Author: Bent Sentient
Date: Sep 3, 2001
sept 03, 2001
When and how did you get into music production, under whose initiative? Was producing psy-trance your original aim?
J: I played my first Trance set as a DJ at Rustlers in 1997. There was some guy from Israel playing as well - I got a great response from people and realised if I wanted to take my DJ'ing career overseas I had to produce as well. Producing psy has been my one and only aim.
P: The how predates the when by over a decade. Ive been drawn to electronic noises for as long as I can remember - my first synth was an old short wave radio that Id tune between bands to get this weird frequency modulation effect. In my early teens I stumbled across a prophet 5 and I was hooked. But it was only much later when I actually had the cash to start getting a small studio together. Psy-trance only come quite a bit later, but it provided me with the impetus to quit my crappy job and get on with making music.
What were your first experiences/influences of psychedelic trance?
J: A full moon party on the slopes of Chapman's Peak thrown by Patrick from Logos fame, in about Dec. 1996.
P: a warehouse party at quay 5 in the Cape Town docks, Nov 95 I think, Sid Shanti was the main attraction. It simply pulled the rug out from under my feet - it was the sound Id been waiting my whole life to hear. Id been into house and techno for about 5 years already by then, but as soon as I was exposed to (what was then) goatrance there was no going back.
Bent Sentient, as of yet, has no releases what is their background? How is Midranged related to Bent Sentient?
J: Bent Sentient is basically me and P. We had known each other for quite some time before deciding to attempt our first track together. It was Deathrattle. We stuck the CD "Mideranged" together with another guy called Jeff (who had suggested the name Midrange Freedom Fighters). When we started working together exclusively, we decided on the new name.
P: We have a release coming up on Alchemy. It wont be the last.
How does Furtive records tie in to your music?
J: We basically established Furtive Records as the label name for the CD release. At that stage we knew there would be no chance of getting the CD released so we did it ourselves as a consolidation of our efforts till then.
The genre of trance has moved into many different categories since 2000 how would you describe Bent Sentients sound?
J: Progressive twinges lost in a forest of psychedelics. I feel that too much of the current progressive minimal stuff lacks identity and character. I like its groove and concentration on percussion but it needs more psychedelics to spice it up and give it more character. The emphasis with our sound is on bass and percussion - the heart of the engine. You have to be able to dance to it first and foremost. The psychedelics are the ear candy that transport you to different dimensions.
P: To extend what J is saying, I feel that our emphasis on percussion and the groove is simply a return to the root of all dance music, regardless of its specific genre. If you get that groove going sufficiently people are sucked in, whether they like it or not. As much as I liked goatrance to start with, its bombastic nature ultimately did it no favours. Its alienating for newcomers to the scene to be met by this wall of sound and even for old hands it can get a bit much. Also, all that clamour makes it difficult to get a really good rhythm going. Music is as much about space as it is about sound, after all. When you create the extra space you can insert much weirder sounds into that space and really do peoples heads in.
How do you feel about the goa sticker that psychedelic trance is usually related to? Is goa dead?
J: A label that has ultimately been detrimental to the trance scene as a whole. I prefer Psychedelic Trance. Goa is definitely over and done with. The twiddly melodies and concept that trance is about layering as much sound together has led to its rejection on the whole. I also feel too many producers in SA are trying to emulate the goa sound without a true understanding of what is currently happening in the psy- trance scene. I feel the direction 3D Vision has taken with the old goa style is far more relevant and kicking.
P: Here I disagree with J a bit - I think the goa thing was fucking amazing and, although its no longer relevant, I feel disloyal denigrating it. Those grinding, searing, wobbly lines were what made the psychedelic stuff stand out at the beginning and some of the best experiences of my life have been in the path of that particular express train. But music, by its very nature, is about change over time - anything thats static is ultimately boring. Goa trances powerful identity was, in many respects, its undoing. Still, GMS are still doing very well out of the storming stuff
South Africa has had a thriving trance scene for many years, yet has taken South Africans a relatively long time to start producing their own music? What are some of the barriers that are holding them back?
J: The expenses of setting up a serious studio, a lack of people with relevant PC/ MIDI knowledge, and a lack of producers to interface with and share ideas and techniques.
P: money, skill, talent, dedication, lack of recognition. Acquiring decent production skills is a bit of a mountain to climb because it requires both access and application. Overseas there is a community of engineers/producers that newbies can learn from and studios to learn in, but here theres none of that. The number of people here who know anything about dance music production is negligible. And they tend to guard their secrets jealously. But even when youre willing to help, its frustrating to try and help people who dont seem to want to help themselves by reading, experimenting, etc. There are loads of resources on the net that simply did not exist when I was starting out and newcomers to the production scene owe it themselves to spend as much time as they can getting a good grounding in the basics. Then theyre in a really good position to get something useful out of those of us whove been at it for longer.
What are some of your more important pieces of equipment, in your studio? How important is the computer in the whole process? (Do you use a Mac or PC?)
J: Basically my A3000 sampler is in the thick of it all. The Virus is also great at everything - from percussion to ripping leads and some veryyyyy strange psychedelics. The PC is basically my sequencer at the moment (I don't own a decent sound card) but in future I will be using it more often. It's great for manipulating samples in a more sculptural sense. The sampler conversely is great for unexpected sample manipulations and percussion. It's basically a glorified (and very extremely sophisticated) drum machine.
P: My whole studio is designed in a modular fashion - virtually everything can be routed into, through and around everything else. This gives me a lot more options than I would have, given my (relatively) limited kit list. Most important bit of kit - it pains me to say this (because I love synths so much), but the PC. Without the PC Id not be doing this and Im using it more and more all the time. My favourite bits of kit: integrator and doepfer modulars, nord micromod, a beautiful new Indigo. As for samplers - Im ditching mine just as soon as a decent VST sampler (on the level of exs24 for logic) is released. Anybody want to buy a cheap sampler?
How important is the production feature when writing your music?
J: It's as crucial as everything else. Without decent production techniques your killer bassline is a mere wimp trying to push out his chest and hold in his tummy. This is even truer for percussion.
P: Its the main thing, I think. Dance music is production music: its generally played on huge systems so it had better sound good.
Trance is considered to be more musical than other forms of dance music, how important is a musical background in your opinion? Would you say that you have to be a musician to write psychedelic trance? Does past Dj experience help/ influence your style? What would you say are the more important skills for a producer?
J: A musical background is undeniably beneficial just in terms of knowing what the hell youre doing and makes some basics of composing easier. It doesn't mean however, that you'll create good trance. Creating good trance is all about understanding the genre and approaching the whole thing with your ego locked away in a cupboard. It's a sacred and majik form of music and needs to be respected as such. Moulding a track is much like using magic to cast a spell - if your intentions are good then the spell works its charms. If not it just ends up sounding morbid and drab. Humour is a key element. Key elements of production are firm grip on rhythm and percussion, the willingness to be experimental with your approach to making sound and putting it together, good editing skills of knowing what is working and what not and throwing the crap out no matter how good you think it sounds. I find DJ experience to be crucial in terms of staying up to date with current production techniques and styles. Like I mentioned earlier - too many SA producers are trying to make Goa.
P: Every skill you bring to the party helps. But the most important attribute, IMH, for producing this style of music is the deep desire to do so. A lot of people harbour creative impulses but dont realise just how difficult it can be to actualise those impulses. They also have no idea how much it hurts when you spend hours and hours producing something and people criticize it. And this is why a sense of humour is almost equally as important. This music (and certain of its producers) can get very up their own arse and humour is one of the best laxatives out there. Finally, a healthy mixture of self-belief and humility would also help.
Outdoors or indoors which do you prefer?
J: Outdoors, naturally. The music strikes resonances and chords with the frequencies and mathematics that surround us in nature and in the universe. The sympathetic resonance that emanates exerts a far stronger effect on people than in a club.
P: I cant believe anyone could prefer being indoors. Unless its raining. Or below zero. Oh, and a good club definitely has a vibe about it. Er, ok - they both have their merits, but I generally prefer being outside. Seeing the moon peeking over a stand of trees as a great tune is rising into the atmosphere or the smiles on peoples faces as the dawn breaks mmmm.
Psy-trance does not have the reputation of being well mixed when played to parties. Do you think the dominance of cd has anything to do with this? Should psy-trance be beat mixed?
J: Psy trance is not mixed well because most DJs don't have a fucking clue. All my sets for the last year have been played off CD and have been beat mixed. Psy should be beat mixed but not in the techno/ house tradition. Chopping and changing trax while theyr'e playing tends to disturb the central concept of trance, which is flow. The beat mixing should enhance the flow, not disturb it.
P: People raising this sort of criticism have simply never seen a decent psytrance dj. When the music is properly mixed the whole experience changes and you start getting these evolving soundscapes going on, rather than someone playing the hits. At the risk of seeming biased (but Ive been to trance parties on every continent except Australia so I think I have some experience in this), J is one of the best out there: fantastically good at putting a set together with impeccable mixing. You guys down in Cape Town are missing out.
Would you say local artists and producers are well supported?
J: No, we suffer from the usual South African syndrome of Overseas is Better. Conversely the artists suffer a similar disease - if I'm big in SA that's all that matters. Our DJ'ing and production need to be 100% up to international standards or else we shouldn't even bother. If it's good enough in SA it doesn't necessarily mean it's good enough.
P: We should remember that psytrance is fringe music in this country and is probably never going to get much coverage in the press, on tv, etc. Support is often simply the result of a concerted marketing effort, but marketing takes money, and theres no money in psytrance, so Thus, your classic music industry vicious circle. Having said that, some of our music is going to be in a forthcoming episode of yizo yizo and its quite a trippy idea that well over a million black South Africans will be exposed to a type of music that they have never heard before. And theyre paying us for it.
How do you think artists/labels overseas view South African scene in terms of producers and Djs is there a market for SA music overseas?
J: They don't - we haven't given them a reason to sit up and take notice yet. We are doomed until our producers start making cracking psy - trance with an indigenous identity - and I DON"T mean ethnic or African sounding.
P: There needs to be more of a production scene here with people feeding off each others ideas - this, more than anything, will give the music an identity. Other than Ans and Regan, I dont know of anybody else doing it seriously. Id like to see a little production scene developing along the lines of the one that krushed and sorted have created for beats. Perhaps Solipse might provide the impetus for this. Theres always a market for good music, wherever it comes from.
You have a release coming up on a London based label, how was their reception to South African artists/sound? Is your release on a 12" or cd? What will be the best place to get hold of this release?
J: Very good. Basically all trance is viewed with one concept in mind - quality. The release is on a new compilation CD coming out called Electrum on Alchemy records. The best place to get hold of it will be the usual channels. It's set for international release in April.
There are many new artists from all over the world. Who would you say is making interesting/innovative music at the moment?
J: The 3D Vision crew for making absolutely storming psy - trance, Yumade for making sophisticated and primal trax, and Manmademan for pushing boundaries and producing trance of the highest quality. And all the Scandinavians/ Germans for putting the groove back into trance.
P: I have a strong affinity and liking for idiosyncratic artists like Process and Quirk, who often seem to be outside of trends and yet produce utterly classic tunes. And Billy Cosmosis is also great: very underrated, I think. Otherwise, I like what the French and Scando guys are doing.
Are there any other artists outside of psy-trance category that you are currently listening to at the moment?
J: No need.
P: For the first time in years Ive been listening to a wide variety of music again (mostly older stuff though). I must be honest, though, its mostly to pinch percussion and production ideas. I dont know if it means Im becoming an old fart, but my girlfriends even been turning me onto jazz. Haha - J will probably break up the band after that revelation.