Welcome to Magazine Sixty. Let’s start with the name: Silent Revolt and what it signifies for you?
I came up with Silent Revolt as a graffiti tag back in the 80’s. Back then it signified youth rebellion. Which was really what graffiti was all about then. As I have grown older, it has taken a new meaning for me personally. Nowadays many have become victims of political correctness which has led to self censorship and a lack of true expression because of fear of being ridiculed, blacklisted, and or shamed. Art is a great release where we can express ourselves without even saying a word while delivering a message to the masses.
Your excellent new single: Dogmatik features snippets of what sounds like a deep conversation. What were the circumstances that led to the interaction and what do you hope people will take from it?
Thanks for the kind words! My good friend Ari Carlini and I were having a conversation one morning on video chat. We were discussing current events, politics, and the covid pandemic at which point Ari started getting really deep. Ive known Ari for over 25 years and have always had a high level of respect for his views and intellect. The message is pretty clear. We all have an ego that we battle on a daily basis and it’s important to keep an open mind. We are living in an ever-changing world where things are constantly changing. It’s important to keep educating ourselves, learn new things, and to be open to different points of view. Humble yourselves ❤
Your original mix is particularly hypnotic. Talk us through how you created the music, including any favourite software/ hardware you like to use?
I began with the vocal snippets that I had recorded with Ari. That was the driving force behind the track and it was important to build it to complement the message. The production itself took on emotions that I felt at the moment. I was on a nostalgic old school kick. Listening to old house, hip house records, so most of the inspiration came from the music I was actually listening to at the time.
Here is a list of the hardware and software used for ‘Dogmatik’ :
Outside of electronic music who are your most important influences ?
Noam Chomsky is a literary favorite. His views have helped me see things for what they are, in my opinion. My favorite artist by far is “Freek” DAM CREW from Miami. For over 30 years he has painted walls and cavansses spreading a positive message with all his works. Poetry, I have to say it, Tupac 🙂 Ive have also been heavily influenced by latin jazz. Artists like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Benny Moré, and Johnny Pacheco are huge inspirations and in my opinion, musical geniuses.
What attributes would you say being based in Detroit brings to your music?
Before the pandemic I was frequently attending local events and fell in love with the musical diversity in the city. Everything from Deep House, Minimal, Tech House, and Techno are all pretty well represented here. Listening to Detroit legends like Norm Talley and Delano Smith at many local events has introduced me to a sound that I wasn’t very accustomed to in Miami. It has definitely broadened my horizons which has definitely helped grow my taste in music and helped develop the more deep hypnotic sound currently in my productions.
The label you co-founded, Moteur Ville Musique began last year. How do you see the life of the imprint adapting to the world in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Quite frankly, we are going to have to roll with the punches. And like many other labels, I think we will move forward cautiously and with the highest of hopes. This is uncharted territory for the industry as a whole. And honestly don’t think anyone was ready for this. We can only hope for a better 2021 🙂
Likewise how do you see club culture changing (or not) to new ways of doing things?
I believe, for the foreseeable future, parties will mostly likely be very strict as far as social distancing rules, venue capacity restrictions, and so on. I also feel like the scene will be focused locally. We might even see a rise in illegal raves. I love illegal raves, but during a pandemic?
What are the most important attributes for you when signing a new piece of music to Moteur Ville Musique? Is social media presence or the artist having a high profile ever a factor, or is it solely down to the music?
The most important attribute would be the music. When we launched MVM late 2019 we made a commitment to ourselves to release quality tracks and intend to keep that commitment. Music will always come first. Thus far we have been blessed to have worked with some high profile artists as well as some up and coming talent. But, social media presence and the artist’s profile is definitely a plus for us when considering signing new material and not the deal maker.
And finally. What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Looking forward to a life without lockdowns, masks, restrictions. Traveling and having social interactions again. Even though I truly believe that this virus is going to continue inconveniencing us for quite some time, I remain optimistic that we will soon be together again!
This a notable piece of music. Not only does it suggest that history is present and correct, coursing throughout the timeline of sound, but as Brandon Markell Holmes’ smouldering voice ignites such emotional turmoil it also connects pain to loss and redemption. I guess the clue is discovered within the title, which is also acts as the name of his recent album. This version exists as an edit by members of toucan sounds assembling all the important sources of inspiration from the previous century touching upon Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, House and beyond. A life assuring production which you can’t help but fall for.
I was beginning to suspect that reliance on music without drums was leading down a rather solitary path. One which seemed to only highlight certain limited emotions at the expense of all others. So much so that I was questioning if I had in fact ended up at a dead-end. But then you listen to this collection of richly dark imaginations as they unfold from the mind of Veins Full of Static and you can’t help but get lost in all of its equalling eloquence. I guess like all forms of music it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. With a lot of albums of this nature, that aren’t about traditional melody or unpersuasive I Love You’s, there is a genuine heart at play here as signature swirls and pathways are discovered in a seemingly endless loop. Reflecting the existence of the time we are in.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Philipp. Let’s start with Dial 7 For Ghosts your new single. Where did the title come from?
Guten Tag – the title of this release is an homage to one of my favorite bands from my younger days. They are called “Phantom/Ghost”, one of their songs is called “Relax, it’s only a Ghost” in which they have several lines, I just like so much. So the titles of the two originals are a direct hint to them. Also I once made music with a friend under the name “Ghosts On Gangway Seven” – a really silly name, but it popped up when listening to Phantom/Ghost again and so I played a bit with it and ended up with “Dial 7…”
As with all of Stólar releases it features striking artwork. Who is the artist behind the images, and how would you describe the importance of Art to you and for the label?
Every release has a photography by Jules Villbrandt, a very good friend of mine, that is an extraordinary photographer, is running her own interior-blog-magazin, PR-Studio and does pictures for publications all over. She is fantastic, everything she does and offers is just beautiful, she is doing the art direction for the label and offers me pictures we can use as a cover and from that point we discuss every thing else, like the color scheme for the record inlay, the color of the vinyl and so on. When I thought about founding Stólar, the first thing I did, even before the name and so on, I asked Jules if she would help me with the visual work. She said yes and I couldn’t be happier, that she is doing it.
From the beginning I wanted a stringent look of the releases, so that you see from the distance which label you are looking at. A bit like Smallville with its Stefan Marx covers. Also we want every record to stand alone, as a piece of art and even as a piece of interior decoration. The cover picture from STÓ001 – The Clouds All Form A Geometric Shape was also released as print on Jules main hub in cooperation with Whitewall (http://www.herzundblut.com/blog-1/sweet-memories-limitierte-foto-edition-von-herzampblut-mit-whitewall) We want to make beautiful and aesthetically pleasing records from every angle. The fact that more and more people liking the Artwork and the music itself, is telling us, we are on the right path.
Running a new record label in 2020 must have presented challenges as a result of Covid-19. How do you see the ‘industry’ moving forward in terms of generating revenue (streaming) etc?
Well first of all I have to say that I have the huge privilege, that my day job was and is always there for me, so that the negative results of the pandemic isn’t hitting me as hard as others in the industry. Besides that 2020 was somehow not the best timing, especially with the first number, that was released one week before everything shut down in Germany. So right now the biggest challenge is to gain a wider audience for the records without playing in clubs, festivals or any other shows. To gain money, I think the best way is and was merchandise in the last years and some labels have been very creative in doing so, like Loser Records, also from Berlin. Also everyone is trying to get into the big playlists, but let’s face it, the outcome out of Spotify isn’t that helpful to smaller labels, it can help for sure, but it is just a small amount. I know that there are people pushing forward to change the way musicians are being paid in the streaming world, without shows this will be the biggest hope of generating revenue, for sure.
Honestly I don’t know, I have an idea but I quit clubs a few years ago. I read a lot about clubs getting local again, about stopping the bookings of artists from all over the world, I don’t think this is the future. The people are still thirsty for the club happening and for the edgy artists from other cities and countries, at least this is what I see here in Berlin. Clubs, same as labels and musicians, need to be creative again, Berghain is doing his gallery thing now, besides opening a “Biergarten” like open air on the weekends. Other clubs doing open airs more or less successfully since a few weeks now. Maybe it’s time to open even more to other people, besides the regular club visitor. I think there will be more pop-ups, more collaborations with restaurants, galleries, shops to bring more people into the places on a daily basis and maybe make some money with drinks, food etc. because right now, on the beginning of October 2020, I do not see a regular club night happening again in near future. I think for this to happen, the discipline in following the rules the authorities are giving to the clubs, is not there. Especially when narcotics and alcohol are involved, at the end this is still Berlin.
Outside of music who are your most important influences?
Mainly there are philosophical ideas, that are the influences to my work, besides music. Like the meaning of beauty, as it was handled in Plato’s work or the Japanese concept of aesthetics, Mujō, in which every conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux.
The music you release on Stólar is distinctive and high on atmosphere. What for you are the most important elements when signing a piece of music? And what are your feelings on the relevance of contemporary song-writing in electronic music?
Well thank you, Stólar was found as a hub for my own music, so it’s nice to hear, that there is something to recognize in my music. When signing other music that’s easy, I have to like it. But seriously, I mainly work with people, whose music and work I already adore. Because of the atmosphere, the melodics, the melancholy they transport in their songs. Like Metome, who did a remix of “Beau Rivage”. I first listened to his music in 2013 and I was instantly hooked by the way he produced music and performed it live. So it was just natural to ask him for a remix. Or Kim Brown and Tilman, both acts are and were excellent in what they do and did, I already listened to plenty of their songs before even starting a label. All I wanna do is work with people, I look up to, and when they agree I don’t want to put them into a frame, in which they have to work. They can do what ever they want and I am sure, that I will like it every time. Until now I was correct with my feeling.
About the relevance of contemporary song-writing in electronic music, well since the pop up of idm and the fact that house music, especially the melancholic one, is getting more and more in the focus, the need to write songs, like classic pop songs is there, if you want to get into the radio and/or the playlists, that aren’t the underground and niche ones. Gladly there are musicians that don’t follow those rules that much, as I am thinking of Christian Löffler e.g., who manages to write songs, that can be pop songs, but are still not following the classic song-writing and this is a fantastic evolution, in my opinion.
Tell us about your studio set-up. Do you have particular software / hardware you always use when creating music? And what choice of speakers for listening?
I mainly work inside the box, while having a Korg M1 and a Elektron Digitakt next to me, I use some UA effects and mainly Arturia Products, as I like the emulations of classical synths. When listening to music I use my studio speakers, Adam AX7 or my headphones from AIAIAI TMA-2.
And finally. Tell us about your plans for yourself as an artist and for the label moving into 2021?
The label will see the first release by an other artist than myself. Lifestyles, who already remixed “D7FG”, will release a single and an EP, that will get a vinyl release. I think I will release some music again as well, I just don’t know yet what exactly, since there are a lot of unfinished demos sitting around. With the label we will continue to produce some beautiful work with the help of Jules and other amazing artists, like Julian Braun, who is creating a short video for “Dial 7 For Ghosts”. We will try to expand that side of creativity as well. And if I could wish something for the label, it would be releases by all the great artists I adore, like Lawrence, Black Jazz Consortium, Francis Harris, Julius Steinhoff, Cinthie or John Roberts. Overall I want to continue working with people I admire, creating aesthetically pleasing things – that’s all I want and to me it’s heavenly.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Patrick. As well as your new EP: The End of Logic for HARD FIST you have co-created a video game to accompany the release featuring the track: Nervous Days. What was it about making a video game that you found so appealing, as opposed to other visual forms?
I created Nervous Days – The Game with Yvan Megal because we were both very intrigued by this medium, we like to play video games and always dreamed of making one. Yvan directed 3 of my previous music videos and I worked on his early short-movies, we have a strong artistic connection and this project just crossed all the things we liked so we started working on it in 2019. Video Game is a very underestimated art. When you play a video game you are active, you do more things than watching a video: you can go where you want, make your own decision, if you achieve a goal it will be thanks to you, you are an actor. It is a movie you can interact with or a theatre stage where you can actually go. Some games (especially indie games like Stanley Parable or Kentucky Route Zero) can blow your mind and be truly fantastic experiences, far from what we usually define as ‘video game’. I think it is a powerful medium to share emotions because the player is actually living the story you created not just watching it. This can offer a very intimate artistic experience between the artist and the viewer. As an artist you need to think of what the player might do or not do and frequently be in his eyes, look where he looks, go where he goes. You need to take him where you want without restricting him and always let him feel free. I find that idea very interesting. This game is our first one but we clearly will experiment on new ones.
Nervous Days is about obsession with social media. Do you think society could exist without it and what do you see the end results of the medium being? Are there any plus points?
Nervous Days is a funny satire of our behaviour towards social media. I use social media, enjoy it and also hate it. I don’t see how a number of followers or views make a good song or an interesting person but this topic is already out of date: social media isn’t social media anymore, it’s just regular life. I’m not good at sociology enough to know if society could live without it. I’m not old enough to regret the time there wasn’t any and not young enough to see it as a regular thing to live with. As a producer I need social media for my work but I also feel I must act against it. I think the answer should not have to be necessarily Manichean. This is the rule of this reality and I have to consider it to know how I can break them. Social media work on us on a very primitive level: it creates dopamine and makes us want more of it then create addiction: for example I’m very interested in that uncontrollable feeling of joy/ excitement that comes from having new likes, views or followers: what is this thing inside of us that makes us proud or happy ? Acknowledgement? Lust for love or celebrity? Reassurance? It shows that we are all looking for something. Desperately. Philosophically. It fills a void and that void interests me. That might be the positive point.
Can you talk us through how you produced Nervous Days including any favourite software/ hardware you like to use?
Yvan and I started from scratch in October 2019, we had the idea of a man running with his smartphone surrounded by stressful obligations. We had the aesthetic in mind but had no idea what were our capacities. It’s an entire free and DIY project so we had to learn everything. Will we be able to make the character run? How do we model a 3D facebook like? How do we even set a timer?! We explored our possibilities and learned a lot, we also spent hours on tutorials and nerds forums, by the way it feels always very warm at heart to see how you can get help from online specialised communities. The game was produced on Unreal Engine 4 (by Epic Games) – an extremely well done real-time 3D creation tool, it is free and I really encourage people to try it. Few objects were designed on Blender and pictures were produced on Photoshop. The track itself was produced on Ableton with samples, Minilogue, recorder zoom hk, midi keyboard, plugins, etc.
How did your relationship with the label HARD FIST happen?
Very naturally. In 2018 I heard some great tracks from their labels and simply contacted them, I sent a demo and they instantly replied that they were interested They have a very specific sound, located somewhere between Arabian electronic and dark disco -if this means anything. They add something very personal and different in the actual electronic music landscape and it’s precious. Also it is a bit special to me as they are from my hometown Lyon (France). I wish I had met them 10 years ago when I lived there!
Les Yeux Orange invitent Strapontin – 23 Septembre 2020 – Rinse France
Outside of electronic music who are your most important influences?
I’m also working for dance shows and visual art so influences comes from very different areas. Music, of course yes, but most of the time directors and choreographers are my most inspiring artists. French Choreographer Gisele Vienne for example produces stunning and haunted works, her early pieces with Stephen O’ Malley are so deep and disturbing it has left an imprint in my mind for years. ‘This is How you will disappear’ is an absolute dark gem and ‘Crowd’, her latest show about 90’s raves (in slow-motion) also was an overwhelming experience. Most of my favorite artists are visual artists who switched to another medium: the performer-director Matthew Barney, the choreographer Romeo Castellucci, or David Lynch -who is one of my hero (Twin Peaks season 3 is his masterpiece to me). Christian Rizzo also has a very positive influence on me and how I considered my multiple activities. Seeing his very eclectic career (he studied fine art then had a fashion brand then toured with a rock band then made dance shows) helped me reconsider that making sculptures + composing soundtrack + performing + DJ’ing was not incoherent. Professionally I felt the pressure to choose one of this medium and focus on it, but seeing him succeed like that gave me confidence and I feel now that I actually don’t need to be coherent because… fuck it ! I want to do what I like!
How has Covid-19 impacted upon where you live and work? How do you see club culture in general changing as a result?
I live in Brussels, Belgium, and Covid had a big impact here like many other places. Clubs won’t reopen and culture in general is frozen from now (September 20). I have no idea or pronostics on how things will be. Quarantine made me realise I love dance music but my passion isn’t only about clubs, it’s about good music and we can dance on anything if it’s good. Dancing with people on loud music is a thing a lot of people need and they already found ways to do it: illegally. Club culture will definitely go through this because that’s the essence of it. With no surprise big clubs and big names will continue and small clubs will close… Capitalist world will just continue its race and eat the poor and the ‘unknown’. But different parties will emerge, yes it is smaller with less people but it’s something. Things are already starting to move. We need to be positive. It is obviously a terrible time for dance music and clubs but there is way more important things happening around us. Clubs are not out of the ‘real world’. We have to question the problems of the world inside of it (ecology, gender equality, racism, capitalism…) Most of the club music is historically born on opposition to a restricted society and our actual society is very problematic. It may be the right time to think more globally and redefine what a club is, who we are, what we want to create and what a club can offer than the outside world has not (or what the club is the opposite of).
What are your thoughts on how artists make money via streaming?
It’s simple: artist’s share on streams are shitty. I earn 100€ if my song has 1 000 000 listens. I read somewhere that the only person who can get the minimum salary on Spotify was Rihanna -not sure about the info though. The only way for me to get decent money from my music is to play in clubs. Also Bandcamp is actually the best way I’ve seen to support artist: if someone buy 1€ one of my track I get 0,74€, which is the best I can get.
What are your preferred speakers to listen and make music on?
Sorry I’m not that much into speakers and gears so I can’t really answer that question. I made some EPs on Ableton with Behringer speakers and people and labels loved it. Quality is important of course and I’m a huge nerd on mixing but music is the first thing, details comes very very very late in the process. Plus most of the time this topic ends up in a toxic masculinity’s ‘who’s got the biggest’ comparison…
And finally. Can you tell us about some of your other artistic projects you have happening this year?
I recently started a very exciting collaboration with french producer David Shaw called ‘It’s Complicated’, we met in Brussels and discovered we loved each other’s music so we decided to make something together, it is still pretty new right now but what we did is already super sexy and dark as fuck ! I’m also working on a score for a contemporary dance show with my Poetic Punkers collective -in which I perform too, so we will work on this in art residency in Gênes, Paris and Brussels. I also prepare a solo exhibition in Brussels in March. Then I have 2 LP’s planned under my name Strapontin for 2021: first one on Invisible Inc with a fantastic remix of Sascha Funke and the other one on Abstrack Record. I’m very happy about both because I managed to work with amazing artist on it (artwork included) and they will be very beautiful items.
Strapontin – The End of Logic – Hard Fist is released October 15, 2020
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Marco and Norman. Let’s begin with your fiery new single: Neon Frame EP for Upon You Records. Tell us about how you got the track signed to the label?
Marco: Norman and I are in the studio at least once a week to exchange music as well as new ideas for Luna City Express. Norman showed me a couple of his new sketches and “Gimme Some More” stood out the most to me. I immediately wanted to sign it for my own label Upon You Records.
Talk us through how you produced Gimme Some More, which features particularly addictive keys? Are there any favourite software/ hardware you like to use when producing?
Norman: I started this tune with a beat which I sampled from an old house record. I edited the drums to give them my own touch. Additionally to that I recorded some percussions from the Roland HPD-20 Handsonic Pad. Both the bass and the little acid sound are from the Sylenth 1 PlugIn. The Arp sound is from the Korg Mono Poly PlugIn. Marco added that striking vocal hook, took care of the mixdown and finished the track.
Outside of electronic music – who are your most important influences (in terms of writers, artists, poets etc)?
Norman: I’m mainly influenced by Funk and Disco from the 70’s as well as from Jazz, Classic Music, Rap and the entire 80’s era. Prince is my biggest inspiration, his ability to produce every kind of style in such high quality still blows me away.
Marco: Musically the 80’s and the 90’s influenced me the most. Before I discovered electronic music my taste was pretty broad. Michael Jackson, Prince, De La Soul and Gang Starr just to name a few were on heavy rotation during that time and I still love listening to them. In terms of writers, Ken Follet and Noah Gordon are my favourites since I love reading historical novels.
How have your lives altered as artists as a result of Covid-19? How do you see things moving forwards for people who work in music?
Norman: My life has changed a lot. After 12 years I started to work again as an educator for kids in after-school-care. It was not an easy task to make this move but the current situation caused me to do it. Additionally to that I was able to play a couple of shows during the summer, but the earnings were way less than normal. The most positive thing that came up with Corona is that I have spent much more quality time with my family than all the years prior to that. Furthermore I’d say that the world especially Mother Nature needed that break. I mean we’re discussing about climate change since quite a while but nothing ever really changed. But also for us human beings it was about time to slow down the pace.
Marco: My life looks pretty much the same except that I haven’t started a new job (til now). The German government has supported us financially as a business person but not really as an artist. The money that came in March is pretty much gone now. As freelancers we were pushed to apply for social welfare. It is a weird feeling after being self-employed for almost 20 years. But I’m grateful anyway to be able to use this contribution for my family. Fingers crossed that we will be able to work independently again as soon as possible.
Norman: Regarding the second part of the question…I don’t see things moving forward at all for people who work in the music industry, especially in the event sector. Most of the clubs in Germany are closed. It looks obviously worldwide like this. Agencies, booking agents, technicians, engineers, bartenders, etc. are not able to work since March. As a DJ it doesn’t really make sense anymore to buy new music regularly as we have lost the platform to perform. Well, commercial streaming became the new thing – but this trend is in my opinion more a step back than forward for an artist.
Marco: Behind the scenes we are in the same boat. The clubs are suffering. The scene is suffering. The end of our summer looked kind of promising as we had a couple of proper dance events with appropriate hygiene rules. But summers over now, infection numbers are going up again and we are facing pretty much the same situation as before summer. That’s horrible! They are even talking again about closing hours and prohibition. That would be the final blow for a lot of locations respectively people who work there. Unfortunately we missed to build a proper lobby for our industry in the past 30 years. The event sector is the 6th strongest industry in Germany. The government needs to support us now. Otherwise more than 1 million jobs will disappear!
Likewise how do you see club culture changing (or not)?
Norman: The club culture is on hold at the moment. Since the clubs are closed there’s a new movement of illegal parties and raves here in Berlin. I mean how crazy is it that we are not allowed to dance?! That’s really hard to believe. I mean I get the whole thing but you can’t tell the kids to stay at home and wait until the pandemic is over. On the other hand it is really counterproductive for the regular clubs which try to find agreements with the government by offering them new hygiene concepts to find a way to get back to business.
What music have you been listening to at home, have you found more opportunity to listen to a broader range of music recently? What speakers do you like to listen to music on?
Norman: As I said before I mostly listen to Prince, Funk, Downbeats and Acid Jazz. Currently my kids are into Hip-Hop and I’m happy to hear them listening all of my old school favourites. I don’t really like commercial radio I prefer to take care of my own playlists at home. Sound is not that important to me, my focus is more on the choice of music.
Marco: I do not listen to that much electronic music at home. I’m the opposite to Norman, I like to listen to the radio and discover new music regardless the genre. It also helps me to keep an eye on new trends and it also trains my ears musically. My favourite playlist at the moment is Jazz Rap on Spotify. Furthermore I love to listen to the entire catalogue of Jazzmatazz, A Tribe Called Quest and Jazz Liberatorz.
And finally. What are you looking forward to in 2021?
We are looking forward to finally dance together again with all our friends and fans worldwide. This is something we really miss a lot. We also can’t wait to release our 3rd album and celebrate 20 years of Luna City Express.
Luna City Express Neon Frame EP is out now on Upon You Records
It’s 9am. I switch on with caffeine, close my eyes losing one of five senses and get lost in this extraordinary experience. As Dance Music grapples with its very raison d’etre with people limited in reacting via the rhythm of movement other forms fill in the gaps. Following on from 2018’s Laments the sound artist continues to explore the language of cause and effect with contrasting moods and atmospheres. Just as one unholy alliance speaks it is soon resolved by the stroke of seemingly warmer instrumentation offering holy resolution. The two extended pieces which occupy this limited cassette/ digital release comprise of the church inspired chants of Somnum Exterreri I featuring db55 and Somnum Exterreri II which introduces a wash of guitars into the mix resolute with the prayer of echoed bells. Both offer landscapes to survey as sound fractures then reconstructs an architecture of difference. Not for faint hearts but for the rewards of other imaginations….
Epic in every sense of the word. This is the power of music saying more than words sometimes can. The opening Nervous Days is simply too inviting to ignore with its sassy flair of drums, smouldering voices and bass stabs all commanding the floor. The End of Logic marks the tenth release from the label while also serving as Strapontin’s debut as a video game producer (see video below) while proving wonderfully hard to categorise making it even more appealing. But the Nice One! then continues with a low-slung rapture again complete with grinding drums plus shivering effects, with Thomass Jackson supplying a weird and wonderful remix. Likewise the industrial grind of Miss Mickey the Dumbs, also has an equally tempting version this time via the delicious, shimmering syncopation provided by Damon Jee.
Gimme Some More is the kind of exhilarating temptation that the name suggests. Its sequence of quivering, shimmering basslines plus an array of fiery drums processed through a night-time of imagination provides the sense of wild abandon missing in these strange times. The moodier drive of Neon Frame follows with heady vocal stabs amid grainy probing keys, leaving a very fine Marco Resmann Dub to explore the possibilities of the bass sound alongside a wealth of heightened techno motifs.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Joe. Let’s begin by how would define Jazz for the modern era? What can it uniquely say about the world around us?
Jazz to me hasn’t changed that much in its fundamental definition. Jazz has always borrowed from different forms of popular music. Whichever form it decides to take is a reflection of that ethos. It always welcomes other music, responsive to what is popular and trending. It will improvise and adapt it to create something exciting and new. A lot of new jazz draws on hip-hop, neo-soul, electronic music, house, and on Afrobeat and world music genres as well. That to me is what jazz is in the modern era. I think that the world can learn a lot from its message of inclusivity.
How did you first learn to play piano? And who initially inspired you?
I first learned piano when I was around 11 years old. We had a piano at home, which I now have in my flat. I have never taken a lesson in my life. I decided to teach myself music theory, and I am lucky enough to be blessed with perfect pitch, so I can use my ear to compose and learn music. So, when I was a kid my dad had been playing Horace Silver’s ‘Song For My Father’ and Herbie Hancock’s ‘Head Hunters’. Those albums really gave me an appetite for jazz, especially jazz-funk, fusion and world jazz. McCoy Tyner’s playing on ‘John Coltrane Plays The Blues’ was another big early influence, as was Ahmad Jamal’s ‘Poinciana’ from his 1958 ‘Live At Pershing’ album, with his exquisite use of space and dynamics on the piano.
Nimbus Sextet debut album, Dreams Fulfilled is released on Acid Jazz this October which sounds like a very apt title. Is there a particular piece which you are most proud of? And how would you describe the importance of an album’s worth of music in today’s world of streaming individual tracks?
Sure, you can have an individual track that you stream, that you really know, you get obsessed with. You then go and add to a playlist, but you don’t listen to the album the song is from. The musician or artist will often have a narrative to express, a message, an emotion or something they need to convey through the album and its tunes. I think this is a really important part of listening to an album all the way through. Trap Door and Dreams Fulfilled, both of them are really important within the narrative of the album.
Trap Door opens the album, it opens with piano and then goes into funk. That’s making a statement that we won’t be pigeonholed musically, that there are no constraints, that jazz welcomes everything. This is the ethos I want to get across with Nimbus Sextet.
Dreams Fulfilled, the title track and album closer, is an arrival of sorts. The album takes you through a lot of different sounds; it’s jazz, it’s funk, it’s world music, it’s neo-soul. By this point in the journey though, I’ve realised on a personal level that all our influences can be welcomed into the music, and by that token, that that is what the Nimbus Sextet sound is. Dreams Fulfilled is piano led, and it ends with piano, so it tells my story. The album starts and finishes with piano. It tells the formation of my musical voice, and the paths taken to get there, through collaboration with my bandmates and fellow composers, and through personal ups and downs.
How did you get introduced to Wayne A. Dickson (Groove Line Records) who manages the band, and what for you has been the importance of good management in the bands trajectory?
Martin Fell, our saxophone player, introduced me to Wayne. We played at the Sub Club, supporting Gilles Peterson, and Wayne came along. According to him, he saw the potential in us immediately, and during that performance was already convinced that Acid Jazz Records would be interested in signing us! It was from there that discussions began and we started a working relationship.
Wayne is very experienced in the music industry, and is connected with professionals across the globe. Equally, he knows what our audience is, and how to expand that audience. Wayne has spent his whole life listening to soul and jazz oriented music, by his own admission, to an obsessive level! This ultimately led to him forging a career for himself in catalogue with his Groove Line Records and BBR labels. As the album’s producer, he used that experience to craft the sound you hear on the album along with Luigi Pasquini (Anchor Lane Studios), who expertly engineered the recordings. Wayne has a very intuitive understanding of how people respond to music, and how to deliver that music in a way they will enjoy hearing it.
From a creative perspective, having a manager who understands my vision and believes in it really liberated me because it means I now focus more on my music, and have a clearer vision of the direction I want to take us in as a band. We all have a shared dedication and belief that Nimbus Sextet should go in whichever direction the music demands, rather than to be put in one box. Wayne and I know how to put what the music dictates to us ahead of our own egos, which is something that will hopefully set the Nimbus project apart from others.
Can you talk us through how you create music – is it inspired from a single idea, or from something you have watched, read or listened to? How the initial idea is then translated into a fully formed piece of music?
My own compositions are an amalgamation of different things, often of subconscious ideas at first. Pieces of music that come to my head, or sounds that have inspired me when I’m out in the world, like bird calls or machine rhythms. Once I have a concept, I’ll play it on piano alone and write the music episodically. I often have the beginnings of a piece, which will then suddenly be fully completed when another idea comes out of leftfield and basically demands to be in there.
When I bring compositions to the band, I’ll often workshop them with Alex (drums) and Mischa (bass). We’ll take the original ideas and put them in a more Nimbus sounding setting. The three of us honed our sound with our previous jazz-funk group Jambouree. We have a musical telepathy, which is our own unique language but is transferable to compositions from the other members of Nimbus. The band’s creative process is ultimately spontaneous, and the music dictates to us where it needs to go. We always approach the music from the ground up. The compositions are constantly evolving too. We’re always re-writing our tunes and playing them differently live with each performance.
What are your views on so-called cultural appropriation, specifically in Jazz as there are increasing calls to recognise the music as the voice of protest?
There’s no doubt that jazz is a voice of protest against capitalism, neo-liberalism and its tokenistic championing of ideas and ideologies, and society’s lack of inclusivity. As a broad ideological point, jazz is always going to be a form of protest because it welcomes ideas and audiences from all over the place by definition, and it should be recognised as such. It’s actually quite cosmopolitan and multicultural.
With regards to the music itself, there’s no doubt that it’s protest music going back to the pre Civil War period in the United States, with slavery and slave songs – Wade In The Water and suchlike. The blues is fundamental to jazz. Even free jazz musicians like Archie Shepp, those accused of making the music inaccessible and elite, identified with the blues as a form of protest against racial inequality. They used its raw emotion in their free music, during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Bebop artists and trad jazzers before that also saw the importance of the blues as a form of freedom of expression. It has rallied against white supremacy from the beginning. The lack of equal opportunities for BAME musicians nowadays demonstrates a deeply institutionalized form of racial prejudice which is of course deeply upsetting and unfair, and we, all of us should do everything we can to change that. This inequality still very much exists at jazz school, where there is regimented focus on bebop theory and racially biased entry requirements that in many cases prohibit freedom of musical choice and opportunity among the people who created the music.
There is also a prevailing notion nowadays that bebop made jazz too academic, and somehow inaccessible to the modern generation. I think that’s the wrong interpretation. it was just one expression of jazz and one expression of a constantly evolving artform. To say that white musicians now are culturally appropriating the music would be to miss the point that jazz has aimed to be inclusive from the start, to retaliate against exclusion and ideas of fixed musical, cultural and racial prejudice. Jazz is a by-word for freedom of expression and improvisation. We look to explore all of that on our album.
How do you see live performance changing as a result of Covid-19? Is it always essential to have a physical audience in front of you?
Yes, it is essential to have a physical audience if you play the kind of music we play. It’s narrative, it’s expressive. Jazz is a live music, it’s improvised at its heart. You need people to be able to see that, to see the spontaneity and emotionality of it. The pandemic has already changed everything. It’s shown the power of video content, of radio and audio releases to keep audiences engaged while you cannot gig. Yet that can only last so long. Jazz needs to be live. All music needs to be live. Particularly for improvised styles of music, it’s necessary that you play them live because they can’t really exist otherwise, they can’t express themselves in the moment, without that platform.
And finally. Please share with us any forthcoming plans for Nimbus Sextet?
We have a second single coming out at the beginning of October: ‘Lily White’ qritten predominently by our saxophonist, Martin Fell. Our debut album follows later in the month, with three live videos during the autumn and winter to help to promote it. The first of these videos, Trap Door, has just been premiered exclusively by Jazzed. It means a lot to us that people who can’t see us live right now can enjoy these.
Thankfully, we were lucky enough to enjoy our first national tour in February and March before lockdown, which was a great success. However, it’s been difficult for each of us having not been able to perform live since then, especially right now during the album campaign and release period. But we’re hoping to be able to play international jazz festivals and venues across the world when they reopen. We’ll soon start working on a second album, and see where the music takes us for that. It’s all very exciting! But for now, we are thrilled that people are already responding so positively to our ‘Dreams Fulfilled’ album, out October 23rd on Acid Jazz Records.