Interview by Joe Delon, December 2nd 2020
The 6th mix of our series comes from the mysterious and exceptionally talented S.O.N.S. We have been a fan of his music since the beginning and have in most occasions stocked his highly sought-after releases here at the shop. Now we’ve been presented with an expertly crafted mix of mostly ambient music from the man himself and we couldn’t be happier with the result. Tune in to his mix for a 1 hour trip and read the Q&A below to get to know more about the shadowy artist.
Q: Your mix for us is a mostly beatless nomadic trip through a world of rich textures, expansive landscapes and changing moods. I remember that a review of one of your records referred disparagingly to an ambient track being “all foreplay, with no rhythm other than an occasional kick”. What role does beatless music play in your life? And what wisdom would you share with those who think you can’t have fun without a kick drum?
S: Yes, indeed this mix is all foreplay, this is the word, at some point it almost turns into trance/techno but quickly slows down again to something more ambient again. And sometimes you get this in my records as well. I think you are referring to this review on Resident Advisor, where the reviewer didn’t really enjoy this kind of game… I guess he wouldn’t like the mix either. (haha). But for me a good dj set is like sex, if you deliver too soon too fast everything, did you really enjoy the moment? The longer the better. This applies to life as well, it’s good to learn to enjoy every moment and not just when the dopamine kicks in. Just consider this mix to be the part one of something longer. This is what it should be actually, play something else after.
Q: Your latest record on S.O.N.S. under the name Giorgio Celeste & The Cobra is a collaboration with Pyramid Of Knowledge. You describe it as “6 psychedelic cuts for your rave in the forest”. How did that collaboration come about and what was it like moving into a slightly different sound, made for the forest but this time without any rainforest animal noises?
S: It’s thanks to COVID really. No gigs for a while, no set to prepare, no tour, more time in the studio. It’s funny how suddenly when we couldn’t party anymore, we wanted to make these 4/4 dancefloor tracks, all the way, the full LP, not a single ambient or breaky cut here. Now 8 months later, the situation is still the same, but I hope we can soon party again and do a proper live in the forest in the early hours of the morning.
For the sound, yes it’s just all about trying to do new things. I wanted to try to do more hypnotic trance stuff and Clement (Pyramid Of Knowledge) was also in the same vibe. Darker psychedelic edge, influenced by 90s Italian techno records, and early scandinavian prog/psy-trance.
Q: On that same theme, we’re curious about what vestiges might be left over from your pre-S.O.N.S. sound, which was more house orientated and perhaps less suited to daybreak forest raves. What life events, if any, influenced this trajectory, and are there any things (sounds, moods, images, technical elements) that endure from that era and remain present in your current sound or work process?
S: Yes it’s always the same process, trying to do something different from what I have already done before. Around 2012-13 I was more and more into the deeper, melodic side of 90s techno, early trance as well, more psychedelic sounds. I wanted to try to produce this as well, but I had to find a new alias because it was too different from what I was making before. This is how S.O.N.S started.
If you look at Discogs, back in the days producers were also doing so many different things. Dennis Ferrer made great trance music in his early days (check Aurasfere – The Greenhouse Effect), Ben Klock kicked off with loungey deep house (check Ben E Clock – Clockworks Ep).
Q: We understand that the new record will be the first S.O.N.S. release available digitally at the same time as the vinyl. Back in July you released the entire back catalogue digitally for the first time on bandcamp, initially for free. What feedback have you had on that initiative? How do you feel about digital releases in terms of the impact on vinyl sales, the people you’re reaching and how your music might be consumed?
S: You know, I collect vinyl and play almost exclusively vinyl, but I think the internet, by making things more accessible and easy, also f*cked a bit the whole process of collecting records. And people and djs who collect vinyl themselves are sometimes not really conscious about this. They think internet made things easier. On one side you have the ones who are happy to have access to everything and to be able to download 35 new tracks 2 hours before a set and to play them on a usb stick, and on another side you have the “diggers” who are browsing Discogs hours and hours to check every single release of every single label of a chosen country and in a chosen genre. Well I’m part of them – but is this really digging? And what about the new producers who are making good tracks? Well, if the new tracks are good, thanks to the internet they are probably quite well known and available.. at least on youtube. So less interesting for the so-called “diggers”. It’s a weird paradox, but it tends to give value to less good music, a bit weird, cheeky stuff, as it’s less well known, and more suitable to be playable in a set without anybody knowing what the track is. It gives value to the “not on youtube yet” stuff, etc.
It’s an interesting topic we could develop further but this is not exactly your question. So, back to the topic, when I started S.O.N.S it was not very well known and probably interesting to dig and play this music, on vinyl. Now after 7 records, and some sold at 2000 copies it’s not anymore a “find” for diggers. It appeals to another audience as well, a broader one, people buying/playing digital, people listening on Spotify, etc. Also some of the tracks are not exactly dj friendly stuff, and are just better to listen at home, or to be played on a cdj with the rekordbox beat markers etc. Yes playing on a CDJ is easier, if you ask me I will tell you it’s even cheating! But that’s another topic as well.
Now a message to people who have been buying my releases from the beginning, to vinyl collectors, to people who dig also the rare stuff I play in my sets: I will still make some releases vinyl only. Some special bonus records, maybe sometimes even using another alias, maybe even not linking it at all to S.O.N.S – Oh well maybe some are already released who knows? If you meet me in person, ask me. I know in this Corona Time, physical social interactions are not welcome, well it’s unfortunate. I think the electronic music we believe in needs physical social interaction. We won’t party online, we won’t go to a streaming festival. We like small afterhours, 50 people, dancing, smoke, loud bass, being together, etc. This is not coming out of Facebook, this is not coming out of Youtube, nor Instagram.
Small obscure vinyl releases, that’s what I like, but at the same time, some of the music has to be available digitally. It really depends on the tracks in my opinion, some deserve the vinyl only pressing and being played at this smokey after at 10am, others are to be played at home, streaming or vinyl, and a few of them work in both conditions.
Side note, another label I manage, Hard Beach Entertainment, is vinyl only and I don’t plan to release any digital for this.
Q: Your pre-Covid touring schedule consisted of almost weekly gigs in South Korea and nearby countries, interspersed with occasional month-long forays to Europe. How important is it for you to have extended periods of time-at-home between tours? And has this year’s extended and enforced time-at-home led you to look at your touring schedule at all differently?
S: It’s actually something I really like. Of course, a gig or two a month is great, and now I miss gigs and tours, but the first few months stuck at home were not bad at all. Time to dig deeper, rethink my own sound, where I want to go and where I want to bring people next time I will play, and also time to think about what really matters in life as well. Much needed introspection.
Q: You’re part of the Brainsurgeryhq agency run out of London, which is home to an imposing roster of artists from across the dance music spectrum. What’s it like working with an agency based on the other side of the world, both in the practical sense and in the sense of feeling “at home” with the bookers and other artists?
S: Well for my bookings in Korea I do it by myself. Brain Surgery is only for Europe (and rest of Asia). So it totally makes sense to work with them for these territories, as they know the field better than I do. But most importantly we match 100% musically. My favorite djs at the moment are Jane Fitz and Carl H and they are both in the agency, moreover most djs in the agency are more experienced than me, so it’s a great chance to learn from them too. We all love digging vinyls, playing rare unknown records… so yes I really feel at home, even from far away.
Thanks for having me in the series, and hope I can visit the shop in Lisbon soon!