Can you tell us the story behind choosing the name Winter Son as an alias?
It just came about from living in Manchester and having a particularly exciting Winter a few years ago! Most people enjoy the summertime and the sun, but I’m more into those November nights that are crisp and cool. I was going to events and gigging a few times a week and it just seemed to fit!
Your current release ‘Tribal Rhythm’ is huge everywhere. How did you first team up with co-producer Jozef K, and how did the track end up ion Kim Ann Foxman’s Firehouse imprint?
Ah, wasn’t sure it was huge to be honest! You don’t really get to see the outside and impact of the music you make when you’re in the inside the windowless studio.
I met Jozef during *that* Winter and we started sharing techno, new wave punk stuff and industrial tracks, kind of gathering some kind of inspiration playlist. We thought it’d be fun to see if anything worked in the studio together, and I guess we never stopped since then.
Kim had played some of his stuff in the past and we debated sending her the track, but we got the courage to drop her a line. She loved it instantly anyway, I’m not sure what the panic and anxiety was about looking back!
Can you talk us through how the track was originally produced, and any favourite studio items you like to use?
It only really took a day on that track, it was very much a jam with a few choice pieces of kit. It started off with a beat on the 808 with kick drum and toms, and then we sampled a piano chord I made to create the stabbing lead sound. Then came more development on the percussion side and a 909 hi hat to round the drums off. Bizarrely, the track doesn’t have a bassline, which is I think it’s most interesting feature! We found that taking the bass out gave space to the other elements, and it allowed the track to breathe freely. Jozef had this cool little vocal line written in his phone voice messages and contacted Flora about a guest appearance, and the rest is history!
The 808 and 909 drum machines are incredible beasts to use, they’re so intuitive and user friendly (if I can say that)! I’m also really into my SH-101 synth for arps and ‘bubbly’ sounding basslines.
Your remixes display a welcome flair of musicality. Where did this come from? And who are your main influences musically?
I don’t really come from a DJ background as I grew up playing guitar, piano and drums, so I think that really feeds through into how I think about making music. I like to perform as much as I can, and I’m really into giving music a lot of drama and showmanship. Some people talk about analogue equipment and digital soft synths, but I like to call them all ‘instruments’, because that’s what they are! I also like to include unusual instruments and instruments that aren’t typically associated with house and techno, like the guitar. I’ve recorded guitar on almost every track I’ve made, even if it’s buried way down in the mix. I even played classical guitar on a remix I did for Saytek (it’s at the end, and was my first actual track as Winter Son!!).
My influences come wide and far, I can pull ideas from everywhere when I’m writing. I LOVE metal – I grew up playing in metal bands and practice speed metal guitar techniques every night! When I was 16 I started getting into Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada and ambient music, and I think I saw a point where the two could meet.
Your recent remix for SDXN on Frontier Records (released on Oct 26) is another departure focusing on the instrumentation rather than the rhythm section. How was that created and how do you relate your music to creating atmospheres, compared to working with more structured beats?
I had an idea a few months ago to make a track with no kick drum or real beat behind it, so I thought this might be a good chance to try that out. The original has some lovely parts to it, so I had a lot of scope to work with even with no beat. Like Tribal Rhythm, it was pretty much a jam session, and just involved turning up instruments up and down when I wanted them to come in and drop out. It was so much fun making a big lush soundscape and not focusing on a build or drop.
How would you describe Manchester Clubs at present?
It’s brilliant here, it’s very much (and has always been) alive. I’ve always thought you can ‘feel’ the city when you’re here, and I haven’t felt it in many other cities. Things are still operating in very much the DIY frame of mind. It’s awesome that within a mile you can go see Chez Damier or Lee Gamble or Rival Consoles, there’s some serious variety. Obviously, you’re spoilt for choice sometimes, which is the downside.
Can you tell us about your set-up for playing ‘live’ and how are you finding audiences reacting to the experience?
I’m taking as much as I can carry to gigs at the moment! I have my 808 and 909 drum machines (both over 30 years old and as grumpy as they sound), drum pads and a laptop full of all kinds of sounds. It’s kind of a DJ/live hybrid at the moment, and if drums are your bag, you’ll absolutely love it. The sound of the drum machines through a good system absolutely shreds the venue to pieces. I also have the drum machine sounds loaded onto percussion pads for some extra battering, which I very much enjoy giving 🙂
I think because people can actually see me playing something they can relate to the music more, it’s quite a visceral experience, which is what music should be in a live context. If I go and watch someone play I don’t want to see them looking bored or staring blankly into space, I want to bond with them and feel the energy they’re putting into the performance.
What are your forthcoming plans going into 2016?
Me and Jozef have finished and signed off a good few EPs, and we’re waiting for these to come! We can’t wait to announce release dates and that kind of thing. Sometimes music ‘burns a hole’ in your hard drive just as money does in your wallet – you can’t hold it in and need to spend it!! We’re going back into the studio this Winter too.
Hopefully I’ll find time to do another beatless remix too!
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