Monday, 23 May 2011

TEA with Sian

Philosopher, literary critic and media theorist Marshal McLuhan's the medium is the message is a statement inciting that a form of a medium embeds it self within a message, in turn creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

This couldn't be more prevalent in todays music where talk of vinyl vs digital is only seconds away from a heated debate. For Octopus Recordings boss Sian aka Graham Goodwin tradition is something he can't wait to escape, today record labels are easily established and run on the road at next to nothing thanks to the wonders of wireless internet. Pursuing purely digital distribution as an unknown act or label, in an already over saturated market in most cases will see those languish in the digital doldrums, as many current digital acts and net labels are. So it's with knowledge, grace and forward thinking that Sian has established himself as an sought after artist with an highly regarded label via this very digital medium, once again taking us back to McLuhan's inquisition of the medium being the message.

TEA caught up with Goodwin to talk life between Dublin and Barcelona, balearic hippies, an assortment of "ology's", peak time dance floors and a classic blend of your favourite cuppa.

So you were born in Dublin but then moved to Spain. What brought about the move?

I moved to Spain at age four and traveled around quite a bit with my parents. My folks were up for a change and my father left banking to start up a up a bar with my mum, I think both looked to escaped Ireland's economic squeeze at the time. When I think about it was quite a bold move as they had to bring up and take care of me and my 2 brothers, the 3 children from hell. Being a DJ with a wild imagination and love of limbo travel definitely comes in handy, a sense of adventure and appetite for the travel is the best thing our parents gave us, that will always been in me and my brothers.

How influential has Spain been on you and your music?

Hugely, Spain is always with me. Apart from the modern lazy Spanish outlook, Spain has always been a very inspiring, creative, bohemian and elegant place, a sort of runaway sanctuary for some. It has a sense of outsiders lurking and people looking for something better and brighter. This has created a strange population of roving balearic hippies and per flautas (crusts) which keep the party scene vibrant. A large portion of the youth are unemployed which makes for some good party action too. In terms of music I think Flamenco has much in common with the banging rhythms of techno, it has been influential on my productions for sure and you can hear it in the melodic techno I make.

And Dublin? Do you consider it home?

Well I tend to move each year and for now Dublin is home, it’s always a nice place to come back to as well. I consider myself Irish, made in Dublin and very proud of that. It’s so small and village-like, I can walk out my door and see people I am somehow connected with immediately. I lost that living in Barcelona or Berlin where it can seem as though many cities are combined. Dublin is bang central and although lacking in some aspects such as an electronic music scene, the parties that happen here are legendary. I find it strange that electronic music in Dublin doesn't have more exponents actually, given our rock ,traditional and pop music history we should really have more producers and labels. In terms of character it has definitely given me some stubbornness which is important too!

Tell us about your interests in Entomology, Cosmology and Marine Biology. For the uninformed could you explain what they are and where your interest lie.

I've always been a Zoology enthusiast, any spare time I get I’m always reading up on Entomology, the study of insects, Cosmology, our universe and Marine Biology, sea life. I’m in the water any chance I get and when on tour I try to find any nature and snorkeling trips I can make during down time.These things are at most a hobby and I’m always looking to learn more. Reading can be difficult when you have been staring at computer screen for 10 hours so a big part of writing music is getting away from it and standing back, I have been realising this more and more of late.

How did your first begin production, to working your way into clubs, to starting a label?

By obsessively collecting records (laughs). This lead me sampling and messing around with drum machines. I then edged my way into the support slot zone. I was playing at the Kitchen initially as a kid, a superb electronica and techno club that U2 part owned. Then things happened quite fast after my 1st Pokerflat release which lead to DJing around Europe. I then teamed up with Gabriel Anandas label Karmarouge and their booker, which again led me further afield. I recently signed up to the Mainstage agency in London which in my opinion is the number one agency. They represent a lot of guys like Sasha, Adam Beyer and M.a.n.d.y so that's a huge step for me.

Octopus Recordings. Tell us about the name and how you decided on it?

Since I’m into marine biology it seemed like a perfect name. An Octopus is a multi tasking, intelligent and unusual creature. As a word I’ve always thought it was peculiarly formed and it fitted so nicely as a font. The aim of the label is to be resilient, versatile and somewhat mysterious, so it suits.

How are things going with the label? Your Beyond Silence release looks to be injecting a new approach into electronic music, is this something you were looking to do?

Yes, we are looking at some news ways to approach production, chopping things into tools and re-editing live. This is a huge part of what we are, non conformist and looking at ways to mess with formats. Beyond Silence was constructed from all the separate parts of my new tracks, so for me it feels unique and fresh for the industry. We also started giving out tools with the releases so people can mix the parts up. Coming next we have some superb remixes from Losoul, Funk D'void, Secret Cinema and some other heroes of ours.

You said in a recent interview “I have zero respect for tradition actually” regarding the relevance of the vinyl single, album, record stores and distribution models of the past. What are you and Octopus Recordings doing in leading the way for this new model?

We are really pushing digital formats, being light on overheads and keeping it mostly in-house, providing a medium for new renegade labels. We can master, produce, direct art and distribute directly to Beatport ourselves. Beforehand the stale old model of a hierarchal system of distributors standing in the way and making decisions for labels is over. Now a small and cutting edge labels can compete on an even playing field, in a lot of cases reaching and interacting with fans directly, this is a welcoming change the old boys are scared of.

You also mention how you are of the opinion that ‘electronic tracks, especially "dancefloor" material, don't really work in a traditional album format, since they are ultimately destined for a club’. Many electronic music producers are experimenting with ‘non-dance floor tracks”. Is this something you are interested in or is Sian only music for the dancefloor?

Well I find it hard to define ‘dancefloor’ but I aim peak time. I’m also into lots of dub and electronica which I think can find a place in the clubs too. Mainly I’m interested in club music for those big moments. Creating something as a chunk of sound and not necessarily focusing on the genre, but more the technique and playing style. I do believe our scene is largely about singles and club tracks and so is Octopus. The format we do this in should reflect that such and we have done so with Beyond Silence as it flows continuously and is made in a similar fashion to the way I DJ.

Tell us about the process of arranging all 1,013 individual tracks for Beyond Silence. Where did you start and how long was the process?

It was a nightmare to be honest. The session in Ableton was gigantic and very hard keep order. I had to make sure I didn’t move things once set and made sure I planned ahead so that each tracks part synced into the next, it took me over a year of editing. If a single hit or another part slipped off the grid I was back to several hours finding that problem. Looking back I do feel it was worth it and the hard work shows, I mean that’s what it’s about right? Letting the sweat and time show. It would have been too easy to just line up the 10 tracks in an album format.

How have your ideals and production methods changed since your last album Rhino Flowers 9 years ago?

I still make the same stripped down, loopy techno but yes the tools I use, like maschine and VST’s have replaced the Akai MPC. I still use the same techniques but now I’m more focused on the dance floor. I’m actually working almost exactly the same way but with newer tools. Native Instruments has really helped me out and I’m finding ways to use all my old analogue samples in a modern framework. Rhino Flowers was a lot dubbier and slower, my new work I guess you could say is much more club oriented.

Tell us how you went about choosing your remixers for Beyond Silence. Not a bad list, must have been fun.

They are people whose music I really love to play, on or off peak time. I think this reflects well on our musical spectrum at Octopus. All the artists at the top of our list said yes, so this was very encouraging and surprising. Each artists delivered their sound so well and it was crazy to hear what everyone did with their parts. I think the fact the idea of Beyond Silence was quite radical which seemed to pique peoples interest. The remixes range from big room guys like Ramon Tapia and Carlo Lio to super high end technical guys like Terence Fixmer and Donor & Truss. They all somehow made something that sounds like the label too, which im honored to say is a big compliment.

Has Octopus Recordings given you the chance pick and choose artists you’ve always admired to remix your work?

Exactly, they are people I like personally and artistically. When I got the go ahead that they were up for remixing me it had to be on my label (laughs). It kind of snowballed into a big remix collection. It would have been in some ways easier to release this big collection with big names on a bigger label but I was very proud that these guys were up for having it released through Octopus. The remix process has ended up being a very personal experience for us at the label.

With such a large remix roster for Beyond Silence, was finding what you considered fresh or new talent important? Clement Meyer perhaps?

That was definitely a big factor. I have people on there like Clement Meyer and Basic Soul Unit. These guys are red hot talent that I’m proud to grab on their way up. In two years these guys will be massive.

Tell us about the Octopus Trainwreck residency at Dublin’s The Pod. You had the launch with Anja Schneider on April 8th, how was it and how often will you be playing there?

The opening night was packed and crowd were well up for it. Anja plays kinda tough when she's in Dublin, so her belnd of old school Chicago house and techno was super nice. The venue is awesome which is made up of The Pod, Tripod and Crawdaddy, 3 very well laid out venues with the best sound system in Ireland. It will be once a month, next up is Kaiserdisco.

You play with Anja quite a bit. How closely do the two of you work together?

We are friends indeed and it seems we end up playing quite a few of the same spots. She's a real sweetheart and one of my favourite DJ’s, so we try to book her often as possible. I’m huge fan of her label Mobilee too, It has a great vibe and look with some great people involved, they are a very tight knit crew and hugely in house, from design down to the label parties. Mobilee was a big influence on how I run Octopus.

What is next for Sian?

Releasing singles from Carlo Lio, Ramon Tapia, Secret Cinema, Joel Mull, Dustin Zahn and Sasha Carassi will take us up to September which includes the album on June 30. I’m going be touring Europe, USA, Australia and South America as well as trying to stay on top of the huge label workload. I’m looking forward to working my way though some new production gear and of course listening to tones of new demos and promos. In terms of Octopus we have new music from Calculus and The Exquisite Corpse, MCBZ and myself, with remixes by everyone from Funk Dvoid to Losoul.

What is your favourite tea?

Earl Grey, quite classic.

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