A Sit Down With A DJ Chris Lake

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Master of the rework, Chris has put his own interpretations in the studio to tunes such as Leftfield’s “Phat Planet”, Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” and Prodigy’s “Climbatize”. His rewards have not only come in the form of remixes, with “Santiago De Cuba” receiving much praise recently for it’s big room appeal.

His production talent was noticed after his talents behind the decks. It only took him 6 months to secure his first residency after discovering his passion for the music he loves, that place being Passion in Aberdeen. DJ’ing, as with his production, is clearly a talent that comes naturally to Mr. Lake.

“I think it is good for any scene to explore its limits. If you do not push things to the extreme, you will never know how far you can go”.

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Do you think that achieving the amount of success you have at such a young age will help you in your career in the future? 

I hope so. I am certainly in this long term. I have grown up writing music, and I don’t plan to stop. I have spent the past 18 months finding my feet in the industry. It has been difficult sometimes to get people to take me seriously because of my age, but now people are realizing I am capable of things, so this is becoming less of a problem.

Could you see yourself also producing other kinds of music?

I already do! I do all sorts. I’ve done a lot of work for pop artists, and for adverts / TV etc. It’s great fun to be creative, and I don’t always just do dance.

What niche do you fill?

I do think I stand by myself. I’ve got a huge appreciation of the underground scene, but that appreciation is a bit more innocent. I’ve never been a big party guy—I’ve never done drugs—but I really do love the music. At the same time, I can appreciate a big hit and the more commercial side of things. I sit right in the middle. It’s quite a difficult place to sit in, actually.

How do you musically differentiate the parts of your sets, if at all?
I take a different approach. I know a lot of guys group tracks into genres and try to play similar records together. I was thinking about this the other day–maybe I see links between records that other people don’t see. I mix everything together and go along with the crowd.
How do you compare DJ’ing and Production? What would you like to focus on in the near future?
Dj’ing is the reward for my Production work. A chance for me to see how people react to my mixes. 
When you’re not on tour, what’s an ideal way for you to spend the day, and where?

With my family. I have the most amazing family. I wish I could spend more time with them.

What do you attribute that to with Americans?

America’s like a big social experiment, and everyone wants to make things happen and try and do things bigger, better and bolder than everyone else. I feel people have the attitude to want to make shit happen. It’s as simple as that.

What is your favorite TV show past or present?

The Wire, or Breaking bad. I love watching box sets on my computer. I download a few seasons off iTunes before I go on a tour, and watch them on the plane etc. Those 2 were some of my favourites.

How and why did a label like OWSLA change your vision of the current House scene?

What I like very much about this label and its crew is how much they are attached to making good sounds without taking the lead. I know this may sound very vague and simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many people in this scene are doing things relatively safely, without getting out of their comfort zone. I do not consider Owsla to be in that category. At all. They are always in the goal of doing even better for fans and giving them more, while remaining creative. It’s a super inspirational team and I love working with people who have such positive philosophies.

Are there any trends in EDM that disturb you?
Producers trying to copy each other rather than innovating and finding their own sound. It’s boring, it’s not unique. I’ve been involved in the scene now for 12 years, and producers copying each other has always been going on. There’s always been sh*t music. There have always been genres that aren’t cool but are commercially successful and genres that are cool but aren’t commercial at all.

A Sit Down With DJ Zaxx

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Greg Zaccagnino, better known simply as Zaxx, is the latest rising star in the electronic music scene. In a very short time he has transformed from bedroom producer who was looking to create a track people would hear around the world, to a DJ who has taken the electronic music community by storm. Gaining massive support from the likes of Tiesto, Hardwell, Afrojack and Tritonal, it is no surprise that he has sure taken the right track to attaining his goals. I first heard of Zaxx after he remixed The Chainsmokers‘ hit track “Roses”, and was blown away by the track. He didn’t stop there, as has also remixed other tracks from artists ranging from Sander Van Doorn to Alice Deejay and Seven Lions to W&W.

 Zaxx maybe young, but he has quickly built up a sizable fanbase and has already played in front of a sea of dancing feet and bobbing heads. It is clear he is driven and motivated by one simple truth, his genuine love for music. It is perhaps the most important characteristic of any musical artist, especially a DJ whose job description requires them to find, curate and share the best tracks the world has to offer. He is unfazed by the status quo, and let’s his passion for music lead him in everything he does.

 

“Don’t release anything until you’re ready. Success won’t happen overnight and never give up”.

 

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Please introduce and tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Greg Zaccagnino, people usually assume my first name is Zach because of my DJ name, but I’m just a 17-year-old kid from Staten Island, NY who loves making music.

How do you write your tracks?

If I’m making a new song or starting up a new track, I always start with the chord progression or the melody. I’ll mess with a bass line then think of notes that can complement it. I usually go from there. I focus on the melodies, then I go to the kicks and all the drums.

Which music aspect is most important to you in your live sets or live production?

In my live sets I like to make people feel like they’re in some kind of nostalgic euphoria, which is why I play a lot of classic remixes, most of which I’ve made myself. There’s just no better joy than hearing a song you really love live.

Which artists in the music scene do you learn from or enjoy watching when you play big events?

I’ve learned a lot from artists that aren’t even in the dance scene and a lot from some that are. One important thing I’ve learned from watching these guys is that the key to being successful and being happy is to do this for yourself- to make the music you love and be happy doing it.

You’ve been making music in an array of genres, from festival trap to house, what’s your favorite to make?

 I like to make everything. That’s why when I make a track, I’ll have one drop different, then another drop different. So I always try to incorporate shit. Now in all my new music, it’s all like nothing you’ve ever heard.

As a DJ you always have to have the dopest tracks. How do you find them?

What I do is I go on SoundCloud. I follow a handful of artists that I really like and check out what they’re doing. Then there’s the bigger artists that I like and see what they’re doing as well. I see what they ‘liked’ or ‘favorited’ and I’ll just peek through it. The point was so the people went “This song is so good, but I can probably only hear it here. It must be an exclusive song, I wish I knew what it was because it’s sick!” 

So you’ve basically grown up with the EDM genre, music influences, EDM wise, non-EDM wise, who do you listen to?

My main influences are definitely, in EDM is Martin Garrix, he was one of the first dudes to support me as well. We started chilling, and whenever he’s in New York I always hangout with him, and he just gives me great advice. I dunno, non-EDM I listen to everything, classic rock, everything. It obviously varies, but Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations and why?

My biggest musical inspirations have to be the Smashing Pumpkins, they have a very distinct sound and made unique music since they first began and it landed them as being one of the most popular bands in the last 20 years. I’m inspired by any artist who can be original, fresh and still sound good.

If you could play one festival in the world, what would it be and why?

Either Ultra or Tomorrowland for sure because I feel like they’re the two most groundbreaking festivals.

Do you have any advice for other DJ?

My greatest advice is to honestly never give up or get discouraged. There are millions of kids who want to be the next big artist and that’s why this game is so difficult. If you don’t worry about shows, don’t worry about the other nonsense, and just focus on your MUSIC, I promise you will see results.

A Sit Down With DJ Thomas Gold

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Normally when you think of Germany and electronic music, the first association that come to mind are dark techno clubs scattered around Berlin. That is still the driving force behind the Germans, but there are those who can comfortably occupy a main stage slot just as well as one of his underground countrymen can DJ a dark club until the early the sun rises. Here we find Thomas Gold…

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“I would consider myself as a successful person, since I am making a living doing music”.

How and when did you first begin your exploration of dance music?

 When I was fifteen I started listening to house music. I loved the sound of the music at that time and I loved dancing. I decided I wanted to make my own music. I started playing keyboards when I was seven and then when I was sixteen I got my first synthesizer. I started making my own music and later on I would DJ at my friend’s parties. About two years later I got my first job at a local venue. They actually fired me after my first night because it was so bad. So then I went home and practiced. I learned how to read the crowd, how to react to them and how to make them dance. A year later I started working at a club and I became a resident there for five years. After that I got more jobs and just kept going.

Whats your production style like, what are the first and last steps you take when making a track?

Generally speaking, I always go for a musical approach when producing tracks, be it remixes or original productions. I try to get a vibe, a rhythmic structure or a short bassline loop which in my opinion fits best for the given theme, hook or vocal and then I build my mix upon this basis element. When there is a basic layout or arrangement, I do all the fine tweaks, effects and additional sounds or vocal bits. But this can also happen in the middle of working on the track – just as it comes to my mind.

You are originally from Berlin, Germany. There are some pretty iconic dance clubs in Berlin and throughout Europe. What are some of your favorite rooms in Europe?

I love Berlin of course, for its authentic and very organic music scene. Whenever I have time to go out here, I try to visit a club and hang out with friends. Apart from that, I love Barcelona for its vibrant nightlife scene, and of course Ibiza is one of my all time favorites.

How do you balance touring and producing?

Yeah actually it’s not very easy, you have to find your way. I remember last year I was a little bit sad that I did a lot of touring which is cool but I didn’t get enough lot of studio time to produce my tracks, so I had to change something.

Have you been working with any up and coming producers/DJs that you would like to mention?

There are a lot of collaborations with singers/songwriters, but none of them are actually DJs. This is also a very new and fresh experience for me.

 If you weren’t a DJ/producer what would you be?

 I can’t really imagine. I’d be doing something creative. Where I can work with my own ideas and grow. I can’t really imagine being out of the industry. Live with and for the music. Making sounds. It’s been with me all my life.

If you had few days of not making music, what would you do?

I would hang out with friends, and chill. Host BBQs and grill some nice steaks)

You’ve worked with a lot of labels over the years. You released “The Chant” on Armada Music. How do you decide what labels to work with? 

When I do a track, I always try to find the “right” home (label) for it, and I have been releasing on all kinds of labels (Axtone RecordsSize RecordsSpinnin’ RecordsToolroomRevealed RecordingsProtocol Recordings and Armada Music) and I am in touch with all of them for possible future releases.

Besides dance music, what other styles of music or artists do you enjoy listening to?

I really love underground stuff, but then I also love Disclosure, The Weekend, and slower music.

Where you sees the future of electronic dance music?

I think it is going to evolve a little bit, and it will go back to smoother and softer sounds. Four or five years ago everything was very groovy and melodic.

You regularly tour all over the world, from Canada to Brazil to Lebanon whats been the gig of the year for you so far and wheres been the best country to party in since you started playing internationally?

One of my favourite shows this year was in Brazil, in Rio De Janeiro at “The Week”. Amazing club, awesome sound system and an incredible vibe. As for the best country, I couldn’t say which is THE BEST one. When it comes to music there is no really big difference anymore. It is more a matter of the club, big or small, undergroundy or commercial and of course the venue itself. I`ve got the impression that people know how to party no matter where they from and where they live.

Your advice for hopeful producers and DJs.

Take your time, do your own thing and try to find your own personal signature, style or sound. You have to do it every day, every single hour and you have to be passionate about what you’re doing…do what you love and put all your energy into it.

A Sit Down With DJ Bro Safari

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 Over the years, technology has transitioned from samplers to multiple instances of digital judder, but Weiller’s appetite for the sonic fringes is no less voracious. His pitch-bent sound design has established him as a forward-thinking producer of cathartic, harmonics-enriched bangers, while his dynamic sets have made him a North American mainstage mainstay.

“If I could say one thing, I would say don’t look at the status quo and think that that’s what you need to be”.

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Can you tell me a little bit about your musical background before you started as Bro Safari?

 I started DJing and producing around 1998 or 1999 and I was in a group called Evol Intent and we made drum n bass with two other guys and I’m still a part of that group actually. That’s what I mainly did leading up to launching Bro Safari. Before that, growing up, I mainly played in bands. I played guitar, bass guitar, and drums growing up.

How do you balance all of these projects and not get stuck with a bunch of half-finished ideas?

I just try to keep things moving. I can’t say that I’m afraid of a song not getting finished; I have thousands of unfinished songs on my various hard drives from over the years. Sometimes, you have to scratch away the dirt on the surface to find something valuable. If that means that I have to make 173 terrible track ideas just to make one that turns into an actual song, then that’s fine with me. I know other producers that absolutely must finish everything they start, and I admire that. For me, that just doesn’t work. I am constantly changing my workflow, and it’s always a party for me in the studio. As far as balancing everything? WORK HARD. Simple answer.

Do you have any standout moments?

 There’s always those shows that will really surprise you. Last weekend we were in Grand Rapids, up in Michigan, and none of us really knew what to expect having never played there before. Maybe because it’s up near where Electric Forest is and there’s just a lot of people into that music out there, but it was just a completely packed house and a really great show with excellent promoters. Just everything across the line was awesome at that show.

When producing, do you spend much time considering live sets and crowds? 

I spent a lot of time thinking about the crowd too much, to the point I felt I lost sight of what I was doing for a while: Was I trying to please myself, my fans, my peers, or just trying to become a better producer? Now that I had the realization… I’ve put that aside and made very intentional tones and sounds to inject in my songs.

 What do you find hard about collaborating with other people?

Not doing it in the same room is always weird. I think when you’re in the room with somebody, you have a good idea and you can bounce it off of them a lot quicker. Right now, Party Favor and I are trying to get a collab going, but we haven’t quite hit it yet because we’re all set on an idea and he’s like, yea that’s cool, but then without being in the same room together, it’s just kind of hard to brainstorm around the original concept. So it’s basically up to one of us to kick it all off and then we can go from there. That’s probably the hardest part.

Do you think it`s different perfoming for a solely colledge-based crowd?

For a college-based crowd, it’s definitely different. Everyone is there to party, that’s just the nature. On top of that, the venue is typically smaller, which I love. I love to perform in 200-300 [person] capped rooms. It’s fun because it’s more like a house party. It’s also refreshing coming off of festivals. It’s a completely different experience because of the massive crowds. It’s difficult to connect because you can’t see if everyone is into [the show] because it’s intimidatingly large. I definitely like smaller shows and college towns.

You were talking about Evol Intent… How do you keep up with that project and simultaneously maintain your very busy solo career?

The best way to do it is to not play the shows. I don’t really play the gigs, but I work on the music because drum ‘n’ bass is just something I can’t stop working on. 

What tracks and artists are the current weapons of choice?

I’d say Dion Timmer is a sick producer, and we have a collaboration on my EP. His production reflects his sensibility of catchy, off-kilter, heavy, dubstep-trap hybrids. Barely Alive is another set of versatile producers with technical abilities that are amazing. And another I’d shout out is Tisoki—he has an interesting vibe and is a technically gifted producer.

Do you see the bubble of electronic music bursting or do you see it continuing to rise?

I honestly have no idea.  It’s a movement in it’s own and it seems to have already lasted longer than most fads in the music industry going back to the 90’s with grunge which as an example was huge for a time but than slowly petered off. Now you have artists like Skrillex who have been relevant for 5-6 years and have been making it happen for themselves consistently staying as big as he was. Obviously, if the music stays stagnant, the genre is going to die. However, like we were just talking about, people are really pushing the boundaries right now and whether the fans will follow and get a little more weird with us remains to be seen at the moment.

Any  advice for up-and-coming producers?

Don’t look at your favorite artist and say, “I want to be them,” and then follow their path and think that’s gonna get you there. The only thing that’s going to bring you success as a producer is sticking to your guns and making the songs you want to make… If you start thinking, “It’s about branding, it’s about this, it’s about my merch, it’s about how I interact on social media,” … You’re fucked. You want to make sure that you’re always making the music that you want to make and playing the DJ sets you want to play, or else what’s the point? Are you just doing it to be popular? My point is to assess where you’re at and think about what you want. Do you want to be a producer who has longevity? Do you want to be a DJ who’s popular? You know what I mean? Because now being a producer means being a producer/DJ if you really want to make it big. One thing that I can say for sure is that, if you don’t keep it up and if you don’t keep putting out original music that you’re really proud of, it’s gonna go away, it will disappear, and you won’t have anything left. It’s important to be humble, be good to the people who book you to play shows, who want to work with you… Just be good to everyone around you, stick to your guns, and focus on making good music.

 

A Sit Down With DJ Ben Klock

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Klock’s underlying motivations for DJing are as strong today as ever. There is an insatiable hunger when he talks, an underlying passion that can stem only from a profound love for what he does. He sits up and smiles as he describes the feeling of “goosebumps” when he “drops the right track at the right time’ and forms a “deep connection with the crowd,” before pausing to bask in the moment, as if revisiting it in his own head.

“I still see DJing as about 20 percent as a job, but 80 percent as doing what I love—or trying to achieve a vision.

 Of course, there is a business side to it, but I still need to feel the core of it; I still need to feel the passion for it, If there are times where I don’t really feel the energy then I have to adjust quickly because then my role as a DJ won’t work. I have to have passion for it otherwise I cannot be good. Criticism is far more common today than it used to be, but I have had to learn to deal with it because if you get too much involved in this it drags your attention away from what is important. But I do not doubt my ability to be a DJ because I know that I can be amazing; I have had so many amazing shows and special moments, like magic moments—but there will always be times when it doesn’t click.

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How was your daily life in recent years? You did not really produce, it was more a matter of being ready and fit for each date?

When you travel so much, it’s almost impossible to make music. If you play four days in a row, then you have to get back, take care of the mass of emails, meet your agent, and then you’re back on the plane. For a while, I also thought that my musical creation was DJing and I put everything in there. You can sometimes see it as arrangement, almost production, and I also edit a lot of pieces. But it’s time to change and find a balance with production, and by the way take me a few weekends of rest.

What did you do before you became a DJ?

My first job ever as a kid was handing out flyers for clubs on the street, followed by being a Santa Claus for Mars and Snickers. I did many things: sold Olives at a market, did factory work, was a call center agent, I did child-minding, was a street musician with a guitar, a bartender, all kinds of things. As a serious, full-time job, I was graphic designer for a couple of years.

You have become, perhaps in spite of yourself, an icon. It’s interesting that you talk about responsibility. 

Sometimes I do not think about it, especially right now. I was on vacation six weeks, completely cut off from it all. It’s a bit strange for me because I see techno as a community: we share an idea, it is not about stars. But I must say that it makes me think more, and that I sometimes do it twice before choosing certain directions. When you become better known, you have more opportunities to go right or left. It is therefore necessary to choose well. It starts with the collaborations, the festivals where you play or not. Sometimes there is more money in some but the place does not match.

What do you do to keep your stamina up for those kinds of sets?

Nothing really. A bit of champagne and some coffee. When the flow is there, I just enjoy the long sets. Others can sleep for 13 hours, I can play for 13 hours.

Do you practice meditation, yoga, that sort of thing? 

I do yoga, but it never lasts long. Meditation, however, I do practically every day, I think it helps to maintain a balance. It also helps to get to the bottom of things. I think we must try to go beyond superficiality, try to find meaning in one’s life, and realize one’s potential.

How do you assess your creativity?

I hope that I can bring a few colors into the music world, not more. I think it’s all there, we’re not inventing anything new, just re-assembling elements, or combining them in our own, unique and special way. My color is definitely deeper and darker, but always somehow sexy. I’m not particularly interested in trends. For me, it is important that you find your own voice and what you really want to do. I am happy when I see that I can inspire others to find their own way. 

Why don`t you have a manager?

I work with people, but in the end it’s me making decisions and stuff. When you have a manager and they’re deciding for you—I never really got that. I have an assistant who does some of a manager’s job, but I want to be in charge of my profile or artistic direction. I’m not the kind of person who can give that away to someone else.

Name a track that always seems to work on the dancefloor.

At the moment, it’s Robert Hood’s new version of “Never Grow Old.” To be precise, it’s Hood’s alias as Floorplan. I love it, and it lifts the energy to a strong emotional level.

Club residencies seem like they’re becoming a little less popular around the world. What do you think about it?

I think it teaches you a lot if you have a residency—I always think I can go deeper and more intense because of those longer sets, and you read the crowd better and learn things you couldn’t if you just play quick two-hour sets all over the world. You maybe learn something different [with shorter sets], but [don’t have] that intensity. You also learn to present something new every month for people who always come to see you. If you just travel all the time, you can kind of play the same sets everywhere because there are new people everywhere. Residencies challenge you, definitely.

What do you make of the so-called ‘Berghain sound’? Are you glad it has become known over the world or…  is it more of a curse?

I think the term is limiting. The Berghain sound is something to be experienced, and encompasses much more than how it’s often described – that is, heavy bass drums, a dark atmosphere and drone sounds.

What do you think about the state of techno right now as a whole? 

There are always eras where things are copied and everything kind of sounds the same, and it gets a bit mechanical. I think you just have to have authentic artists and unique voices that have their own style, and not care so much about wanting to sound like this and that. As soon as you have that “copy, copy, copy” thing, then it gets boring and is dangerous for the techno scene, because at some point it gets stuck without any life in it anymore. 

Was there someone who mentored you a little bit?

Not really. You have to learn on your own in a way.