The first thing that strikes you about Yulia Niko’s excellent new EP, apart from being excellent, is the sheer emotional intensity it captures on the opening, Caminando. But also just how fresh it feels despite the instrumentation playing on the traditional elements of organ, drums and bass, all of which is contrasted by a haunting whir of radical electricity. What equally sets this apart, defining its own space, is the inclusion of Sil Romero’s free form vocal, which is complimented in turn via a remix from Cioz. Remaining originals are the breezy Paradise and the probing, smouldering Acid inflections of the first-rate Es Vedra. Another sublime release of self-defining sound from the artist.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, D.Ramirez. Let’s begin with your new single with Denney, ‘Raven’ for Crosstown Rebels. What is the significance of that particular bird as a choice for the title?
Thanks for having me. I live near Victoria Park in London and I walk through there every day on my way to my studio; one day I noticed that the only bird I see in that park is the Raven and there are hundreds of them, and only them. One day I saw I guy in a car feeding them and there were literally thousands of them around the car. I wondered if they come from the Tower Of London where they are kept and that’s where the fascination started, Raven being an aptly titled name for the track.
What do you think the collaborative process brings to creating music compared with doing it solo? Can you tell us about how the two of you worked on the project, and talk us through how one of the tracks was made?
Working with a collaborative partner is totally different to working on your own and as such the process is also different. I find it takes a lot longer to get the track right as you have to think about the other person you’re with and their tastes and agendas. We work really slowly and how it works is Denney will come into my studio with an idea, or a vocal, or some sounds – then we sketch it out, take it away, we play it out to a few people and then we come back. This can go on for years!
Still I Rise, contains a vocal with a powerful message. Do you feel there is enough of that in dance music today?
We have a duty as humans to bring to light the struggles and the messages of our fellow people for the sake of evolving human consciousness and the poem from May Angelou is such a beautiful message, delivered with such sass and confidence, it resonates far beyond the words she speaks. Dance music is great a tool for delivering such a message and hopefully her words will resonate with even more people around the globe.
The faceboook picture of your studio shows you surrounded by synthesizers. How long did it take to build up the collection? Which was the most difficult to get hold of, and which one do you use most often?
I have been collecting synths for around 40 years, some have been sold, others are recent and new. My favourite is my original Korg MS20 which is over 40 years old now! I have a Roland SH101 that I borrowed (and never gave back) from my best mate back in 1983 and I still have it to this day in the east same condition it was when I got it. The one I use all the time is the new Sequential Prophet 6 and you’ll hear it all over any of my tracks. It’s an absolute beast!
Outside of Club music who are your most important influences? Are there any writer’s, painters etc who have had an impact on what you do creatively?
I’m very much into spirituality and consciousness and one of my main influences is Dr Wayne Dyer who’s message changed my life back in 2006 when I was introduced to him by my ex. He himself introduced me to another amazing guy called David R Hawkins who’s book ‘Power Verse Force’ led me to another place in my life where everything changed. I live my life in a conscious, mindful way, and I no longer care what others think of me which has made working in the music industry far less challenging and I’m now free to express my creativity without worry of people liking what I do, or not.
Tell us about growing up in Sheffield and the music you encountered there? Any particular club nights you went to which left an impression?
Sheffield is an amazing place and back in the 80’s as I was growing up we had such a vibrant electronic music scene with bands such as The Human League, ABC, Cabaret Voltaire, Heaven 17 which heavily influenced the music I write today. In the late 80’s very early 90’s Warp Records started and had a club night where the DJ’s that worked at Warp Records played, the club was Occasions and the night was called Club Superman and honestly (speaking through rose tinted specs of course) was THE BEST night I have EVER experienced. Nothing has will ever come close to how good the music was there and the early Warp Records scene was and still is mind blowing!
What is the most important advice you would give to someone new to producing in terms of making their own studio, and also in terms of perseverance in today’s industry?
Quite simple – believe in yourself, don’t care what others say, don’t look for the validation of others, work hard and never give up, do it for the love and not for the fame.
And finally. Can you share with us any plans for moving into 2020?
I’m continuing to make music for the sheer pleasure of it while not putting so much pressure on myself so watch this space and let’s see what comes out. Thanks for the wonderful interview and thanks for having me.
There’s something about this production as it captures feelings not necessarily so sweet though clearly epic in proportion. Wild, abandon infuses the arrangement as the click of punctuating drums add a well-crafted funkiness into the rhythm section, leaving space for the smouldering bassline to shine in dark bliss. The atmospherics, which are rich and heavy, cumulate in the sort of ecstatic breakdown sound systems were primed for as the pulse of classic Detroit runs throughout. Raven is an edgy yet sublime slice of music supplying the luxury of forward thinking, finely tuned ideas feverishly into the forthcoming decade. Still I Rise, continues the theme this time with deliberately evocative voices spelling out a familiar message, yet always potent. The bass once again bites complimenting the compelling drums as electronics are suitably warped into submission.
What does music mean to you? Is it a collection of sounds signifying a certain feeling, or a location in time? Or perhaps it’s the distortion of reality you find all the more appealing? Whatever it does, it does have to transcend time. It has to feel the same way then as now. Afterall, that’s how good music lasts as seconds decay. Smoke The Monster Out was first released in 2009 on Get Physical and listening again to the two title tracks sparks the imagination all over again. Moment, regenerates that fuzzy, buzzy sense of probing uncertainty which excites as its intro builds, minus drums, into a joyous expectation soon to be offset by darker percussive, synthesized moods. New versions now also appear from Adam Port who transports it via heavier beats, while retaining the delicate piano and voiced melodies. And from Satori whose punctuating rhythms shuffle off into eastern climes care off sumptuous stringed instrumentation. Next, the short blast of Diamond In The Dark chimes acoustically like Pink Floyd mangled, and is now accompanied by Tibi Dabo’s future reaching, tougher interpretation exploring the rigorous imagination posed by the original recording. And somewhat beautifully too.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Alex Dimou. Let’s begin with your excellent new single for Crosstown Rebels: What Keeps You There. What was the inspiration behind the track and can you tell us about the notable vocal which features so beautifully?
Thank you so much for having me! I think that the main inspiration behind the structure and the sense of the track was s summer festival i played a couple of years ago. I imagined a track like this. About the vocals, it’s all on Vili! She wrote the lyrics and she did a great job with her vocals. I really believe that her talents will take her far in the industry!
The release comes with two remixes by Cevin Fisher and Avidus. What informed those choices?
is an artist I really admire! And i am lucky enough that we have the same
manager, Christian! Christian was the one suggested it and the result was more
than great! Avidus was Damian’s choice. And I believe the Avidus remix has a
new vibe in it. The structure and the idea behind it is perfect!
Can you talk us through how you produced What Keeps You There, including any favourite software/ hardware to like to use?
I am not into hardware. I never was. I know most of the producers really love hardware but that’s not the case with me. I believe that with the right knowledge and the right software you can have amazing results. I use Ableton as the main DAW and my favourite plugins are Kontakt for sampling, Soundtoys for vst and Sylenth for vsti.
Songs and vocals aren’t as prevalent as they once were. Do you think that is something missing in Dance Music, or can the same message be conveyed via rhythms instead?
I do enjoy both. A nice song with a beautiful vocal can take you places. A weird and clever rhythm can loosen up your body. I believe dance music has to make you express yourself through dancing. And I think both can do that!
Can you share with us any forthcoming plans for playing live this summer? And what are your thoughts on the culture of festivals which seems to be taking over from weekly club nights?
I’ve been trying to “buy” myself more studio time for the last couple of years. It’s something I really enjoy and when i’m in the studio I can express myself more than when i’m playing somewhere. Now, about the festivals and the weekly club nights, I think its two different things. When you have a weekly residency you can actually shape the audience and the impact you have is stronger. On the other hand, festivals are like big celebrations. You can go on stage and show the world why you deserve to be up there.
What is your favourite instrument? Do you own one?
My favourite instrument is definitely the classic piano. And i’m lucky enough to own one! Not a great one, but it gets the job done! Almost every track I make, has to go through the piano first!
There are lots of different styles, moods and atmospheres in your music. Can you tell us about your main influences both within and outside of Dance Music – any favourite writers, artists etc?
Yes they are. For years I thought that this is a bad thing. Like, you have to have an identity and I believe that mine was missing. But as the years passed and I saw my music growing, I understood what my identity is. Every track I make has a cinematic feeling. I really get inspired by movies. I have imagined all of my tracks as a part of a movie soundtrack. My favourite artist is definitely Philipp Glass.
Given the direction that politics and the world is moving towards. What role and influence do you think Dance Music can play in shaping people and the future?
strongly believe that dance music bring people together. People can dance with
their eyes closed. It can almost feel a bit pagan! And when you find yourself
in that situation it’s easier to meet other people, to talk to them, look at
them. People at a festival have the privilege to be together for a couple of
hours, without their phones. And that’s important. It gives the message that we
can all be together, enjoying ourselves, conversing and smiling, away from the
loneliness we experience almost everyday in, out everyday lives.
And finally. Can you tell us about any forthcoming plans for 2019 and beyond?
I used to make plans. And when I did and thing didn’t turn out as I planned, I got really frustrated. So I actually try not to make plans regarding music. Hopefully the record does well, hopefully people will like it and hopefully I will get inspired to make another record that speaks to me first, as this one does. Other than that, I have no plans.
A purely outstanding piece of music, which every time I hear, renews conviction. This is a beautifull, soulfully charged song with Vili’s dreamy, melancholy vocals drifting effortlessly across the stereo of your imagination. Backed up by robust, tough bass notes plus tastefully crunchy drums this does nothing else but hit the spot in its entirety. Remixes come from an excellent Cevin Fisher who adds a little more bump into the equation, along with Avidus who sequence an analogue flair into their version extending it all to eight minutes. Remaining number Let it Be Known neatly contrasts with tougher, dancefloor expectations but it’s the title track which transcends.
Doomed to Live is of course the theme tune to Sky’s Gomorra and just as thrilling are these accompanying remixes to the original’s Rock intensity. With typical excellence let’s begin with Davide Squillace’s two versions, his Ethnik Remix sequences a kind of rare beauty excelling himself with brushes of emotive piano motifs augmenting the brisk drum hits and crisp rhythmic structures, propelling all movement forward. Next, the Techno Remix gives the game away with more intense drums adding a relevant fury. Baldelli & Dionigi’s Nu Disco Remix then confronts history injecting spacey synthesisers into the equation, while contrasting the breezy eighties melodies with a tougher, excellent Dub version. The punchy remix by Lele Sacchi completes the sequence visiting yet another angle to end the combination of Italian artists engaged in the project.
The fabulous Italoboyz deliver typically infectious beats, rhythms and basslines direct to your sensory cells with this selection of music that invites you to engage, react and return. The haunting information posed via the trippy vocal lines of the title track has Midnight Summer Dream expand your mind and thought process with a teasing, tempting array of sonic possibilities reaching out towards fifteen minutes of finely tuned ecstasy. Yulia Niko’s brilliant remix follows suit yet alters the mood with an almost deeper, more intense succession of smoky drums cumulating in a rush of pulsating emotion around mid-point. Then, alongside Blind Minded, things take a turn for exhilaration in the shape of the Acid infused 5.05 which employs illuminating atmospheres together with taught, squelchy basslines reimagining a positive future past.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Marco and Federico. Let’s start with your new single: Midnight Summer Dream for Crosstown Rebels. How did your relationship with the Crosstown come about? And how important for you is it to have your music released on such a significant label?
Hi guys, it’s a pleasure to be here! We have known Damian for many, many years, and doing something together was just a matter of time, really… We have endless respect for him and his music, and for what Crosstown Rebels represents. It’s great to be able to finally have found something special that fits with the label.
Talk us through how the track was created, where the original ideas came from and the use of the spoken words?
The spoken words are a little bit of a mystery… the rest of the track was made by arpeggiating a very nice yet simple melody with a Korg Polysix. All the drums are made with the Roland 909 and with a Roland Handsonic, and then there are several other little random sounds that came from…somewhere. It came out spontaneously in a day, there’s no big deal behind this track, it was just one of those moments when things come up naturally and everything flows
Tell us about the choice of the brilliant Yulia Niko to remix Midnight Summer Dream? And how do you feel she has contributed to the track?
She is part of the Crosstown Rebels family and she did a very good job, her remix takes a completely different direction, and is a great addition to the release.
The second track: 5.05 AM was created along with Blind Minded. And reaches an amazing seventeen plus minutes. You also mentioned experimenting with guitars and pedals in that process, which ones appealed to you most? And how did it feel using an organic instrument such as a guitar as opposed to a synthesizer?
We have a quite long history of making music with organic elements and different instruments…. We’ve collaborated with many musicians in the past, including drummers, bass guitarist, guitars, violin players, trumpet players, etc), I could name dozen of songs we did by recordings musical elements and then adding our own twist, our FXs, our “touch”. We always did and we will always continue doing it. Watch out also for March, we are going to release on This and That Label a collaboration we did with a guy who plays Hang.
Listening to your recent mix for bloop. radio you impressively cross a diverse selection of genres and moods. Tell us a little about your personal philosophy when it comes to DJ’ing and your thoughts on breaking rules and boundaries?
Bloop radio is run by an amazing team, they give me total freedom on music selection. I l constantly listen to many music genres, and Bloop is the right place to melt them together. When it comes to being a DJ, the main approach is making sure you know exactly where you are. The idea behind the Bloop show is to deliver on the first part of the show a blend of less clubby oriented music, more suitable for an afternoon and the second part more dancy. Same for Dj gigs in clubs or festivals: a dj-set varies, depending on many factors (type of crowd, time, size of the club, how long we are going to play and few others). Breaking rules, being different and taking risks is something that every DJ j should do, in our opinion. But you must be in control of what you are doing and be able to understand when you and the crowd are on the same page. It’s actually one of the best feelings ever, when you know you own it, you feel you are in control of the situation. The same record/tune can either empty the dance- floor or can make people travel to the moon, it just depends on….you.
Who are your most important influences both within and outside of the world of electronic music? And are there any particular writers or creative artists which most appeal to you?
Martin Margiela is a great artist, not just a designer but a full on an artist (in fact in this days he is a painter). He took everything that was already there, he deconstructed and reconstructed, he never showed his face and at a certain point decided that he said what he has to say and he disappeared completely. Same for Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty better know as THE KLF. They Became number one on UK charts with a record made out of already existing records, they wrote a manual about how to do a number one chart song. On 23 August 1994, The KLF – one of Britain’s most incendiary bands, in more ways than one – burned £1m on a remote Scottish island. They then vowed to put their careers on hold for 23 years. So at 23 seconds past midnight on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 they made their comeback with a book, launch in Liverpool, called 2023: a trilogy.In all this year they were doing lots of fine art pieces, all secretly. The duo were greeted by 500 fans as they arrived at the News From Nowhere book shop in an ice cream van that played their hit What Time Is Love? and O Sole Mio. HOW CRAZY/COOL IS THAT!?! ☺ ALSO, A special mention also must be given to Futurism in general… We’ve been milking from those early 1900 poets and artists so much across the years, and also… the vocal of Midnight Summer Dream – that you were asking me about is also, somehow, related to Futurism
How would you describe Superfiction Recordings and what are your forthcoming plans for the label?
Superfiction always wanted to be something that encapsulates our different taste for electronic music, our own space where we don’t need to await any external filter, but we do exactly what we want. It’s born like that and will always be like that. The plan is to keep releasing our music, but with an eye on other people and eventually, more and more collaborations with other dj/producers who we respect and we are inspired by.
Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty, Yulia. Let’s start by asking how living in and then moving between Russia, America, and Berlin has informed what you do in terms of sound and also your approach to life?
Hello Sixty, and thank you so much for having me. Always cool when a DJ can talk to people instead of just sharing music.
My favorite approach is thinking, “If you want be creative, you need to forget about all fears.” Meaning, fears about moving from place to place, or not being supported by people, or that your art is just not good enough. Just forget about all of it and try to do something. Sometimes it actually might not be good, but there is always time to improve, study, and learn from mistakes.
I’m girl from a very small town in the South of Russia, and somehow I was born with the brain of an international traveler. When I was seven years old and went to school, we had French class, and I loved it when the teacher would call me Juli, because I knew I’d become an adult and go travel around the world someday.
Anyway, music became a lever for my traveling and I made the decision to leave Russia after five years of DJ experience there. With very bad English and almost no savings in my account, I traveled across the ocean to New York, where I started to make serious changes in my life. I went to music production school and met the best artists and people from the industry. Now I’m in Berlin and all of it is hitting me more and more. I always keep my funky housey sound, but I’m improving it with every move I make from country to country, because each has its own music history, which I study and learn a lot from.
Your excellent new single: Casa en el Agua for Rebellion (Crosstown Rebels) feels like an amalgamation of creative processes. Can you talk us through where the initial ideas came from and about how you then produced them as music, including any favourite pieces of software / hardware you like to refer to?
“Casa en el Agua” is actually a real place that exists in the middle of the Caribbean off of Colombia. It’s an incredibly unique place. I had the chance to be part of an evening with Archie Hamilton, Niklas Stadler, Serdal and many more DJs. We had to travel for three days to get there. I just recorded some sounds of birds during the night on my phone. I record a lot of stuff on my phone that I can sample afterwards and use as inspiration in my music. After almost a year I found this recording and was just playing around with it and some other samples I recorded from machines. It was all super quick. Maybe two hours and the track was finished. I’ve learned that if you sit down and make something quickly, it’s always the best idea. If you spend a lot of time and go back to process again and again, the track will never sound good or be released.
I’m very happy now about the new Ableton 10, still using a lot of Minilogue by Korg, Electron MKII, along with the perfect work of the Apollo interface — it all makes it sound very nice.
Who are your main influences both within and outside of the world of electronic music? Any particular writers, musicians, painters you admire?
I can’t mention artists like Michael Jackson or Madonna, actually inspiration for all the last tracks I’ve made for Crosstown and Hottrax. I really like to read Paulo Coelho, I do like modern, trippy art, but I can’t point to anyone in particular.
Listening to you DJ, you touch upon many different styles. Can you choose three tracks which highlight that variation for us?
Absolutely. These are three tracks I play all the time. You can see the transaction between disco, techno, and acid minimal. How about that?
Nick Minieri – Heat Index (Original Mix) [Soul Clap Records]
How important do you think it is for a DJ to keep moving forward with new sounds? And how would you describe the way in which instrumentation is so prevalent now (and how people react to rhythms), as opposed to the song-based sets of the past?
Creating something new has always been important. Our ears react right away to new sounds. I think right now this is the main purpose of the DJ/producer. Before, we were only focused on new records, and making a perfect transition during the set. Now, we’re spending days at the studio trying to create something unique that will make us different from all the others and give us our own sound. Just now a Ukrainian producer, iO (Mulen), comes to mind. I’m so proud of Eastern European artists, and how many quality projects have been released in the last few years. This guy created his own sound and I’m sure everyone can recognize him right away.
You also have a track: Cheap Story forthcoming on Jamie Jones’ Hottrax. How important has it been for you to have music released on such prestigious labels? And can you tell us about how the track came to be signed, and about the Acid influence in there?
It was made together with “Casa en el Agua.” I had a break in January from everything and was just making a little album. Honestly, I sat down and asked myself who I wanted to send tracks to first, after I was done with it all. I was focused on Jamie and his sound, so in the end it was easy. I sent tracks to him and he picked two of them right away. I guess the key is to always focus on something and believe you can get it, no matter what.
I think now’s a time of a new wave of Acid basslines on tracks. I’m really enjoying it and just trying to use it as much as I can.
And finally, besides your busy touring schedule, what are you looking forward to for the remainder of this year and into next?
I’m excited for the little tour with Damian Lazarus for the Spirits 2 album on Crosstown Rebels in November. It will be my debut at Watergate and couple of places around Europe. Very nice EP “Acid Meow” on Get Physical by the end of the year. And I’m just going to spend most of my time at the studio in Berlin after a very intense summer season at Ibiza. Let’s see what happens for me and where my destiny brings me in the end.