brother, who had recently gotten hired at Eventide, brought me an H9000R to beta test. I quickly integrated it into my rig and started making algorithms with vsig and gen. Eventually I was hired, and gradually took on increasingly complicated programming tasks, but wasn’t able to keep up because I spent all my free time working on Sousastep instead of studying c++, so I got laid off, and spent one more year gigging around NYC before moving back in with my folks in Massachusettes.

Living at home gave me space to develop Sousastep with all the knowledge I had gained in NYC, and I decided that the best course of action would be to make my rig as user-friendly as possible and release it under a Reaper-style nagware license. It’s now available as SousaFX!


@sousastep Sousastep presents: SousaFX! Now fully functional with no plugins, and free to try! Link's in my bio! #sousaphone #tuba #electronicmusic #dubstep #euphonium ♬ original sound - sousastep


Self-titled EP: Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, etc.

Assorted Jams Volume 2: Bandcamp, Spotify, etc.

Press and testimonials

Review of Assorted Jams Volume 1 by Elijah Shiffer in The New York City Jazz Record’s May 2023 Issue #253

    With an ensemble name like Sousastep, it’s no surprise that this music is somewhere on the outer fringes of jazz. The style is difficult to describe succinctly, except as a fascinating balance of experimentalism and accessibility. Assorted Jams is entirely improvised, but every track has an obvious key or mode, and most have a definite tempo with a danceable beat. It’s a refreshing reminder that free improvisation doesn’t require rhythmic or harmonic abstraction.
    Sousastep is the brainchild of tuba player John Baylies, who has developed a distinctive vocabulary for his instrument that makes use of electronic processing and effects. Most of the other instruments heard on Assorted Jams are similarly processed. Together with the modal textures, the electronics create an immersive sonic palette. Each track is a little world to hang out in—perhaps a distant planet, as Baylies’ bass lines often pulsate psychedelically like some retro-futuristic idea of outer space.
    These musical parameters are remarkably consistent throughout, considering that these jams are, in fact, quite assorted. No fewer than 22 players appear on this album, in lineups ranging from two to seven instruments. Baylies is the only one heard on all 11 tracks, which were recorded between 2018 and 2022 and titled for their location and date. The leader’s brother David Baylies stands out as a particularly sensitive, expressive improviser. He plays trumpet on three tracks and guitar on the last, longest track, “Patchen ave: Oct. 9th, 2022”, a beautiful trio meditation with trumpeter Thomas abercrombie. “Mott St: Oct. 15th” features the late tenor saxophonist Richard Keene, a member of the deep downtown avant-garde, who passed away in 2021. Keene’s rich, heavy, fully-acoustic sound blends tastefully with the lines of fellow tenor saxophonist Uran Kamper.
    Assorted Jams is a unique, utterly contemporary addition to the world of the tuba. Baylies has explored the possibilities of his instrument with electronics as much as, if not more, than anyone else has. an album as striking as this has the potential to be the start of a new tuba-driven genre—perhaps named “sousastep” itself!

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