Exclusive: Hannah Wants talks new music and label developments, delivers lush, hour-long mix

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Exclusive: Hannah Wants talks new music and label developments, delivers lush, hour-long mixHannah Wants Press Shot Dancing Astronaut Credit Insomniac

Birmingham-born Hannah Wants (real name Hannah Alicia Smith) has proven herself a formidable force on more fields than one. A former professional soccer player on the English national team, Smith traded in her cleats for CDJs after a happenstantial run of showings in Ibiza nearly a decade ago. She soon began racking up eminent breakout DJ awards just a handful of years after.

Known worldwide for her SoundCloud mixtape series, Smith has made her meticulously crafted mark via the bassline-predicated, garage-y house strain that Brits are so ubiquitously known for. This style has caused her to continuously collide in her come up with the likes of fellow house habitue, Chris Lorenzo, who assisted in Smith’s hallmark club cuts, “What I Want” the Daft Punk “Technologic”-sampled “Rhymes,” as well as a length of others.

Smith recently took the next natural step in her ever-expanding career, establishing her own label, Etiquette, largely focused on housing her own most momentous releases. Dancing Astronaut recently got a chance to touch base with Hannah Wants, to find out about both her long-term and more acute vision for the Etiquette imprint, the genesis of her latest single, “Love Somebody,” as well as how she harnesses motivation from staying physically active, transferring her organic flow of endorphins the best way she knows how: into music production. Want-ing more? Open wide, because she’s also curated an hour-long, tech and bass-brimming mix specifically for the occasion.

What made you decide you were ready to start your own label?

Running a label was always something I wanted to do, but I’m a big believer in things rolling out at the right time. If you’re gonna do something, you’ve gotta do it properly and there’s actually a lot of background work to put in before you start. So I guess Etiquette had been a plan in motion since 2017.

Having my own productions at a level that I was finally happy with was also a big part of the label birth. “Bamboozle” was the opening track for the label and it was the first solo production I was 100% proud of and played in my sets.

Where did the inspiration for “Love Somebody” come from?
You know what, it was a super sunny day and I was listening to “Good Love” in my car and the vocal hook got stuck in my head for days. So, I wanted to translate the vocal and some good vibes into a track for my sets.

Any short-term developments on the Etiquette front?
I guess just that I’m super proud of the opening nine months of the label. We managed to sign one of my favorite producers in the game in that of Kevin Knapp, it was a proud moment to welcome him to the Etiquette family, and I’m hoping it won’t be the last we hear of him on the label. We’re consistently and heavily featured in the Beatport Hype charts which is a great look and we’ve got so much fire in the pipeline. It’s exciting times.

What’s the long-term goal with Etiquette?
To be a familiar main base for what I believe to be by far my strongest productions to date and to represent and push both up-and-coming producers as well as already established names in the game. Our music policy is bass-influenced music across a wide and varied house genre.

What’s been your proudest moment in your professional career thus far?
This is a very difficult question to answer as I’ve had many proud and happy moments over the past decade. In general, I’m just extremely proud on a daily basis to be doing what I love for a living. I’ve been in the game professionally for nine years now and it still feels like I’m just getting started, I got lots more I’m striving for in the next five to nine years.

Who or what has been your biggest non-electronic influence lately and why?
This might be an unusual answer, but am I allowed to say the gym? It’s not a person, but hitting the gym daily or as regularly as possible contributes massively to my mood and motivation. When my brain has clarity, my avenues for influence and creativity are better, fresher, and wider. The stepping machine I’m currently on while doing this interview may have been an influence for this answer, also.

Techno Tuesday: Catching up with Moscoman on the ‘New Tel Aviv Wave,’ Gather Outdoors, and more

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Techno Tuesday: Catching up with Moscoman on the ‘New Tel Aviv Wave,’ Gather Outdoors, and moreTechno 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.

Record label owner and global sound purveyor Moscoman is an artist who needs little introduction. First becoming a pillar of the Tel Aviv underground, his sound that effortlessly smudges the lines between disco, electronic, global music, and house have since made him a subject of international intrigue. He eventually made Berlin his home base, where he launched Disco Halal in 2016. In just a few years, the imprint has earned a high reputation, playing an ever-increasing role in the rise of left field dance music with notable signings from Chaim, Red Axes, Trikk, and more. Moscoman also made waves in 2017 with his hybrid imprint/eight-part series, Treisar.

The artist has continued to build upon his recent successes in 2019, putting out well-received EPs from Trikk and Nicola Cruz & Auntie Flo while stopping by fellow avant garde leader DJ Tennis’ label Life and Death for Wave Rave. Like its name, the eclectic four-tracker is rife with new wave/1980s influences—with futuristic overtones. His and his artists’ output remains impeccable, and it’s clear that Moscoman has fully stepped into his own as an artist,

He also follows a busy tour schedule, with one of his key upcoming dates being Gather Outdoors. The festival, organized by New York scene shapers Teksupport, is putting on its first edition at the Holiday Mountain Resort in the Catskills region of New York. Moscoman joins the likes of Francesca Lombardo, Brian Cid, Audiofly, and more at the festival’s Members-curated Oak Stage.

Curious to know more about his take on the rise of global sounds in dance music, lessons he’s learned through his long-reaching career, playing Gather, and his curatorial influence, we had a brief chat with Moscoman for this edition of Techno Tuesdays.

Techno Tuesday: Catching up with Moscoman on the ‘New Tel Aviv Wave,’ Gather Outdoors, and moreMoscoman Press Creidt Nuphar Blechner
Photo credit: Nuphar Blechner

Learn more about Gather Outdoors and get tickets to the festival here.

If you weren’t able to DJ and produce for a living, do you think you’d still be working in the industry full time? We saw a Twitter exchange about publicity?

Ha, the PR tweet was a joke amongst friends, but i’m super into everything around this industry!

I would do something maybe in management or any other way to help out artists, and of course my daily label work is one of my favorite things.

‘Disco Halal’ has been described in the past as “a very Berlin based label” – can you give us a rundown on how your sound has changed and evolved since moving to Berlin from Tel Aviv?

I reckon that only in Berlin I really found my voice, and thus begun this era of New Tel Aviv wave. Both happened at the same time simultaneously. Disco Halal is a Berlin Label, but its influences are worldwide. There isn’t really a play-by-play of what happened. But in terms of content, it moved from editing remixing other people music to releasing originals and giving people a platform to release their truth.

On a similar note, you’ve also advised that Berliners tend to have a more restricted mindset. But in recent years with artists like yourself, Acid Pauli, Powel, etc, it seems as though the city’s mind has “opened” more toward world sounds and more melodic material. What do you think has led to this change?

Tourism, inwards and outwards. More DJs playing outside of Berlin and more outsiders play in it all became a melting pot, people need to dare more to standout these days (and throughout history for sure).

Why do you think people connect so deeply with your sound? It’s been crazy to see how much you and your brand have grown over the past few years.

I believe people connect to us because its very Mediterranean in its core. It’s like your mother’s cooking, its something you are familiar with or something you want to be familiar with. It comes from the heart and soul of all of us, its a story of unity somehow.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned since launching your own labels [Treisar project and Disco Halal]?

Not to want too much too fast, and everything has its moment. The smart ones know when the moment is right (I’m still working on that point!)

Do you ever feel as though you’ve sabotaged yourself at times in your efforts to release other artists’ music over your own on Disco Halal? Why not?

No, in life you give and get back, and never directly. This label is not my personal playground, it’s made for the music, for the fans and of course for the artists that are helping us to create and develop it.

Who are some artists you’ve signed as of late that are particularly noteworthy, and what makes these artists unique?

I have a personal relationship with all my artists, and I love to hear what they say and what they’re after. No one is after huge success really, and all are after their true artistic selves. That can be annoying as a label manager, but as an artist myself so i can also understand it. Ultimately every person is unique, but only a few standout.

Having lived in two distinct music towns, what are the similarities and differences you’ve noticed in terms of innovation, support for the arts, etc between Berlin and Tel Aviv?

You can’t really compare stuff. Tel Aviv has been about survival, Berlin invented many of the rules of this scene, when I moved I had no idea that things will pan out they way they are so I didn’t really notice too much. I would say that there’s great music from every city, and party wise there are better parties in Israel at this point, because the Berlin club market is over saturated which makes stuff a little bland. That said, the key clubs still hold their own.

How do you determine when the timing is right to release a certain track, or EP? Thinking about how you waited until the right moment (2018) to release your debut EP on Disco Halal.

I go with my gut, to be honest, no magic. I don’t live within patterns so I honestly do whatever i want all the time. It’s not always right, but it’s never quiet.

What inspires you the most creatively these days?

Free time.

You’re about to play the debut Gather Outdoors festival, which has a very specialist/underground lineup. What do you think this says about the US dance scene as a whole?

I love the change. From the first time I played in the US ’till now its been a crazy ride and I’m so happy that there’s place for people like me in the US Scene.

What excites you most about playing Gather?

The amazing line up, friends, and of course visiting the borscht belt for the first time!

Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]

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Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]6E258AEB46AA40EFB93BCEB4B99FD32E

Electronic music consumers over the last two decades would be hard-pressed to pinpoint an individual who’s impacted the dance music event space harder than Gary Richards. Since the 1990s, Richards (also known musically as Destructo) has taken his talents miles above their subterranean roots, largely helping shape the Southern Californian rave scene, relentlessly seeking new ways to secure dance music a more tangible, industry-wide foothold. From championing a quaint little get together, now known as Electric Daisy Carnival (incepted under the ‘Magical Mickey’ masthead, from when the event series bore Richards’ earmark in the ’90s), to hatching the now-legendary HARD Events, which bred the still fervently attended Holy Ship! and HARD Summer, he’s exuded a visionary’s proclivity for predicting (and propelling) the next electronic it thing oozing the je ne sais quoi that really makes an event stand above the rest.

Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]Destructo3

Richards not only has a promoter’s penchant for garnering the excitement needed to get ideas off the ground, but a masterful musician’s tact to make them stick. A desire to liven up a scene subject to cyclical staleness served as the impetus for Richards’ most recent brainchild, branded AMFAMFAMF (All My Friends).

“The landscape is very competitive,” Richards said of picking up shop in 2017 after a decade at HARD to breathe life into yet another new endeavor. “There’s a lot at stake now and business people don’t want to see new things pop up. But dance music’s all about new and fresh and that really can’t be stopped.”

Though, despite the daunting nature of starting over in one of the most volatile industries in existence, the All My Friends event train gained almost instantaneous headwind, perhaps due to Richards’ own reputation preceding him. The first edition of the company’s cornerstone party, FriendShip Cruise, amassed thousands for its four-night maiden voyage aboard the Celebrity Equinox to the Caribbean. With it, came a colorful stream of genre-traversing acts, from Boys Noize to Busy P, RÜFÜS DU SOL to Rico Nasty. Richards’ seemingly curious curation must have struck a resounding chord, as the 2020 cruise is already 70 percent sold out.

Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]Destructo1

In addition to a stint captaining Def American’s A&R sector under the emphatically accomplished eye of pioneer producer, Rick Rubin, driving innovation in the music industry is in Richards’ DNA. His father, Barry Richards, a concert promoter and prominent radio personality of the late ’60s and early ’70s, made sure his son’s sonic sonar was firing on all cylinders before he hit puberty, ensuring his kids got to catch everyone from Rick James to Black Sabbath. Barry himself is known for helping to introduce progressive rock to East Coast radio stations in his time. Quite ironically and somewhat timelessly, Barry certainly imparted his intuition and curative periphery to his son, as they stood on the precipice of a consequential musical uprising Barry never saw coming. Barry, it seems, believed Eminem when he quite comically announced “Nobody listens to techno,” on 2002’s unforgettable “Without Me.” Little could Barry have known at the time that Gary would famously sample the line years later for for his 2015 club sensation, “Techno.”

“My dad was always like ‘Don’t mess with that [electronic] music cause no one likes it,’” Richards said. “20 years later, he called me up and was like ‘Hey, what’s a Major Lazer?’”

Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]Destructo2

With this perpetual irreverence for convention as a promoter/organizer, so comes Richards’ success as DJ-producer, Destructo; a success which can be characterized as a career-long dedication to discovering strange new ways to merge the house and hip-hop domains, which historically has been tough to do properly, even despite the two genres’ inextricably shared origins. Richards maintains his success as a musician is innately linked to his success on the business side of the coin.

“I think when you’re just a concert promoter you’ve never really been in the artists’ shoes, so you don’t really understand the nuances—especially DJing electronic music,” Richards said of his entrepreneurial edge amidst a capitalism-catalyzed sea of eager competitors.

Gary Richards on where he’s been, what he’s learned, and starting over, premieres ‘No Retreat’ with Loge21 [Interview]Destructo Busta Rhymes Fkin Sht Up

Securing collaborations with rap icons like Ty Dolla $ign, YG, Yo Gotti, and Busta Rhymes, Destructo’s music soon became something of a G-house archetype: flippantly feel-good tracks for a night out up to no good. However, his latest record, a Dancing Astronaut exclusive, strides outside the hip-hop-predicated mold of his most notable works, for what Destructo himself dubs his “hardest-hitting track yet.”

“No Surrender” is a bass-driven battle cry primed for the perennially raucous festival frontlines. Bolstered by Parisian bass house duo, Loge21, the track employs Richards’ own thunderous, Sparta-inspired vocal cut. Destructo isn’t asking this time; he’s just cutting to the chase and coaxing listeners directly to dance floors.


AMFAMFAMF recently announced dates for both its Seattle and LA dates— Seattle will see a July 4 affair with Chris Lake and Justin Martin in tow, while LA’s October 19 – 20 event roster still remains a mystery. Though, as Richards’ newest festival property continues to build brand equity within a heavily diluted electronic events circuit, Richards’ is already sure of All My Friends’ longevity, noting it is one of his most important entrepreneurial accomplishments so far. “With that it’s the same Gary, just a different name,” says Richards. And if the last 20 years of dance music events are any indication—if it bears Gary Richards’ name, it’s going to be a hit.

Learn more about AMFAMFAMF’s Seattle and LA dates here.

Elohim opens up about mental health on ‘Braindead’ EP [Interview]

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Elohim opens up about mental health on ‘Braindead’ EP [Interview]2019 BW 1 Tiziano Lugli E1557506429148

Los Angeles-based Elohim has released her new Braindead EP in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month. The extended play delves into Elohim’s mental health obstacles, a centerpiece of her artistry dating back from “Xanax” in 2016 through “Hallucinating” in 2017 to “Panic Attacks” featuring Yoshi Flower in 2018. Braindead takes listeners on a roller coaster of emotions, through energetic panic, distraction, sedation, meditation, and brain fog. She ends the project with her version of Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” featuring AWOLNATION, a song about society driving its members mad.

For the month of May, all proceeds from streams on the Braindead EP will go to a selection of charities focusing on providing outreach and support for those suffering from mental health issues. Elohim has also released a series of breathwork videos for each song on the EP as a form of guided meditation. She will also release a docu-series about the EP to be released in the coming month on her YouTube channel.

Elohim is Skrillex‘s muse these days, co-producing with the storied producer on her recent two singles, “Buckets” and “Connect” on the OWSLA imprint’s limited output. The rising producer also hit high marks on “Sleepy Eyes” with Whethan and “Love Is Alive” with Louis The Child. She will also hit the road on tour with Blackbear this month. Find tour dates here.


Can you tell us about your mental health obstacles and when you began realizing you had them?

I had my first memorable life-altering panic attack when I was 7 years old. It seemed to start there, and then everything changed. The following year, I couldn’t go to school without having a panic attack. I would be at the market, and if I was alone in the next aisle over from my mom, I would go into sheer and utter panic, which instantly made me think, “I’m going to throw up.” When I was a child, it was hard to control the physical nature of it, and I would often dry heave or throw up.

My parents never put me in therapy or identified it as anxiety or panic, so I was lost until I became old enough to understand. I was OK throughout high school and a couple years after, but as soon as I created Elohim and started performing, it kind of all came back to me full-force. I felt 7 again. I am not sure what exactly triggered it again and brought it all back, but I went through some incredibly difficult times.

What steps have you taken to alleviate your symptoms?

I began therapy, and that is helping tremendously. The idea was to work with my therapist (she specializes in trauma) through my issues without the use of medication. After consistently working with Susan for a year and a half, she suggested I see a psychiatrist and try full time medication, while continuing to see her. That is when my life clicked into gear and totally changed for the better.

I also started taking vitamins, developed healthier eating habits, and I try to stay consistent with physical activity.

What industry or life battles are you currently facing with respect to your mental health obstacles?

Everything has a way of being a trigger at times, but for me, it is important to recognize that and be smart about it. I have to tell myself it is OK to take the “me time” that I need.

What is something you’ve learned about mental health that you wish you knew earlier in your diagnosis?

I learned that it is OK to take monitored medication. I was so scared of any medication for years. I have become more self aware of what I am going through and have realized that hundreds of thousands of people also feel these feelings, which makes me feel a lot less isolated. Having that sense of community is remarkable.

What steps are you taking to raise awareness and build your community around a positive discussion about mental health?

The first steps I am taking are to start real and honest conversations. Every aspect of it: no frills, no sugar coating. We are ALL HUMAN! I don’t know where it comes from or why we are programmed to keep things a secret and inside. I want to tell my story so other people are brave enough to tell theirs. I want people to know that it is not something to be ashamed of, and it is OK to ask for help.

Why did you chose to cover Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta?”

I was driving one day, and I think KROQ in Los Angeles was doing a flash-back hour and they played it. I had the chorus in my head all day after hearing it, so I got home, sat down at the piano, and started learning it. I looked up the lyrics, and as I was singing it, in that moment, I was kind of floored with how relevant the lyrics were to my life right now. I had no idea they were speaking about mental health! It was serendipity at its finest.

How has your courage been lately?

I am feeling really good! I feel strong and ready to conquer all. I am consistently working with my therapist and being proactive about taking care of myself. It is important to take what you learn in therapy and incorporate it into your everyday life. Keep yourself on a schedule. Everything takes practice and work. I know that at any moment of any day, I could sink back down but I keep pushing forward and collecting tools to make that experience less traumatic for me.

Photo credit: Tiziano Lugli

Techno Tuesday: navigating the LA Underground, according to the stalwarts behind WORK & 6AM Group

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Techno Tuesday: navigating the LA Underground, according to the stalwarts behind WORK & 6AM GroupTechno 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.

Throwing events in a saturated market—especially dance music—is risky business. On a large scale, we’ve already begun to see the festival bubble burst with many-an-event folding under lack of resources and ticket scales. Widespread gentrification and stricter, somewhat arbitrary laws work in tangent to shut down nightclubs that were safe havens for the genre and, in general, give promoters far more hoops to jump through when it comes to organizing an event. The result is stale, repetitive bookings due to promoters playing it safe, and often lackluster events.

Marco Sgalbazzini and Jia Wang, on the other hand, embrace risk. Through their companies 6AM Group and Synthetik, the two have quickly built a name for themselves in both the local and global scenes for their left field bookings and events that feel as close in proximity as possible to events one would find across the pond in hotspots like Berlin, London, and beyond. In fact, it’s their willingness to go against the grain that has led to their immense success over the past few years. Their bookings have earned them respect as a brand, while simultaneously putting LA on the map as a destination for proper, no-frills techno. Past events have included SHDW & Obscure Shape, Luke Slater, Rebekah, 999999999, and countless other forward-thinking artists changing the game in their respective arenas.

From the outside looking in, it’s difficult to see how Wang and Sgalbazzini have managed to be so successful. The truth of the matter is they’ve worked tirelessly to grow their brand from several organic, grassroots angles. Collaborations with potential competitors, honed-in social media marketing, and tapping into a wide network of friends and colleagues are never left off the table when it comes to throwing parties and their promotion. Now armed with their very own booking agency, Deviation (created with Andrew Souto), 6AM and Synthetik are already reaching to a level beyond the status quo, and their success is quite inspiring.

These two have quite a few lessons that surely other fledgling promoters can stand to learn. So, we nabbed them for our latest Techno Tuesday edition to dive deep into the mechanics of taking an event-throwing risk that pays off.

Before taking the dance music plunge, what were you doing before? What led to your decision to break into the music industry full time?

Marco: Well… I began working in the dance music industry while I was in college and honestly it was never meant to be a full time thing, and really it still isn’t — I work as the Social Media Marketing Manager for a few companies under the DownBeats umbrella. At some point in college in Chicago I was lucky enough to get an internship at DownBeats, while simultaneously being a very part time in-house promoter at Spybar and some other clubs in the city.

I moved to Los Angeles in Dec of 2015 and when that happened I sincerely planned to leave the promoting behind me, and effectively had. Then I saw an opening as a blogger for the 6AM site and applied, only with the interest of being somewhat involved with the local scene in a new city and keeping busy while searching for another 9-5 job, but never with the intention of doing more.

It wasn’t until October 2016 and a visit to Amsterdam Dance Event that I had somewhat of an epiphany and asked Jia to be more involved with the event side of events at 6AM. Everything sort of snowballed from there. Synthetik MInds, my own brand of events, and everything else I am involved with now came later. With that said, although people think I do the events full time, this is still a part-time thing for me, a passion project if you will, although the dream is of course for this to one day be a full time endeavor.

As Social Media Marketing Manager I run two blogs and a lot of other social media accounts, Yelp pages, mailing campaigns, etc for other companies and that takes a lot of my daytime hours. The rest of what I do, including being Editor of www.6amgroup.com, the WORK, Synthetik Minds and COMPOUND events, the 6AM services, Deviation Agency, etc, is on top of that.

JIA: I got into the electronic music world in Summer of 2006 but mainly just being a spectator and fan. I went to school for accounting and finance so I held jobs working as a financial analyst and eventually as an internal accounting staff for a small IT company when I moved to LA in 2008.

By holding onto that job for 9-years I was able to build 6AM on the side during evenings/weekends and was able to pursue this passion without having money being the root of why I am doing this. I’ve always felt bad for people who pursued this industry full-time without a strong foundation or clear plan to sustain this difficult journey. By the end of 2017, I decided to make the leap fulltime because I could no longer sit at my desk job and focus on any of that boring accounting work. It was a long time coming but the timing was ripe for me to finally make that jump. Let me make this clear, the struggle was (and still is) very real. Every day is a challenge when you don’t have a safety net besides your own conscious decision pushing things through, but so far no regrets whatsoever and I learn something new about life every day ever since making this decision to go all-in.

Give us a rundown of what each of your companies specializes in, and your role within each?

Marco: As I explained, I really only became a part of 6AM at the end of 2015, first as a blogger and then as Content Director for the entire site. As things progressed I became a partner at the company and assumed both roles of Events Director and Content Director, which I still hold to this day. The company runs like a start-up, we all have other jobs or hands in many other pies, if you will, so there’s flexibility on the duties we are responsible for… although I will say that I pretty much oversee the content, social media and event efforts of 6AM.

Synthetik Minds is a brand I started solo in 2017 as an effort to be a bit more involved with the events scene in LA on a personal level. Originally it was meant to be something small, a way for me to collaborate with “smaller” crews in LA that were doing some cool events here and there. I was broke at the time, living off little savings I had brought with me from serving tables in Chicago, and slept on a couch for a year and a half to use all the spare cash I could to begin this project. Honestly, that’s how it began, and it was only due to an unexpected turn of events that Synthetik MInds and 6AM’s WORK events brand began collaborating on bigger bookings and bigger events — it happened the first time for Ø [Phase]’s LA debut event in June of 2017 and it worked so well that we decided to keep going!

COMPOUND is a collaborative effort that sees Synthetik Minds and WORK by 6Am combine with our friends at INCOGNITO and Dirty Epic to throw bigger-scale events with larger production budget and lineups.

Then there’s Deviation Agency, the techno artist agency we launched last summer which Jia and I are a part of with Andrew Souto.

JIA: 6AM specializes in one thing and that is PROMOTIONS. It has been the bread and butter of everything we do and stand for since 2008. Simply put, we promote what we love and what we believe in which is the global electronic music industry. Our website and social media is a resemblance of that purpose and intent which is why we cover a wide range of artists, events, and music locally and globally to give everyone an equal chance of being heard… we really do try our best!

Though we have expanded our services in areas such as social media management and artist visa, at the end of the day I truly believe everything we do here at 6AM aims to promote the music and the industry we are a part of and to shine some positivity behind our brand messaging.

While I have held all positions within the company since day one, today I am truly grateful for the amazing team I have that literally runs 6AM, which allows me to oversee our entire operation between LA and Guam/Asia. As the “Working CEO” I still like to get my hands dirty (you can see me at 7am lugging supplies out from our events) but also understand the role I need to play to keep things intact. Most of my time is spent working “on” the business and not so much “in” the business which my team has a clear understanding of the difference and impact it has for 6AM.

How did your paths cross as promoters, and how have you both made each others’ operations stronger in the process?

Marco: Our paths didn’t really cross as promoters, but me applying to write blog articles for www.6amgroup.com. The promotion aspect of our work together came later when I asked Jia to be involved with WORK’s event bookings, and more in depth just over a year later when Synthetik Minds collaborated with 6AM on our first event together… the Phase one I mentioned earlier.

I would say that we both took our past experiences, mistakes and successful procedures and welded them to create what we have now. Naturally we weren’t completely clueless from the get-go, but we had a lot to learn for our first event together, and still do to this day. I have to say that I really enjoy working with Jia because we complement each other as business partners very well, and our connection extends beyond work to a true friendship. While he really has become my best friend, we are able to keep business separate and to hold each other accountable when it’s time to get things done.

JIA: My event experience working with Marco first stemmed from his involvement with helping out at our events, and after seeing his passion, work ethic, and general operational abilities it was a no-brainer decision when the opportunity presented itself for us to work in a closer dynamic. 6AM, as a company, was going through some very dark times during 2016/2017 that didn’t allow me to take on much financial risk and Marco was able to step in and truly become a event-partner to shoulder the risks involved in doing these events.

I always respect industry peers who put their $$ where their mouth is because this sh*t is hard and not cheap. I think through both of our experiences and our desire to do things as professional as possible we have really elevated the way we plan and execute our events. We hold each other accountable, never make excuses, stay positively stoic (laughs), and make the best of each event whether we win or lose. It is through this mindset and approach we instill onto each other and the team, that our events are starting to truly elevate both from an operational standpoint and attendance.

Marco: Jia is correct, there was a point where in order to make these events happen we truly had to sacrifice a lot. That period in 2016/2017 was tough for 6AM as a company, and was tough on us personally. I lived on a couch for a year and a half to begin to be able to afford even being a part of these events, sacrificing a lot of personal relationships and comfort in the process. I know the same was and still is for Jia and I to this day. I am not sure what idea those on the outside have of promoters like us in LA that do regular events, but it isn’t all glitz and glamour as it can be misunderstood to be.

You guys also seem to be linked with WORK. How does this company come into play, with your operation/bind your two operations together?

Marco: WORK is 6AM’s events brand, while Synthetik Minds is its own company. Essentially I oversee the bookings for both, but at times WORK will collab with other event partners, such as INCOGNITO, and Synthetik Minds will also do events with other partners such as Dirty Epic, or LA Structures. Then there are instances when we all collaborate for bigger night concepts… and that’s how COMPOUND and the soon-to-be-launched Deviation Events came to be.

JIA: As Marco mentioned, WORK is not a company but an event brand that falls under the umbrella of 6AM. In 2014 when I first conceptualized WORK I wanted our industry to realize how much effort (aka WORK) is actually involved in partying and putting together these parties. Everyone needs to put in some sort of “WORK’ in order to reap some form of reward…I don’t care what it is you do in life, nothing happens from doing nothing. People work their faces off to achieve what they want in this life.

The party scene, in general, is looked upon by mainstream society as a bunch of degenerates who want to do nothing but have fun, do drugs, and party. I wanted to promote something very different through our WORK events: if you want to have fun and party then go and WORK FOR IT! Tickets, Drinks, Substances, and just being out is NOT CHEAP at all. Partying is a privilege NOT a right (sorry Beastie Boys) – the moment we start claiming that getting fucked up is a right in society is when we start to see ENTITLEMENT behaviors in our industry or worse, people putting everything on the line to just party with no regards that leads to a dark path I wish no one ever has to go through.

Simply put, WORK is a brand message to the industry. When people attend our events, I want them to feel like they earned it because they hustled all-week and need this moment of escape to rejuvenate so they can continue to push forward whatever it is they are going through in life. When we work with partners, I want this brand to re-assure them that me and my team will WORK HARD to ensure we are the best (or one of the best) partners you will ever work with because we don’t mess around when it comes to getting down to business. We all gotta work hard to make these events happen and everyone will need to do their WORK in order for us to come have a good time during the weekends.

You recently moved into the agency space with Deviation. How did this idea come up, and what steps did you take to get off the ground? Have you learned anything new/interesting about being a booking agent in the process, and has this, in turn, helped your effectiveness as promoters?

Marco: Admittedly, the idea came from Andrew Souto of Dirty Epic. He had already been representing a lot of great artists in the States and saw an opportunity to build an agency and bring us on board. It’s been difficult to adjust to being an agent, but the experience as a promoter does pay off. Our goal is to be transparent as agents, and to work together with promoters and our artists to construct tours that are beneficial to all involved, but that first and foremost elevate local scenes throughout the North American territory, while increasing visibility for both our specific artists and techno in general throughout the States, Canada and Mexico.

As an agent I learned that not all promoters are as professional and easy to work with as I would like, and it has certainly made me think twice about the way I act as a promoter with other agents. Having experience on both sides definitely opened my eyes as to how the whole process works, and it has made me more understanding and patient regardless of the hat I am wearing in the booking process.

JIA: Andrew wanted to take his side-agency business to a new level and feel very honored and happy that he called upon Marco and myself to help him push this into a new direction. This is my first year playing on the agent side of things and I must say that I have so much respect for the work they do, because up until this point I have only been playing on the promoter side of things. This is definitely a big learning curve for me personally because being a (good) agent is really difficult, partly because, as Marco mentioned, not all promoters are as professional and attentive to details as others. I understand this is all part of the process in learning and growing so while it has been frustrating for me personally I know that with time, things will smooth out on its own.

What is your process for curating/booking talent at your shows?

Marco: There is no clear-cut answer to this. First and foremost I try to book artists I think are talented, artists who put out and play music that I respect and that the local Los Angeles scene will enjoy. I have always thought of a promoter as a taste-maker and educator, just like DJs are. Sure, I do book techno legends and big names, both because I respect their artistry as a fan, and because I know they may be in demand, but I also do my best to give space to up-and-coming talent both internationally, in the States and from LA.

We have been debuting a lot of artists at our events over the last year, including a ton of LA quality acts that have impressed us tremendously both through their professionalism and through their sets, whether Live or DJ. Some perfect examples of the latter are Komprezzor from Chicago, JGarrett from Vancouver, as well as Motionen, Mesme’, Tap Newo, Modus and Annika Wolfe from LA. There’s so much talent in this city, it’s crazy! All of these are just examples, and I am sure there are more, but I can tell you they played fantastic sets for us in support of some world-renowned talent, stepping up to the plate fantastically.

This doesn’t mean that I only book international artists I am personally the #1 fan of. Sometimes it’s about recognizing what your market wants and needs, as well as staying ahead of trends and booking artists that are on the come-up and deserve that recognition here in LA.

JIA: Since Marco and I generally have the same taste for Techno, I have given him my full trust in bringing artists to the table for me to review and mutually agree on the booking direction whether they are headliners or local support. Occasionally, I will pitch him options I think will work well and for him to keep an open mind on genres that don’t always resonate to “hard techno,” even though that’s really what we like to book but understand that there are other markets that need to be served and we also do enjoy music outside of the 134BPM floor-to-the-wall bangers (laughs)

I have been very happy with all of our booking selections and with each show, our relationships with artists and their agents grow so many times we will get pitched by them as well or ask to re-book them. As Marco mentioned, there isn’t a clear cut way we do bookings but rather a dynamic of things that get taken into consideration. Buying talent is no easy task, but it’s been amazing to develop personal relationships with artists and to see them wanting to return to play for us time and time again.

Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve in the next 5 years? 10?

Marco: That’s a tough one, as a lot hinges on what we are allowed to do.

Broadly speaking, I hope electronic music, and specifically techno, house and the more “underground” sounds if you will, can receive broader recognition in the States in the next 5 and 10 years. I know a lot of techno fans want the genre to remain purely underground, but then travel to Europe to attend ADE, Awakenings and other cool overseas festival and venues where techno has not only been clearly been accepted as part of local culture, but permitted to flourish, if not outright supported, thanks to local legislation and initiatives that allow for this to occur.

There is a level of hypocrisy on the matter which isn’t lost on me – I too want techno to remain pure and unadulterated, and I want events to be safe spaces filled with 100% well-behaved crowds. But I do truly believe that we are on the threshold to something bigger for the music we love, and that if we work together, patiently, to educate and improve things, we can find ourselves to be a part of a fantastic local music scene in Los Angeles, and beyond.

I do recognize that local and State restrictions make it hard to accomplish what we want in Los Angeles, and that’s also something that is sometimes not brought into the equation when criticizing the work some promoters (including ourselves) do in the local community. I think there are a lot of great people working their asses off to bring quality music to LA, sacrificing a lot on a personal level despite all the stops and barriers thrown at us by local legislation.

At first it used to trouble me when I saw these efforts become the subject of unjust and unconstructive criticism and personal vilification, rather than supported. Let’s be honest… no one is perfect, including myself and our events, but we do what we do because we absolutely love the music and anyone who thinks otherwise is unfortunately misguided. We are constantly looking at way of improving things, while also providing memorable music experiences to people in this city and sacrificing a lot personally to make these nights happen.

With that said, in the next 5-10 years I hope to be able to improve the way we do events, and to continue to educate our crowd on what it means to be a part of this movement. Naturally, I hope that our events can constantly improve as a result, both from an experiential standpoint as well as for the good they can do for the local community. We have already been taking some good steps with regards to this, including working with local charities that we don’t broadly post about, but the effort can and should only be increased in the years to come.

I also hope to continue to push the ethos of collaboration, and the notion that working together is the only way to improve things, rather than getting lost on social media antics that do nothing but divide our local community. I hope to be able to continue to foster relationships with local officials, promoters, collectives and artists that are married to these same goals and ideals, so that the underground electronic music scene in this country can continue to grow.

Our goal is NOT for events to be bigger, but for events to be better. Our goal is to elevate the experiences we provide and to one day work with the City of Los Angeles itself to underscore the power and beauty of techno and other electronic music genres, as well as the rich musical history of this city. I know it may seem far-fetched as a concept, but I truly believe it’s doable in five years… and later this year I hope you will already see the first stepping stones towards achieving this.

If you asked me whether I believe we could one day have similar events in this country as the Europeans enjoy overseas my answer is yes. I do believe it’s possible. I do believe it will take a lot of work, and that we must find our own identity through this process, but if we are just talking about the scale, appreciation and growth of this culture, this phenomenon that was born in this country then yes, not only does it deserve to grow, but it can… and if we put our petty differences and politics aside, I think it will.

JIA: For 6AM, our long term goal is to champion the Electronic Music industry meaning we are making a positive impact on our scene and for the people (both industry pros/artists and fans) using MUSIC and Event Experience as the medium to motivate and inspire everyone that we come across. How do we do this one might ask? Marco pretty much answered it in full detail above with respect to events, and with the ever-growing platform that is 6AM, we hope to be able to use our channel to elevate everyone in our industry who is willing to put in the work.

For me personally, I want 6AM to be at a point where we are able to fully employ people. As much as we started this as a hobby-passion, there are people on my team who have fully dedicated their lives to this and I have always felt a sense of responsibility to not just make this my full-time thing but a full-time thing for my entire team. We are almost 1/2 way there and I think within the next 5-10 years we should be able to manifest this into reality.

Quoting my favorite hip-hop artist at the moment, J.Cole (slightly edited for appropriation)
“What good is the bread if my homies are broke?
What good is first class if my homies can’t sit?
That’s my next mission, that’s why I can’t quit”

(laughs) Yep I just quoted a hip-hop lyric on Dancing Astronaut!

Can you explain why collaborations between promoters are so vital in our current events sphere, especially when it comes to say, booking ‘riskier’ talent?

Marco: (laughs) I have been hammering at this for a long, long time. Working together is the only way to improve things on a narrow and broader scale. We are never going to change the way the “outsiders” view techno and electronic music unless we are united. We are never going to be able to foster a healthy nightlife scene for Los Angeles unless we are united.

I didn’t used to always thing this way, and in the past I did hold an “us versus them” theory with regards to the “underground versus the mainstream,” but with my years of experience in this field I have learned that that viewpoint was narrow-minded and wrong. It may seem “cool” at first but does nothing to actually build and improve any local scene. In fact, it hinders progress.

Simply put: I love this music and want to share the feelings I experience on the dance floor to countless more. That’s why we do what we do. If you feel the same and are on board then let’s work together! If you feel only a select few/several hundred deserve to be introduced to techno in Los Angeles and the rest shouldn’t, then we can agree to disagree and we should go our own ways… no harm, no foul!

JIA: Before I got into the music industry, team sports, basketball in particular, were my entire life, so working together and collaboration is ingrained in my soul. I prefer to work with others than do it solo… it’s why 6AM over the past 11 years has ALWAYS had more than 3-4 people involved at any given moment because I knew since Day 1 that I wasn’t gonna be able to do this alone just like how no one wins basketball games playing 1 vs. 5

T.E.A.M. –> Together Everyone Achieves MORE – end of ball game. The same applies to why we formed Compound, Deviation, my no-brainer decision to work with Incognito, Synthetik Minds, Dirty Epic and Madhouse, and my pursuit to always consider new faces into 6AM!

Collaboration and partnership is what’s going to take the ENTIRE industry to the next level. Anyone who argues against this notion will not make it in the long run.

This leads into your COMPOUND events. Can you give readers who aren’t in the know a rundown of these events, and the process behind organizing them and finding good partners to work with?

Marco: We decided to do COMPOUND as a direct result of the above belief on the importance of collaboration. The partners behind COMPOUND work together on other partnership events throughout the year, but we realized that to do something better and bigger we had to work together, to pool all our experiences, know-how and skills into organizing these events.

To answer your question, the partners for COMPOUND are always the same. We adopt a “divide-and-conquer” approach to what it takes to putting these events together, recognizing that each of the partners involved may have better skill sets in certain fields, as well as different connections with vendors, agents, etc to put these events together.

That’s what COMPOUND is: getting together for the love of techno, to build something bigger and better so that we can spread this message and this music to more people.

JIA: This partnership formed organically over the years through many levels of collaborations in the past. Whenever you bring in more than a few cooks into the kitchen there needs to be an assessment on personality and working style. We focus on our strengths, flush out any dramas immediately, while constantly remind each other WHY we are doing this. Open communication is the key in all partnerships and I think this is one area we are constantly improving on to ensure each event is at the level we want to produce. COMPOUND has been an amazing experience for me personally, and one of the projects I am most excited to push forward in the next 2-3 years!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as promoters?

Marco: To be honest, it’s the same challenge any business deals with… scaling! Throwing a 100-300 capacity event is hard as it is, but when those numbers begin multiplying so does the work required, the attention to detail, and much more. It hasn’t been easy to deal with larger nights, and at times we could do better, but I do believe we have a very, very solid team that works very hard to improve our performances event after event.

I think at times the understanding of what it takes to throw some of these bigger events is lost on some people. As a promoter, I would love to be everywhere during one of my events, able to see everything and resolve any hiccups, and to be able to control every single attendee to ensure perfect behavior. It’s unfortunately impossible, and it’s unfortunately unviable to adopt a Berghain-type door policy for what we do. I have been to ADE and encountered shitty crowd behavior, same with many of other European countries including the UK, Italy, France and yes, even Germany. It happens and as events get bigger, the chance of this happening does increase and it can be a struggle for promoters like us whose hearts sink the moment we hear one attendee had a bad experience out of hundreds on the dance floor.

All I can say is that I encourage anyone that comes to our events to work WITH us to improve things. Please do alert us about anything that needs resolution and I promise I will personally do my best to take care of it right there and then, and the same goes for the rest of our staff.

Here is an example: we have been cracking down on camera flash use, as it’s an obvious disturbance in a dark music event setting. Rather than writing a tweet complaining about someone using a flash without even directing the tweet at myself or any of our event accounts, why not send us a Direct Message about what is going on, or better yet contact one of us in person? That will actually enable us to respond back, locate the issue and resolve it. Trust me… not only have I already been doing so, finding random tweets and contacting the person to assist, but there is nothing I would rather do at one of my own nights than to do everything I can to ensure that attendees have a great experience.

So yeah, scaling is a challenge but it is especially so when Jia and I really care about making every night as smooth as possible for all attendees!

JIA: Completely agree with Marco’s sentiments and I would go on to add that maintaining a healthy relationship with some of our biggest supporters and industry peers is one I find challenging. Everyone who knows me and goes to our events knows the “Jia face” and it’s not that I am not happy or having fun but the stress/anxiety that comes with throwing the shows we do makes it difficult for me to actively engage and, sometimes, appreciate the very people who make all of this possible…OUR ATTENDEES.

With a hundred things happening at once, sometimes I feel bad that I didn’t even take one or two seconds to say hello, even though I was very busy at the time. Maybe I am overthinking this a bit, but it’s something I always reflect on when everything is over and I’m sitting quietly in my room. I try to make a conscious effort to thank the team as well as the key supporters who are always bringing in good people and good vibes that make our event successful.

As a promoter, we’re never going to make everyone happy so I try to not focus too much on the negativity (if any) and only give my attention to the positive. That is not to say that if something negative happens to one of our event attendees (knocks on wood), we don’t address that situation and turn the other cheek! We definitely do handle it as professionally as possible so just wanted to make this part clear!

On that note, what are some common mistakes that beginner promoters should avoid when throwing their own parties?

JIA: Managing expectations… I think for the most part, every new promoter comes in with an upbeat and “glass-half-full” mentality, which is GREAT don’t get me wrong, but I think too many new promoters (including myself in the early days) have this unrealistic expectation for their events just because they see other parties popping off.

No two events are the same: even if you book the EXACT same lineup as another busy party it may not yield the same results for your own.

Most promoters start doing events with one intent and that is so they can book themselves to play, and while that is OK to do, I want to warn people to not let their own ego inflate the purpose of why they’re doing events. Don’t make this only about YOU, it shouldn’t be… ever!

Having good sound is key, never skimp on putting extra $$ on sound. It makes or breaks an event and one of the most common rookie mistakes we see and yes, I have made that mistake in the past

One of the best advice that was ever given to me was from Craig Pettigrew (BPM Festival) in what I like to call the “Max capacity rule”. Example, if you know you can only bring 100 people to your party, book a venue that only holds 80, if you know you can only bring 50 people then book a venue that only holds 40. You want your first event to build energy and the quickest way you’re able to do that is to pack the place out regardless if 1,000 people show up or 100 people show up, the goal is to build steam! I believe this was the approach he did with BPM where it started as a boutique festival that is now a global brand in the festival circuit.

I never really thanked him personally for that one advice so doing it now “THANK YOU CRAIG! Hope to see you around soon!”

Marco: Jia covered some very good points. One of the key mistakes I made early in my “career” in this industry, back in Chicago, was in partnering with the wrong people. Having a good partner that you can trust, rely on and with whom you can work together well is extremely important.

You will not always get along, but the way you resolve problems and conflicts will give you an idea of whether the partnership can and will work. I have seen a lot of shady things in this industry and I am owed a lot of money that was effectively stolen from me, but perhaps the worst thing I have observed is a partner who puts their personal agenda above that of the party, the event brand, the company, or what have you.

It happens often in business, and in this industry too, that a business partner is someone in your family, a best friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend or even your spouse, and while that can be fantastic, it can also be easy to lose sight of the company’s good in favor of one’s own personal agenda.

No matter what you do, strive to keep personal issues and company/business issues separate. That leads me to bring up social media: If you’re an event promoter, a DJ, a producer, a venue owner, or hold any position of relevance in this industry, burning bridges on social media or posting self-inflammatory content can be a surefire way to say goodbye to your career. Think before you type.

You guys have your web promotion game on lock, actively posting ads in group in creative and engaging ways. Can you pass on some of your tips & tricks for effective promotion campaigns online, and where you see online advertising moving to in the future with the current changes in algorithms, etc in social networks?

Marco: (laughs) Well people say we promote too much! All we do is try to find creative ways to promote our events, rather than just post a flyer and lineup and ticket link over and over. That’s why I post meme, funny stuff, and tie it back to the events we do. We use a mailing list that is ONLY comprised of e-mails from people who have bought a ticket from us in the past, or entered a ticket giveaway – that is not mass promotion in my eyes, but targeted promotion, letting past attendees know of forthcoming events.

I feel that some people have an “adverse” reaction to social media and promotion on it. They think it’s “not cool” or “not underground,” but we live in 2019 and social media is just a simple tool that can be effective if you understand it and use it well. It’s not complicated at all, it’s all about putting out smart content and understanding what each social network’s algorithm is focusing on, and using that to your advantage.

This is Los Angeles, a city of over 4 million people alone… and that is without counting people in nearby counties. Do the math!

I have seen people criticize the size of a 500 capacity techno show as too big or over-promoted, but how miniscule is that number really? It’s tiny! It’s nothing.. it’s really a drop in the ocean. It makes no sense to me.

JIA: (laughs) Couldn’t agree more, I like to add in the fact, or reminder from above, that 6AM is a PROMOTIONS company. I promote what I love and believe in with no shame whatsoever and I do find it a bit hypocritical that the very people who are complaining about social media are using SOCIAL MEDIA to complain…. they should just complain about it by writing on a piece of paper or brick wall! (laughs) Ok I kid but you get the point. Complaining about something that is inevitable instead of finding solutions is a big epidemic within our industry.

But to answer your question, content is king. Whether it’s memes, quotes, or music; content drives everything. With approach in promotions, people nowadays don’t like to be sold to, so finding a balance between organic promos and paid-advertising is crucial. We only do paid ads to a very targeted audience who we know WILL APPRECIATE the event info popping up as a reminder to catch their favorite techno acts when they are in town. With the advancement in targeting and segmenting, the future of promotions and ads are only niching down deeper into the rabbit hole. Those who understand their audience persona are the ones that are going to be able to get their message and content across with a bigger impact.

For those who want to go the organic route, build an AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY around your brand and speak your truth and be real as fuck. It’s working for us and have worked for others as well, don’t be scared to be who you are online and offline!

Now let’s think happy thoughts – what are some of your favorite moments you’ve seen together as a team? Who’s thrown down some particularly memorable sets in the past few years?

Marco: Oh wow… too many to count. Now I know how it feels when I ask similar questions to other artists and promoters (laughs).

Some memorable moments include our first show together with Ø [Phase], the first time Speedy J played for us was insane… what a crazy night, as were the first COMPOUND with Perc/Headless Horseman as well as subsequent ones with DVS1/Terrence Fixmer and Stroboscopic Artefacts. But now that I think about all the nights we shared there were soooo many other great ones, like FJAAK and Etapp Kyle, 999999999’s unexpected madness, the Synthetik Minds 2 year anniversary with the one and only Luke Slater… I could go on and on.

JIA: We do Electric Island Festival (EIF) in Guam each year since 2013 more on the mainstream side, and being able to launch and operate a 3-4K event for 6 consecutive years is something I do not take for granted. The feeling of accomplishing that is one of my favorite moments with the team. Though not all of the LA team goes to Guam for EIF, most of them have experienced working as part of that team. It is through that festival, did we become the company we are today. All of our pains, gains, and learning experience stems from this single festival 6,000 miles away from our LA HQ.

Seeing Marco’s Synthetik Minds brand take off to where it is now has been quite the ride and seeing some of his struggles along the way has been eye-opening for sure. The first event we did together with Ø [Phase] is what set the tone for where we are today with respect to our LA events

Launching our first COMPOUND and packing out a warehouse via Speedy J are two events that will remain in a special place in my heart. These two events were the gateway for us to really believe in ourselves to take things to the next level.

What’s next for 6AM/Synthetik Minds?

Marco: We have some great nights coming up including our debut Deviation Events night in May with a stacked lineup, as well as some dope acts rolling through LA, some for the first time.

I will disclose some for those who took the time to read through this entire interview (thank you!): SHDW & Obscure Shape’s LA debut, Oscar Mulero, Randomer & Clouds as Headstrong for the first time in the States, a 4 hour DJ Pierre acid set, a MORD showcase, UVB and Manni Dee, the return of Insolate and SNTS… and that’s just the confirmed ones for the moment.

We hope you’re ready LA, we can’t wait to keep improving these nights while bringing artists we truly love to a city we feel deserves all of this… and more!

But beyond the names, I want to sit down and work hard with our team on an effective plan to elevate the experiences these nights provide. We have some ideas already and it’s time to set them in motion!

JIA: Asides from producing events under WORK, Compound, Deviation, and EIF in Guam as well as continuing our quest to champion the industry, I feel like the next step for 6AM particularly is the brand message we want to continue hacking away towards this scene. People are putting a great deal of emphasis on pursuing their life passion and doing whatever it takes to get there so we like to serve as a medium that continuously supports the aspiration of ALL industry people (artists and professionals).

I don’t think anyone is fully taking that step to act as a BIG BROTHER/Coach/Mentor for the community and all I want is to do whatever we can to help ease the anxiety, stress, and mental strain that comes along with pursuing this industry and going through their own journey. I want to use 6AM’s platform and messaging to bring self-awareness so that everyone who is dedicating their life towards this path can find passion, purpose, and intent in all that they do. This is what I am most excited about what’s next for 6AM!

Producer Sessions: 011 Adventure Club talks music production, mental health, new music and more on their Death or Glory Tour

This post was originally published on this site

Producer Sessions: 011 Adventure Club talks music production, mental health, new music and more on their Death or Glory TourAC FEB2070

Producer Sessions is a series from Dancing Astronaut meant to shine a brighter light on the producer community. Each volume will guide producers toward professionals in their field.

Adventure Club is currently on their headlining Death or Glory Tour, bringing along a grip of heavy hitters such as Bear Grillz, Gammer, Riot Ten, ARMNHMR, Dirt Monkey, TYNAN, Wooli, William Black, Yakz, and more.

The Montreal duo consisting of Christian Srigley and Leighton James recently released a collaboration with Crankdat featuring Krewella, “Next Life.” Their last work with the Yousaf sisters was on their hit, “Rise and Fall,” back in 2012. Since then, both parties involved have grown quite a bit as musicians, and this evolution can clearly be heard on “Next Life.” We spoke with Srigley at Echostage in Washington DC about music production, among other facets of his work as a professional DJ and producer.

What made you finally collaborate with Krewella on your new song with Crankdat?

We toyed with ideas a couple times. With music, every song you write isn’t going to get released. You have to get a project that everyone jells with and we had five creative minds on this, and this is the one that stuck.

What is your production process like?

I’m the button pusher, Leighton is the idea man. We don’t use hard synths. I twist the nobs with my mouse.

What VSTs do you use?

A lot of times when I’m writing a new track, I’ll try to learn a new VST as I’m going through the track. You box yourself in a bit by continuing to use the same synth. Once I start feeling boxed in with a synth, I’ll move onto a new one.

You mentioned you liked our Flight Facilities – “Crave You” remix––that was Native Instrument’s Massive––and a similar patch was used for our Britney Spears “Till The World Ends” remix. That growl came from back when I was doing 20 hour bass builds because I was having so much fun with it. If I’m looking for a growl or specific synth sound for a song, I’ll go back to massive or whatever I’m looking for.

How do you normally start a song?

Typically, Leighton will find a melody on the guitar or piano. I’ll also cut some generic piano synthesizer and draw in chords. Here we’re listening for a cord line that really follows the vocals. Chords with the vocals really sets the tone. It’s the foundation and feel, then we add the details. Percussion comes in last for us.

Percussion is something I have to force myself to be more creative in. Drums are just less natural for me and more mathematical.

When doing a remix. We’re building the melodies around the vocals then add the drums last. I’ll try and reinvent the vocals as well.

Any plugins that you use in your signature melodic style?

Our most classic sound is our piano sound. I have a secret piano recipe that I use. Layers of it. I won’t give the secret sauce here tho.

What is your DAW?

Cakewalk. It’s pretty rare within the EDM industry. We use this plugin that’s native to Cakewalk, it’s called the Z3TA. They have really cool effects that we’ll put on vocals. Enigma by Waves is another with good features that we use for vocal treatment. Those are some old school plugins.

I’ve tried swapping over to Abelton. I was recording blues guitar when I was 11 years old in Cakewalk at my home studio, and whenever I tried crossing over to another DAW that might be more EDM friendly, it was like learning a new language. Cakewalk is my comfort zone.

It’s all about workflow. The faster I can get from point A to point B, the better.

What on the production side do you still struggle with?

I have trouble getting that super fat saw wave synth that really builds a whole room in all the right places and still leaves room for everything else. Even the spread as far as the chords go and how many synths are you going to layer into that. I don’t like using the same patch over and over, so I’m building up from scratch every time, and it’s always an uphill battle.

Can you talk about your collaboration process, on “Next Life?”

That was a stem swap, where we email stems back and forth without going to the studio. For some collaborations, we’ll go in the studio. For example, we with in the studio with Terravita when we made our collaboration, “Save Me” featuring Adara off our Red // Blue album.

Do you have any unique studio habits?

Guru energy drinks dials me in. I’m also a space bar squirrel. I’ll hammer the space bar, which is play and stop, and hit the same sound over and over again until Leighton has to run out of the room because he’s getting hit with the same sound over and over again. I’ll just be lost in thought hammering the space bar. Poor Leighton.

Do you have another vision for your live show?

Leighton and I have toyed with the idea of bringing live instrumentation to our sets. I grew up on blues guitar, so I would love to solo off all the songs in my set, but I don’t think that would necessarily hit. We have to find the right way to do it.

Singing is another aspect we’ve toyed with. One song that I’ve recently sang on is this song in the works about mental health. I’ve battled through depression and anxiety throughout parts of my career. It’s a song completely from the heart and vulnerable; I’ve never really spoken about it until now. I’ve found great guidance and growth, so I’d like to promote that side a bit and release this track about me opening up and advocating for mental health.

What’s it like being signed to a big label versus releasing independently?

The pros outweigh the cons. Just having those lines to release music from. Some of the cons are you can’t just finish a song and put it out. Sitting on projects I want to get out is a little tough.

Do you and Leighton make any weird ass music that you can’t release under the Adventure Club brand?

Absolutely, we’re constantly battling that. I think we’re on the luckier side because we have a nice spread where we can hit multiple genres. I know artists that are way more pigeonholed to a genre. Getter had a lot of trouble with that. From the industry standpoint, his album was phenomenal, but it just was expected with his fans and there was pushback there.

Have you ever wanted to create another pseudonym?

I’m a big gamer. It’s like World of Warcraft. We’ve been grinding for 10 years, we have all the top level gear, and every single step is so hard and involved now. I’d be fun to role a new character from the beginning.

What makes Canada such a powerhouse in electronic music production?

If you look 10 years ago, a lot of dubstep was coming out of Kelowna. It was a breeding pool for dubstep. Deadmau5 has been an influence for so many producer and you have to come back to Montreal to talk about A-Trak.

What is next for you guys?

“Next Life” with Crankdat featuring Krewella is the start of a big backlog of music. We’ve been sitting to long on some good stuff. Out next song is with Yuna who you might remember from our single “Gold” and a remix we did of her single “Lullabys.”

Do you do any extracurricular activities?

Magic the Gathering. In Seattle, we got to play with the people who worked at Magic alongside fans.

Art of experience: Autograf talk the deeply personal process of crafting forthcoming EP, ‘Love And Retrograde’ [Interview]

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Art of experience: Autograf talk the deeply personal process of crafting forthcoming EP, ‘Love And Retrograde’ [Interview]Bo Image

Despite the backward motion denotative of the word “retrograde,” Autograf‘s forthcoming EP, Love And Retrograde, is very much a collective step forward for the indie-electronic trio comprised of Mikul Wing, Louis Kha, and Jake Carpenter. Autograf made several successive outings in the 2018 dance release ring, like SNBRN collaboration, “Move All Night,” and fellow joint project with Family of the Year, “Hold Me Down;” however, until now, the group limited the format of their prior releases to standalone singles. With their last EP Future Soup now three-years in the rearview, Autograf prepare to release the project that will end their hiatus from the release of longform productions: Love And Retrograde EP. Love And Retrograde is led by “Hold Me Back.”

A lot can occur and a lot can change in three year’s time: personal and artistic strides are made, creative maturity ensues, and a more adept sense of how to not only confront, but process one’s emotions surfaces as a positive byproduct of personal strife. Autograf members Louis and Mikul can attest to it. When the outfit collaboratively announced the impending release of Love and Retrograde, the group attributed their sonic quietude to the respective “personal hardships” they faced in the three-year expanse from 2016-2019. “We’ve faced personal hardships since our Future Soul EP was released. These misfortunes helped us to grow as a group and reignited our passion for music,” Autograf wrote in an Instagram post. “The songs we created in this dusk have brought so much joy and love into our lives. This creative catalyst has propelled us to construct our Love And Retrograde EP.”

Dancing Astronaut dove into the “dusk” with Louis and Mikul to talk at greater depth about the impetus for Love and Retrograde, the intersection of mental health and self-love, and how the intensely personal–and intensely trying–can translate to music.

DA: Could you speak a bit about your three-year hiatus from EP production? i.e. did you find that taking a break from the production of extended projects allowed you to explore new sound constructions/styles?
Louis: That’s just kind of how it happened. We were touring around, living life and making music. And the music was released as singles. Singles are like mini stories in your life. Whereas a body of work like an EP is a bigger story. It took something more heavy and serious to happen in our lives to make another EP.

DA: You mentioned that you’ve each faced “personal hardships” in your recent Instagram post that announced the impending arrival of your new EP, Love and Retrograde. Being that these hardships served as the “creative catalyst” for Love and Retrograde, would you elaborate a bit on the “personal hardships,” and how they influenced the creative process behind the new EP?
Mikul: It was a really tough year full of loss and heartbreak. My father passed away and my relationship of 6 years ended as well. It left me in a really dark place. 

Louis:At the same time, Jake was dealing with mental health issues that took him off the road and ultimately led him to step away from the project to focus on his health. For me, it felt like we hit rock bottom over Thanksgiving. It’s funny because it’s the low moments that really motivate you to do something about it.  You can either wallow in defeat or pick yourself up and do something about it. Right after Thanksgiving I locked myself in the studio everyday for 15+ hours a day often not even stopping to eat or sleep. I did this for the rest of the winter up until today. It was really bad for my health but it was the most productive I’ve ever been.

Mikul:For me, all the personal hardships left me really unhappy and confused about what I wanted in life. But eventually it made me realize with Autograf I had a creative outlet to express myself through art and music, and I’m super grateful for that now. It’s what really lifted me out of that hole.

Louis: It definitely gave me a newfound love and passion for music, more than at any other time in my life. And I’m really thankful for it.

DA: You mentioned that this forthcoming EP touches on the aforementioned hardships, and how you “navigated” them. From a technical standpoint, how did you strive to embody this component of personal experience in the sound of the new EP? 
Louis: It was pretty simple, Love And Retrograde is the art we made during this difficult time. All the emotions we were feeling at the time are apart of the music. From a technical standpoint, it’s not like we sat there and said let’s write a happier sounding melody or use a more organic sounding piano because that conveys overcoming hardships better. Instead, things just turned out the way they turned out because that’s how we were feeling at the time. It was all pretty natural. That’s music.

DA:How does Love and Retrograde differ from your previous EP, Future Soup? (2016)
Louis: Future Soup was the first creation we made as Autograf both as an art sculpture and body of music. And Love and Retrograde is a rediscovery of our love and passion for music and art.

DA: What is your favorite track on Love and Retrograde, and why?

Louis: For me it’s “Real” or “Be Myself” because I started both of those songs when we were at a really low point but then came back and finished them later when we were riding high again. So there’s a sense of triumph for me in both of those songs. If we would’ve finished them all during that low point, it would’ve turned out completely different.

DA: Could you share a piece of advice for any of your listeners who might be struggling with their own personal hardships right now?
Mikul: You have to figure out what works for you and not force yourself into anything. Too often in society these ideas of hardship are glorified and even marketed to us in a way that becomes detrimental to our health. Think about your own well being and don’t look at movies or social media that puts things on a pedestal because that is not reality. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or tell someone you don’t want to push forward. Try to surround yourself with people that are uplifting and don’t fall into a self deprecating cycle where you begin to feed off false realities. 

Louis:Positivity, gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and exercise have all really helped me a lot in life. Every time I’m down, I tell myself “you know what? this is an opportunity to grow, become strong and overcome a challenge. These opportunities don’t come often so here’s my chance to learn perseverance.” It’s ironic because I only developed these habits during the low moments in my life so be grateful of both the highs and lows! Life is an amazing journey.

Producer Sessions 010: ZEKE BEATS shares the inter-workings of his ‘Bad Robot’ EP [Interview]

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Producer Sessions 010: ZEKE BEATS shares the inter-workings of his ‘Bad Robot’ EP [Interview]Zeke Beats Press Shot Horizontal

Producer Sessions is a series from Dancing Astronaut meant to shine a brighter light on the producer community. Each volume will guide producers toward professionals in their field.

ZEKE BEATS released his Bad Robot EP off Zeds Dead‘s Deadbeats imprint, an experimental bass three-tracker that thrusts dance music’s more mischievous side to electronic music into listeners’ faces. With the horrifying, but fun lead single “Bad Robot” to the drilling bass sounds of “Fire Tonight,” and through the dizzying basslines in “The Mammoth,” this taste of music provides a peak into whats coming next from the up-and-coming low end conductor.

Prior to the EP, ZEKE BEATS contributed to the Peekaboo & G-Rex remixes with one of his own that contained an assortment of bass spinning sounds that certainly prove dynamic in the Australian producers unique sampling choices.

Below, ZEKE BEATS answers producer-focused questions about the EP.

Why did you call the EP, Bad Robot?

The single itself really sounded devious, mischievous and super robotic, so naturally I thought “Bad Robot!” Once that was established the whole artwork and branding of the EP really took shape.

Do you have a typical production process? If so, what is it?

I generally try to make a heap of overwhelming bass sounds. When I find something I really resonate with I generally become super motivated to keep going. Most of the time I use a blank skeleton and building upon that!

What was your collaboration process like with Avance?

It was fantastic. I was touring Australia and we met up in Sydney at the Poster Child studio and made the main parts of the song that one day! After that we sent back and forth a few times online to finish it off. It was a really fun track to make.

What was your go-to synth for the EP?

I didn’t really have a go to synth. I like to use a different array of synth, vsts, and hardware synths. Those being serum, operator, massive, and a little phatty.

What was you go-to MIDI controller?

I don’t use any midi controllers for production, just the inbuilt keyboard in Ableton.

Any special VST that really took the production home?

Fab filter proQ and Ableton’s glue compressor

Which song took the longest work and why?

“Fire Tonight” took the longest, mainly because I wanted to go more in depth on the second drop. I had already had a completed version of it but then went back to the track and totally transformed that section.

How would you define your sound?

Visceral bass which pushes the envelope of electronic music.

What DAW do you use and why?

Ableton because of it’s efficiency and super fast work flow.

What was the most difficult sound to conquer on the project?

Just generally trying to get the cleanest mix downs possible really, there was no one single hurdle.

Do you have any unique studio habits?

Hmm not really unique but I do like my coffee

What is your favorite in-studio snack?

Coffee and avocado toast lol

What is next for ZEKE BEATS?

I’ve got a few amazing collaborations in the works and generally a ton of new music ready to be released. I’d just started my Bad Robot tour 2-3 weeks ago which has been so unreal. Another couple weeks to go. But that’s about it. Lots more music, original & collaborations, and a lot more shows!

Photo Credit: Turk Photos

Flying close to the sun with Icarus [Interview]

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Flying close to the sun with Icarus [Interview]Icarus New Press 2

Brotherly duo Icarus have been simmering in the underground for years crafting notable tunes and earning accolades from Annie Mac and other icons, but it was within the past year that their career reached boiling point. With the release of their anthemic “Love Has Come Around,” they caught attention, and adoration, from RÜFÜS DU SOL. Their chemistry was instantaneous, and soon the duo found themselves joining the band for an expansive international tour—right in time for them to impress their audiences even more with a newly unveiled live set.

Quality remains at the heart of Icarus’ philosophy, regardless of whether they’re making the next crossover hit like their recent single, “Sirens,” or diving into the deep realm with tunes like their Real Lies-assisted “Man Of The Land.” Each mix is precise, balanced, and harmonious —a true testament to their natural ear for music. Since going on tour, the outfit have dedicated most of their days to the studio, where they’ve been concocting their next batch of fresh tunes to share to the world. Curious to know more about what drives them and inspires them, we sat down with Icarus to explore their creative process, lessons from their first big tour, and more.

What was the most unexpected thing you two discovered/learned about while on your first expansive tour with RÜFÜS?

The biggest surprise to us on that tour was how receptive the
crowds were to our music. We had no idea what to expect before we went, but we were blown away by the energy and positivity the crowds had night after night. The whole RUFUS team made us feel so welcome and to see how all of the different moving parts come together to make one amazing show was really inspiring.

You often spend 8+ hours in the studio each day. How do you maintain that fire and discipline to do so?

It’s a routine we’ve been in for years now and it seems to work pretty well for us. The thinking behind it is to try and maintain some sort of normality by working office hours, but when things are super busy, we can easily be working 12-14 hour days in the studio. A lot of the time, we’ll spend a day or even days and not make much progress on a track, but we’ve been doing it long enough to know that if we keep pushing, we’ll get there in the end!

Where do you go or what do you do to help get your creative juices flowing? Is toying around in the studio your prime sense of creative direction?

It can be, definitely. We’ve got a few hardware synths and toys that will spark some inspiration from time to time, but it also comes from travelling, listening to new music, conversations, anything really. Time away from the studio is arguably more inspirational than the time spent in there. We both always seem to have ideas as soon as we leave the studio, even after a day of struggling to write anything we’re happy with.

Describe how your routine in the studio has changed or evolved between the start of your music career and now. How have you become more refined and skilled as artists?

The main difference between now and a few years ago is the amount of free time we have to spend on writing. When your DJ and touring schedule gets busier, studio time is sacrificed and it can be really hard to find time to be creative. That has forced us to become a bit more focussed when it
comes to writing, which is a good thing, but sometimes creativity doesn’t strike when you need it to and that can be frustrating.

‘Icarus’ obviously brings to mind the Greek legend of Icarus flying too close to the sun (to his demise). How does this legend tie into your name as a band? Does it mirror your philosophy as musicians to be ambitious and ‘shoot for the stars’ at all costs?

The story of Icarus ties into our philosophy as musicians for sure. One of our favourite sayings from early on is “Never get too high, never get too low”. In this industry it’s so easy to get carried away, when things are going great, you feel amazing, everything is falling into place, but then inevitably that doesn’t last forever and things take a turn. It’s then even easier to feel stressed, anxious and insecure. What we’ve realised over the years is that there are always going to be ups and downs, no matter at what level we’re at, and to not get caught up in triumphs or defeats. Having a level head and
positive outlook on things is something we really try and maintain.

On a related note to the last question, I’m guessing you guys openly embrace failure as part of your journey? Is there an instance you bounced back from a failure only to become far stronger artists?

Definitely, we fail all the time. Whether it be in the studio when we can’t seem to write anything we think is good enough, or after a DJ set we felt like we could’ve picked better records, or during a live performance we might have made a mistake and missed a note. All of these things happen all the time and it’s about learning from them and improving, not beating yourself up about it.

You’ve talked at length about how you prepare for a DJ set or mix. But let’s dive deeper into your curation process. How do you go abou finding/discovering new music, and how has this process changed over the years since you’ve become more successful? Do you stick mainly to promos these days, or do you go crate digging online/in stores? Are there specific labels or artists putting out music now that are really hitting it for you?

As our artist project has grown, we’re now in a fortunate position to be sent a lot of brand new music from many of our favourite labels, so that’s definitely a great resource for new DJ tracks. We still do end up buying a lot of records from Beatport though! One artist that springs to mind who we’re loving at the moment is Luces, they’re amazing and we play a lot of their records in our DJ sets.

Have you purchased any new studio toys as of late that have enhanced your productions or made you even more excited to produce?

The only thing we’ve bought recently is an Arturia Rackbrute modular eurorack case. The idea was to start filling it with modular fx units but we’ve been so busy we haven’t got round to putting anything in there yet! Modular fx and sequencing is something we’re keen to experiment with to add a different workflow to our studio process. Hopefully we’ll be able to start experimenting soon!

Do you ever see yourselves moving beyond house-based music and trying out other genres, maybe even under different aliases?

100%. We’ve always been keen to write for other artists in different genres and it’s something we’ll be exploring more this year.

You’ve just released a new EP called ‘This Must Be The Place’ – can you dive into the writing process and inspiration behind it?

The concept for the EP came to us last year as we were fortunate to spend a lot of time travelling, seeing new places and experiencing new things. The
idea behind it was one of constantly moving from place to place, never settling or addressing issues or fears in one’s life, living a nomadic lifestyle. Towards the end of the writing process we were struggling to finish the final track ‘Running Away’ and had tried several times to finish it
whilst on the road. It took going away on tour and having those experiences and then coming back to our comfort zone to make it work. When we got back to Bristol we were able to finish it pretty easily.

What’s next in the Icarus pipeline?

Our UK Live Tour kicks off later this month and we’ll be releasing a brand new piece of music around that time too. We’re also back in the studio working on new music ahead of a busy. We’re also back in the studio working on new music ahead of a busy summer of festivals, some of which we’ll be taking the live show to, so we’re really excited about this year.

Photo courtesy of Insanity Group

Jeremy Olander talks upcoming warm-weather debut at Vujaday [Q&A]

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Jeremy Olander talks upcoming warm-weather debut at Vujaday [Q&A]Jeremy Olander 1

Just a few days before his Vujaday debut in sunny Barbados, Jeremy Olander sat down with Dancing Astronaut to shed a bit of light on some new personal and label developments, as well as what he’s anticipating most about the destination festival.

A Swedish electronic stalwart after his years of cementing his name to the forefront of the house/tech scene, Olander also runs his own record label, the Stockholm-based Vivrant, which as of last year, secured an impressive nine of its then 14 EPs No. 1 spots on Beatport. Olander received global attention following a decisive recording contract with Eric Prydz‘s Pryda Friends imprint and auspicious tour spot alongside the prolific label boss. Now, the Stockholm native is looking to add the coastal Carribean Vujaday to his illustriously on-brand festival record, which includes map-spanning performances at London’s Steelyard, Sydney’s Electric Gardens, San Diego’s CRSSD, and Croatia’s Labyrinth Open, to name a few.

Olander will hit the Copacabana Beach Club Wednesday night, April 3, to jump-start the five-day affair. Tickets to Vujaday, which runs April 3-7, are still available here.

This is your debut performance at Vujaday Music Festival in Barbados this April. What excites you most about Vujaday? 

I’m very excited for it. Some of my own personal favorites are on the bill and the location is something else. I also plan to have a few days off so I can explore what the island has to offer.

This year’s lineup is pretty stacked with genre-defining names like Sasha, Lee Burridge, and Bob Moses, to name a few. Aside from your own, what three sets would you recommend catching at Vujaday?

As you mention, Sasha is definitely one that I would check out myself. Aside from that, Moodyman and DJ Tennis are two masterminds behind the decks and I think you’ll be sorry if you miss those two.

Since its inception in 2015, your label Vivrant has seen the #1 spot on Beatport multiple times. Any new developments on the Vivrant front these days? 

We just recently dropped one new EP and one new single, the Docks EP and “Shogun.” The other ones that are completely done is a new EP by André Hommen, which I’ve been playing out quite a bit. We also have a killer remix EP of Khen’s last release with Karmon and Magnus International, which is due soon. Apart from that I don’t want to spill the beans quite yet.

Tell me about the vision behind incepting your own label…

The initial vision I feel has been reached but as time goes on the vision keeps developing. I want to keep things interesting and over time, dip my feet in other creative areas outside of music.

Anything new in your pipeline (production or otherwise) for 2019?

I’ve been working on some really exciting stuff during the last weeks but I can’t tell you the news just yet, you’ll have to be patient.

What’s been your most memorable performance to date? 

Wow, tough question. It’s really hard to pick just one. I have so many memories from touring, every show is special in it’s own way.