- Published on Tuesday, 04 August 2020 15:18
You're slowly descending the already slippery steps, making your way between a little smoke and the poor lighting of the club. Little by little you begin to hear some distant jazzy notes and you already feel at home. Once arrived in front of the stage, you sit on a rather comfortable stool. The 'WipWap' show is about to start.
We continue our Meoko presents Series with a very special performance from none other than Boris Werner, presenting his infamous 'WipWap' show. This is the 1st of 4 parts recorded from a 22-hour marathon set recorded at Studio 80 in Amsterdam from way back when in 2014.
It sets like these that define a DJ’s ability to control the room, taking us on a journey, connecting with the crowd from start to finish. Part 1 kicks things off; teasing us with sounds you might not normally hear on the dancefloor including Jazz, Funk & Soul and Hip Hop. Unusual beats that slowly give way to slow, dub and deep vibes. A master class from start to finish. Boris Werner at his best.
Alongside the mix, you will find some questions we had the opportunity to ask him in between the show. Enjoy X
Tell us about that period... 2014. It isn't too far from our time but I guess you can still tell us many differences.
Back then you still would have the Studio 80 and Trouw, those two clubs played a major role in my career as I was resident at both clubs. But if I'm honest I would say the biggest difference is social media, in 2014 Facebook and IG were already there but didn't play a big role in the music scene compared to as it does now.
Are there any videos of the party? Do you miss the old days with almost no phones on the dancefloor?
I do miss the old party days without phones, I think people now are more looking at their phones to see what people are doing with their lives instead of enjoying their own. Just embrace the fucking moment already!
What kind of vibes atmospheres did that club transmit?
Studio 80 was mostly a platform for upcoming Dj talent and that combined with more known DJ's made it a really cool club. It's one of those places whereas the lights would go on and the place was empty you would be like: what’s so special about this place? But the moment when the crowd and DJ would come together it all made sense: a black box where you could lose yourself in, at least I did many many times :)
Were you supposed to play for 24 hours or did it happen spontaneously?
It was a yearly thing, the first time it was 10 hours, the 2nd 12 hours, the 3rd 15,5 I think and the plan was to go over the 20 hours. I didn't want to stop when Tessa, the manager at the time was told to do so. She was like to save something for next year, but unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to replicate the show
The show is about to start and we don't want to take up any more of your time. Just tell us more about what's going on in these first 5.5 hours. What kind of music should we expect?
I knew it was going to be a long ride so I wanted to start the first hour or so with some music that I also listen to at home. So you can expect some jazzy/electronic chill vibes. After that more dubby sounds emerged and the dancefloor slowly came alive...
Karotte once told me “if you gonna play marathon sets wait as long as possible before you start drinking alcohol”. In this case, it was 4 hours in the mix that I actually had the first one, and in retrospect, these have been the most difficult 4 hours of the whole set, haha...
Thanks for your time, sir! Stay with us, the Boris 'WipWap' Werner show will be back next week...
Words by Francesco Quieti & Jordan Diston / Interview by Francesco Quieti
- Published on Friday, 05 June 2020 18:07
For today's talk, we've invited Wlad, 1/2 of the HedZup record label alongside his partner in crime Mancini. The Frenchies have built a solid label/family over the last years, affirming themselves as chiefs of one of the most respected labels in the deep and tech-house scene. In fact, HedZup has seen steady growth, releasing quality tracks from the likes of Fabe, Rich NxT, Toman, Chris Stussy, Tuccillo, Diego Krause, Josh Baker, Ray Mono and many more.
Hey Wlad, great to chat with you!
Hi guys, thanks for having me.
What would you say you have learnt about yourself during the lockdown?
I think it made me re-focus on myself. I had a lot more time to take care of myself, cook and call my family, my friends, even over long distances. In fact, I did not at all feel locked up as a bad thing. I am a great traveller, I have done 2 world tours and I really have this notion of letting go. I live in Paris which is a megalopolis and it’s easy to get into the rhythm of being frantic and not stopping for time for oneself. We must constantly run and outdo ourselves. So this period really allowed me to find what I have on a trip and especially to concentrate on music production and the label.
What has been the thing you have missed the most?
Of course, even if I didn’t really suffer from this confinement, being able to play music especially at parties outdoors was really strange. We have so many great terrasse in Paris to play. It was very nice and warm in Paris during the confinement. We also had several international label showcases postponed and especially the big come back of our famous HEDZUP party in Paris with Rossi, and DJOKO cancelled on March 14, day of official French lockdown :(
In your opinion, will dance music be very different or will it get back to normal after this?
Of course, it will return to normal. The music and the strength of people are stronger than anything. It is obvious that it will take time and that we will have to adapt. Personally I think it is a good thing because it allows you to surpass yourself. Always find new ideas. We must not wait, we must always innovate, it will make us even better.
Tell us about your hedZup label you run with Mancini - what is the sound, the vibe?
Originally, Mancini and I only made vinyl. Then we started to get known and get lots of great demos, we didn't have enough space on a disc to put all the music we wanted to release. So we decided to start digital in September 2018. We are still keeping the format of our vinyl releases, 4 pieces per digital release. It’s quite difficult to give a real style to our label. Mancini and I release the music we like, and even if we have our own style of productions, we are in perfect harmony with the musical choices.
Do you want to build a label family and bring them all through with more releases or is it just about the music at the moment?
hedZup Records is all in one, label and family. Mancini and I went out a lot in clubs and other parties around the world. Every year in Ibiza, Sonar Barcelona, ADE Amsterdam. We build our network like that. We have lots of friends everywhere. We only look for friendships. So all the artists that release on hedZup become part of the family. If they become part of hedZup, it means that they still release on the label if the music is good and also play on the label showcases.
About your own new ‘Full Squad’ EP - what inspired or influenced it?
I want to tell you something, it is the very first time that I release a full EP on my label, so I’m quite happy! I was a breakdancer when I was younger and I come from a Blues, Jazz, Funk and Flamenco musician family. I play African percussions myself. So I always have a pretty funky and dancing touch in my tracks. I added a touch of sunshine too because it comes out at the start of summer. It must be my Mediterranean origins ;)
Is your music made for a certain club, moment, party? Are those things in mind when writing?
Definitely, I really love music make me dance, so I try and try always until I feel this dancing feeling. Because in this music when you producing one little element can change all the feeling of the track. So probably make more peak time music but this is not me has to say
How did you choose the remixer Rich NxT? What did you think he would bring, and did he?
I chose Rich NxT because I am a big fan of his music and of the Fuse London label. Rich has a good approach in his music and whatever the track is, it's always a treat on the dancefloor. He already had great success on our vinyl part with his track "Come Alive", so it is just a pleasure to have him again on the label. He is a very talented and busy guy and I really thank him to considerate to remix me on this EP. Big up mate x
What else have you got coming up?
I have a remix on Surge that we will release this summer and have my EP with Mancini with a remix by iO Mulen and our Parisian friend Djebali. We are working on the 5 year anniversary double vinyl with some amazing artists and my digital collab album. So many good stuff is coming this year on the label with some good surprises. Stay tuned, Wlad :)
Words by Pete Downes
Floog: "everyone has a way of express and I feel so comfortable when I improvise with my own compositions"
- Published on Monday, 25 May 2020 12:09
George's path has been something unbelievable: from his Premiesku venture (alongside fellow-Romanians Livio & Roby) to his current Floog project, this man has constantly researched for the sound that could most represent him from time to time, risking and developing a discernable "Floog's stamp" of thousands of facets. In just one year he had releases on labels such as Mulen, Bleu Ciel, Hoarder, SCI+TEC, Atipic, GFD, QNQN, Croosed Grooves and Joule (Yoyaku) and also on his own FLG label. His sound, filled with catchy melodies and groovy hooks, results to be the perfect crossover of Romanian minimal with a more dancefloor-oriented house and techno. Over the years, Floog's tracks have been played by the likes of Apollonia, Petre Inspirescu, Raresh, Livio & Roby, Priku, Sonja Moonear, Sammy Dee, Dubfire, Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and Tini. George is also famous for his live performance, using drum machines, analog synths, a small modular rig and a bunch of controllers, his set being energy-oriented, melodic, alternating raw sounds with a more minimalistic approach, having a lot of improvisation moments were artist feels is right for the audience and the type of venue.
We know you both for the splendid productions and for your live exhibition. Tell us more about going live rather than a regular DJ set (as Floog and as Premiesku).
In the begging when I met Livio & Roby I had interest just into making music and didn’t think about the performing side for about 2 years, then in 2005 when I had my first project with them (called Monochrome) we have chosen to perform live cause that was more or less our approach from the studio. Indeed in 2009, I tried to be a DJ/collector for about 6 months but it was clear that was not my thing, I was not attracted about staying all day on Skype with people, on Beatport to dig for music, making folders and CDs etc, I rather wanted to spend that time in the studio and making music and building something from scratch.
My opinion about this is that everyone has a way of express artistically and the art of DJing and a live act are quite different approaches regarding performing music, you just need to feel "in your shoes" when you do it and personally I feel that when I play live my own compositions and improvise.
Your early career started as George G, which also is the moniker you've used with the Premiesku project. How difficult is to change alias (into Floog) after such a successful one? And what does "Floog” mean?
Both George G and Floog represent each a part of my musical journey, let's say Floog came naturally as another chapter, a new challenge and new sound territories. Back in 2012 when I met my actual wife, one day on an afterparty we played with our first names - Florentina and George, and we came with FloG and after we google it to see by curiosity if this makes any sense we had a lovely surprise cause we found this meaning for Floog word on the Urban Dictionary: "Floog" is a connection between two people who share a bond much stronger than "like" or "love". Those who are in floog experience something that the vast majority of people are never lucky enough to have”. So in 2017 when I was looking for a name for my new project this was the first and only option :)
Going even further back in time, what was your first contact with electronic music?
Actually it's a funny begging for me, it was in 1983 and I was six, we were on the communist times when access to music was really hard in Romania and my father was a collector of classical music vinyls. The source of the vinyls mostly was from a guy that brought them illegally from Bulgaria and one day he mixed up the vinyls with someone else and by mistake, we got in the package a vinyl with Kraftwerk - The Man Machine. I was immediately intrigued by the cover of the vinyl and when I played the first track (The Robots) I was totally blown away by the sounds on it! That was something I've never heard before! Then, after the '90s, when access to music was finally free, I realized that I was so lucky to discover and hear the godfathers of electronic music so early!
Are you still working w/ Livio & Roby as Premiesku?
Yes of course, actually we had some studio sessions into Roby's mountain vila before the epidemic crisis and we started choosing tracks for our next Premiesku album.
Talking about collaborative projects, we know you and Mahony have been cooking some stuff together over the last couple of years. Are you working on more collabs?
Yes, I have a few into the pipeline, one of them being a release with Priku that will see the light after summer.
Tell us about the Joker005 you did with Mahony, which has been one of the most requested IDs in 2019. How the idea was born?
Mahony came with this idea and initially, I thought that was almost impossible to come with something cool due to the melodic intensity of the original track :D but in the end, we found a way to make it fit with our sound :)
What about your own FLG label?
I launched my own FLG label back in 2018. Since then, I've only made 3 originals EP and all of them gone really well. I've always been in favour of the "quality over quantity" motto. This year I will start another label with my dear Mahony specifically for our sound and also a sublabel for FLG will see the light, more info about after the summer!
Is there a label that you’d like to release on? And why?
There are a lot of really interesting labels these days but I don’t think I want to chase any when a track is good for a certain label it's attracted like a magnet :)
We've seen some great tools in your studio! What's your favourite one?
I'd say the 0-coast by Make Noise, it's a lovely semi-modular synth and does wonders both in the studio and live. Highly recommended!
Why is the Romanian scene so lively and forward-thinking? Do you think it will continue to be a point of reference even after this COVID emergency?
Many things come to my mind: one important thing is that Romania had a gap of freedom and access to music till 90’ and then when big DJ names came here we had a lot of enthusiasm and joy for electronic music that naturally was translated also to local DJs, producers and passionate. I think you can actually hear that enthusiasm translated into this music :)
Nevertheless, our roots are also important, being a Latin country surrounded by different other types of cultures it had a great influence as well.
Also, another important factor, from my point of view, was the "innocence" of the producers, many of them didn't have as reference old skool music (in particular) and also most of them are not musically trained, they just made/make music by "filtering" the sound they heard in their surroundings and that was mostly in Romania, so that was like a "feedback" coming back to the music scene and making it very evolving but in a certain sound range.
Yes, I dare to say scene will continue like this, musically speaking; like how we call now some particular styles "Berlin sound", "Chicago house", "Detroit techno", "UK garage", also this wave of minimal electronic music will have the "Romanian stamp" on it, even tho I have to admit that there are a lot of great producers coming from many other parts of the world that add amazing value to this music.
What's gonna be the opening track that you will play at your very first show when clubs will finally open again?
It's a track that I've made during this crazy period called "Pale Blue Dot". It's about our home, the planet Earth, that we need to love and take care of more than ever now.
Words by Francesco Quieti
Behind the scenes: "PIV basically sums up the meaning of our brand, which is based on inclusiveness"
- Published on Saturday, 23 May 2020 16:39
Since its inception, PIV has brought a unique and recognizable sound to the music world. The Dutch collective's first release dates in November 2015. Since then, their output has been exceptional, delivering bomb after bomb by blending the most delicate and lush deep house sounds with the modern tech-house grooves. The PIV-sound has flooded every club, festival and Spotify playlist since. Among the artistic gems of Chris Stussy (A&R) and Prunk (founder), the label has released sublime tunes from the likes of Toman, DJOKO, ANOTR, The Willers Brothers, S.A.M. and many more, establishing itself as one of the leaders in the scene. Their success is partially explained by an outstanding crew dedicated to making the PIV brand bigger and better every day. Today, we hear from Kevin, one of the cornerstones of the infamous crew, who will tell us what's behind of PIV and the latest People Invited mix series.
Where the PIV name comes from?
The name is an abbreviation of People Invited. As a funny side note, it's also VIP spelt backwards, which basically sums up the meaning of our brand, which is based on inclusiveness.
Where do you think PIV's success comes from?
Not easy to say, because it has to do with many factors. First, we hope of course because the people out there feel the same way about the music we release as we do ourselves. Then second, all the people behind the label are present and active in the scene. What we mean by that is, our team draws experience from both sides of the spectrum, as our collective consists of artists performing live and people who are more engaged in the crowd. Thirdly, our brand identity has been consistent with a recognizable output in our artwork and finally, we have been fortunate that a lot of our affiliated artists have developed their careers into different directions. The synergy between label and artist has played a big part in that way.
Was there a turning point into your rise to the top?
Not really. For us, we never really viewed it that way. It's more like an ongoing journey. When we first started the label, we just wanted to be a platform that was a source for quality house music, as we really feel it's a cultural legacy that has been left to us by previous generations. As time progressed, we started noticing more artists and upcoming producers, who were starting to feel attached to our philosophy. As a lot of these affiliated artists started progressing their careers while staying attached to the label's identity and it helped both the label and the artists grow in their own way.
Which are in your opinion the 3 most significant tracks released on PIV so far?
We can't get around Chris Stussy - Evening Drive, that has been #1 on all deep-house charts for so long. For the rest, we would like to let everyone decide for themselves :-)
How have you chosen the artists on People Invited series?
When we noticed a lot of events were being cancelled because of the circumstances, we reached out to artists that have released or played with us including some upcoming artists we have been following for a while now. We set a deadline and everyone who was on board at that time was included for the series.
What is the common point of all these artists?
It's a collection of renowned and more upcoming artists from different sides of the music spectrum we represent. Some of them are more deep-house influenced, some a bit more minimal tech and some just plain club performers. We like the variety of it.
Prunk b2b Menado: will there be more of these unexpected b2b?
Perhaps there will still follow a few more. It's always nice to come together like that creating some unique sessions.
Are there other artists that you would have liked to involve in People Invited?
Yes many more, but unfortunately we had to draw the line somewhere on the deadline date.
The PIV brand/label saw an unstoppable rise last year. With this “corona” tough moment going on, do you think that this will slow down your plans?
We think everyone in the scene will be affected by this with so many events cancelled already, but also in times like this, there are opportunities to analyse plans for the upcoming year ahead. We are in the fortunate position to be a flexible organisation, so, for now, we just focus more on running the label and as soon as the bans are lifted we can plan ahead for events again.
Will there be more initiatives against the quarantine/stop of parties from you?
Like mentioned above, it's a good time to review your strategy and to make sure all the things are running smooth with the label, this podcast series was the least we could do for now and for the rest we just keep releasing music to hopefully make peoples time at home a little less stressful. We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the best and send our sympathy for everyone thas has been affected by this.
Words by Francesco Quieti
- Published on Sunday, 17 May 2020 08:34
Click HERE to buy the EP
Review: Priku ft Dinu - Luna (Introspections 01)
Half Is Enough is a Romanian artist collective based in Bucharest that focuses on delivering forward-thinking music and has now decided to create a new brainchild: Introspections. The launch of the new imprint arrives and with their first release, Luna. The album’s first and homonymous track is no other than a collaboration by Priku and Dinu, a delicate and thoughtful downtempo masterpiece which serves as the common thread for the release. The name Luna alludes to the mysterious allure of nighttime. ¨Luna¨ means moon in Spanish and Italian, a name that truly evokes a nocturnal ambience and elegant tension apparent as well in the album artwork. Sublee and Lizz are on remix duties and deliver a perfect closure to the work as a whole.
The Luna EP is a perfectly balanced yet edgy, three-track recording that showcases the original work by Priku and Dinu, which directly contrasts and complements the latter reinterpretations. The original version of Luna takes form as a downtempo song, with swinging jazzy instruments, improvising piano melodies along with, syncopated percussions and subtle atmospheric electronic sounds. While, Sublee adds a very smooth yet dynamic twist to the piece, driving you on a highway to a deeper sound realm, perfect for any dancefloor. Lastly, Lizz takes on a more progressive approach which keeps the listener moving back and forth. The release clearly expresses a unique sense of intimacy, as an experimental take on minimal and dancefloor music. Introspections is a label and concept, that allows for artistic freedom and then takes form as deeper reinterpretations upon the dancefloor to complete the circle. This is what Introspections is all about.
To remark the occasion, we invited Sublee for an interview to hear his personal thoughts on the release and his production in general.
- How was working on the remix of such a totally different track?
It was very inspiring, I love working on downtempo/experimental tracks and approach them in my style.
- Do you feel more comfortable to approach on downtempo/experimental tracks like this or a "regular" 4/4?
I feel comfortable approaching the mood, the momentum, so I enjoy working on both themes the same, as a producer. Also when remixing, it is about feeling the track no matter its style and of course feeling I can bring something there.
- What do you think of the overall concept of "Introspection? Would you like to provide "A-side" stuff too?
This approach is like a multiverse. Sounds morphing into something else, transcending genres, music taking shapes and states of self.
Sometimes I do this myself, a track in both interpretations. Since long I work on experimental/ambient projects so I would be happy to share some introspections.
- Which are the original stems that inspired you the most while working on the Reinterpretation?
I love the whole vibe of the track and I think all the elements have their role in this composition. For me, the most inspiring were the jazzy percussions, the bass and of course the piano.
- Do you think that with this lockdown/studio days producers will release more of this kind of unusual stuff?
I think in this situation that we are now having time to experiment more will lead for sure to some amazing and unusual ideas.
- Have you dedicated yourselves into more activities aside from music production during this lockdown period?
I worked on my schedule, diet and tried to rest better and train more because it was a long period of playing music every weekend and I really needed some time out. Also having time to spend every day with my son and my wife makes this period overwhelmingly beautiful.
- Your tracks always sound so gentle but at the same time, they work great on the dancefloor. What do you think it's your secret to have this perfect balance?
The secret is listening again and again and again.
- What's gonna be the first track that you will play at your first gig after this pandemic situation?
John Tejada – Soft Spread
Will see how I will feel then. I really hope that will happen soon because I miss dancing and people a lot.
Words by Daniel Ordoñez / Interview by Francesco Quieti
- Published on Thursday, 07 May 2020 09:27
Please could you introduce yourselves to our readers who may not be aware of what you do?
We are a collective of musicians that perform live and improvised techno and related influences using classic drum machines and synths, stringed instruments and vocals.
Playing mostly at clubs, raves and warehouse parties we have released three physical records and a few digital-only releases as well as some full improvised live sets over the last 5 years.
Last year we toured in India and had our first tour in Europe where we played at the Fusion Festival as well as Berlin Clubs etc. We have played extensively in NYC and on the U.S. East Coast with emphasis on underground warehouse parties as well as certain clubs we have really connected with like Flash in Washington DC, Mono in Mexico City and the now-closed Output in NY.
How did the three of you first meet? What made you decide to team up as a band?
We met in college about 15 years ago. Since then we have collaborated with each other in various functions and formations. Our love for electronic music, parties and improvised music brought us together to form N/UM in 2015. It started with jam sessions with electronic gear and evolved into this project that is very dear to us and has brought us to so many places and is making people happy through music. For years we were all very focused on improvisation, mostly through the jazz idiom because this is where the improvisation game was mostly confined to or at least was strongest in that realm. However, we always had a feeling that there was a need to break with the set and settled stylistic traits, the defined sound and general approach in musical interaction that the jazz tradition always seems to carry with it. This holds true even though we all have a deep love for Jazz still and in fact, still do a lot of our work in the jazz world. We also often go out to let ourselves soak in the music from the incredible scene that continues to exist in our city for jazz. There are a lot of amazing artists that really push the boundaries of the style. Starting N/UM was a way for us not to keep pushing the limits of the style but rather leave the style all together while keeping the sensibility and notion of a kind of musical telepathy which the history of jazz has brought to such a high level of development.
Band members tend to have more clearly defined roles. How do you split up your responsibilities? Does each of you bring specific skills to the table?
For the most part, it is very even. Of course, musically we all bring a very personal style and taste to the table. It has been very interesting and rewarding to combine them into a cohesive whole that is bigger than its parts. Since Jeremy is an incredible engineer, he is doing the mixing and mastering (with input from Emil and myself). I feel when one of us makes a particular connection or gets passionate about a certain thing they might take the lead on that. Many of the skills needed to play in this very interconnected and technologically complex context we had to learn together as we went along and bit by bit developed our setup and technique to what it is now. It continues to evolve and change as continually experiment and as we change as humans and as musicians, learn and gather inspiration. It all goes into a process.
Can you tell us more about your live set? Which equipment do you use and why?
Elias: Our live sets are totally improvised. We tried in the beginning to recreate 'tracks' that we liked, but we found out that the pure improvisation feels most alive and groovy. There is something really beautiful about having an experience with an audience that is totally original and in a way not repeatable. You had to be there!
I'm playing mostly guitar that I feed first into a 2 track looper that then goes into two different effect chains. One effect chain is the guitar sound processed with pedals like Red Panda's Particle and Tensor, a freeze pedal, an octave pedal, delays, reverb and a Frostwave Resonator Filter pedal. The other effect chain is a Meris Enzon guitar synthesizer with an Erika Acidbox III filter pedal and a delay. Since the loop is before the effect chain, once I have set up a loop I can freely use my hands to extensively morph the sound with the effects. The two tracks are completely independent. Everything gets clocked by a master clock.
Jeremy: I use mostly 3 drum machines, the Roland Tr-909, I love playing it!! it sounds incredible on big systems, it’s very playable as an instrument. it’s an absolute classic, the same as a guitar player would cherish their vintage fender guitar. the second one is an analogue drum synth of any sort that I trigger with the 909, usually the Simmons SDS or UDS Marsh (it’s a vintage Russian drum synth) I love drum synths because I can make them sound however I want on the fly, I can turn a snare sound into a Hi-Hat, percussion or bass drum in a matter of seconds, it helps to have instruments that are dynamic in a free improvised setup. And the last one is the Elektron Octacapture, I use this mainly as a sampler, I have a collection of samples that I like to warp change reprogram, it gives me a more organic texture to the beat.
Emil: I use a wide variety of analogue synths, mostly clocking with cv in one way or another to control oscillators or filters in order to connect rhythmically to the rest of the trio. We always joked that we are three people playing one instrument. Of course, there are actually many units that go into the chain but the connectedness of the rhythm that drives the majority of our sound and the ways in which the instruments affect each other very strongly gives this feeling of one big instrument. In addition to synths, I use my voice a lot. I use looping and effects on both synth and voice to be able to layer elements and carve out fleeting soundscapes that can form either the thematic basis or a sort of ambient background for what sometimes is in the end perceived as songs or “tracks”. We never have any songs going into the improvisation but when things are flowing they appear out of the moment.
You’ve shot a video set in the mountains around Ri Kynjai, Lake Umiam in Northern India. Can you give us a little insight as to how the idea came about and why you settled on that location?
As mentioned earlier we were touring in India in early 2019. We performed at the 'Nowhere Is Here' Festival in Shillong on New Year's Eve. The father of the festival organizer is the incredible architect Prabhat Dey Sawyan, who built Ri Kynjai. We spent some afternoons there and were mesmerized by the beauty of the architecture and nature. We had some free days and our friend and musician Hammarsing Kharhmar and his brother Larsing Ming Sawyan, who curated the festival, helped us to set it up.
The breathtaking surroundings in India were so inspiring, we felt the need to document our time there and to make an artistic testimony in some way out of our experience there. The 3 of us sat down and discussed if it was possible to realize or not, somehow everything quickly fell into place with the help of the organizers and their amazing community.
Can you tell us about who directed it and how you hooked up with them?
The video was shot and edited by The Hillspeople, a local video collective that also shot some videos for the festival. They were great! They had a team of just three people and made everything very seamless and focused. We had very little time to make the shoot happen and they were incredibly good at what they were doing so it was easy for us to just focus on taking in the scenery and the immense solemn energy of the place and give our best shot at turning it into music.
It looks like the location posed some unique challenges for a live set - how difficult was it to get set up for the shoot?
Well, we have the luxury of needing mostly power and speakers apart from the equipment that we bring ourselves. So once we had that setup, it was no problem for us to play. For the camera people, it was a little more difficult, since they had to film multiple angles at once and figure out on the fly (literally) how to stay out of each other's shots.
As your performance was fully improvised - how much do you think the environment influenced the music?
Very much. Nature and architecture, as well as the fact that we were playing the three of us without an audience, influences the music immensely. I think it is definitely more relaxed and chill than what we play at 6 am in a dark warehouse. That is the beauty of improvisation that all these factors as well as how you personally feel that day combine into something new.
And did the thought that it was being filmed make you approach it differently?
Not much. We try to focus on the music. That is always paramount.
Some would say this is a bit of a dream location, but what would each of your actual dream locations be?
Emil: I think our dream location is really wherever open-minded people are willing to suspend expectations and run along with our risk-fueled approach to musical performance. It goes hand in hand with a culture that celebrates experimentation and alternative ways of thinking and realizing ideas over prefabricated, neatly packaged and marketed experiences.
Elias: The advantage to playing in a great club or festival (which we are fortunate to do in many places) is that the sound system is great, which is very important especially when you're improvising, and that you get so much energy and feeling from the people who share the experience with you. The connection with the audience is the most amazing thing about playing music. But since we mostly need speakers and power I always had this dream to improvise in some unusual settings and places. Maybe a forest, in the mountains, in an old abandoned building... I think the vibe we would get from these locations could lead to some very interesting music.
Jeremy: The dream location for a party is not really about the location, but more about the people, the vibe, the decor the sound system and setup of the place, it could really be anywhere, the location can help to make a moment even more memorable but It’s even better when you get surprised by it!
Can you tell us about what’s next for N/UM? Anything you’re particularly working on?
We had a tour planned in Europe again this summer, but those plans are postponed for now for obvious reasons. We did two lengthy recording session where we spent days in the studio earlier this year, which yielded a lot of material that we are looking forward to putting out. We are going through that right now to decide what and how to release it. We also have some recordings from 2019 that we still have to release, which will be around the summer or early fall. Right now we are also trying to figure out if we can play remotely and somehow push the latency of streaming to each other to such a low level that we could perform being in different places. That would be quite fantastic but it has proven difficult with the complexity of the connections we have going. We’ll see if we manage in the coming weeks. We are working on another video project as well. This time in a very different way where we will not be in the video ourselves but instead have some very talented animators and film wizards work with their own creative freedom to form a visual world to merge with a recording of ours.
The current times are quite dark and in many ways tragic. The mood here is unusually heavy for NY, being that we are currently the centre of the crisis and don’t have much of an end in sight. We are doing our best to stay productive through and do enjoy the time allowed for introspection and seeking new inspiration and knowledge in books, films and music that we would not otherwise have time to delve into so deeply. That said, we cannot absolutely wait to be back out in the night playing together again surrounded by the irreplaceable force that is the energy of people, gathering around music and the collective experience.
Our best wishes to everyone. Stay safe and stay strong.
Words by Willy
- Published on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 15:12
You are very prolific but do you ever have times when you don't have inspiration and ideas? Do you still go into the studio and try and force it?
First question, yes. Second question, not anymore. I just came out of a little writer's block and I learn more and more how to deal with that. It’s essential to put the focus on results (tracks) aside. This could lead to a change in my workflow. I could get rid of something that bothers me and messes with my workflow or add something new. The last option is the one I prefer the least as GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a serious threat to creativity and can lead to unhappy feelings and restless behaviour. I know rationally that I could spend 2 lives learning and making music with my current gear. Emotionally I’m hungry for more and allow myself a gear snack every now and then.
Sound design is the best activity when stuck in a writer's block or similar situation. You should force yourself to really delve deep into the equipment you have. For example, in my head I sold my Analog Rytm 5 times, now I rediscovered it because I started using it solely with my own produced drum kits. If things bother you, don’t use them or use them in another creative context. Organising my samples and presets is always a good activity, it’s very rewarding. Most of the time I’m stuck searching for suitable timbres and going through a heap of crap that I don’t use or sounds like a mediocre preset. Get rid of that.
Another trick to get inspired is “the new context with one piece of equipment approach” and letting go of the resulting focus, just messing around. If this doesn’t work, I just start working on other things besides music and audio. You need to clean your head then. Inspiration comes from tools but also from boredom.
To be honest, I was always a very unhappy person when I didn’t finish productions, It was addictive, I was really addicted to making tracks. I learn more and more to let go and find different ways of getting satisfaction. Sound design is the way to go, it’s just an endless inspiration. The problem in the studio nowadays is not “what you use”, but “what you don’t use”, especially in the world of software.
How is life in lockdown for you? Are you locked down?
When you are a lab rat studio guy like me, life in lockdown ain’t different. It scared me a bit when I came to this conclusion but after a while, it eased on me. All social pressure is now reduced to a minimum. I see people freaking out, not knowing what to do with their lives once they don’t have work... I don’t have that at all. I can be creative in a relatively small space, I was able to do so in my entire youth.
Now is time to connect with your loved ones as well. What freaks me out is that people use this world pandemic catastrophic situation for their own PR benefits. When doctors are saving the lives of the vulnerable and even healthy people, certain creative individuals are more afraid of losing their self-centred moment of attention for a weekend or two. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad for everyone, club scenes, companies, self-employed people including myself who see all their income disappear in the coming months, it’s a disaster alright. It’s time to unite and support each other, with real hopeful initiatives. But yes, people try to survive.. 3 days in, I already saw labels and artists begging for money on their PayPal accounts from their fanbase. I would stay a bit more reserved, to be honest. I say this whole situation is a big wake up call if you’re not ill and have time to overthink life at least. We still don’t have any idea how long this situation will last. Many will be forced to re-invent their lifestyles, jobs and god knows what more for some time… It’s a test for people and I think nature receives it with loud enthusiasm. You see that society is still running for the most essential labour, this period already made me realise how much unnecessary luxury elements society holds. People with real essential jobs should get all credit right now. We still have groceries and fresh tap water.
How was the year before this broke out? What had been good for you?
For my musical career, things started to finally get a little better again. I had some good shows, one specifically at Tresor at the start of the year. I started picking up the DJ’ing stuff again and got rid of my screen, it felt good to do that. Gig wise however I think this scene has become a total rat race and not something I initially signed up for. You need a long breath to stay in, is my conclusion, especially if you’re not hot and happening.
Consistency is worth very little in a world where people are continuously addicted to the “NEW” stuff. Tendencies come and go faster than ever, I have a hard time to keep up with it. I learn more and more to focus on my own bubble, favourite artists and interests. One can only do that in times of total overkill.
Starting more sound design orientated projects was a good decision and gave me new energy, in the near future I also want to start doing online classes and finish writing my own tutorials about music inspiration, creativity and not so much the technical side of production. Currently, I’m developing this. Production-wise I had a long period of disinterest in making tracks so I forced myself to do other things like sound design, making patch libraries, recording loads of samples and organising my workflow.
Tell us about your new album ‘Manifold’ for 20/20 Vision - what inspired it, was there an aim for it from the start?
There was no intention to do an album actually. I had an album ready, something more downtempo and experimental but that was not suitable for 20/20 Vision. This is still in progress and will see the light of day soon. I made so many individual tracks in a short timespan when I got my hands on a Korg Monopoly. I sent this folder to 20/20 as a second option for EP’s, they were blown away by the tracks and said that it was perfect to release this as an album.
I had no intention in doing a DJ friendly electro album as I think there should be more variety on an album. I changed my opinion on that along the way and came to the conclusion that tracks worked really well together and formed a consistent piece. Hence that it was made in the same time period so things tend to have certain similarities.
Actually a completely new album was born out of a second folder with more beat orientated electro tracks, and then Ralph Lawson and I then made a selection. The title stands more for having different elements in one. It’s how I always like to approach albums, with a certain diversity but still coherent. That is always the challenge. Nothing highly conceptual this time, the focus is still more focussed on moods rather than distorted beats.
What gear did you use, is there a fav bit of kit that really defines your sound?
I would say that gear is not defining my sound, it’s always shifting. Your reference to sound quality is the most important. I always say: analog ears, digital production.
Lately however the Elektron Digitone (sound-wise my favourite Elektron gear) and the Korg Mono/Poly I also worked a lot on the super cheap Roland JV1080/2080. It sounds very lush and warm for pads, strings and anything atmospheric. It’s crazy how a piece of old digital equipment can still sound better than a 2019 VST plugin that is supposed to have the same functionally.
I was so motivated to program a full sound library for the JV1080 with mostly pads and ethereal sounds. A few weeks ago this was published at Gumroad.com/Conforce People can use my patch library now and make music with that.
Another thing I started to invest in is making my own drum-kits. I always struggle with drum sounds, I got really bored with all Roland drum sounds. Even my precious 808 is collecting dust. I decided it was time to make analog synthetic drum sounds myself on various synthesizers. It is a work in progress but I managed to already record several kits with the SH09, Nord Drum and Mono/Poly. It is a good way to learn your synth.
How do you work - do you just jam and record the sessions then edit them into tracks, or do you write parts or?
I never write down ideas and I never spend time writing down melodies before going into the studio. I love to do things on the fly and get in “the zone”, most of the time tracks just arise out of sketches or simple ideas where you’re messing around with a plugin or piece of gear. My way of working is very simple, when I’m playing with the outboard gear I just record all those on separate tracks. Sometimes the tracks are instantly done.
Another way of working is pre-recording all elements from your equipment into loops and then doing a live take on a mixer after you recorded the elements. After that comes post-production but I’m the type that already works on his mix during the production process... Before I wasn’t doing that. I was too impatient alright, now I have more patience and spend more time on my mixes. It’s a process that sometimes freaks me out and drives me insane. Especially bass drums.
When I’m producing fully in the box it’s sometimes very easy to get things done, it’s convenient but not always the most pleasing sounding result. I like the hybrid approach I guess. Use the best of both worlds. I take time to finish arrangements or takes.
Why did this one come under Versalife and not any other alias of yours?
I feel it instantly in the studio when it’s a Versalife mood, it’s just all about machine funk I think. Broken beats with evil bass and sometimes a certain melancholy. Some tracks are more retro-esque and others have a more contemporary edge to it. I would say Versalife is a certain mode. It’s really a switch in my head, I can’t really explain it properly but the music does so I think. I try to push myself with new technology and equipment to stay inspired. The character of an album changes with every new one but at the base, there will always be a Versalife soul.
My last Conforce album saw me adopting some of the influences from other projects but I think that is just a good development, meaning I’m getting closer to my own sound and not imitating other artists too much. Not saying that is a bad thing. Cross-genre stuff is the most interesting for me.
And how did it land on 20/20? What was it like working with them?
I found it to be a very easy going work process. Ralph Lawson works fast and was on point, at the same time you work on something highly creative but you also know it’s a business thing. I think we connect well in both worlds at the moment. I trust strongly on my intuition and feel Ralph is also allowing that with the music selection. His enthusiasm is much appreciated and I am a quick worker so all goes well. I can’t lean on projects for weeks or months, I lose my attention and interest. They are a dedicated bunch of people at 20/20. As a teenager, I was buying records from this label. I like their open approach to pure electronic music.
At the same time, they don’t put any restrictions on what I’m doing, I take their advice and suggestions seriously. Labels like 20/20 have a quality value for me, they know the biz model and also how to properly release an artist album. It’s not an easy market today for the type of niche music we’re doing right now. So far they do an excellent job.
What did you learn about yourself or how did you challenge yourself with this album?
I think it was an out of the box challenge, I would say that 80% is all produced out of the box and later slightly post-produced. One of the centrepieces on the album was a recently bought Korg Monopoly. It’s always interesting when there is new gear, you are completely fresh and start at zero. It’s really an interesting moment where you should record as much as possible. I have this mostly with outboard stuff, you invest in it, it grabs you or not and when it does you just want to get the maximum sound potential out of it and search for the real sweet spots. A lot of the tracks use this synth in a variety of contexts resulting in grumpy fat bass sounds, arpeggios, weird effects. I discovered this synth is really a great all in one electro machine, I could produce with this only. I even made a complete electronic drum kit on it and recorded that separately. If you force yourself to stick to once piece of equipment, that is where you start pushing and become pretty creative. I’m easily lost in a computer most of the time, thinking what to do, the options are endless…. It’s great if there is some hyperfocus.
What will be the first thing you do when the lockdown is over?
Visit some family mostly, get a big fix of nature and play a couple of previously cancelled shows after that. Hopefully, if they get rescheduled… I think I miss the musical interaction and social aspect of the touring artist life a lot. Things start to become linear at some point.
What else have you got coming up/are you working on?
I have been really productive in the last months on several free projects, the base is there for let’s say 2 new albums. Also, I had a good run in the studio again as Versalife during the self-isolation period. All I need to do however is make selections and look for the final pieces of the puzzle. A lot of sketching was done and it’s a matter of doing the takes. Hopefully, it results soon in a new Severnaya ambient LP, I’m still not 100% satisfied.
Besides music I’m very active with an online wine magazine together with my girlfriend, it’s called winemugs. We write about consumers, producers and all who love to spread a bit of the joy of life. We make articles, portraits and produce educational videos with a twist.
Words by Pete Downes