All posts by Andy

German house duo Session Victim headline the Bongo for Oscillate, Wed 18th Sept

11 September 2019 -

We’re well chuffed to be welcoming Session Victim to the Bongo, courtesy of irregular midweek party-starters Oscillate. More info on the event / ticket link HERE.

Here’s a copy of a recent interview they did with Flux Music to give you a bit more background to this talented pair:

Trump, Brexit, divisive politics, the overzealous policing of raves and this general air of malaise has turned a lot of us into cynical and jaded folk – and in many ways, this seems to be mirrored in a lot of the darker music coming out. But they say you need the rain to have the rainbow, and Session Victim are exactly that – a burst of colour and optimism in a cloud of darkness and grey.

Hauke Freer and Matthias Rieling comprise the self-dubbed ‘2-man house band’, blending the rawness and spontaneity of a raucous live gig with the almost spiritual pulse of a DJ set where the entire crowd moves in unison as a nebulous school of dancing fish.

They are also accomplished solo artists in their own right, with releases on the Giegling and Delusions of Grandeur imprints amongst others – and Matthias’ new EP drops on Session Victim’s own label Pen & Paper this week. We caught up with Matthias and Hauke, based in Hamburg and Berlin respectively, to discuss the German music scene, their Pen & Paper label and playing house music live…

Hi guys. What’s the genesis of the Session Victim name? Is it somewhat autobiographical?

Matthias: Hi! I don’t remember exactly how we came up with it, but it was right before we released our No Friends EP on Real Soon. For us it describes that moment in the studio, jamming, when it transcends from you playing the music to the music playing you – if that makes any sense. When we told [Real Soon label owner] Paul Hammond about it, he instantly liked it so we went with it.

Session Victim often feels a little sunnier and in stark contrast to the darker, more brooding form of dance music Germany has come to be known for – would you agree with this, or is there a thriving Berlin/Hamburg community within which you cultivate this brighter sound?

Matthias: We are and have always been friends with a lot of musicians and DJs in Berlin and Hamburg, and we get to meet new interesting and inspiring people all the time. So, of course there is a bigger, loose community, but this community includes people from everywhere around the world just as much as it does Germany. What comes out of Session Victim is basically just the stuff that the two of us both feel together – that goes for what we write and produce as well as what we spin as DJs. However, we are lucky and blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people and I would love to name them all now – but it would be a very long list and I would forget someone in the end and feel bad about it forever.

Your ‘2-man house band’ vibe really shines through – there is this raw, live feel to it. The jazz club-esque intro at the start of Listen To Your Heart, opener ‘Over and Over’ followed by the sample of Rasa’s ‘When Will The Day Come’ really emphasises this. How do you guys manage to make it so cohesive and organic when collaborating remotely?

Hauke: To be honest, we don’t actually collaborate remotely. Our studio has been in Hamburg for the last 5 years. I take a train during the week and we lock ourselves down for 2 to 3 days. Many people mention that they perceive our music as organic. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I think it’s a mixture of using many samples that come with their own rich colours, textures and timing as well as attention to layers and details. And really important is to avoid thinking too much within the grid.

What is the impetus behind the live show, and why is it so important to you guys?

Matthias: Because it’s a ton of fun! It’s something we practise but is spontaneous nonetheless, it’s chaotic, it’s emotional, it’s in that very moment, it’s sometimes scary but at the same time something we both feel super confident about… yo, it is a whole lot of things to us!

Your live shows at the Jazz Cafe seem to have gone down in folklore, especially with Matthias’ crowd surfing. The energy of your productions seems to come from both your music and your physicality when performing, an observation that’s drawn comparisons with the Duracell rabbits on YouTube. Where does the energy come from?

Matthias: Haha, that sounds too big and cheesy to me. We just play music, we get into it, emotionally and physically, we give our energy into the audience, and receive energy back. As for the stage diving, when that happened at Jazz Café, I was just overjoyed with the music and the vibes at that moment and the audience made me feel so safe and good that it just happened. However, it is not a premeditated stunt or gimmick, and I don’t do it every other show. It was just a very intense night – in a good way!

How did the collaborations on your ‘Dawn EP’ with South London’s Nebraska and the German Iron Curtis come about, and why/how did you approach it this way after several albums of it just being the two of you?

Matthias: Nebraska and Iron Curtain are longtime friends of ours, and they both visited us at our Hamburg studio last year to jam on music. There wasn’t a preordained plan to do a collaboration EP before, the tunes we came up with just felt right together and when we showed them to DOG they were totally into it as well.

You launched your label Pen & Paper the start of last year with three releases including Iron Curtis and solo stuff from Hauke. Matthias has a forthcoming EP out very soon – what can we expect from this release and what are your broader ambitions for the label in 2019?

Matthias: We started Pen & Paper as our own little playground, and the idea came up after we gave our track ‘Puzzle’ to Iron Curtis and VRIL and they came back with those beautiful remixes. Before we had them, there wasn’t the idea for a release at all, but suddenly it felt like a complete 12” all together. The A side of the second release, ‘Smile’, we had originally planned as part of our third album, but it somehow didn’t feel fitting with the rest of the music, so we decided against it. After ‘Mourn’ was finished, we both immediately thought these two tracks would make a great record together. Hauke’s Higher State of Confidence was a total no brainer for me and I would have probably sent it off to pressing right after I heard the first versions of those tracks. Hyped as I was, Hauke put some more detail work into it and gave ‘Part 1’ to our friend Sam Irl, who did an absolutely amazing job mixing the song. As for my upcoming solo record, I made at least 12 pieces for it of which 3 actually made the cut now, including a stunning Broke One remix of ‘Vibrate’. I’m happy that he pulled the whole EP into slightly friendlier territory with it, as I originally wanted the whole thing to be even darker.

What club or city in the world do you find your music most resonates – what crowds are matching the unbridled energy you bring to your live sets?

Hauke: In the end you can have a great party everywhere, and it’s never possible to predict the outcome of any night. When we play to an audience that appreciates being taken on a journey musically, it’s easier to establish a feedback loop between us and the audience and that’s when we are performing at our best.

What is the summer looking like for you guys? Can we expect some festival appearances?

Hauke: Cannot wait for summer, though sticking to our regular routine of hitting the studio during the week and being on the road on weekends. We are playing around Europe mostly and making longer trips to Mexico, Lebanon, the US and Down Under a bit later this year!

You can listen to and buy ‘The Stone Tape EP’ here.

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Bongo nights happening elsewhere during the Fringe/August

30 July 2019 -

Holidays (700 px)

We are now ‘on holiday’ until the end of August, due to the lease for our building being taken over by Underbelly, as happens every summer for seven weeks (scroll down for more details).

Bongo nights happening elsewhere during the Fringe/August:

Friday 2nd August
Headset at Mash House
Soulsville at Mash House
Messenger Sound System at Mash House

Monday 5th August
Headset’s Gay Garage at Sneaky Pete’s

Tuesday 6th August
Midnight Bass at Mash House

Friday 9th August
Headset at Mash House w/ Roska
Hotline at Mash House
Messenger Sound System at Mash House

Saturday August 10th
Dr No’s Ska Club at Henry’s Cellar Bar

Monday 12th August
Headset’s Gay Garage at Sneaky Pete’s

Tuesday 13th August
Midnight Bass at Mash House

Friday 16th August
Headset at Mash House w/ Hodge, Debonair & 12th Isle
Messenger Sound System at Mash House
Disco Makossa at La Belle Angele

Saturday 17th August
Overground at Mash House

Monday 19th August
Headset’s Gay Garage at Sneaky Pete’s

Tuesday 20th August
Midnight Bass at Mash House

Friday 23rd August
Headset at Mash House
Messenger Sound System at Mash House
Disco Makossa at Mash House

Monday 26th August
Headset’s Gay Garage at Sneaky Pete’s

Tuesday 27th August
Midnight Bass at Mash House

We re-open on Saturday 31st August with Messenger Sound System and look forward to kicking off the new season with you then.

Enjoy the festivals and have a great summer.

NB OUR REGULAR COWGATE VENUE DOES NOT BELONG TO US AND THE BONGO CLUB DOES NOT MAKE ANY MONEY AT ALL DURING THIS PERIOD.

The Underbelly is a Fringe theatre/comedy/arts business based in London; The Bongo Club is a trading subsidiary of Out Of The Blue Arts and Education Trust, an independent arts charity and social enterprise based in Leith.

So, if you come down to the venue at this time, you will find none of our events happening and none of our crew here (except those few who have been hired separately by the Underbelly to work for them).

However, you are likely to find more space open than usual – the Underbelly’s licence is much broader than our own – and a thriving Fringe operation in full swing.  So, by all means, please feel free to check it out but remember it has nothing to do with us.

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Durban’s DJ Lag headlines our Summer Closing Party for Headset, Sat 13th July

12 July 2019 -

Durban’s DJ Lag stops in Edinburgh for Headset this Saturday, as part of his current tour off the back of his Radio 1 Essential Mix and huge international success.

Check out Crudo Volta Radio‘s documentary video (‘Woza Taxi – Gqom Secret Stash Out Of The Locations‘) below and Sean Harper’s interview for the Ransom Note blog (also copied below) for a much better idea of where this music – called ‘gqom’ – comes from and how it’s grown.

TICKETS / MORE INFO


Ransom Note interview by Sean Harper:

To an outsider, South Africa’s music sphere appears volatile and unpredictable. The cultural hangover that the apartheid left in its wake rendered individual scenes divisive at best, and insular at worst. As such, it’s fascinating to hear DJ Lag imply that gqom, the hybrid strain of South African house that he played a singular role in proliferating, had to break out internationally before receiving even a modicum of attention in South Africa outside his home city of Durban, where he and a band of peers laid its foundations.

“For me, it really helped because when the international crowd started taking note of the sound, gqom became a big thing in South Africa as well. People who didn’t know about gqom in South Africa got word of it because of the international exposure, and they started searching for it, trying to get the music, and it became a big thing in the past two years”, he explains.

It’s been a couple of years since gqom first made the headlines. In 2015 its international hype compounded tenfold, as tastemaker and Hyperdub mastermind Kode 9 had begun to incorporate the sound into his sets after an introduction by South African-born Hyperdub signee OKZharp. This push thrust gqom into what relative limelight these pockets of electronic music can offer, and the genre caught the attention of Moleskin, who operates Goon Club Allstars; the London label responsible for Lag’s first release proper. He has previously spoken humbly of his disbelief that a label from outside Durban would even hear his work, let alone release it.

And yet, occupying a void between raw and refined and provoking a more bodily response with each new track, Lag’s brand of gqom has  since catapulted him to notoriety on the international circuit. It’s been around two years since gqom broke out, and I’m intrigued as to how it’s international communities of avid fans have influenced its communicative effects back home. He simply states:

“When people from South Africa found out that a South African genre was being played a lot internationally, that’s when they woke up and started taking notice of it.”

This statement speaks to a wider, deeper paradox that seems to plague contemporary musical styles with their roots in South Africa. In a recent conversation I had with DJ Okapi, he spoke of the strange reticence South African music fans have towards music that originates from their home. Perhaps an amalgamation of nuanced sociopolitical reasons is to blame, and yet the same story is told of each widely adored South African export: they must prove their worth internationally before finding their footing in their country of origin.

However, thanks to the tireless graft of DJ Lag and his contemporaries Rudeboyz, Emo Kid, Dominowe and countless others, gqom’s reputation the world over has resulted in its eventual embrace by their home country. Now, “for sure, gqom is getting bigger and bigger. The sound is taking over South Africa. Every club and every radio station – they play gqom” Lag discloses proudly.

The vocal strain of the genre has proven particularly popular, with records by Distruction Boyz and Babes Wodumo enjoying enormous success. The former’s 2017 debut album Gqom Is The Future was even awarded gold certification by the Recording Industry of South Africa as recognition for it having sold over 20,000 copies.

Lag says “there were vocalist growing up alongside Gqom producers, and as we grew, so do they, but I honestly feel like Babes Wodumo brought gqom to the mainstream with ‘Wololo’”. Taking in the trademark gut-wrenching gqom grooves that Lag employs and icing them with impossibly catchy hooks, ‘Wololo’ is a deserving breakout. And yet, once again, this is a success story marred by controversy. I am noticing a macabre pattern emerging. As she released follow-up single ‘Mercedes’, Wodumo instantly found herself the subject of a tabloid with-hunt “The lyrics on the tracks were open to interpretation, and a lot of people thought they had bad meanings, like referencing drugs” Lag explains, which led to the track being banned from the airwaves by the SABC.

In spite of these setbacks, Lag is perfectly optimistic about gqom’s future, and charmingly humble. He’s also refreshingly grounded in comarison to the lavish imagery of the gold-certified producer-vocalists Distruction Boyz. “I can say for myself that I will continue touring the world, pushing the sound abroad. I want to make it recognizable to everyone in the world. I’m dropping my next EP in April under London based label Goon Club Allstars. And of course, continuing my worldwide tour, visiting new countries and revisiting others.”

It’s not all he’s got on the horizon. As he continues his world tour, he has the following to look forward to: “The international crowd is completely different to Durban crowd and how they react to GQOM music is a bit different. In Durban when GQOM is playing, we’ve got a unique way of dancing which is called ‘bang’, whereas all over the world they just go crazy with no specific style.”

The frenzy of the international dancer is hardly surprising. To have led the way on a vital genre borne of a DIY movement at the age of 21 is enough to incite envy and awe in equal measure.

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Messenger Sound System ft. MC Ista host our Windrush Day Party, Sat 22nd June

07 June 2019 -

Celebrating the music, people and culture brought to these shores from the Caribbean.

Stevie Messenger has been wanting to do a ska and rocksteady night for years, so when we realised that Sat 22nd June is Windrush Day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity!

LINE-UP:
Messenger Sound System feat. MC Ista Lion

Playing ska and rocksteady from the vaults of Studio 1 and Treasure Isle, the sounds of young Jamaica!  There should even be some calypso early doors as well.

NB This is not a ‘Messenger night’ exactly and the music will be quite different from the usual dub reggae programme at Messenger.

Also, a percentage of the profits will be donated to the Windrush Justice Fund.

Easy skanking.

TICKETS

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NYC house & techno legend Levon Vincent makes his Bongo debut for Substance, Sat 27th April

24 April 2019 -

We couldn’t be more excited to be welcoming Levon Vincent to the Bongo for the first time, courtesy of the evergreen Substance crew.  This recent interview with him by XLR8R gives an insight into why he’s such a talented and successful producer…

Levon Vincent has been producing records for nearly two decades, starting in Manhattan, New York. His music taste and processes were shaped by early ’90s house music and the energy that surrounded him in places like the Lower East side and Alphabet city. The explosion of music sampling in the ’80s informed his processes and, influenced by the elder producers in his orbit, he began his own experiments using an Ensoniq EPS-1, one of the first few affordable samplers on the market. He released his debut EP, No More Heros, in 2002 via his own More Music NY.  “I have quite a lot of experience as a student,” he explains. “I’ve never shied away from tracking down a producer or engineer to ask them 100 questions.”

Vincent’s ensuing releases landed with regularity: Complicated People and The Thrill Of Love came next, with a slick, warm house sound, before 2005’s Love Technique saw Vincent present a harder acid-infused techno aesthetic. This evolution continued as his signature became dark, chunky, and raw but groovy, psychedelic, and, well, sexy—at once driving and meaningful. “It can make you dance and it can make you contemplate,” says one enthusiastic Discogs user. (Case in point: “Double Jointed Sex Freak.”)

The culmination of this came with 2015’s self-titled album debut, a release—offered as a free download as a stand against the corporate machine—that exceeded even the huge expectations that surrounded it. It spanned atmospheric dub techno, lush deep house, and explorations into the darker realms, cementing Vincent’s reputation as one of the most original producers in contemporary techno. Often it takes two or three listens to properly understand his message; to really appreciate how he says so much with so little.

Vincent has been hard at work recently, preparing a series of EPs that’ll drop this year, expected to be one of his busiest yet—his first release of the year was “Dance With Me,” an old-school house cut on the January edition of XLR8R+. After some informal exchanges, he invited XLR8R into his studio, located in the spare room of his spacious Berlin apartment. He’s always been a bedroom producer, so this is where he feels most comfortable. Although distanced somewhat from the analog heavy lairs that we see so often in contemporary production, there is some seriously heavy duty equipment. “I am proud to be a bedroom producer and not too flashy,” he says. “This is independent music and should be in the hands of anyone who wants to make it.” To learn more, we sat down for a lengthy and candid discussion with Vincent, and below you’ll find a (slightly) shortened version of what was said.

To start, can you describe your current studio setup?

Today I am working with a few Roland synths and a Jomox drum module. For tracking, I use a combination of Aurora and Great River pre-amps and UAD conversion. For mixing down, I use JCF conversion, an SSL G-series compressor clone, and I sum through the Chandler mixer. I am a fan of the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format and I use Korg and Tascam recorders. I own a pair of trusty US$30 Logitech multimedia speakers, as well as a monster pair of Barefoot monitors for reference purposes, and some other goodies.

I’ve put any profits over the years into recording gear so I’ve really cherry-picked the exact items I need. I went through a lot of extra items while figuring it out and now I am down to just what I need, so if there is a piece of gear in my studio nowadays, I use it. I don’t have a synth museum or anything; those setups come and go for me, depending on my disposable income at the time. I also use a Yamaha digital piano, and while it’s nice, I left a Kawai MP7SE stage piano in New York when I moved to Germany, and I miss that one a lot.

Has your setup changed considerably over time?

My setup is constantly changing. Not the recording gear—it’s too important—but the instruments always change. I usually buy a few synths, make a record or two, then sell them on Craigslist and repeat. Overall, there is less equipment now; I choose not to have an exorbitant amount of sonic “toys” at the moment. I will start buying again soon, just a couple things here and there. I am holding out for Behringer to announce a Jupiter 8 clone.

Why do you feel the need to constantly change the gear?

Hmm, good question. I like that first feeling you get when you put a couple of synths together and you learn what type of personality they have. That comes from reading about Miles Davis, how he was so widely recognized as having a knack for putting band members together. I always liked that concept, so I enjoy the skill of combining different synths and drum machines. So a Walforf Pulse might have a very muscular character. That would be a nice compliment to a Juno, which has a more buttery sound. Mixing and matching the different instruments is akin to orchestration.

“..an artist must believe in what they are doing because there is a great sacrifice involved in dedicating your life to music or the arts.”

You spoke earlier about how you learned a lot from apprenticeships in New York. What are the most important lessons that you reflect upon?

This might sound like a negative but it actually was a positive for me: one lesson I will always remember was when working for the engineer on Steve Reich’s Violin Phaserecording for Nonesuch. And I had spent several months with him but he had never heard my music. Finally, the day came and I played him my CD. He listened, and I asked him what he thought, and he said, “If you weren’t in the room, I would throw this disc in the garbage.” Sounds like a tough one, right? But it gave me a thick skin—it was better than being coddled and that experience forced me to evaluate what I was doing. I do believe it was good music, and I did release some of it on Novel Sound to great success. So, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. But I had to go back to make sure I really believed in what I was doing, and I learned pretty quickly that you have to take things with a pinch of salt if you are going to succeed; an artist must always believe in what they are doing because there is a great sacrifice involved in dedicating your life to music or the arts. It can be a frightful leap to take because you never know if you will always be able to eat properly, or sleep in your own place, or have health insurance, etc.

It’s interesting that your studio is still in your bedroom. Do you want an external studio?

That has never appealed to me. My space is very personal and it is a very important part of my work process. I like smoking weed and working, getting all dubby—and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that outside of my house. Also, I often wake up in the night with an idea and go immediately to the piano. That happens every couple of weeks, where I have a good idea in the night, and just jump out of bed and go immediately to working on it. I have written every song I have ever released in my bedroom. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Well, now I use an office room in my flat and not my actual bedroom, but you get my point.

If I can’t make music with just 18 simultaneous preamps then something is wrong with my approach.

It doesn’t look like the most organized of spaces.

Yes, I do have a bit of a sloppiness problem with my work area. Not dirty, just messy. Truthfully, the messiness is a habit I developed from collecting records—just having too many records, the hoarding aspect. At one point I had 17,000 records. I didn’t even know what a few crates were. I also collected comic books and graphic novels when I was younger. I like collecting things, as long as it doesn’t disrupt my life. The way I learned to conquer the vinyl addiction and manage the hoarding is by first getting rid of that entire collection. It was difficult but a very healthy thing for me to do. And now every few years I give away several crates of records. I’ve passed out gear too. It frees you up. Regarding the equipment, I have always been buying and trading gear. The 1990s were worse because I worked for a music instrument shop and was able to buy things at cost. That got out of hand. For the past 15 years or so I have had a “no patch bays” rule: I have 18 inputs on my preamps, and that’s it. If I can’t make music with just 18 simultaneous preamps then something is wrong with my approach.

Why do you think you’re more drawn to recording and processing equipment more than instruments?

Well, I was born in the ‘70s, and I came up in the ‘80s, and the era was dominated by sampling technology. It was a revolution. Synths are cool too, they are the instruments that belong in the studio. I love it all. I love a good machine—I always have time to appreciate a piece of gear that is designed and assembled well. I realize that I like machines that do one thing really well. I’d choose an MPC if I could only have one piece of gear. That’s a New York thing. Although I moved to Germany 10 years ago and haven’t looked back, some things stay with you throughout your life. I will always have a fondness for recording gear and old samplers.

Are you still sampling a lot nowadays?

Nope. December would be the last time I sampled my synths or drum machine. I sampled my Moog Source most recently, three octaves worth, and layered it with noise from the Anamod ATS-1. The result was a really fat sounding disco bass patch. It sounds like the octave bass from “Blue Monday.”

Why do you think your practices have changed?

It’s because my library is so big now. It’s more important for me that I update what I have and bring it into the present time. Like my FZ-1 diskettes, I need to update those, and I have a bunch of zip disks to deal with, etc. I have an enormous library of 12-bit drum samples that I could use to make some really cool personalized drum machines. That’s something I really love doing—making my own drum kits, and then thinking of and treating them as if they are a rare drum machine, one that only I have. Then, I will spend a month making beats with it and really getting to know the sounds and how they work. I also like to pilfer the Jomox module, which is really punchy, and combine it with bits from my older kits. I sampled the hell out of my long-gone Linn Drum, for example. So I might take a shaker or a Tambo from that archive. Something I go back to a lot is a DAT of a Roland TM-404 drum machine that someone gave me in the ’90s, which was a prototype model that never came out commercially, and I sometimes mix a few sounds from that machine too. In the end, you have this really unique drum kit, which is like your own personal beat machine, and it’s cool to assemble your own drum kit because there’s only one “drum machine” made, so it’s like having serial number #001.

Do you think what you’re looking for with your setup has changed considerably since your New York days?

Yes, because I have grown a lot since my early days with production. It’s been a great journey. These days I have a higher success rate when working and I know what tone I like. An artist’s approach to their tone is one of those areas of audio that is regarded as esoteric since a lot of the boutique audio gear is subjective in its fan base and their opinions. So much of what makes a good record for me is in the areas of tone and timbre, but trying to explain what makes my clocking system so important is not always as readily agreeable as say, mentioning a Prophet V, which is a universally recognized work of art. I also reference my VU meters these days, which is something I ignored for a lot of years and regarded as a rock approach, where you are mixing live drums etc., but it’s an equally pleasant approach for dance music, making sure those meters are gently riding rather than jumping all over the place.

Are you currently using any in-the-box instruments?

I am a big fan of Native Instruments’ Kontakt. I have 25 years worth of my own samples stored on about 300 floppy disks, which I need to convert to Kontakt since I sold my Akai S6000 recently. I am already thinking about just buying another S6000 though. Otherwise, I will take the plunge and buy a copy of Chicken-Sys Translator. Then I can convert all my Ensoniq and Casio floppies too, so even though it might take a week or two of studio time, I would only have to do it once to be future-proof. The main thing is finding a way to preserve my aging library because I have put so many years of work into it.

Software-based instruments are awesome but can also be a point of contention for me due to struggles with timing issues. There is a competitive race to create the most extravagant, over-the-top-sounding beast of a synthesizer plugin but these instruments require buffer sizes of 256 Kbps or higher. This is unacceptable. If I can’t run my sequencer at 64 kbps, or maximum 128, then I will use a hardware sequencer instead. I can make music more reliably, whether it be with hardware or software, when working with small buffer sizes because I like to play instruments in real time—that’s why I like hardware samplers. I also like getting piano sounds or Rhodes sounds from my Korg TR-Rack, for example. Those are ROM-based machines. There are all kinds of sound generators. Analog synths are cool and fun but I generally don’t use more than four simultaneously. They are always necessary for funky and nasty bass lines, however, that’s a department where I really feel they shine.

It’s funny because I have made some of my personal favorite songs with delay compensation completely off, and a buffer size of 64. I like to work without delay compensation engaged because what you hear is what you get. I don’t like to disrupt the timing because I like to play my instruments and I want that snappy feeling. I hope that with the advent of the ELK system we are going to be able to use software instruments from within a Eurorack at extremely low latencies. That is tech worth paying attention to as it develops. That could really be big.

Is there any particular piece of gear that you feel like you’re missing?

I really like the Deckard’s Dream synth. A number of notable producers have expressed their happiness with that synth, Ellen Allien, for example. One of my “grail” synths would be an Ensoniq Fizmo in a rack. Also, Armen NYC refurbishes Akai MPC60s with hugely upgraded RAM and storage, new buttons and everything mint. That would be ace. I mostly would be happiest this year with a pair of racked Behringer Jupiter 8s. Dare to dream, right?

You’re rolling out EPs pretty quickly at the moment. Is this a good time for you?

Yep, I am in a good place. 2019 is off to a great start with regard to Novel Sound. It’s a dream come true to release music professionally. I always tell up-and-comers it is completely worth all the work to become a producer and touring DJ.  Music has so much to give, and there is always something new to learn. On top of that, we are in the midst of a technological revolution. If you survey the history of music, we are in one of the most innovative eras ever.

“I have made plenty of sacrifices in life over the years, worked shitty restaurant jobs to get by when I really should have been doing music, etc. But with my music, I have a clean history.”

How do you maintain quality when you’re releasing so frequently?

I have a rule not to take any short-cuts, musically speaking. I put everything where I think it should be, and I won’t accept lazy decisions from myself during the process. There are, of course, mistakes, but I have managed to adhere to a strict rule: never compromise with making music. I have made plenty of sacrifices in life over the years, worked shitty restaurant jobs to get by when I really should have been doing music, etc. But with my music, I have a clean history.

Do you perceive this to be a purple patch when it comes to music making?

Not really, because I have never had to deal with writer’s block. There is always something for me to do, even if it’s just cutting up recordings of previous sessions. I truly enjoy all of it. If I were to describe my own catalog as I have experienced writing it over the years, I would call it a steady trajectory rather than ups and downs. I am dedicated to music, and each time I work I get a little better. There is so much to learn. You get out of music exactly as much as you dedicate and the coolest part is sometimes you can sit down and listen back to your catalog and it’s like a type of journal. You can hear where you were in life, or maybe one song will remind you of someone you loved, or writing a song in a flat you really enjoyed, etc. And that’s so cool because it’s such a bonus.

What does “Anti-Corporate Music” take you back to, and even that whole album?

It was really just about enjoying life, my enjoyment of life and the joy that DJing and music have given me. The song title, of course, is more serious but the music and the LP was an expression of a joyous life. Actually, when reviewing life and my catalog, I can give that same answer for pretty much any release! Did I mention I enjoy making music?

Do you remember the processes behind this particular track?

That’s an example of a track where I wrote the beats first, and then I became obsessed with making effects stand as a valuable musical element. I had this idea at that time about building an effects chain that you wouldn’t want to change for months, like one delay so elaborate and that would give such a rich tone that the effects in itself would be a type of composition. It was like a Rube Goldberg of reverbs, flangers, and other pedals, all for this one dedicated effect. When I look back, I always like those effects and how thick they are. I still use that approach today some times, where I put everything I have into one effects chain and then write around that.

Did you expect it to be such a success?

I had no idea. The actual reason I gave that tune away as a promo before the LP release was because the digital was a different version than what was released on vinyl and I wanted them both to make it to the listener. Honestly, I still get quite surprised by which tracks find success. The first track on my latest release on Novel Sound #26, the Dance Music EP— that record sold out faster than anything I have done in years, and I almost did not include the tune that people are playing right now. You really never know what will happen. That’s always so exciting about watching a record release.

I always notice that your tracks are filled with all sorts of inspired melodies—warped, melancholic, tense, foreboding etc. Are you playing these separately live? Or sequencing and tracking them along with the drum-machines?

I work alongside drums most of the time, especially for improvising. Lately, however, I have been writing the melodies first at the piano before I turn any other gear on. When you write the melody first, the result will be more songwriter style because you can do the harmonizations and other things like tuning your drums all in support of the melody. The result is, therefore, a melody-driven tune. For other tracks, more grooving and in the pocket tracks, you can make the drums first and then play alongside them as they loop around. One approach is not better than another. You can also let chance take part. For example. John Cage used a pair of dice with his notes assigned to a corresponding number on the dice, then he would roll and let them “write” the melody for him. That approach can be used not only for melody, but you can make the kick #1 on the dice, the snare #2, open hat #3, etc.

“I’d say a lot of my songs—most of them, actually—are the result of experimentation, I really like to answer the question ‘what if?'”

You’re clearly open-minded when it comes to production.

I need to be. There’s no one way to approach music: you get different results from different processes so I orbit different modes of working and I enjoy the variety. Sometimes you sit down and write a tune, or other times you just jam. Occasionally you enter with prepared ideas. Ideally, you are just sitting there and something comes over you. Those are the best moments in music, when you seem to be channeling something bigger than you. I’d say a lot of my songs—most of them, actually—are the result of experimentation. I really like to answer the question “what if?” So, “What would it sound like if I did this?” Then I can go into my room and work to find an answer. I am productive when driven by curiosity.

So how much is jamming and how much is actual writing songs, from left to right?

I bounce between the two. Sometimes I will write melodies on paper, other moments I play them out by ear. Arrangements can be done on paper, too—I like doing it that way because you can map out Phi points and use them to accentuate parts of a song. You can easily sit down with a pen and paper, and work out the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci sequence, or Harmonic series, then use it in your music. There are a number of patterns in the big Euclid book, or from visual art textbooks, etc., all of which can be applied to pitch, loudness, timbre, or duration. I actually made a frequency chart, which I rely on heavily for all things equal-temperament. I have a giant one on the wall in my house.

Can you explain more about how you incorporate these visual art elements or non-direct musical theories into your work?

I like abstraction methods and impressionism and I use those techniques in my music. For example, recording sounds in nature or city areas, then using those recordings as templates for sonic events. Or, if you think of “La Mer” by Claude Debussy, how he created the sound of waves crashing by playing on the piano—that’s musical impressionism. You can take that further using today’s technology, and make literal abstractions of recorded sound effects and environments. So, if he was writing “La Mer” today, he might have first recorded real waves, then used them as a template for his sound. It’s taking the feeling of inspiration from his great work and thinking about how to update that concept using software like Logic or Tracktion.

How would a producer incorporate this chart into their practice?

The Novel Sound reference chart lists the note and corresponding frequency. So, for example, if your bass line has an Eb which is too prominent and needs to be tamed, you can look quickly to the chart to know which frequency to dial up and attenuate. Or, if you want to make that note warmer, you can refer to the chart for the fundamental, and then either boost some even numbered partials or reduce some prime-numbered ones. Even-numbered partials are where the warmth resides, and prime-numbered partials give you “edge.” It’s also interesting to look at what frequency resonates with you sometimes. I find that it helps you to get to know equal-temperament intimately, since it makes up so much of Western music, for so many centuries. If you strike a note and it moves you, look at what frequency you just played, and think of how it makes you feel. Eventually, you know what you like or dislike with a broad range of notes of combination therein.

Can you give an example?

Here is a 232 bar song arrangement (See screenshot below.) By determining where the PHI points lie, you can use these moments to illustrate climactic or memorable parts in a song. You do this by multiplying a given amount by .618, and this will give you the next point. The first line is the whole, or 1/1.

The second line demonstrates the primary point of interest, at 144 bars. I multiplied 232 by .618 and rounded to the nearest logical measure. This marks where the beat comes back in after a long breakdown in many songs, although you don’t have to do the most obvious event there.

Next line, you have the PHI point of the main PHI point so something musical can happen here at 89 bars which will point to the main event. By repeating this process of determining Phi points and their PHI points, you come up with more PHI points, such as 55, 34 and 21 bars. These are building blocks—places where events can happen that accentuate a groove, perhaps where cymbal crashes occur. All these blocks have a forward and inverted position in the timeline, and there is a vortex that exists between them. So, for example, from 89 measures to 110, that’s where something very attention-grabbing could happen. It all comes down to observing one main ratio: .618.

This is the same ratio found in all aspects of life, just like a nautilus. So, by observing these ratios, you are working with nature and people can often feel it, though they may not be able to turn around and explain why everything happens at “just the right time.” You can also break these rules and that will give you something that goes against nature—which is another type of tension in itself. You can ignore it completely too, but by using established forms like this, you can create tensions, releases, or romanticism etc…with consistent intentions.

Basically, the blocks are laid out in this arrangement, and if you have events happening at these points in your song, it will be perceived as being “logical” by the listener. You can continue to find the PHI points of the PHI points, right down to the smallest rhythmic increment if you choose, and by doing this you are creating a conceptual model of some of the most dominant patterns that exist in life and creation. Or, by going against this form, you can really freak people out! Your call.

What percentage of tracks do you release?

It may surprise you to read this, but the answer is almost all of them. I’m not a producer who is sitting on a giant surplus of material. If I see a project through to the end, I release it. I mean, it’s a bit of a fluke that I had the track available for XLR8R+. I had been sitting on the multis for it for so long because I just knew there would be a time and place for it, simply because I liked the song.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I don’t mean this sarcastically, but basically, when you press stop on the recorder. You know while it is recording that you have captured a good take because you feel it.

Looking back at your biggest records, “Man or Mistress,” “Woman is an Angel,” were these different to the rest of your catalog?

You know you are on to something special when you are making the tunes but nobody can guarantee a hit record. I don’t see them being different to other songs though, they are all part of my catalog. It would be boring if I only made hits.

The benefit of being a bedroom producer and keeping in that mindset is that you can easily just make something you enjoy, then think about the other stuff later. I had an interesting experience lately because I am working on an LP right now. And I was driven to make something as advanced as I could, trying to push my own limits and musical technique, etc. But alongside this I have been making some other tunes, a bit more simple, just having fun and blowing off steam with them. And it dawned on me only this week that the tunes I have been noodling around with for fun are the ones that will make up the LP! I was blindsided with this notion. That’s a great benefit to being an independent label owner and artist, because I can just do a total 180 if I want to.

What determines whether a track will be released?

Honestly, it’s a tough question to answer definitively because there is no right way to do things, and there isn’t just one direction either. I make music all the time—I am a music addict. I make music for peace of mind, I do it for joy. I suppose I could say the songs that are giving the most to me when working on them are the ones I release. It’s a gut feeling, if that makes sense.

Do you finish all the tracks you’re working on, or how do you know when to ditch a sketch?

Yes, for the most part. Ninety-nine percent of the time writing a tune I will see it through to the end.

Do you ever produce and keep specific tracks for your DJ sets?

I do. I play exclusively my own music and edits in DJ sets.

So do you have different processes: one for DJ-friendly tracks and the other for tracks that you wish to release?

Yes, exactly. Although, I use different classification. I might think: This is gonna sound really cool! or, I wonder what would happen if I combined this and that, or even, how can I make people feel this certain emotion while on the dance floor?

At what point does it become clear that you’re producing for a release or a DJ tool? And how does this influence your processes?

Just legal limitations, I observe copyright laws with Novel Sound releases but with edits or anything in-between, I play those without publishing limitations. It’s not illegal or even disrespectful to play things in your DJ sets which could not be officially released. For example, I made a track which samples George Kraanz “Din Dah-Dah.” I made this tune knowing I couldn’t release it but I always liked that record because I heard it when I was about 11 years old and it had a big affect on me. I could never get the sample cleared in order to release it, but that doesn’t matter. I do play it all the time and people love it. And I like having all those tunes that are unique to my sets, because it means I am offering something unique as a DJ.

Is music making an immersive process?

Yes. I do like to live inside a song as it unfolds. Some come easy, some take all your life force away. Neither are really better than the other, however they are entirely different beasts.

 

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Enigmatic techno player Gesloten Cirkel makes his Edinburgh live debut for Overground x Substance this Friday 29th March

25 March 2019 -

Substance are more than just a wee bit excited to have bagged this week’s guest, finally.  In their own words:

‘After literally years of independently tracking one the most elusive and sought after artists of our world, with apparent dead ends aplenty, we’ve finally got our man and bring Gesloten Cirkel to The Bongo for a debut appearance in the Capital.

The full live show has only graced select dance floors and is the sonic attack we’d always hoped for, fusing those untouchable underground anthems with live hardware experimentation, twisting acid, techno and electro into brave new forms.

Strap yourself in, this is going to be wild.’

MORE INFO / TICKETS

Richard Brophy did a good interview with the elusive producer for Juno on the release of his debut album, Submit X, back in 2014.  It’s well worth a read (see below)…

Richard Brophy interviews Gesloten Cirkel, the mysterious producer behind one of this year’s best albums.

Gesloten Cirkel is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. Named after a quote from I-F during an interview in the documentary, When I Sold My Soul To The Machine, this artist has only put out a handful of records in the past five years. Despite this, his recently released debut album Submit X was one of the most anticipated – and is also one of the most acclaimed – works of 2014. The reason he is held in such high regard is because while there are references to other styles, artists and communities in his music, what he makes is highly distinctive, with that rare ability to make people sit up and listen.

Gesloten Cirkel’s self-titled debut record appeared on I-F’s Murder Capital in 2009, the first release on that label in seven years. The screeching strings and shriek of a rooster on the driving techno of the title track sounded like a rude wake-up in an age of digital sterility, while “Twisted Balloon” was just as head-turning, consisting of grainy beats, grimy acid and slow-motion sirens. Following this debut, there was a two-year wait until the next Gesloten Cirkel release, Moustache Techno Series 001. That release kick-started David Vunk’s Moustache Techno sub-label and featured the eerie, bassy electro of “Yamagic” and the wonky, offbeat house of “Insummer”.

Like its predecessor, Series 001 became a sought-after release, with copies now on offer for nearly €80 (£65) online. Following the release of Series 001, there was another period of radio silence – with the exception of a short, high-tempo ghetto mix for Juno Plus – until 2013, when Gesloten put out the reduced electro drums and menacing bass of Hole on Berceuse Heroique. Earlier this year, he announced that he was putting out an album, Submit X, also on Murder Capital.

Was he surprised by the reaction to his first few records and why has he only put out such a small amount of music in the past five years? “Yeah, I was surprised, but also I am not sure a lot of copies were pressed,” he says about these records. “Music is mostly a hobby for me and I don’t want to make worthless releases. I do it to enjoy it, but I have to be confident in the package to release it with a price tag. That being said, I pump out recordings pretty often and post them online on Intergalactic FM.”

Although we have not yet reached the halfway mark of this year, Submit X is easily a contender for album of 2014. Like previous releases by this artist, it is rooted in grimy acid, techno and electro. Grainy drums are pushed to the point of distortion, acid spews out like bile and there are even some vocals on “Stakan”, “Feat Liette” and the over the top robo-electro of “Zombiemachine”.

However, Submit X is just as varied as his singles. It rages from the dirgeful Goth intro of “Stakapella” and its follow-up, the long-slung electro bass and wavy vocals of “Stakan”, to “Vader”, a nasty, distorted sewer techno banger. “Stakans” is almost catchy and sounds like it could be a big track – would Gesloten Cirkel be happy if his music became known by a wider audience? “I don’t care! I am happy if one person almost enjoyed it. “Stakan” was a stab at Emo wave,” he explains. “It used to have a few more lines of vocals that were really silly, but I didn’t record them so the track stayed pretty dark.”

He explains that “Stakan” was also the track that provided the idea for Gesloten Cirkel to record an album in the first place. “I played it live in 2010 in The Hague after the first EP was released and got nice feedback at the show. I actually made it in the same week as “Twisted Balloon”, so I think I mixed the two together at the live show. I accidentally deleted those files during some MPC maintenance,” he adds.

“Later, I put that track in a mega mix that was for a contest on IFM. The Murder Capital boss (I-F) liked it and I sent him some versions. I didn’t like them too much so it didn’t drive me to finish a release. Then work took all my time. I sent a demo version of “Feat. Liette” after I returned to working on a release for Murder Capital and that got some airplay. It was pretty rough and the vocals were clashing in some parts, but I think I-F still plays that version. So with two tracks kind of done, I said I am going to do an album. Most of the compilation and polishing was done in December 2013 when I had time and then I procrastinated with artwork for a bit.”

Now available in its final version, “Feat Liette” is an insistent, pulsing affair. Like a dark, slowed down EBM riposte to Alden Tyrell’s “La Voix”, it features an unnamed vocalist wittering away in an unidentifiable tongue. On “Zombiemachine Acid” and “Zombiemachine” the artist delivers more vocals. This time, they are accompanied by murderous basslines, grainy kicks and epic, soaring synth lines. The vocal element comprises a pitched down robotic tones ordering listeners to “follow the leader”. It sounds like Gesloten Cirkel is having a laugh. Does he not take things too seriously and like to inject some humour into his music?

“Funny? You think I’m funny”, comes the all-caps response by email. “I guess it is sort of a formula. I like tracks to have character – be it a sound or melody or solo but yes, life is one big joke.”

But there are things that this producer won’t discuss. “Zombiemachine” sounds similar to the grainy, acid-fuelled electro-techno that Hague labels like Panzerkreuz and Bunker release. Is he inspired by them?

“No comment.”

What about the vocals on the album; who is the vocalist on “Stakan” and what language is the unidentified woman signing in on “Feat Liette”?

“No comment.”

Fair enough, let’s steer it back towards the music. There are exceptions to Gesloten Cirkel’s bombastic electro-techno sound, and the most notable one here is the upbeat, warbling, lo-fi synths on “Chatters”. It sounds more melodic than the rest of Submit X – is this an area Gesloten Cirkel is keen to explore? “That track was a keyboard jam that I’ve set up to sound like some chiptunes – I don’t think it is that deep. I am more psyched that it was all in one take,” he says. “I definitely want to play live melodies more, but it takes a lot of practice.”

Would he ever consider making a soundtrack/home listening album à la DJ Overdose or like one of Danny Wolfers’ side projects? “I do make a bunch of ambient and sometimes a chill track, but I don’t plan on putting those out. I would rather score a film or do some sound design than make a home listening release,” he replies.

There is an argument that he should stick to what he knows best, and the title track sees Gesloten Cirkel channel a similar type of electro funk as “Yamagic” but with looped vocal stutters replacing the ethereal, dreamy textures. “Vader” is a banging, straight down the line techno track, while “Arrested Development” is inspired by Hague electro. However, it veers unexpectedly into a spiralling guitar solo before ending with Gesloten Cirkel spitting acid-soaked nails all over the arrangement. Did he sample a hard rock guitar for “Arrested Development”?

“No comment”.

Thankfully, he is slightly more forthcoming when asked about the influence of industrial music on Submit X. “Yes, I am sure it was inspired by it. I don’t listen to IFM radio often, but I know it influences my taste in sound. Mostly I tune into Murder Capital radio and it plays all sorts of dark and industrial and minimal sounds – especially on Black Mondays.”

So while Gesloten Cirkel’s music operates in its own world, The Hague’s electro and techno sound and the community that centres around I-F’s Intergalactic FM radio station seem like his spiritual home. A sign of how close Gesloten Cirkel is to this community is evidenced by the fact that his debut release relaunched I-F’s Murder Capital label and the follow-up provided the kick-start for David Vunk’s Moustache Techno sub-label. Speaking to this writer, Gesloten Cirkel says that he feels most affinity with artists from this milieu.

“Most of my contact with artists is through online chat on IFM,” he says. “There is an obvious connection since we discuss all sorts of things, including music production and the IFM radio site. I haven’t been participating in production of various media involved with the radio, TV or website code all that much in the past years due to my day job, but still – that is my main contact and reason for contact,” he adds.

The scant amount of information that is available about this producer suggest that he is Russian or based in Russia, which would explain his interest in developing relationships with like-minded artists online. As he is based away from the Dutch west coast nerve centre, he also places importance on face-to-face contact with his peers.

“When it is possible, I try to meet artists I’ve met in chat or forums before their gigs and just shoot the shit. On the rare occasion that I do play, I am with like-minded people who are on the bill or are putting on the show. It is really good to just talk with people who are moving through time alongside you, instead of getting too carried away or attached to things you can’t influence or be influenced by directly,” he believes.

In spite of this back story, not everything adds up. All of the topical questions that this writer sent to Gesloten Cirkel about Russia via email – his views on its incursion into Ukraine; its treatment of homosexuals and even questions about the development of electronic music in his home country – are unanswered. Of course it’s not unusual for some artists to dodge unrelated topics and to instead focus on talking about their new release or recent records. But then there is another strange twist – in the midst of preparing a new set of questions to send him by email, Gesloten Cirkel puts out a tweet stating that all of the proceeds from sales of Submit X will go directly to IFM, which recently announced it had been hit with a large fine for filing its tax reports late in 2010 and 2011.

It seems like such a selfless act for a producer who does not own the station that it immediately raises suspicions that Gesloten Cirkel may not be who he seems. Why has he decided to do this?

“Because IFM is the place – doesn’t everyone support what they like? Nothing is for granted. Everything is taxed and everyone needs a break sometime. The amount of work that goes into IFM, I know first hand – so I know where my earnings end up,” he answers obtusely.

It sounds like a very altruistic move, but Gesloten Cirkel would probably argue that it is money well spent and arguably, the producer’s debut album is shaped and influenced by I-F’s multi-channel digital broadcasting empire. “They are all very talented, self-driven, creative and reachable,” he says of the IFM community, justifying his donation.

“There is such a huge amount of material that I hear from these people and the IFM radio that I can hardly keep up with my influences anymore. Obviously there are tracks I don’t even remember that influence my melody or synth patches. That’s another thing, if I hear some old Paul Johnson or Armani record, these artists feel really far away and from another planet, so I can’t just go, ‘hey do you have more tracks like that or, hey how is that bass even made?’ So I kind of get inspired by them to make my own versions. But if I hear some Legowelt or Mark Du Mosch or I-F, I almost don’t want to know how they made that because I can just ask. And also, what’s the point of me jacking their production values or patterns? I guess it happens anyway whether I want to or not.”

This kind of interaction was impossible before the internet and it is one of the main reasons why an artist like Gesloten Cirkel is able to source and soak up all of these sounds on IFM, communicate with some of the artists who made the music and then deliver a unique interpretation of what he has absorbed.

It’s a different situation to the ’90s, as he recalls. “I was really blown away by Live at the Liquid Rooms by Jeff Mills in the late ’90s. He was already a superstar by then and obviously I couldn’t just talk to him or other acts like Ciccone Youth or Nirvana about what was on my mind. I probably liked it (Live at the Liquid Rooms) because it was marketed to me and my friends also liked it.”

“Richard D James’ album also blew me away and lots of Future Sound Of London stuff. I couldn’t talk to them or people that were involved with them. I could talk to other fans and hope that some synth magazine somewhere would reveal just a few bits or techniques that they used. So, after a while I really got tired of that and just did my thing and talked to other like-minded people. So now I am happy to be around the exact people you see me on the bill with,” he adds.

Possibly the other reason why the artist is comfortable giving the money to IFM is because he works full-time and has the financial wherewithal not to be reliant on touring or releasing records. On the subject of whether he will play live to promote Submit X, he says that he has “no tour and no gigs planned due to work”.

At the same time, he believes it is “very hard” to mix full-time work with music-making. “You have to be very mindful of funds, promotions, investments of time. It is basically running your own business that is powered by your creativity. You can sit at a desk and use 1/10th of that creativity per month. That is, until you get promoted. Then you are fucked,” he believes. Nonetheless, he can always slip back into his Gesloten Cirkel alter ego. Apart from his own releases, he has also remixed Mark Du Mosch and Conforce. Is it something he enjoys and does he approach it differently to making his own music?

“Not really. I just make my own track and put their name on it usually. Sometimes it turns out really bad because I can’t make it my own enough. I should probably approach it differently, and then I would enjoy it more,” he explains.

As a parting shot, I ask him if he has any other releases planned apart from his debut album.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it,” he replies curtly, before signing off for good. With a debut album like Submit Xto his credit, it’s no wonder that he’s reluctant to set the studio wheels in motion for some time.

Interview by Richard Brophy

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Sunil Sharpe, aka ‘Dublin’s Jeff Mills’, headlines Overground x Pulse this Friday 7th December

05 December 2018 -

Sunil Sharpe makes his Edinburgh debut for Overground x Pulse this Friday.  He’s been kicking around the Irish techno scene for a good while but has been touring internationally more and more of late, so it’s an exciting booking for the Bongo and should be a great night for techno fans.

Here’s a good interview (courtesy of Fabric’s blog) with the man hailed by some as ‘Dublin’s answer to Jeff Mills’, where he name-checks some of his earliest influences as a DJ, demonstrating the unpretentiousness which has no doubt been core to his enduring success (and includes a track by Edinburgh’s own Neil Landstrumm, no less)….

TICKETS

CORNERSTONE TRACKS

Sunil Sharpe charts the start of his DJ career

Until a few years ago, it was quite rare to hear the name Sunil Sharpe outside of Ireland. The Dublin-born artist has been considered one of the country’s best techno DJs for the best part of a decade, but his growing following has meant you’re now as likely to find him at places like Bassiani or Concrete as you are anywhere in the Irish capital.

The increased interest surrounding Sharpe is easily explained. Over the years he’s developed an outstanding talent for mixing records, sometimes cutting between 30 tracks or more in the space of an hour. A string of banging techno releases has also helped, and his forthcoming On A Roll LP with DeFeKT under their Tinfoil alias should be an opportunity for more of the same.

Sharpe joins us on a techno-heavy billing in Farringdon this Saturday, so we asked him to pick out a handful of records for our next Cornerstone Tracks feature. In his list, he discusses some of his earliest vinyl purchases as an aspiring DJ, and how these shaped him as an artist today.

Cambodia (Clanger remix) – The Art Of Trance [Platipus]

Some older friends of mine were big into trance, goa trance, and anything with a trippier sound palette. I picked up a lot from them, and by the time I got a pair of decks, it gave me a head start with trance or tech-trance, or good old acid-trance as well. Naturally I knew of Platipus Records. Like many Platipus fans, I was a bit of a completist when it came to artists like The Art Of Trance, Union Jack and so on. I still occasionally play some of them. This one is slightly more minimal but has a different hypnotic ingredient to the others; definitely one for the head as well as the feet.

It’s interesting because trance gets a bad rep but lately we’ve heard a lot of big name house and techno DJs playing it. Is there really much difference between trance and techno?

At one point there wasn’t. I switched off to it as vocal trance came in but the early era before that had so much amazing music. It’s disappointing that many will overlook what an incredible movement it was or base their judgement on the more commercial stuff. Trance was just as vital as techno for a while. Like with techno though, you can’t just scratch the surface, you need to look deep into it to find much of the best stuff.

Tranceido – Tandú [Noom]

This was on a Billy Nasty mixtape that I used to listen to. Back then it was close to impossible to find track names, but it wasn’t as important, as you could still hear it on the tape and preferred hearing it in the mix you knew anyway. After I started playing records though, things obviously changed. One day I popped into a shop called Music Power in Dublin’s Merchant’s Arch, and picked this one out to listen to. BOOM! The track with the sireny horns off that tape was now mine! It was such a rewarding part of buying records back then: randomly putting the needle on a record of something you loved and never expected to hear.

Quite a fearless sound to this. Were you already looking for a specific style of record like this at this point or collecting from quite across the board?

As simple as it sounds, I just wanted any records that sounded good, I wasn’t thinking quite like a DJ yet in terms of what could go with what. As I started to find labels and producers I liked, I would get fairly obsessed with their music. I was buying mostly techno then, all kinds, and some tech-trance records too I guess. Some Chicago stuff also which crossed into house here and there. I think I widened my collection a lot more when I started getting bored with new techno for the first time – a situation that everyone probably reaches at some stage!

Vessels in Distress – Model 500 [Network]

A second-hand copy of this and The Art Of Stalking by Suburban Knight were two of the first Detroit techno records that I got, delivered from Hard To Find Records. Like a lot of records back then, I listened over and over, really absorbed them, and it was tracks like this that I feel “coated” me somewhat going forward. It was techno on a much deeper level. I later found out that this was co-produced with Martin Bonds (aka Reel by Real), which makes sense considering his own classic track Surkit; you can definitely hear a connection between them. We’re at a point now where the first wave of techno partially gets forgotten, but I think you should know that first wave, and especially Juan Atkins’ music. It’s so warm and free, uplifting and tension-filled too. It’s nice to see the appreciation people have for Drexciya’s music, and rightly so, but it’s still clear to see who a lot of this can be traced back to.

So would you say discovering Detroit became a gateway in itself for you?

Yes and no. I was probably drawn more towards the darker sound of Detroit, and got more into second generation people like Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, and Kelli Hand; there was another producer called Punisher, I liked her stuff a lot too. The Kalamazoo guys like Jay Denham also. I think when I began working in a record shop called Spindizzy, I discovered a lot that I had missed or overlooked. I worked with Graham O’Sullivan (who had co-run the D1 record shop in its early days) there too, who showed me some less obvious stuff that I may not have known otherwise.

Crisis A Gwarn – Bandulu [Infonet]

I bought a second-hand copy of this in a short-lived shop called Vinyl Frontier in Dublin’s Abbey Mall. At one point there were about five record shops in this mall, including one that specialised in German and Dutch hardcore and gabba tapes. This was like heavy metal meets hard techno when I first heard it. So fierce and warped. I eventually got the chance to play with Bandulu and see them live. Such an intense and masterful clash of worlds, dub reggae v techno. Lucien MCing and owning the room, an authoritative-looking John O’Connell controlling the desk and Jamie Bissmire rocking the 909. It’s extraordinary that Bandulu haven’t had more coverage in recent years for their contribution to techno. What a group they were.

We’ve heard one Ricardo Villalobos playing a record of theirs at the club recently, but we have to say in general we’re also surprised by how few techno artists seem to know of them. Do you think there’s still a lot of untouched gold in 90s techno like this that people have overlooked?

Definitely. Having said that, I think social media and the ongoing sharing of content means that people are clued into a lot more old stuff than previously. As DJs, we can introduce people to older acts, but I think journalists have a responsibility too. In London alone, the amount of techno history is mountainous. I appreciate that some journalists weren’t listening back then, but if not, get to know this stuff and share the knowledge. Techno has a history that needs to be told and sometimes re-told; DJs and journalists have a duty here. I’m not going to say we’re the “historians”, but you know what I mean!

Chord Memory – Ian Pooley [Force Inc. Music Works]

Back when you’d associate certain tracks with a specific DJ, as if they nearly made it themselves, this was very much a Carl Cox tune. I was after this for a while, and had to settle for the likes of Celtic Cross or the odd Ian Pooley remix until I got it! This is probably the first time I remember buying what was considered to be a ‘big’ tune that my friends also knew after hearing it out. At the time I was hooked in by the jacking beats and “Rock The Discotheque” sample, but these days it’s more about the chords and breakdown for me. An all-time highlight for producer and label.

It’s interesting how the appealing part of a record can change with time. Or the B-side you never played suddenly sounds like a gem you’re been missing. 

Definitely. It often happened with some older Marco Carola records – one side would be a banger, but over time I’d go for the other side or inside track, which would be a lighter, pulsing groove for earlier in the night. But yes, it is an ongoing thing for me – sneaky A2 or B2 tracks that later become the highlight of a record!

This is surely one of the biggest records that came out on Force Inc. Do you still play a lot of stuff on the label?

It kind of depends on what I have access to. Not all of my collection is in one place, and some stuff has fallen out of sight here and there. I’d say the ones that I kept closest were Heckmann’s later Welt In Scherben releases. They’ve aged quite well too.

Praline Horse – Neil Landstrumm [Tresor]

I was on the way home from town one day. I had literally just got my own decks, and had a bag of records with me that I’d bought in Comet Records, including labels like Labworks and Prolekult. I bumped into a friend and early DJ inspiration of mine called Mark Gormley, and showed him what I’d got. He recommended a label called Tresor. The seed was sown. I knew of Joey Beltram and the first Tresor record I bought was by him, but it was over the next year that Neil Landstrumm, Cristian Vogel and Tobias Schmidt opened up a new kind of world for me. They were like protest records against everything else I was hearing, as they were so original and followed no template. Landstrumm’s music was obnoxious, Vogel had this weird insect funk, and the Tobias Schmidt stuff was very one-minded too. I loved Swedish techno for instance, but I could tell that these producers were very much the opposite of loop techno.

This doesn’t sound a world apart from some of the tracks you’ve made. Have you taken inspiration from Landstrumm in your own production?

That’s hard to say, but I guess I must have. I think what I took from him and other producers of then was a mind-set, that techno is an experimental music form where you create your own style and sounds. Making my own original sounds was my main goal when I started making music, before I ever fleshed things out into completed tracks. It’s not so hard to make sounds that are different, but forging that into a style of your own becomes a challenge. Neil is one of those producers who can make an electro track or a techno track, or a ravey track, or something slow and dark, and you still know it’s him. To have such a distinct sound that carries over many styles is quite rare. Definitely one of the greats.

Mortuary (Thought Process) – Freddy Fresh [Holzplatten]


Freddy is one of my all-time favourite techno producers. I used to read Mark EG’s reviews in Eternity Magazine, which is how I found out about him originally. Mark’s writing was funny, colourful, full of enthusiasm and made me want to track down and own anything I’d find by someone like Freddy Fresh. This was taken from a CD on Freddy’s Analog label, and Holzplatten put out five tracks from it on a 12”. It’s an epic 303 workout, turned into some type of dark sci-fi soundtrack. Amazing.

Like Bandulu, we’re surprised Freddy Fresh isn’t better known in the techno world.

Freddy did what some techno producers weren’t “meant” to do – he didn’t make only techno. He was big in the breaks world and through his association with Fatboy Slim; he had a long background in hip-hop too. He had also stopped releasing techno for many years. Dustin Zahn then re-released an old track of his on Enemy, and I managed to get some new material from him and Paul Birken for Earwiggle after that too. He has since become reinvigorated by techno, his Analog label is back up and running, and it seems people have been discovering his old stuff again too. His name is going to grow in the techno world again for sure.

This sounds like an end of the night record. When would you pull normally pull it out?

I’ve been the other way around, I would open up a set with it. I agree though, the end of the night would be a good time for it too because it’s such a climactic piece.

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Nightwave’s recent Resident Advisor mix isn’t taking any prisoners!

19 October 2018 -

Nightwave headlines the Hobbes Music 5th Birthday Party on Friday 9th November.  This feature/interview is republished courtesy of Resident Advisor.

Maya Medvešek has spent a lot of her life in Glasgow, which you might guess from hearing her DJ. Something about the city seems to breed DJs who know how to rock a party by spanning genres and eras, unafraid to drop anthems while they do it. Medvešek is no different. Her sets encompass everything from classic acid house and electro to new-school grime and footwork. She has an enterprising spirit that keeps her selections adventurous and forward-looking, with a mixing style that hearkens back to the rough-and-ready days of classic Chicago house. This might be explained by her formative years spent in Ljubljana, a city she says took great influence from Chicago and Detroit.

It’s that push and pull between retro and futuristic that defines most of Medvešek’s work. Take her two recent EPs for Fool’s Gold. Wavejumper is a thrilling EP that combines Drexciyan electro with ghettotech and rap, while Sanctuary takes old rave music and polishes it. Her RA podcast is full of new and unreleased tracks that fold in techno, breakbeat, electro, footwork and acid. There are classic flavours from newer producers like Arttu and Bodyjack, early ’90s hardcore from Public Energy and an appearance from the king of rave throwbacks, Special Request. It’s mixed live from the decks at one of her favourite nightclubs, K4 in Ljubljana.

What have you been up to recently?

A great year so far. I released the Sanctuary EP on Fool’s Gold, Acid Mouse on Metro Jaxx, worked on remixes and music for a feature film, had the amazing opportunity to travel to India and teach production for women thanks to the British Council and Wild City, held Producergirls workshops, played some great gigs, celebrated five years of my club night, Nightrave, and my label, Heka Trax. It’s been a very personally transformative year as well as I’ve done a lot of inner work, shamanic retreats and practice, and feel I’m starting a new exciting chapter in my life and my music.

How and where was the mix recorded?

The mix was recorded at club K4 back home in Ljubljana, Slovenia while visiting. K4 is one of the oldest leading electronic music institutions in Slovenia (it’s been going since the late ’80s) and the first club I ever went to, so it has a special place in my heart. Recorded in one take on CDJs and a Pioneer mixer.

Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?

Nice jackin’ house and techno party time, some classics, quite a lot of recent and unreleased stuff in there and a couple of my new tunes as well.

A lot of your productions and DJ sets incorporate old-school dance music sounds. What draws to you those classic styles?

I guess I’m partial to some rave nostalgia from when I started out, as it got me into DJing and producing, but mainly because it still holds so much energy and life. It’s no-nonsense music made for people to have a good time. I also love how club music has evolved into so many new forms and hybrids now, I often play quite a variety in my sets.

Is there a healthy scene in Ljubljana, and any producers or DJs to watch out for?

Ljubljana has always been a bit of a techno haven, I’m very grateful to have had such a good scene to look up to when I was a teenager—a fantastic Detroit and Chicago influence, loads of great electro, local producers like Umek and Random Logic. I moved to the UK in 2002, so I’m a bit out of touch but the scene is very vibrant. Try K4, Metelkova, Bozidar for clubs and look out for nights by Bojler, Stiropor, Rx:tx. If you like beautiful, shimmery jazzy vibes I recommend Your Gay Thoughts, they have a new album out soon.

What are you up to next?

Should have a couple more releases out this year and I’m starting a new label with a more focused direction. Apart from that, doing what I love most: DJing and travelling about. I also want to build on my therapist qualifications to hopefully help musicians with their mental health and wellbeing in the future. It’s all about creating a balance.

Tracklist /
Nightwave – Rainbow Body (unreleased)
Lauren Flax – It’s Ours (unreleased)
Arttu – WD40 (Jack For Daze)
Arma – Girl (unreleased)
Bodyjack – Nataraja (unreleased)
Mak & Pasteman – Reakt (Boom Ting)
Oli Furness – Trigger (Jack For Daze)
Benny Rodrigues – Cocaine Speaking (UTTU)
Special Request – Make It Real (Gerd Janson & Shan Prance Mania Mix) (Houndstooth)
Raito – Gunman (BNR)
Lone – Oedo 808 (unreleased)
Defekt – Acid Bounce (Tripalium)
Solid Blake – Masha (Modeselektion)
Martyn Bootyspoon – Spread That Kat (Steve Poindexer Remix) (Fractal Fantasy)
Public Energy – Three O’Three (Stealth)
Mella Dee – Expansion (Warehouse Music)
Nightwave – Bang The Rocks (unreleased)
Bleaker – Hype (Funk) (UTTU)
Ritzi Lee – Reverse Processed (Theory)
Panteros666 – Euronature (Meteociel)
Clark – Honey Badger (Warp)
Kenny Larkin – Without Sound (Rush Hour)
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DJ Q headlines Distrikt launch night at the Bongo, Thursday 18th Oct

15 October 2018 -

Launching at The Bongo Club, Distrikt is presenting to you some of the best drum and bass, bassline and garage dj’s in the current scene and who better to headline our launch than DJ Q!

Part of the TQD collective, DJ Q is an innovative bassline DJ who is set to raise the roof for the first event. With recent performances at Boomtown and Lovebox festivals earlier this year, this event is one that is not to be missed!

Tickets have been flying, so don’t hang around if you’re keen!  Grab one here.

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