You opened your set tonight with a remix and you’ve had great success with your remixes recently. Do you prefer remixing tracks or creating original tracks?
It’s a completely different thing. With a remix, I generally only agree to do it or choose to do a bootleg if the original is a really strong track and I feel there is something already there that I can work with, especially these days because there’s not really a lot of money in remixing. Back in the old days you could get a ridiculous amount of money for doing a remix so you’d just say yes. These days, you hear a track you really like and you think “I’d like to play of that in my sets.” It’s completely different from doing an original work because you have to rely on your own really good idea, but with a remix you’re relying on someone else’s really good idea and all of the production is just for fun.
How do you get the original vocal samples for tracks such as your remix of London Grammar?
Well, sometimes what I will do is sort of like a bootleg where I EQ it to get just the vocal and start working on that. If it sounds really good, then you can try to clear it with the original artist. Arnie at Black Holes Records is really good with that sort of thing so we will just get in touch with the artist and say that we want to do a remix. They’re usually up for it because it gives them additional exposure.
With the London Grammar remix, that was just a bootleg. We’ve been trying to clear it for the past six months. We haven’t had any luck but we were trying to clear it again and trying to use it for Pure Trance 3. The thing is, if you’re the original writer there is not really anything in it for you if somebody does a trance remix of your track.
You have your own record label. How do you monetize your work, and do you make any money from the label in today’s music industry?
No, not really. It’s all on YouTube. I have six labels, but only four are actually active. I don’t run them for money. Look at Giuseppe Ottaviani, he has his first label and is signing stuff left, right and center because he hears this really good music and just wants to release it. With my label, I have been doing it for such a long time now that I am also just doing it for the passion of the music. The thing is, there’s so much work involved.
Every hour you spend organizing a release on your label is an hour you should really be spending on writing your own stuff, so you try to strike a balance between your passion and wanting to release others’ music and spending time on my own tracks.
How have music streaming services changed the prospects for you label?
Sometimes I release a track for one of my artists that we are both really excited about, but then no one buys it. But even 50,000 plays on Spotify the artist makes $5. I guess it partially depends on why you’re in the business. The money these days is going to the performers. Record sales are definitely improving and it helps if you can manage to get a song on a big compilation like A State of Trance. If you get into music for the money, you’re kind of wasting your time.
That’s a perfect lead into what I wanted to ask you next. You stuck through what seemed to be a very hard time for trance. What drove you to stick around?
The honest answer? Well, the truth is, I am shit at everything else. I’ve been a producer since my early twenties and it’s the one thing that I love to do. I’ve been through several ups and several downs through my career, and there has been several times when I have been completely broke. But I was kinda broke when I started. I was working in a factory 12 hours each day and only making enough to pay my rent, all while making music.
I do it because I love it. I’m doing well enough right now, but maybe I won’t be in a few years. It comes and goes and you just got to do what your heart is in, I think. It doesn’t matter what you do, in my experience, when you do something that you love and you make a living from it, then that the perfect setup.
Giuseppe Ottaviani mentioned that you’ve been working on a project, Pure Energy. What do you have planned for the coming months?
We’ve been working on Pure Energy for a few months now. We had a conversation about it and decided we really like to produce together. We decided, why not take the idea of back-to-back sets and go a step further with musician-to-musician sets. So we have written a bunch of our new stuff and done remixes of some of our tracks and other artists’ tracks, and we will perform these live. We’ll use two laptops and a bunch of gear, similar to what Giuseppe does in his sets but with both of us.
So that’s what I have been working on. Plus I will also be releasing Pure Trance 3 in the last week of October. There is also a new track from Federation coming out called Be There. All of us are in the music video. I play a psychotic doctor and Ben plays a crazy patient in a mental home.
I’ve been working on new material ever since Pure came out, but I want my next album to have a particular sound and I haven’t quite decided what I want that sound to be. So I have a load of tracks that are still in demo form. I’m just at the stage that I need to make a decision. I don’t want to repeat myself but I don’t want it to be completely different. I just don’t want to rush.
What can we look forward to hearing from your radio show, Solaris International?
You know, we’re on episode 419 but I am actually thinking about changing the name of the show to Pure Trance. I don’t know how much longer Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance will be going for because he’s changed his sound a lot, so I may as well use ‘trance’ in the name of my show.
Do you not feel that Armin van Buuren played a big role in helping 138 bpm trance achieve its current status?
I think the attention placed on 138 was inspired by Pure Trance and I’m not sure Who’s Afraid of 138?! would be around if it weren’t for Pure Trance. The EDM bubble is so near the end of its life that I think it’s very strange for someone like Armin to be going towards that sound right now.
The whole EDM thing has opened up a lot of doors for people like me because electronic music such as disco and house has always been such an underground thing, but now EDM has introduced millions of people to electronic music. A lot of those people are looking for something new and trance is just sitting there waiting for them and it’s the most beautiful type of dance music. Anybody who loves melody and real music will get introduced to dance music by EDM, then possibly come to love trance.
Ok, I like to ask an unusual question at the end of interviews. I asked Giuseppe which Olympic sport he would compete in, so what would yours be?
If I had to do an Olympic sport, it would probably be sitting on my ass, smoking.
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