Techno Tuesday: Ardalan and the philosophy of being ‘Mr. Good’

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Techno Tuesday: Ardalan and the philosophy of being ‘Mr. Good’Techno Tuesdays

Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.

Duality is a concept instrinsically connected with Ardalan‘s life and career. Born in Tehran to parents with international professions, he spent his youth living between Iran and his stateside home in the Bay Area and adapting to each locale’s different societal norms. Oddly enough, it was through his friend in Iran that he discovered DIRTYBIRD, courtesy of Claude VonStroke‘s megahit, “Who’s Afraid Of Detroit?” Not long after, he attended the very first BBQ as a young teenager. He released his first track on the imprint alongside Justin Martin by age 19, forever cementing his status as label family and one to be watched.

It was through this newfound success, and growth into adulthood, that the Ardalan noticed the contrasting nature of human existence, especially in the way one might present themselves to the world versus the person within. Thus, Mr. Good’s story was born. The key lies in its title track, and the more sinister “Mr. Bad,” which are the yin and yang of the album’s story. Just as everyone has a “Mr. Good” that they show off to the world, there exists a “Mr. Bad” to balance it.

The album as a whole is experimental, a step away from the lighthearted shade of tech house one migh have expected from his longform debut. Ardalan is no one trick pony, however, and he pulls off his album and its multi-genre exploration off with polished finess. One might even say that Mr. Good is an entrance into a new sonic era for DIRTYBIRD.

We chat more about the themes of Mr. Good for this Techno Tuesday, additionally taking a gander into its tech side, Ardalan’s artistic journey, his dual lives, and more.

Mr. Good really gave you a medium to explore your sonic range. In doing so, has your overall style in studio and behind the decks changed at all as a result?

In some ways I believe it has. I feel like I am always constantly testing new ideas and taking risks to do something different. Whether it’s in the studio or behind the decks, I really enjoy challenging myself to find a new sound. It’s fun. I look at it like its a puzzle, but with sound! I love playing different styles and creating a journey out of a DJ set. When I am in the studio, I always find a way to use or create something different with each track. I’m now excited to explore uncharted musical territories!

Which songs in particular really pushed you to go outside of your comfort zone musically, and in what ways did they do so?

“Lifted” with Claire George. It’s the one track on the album that isn’t 4 on the floor. I’ve never made a drum n’ bass tune in my life to this magnitude, so when I started working on it I didn’t really know what I was doing or know if there was a rulebook of sorts that I needed to follow. I was just jamming on the SP 1200 and having fun when I realized I could just work with the loop in half time and turn it into drum n bass!

Your dance music discovery really began in Iran. Can you take us to the time of discovering Euro house and techno there and how this ultimately prepared you for your full launch into the music world upon reaching adulthood in the Bay Area?

When I was growing up in Iran, I really didn’t have any sort of knowledge for music. I was just hearing all these cheesy trance melodies and some 90s pop house on bootlegged cassette tapes and satellite televisions from Europe. I was exposed to hearing Persian music as well. In the late 90s early 2000s, my brother got into Progressive House and Techno music from artists such as Deep Dish and Anthony Pappa. I got a taste of that and instantly got hooked. I then moved to the Bay in 2004 and really got into Boards of Canada & Aphex Twin. I then moved back to Iran in 2005 and moved into my brothers old room. He left his old computer behind with all the music mentioned above still in it. I started going through it and found James Holden’s Balance 005 compilation and that changed everything for me. I got into microhouse / minimal around 2006 and moved back to the Bay Area in 07. That’s when I heard Claude Vonstroke’s “Deep Throat” and ultimately DIRTYBIRD!

On that note, you’ve also mentioned that you made an effort to imbue the music of your ancestry into the project; how have you executed this?

I tried to incorporate a track that had those elements but I ultimately ran out of time and didn’t want to rush it as I want to do it right and raw yet keep those Iranian elements balanced.. I will go back to it in the future!

Techno Tuesday: Ardalan and the philosophy of being ‘Mr. Good’Ardalan Shot By Grady Brannan1 1
Photo credit: Grady Brannan

The album process was a long one for you, and with some tracks taking months to finish. How did you get over these periods of writer’s block or override what was holding you back?

Most of the tracks were finished in the last three months of the album process. But it took me forever to finish “Mr. Good” with PartyPatty. It was the first track that I was seriously working on for the album. I had never done an album and I really loved “Mr. Good,” so I wanted it to be perfect and I constantly kept changing it. I literally have about 250 versions of it. I took a break from it and read an article about how “perfectionism” is self-harm . I took a break from it and made “I Can’t Wait” and two weeks later I took one last stab at Mr.Good and I was happy with it. I grew so tired of hearing it in my studio during the album process, but now on my album tour, it’s one of my favorite tracks to play! Other than that, What kept me sane in that period was hanging with my girlfriend and family. Any chance I could I would take breaks as needed from the studio. I would dedicate some time to doing something different which I think really helped the album process for me as a whole. I got addicted to this mobile game called PUBG and was playing it with different producer friends like Sepehr, The Fitness, Option 4, and even Doorly! I thought I wasn’t gonna finish the album because I was having so much fun playing it. But it took some stress out of the process and when I went back to working on the album. I felt recharged.

You’ve gotten your hands on a lot of new hardware for the making of Mr. Good. What’s next in that regard? Have you considered trying your hand at modular production?

I think I have enough gear for now. Modular is a commitment and I know i wont stop once I start. So I think I will have to mess with VCV RACK until my new studio is 100 percent treated and complete. I have now moved to a new apartment and I have a smaller room to work with. I have so much gear so I think I’ll be okay in that department for now. Next thing for me though is to learn my new room the same way I learned my old studio and treat the acoustics more properly.

A major theme of this record is the duality of humanity; you have to be ‘Mr. Bad’ to be ‘Mr. Good’. Can you describe how this theme has played out in your own life, and how you translated it into the album/musical format?

I just think we go through different phases in time. Everyone has some sort of internal battle. Not everyone is 100 percent stress free, maybe a few souls these days. We all have ups and downs. Whether its mental instability, hardship of some sorts, or depression. Without all these negative experiences, how would we learn what’s good or positive in life? Sometimes we just have to accept that were not perfect creatures but we can learn from it and pursue happiness. I think it’s kind of funny because the theme of the album became about self doubt in finishing my album. I was hitting a wall and I wanted everything to be perfect. I was like, “this track needs to be “Mr. Perfect.” I learned that it can’t be perfect. Sometimes you just gotta let go of that self doubt and be bad or get freaky with it. Sometimes you wanna be a Mr. Bad and not sleep. Sometimes you end up going to an underground warehouse and lose yourself in the music till the next morning. These experiences turn out to be good for the soul sometimes.

Going off of the above, a lot of these tracks were written well before the themes of your album came to mind. How did the process play out in pulling these ones out of the archives and fitting into the overall story you wanted to tell?

I wrote a lot of tracks that didn’t make it on the album. There are only two tracks that were made before the theme. I guess in some ways I managed to fit them in the story. After finishing the Mr.Good track with Party Patty, I got really inspired to create tracks from scratch and not go to the old projects. I will eventually release all those. I have so much more music that didn’t make the album.

Now that you’ve taken this leap into album territory, what are some of the next milestones you wish to reach career-wise, and what are you doing now to accomplish them?

I want to explore new sounds and keep making more music. Even releasing different versions of the album perhaps. I am also trying to lean on making my studio more jam friendly and produce “live”. I want to make the leap into the live performance world at some point as well. I think that’s the next step career wise. It will be a fun challenge but very rewarding once I take it more seriously.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the years as you’ve blown up, especially within the last five?

I’ve learned to be extremely humble. I have met so many amazing people and fans in every city and im truly grateful for that. I don’t like being alone for long periods of time. I appreciate the time I have when I’m home. The album process taught me to be positive and not stress about the little things in life such as not allowing myself to get mad or complain that the coffee shop at the airport didn’t have almond milk. I learned to get excited about the small things in life. It’s given me the tools to push through the stress of being a touring artist. I have been touring since I graduated college in 2013. I try and exercise as much as I can. I play soccer every week between gigs. It’s my biggest passion after music. I try and go for a run as much as I can and during tour life. I think Justin Martin has inspired me in that department.

You’re currently on one of your biggest, if not the biggest, tour run you’ve ever taken in support of the album. Which places are you most excited about playing the first time?

I am excited to play at Meow Wolf for the first time!

Any final words or thoughts you wish to share?

I just wanna say that it’s been so amazing to see peoples reactions to my new album. I am really thankful for all the support!

Order a copy of ‘Mr. Good’ here

Rowdytown 2019: The tour stop that rocked Red Rocks’ world [Interview/Event Recap]

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Rowdytown 2019: The tour stop that rocked Red Rocks’ world [Interview/Event Recap]42929577 10156448788293145 7734400015992356864 O

Big Gigantic‘s Rowdytown triumph this year, to no one’s surprise (or chagrin) was weighty with saxophone, bass drops, 3D production, and more sax. Those who missed the venture, fear not: Dancing Astronaut had acute eyes on the Colorado undertaking, catching up with the group just ahead of their return to the hallowed Red Rocks holdings.

The titillating tour stop solidified just how Big G has been able to weather the exceedingly saturated dance music storm all these years. The crowd seemed to hum with an untethered enthusiasm that is so very characteristic of the group’s enduring following. The ensemble’s unflinchingly immersive and synergistic performance approach rendered the Red Rocks backdrop nothing short of transcendent. They employed a pristine blend of old-school, cornerstone Big G cuts alongside a wealth of new tracks from the past year: the ideal recipe to show fans where they’re going, but that they haven’t forgotten where they’ve been. Throughout the night, they brought backup instrumentalists on stage to help emphasize their jazz influence, an ideal accent to their crossover charisma.

The visual production itself deserves unanimous applause. Upon arrival, the staff handed each attendee a pair of white 3D glasses. Once Big G implored the crowd to put them on, each minute intricacy of the live setup (and life itself) seemed to swiftly fall into place. Guest vocalists, like Jennifer Hartswick, cranked up the intensity to 11. Dom and Jeremy jammed right alongside them in seamless tandem.

Dancing Astronaut had a chance to sit down with the two-pronged dance-funk prodigies to hear about how the 3D project came to life, the nitty gritty idiosyncrasies from the tour, and what’s next music wise.

Tell me about how you guys decided to go with a 3D experience for your new live tour set up and bring it specifically to Red Rocks

We basically wanted to just do something really different with our live show and after weighing our options we thought the 3D experience would be really sick [for the venue].

As a hybrid ensemble who’s been in the scene for so many years now, in what ways do you feel instrumental acts like yourself freshen up the electronic space?

I think we just add another dimension of possibilities to the studio and the live space in general. [We think] as a whole people have been catching on to that and it has been exciting for fans and artists alike.  

You guys have amassed a cult-status fanbase over the years, how do you feel you’ve been able to hold fans’ attention in such a frenetic time to be musicians? 

I guess from just really trying to be different, working hard to present fresh live shows and new music and also just connecting with our fans in tons of different ways whether it be at shows or doing community outreach. We’re always looking for ways to expand and grow and get new listeners. I think a lot of people know about us, but don’t ‘really’ know us or our live show and i think when we connect with those people on that level, something clicks.

You guys have released a number of singles this year. Is there a larger project in the works?

Yes very much so. Maybe even a couple projects. We have a ton of new music we’re sitting on and [will be] releasing something bigger in 2020. We’re so excited to announce everything, it’s coming up fast.

Red Rocks seems to hold a certain ineffable quality for fans. How would you describe performing at the space a whopping 16 times at this point in your career?  

Wow 16 times?? That’s incredible… We feel like two of the luckiest guys in the world, we can tell you that. We started out as a couple guys who would have given everything to sell out The Fox Theatre in Boulder and to hear that we’ve sold out Red Rocks 16 times is just crazy. Eternally grateful.

Are there things as far as the live show, your production or your music, that you are currently dreaming up? What’s next? 

Yeah we’re just about to roll out a concept with the music and live show very soon and we’re excited to bring a fresh take on everything we’ve been doing into the new year. 2020 is gonna be crazy.

Take the plunge with Goldroom on his new multi-faceted endeavor, ‘Plunge/Surface’ [Interview]

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Take the plunge with Goldroom on his new multi-faceted endeavor, ‘Plunge/Surface’ [Interview]Goldroom Press Pic

Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and producer Goldroom feels most at home on the water. He grew up sailing and has carried his love of the world’s oceans into his adulthood and his music career, crafting dreamy synth-pop tunes that are right at home with a balmy sea breeze to carry them from ear to ear. Josh Legg—known to the music world as Goldroom—has made a career of combining his passion for music with his love and respect for the water, and many fans know him best from his longstanding High Seas tours he’s been putting on for the past several years.

He put out his last record, West of the West, in the fall of 2016 and followed it up with a long bus tour with his band. In June 2017, he played a few Corona SunSets festivals, one of which was in Tulum, Mexico. Legg and the band had a day off and chose to spend it at the beach. The waters were mellow, and Legg decided to go bodysurfing.

“In a really surprising and unlucky way, I got tossed just
the wrong way and hit the top of my head on the sand,” Legg recalls. “I felt
the lightning bolts go through me, but I didn’t think I was that hurt.”

However, it became apparent over the next few hours that he
was more than just a little hurt. In fact, he’d broken his neck in two places.

“I lived in a hospital in Cancun for two weeks and then flew back to LA and lived in a hospital there for another few weeks,” Legg says. “Then I was pretty bedridden at home another month or so. Finally, I was able to begin working my way back.”

He remembers reading comments on social media saying “he’s done” and “he’s never coming back.”

“I felt a lot of personal pressure to get back out on the road,” he says.

But everything he did that autumn was “way too early.” Legg was managing his pain with painkillers, including an opiate called Tramadol, which doctors had told him to take daily for six months.

“Tramadol is pretty heavily abused by a lot of people and leads to bad things,” Legg says. “I was trying not to take it every day, and I didn’t. But even so, it led to a foggy year in my life.”

In a bit of an existential crisis wondering where the Goldroom project was going, Legg thought about the lengthy process he’d had preparing West of the West to make its way into the world. In his haze, he continued to write songs but wasn’t quite sure where things were going. The music to come out of this time period makes up what became the Plunge part of the upcoming LP.

“When I listen back to the songs that became Plunge, all I hear is haziness—but in a good way. It’s extremely representative of my 2017 and 2018, and I love that about this music. It’s just true to where my life was at.”

Around this time, Legg started to fall back in love with dance music. He’d always loved DJing, but the further he went with his Goldroom project, the less he’d found himself making club-friendly music.

“When I was finally able to start touring again and felt
healthy physically, I started to really fall in love with dance music in a new
way,” he remembers. “I think it coincided with a lot of disco and certain types
of house music that had kind of disappeared for a while and started to come

In his renewed excitement, he found himself thinking about the kind of music his idols sampled: slow, funky, and psychedelic. Then it clicked. He had made a record of just that for Plunge.

“Rather than sample other people, I thought I’d just sample
myself. And what slowly came about was the idea of sampling every single song
I’d made and making an alternative, French house version of it.”

These alternate versions would become Surface, the other side to the two-part LP.

Plunge sounds like my injury to me.

When I listen to Surface, I can hear myself getting healthy.”

Legg knew he was on to something, but he had to try his
concept out. Though he plays plenty of live shows with his band, he also loves
to DJ and thought he’d take a Surface
song out for a spin.

“The first one I tried was ‘Yellow Flowers,’ the sister song to the final single on the album, ‘Trust,’” he says. “Everyone was really excited about it, and that was the lightning moment. It became obvious that I could make [an alternate version] for all of them.”

Many of Plunge/Surfacetracks have debuted ahead of the LP’s full release on Nov. 1—like “I Can Feel It” and “Do You Feel It Now?” which are sister tracks and both feature singer Love, Alexa. While these two are fairly easy to see as related, Legg assures his fans that none of the versions of the songs on the LP are the “correct” iterations.

“As I was releasing these songs, I wanted people to have no idea what came first,” he says. “Neither is meant as a remix or original. They’re just each an individual song that is re-contextualized based on the other. Hopefully, you might even like both of the songs better because they both exist.”

West of the West was Legg’s first experience doing a slew of collaborations with other people. He prefers not to work through the internet bouncing stems and vocals back and forth, and would rather team up in the studio to work through the songwriting process. But for Plunge/Surface, Legg worked on many more tracks solo—and some of them sound much like they did the day he wrote them, like “Cocaine Girl,” which he says he wrote in four or five hours.

“I really wanted my sonic touch to be all over this record
because it’s a little weirder and a little darker… more human and messy,” he
says. “I wanted it to be that way.”

With the exception of new friend Love, Alexa, Goldroom chose to work with previous collaborators like Mereki, Chela, and Nikki Segal, whose voices you can hear on music from years ago, like “Only You Can Show Me,” “Fifteen,” and “California Rain,” respectively.

“Working with them felt like being at home, which was
something I really needed coming off my injury,” he says.

The key difference between West of the West and this new collection of songs is that it’s
“just much more Josh,” the producer says.

“It’s much more me… more raw and much more human. There’s a
lot more mistakes in the playing and in the singing. The vocal takes aren’t
perfected within an inch of their life. It’s purposefully messy because my
life’s been kind of messy.”

When asked how his life would be different if he hadn’t
broken his neck on that fateful day in 2017, Legg says it’s something he’s never
thought of before.

“I feel incredibly lucky that nothing worse happened,” he
says, after thinking for a minute. “A lot of people that break C6 and C7 [vertebrae
in the neck] end up paralyzed or they die. Realistically, I would’ve put music
out sooner, and I would’ve been playing live more often, but I have no idea
what the music would’ve sounded like.”

Even while he was injured, though, all he wanted to do was
get back out on the water.

“Even though it was the thing that bit me, I felt the need to get back there as soon as possible. It’s the place in the world where I feel like I get the most joy and bring the most joy. Because of my injury, I feel even stronger than ever that it’s my place in the world.”

Goldroom’s fall tour kicks off Oct. 30 in Portland. Find the full list of tour dates below, and keep an eye out for the debut of Plunge/Surfaceon Nov. 1.

Oct. 30 – Portland, OR at Holocene
Oct. 31 – Seattle, WA at The Crocodile
Nov. 1 – Vancouver, BC at Fortune Sound Club
Nov. 7 – Santa Barbara, CA at Soho Music Club
Nov. 8 – San Francisco, CA at Mezzanine
Nov. 9 – Los Angeles, CA at El Rey
Nov. 13 – Washington DC at Union Stage
Nov. 14 – Boston, MA at Sonia’s
Nov. 16 – Brooklyn, NY at Elsewhere

Photo credit: Jasmine Safaeian

Producer Sessions 015: WE ARE FURY glisten on first light with ‘DAWN’ EP [Interview]

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Producer Sessions 015: WE ARE FURY glisten on first light with ‘DAWN’ EP [Interview]Credit Matthew Butcher Min

Canadian duo WE ARE FURY has released their DAWN EP, the premier installment of their forthcoming album and predecessor to their DUSK project coming in December. The projects are being released on Seeking Blue, home to Illenium, Said The Sky, Seven Lions, Dabin, and more. DAWN is a two-track EP that includes “Broken” featuring Luma and “Don’t Know Why” featuring Danyka Nadeau.

“Our whole world is built on contrast, we have opposite personalities, and our strengths are in different parts of the creative process,” the duo said in a press release. “From sound design to writing and performing. We wanted to showcase this as part of a bigger project and also give our fans the ability to connect with us as individuals.”

They also took time to answer questions for DA about their latest body of work.

What does each song mean for you?

“Broken” is a bit of a sad song. It tells the story of someone going out on a limb in a relationship, cautiously hoping the response doesn’t leave them disappointed: “Please, don’t leave me broken.” It’s about taking a leap of faith and opening up to the people around us. On the track, we took the “please don’t leave me broken” lyric and alternated between “please don’t leave me” to provide a cautious versus desperate contrast.

The second track is the aftermath of a bad relationship. You can question yourself a lot and feel more insecure. The song is a bit more pessimistic and sad.

What’s the purpose of this EP?

This project is meant to show one side of us, DAWN, and our next EP is called DUSK, showing a different side. The self-reflecting, vulnerable, melodic side is DAWN, while DUSK will be a lot more on the heavy, dark side. DUSK, comes out next, and our full album coming out on Seeking Blue in 2020 will be an embodiment of both.

How do you guys collaborate as a duo?

Joachim is a lot more involved in the heavier sound design, whereas my [Stuart] strengths are more on the melodic and arrangement side. Joachim will make the sounds, and I’ll help put them together. We live pretty far apart, so we’re bouncing projects online quite often, and when we get together, we write in the studio.

We don’t have a specific process. Every track has starts with their own inspiration weather it’s topline, a melody, a sound, or a beat. It’s nice being a duo whose comfortable with communicating openly about what we like and dislike. That open communication is vital to our workflow.

How did you guys start working together?

We met at university. We met each other at an internet club of producers. Nobody was actually a producer at university; most were DJs. I needed someone I could bounce ideas off of, and we found each other, started collaborating, and began developing our relationship.

What was the most difficult part about the EP?

The arrangement and feel to “Broken” was challenging. We started with the verses, and spent a lot of time trying to find the feel of the entire track.

The percussion was also difficult, but it was more of a macro thing. There are a lot of producers making melodic future bass, and we really wanted to bring an edge and add bigger bass element to the melodic side.

What DAW do you use?

We use FL Studio. We’ll probably do Ableton when we do more live stuff, but out workflow is so good with FL. That’s where we’re comfortable.

Any specific VSTs do you use?

We use a lot of Serum four our bass sounds and chords.

Stuart: A reverb that I swear by is Valhalla Room. We put it on vocals, synths, percussions.

Joachim: I’ve been using this plugin by Infected Mushroom called Manipulator. It’s a real time audio buffer. You run audio through it and can process it in real time. That’s how I do a lot of my vocal chops and other sound design.

How does your culture impact your music?

Joachim: I grew up in six different countries. A lot of my sounds are influenced by North America with Latin roots, so I grew up with that sentiment around music and cultural osmosis. That influenced my taste and style, but I still knew I had to go to North America to turn this into a career because that’s where one makes a career in the entertainment industry.

Stuart: I have a big Asian family of 30-plus close relatives. This helped me because I grew up with a strong support system that gave me the confidence to pursue music as a career.

Photo credit: Matthew Butcher

DEVAULT delineates the vision behind his titillating sophomore EP, ‘Sapphire’ [Q&A]

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DEVAULT delineates the vision behind his titillating sophomore EP, ‘Sapphire’ [Q&A]Photo Aug 06 1 52 37 PM

There’s a grainy, sci-fi character to the technics of DEVAULT‘s sophomore EP, Sapphire. Sonically conceptual from start to finish, Sapphire harkens back to the retro, new wave sound of the ’80s and the emergent electronic styles of the ’90s. Sapphire comprises four cuts: its eponymous title track, “Saunter,” “Accept Yourself,” and “Scar.” Each of the inclusions would easily sound track an episode of The X Files.

I wanted to create something that pays homage to the music that got me so excited about electronic music in the first place, the new wave sounds of the 80’s, the French Touch, and the rave music of the 90’s all influenced this record.


Crepuscular chord progressions tangle with tingling rhythms across the EP. Fixated beats pump away in the background, augmenting Sapphire’s spectral titillation. It’s time travel, without an H.G. Wellsian time machine to transport listeners a few decades in the reverse. Sapphire is the sequel to DEVAULT’s earlier EP, JADE, released in April.

DEVAULT expands on his vision for Sapphire in an exclusive interview with Dancing Astronaut.

DA: With Sapphire you said you wanted to pay homage to the music that first got you excited about electronic music, “new wave ‘80s sound, the French touch, the rave music of the 90s.” Once you had this idea, all that was left to do was to actually start crafting the EP. Where and how did you start?

Normally when I approach music it tends to be very spontaneous ideas flowing in the weirdest of times throughout the day. For these tapes, however, and for Sapphire specifically, I wanted to take a very premeditated approach. The visual concept, soundscape, etc. was all thought out before I even started to write the songs. I think this method helped me create a true world for each tape.

DA: You’ve got 4 tracks on this EP in total. Was there one that you enjoyed making the most or alternatively, was there one that you might have found a bit more demanding in terms of the production process? Which one was it and why?

I really enjoyed making “Accept Yourself.” Making fierce, energetic records has been so fun for me lately, as its a new place for me creatively. I normally tend to be on the melodic end, so testing myself in new waters has really revitalized my love for making music. The most demanding record was the title track, “Sapphire.” So many tiny details were involved to really make this record feel like it was out of a 80’s synth wave movie.

DA: Can you say a little bit about how the production process of Sapphire differed from that of JADE?

Sapphire is definitely a bit [more] mature compared with JADE, and I took a more simplified approach. Synth wise, I incorporated the same sounds from JADE but made everything sound a bit concise rather than [involving] a ton of textures. Sapphire was also a much more pre-thought [out] idea after learning from JADE and its world. I wanted Sapphire to feel like a full on 80’s soundtrack compared to the industrial sound of JADE

DA: It seems that with the making of each EP artists learn something about themselves during the creative process. Was this the case for you when making Sapphire, and if so what did you take away from the experience?

Totally, Sapphire was another step in me learning what music directly translates to a live show and what doesn’t. I think the music I initially put out with, say, my Stay EP was melodic and ethereal, but wasn’t quite hitting how I wanted it to [hit] live.

JADE and Sapphire in particular were a direct channel from me to the dance community. And now, after making music on two sides of the spectrum, I’m currently working on bringing the elements together, where a strong vocal and can stand hand in hand with a strong club record. 

DA: In your own words, how would you describe the sound of Sapphire and how does it fit into the sound that’s defined your catalog to date?

Sapphire, at its core, is a night drive/80’s influenced record that highlights different styles that immediately got me hooked on electronic music. It’s dark and energetic but on a continuous journey, as if you’re placed right into the middle of [a] Blade Runner/Tron film. Sound wise, its truly my version of the club music that I want to put out: something that can immediately be placed in my sets and [that] focus[es] on energy before anything [else]. 

KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]

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KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]Sarah Koury2FKoLAB Studios Https .uk 2 Medium

Ever since dance music became a real contender in the pop music landscape—rivaling rock and hip-hop in terms of global influence, artists have been looking for new, unique ways to innovate; to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. After all, once any genre breaks out of the underground, the number of artists that hitch their wagons to it nearly overnight increases dramatically.

As a result, so many of those artists calculate their craft for marketability on every level—from production to performance—searching for different aspects to which they can draw focus so as to affirm their originality. Sometimes it can come off as gimmicky, other times more genuine, though the line between is a tightrope walk.

There are some artists, though, who don’t have to manufacture a sense of originality. They show up already equipped with a sound and style that is inimitably and entirely their own. Chief among that elite crop of artists in the electronic space may be KOAN Sound. Consisting of Will Weeks and Jim Bastow, the venerated British duo has tackled an extended myriad of genres and subgenres, all while maintaining their unmistakable sonic identity.

This flair for uniqueness is driven by a concerted effort to imbue their strong instrumental background into every track they produce. From their breakout hit, “Meanwhile, In The Future,” to their latest EP, Intervals Above, their early days playing in a band together back in Bristol support their affinity for limitless exploration, both in the studio and on stage.

Dancing Astronaut caught up with Weeks and Bastow at their LA tour stop for a rare interview wherein the pair discussed their continuing instrumental influences, their brand new live show, and more.

KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]2019 In Parallel ©Sarah Koury 51
© Sarah Koury / KoLAB Studios

You’ve just released another rework of “Meanwhile In The Future,” one of your break out tracks. What does this track mean to you both? How did it feel to revisit this track once again as more seasoned, experienced musicians?

Weeks: Well, that was really fun to do because we’ve learned so much since writing the original. It was cool trying out similar things, but with all these new techniques.

Bastow: Out of all our tracks that one’s always been one of the biggest fan favorites.  That kind of era of our productions, the early OWSLA productions, are still really popular with a lot of fans so we wanted to keep playing it, but we thought it would be cool to update that along with some of the other tracks in the set. Kind of put a fresh spin on them, and I think the reception so far has been positive.

Which of the two versions would you say you enjoy listening to more?

Weeks: I think the old one, you can definitely hear the age. 

Bastow: Yeah it’s definitely partly a nostalgic thing.

Throughout your career you’ve adopted a plethora of styles and genres—everything from boom-bap beats to drum ‘n’ bass to dubstep to disco, and yet your music is unmistakably your own. How do you continue to insert your unique sound into all these different styles in fresh, new ways?

Weeks : We don’t think about it too much. We have a way of working so whatever genre it is things end up sounding the same in terms of sound design. 

Bastow : I think if you do anything for long enough and keep working away at it you will develop your own spin on it; your own perspective. I think it’s unavoidable and its definitely not something we’re really conscious of when we’re in the process of making music. It’s just something that is born out of that. But to me I think that’s one of the highest compliments that someone can give because music can be good and it can be bad but if something sounds like you then no one can take that away from you, and that’s a very high compliment.

So when you go to make a new track do you have a specific intent in terms of what genre you want to make or does it flow naturally through the process?

Weeks: Usually we start with an idea, but we work on tracks for so long that they often develop into something else entirely.

KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]2019 In Parallel ©Sarah Koury 71
© Sarah Koury / KoLAB Studios

Your releases have always been accompanied by very bespoke artwork to the point that you created an original piece of art for every track on Polychrome. What purpose does visual art serve in relation to your music? Do the visuals help define the music? Or are the visuals a reaction to the music?

Weeks: Well I think part of it started when I said I see a lot of shapes and colors when I hear music, but then that grew into trying to create visuals to go along with our sets, but we haven’t done anything on this scale before as we did with the new live show.

Bastow: I came from a visual art background, and that’s always been very important to me. For instance with the Polychrome project I thought it would be a cool way to try and tie all of the different elements and tracks together because, like you say, the album has a lot of different styles and covers a lot of different stylistic ground so I thought it would be a cool way to tie all of those together by telling a story in each of the pieces of artwork.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you haven’t made an official music video for any of those tracks, right?

Bastow: Well that’s what the show is. Essentially each track has a bespoke music video for it, and we’re playing with stuff live and triggering things over the top of these space layers that are running in the background. But yeah, each track has its own full-length music video. 

I think that’s interesting because if someone hasn’t come to the show and sees the art that is paired with the music, it’s still very open to interpretation. Whereas a traditional music video further defines a song most of the time. Explain the opposite approach a little more?

Bastow: I think also we play a really big role in the development of the visuals which just means we have more personal investment in them and just more attachment to them and hopefully that comes across.

KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]2019 In Parallel ©Sarah Koury 66
© Sarah Koury / KoLAB Studios

You both grew up playing instruments and use them frequently in your productions. What inspired you to go the electronic route as opposed to staying the course in your live band?

Weeks: Well we were doing them both at the same time. They were both fun things, but I guess it’s hard to keep people together in a band.

Bastow: Yeah they definitely both ran in tandem and I think over time our interests and musical tastes just developed. We began to listen to more and more electronic stuff and just become more immersed in that world, but I think we went through a period while we were writing Polychrome where we were jamming quite often with some other musicians. Our friend Chalky who plays guitar being one of them. That definitely informed some of the album writing to a certain extent, and we play drums and keys on stage so there’s still a bit of that in there.

Both Polychrome and Intervals Above display a return to your more instrumental style of music. You even put together a playlist of guitar music that inspired Intervals Above. How do you translate instrumental influence into electronic music? How does a jam session inspire an electronic production?

Weeks: I think when we record anything, whether it’s other people or ourselves, we just record a lot of audio. Then usually we’ll play around with that within Ableton find cool ways to use it.

Bastow: It’s really just that. There’s not really a science behind it. It’s just recording everything that we do when we’re experimenting or just playing something and then going through it after and picking bits out and the bits that catch our ear just pursuing those and processing them and experimenting with them.

Are there times in the middle of these jams when you’ll stop and instantly know that you’ve found the idea that leads to a track? 

Bastow: The recording process is very separate from the actual production process. We’re not normally doing both at the same time; recording while we’re making a track. Normally we’ll be out with a field recorder or recording someone else playing an instrument or I’ll be recording some keyboards or what not. Then after we have those we’ll go back to the studio and listen through those and choose bits from them.

Do you think having that separation between recording and producing helps formulate the ideas for your tracks?

Weeks: I’d say if anything it leads to more happy accidents because you come away from the recording process and then you come into it fresh again and you can stumble on really interesting progressions.

Bastow: It’s kind of a work flow thing as well. Just having that separation means that the two processes are distinct.

KOAN Sound delve into their bespoke connection to music, discuss new visual live show [Interview]2019 In Parallel ©Sarah Koury 62
© Sarah Koury / KoLAB Studios

What were the intentions behind Intervals Above? Was it simply leftover tracks from the Polychrome sessions? Or were you trying to do something new?

Weeks: I think it was a love letter to the guitar music we like. Metal, Latin American music…

Bastow: We listen to a lot of instrumental metal stuff, with Animals As Leaders being one of the biggest names. So, part of it was that and part of it was becoming really close friends with a guy named Chalky who played a lot on the EP. We had these initial ideas and did some short recordings with him. Those recordings formed the direction of the EP in terms of sound, and we just tried to use those recordings as much as possible because it’s not an instrument we’ve used a lot in the past.

When you first emerged bass music was much more narrowly defined than it is today, and your music always existed outside those definitions. Now you have a long list of huge crossover artists. How do you think this trend has impacted your music and your audience? Do you find more people are down for the stuff you’re making now?

Bastow: Well I think when we initially started we were pretty closely tied to dubstep. We sort of rode the wave of that association and, like you say, everything was more in the box at that time. So, I think we were pigeon-holed a little bit into that, but I think it’s been a gradual evolution. From that point we’ve continued to experiment and try new things until we were at a point where people were digging us because we were doing that; because we weren’t sticking to that one thing. We became known for always doing a different thing.

Photo Credit: Sarah Koury / KoLAB Studios

Techno Tuesday + Premiere: Gallya re-works deadmau5 & Grégory Reveret’s ‘Ira,’ reflects on her rise to global renown

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Techno Tuesday + Premiere: Gallya re-works deadmau5 & Grégory Reveret’s ‘Ira,’ reflects on her rise to global renownTechno Tuesdays

Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.

The electronic music spotlight grows on Eastern Europe as a new haven for sleek underground sounds. Gallya has found herself among the wave of house and techno greats rising out of the region, starting off on a strong note via Set About, a label which she started alongside fellow Bulgarian Metodi Hristov —who’d already become an icon at that time. It was clear from the get-go that she’s one to watch. A year later, she was nominated by Beatport for its ‘Top Tech House’ award. Her sound has continued to blossom since then, with Gallya turning in a darker, headier direction and a series of Eps on mau5trap backed heavily by label boss deadmau5. She’s also earned support from Sian and the Octopus camp, cementing her place in the techno realm. In the past year, her path to global stardom has really begun to unfold, where she’s traveled to places like Sri Lanka, Tokyo’s Sound Museum, Lebanon, and of course, the esteemed UK institution, Creamfields. Expect her base to continue growing at top speed through the next year.

Keen to hear what Gallya has learned through her deeper immersion into the global music space, we sat down with her ahead of her latest release on mau5trap—a remix of “Ira (ov)” from the acclaimed Where’s The Drop? The LP saw composer Grégory Reveret pair with deadmau5 to recompose a collection of classics into pieces fit for a symphony orchestra. She takes an industrial approach in this one, forging a grimy breaks track that lays on the bass. Her hometown influence can certainly be heard in this one. Gallya expounds further on her closer relationship with mau5trap, her ever-evolving sonic palette, running a label, and more for this edition of Techno Tuesday.

Techno Tuesday + Premiere: Gallya re-works deadmau5 & Grégory Reveret’s ‘Ira,’ reflects on her rise to global renownGallya Press Shot Courtesy Her FB 2

In passing we’ve read about former Soviet countries (Georgia being a big one) and their conservative policies presenting some difficulty when it comes to trying to grow dance music scenes in these places. Do these issues exist in Bulgaria, and as a result does the country have a huge underground scene that persists out of government sight?

The politics in Bulgaria make it very difficult for certain parts of the music scene here– the government really doesn’t really care about parties or nightlife culture. In the last two years, they banned outdoor parties after 10PM, which is hard because historically we’ve had amazing parties on the beach till 7AM. I don’t think that will last after this government is out, but it definitely makes it hard. With the indoor clubs there is less of an issue with the government–you can party until 10AM if you want as long as it’s outdoors. Because there aren’t as many regulations on the indoor clubs, the capital has a ton of different types of parties. You can find very underground stuff but also big ones on different venues and weekly events. It’s a nice balance, but it’s definitely not a huge scene.

Who are some other rising artists from Bulgaria that we should be paying mind to? Techno or beyond.

Through our label, Set About, we’re really able to shine a light on Bulgarian artists we believe in. Two examples of this are Peppou and Martin Stoilkov, two really talented techno artists who you should look out for.

Have you ever gone through moments of burnout or passion loss as a result of making music into a career? How did you/how do you reinvigorate your passion if so?

Yes it happens sometimes, but I get through these moments by reading motivational books or just going to a really good party. Sometimes burnout moments give you really good studio moments if you push through them, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when to keep up and when to just take a step back and take a break–every time is different. It is important in these moments to remember that it’ll pass and everything will be cool again. I try not to take it too personally and just know that it’s part of the process.

Now let’s talk more about Set About – what were the factors that led to you and Metodi Hristov deciding to create the label, in your own words? What makes you two a like-minded musical pairing?

Metodi and I have always had similar music taste and the same desire to do more than just release our own music. We had a similar understanding of the music industry, so starting label together just felt natural. It’s our shared brand and the way for us to express our taste and share music from other artists that we like.

Also we started the label hoping that as we continue to grow we can also release music from newer producers who aren’t well known yet. When we started making music, it was hard to get anyone to care about our music because we didn’t have a lot of followers. I hate that side of the industry, and want to make sure we’re just shining a light on good music. Every one deserves a chance to be seen.

The age of the internet has brought about a huge increase in artists creating their own labels. Do you think this has had an effect on the role of a label in general within the music industry into not so much a ‘gatekeeping’ platform, but more of a collective-type format that gives the owners full creative freedom and a place to support their friends and artists they like?

I think this ties into my answer for the previous question pretty well –yes I think it’s great that everyone has a chance because that way the labels releasing quality music are able to be seen. Also it makes the big labels work harder, not just to count on the bigger names they have on their rosters. The competition creates quality.

But I really only feel this way when talking about the way the internet impacts releases–it’s great that there are so many ways to discover music, but I think social media has made it really hard for artists to let the music speak for them. There are a lot of “artists” on social media who have huge followings but are relying on ghost producers and just posting nice pictures on IG. People who do it for the fame and the money take away from the ones who work hard to make it about the music.

You’ve expressed your love for techno many a time; as it’s such a broad term with so many different definitions and styles, what does ‘techno’ mean to you?

Nowadays the genres are so mixed, there are so many different subgenres and types of techno so I don’t think I can really define techno as a whole, musically. It’s funny because some people would say I’m techno but others would call it something completely different, it’s all about point of view.

But to me Techno is a lifestyle and a state of mind. Techno can be really varied but it’s mostly the darker side of the electronic music, which really resonates with me. It connects people in a very special way. Generally techno is about raving till the morning and dancing to harder beats.

Over the past couple years you’ve been working your way into the USA dance sphere; a tough land to crack into. How has that process been for you and what have you learned in general about successfully securing rights to work/perform in other countries, as well as growing your fan base abroad?

Yes! I have a pretty big fan base in the US but unfortunately this is the audience I haven’t been able to meet yet because of how difficult it is to get a visa. It’s literally the only place in the world I’ve had this problem with, so I find it hard to stay connected with the people there – there’s only so much you can do without being able to connect with people in a live setting. It’s something that we’re working on. Most places are actually pretty friendly for visas, it’s just thinking ahead and getting the proper paperwork done. The US is a little different; there’s a big risk of getting denied so it needs to happen at the right time. It’s definitely been an eye opening experience and a lesson in patience. We’re working on making it happen in 2020, so hopefully I will have the chance to party with my people based in US.

What are three quintessential Gallya tracks that embody your sound and why?

My style has definitely been changing a bit each time I create music, which I find is a normal part of the process, trying to evolve with each track. I think the tracks I just finished in the studio are going to be the most defining for my sound, which is really exciting. Since I can’t share those yet, my three favorite tracks I’ve released so far:

1.Gallya – Still On Earth (Original Mix)

2.Gallya – Elements (Original Mix)

3.Gallya – Machines (Original Mix)

What are some artistic milestones you hope to accomplish over the next few years?

Playing more festival sets and get my visa for the US so I can start touring there.

You just had a great performance at Creamfields. How was it playing that festival for the first time?

It was amazing, definitely the best experience I’ve had in my DJ career. The vibe on the festival was magical and really enjoyed performing on that stage. I closed out a huge stage and it was very interesting and exciting.

And finally to cap it off, everyone’s fave question: what’s next in the Gallya pipeline?

Next is this very special remix I did for deadmau5, I’m really happy to be giving you guys the first look. Also many more releases, collaborations and exciting things coming, but it’s still early to talk about some of it.

Order a copy of ‘Here’s The Drop’ here

Exclusive: Claptone chronicles first Ibiza residency, soundtracks the season [Interview/Playlist]

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Exclusive: Claptone chronicles first Ibiza residency, soundtracks the season [Interview/Playlist]Claptone

In an auditory age when an artist’s popularity is largely predicated on clicks, likes, and oversharing, secrecy is sexy—now more than ever. And who on the house music hierarchy has remained more surreptitious than Claptone?

Little is known about the man behind the beak who averages an improbable upwards of 260 performances per year, often traversing multiple continents for performances across a single weekend. Soaked in soul and powered by four-on-the-floor club grooves that range from pumped-up to plaintive, Claptone’s production has been tapped for official remixes from a litany of likeminded counterparts: from the Pet Shop Boys to—most recently—Mark Ronson (a forthcoming release). Despite the explosive success the plague doctor-themed project has secured since its 2012 inception, the Berlin-based Claptone camp solidified a fiercely coveted milestone, even among bluechip modern electronic acts, in 2019: an extended summertime tenure in the White Isle. Claptone’s first Ibiza residency touched down at one of the island’s quintessential after-dark playgrounds, Pacha. The perpetually poised puppet master attracted an auspicious flock to his Monday Masquerades, which spanned this past May-September and included the likes of Diplo, Duke Dumont, Eli & Fur, Shiba San, and Bob Moses (to name only a few).

While he’s lauded for laying low, Dancing Astronaut caught up with Claptone to get a closer look at the man who’s made his mark with myth.

Along with a stylized playlist to score the summer residency, Claptone shared insights on the bygone summer season, some fond moments at Pacha, and a bit about what’s hiding in his aural incubator. He also reflected on the longwinded lore breathing life into his immaterial persona. Claptone’s face may remain never to be seen, but one facet of the DJ’s smoke and mirrors act is certain—there’s substance behind the subterfuge.

Did Pacha live up to your expectations for your first Ibiza residency? Why or why not?

It was my first season and I didn’t have any clear vision of how it might be really. I only knew it’d be a great party cause I know my fans and the international popularity of Claptone. I knew they’d come and enjoy this experience and they did. To be honest for the first season it surpassed my wildest expectations. So many amazing people that appreciated all the quite various line ups I had been programming. The greatest compliment surely was that so many of these great DJs whom I booked like Todd Terry, Kerri Chandler, MK as well as DJs whom I couldn’t have on the bill like Solardo, CamelPhat, Paul Oakenfold, Roger Sanchez, Erick Morillo, Martin Solveig came in private on some Mondays to just enjoy the party and the great vibe of the night. That for me says it all.

Tell me about the stylistic approach you took to your summer residency in the White Isle…

I made a huge effort in growing the regular stage setup of my The Masquerade parties—the huge golden mask above the booth and the smaller masks with the LED-lit eyes hanging from the ceiling, to match Pacha and come up with interior design ideas to go along with that. Same with the dancer and performer costumes. I had tailors from Pacha as well as tailors from Torture Garden in London work out details on costumes and designs I came up with. That’s why in the end there are about 30 amazing characters from futuristic Venetian carnival to cinematic Eyes Wide Shut from classic Circus to Dia de los Muertos dancing, wandering or even flying through the club. 

Can you tell me about a particularly impactful moment or night from this past season’s performances? 

It’s hard to pick just one or two moments when you just had 19 weeks of mayhem on a Monday at Pacha Ibiza at your very own night with your very own concept The Masquerade. The pure fact that I was able to program the line up, invite and play with Armand van Helden, Andhim, Audiojack, Basement Jaxx, Bob Moses, Catz ‘n Dogz, Chus & Ceballos, Danny Howard, Danny Tenaglia, David Penn, Dennis Cruz, Dennis Ferrer, Diplo, Duke Dumont, Eli & Fur, Faithless, Felix da Housecat, Hannah Wants, Heidi, Illyus & Barrientos, Jon Hopkins, Kerri Chandler, Lars Moston, Maya Jane Coles, Mat.Joe, MK, Nhan Solo, Nora En Pure, Pirupa, Purple Disco Machine, Riva Starr, Route 94, Shiba San, Shir Khan, Sidney Charles, SG Lewis, Sonny Fodera, Tensnake, Todd Terry, Tube & Berger, and Weiss was such a game changer for me.

It’s tough to put that into words and even harder to pick a favorite moment. But the back to back with Diplo was certainly a highlight for me as this was my very first and to date my last back to back ever, [considering] it was Diplo playing house music in front of a super excited crowd. 

Any new music in the works you can speak to?

You know I love secrets, but, well, I’ll make an exception. I just finished some remixes that went to mastering the other day. You are more than welcome to look forward to what I did to Mark Ronson as well as Charlie Puth and Michael Kiwanuka. Fasten your seatbelt. 

Describe the significance of the golden-beaked mask and white gloves…

This mask is part of my personality, one of my many faces. Its origins lie in the old Italian city of Venezia and for me hints at the rich history and culture we all share and of course at the masquerade balls [we’ve held for] centuries. A social tradition which allows us to explore our identity and to fathom our freedom as individuals in performative play. One aspect of it is being able to question authorities and hierarchies, structures of self-sustaining power, question the ones we kneel down before.

The beak with its birdlike shape is giving me access to perform beyond human abilities. At the same time it ridicules pop idols, who think they are more than just human and love to run around presenting their tail feathers. The resemblance to a plague doctors mask is not by accident either. You are welcome to perceive me as some kind of sonic plague doctor. The mask was casted out of titan’s gold. Gold for me reflects the treasure that I found in music. It simultaneously ridicules the greed and materialism of your average rock star or Hip-Hop hero. Last but not least, wearing a mask is liberating and it’s shielding your privacy, extending your personal freedom. This, together with reflecting on the mechanisms of media and popular music, empowers me to be in charge of my image and perform my artistic identity much more consciously. The gloves I just wear to not get my hands dirty.

A great deal of secrecy ensconces the Claptone masthead, specifically in reference to your identity(s). Can you speak to this? 

Claptone declined to comment.

Photo Credit: Jackmode

Giuseppe Ottaviani expands on his metamorphosis following ‘Evolver’ LP and the current state of trance [Interview]

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Giuseppe Ottaviani expands on his metamorphosis following ‘Evolver’ LP and the current state of trance [Interview]Giuseppe Ottaviani Press Shot Courtesy Artist Team

Giuseppe Ottaviani falls into the category of “innovator” when it comes to trance, remaining true to the genre’s hypnotic, yet highly emotive roots while continually seeking out refreshing new ways to construct it. Thus, the name Evolver feels plenty appropriate as the title of his latest album effort. It brims with class, immersing listeners in rich soundscapes capable of uplifting, calming, or invigorating. What sets Evolver apart from the rest of his discography, however, is the album’s roots. Each of its tracks began as mere improvisations and blossomed into interlacing parts of a broad sonic story. As the LP was conceived in the club, the finished product is naturally built to stir powerful moments on the dancefloor; the lack of stylistic differentiation does not diminish the overall quality, however. Who doesn’t love a nice array of peak-time tracks to choose from, anyhow?

Evolver is the latest in a strong track record of work from Giuseppe. His prior album, ALMA, showcased his exploratory side and saw the Italian studio wizard proving his production versatility. In total, he’s notched six albums to his belt—a testament to the enduring musicality he’s displayed since his breakout in the early 2000’s. Outside of his long-spanning discography, the producer has also built a reputation on the live front, crafting his ‘Live’ and ‘Live 2.0’ performance concepts. Now, his two worlds have combined on Evolver, whose base was written during his wide-spanning ‘Live 2.0’ sets. We dive deeper into these creative pillars with Ottaviani himself, who sat down with us just after the release of the album, and more for a full-bodied discussion.

Evolver saw a bit of an ‘evolution’ in your writing style. How has this changed your overall outlook on musicmaking, and do you foresee yourself adopting this methodology moving forward when it comes to writing new tracks?

I remember a very old interview from Faithless explaining how their track ‘God Is A DJ’ was casually born during one of their concerts. They just randomly played a riff and people went crazy for it so they decided to make a song out of it. I’ve always been fascinated by this so since the launch of my Live 2.0 concept and setup over 3 years ago I’ve been writing simple but effective melodies, ideas, live on stage, at the sound-check or in my hotel room prior to the show. Everything I’ve done was instantly published on my social media and played straight away at the gig to see if the idea was a good one or not. Basically every track was just a demo improvised and played live. Just like what happened with Faithless, people’s feedback was the main thing, in fact the good demos (those that have got a good reaction on the dance floor) have been saved, the others went straight into the bin.

3 years later I ended up with something like 22 “good demos” on my laptop and I simply decided to turn then into a full studio production and make an album out of it. 17 tracks made it to the album.

Evolver is not a studio album; it was born on stage and that’s what makes it very special. It wouldn’t exist without the feedback of thousands of music lovers from all around the world. This different method of writing music is so inspiring for me and I’m definitely going to use it more often in the future.

What made you want to make Evolver an album vs individual singles tailored to each place/moment the tracks are inspired by?

Well, these tracks were meant to be a “live thing” only, something that people could only experience at one of my live shows. On top of that, I was in the middle of releasing my previous album ALMA and other singles so I didn’t pay much attention to these tracks to be honest. Now as I said before, everything was published on my social media and people were constantly asking for those tracks. They were dying for a release date but I never thought about releasing them until people kept pushing so hard and asking for it. So thanks to them I decided to release the tracks. I didn’t want to keep people waiting by releasing one track at a time, so I decided to create an album and release all of them together.

What are some ways the destinations listed in the track list influenced the sound of the tracks? Speaking specifically to the destination-named tracks of course, not pieces like ‘8K’ or ‘Tranceland’

When I write a new idea I normally think of a silly/random name, just for the sake of giving it a title. So track titles like “Soundbar,” “Time Shift,” “Belasco,” “Ciudad de Mèxico,” “Panama,” and “Colours” are named after the city/club/event name where the idea was born. ‘8K’ is named after the keyboard I used in studio to make the main lead: a JP 8000. Other track titles like ‘Operator’ and ‘Follow The White Rabbit’ were inspired by a movie: The Matrix.

In the end I just decided to keep the original demo name and this is why there are not sophisticated and smart titles but just pure randomness.

Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges/roadblocks you faced during this album process, and how you overcame them?

This album was born very last minute. I think it was the end of October 2018 when I decided to make the album, so I only had 7 months to turn around 20 tracks into a full studio production, and to pack the album. With all the touring I had, it wasn’t easy at all. Put some adequate family time into the equation and you’ll figure out how much pressure I had to delivery everything on time. How did I overcome? Well I had to do some extra hours work of course and I tried not to give too much attention to all those little details that are so time consuming and that only producers can hear but make no difference for everybody else. At the end of the day people loved the initial raw idea so I just tried to polish that.

This album notably lacks vocal/lyrical elements. How have you used melody/dynamic/instrumentation to convey the message of each track without using words?

As I said before, the album was mainly born on stage so of course no collaborations were possible at all. I like the fact that it’s just me, my music and the crowd. If you want, this album is a huge collaboration between myself and all those people who’ve attended my shows during the past 3 years. The melody is what carries the message for me, not the words. This album is kind of a flashback to my origins where I never used vocals in my productions because the music was doing the talking.

Some DJs have expressed concerns about trance becoming a parody of itself in that producers are getting lazy and laying on uplifiting/’cheese’ elements just for cheap kicks. Where do you stand on this issue and where do you see the direction of trance heading in the future?

Well I think this applies pretty much to any kind of music, not only trance. Producers jumping on the bandwagon and saturating the audience with the exact same formula over and over again is not a new thing! Being creative and evolving your sound is what keeps any genre alive I think. So I’m sorry if I don’t sound like 2008 anymore, I’m also sorry if I sound like 2002 again but with a 2020 touch in it!

At the end of the day I simply divide good music from bad music and I think I’ll just keep going my way and go with the flow as I really like to change, but also not to change. Yes, artists are weird.

Talking about the future of trance? I have no idea, it’s like asking me how the new iPhone XVII will look like. On a more serious note, what I can say is that a good melody will remain the main thing for trance music which undoubtedly will keep bringing the same positive feelings and emotions to millions of people—even if it will constantly appear to us in a different dress.

Have there been any recent places or shows you played that have given you great inspiration as of late?

I recently played one of the best shows of my career: A State Of Trance 900 and Dreamstate Europe. Those shows were something special and the new ideas I’m making at the moment are pretty much inspired by those experiences.

What is a piece of hardware in your setup that has played a central role in the album writing process?

I use a Soundcraft Ghost 32 analog mixing desk for the mixdown, and I use an API 2500 compressor which basically gives my sound signature to all my tracks. The API is a very aggressive compressor and it’s not really meant to be used on the master, but if “handled with care” it can give a super pumping touch to the track which is what I’m always looking for when I master my tracks.

Who are some underrated artists that we should be listening to more?

Three years ago one of my favourite albums was released by DJ Eco. It’s called Wolves and I keep listening to it on a daily basis. I don’t think it received the attention it really deserves so I would suggest to invest 78 minutes of your life in some amazing and very original music.

Finally, what’s next for Giuseppe Ottaviani?

Well I think that after releasing a full instrumental album with 17 tracks it’s time to deliver some vocal tunes, and I already have something big in my hands.

Photo credit: artist management

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The Midnight paint with vibrant sonic colors as they prepare their new LP, tour the world [Interview]

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The Midnight paint with vibrant sonic colors as they prepare their new LP, tour the world [Interview]Cover

Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle are exhausted—the good kind of exhausted that comes from performing in countless venues around the world.

The Midnight paint with vibrant sonic colors as they prepare their new LP, tour the world [Interview]Edit 5 2
Photos by Zachary White/Dancing Astronaut

“We haven’t slept in six months,” Lyle says. “It’s all one
big blur.”

The duo, known to the music world as The Midnight, have been touring almost nonstop since the release of Kids, their third LP released last September. They’ve spent most of 2019 on the road, kicking off in Norway in February and hardly slowing down since then. On a stop in St. Louis in the midst of this heavy tour schedule, DA caught up with The Midnight to hear about their journey across the globe and the promise of new music on the horizon.

McEwan and Lyle jointly form one of the most celebrated acts in the modern synthwave scene, but they don’t like to put their music in a genre-confined box. They simply enjoy making music together and delivering the end result to their fan base and beyond.

There is a Japanese term: Mono no aware. It means basically, the sad beauty of seeing time pass – the aching awareness of impermanence. These are the days that we will return to one day in the future only in memories.

McEwan and Lyle first got together in 2012 when they were paired up in a studio session. They didn’t know each other prior. McEwan, who’s from Copenhagen, comes from a production and studio background, and Lyle grew up in Georgia and has a songwriting background. While their backgrounds were largely different, something happened the first day they got in the studio together: They wrote their first song as The Midnight, “WeMoveForward.”

“[Lyle] wrote the verses pretty quickly, but finding out
what the song was was a longer
process,” McEwan recalls. “We didn’t know we were going to make a band called
The Midnight. It was all about finding and figuring out where to point the

Both artists agreed that the tricky thing about meeting someone you could do anything with is that it’s both freeing and overwhelming. They spent their first EP figuring out what The Midnight sounded like, and from there, it was a natural progression.

“It’s a palette of colors we’ve been working with,” Lyle notes. “We’re still going to use those palettes over time, but we’re going to grow.”

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Photos by Zachary White/Dancing Astronaut

Mono no aware fuels The Midnight’s music—whether it’s in the form of the dramatic “WeMoveForward” or the final Kids track, “Kids (Reprise),” from last September. They’ve grown tremendously as a band since those early days and are constantly seeking to evolve their sonic palette. Many fans were initially thrown off by the absence of saxophone riffs in the Kids album, but McEwan and Lyle insist that the recent album had a different story to tell than its predecessors. Kids is—as its title plainly reveals—about what it’s like being a kid.

“Sultry sax doesn’t go hand in hand with being 10 years old and riding around on bikes,” McEwan explains. “The people that connected [to Kids] connected in a very deep way. They really got it. There’s a pain and a sadness inherent in nostalgia that I think [Lyle] was really good at tapping into.”

Lyle expounds, noting that they’re “trying to broaden and deepen the palette” with their new material.

“We’re writing songs in different corners of the room,” he says. “Hopefully with the next record, we’ll bring a little more sunlight out.”

Where Kids was
about growing up, McEwan and Lyle see their next album as a natural progression
in life into the teenage phase. McEwan says they’ll look to capture “the angst
and the turmoil of being a teenager, the highs and lows, the hormones going
crazy” in their next body of work. The way their writing process is going, they
see this series as “maybe a trilogy,” telling an overarching story.

For those who can’t wait for their next dosage of The Midnight’s new material, the duo’s second remix EP landed on Silk Music on Sept. 27, featuring reinterpretations of tracks like “Arcade Dreams” from Timecop1983 and “Shadows” from Uppermost.

“I always love hearing a different take on our songs and my tracks and what elements are used and how they’re using [Lyle’s] voice,” McEwan says. “It’s so freeing to hear. I’m really excited about these songs being dressed up differently for people.”

For now, though, The Midnight are on a brief tour break after trekking across the States for much of the summer and early autumn. In late October, the duo take off again across the pond to play shows in Germany, the UK, France, and many more, wrapping up one of their heaviest tour years to date in the later days of 2019.

As a singer, Lyle thrives off the energy he gets from
crowds, noting that his favorite part of his job is the moments when he can
feel the connection in the room.

“I spent 10 years as a folk singer in much smaller rooms,” he remembers. “It felt like a heart-to-heart connection, but this feels like a spiritual energy with a whole room. There’s an energy there that’s hard to simulate any other way.”

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Photos by Zachary White/Dancing Astronaut

McEwan lives on the other end of the spectrum, calling
himself a “studio guy.”

“My real high comes when I’m working on a track and I crack the code,” he says. “You have the promise of something great, but you haven’t had to do the laborious work of executing it yet. You’re riding the high of all the possibilities, and you know where to take it.”

Combined, these two personalities and skill sets are unstoppable. With their music, The Midnight has touched countless lives with their ability to reach and comfort their fans—fans who “need to be told they’re OK, they’re loved and that and they’re not alone,” Lyle says. “We’re trying to build up the mythology, singing about monsters and vampires… But at the end of the day, the connection seems to happen when we just sort of recognize that human struggle is universal, and we’re all in it. Music is this magical thing that helps us feel a little less alone.”

McEwan agrees, saying that all of us “are the same when it comes down to it.”

“It sounds like such a cliché, but music is a way to unite people,” he says. “It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re meeting all these kindred spirits. You’re writing a song, and three years down the line you’re playing somewhere in Germany or St. Louis and someone comes up to you and says ‘you got me through a hard period of my life.’ That’s something that’s bigger than us.”

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Photos by Zachary White/Dancing Astronaut