LessThan3: Phoenix from the Flames has incredible vocals from Justine Suissa–one of our favorite vocalists. How do producers link up with singers? Do you write the lyrics then shop around for a singer? How does it happen with you?
It varies a bit. In the case of Justine, Jono from Above & Beyond
had put in a good word for me. He knows I’m a bit of a perfectionist who works obsessively with details and mixing, and she wanted to work with someone like that at the time. We started talking and agreed to put something together. This happened before I had a specific track in mind so I sat down and started writing a backbone without drums or anything–just chords and stuff. The way I know Justine, she works very quickly without compromising quality. She didn’t record her ideas in a studio, instead playing the music from her speakers at home, singing over it and recording the whole thing on a handheld recorder. Not exactly ideal but hey, it worked and she got her ideas across. Once we decided what to commit to, I jumped on a plane to London and we recorded two tracks in Above & Beyond’s studio. I brought them back to my own studio here in Norway and started working on them. That’s pretty much how it’s been with other vocalists as well, like Aruna
and Ashley Tomberlin
, except those gals record at home. In most cases, I get in touch with the singer/songwriter I want to work with, ask if they’re interested and things progress from there.
LessThan3: Pieces of the Puzzle has a bit of a spacey/exploratory feel to it. What kind of setting do you want people to listen to that track in?
That was originally Colin’s (Soundprank’s
) idea and I sort of produced it to death–it mutated heavily. He had more of a straight, progressive club track with some great chords and I made it pretty spaced out, I think. At some point during the production cycle I was like “What the heck have I done here? It’s become too complicated! Nobody is gonna like this!” I was a bit nervous about that but it did surprisingly well. I’ve wanted to do something like that for a while now, a club track that’s also a bit of a sonic trip.
LessThan3: How is it working with Soundprank?
Schtein: He’s easy to work with. Lovely guy with a great sense of humor. He’s pretty young but has a tremendous amount of talent and a good ear for detail. There’s something about his harmonies that really appeals to me. We actually did a remix together first but sadly, it’s been a year and it’s still not out yet.
LessThan3: It really speaks to your musical abilities when you are able to produce full albums with a large variety of music on them. Like Andrew Bayer’s last album, for example.
Schtein: Absolutely. Musicians have so much musical ability within them; if you just sit down to make an album full of banging trance then it’s going to get boring after a while. I think it’s really healthy for artists doing albums to think outside the box, blend styles and experiment a little to show people what they have inside them in terms of different sounds and musical interpretations.
LessThan3: What are your thoughts on the evolution of Anjunabeats?
Schtein: I think Anjuna as a record label has always been very quality oriented with a specific overall sound. The label has changed, especially over the past year, but so have the styles. There have been people complaining that trance in particular is going in the wrong direction but I don’t see the harm in change as long as the music itself is good. There’s less room for the type of trance we had two or three years ago than some people think.
LessThan3: Is that because people are bored of it? Has there been too much of it?
Schtein: Everything needs change. If you do the same thing for too long then people just get bored of it. I’ve always argued that when you’re used to something and it changes, there will always be a lot of opposition, but this is the only way to ensure forward progression. Besides, trends have a tendency to cycle around. The question is whether you want to stay in one place or tap into 20 different things and come back to where you started in the first place; 20 experiences versus 1 experience. Evolution is a good thing–it doesn’t mean things are going to disappear forever.
LessThan3: Avicii’s Street Dancer is a great example here. With the rise of the internet, we’re seeing a fusion of sounds that previously wouldn’t have been mixed together. It’s bridging different audiences.
Absolutely. If you have something new to offer, it blows up so quickly these days. Look at Skrillex
. It was incredible how fast he became so big. The Norwegian dance scene is undeveloped and limited but Skrillex can fill an arena over here, which says a lot. TV-advertised gigs. I commend that–I applaud it. Word gets around and people get the chance to create something new much faster. You don’t see something start somewhere and then take years to migrate overseas–it happens virtually overnight.
LessThan3: There’s been a lot of talk about labels not being as necessary nowadays. The big four have become the big three at least in the US. The major labels are crumbling and we’ve heard from a few artists that they aren’t sure if they really need a label anymore. They feel that they have a direct connection to their fans already and have other tools already at their disposal. What is your take on how the label world is changing?
Schtein: It’s probably more important for new artists. People may be interested in hearing music coming out of an established label rather than new stuff coming out of “nowhere”–then you rely completely on word of mouth. In my case, even if I maybe could, there’s no way I have time to do what Anjuna does for my music. Publishing, licensing, DJ mail-outs, promotion, keeping track of things… there’s a lot going on behind the curtains of a single release. To be honest, if I did everything on my own, I would probably make more money, but there’s so little financial gain to be made selling music these days that I don’t really make Boom Jinx tracks for money anyways. I do it because it’s my labor of love and if people enjoy my music and it gets out there–YouTube, iTunes, Beatport, whatever it is–hopefully with time they’ll get the opportunity to see me live. They’ll pay for that and that’s really how artists make money these days.
LessThan3: Switching topics–back on Anjunabeats 7 you produced a track called Milano. It’s been one of our favorites. Historically, how do you think it separated from what was already out there at the time?
, I had a nearly finished track but it was lacking something. Jimbo (Jaytech) and I had talked about collaborating so I sent him a few ideas and he really liked that one. He did some clever things with it, it went
forth and back a couple of times and looking back, it’s probably our biggest release to date. It was a track with a touch of mass appeal; my hairdresser liked it, my folks liked it, our mastering engineer liked it… I think one of the reason people embraced it is because it had some of that 80s appeal with that Axel F theme from Beverly Hills Cop
vibe going for it–retro but new school.
LessThan3: If you could have any artist rework one of your tracks, who would you choose? More generally, who are some of today’s biggest musical innovators?
It’s a bit of a cliche but I wouldn’t mind having Hans Zimmer or John Williams rework some of my stuff. Above & Beyond, Stimming
would be cool if I could squeeze out some of his more emotional stuff. I really like what he and Kaskade
did with Move for Me
and I Remember
LessThan3: What do you feel is the best way for a fan to approach you? The worst way? Any stories?
Schtein: To be honest, I can’t stand when strangers ask me to listen to their music. I understand why they do it because when I was an aspiring producer, I sent my music to more established guys to get their validation. I get a bunch of promos I have to listen through to stay abreast with what’s going on in the music world and I barely have time to do that. An aspiring producer could be the next big thing but his music isn’t necessarily good right now. Every producer goes through a stage where his/her stuff isn’t very good. If I listen to it from my standpoint with a bit more experience, I won’t have much good to say about it. This could end up being very de-motivating and I don’t want to be the guy to demotivate an aspiring producer. I want to support up-and-coming guys as much as I can. The best way for a fan to approach me is to ask specific questions. I’m happy to give people advice or share a good story. If a guy writes to me, “how do I get great drums,” it’s not really something I can answer in a few lines. Asking for specific production techniques, advice on who to talk to, etc… then I can definitely try to help out. As for stories, there was a guy who became so upset when I said it’s not fair to my record label that I send him my tracks for free, he responded “you’re finished in USA.”
LessThan3: In our last interview with you we asked what you would listen to if the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes and you said you wouldn’t listen to a song. What would you do instead?
Schtein: Cry? Comfort my loved ones, saying I love them? In any case, I don’t think an iPod would get much attention. For the sake of comedy, let’s say I would aim for the nearest bar and celebrate the end of taxes.