You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you are a creature of habit. Almost every day of the week has an expected activity: production, PR press releases, your weekly podcast preparation and touring. As an artist breathing the industry daily, how important is it to you to respect your routine? In what ways does this respect translate, and how has your routine defined your personal life and professional life the longer you stay in the industry?
It’s funny you say that, because it’s something I get asked quite regularly. How do you find the time for all the various things you have to do?
You know, it’s strange in a sense, because when you are in this job, dare I say, a bubble created out of this job, it feels like a day-to-day routine, albeit with long hours and little breaks. The truth is that you have to dedicate yourself to this life and treat it as a labor of love; as well as a profession.
Along with that, I think you have to be intelligent in utilizing your time. For instance, most of the written interviews such as these I will work on while on planes, and clean it up after landing. Or if an idea for a melody in a production comes into my head, it’s important to quickly do a rough sketch of your idea with the software on your computer; and then you can come back to it at a later time.
And you are correct with regards to respecting the routine. Unless there is a gig taking place, every Wednesday is dedicated to the Global DJ Broadcast radio show; beginning with going through promos and new releases on Beatport, labeling the files by key and BPM, and eventually figuring out the pieces of the puzzle to make up a two hour mix. And if a gig happens to be there on the day, I’ll try to do more on Tuesday night to have a bit of a head start, although there has been the occasion of working on the show, having to pause to play a gig, and then come back to the hotel and finish the show afterwards.
The key to survival in doing this for so long is to be disciplined and dedicated. I never really go out that much during the week when I am at home. On the night of a gig, I never drink alcohol during my performance, and I’ll tend to only let loose afterwards on the odd occasion. If I am physically and / or mentally feeling the strain, I will try to isolate one Monday a month to have a “switchoff” day; where I don’t go near the computer or the phone.
It helps to decompress once in a while, before getting back on the grid.
There has been a lot of coverage recently regarding the mental health of touring artists. Isolation, stress, and production blocks are more commonplace than discussed. You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you allot production time at home, yet how do you counter the other stresses of touring (time constraints, sleep deprivation, etc)?
The first issue I addressed was that of travel, and the best locations to call home. I moved to London for two years around the turn of the millennium for a period of discovery and reinvention, but when that ended, I needed to figure out where I wanted to call home on a permanent basis.
I knew that if my career was going to take off internationally, I needed to be on the east coast – meaning that the flight duration to Europe would be minimized. And being someone who loves warm weather, Miami became the natural choice. After a few years, I took this mantra further by getting an apartment in Berlin. So if I found myself with a tour schedule encompassing two or more successive weekends in Europe, then I could fly to and from Berlin, rather than Miami, further cutting down on travel time and the risk of jetlag.
Should a gig be a long-haul flight to a destination, to the likes of Asia or Australia for instance, sometimes I will try to come in a day or two early, so I can get the jetlag out of the way and can have a fresh head on the day of a show.
Again, it comes down to being organized and making intelligent decisions on how to manage your schedule and responsibilities.
What piece of advice would you offer to an up-and-coming artist as they embark on their first tour?
The one thing I always stress to them is to be careful what you wish for. To the naked eye, people think that this is a fantastic lifestyle with little to no drawbacks, but it’s quite different in reality. When you get to a certain level, the touring becomes chaotic, especially during the summer when you throw the likes of midweek trips to Ibiza into the mix.
In terms of physically looking after yourself and being responsible, it comes down to the usual aspects we have discussed – sleeping as often as you can get it, being disciplined with your alcohol intake, and try to avoid the perils of drugs.
However, one aspect that is often ignored is that you must understand and respect the art of a DJ set – the ability to read an audience and react accordingly.
Most of the new artists create a track and becomes a hit overnight, and are suddenly thrust upon this giant DJ tour without the preparation or experience; where they have one set for every gig, regardless of the event or location, and what might work at once place may not in another.
So put in the effort to build your library and have the tracks to facilitate a reaction depending on what you feel from the crowd.
You’ve played almost every single, prolific event known within the industry; your crowds have ranged from thousands deep, to an intimate hundred. In addition, you’ve played sets of all calibers; one hour, five hours and remarkably, thirteen hours. Your mental and physical preparation often begins weeks in advance, so we must ask; what will you be testing, whether it be a personal bar or experimental set, as you prepare to play in REV’s intimate space?
To me, the best mindset is to read the room on the night itself, and tailor the set to the vibe of the crowd. I am fortunate to have the experience of playing at REV before, so that is always useful. Since using the Pioneer Rekordbox software for organizing my music, I have stored playlists of all of my gigs, meaning that I can go back to my last show there, jog my memory in remembering what went over well with the fans in attendance, and use it as a starting base.
It was revealed during last month’s Transmission festival in Prague that I am working on a new Dakota album for 2017; and the music on that is slowly beginning to take shape. I have a few in a decent roadtest structure to play, and the intimate environment of REV will be perfect to do just that.
Hopefully there will be a sense of family, with the gig falling on Thanksgiving weekend.
Your steady release of music has mirrored your personal growth as both an artist and patron within the industry. What possible, unconventional style do you see your next release(s) leaning towards, or what musical component would you like to utilize next that you have not used before? Components may include, but are not limited to: an unexpected vocalist, a sound from a polar opposite genre, an emphasis on an underutilized instrument’s acoustics, etc.
It’s funny you say that, because it’s exactly what happened when working on Watch the World – and that was the regular utilization of a guitar.
Nowadays, because of all the travel involved with touring, you want your production setup to be as simple as possible. Typically, on the road I have a separate laptop with Logic and Ableton on it. Ableton is good for carving out loops and rough ideas, and Logic helps me get creative with the sounds and effects. In fact, nearly all of the tracks on Scream and Scream 2 were produced this way.
However, with the production of Watch the World, I consciously wanted to utilize more organic instruments like guitars. Even if you don’t hear it in the mix, there’s a guitar buried there, or a piano that’s buried in there because it just brings out a frequency that I feel is missing or has been missing in a lot of productions lately. It just warms it up so nice. From a production standpoint, this was the biggest aspect which I have taken appreciation from.
With the next big project, the Dakota album, it will delve into a hybrid of music and art, and that right now is using a lot of my brain power to get ready for next year. I’m excited to see how the next 12 months develop.
Lastly, your presence in the industry has been highlighted by the individuals you surround yourself with: Paul Oakenfold, Ferry Corsten, John Digweed and Danny Tenaglia, to name a few. As a result, you’ve established your own sound, carved out demanding productions and tailored your set experience to be the redefinition of encompassing. If the opportunity presents itself to look back on today ten years from now, what is the sole impact you want to have on the current state of affairs and sound within the trance industry?
I still feel I have a lot left to contribute towards the scene, and continually strive to undertake new ideas and projects as each year passes. When you’re deeply entrenched in your schedule, you never really get time to take a step back and smell the roses.
For me, I’ll only judge myself when it is all over. When people say “you’ve achieved so much, there must be nothing left”, I don’t actually feel that way at this moment.
However, I think that with each little thing you do, it’s like you are adding a small piece to a giant jigsaw puzzle – like an album, or a significant solo set in the clubs, or special sets like the Sunrise Set or Classics Showcase on Global DJ Broadcast. You don’t know what it looks like in the beginning, but by the end, my hope is that there is a legacy that people will feel that made a significant contribution towards the industry as a whole.
So the goal for me is to keep going with what I’m doing, and also through the talents under Coldharbour and SMG, to help guide them towards achieving their dreams too.
If I leave this industry having inspired people to the point of being regarded as a legend in the end, that will do for me.