Fuelled by a bewildering sense of stereo Atacama does nothing short of stun the listener i.e. you and me into a challenged state of being. It’s no day at the beach either as emotions are engaged, lifted and bounced around the room with forceful release as abrasive bass notes hit you, yet the stream of emotive arpeggios soothingly reassures. The subsequent Damian Lazarus Re-Shape does precisely that introducing the human touch of vocals amid a swirl of atmospherically rewarding pads, punctuated by insistent percussion alongside a timely arrangement of lifts and drops realising each second.
Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty. How and where did you both meet and what inspired you to start making music together?
Mitchel is a longtime friend of Thijs’s brother Bram since they started DJ’ing together. Later on the two started producing together and through that the two of us got to know each other and felt a sweet spot for each other in our vision about making music.
Tell us the story behind your stunning new single: You Got To Try and how it was then created in the studio?
“You Got To Try” is created during a session with David Stolk. David is a friend of us who we work regularly with. He is an insanely creative and fun guy to hang around with and he has an impeccable knack for catchy hooks. We wrote it as a song, just from a chord progression on the piano. David transposed it and from then on it was ‘instant magic’. The basis of the song felt so good and special that the Paris Green production grew around it effortlessly.
Your music resonates with many influences. Could you tell us about some of them both within and outside of electronic music?
We hardly ever listen to electronic music when we’re working in the studio. We try to find our inspiration from very diverse corners. Mitchel has a sweet spot for hiphop and soul music, while Thijs has checked out a lot of modern and indie jazz. We’re exchanging a lot of music.
So we end up listening together to artists like Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Robert Glasper and Mark Schilders. In electronic music we really dig music from artists like Floating Points, Nathan Fake, Luke Abbott and Kowton. But we’re also checking out upcoming cats such as Henry Wu, Neinzer, Ploy and Simo Cell.
Outside of the musical inspirations there’s also a very strong visual aspect that resonates with our music. We’ve got a natural interest in art, design, architecture and fashion. Because just as music, it uses textures and expresses a certain period too. We love clean, spacious designs that fit to our music.
What is your favourite synthesizer? Do you own one?
We have our go-to virtual synthesizers, but recently we also are experimenting with hardware synths, such as modular synths like the Roland System 100m and some synths that Thijs owns. The one we’re getting the most heat out of lately is the Roland Alpha Juno-1.
How would you place the importance of musicianship and musicality in today’s Dance Music?
We can’t speak for everybody else but for us it’s everything, it’s definitely the fundament of our music and where we try to make a difference. Without it our music wouldn’t sound even close to what it sound like right now.
Can you tell us about how you got the tracks signed to Rebellion, and also the choice of Steve Bug to do the remixes?
I think it all started with Kölsch who played our track in his BBC 1 Residency. Maybe before that, when we spoke to George Fitzgerald at a festival in Amsterdam and asked if we could send him some music. He responded that he really liked “You Got To Try”. That’s when we started to believe in the track. But the BBC Radio 1 play is where we gained a lot of interests from all kinds of parties. It was a bit of a rollercoaster because suddenly you have to make decisions which affect our career in the long term and we have a tendency to overthink everything. From all the offers we got, Rebellion just felt right. And from that decision we also got the opportunity to get Steve to remix our track and to us it’s just insane to have him on board of our first release!
What influence does living in Amsterdam have on your making music? Do you have any favourite bars or clubs that you would like to recommend – past or present?
(Mitchel:) there’s just so much happening here, it’s a city of many faces. Depending on the evening, my favourite venue is the Paradiso. It’s a very unique place where artists like Kurt Cobain and James Brown performed.
This is probably the most geeky answer that I can give but I like to hang out in the public library. I love the space and that it’s really calm. Sorry.
(Thijs:) there are a lot of cool spots to visit in Amsterdam. Such as the jazz sessions at De Kring, new clubs like De School, Shelter and Claire. And way too many nice bars, record stores, museums and parks to mention just here.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2017 and into beyond?
We really have a huge pile of new music just from 2017.
We’re still working on new music almost every day of the week. There’s material for a new EP, but first we have to see how our first release will work out, before we make our next move.
We’re really eager and ambitious, but we also know that we’re just getting started. We’re just gonna have to look at it step by step and I think that’s a really clear and realistic view on the situation right now.
Rowee comes from a story based on a profound feeling for music, representing an alter ego; it is the darkest part of me, and at the same time the hypnotic and mental part, music with a soul. Artists often have several different faces, and the decision to hide a side of myself in Rowee was immediately the right choice. I needed to somehow express a part of me that I hadn’t yet revealed.
The release ‘Disguise EP’ features collaborations with Thomas Gandey, KnowKontrol and Simon Wish. Tell us about how your working relationship came about with these artists? And with label itself?
I met Damian Lazarus at a party in Tuscany, where we talked about some demos I had tucked away in a drawer… I always thought that the best “home” for Rowee would be Crosstown Rebels / Rebellion. Damian Lazarus is a great artist whom I hold in the highest esteem, both for his musical choices as a DJ, as well as for the high quality of his labels. The Disguise EP represents a “voyage” divided into three different sections; “Earth To You” created together with our friend Thomas Gandey describes sensuality and essentiality through music. We created a minimal environment that serves as a background for a sensual, cutting edge voice. We got to know Thomas a few years ago, sharing the console at a well-known Italian club. We started collaborating on that day and have since cultivated a valuable friendship and in-tune relationship. The second track that gives the EP its name is “Disguise”, a collaboration with the singer KnowKontrol, a profound track with an authentic soul, “a lost sense of complicity hidden behind the guise of two people pretending that their relationship is OK”. I have always admired the vocals by KnowKontrol on tracks like “After Dark” by &ME on “KeineMusik” or “Shadows” on “Saved”, so the decision to collaborate with him was easy. The voyage concludes with “It Shows You”, a collaboration with our friend from New York, Simon Wish. We developed the track with an acidic sound and the right energy for the dancefloor, a perfect conclusion for this 3-Track EP.
Work in the studio is usually very fast and straightforward. I try to convey my concept based on inspiration from past artists and sounds that are often beyond just the dancefloor, to then go into the studio and work on all the ideas together and develop the album. I really like using Moog, Modular, Minimonsta systems; they are often a source of great inspiration for creating an album. In the case of the single “Disguise”, the entire concept was born from the vocals and the feeling they expressed; I just needed to create the right costume to perfectly fit the meaning conveyed by the voice. So with an ever-present and essential groove, a hypnotic riff and a moog synth that gives the perfect energy behind the vocals. The result was exactly what I was looking for, the right balance between groove and synths, emphasizing the vox to their maximum.
You’re playing at the BPM Festival in January. How do you prepare for such an event? And what are your feelings on the rise of festival culture (as opposed to having a residency in a Club)?
I think the BPM Festival today represents one of the top festivals in the world, with an enviable line up and the incredible backdrop of Playa Del Carmen. I am much honored to be part of the official line up. I love festivals that take place under the sun, giving the atmosphere positive vibes, plenty of smiles and energy. I don’t think it’s possible to compare a club and a festival, because they each give you a different sensation… a club makes you feel “at home” with the contact among the people immediate creating a great feeling on the dancefloor, with the “detachment” between the console and the public is totally cancelled out in a club. In contrast, a festival does not really have this aspect, because detachment is unavoidable, but the energy of a big crowd gives you a one of a kind, amazing sensation.
Tell us about your choice of music for the forthcoming BPM2017 compilation? What for you makes the perfect club track?
I usually don’t choose the music before the event, and I always try to let myself be transported by the emotions that are generated by the dancefloor as I am playing; that’s when I select the tracks for my set, often alternating my works with those from other artists. I don’t think a perfect track exists, but I do think that a DJ’s approach to the dancefloor makes any track the perfect one.
What’s the scene like in Florence at the moment? What are your favourite Bars & Clubs?
Florence is an incredible city, full of beautiful places for organizing parties, and the underground scene is very interesting. There are many talented people and interesting parties happening, like Nobody’s Perfect at Tenax, the Next Tech Festival (for the techno scene) and many others, like the Tropical Animals, who represent the essence of the Florentine underground scene.
How did you first get into producing music and where did you learn about it?
I began producing about 10 years ago, but my first real approach to music was when I was young and I studied how to read a stave and understand the notes, as well as studying acoustic guitar. I have always thought that studying is important, but I think it is just as important to learn from people who have a lot of experience. For example, Fabrizio Giovannozzi (a well-known engineer who passed away a few years ago) is one of those people I always admired for his body of knowledge and experience in the world of sound mixing. I learned a lot from him and I began to understand many aspects that cannot always be found in books. It is important to listen to and capture what you can from everyone, to then reinvent it within your own mind.
What are your plans for 2017?
2017 is just the beginning. Rowee debuts in the month of January with two very important EPs, one on the Steve Bug label and the other on the Damian Lazarus label. I am very happy to be part of an important crew like the “Crosstown Rebels / Rebellion”. I am already working on new tracks, and why not, maybe a new album? So stay tuned!
We had been working in the industry for more than 10 years individually before we decided to form a duo. We both started out playing vinyl, and spent over a decade playing a range of different styles and working really hard on the Midlands house scene as DJs and event promoters, just trying to build a name for ourselves as solo artists.
Over the years we often got booked to play the same events and we started to notice that we were quite similar in style and energy. Eventually we decided to get in the studio just to have fun and make some music, but the results we got were pretty good, so we decided to officially become Him_Self_Her.
Your new single Gone Too Long has just been released on Crosstown Rebels. How did your relationship with label happen?
It was actually a bit of good luck that led to this.. being in the right place at the right time as they say. We first signed the track to Cream Couture back in 2012 and the guys did such a great job of promoting it, despite being a small label, that it went to number one in the Beatport nu-disco chart and got into the hands of some big names, such as Lee Foss and Solomun. One day a random message from Damian Lazarus popped up in our inbox.. saying that he had heard the track and loved it. We sent it over to him, really just hoping he would play it at some major events, and then before we knew it, we were signed to Crosstown Rebels, with a vinyl release of Gone Too Long and a follow up track coming out next year!
The track has a very distinctive sound and also features vocalist Kieran Fowkes. Can you describe the process of producing it and about your studio?
We were so lucky to have discovered Kieran, as his voice is just perfect for our style. We use the same process with all the vocal tracks we produce – which is to write a vocal part over a rough loop or simple chord progression, record, edit and produce it and then use the acapella to write a whole new backing track. It might seem backwards but it works for us!
What are your musical/ artistic influences?
We both have different musical backgrounds, which is actually really helpful as it means we both contribute different ideas in the studio. We do take influences from the past and this includes all genres of music from drum’n’bass to classical! However we like to keep a strong focus on the present and the future as there is so much great music out there and new genres are evolving so quickly. At the moment we are listening to a lot of material by producers like German Brigante, Samu.l, Francesca Lombardo, Siopis and Santé.
Tell us about your plans for an album and what can we expect to hear on it?
Having the opportunity to put an album together is such an exciting prospect, as it means we get to go a little deeper and experiment with new sounds. We are working on album material on an ongoing basis, but we are trying to work this around our remix and release schedule, so it is something we are really taking our time with and just enjoying.
How would you describe yourselves as Dj’s and the sounds you like to play?
Right at the start of our career someone described our sound as “house music with feeling” and we thought this was such a good description of our music that we decided to steal it and use it as our catch phrase!
We don’t want to be pigeon holed into a particular genre, so we play and produce across all styles of house, as long as it has feeling. We just want people to feel emotion from listening to the tracks that we play or make, and to connect and be moved by them.
Where are you particularly looking forward to playing at over the coming months?
As we are getting closer to the crazy festive period we are getting more and more excited about our winter gigs. Especially as we are flying off to the Dubai sunshine in the middle of December to play for Electric Days, which is an amazing party!
In the next few weeks we are also playing in Leeds, London, Sheffield and Lyon and then in Manchester on Boxing Day.
In January next year we continue our residency for Night Train at Egg London, where we will be showcasing our live PA, featuring Kieran Fowkes on vocals, which we are super excited about.
Thanks to Magazine Sixty for taking the time to chat to us, and a big thankyou for everyone that has supported us so far! HSH x
Can you tell us about your relationship with Crosstown Rebels and how that originally came about?
After I left composing and producing full time for UNKLE my game plan was to concentrate on the film score/advertising stuff I do under my own name, and also to relaunch my solo music career. One avenue of this was the Dance stuff I had been doing prior to UNKLE and also for the UNKLE ‘Surrender Sounds’ remixes that I was involved in. I wanted to start writing some new tracks that were reflective of what I was into now and what has inspired me around the electronic music front. The Crosstown Rebels camp was the only option I was interested in really. It was as simple as introducing myself and emailing my tracks, and the rest came out of that. It’s funny really as I didn’t have a history with Damian prior to this yet we share countless mutual friends. The relationship has grown out of that.
Can you talk us through the production process involved with creating your second single for the label ‘Get Yourself EP’?
I think it always starts with ideas going on in your head from other stuff you have been listening to. You start building a patchwork of ideas from things you like from other peoples records. You start to write the record and your ideas come from that initial patchwork, and the track grows into its own. I sent the record to Damian and we both agreed that it had the potential to be bigger with vocals, and so I decided to come up with some ideas. I have a classical and singing background from my education so I wanted to develop my own ideas for the first time in that context. On a technical level everything was done on a modest studio in my house.
You’re Dj’ing at the Crosstown Rebels event at The Warehouse Project in Manchester December 15. How would you define your style of Dj’ing? What for you makes a good DJ?
I started collecting vinyl in the early 90’s and that’s when I began Dj’ing, but for me now I personally like the opportunities that technology has provided to get more involved. I’m very much from the camp that believes that a great set is not defined by the technology or equipment, or methods you use, but how the finished product sounds and how the crowd reacts. There is no right or wrong just how it sounds.
Most decent DJ’s would agree I’m sure that being able to beat match is a pretty basic ability that’s far outweighed by the art of track selection and order. I mean, the BPM is staring you in the face on CDJ’s as it is anyway, so turning off a sync button doesn’t really make you a god these days. Richie Hawtin’s sets are synced but the things he does with that are amazing, especially with effects. I had a period where I used Ableton, which I loved for the flexibility, but got a bit stale and seems more suited to an actual live setup. The meet half way for me is Traktor. I am absolutely loving the new Remix Decks. They give me the flexibility to introduce other ideas into the mix in a really creative way.
How would you describe the differences between the music you produced as part of UNKLE and what you are currently involved in producing – what elements are most important to you in making music?
There is not a huge amount of difference to be honest other than that the music I write, and its style, is now in my control. UNKLE had a lot of different things going on under that roof that people might not really be aware of: Advert Pitches, Film Scores, Albums, and Remixes. UNKLE is best known for the sound of its Albums, but that isn’t exactly for instance what James DJ’s as a rule, or how his remixes sound etc. I still do a lot of the same sorts of things just under Aidan Lavelle now.
As far as new projects I’m currently starting a library album for De Wolfe Publishing, writing a score and sound design for a short film, and a feature length film, plus also working on more Dance stuff as well as trying to get my album finished!
When did you begin to DJ and who inspired you to do so?
I actually started producing first and Djing naturally came out of that. I had an Atari based midi setup when I was 8 in the mid eighties!!!!
My main thing when I was younger though was Detroit Techno so: Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Eddie Flashin Fowlkes, Robin Hood, Stacey Pullen, Kenny Larkin, Blake Baxter, Drexciya, Mad Mike, Red Planet etc. etc.
Do you have any particular favourite pieces of software/ hardware that you like to use in creating music?
My Mac, my Andromeda, and my Moog Voyager are my favourites and the most used but I have lots of other tasty bits too.
From the wide range of music that you have released you must have a very diverse set of influences. Where did these come from and who have you been listening to for inspiration recently?
My first influence for music had to be my Granny and my Dad. My Granny taught me the piano (a concert cellist and pianist herself) and my Dad used to play me a lot of music growing up. He took me to Ronnie Scotts for the first time when I was twelve! He was desperate for me to hear Dizzy Gillespie’s Cuban prodigy Arturo Sandoval. My brother James was also naturally a big influence.
Watch this space 😉
It’s always reassuring to hear the voice from Bobby Konders ‘The Poem’ feature on a track and this excellent production from ReKreation & Saytek is no exception. Driven forwards by sizzling hi-hats and throbbing beats this has a timely quality that transcends the House Music timeline by taking its inspiration from such a classic, and then transforming the nostalgia into something completely contemporary. Love the demanding sequence of creative stabs and organ pulses that join themselves together here to make this such an exciting and thoughtful ride – this is first rate coming with such an apt title. The Patrick Podage & Nikola Kotevski Remix continues the excellence with funkier, fuzzy bass as the Pretty Criminals Remix gets deeper again. Second track, Experiments in Kaya is tougher in ways with striking configurations of undulating chords and staccato bass, although Poetry is always best.
Release: December 3 Beatport exclusive. All other stores December 17
Music can be beautiful just like it can get ugly and cynical. This latest collection from Irish imprint DhARMA begins by reclining gently into the former with moods pitched somewhere between relaxed ambience and cinematic cool. So if you like music to project itself imaginatively across your line of vision then both Kyson’s beautifully bluesy ‘Drifting On By’ and Akito Misaki’s exquisite ‘Do You Remember Me’ are pretty much essential listening. Tibalt’s ‘Midnight Travellers’ sparks the ignition with fast beats and European synthesisers galore, leaving Silly Rabit ’Subsonic Sunset’ with fizzy electronic atmospheres and Skai Nine’s energised ‘Beta’ to complete the picture.
If you’re a sucker for break beats then this is most definitely for you. As with the other current release from hi-life! this percussion fuelled gem is all about energy packed rhythm that simply feels irresistible. In this instance 106 Miles has been produced by Mexico City’s Victor Ibarrola and if this is anything to go by you’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the very near future. Second track, The Matrix also features a sampled voice over, although this time the music feels less frantic exploring deeper bass and imaginative soundscapes leading eventually to deliciously dark pads and a breathtaking breakdown.
Who Am I?
22 Digit Records
Returning to 22 Digit Records for his second release Newcastle based producer Midicult has produced a distinctive and unique piece of music in ‘Who Am I’. Spanning the breadth of almost ten minutes of low-slung bass action this may deceptively come across as minimal programming, but listen closer and it reveals itself to be intricate funk of the highest degree. It’s all contained within the frisky drum editing, which alongside the rumbling bassline and jolting stabs, provide the basis for the disconcerting voice to weave its coda. Tom Ellis then highlights that vocal and funks up the bass, while Jerico adds a more progressive feel, leaving Steve Legget’s shuffling Techno to finish off.
Damian Lazarus is ambitiously staging the Day Zero festival (as decreed by the ancient Mayan civilisation) on December 20/ 21 of this year at Playa del Carmen, Mexico. For further details check the link www.dayzerofestival.com
And so to the music which comprises of thirteen new compositions, and as you would imagine is all about serious intent. Ranging from artists such as Jay Haze, Acid Pauli, to Mathew Jonson the resulting album plays out across the full spectrum of sound and light, and is undoubtably a reverential experience. What I really like about the way the album flows is the fact that each contribution is excellent in its own right, this isn’t really about standouts taking priority, although I am slightly tempted to point out Francesca Lombardo’s sublime ‘Cosmic Dancer ‘ as well as Fur Coat’s ‘Greed, Insanity’ which in essence spells it all out to you loud and clear. I also suspect that you could listen to this almost anywhere, and I do mean that literally, while still receiving the same level of satisfaction in doing so. The message is in the music.
release: December 3