Having the opportunity to exchange a few words with a world acclaimed artist, is already a pleasure. If that artist is a multifaced musician, with an enormous variety of cultural influences and a very unique personal background, than that pleasure becomes a privilege.
We sat down with Satori and discussed some of the issues on today’s page, from the reasons behid his choice of playing only live set, to the projects for the summer; from his beginnings as a country music composer, to his introduction to techno music through a very specific event; from the advices to young musicians, to the issues derived from the potentially very challenging lifestyle of a dj and much more…
– First, I would like to start with the next future. Could you please present us briefly your plans for the summer? Where will you be playing, any release foreseen? Do you have any surprise ready for us in the next few weeks?
SATORI: I will have my night in Club Heart, Ibiza, called Live. Of course, I will only program live acts.
This is because I would like to bring a bit more awareness about live acts in the Island. Ibiza is traditionally a ‘dj island’, very dj oriented, and that’s great, that’s the reason why we love Ibiza.
However, as a live performer, people sometimes don’t perceive the difference between doing and playing live. I am working my ass off on the stage with so many variables and instruments, I am putting a lot of efforts, but sometimes people are not aware that I’m playing live, they think it’s a dj set, but I am actually improvising on stage!
In parallel with the performances, we’ll have interviews with the artists speaking about their idea of live set, what message they wanna convey, the reasons behind their choice to play live and their different interpretations.
I will also tour with my band, called ‘Satori and the band from space’. We are gonna have a European tour, which I am super excited for!
– Any release soon?
SATORI: Yes, I will release a mini album in June-July, with six tracks. It will be very much inspired by Paris and the time I spent there, by the painting I have seen in Paris.
– Let’s get back a little to your beginnings. Did you have a formal musical training? How did you get passionate about electronic music and which artists were your main source of inspiration during your beginnings?
SATORI: To go back to my origins, I have been playing music almost all my life. I think I was 12 when my sister – a country singer into bluegrass music now – gave me my first guitar. We were very young, I think I was 14 years old, when I started writing songs with her in our bedroom. You know, I was a teenager, the age when you discover a lot things, starting from girls and love. So I was writing songs about that, as many others did at that age. Those were silly, cheesy songs, but it doesn’t matter, I was very fascinated by composing and creating music.
Country was my genre of music, up until I was 20. Then I remember very vividly my friends taking me to a party, sort of a rave, where Dave Clarke was playing. I didn’t know anything about electronic music before, but that night changed everything. Thousands of people in a warehouse sweating and going completely nuts with this music, it felt like a revelation. The energy in the room and the enthusiasm for this gig were so high, that I decided to explore more electronic music. From Dave Clarke to Dj Rush, even more hardstyle artists like Dj Pavo. I was attending many parties and raves, as a simple music lover.
After a while I decided to try composing techno music, experimenting. By that time, techno was changing to become more minimal with artists like Villlalobos, Luciano, Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice. That was actually the first genre of music I was creating. I had some releases, then it all turned more in techouse and I follow that path as well with my music.
I came to the point though when I was missing my instruments. I was missing that time spent composing music in my bedroom as a teenager. I didn’t just wanna put some samples and beats together and just release music for the dancefloor, I decided to go back and integrate my love for digital equipment and the passion for analogic instruments.
Now I try to combine the old songwriting from when I was a young kid, with the immense opportunities of the digital world. This is what I try to propose with my musical project.
– I have read that although you are Dutch, you don’t consider yourself as part of the Dutch music scene? Is that correct? And what are the main reasons for that?
SATORI: So another important factor in my life as a musician is related to my background. My father is from Serbia and my mother from South Africa. I was raised with Balkan music, which is very influenced by oriental cultures such as Turkish, Syrian, Greek, Gypsy, Italian and more. The Balkan music is very rich and inspired by the many cultures surrounding this land. On the other hand there is my mother’s influence, with the very tribal African music, connected with the earth.
My music is therefore inspired by the folk roots of the Balkans, but the beats are very tribal. I like to see my music as a dance between my dad and mum.
I was then raised in a very multicultural environment in the Netherlands, so I consider myself as the results of many combinations of cultures and stories. The hard part is to make it work together, to make it harmonic, that is also the challenge I like the most.
– You play all around the world and come in touch with a wide panorama of different music cultures and approaches towards both music and clubbing experiences. How do you adapt your sets and gigs while facing different music cultures? Do you try to blend into the different scenarios or just propose your take and style anywhere in the world?
SATORI: As I am not djing, it is more complicated for me to adapt. As a dj, I would have been able to be more flexible and adapt my sets using my music library. Since I am playing live sets, and I use my music, there is of course a limitation in that. However, I believe that I am empowered by this limitation, as in limitation I become more creative, I try to use at their best all the tools available to me. When the opportunities are endless, people have the tendency to swim across them, while with limitation you become more powerful as you are forced to get there with what you have.
So when I play in different contexts, I still have my music, but I try to communicate it in different ways. For example, if I go to latin america – let’s say – Colombia- these guys wanna dance, it is a dancing crowd. Therefore I will add more grooves, I am gonna play more basslines, maybe the BPMs a bit more up and so on because this is a party crowd. On the other hand, if I play in places like Paris or New York, I know that these people want something different. Normally in those cities they expect a different journey, it is an emotional crowd, they want more than just dancing. In these occasions, I might use more the piano, the flute, singing a bit more.
So basically it is always my music, but I am challenged to slightly adapt it to different crowds and musical cultures, which is very stimulating for me.
– We are called Clubber Confession and we ask this to all the artists we meet. Have you been a clubber before being a dj/producer? And do you think having been a clubber helps while producing and/or mixing in front of a crowd?
SATORI: It depends on your destination. If you are a dj, or if you wanna produce music for the dancefloor, then of course understanding the dynamics of a club is important, being able to read the crowd and is key. Having experienced the club on the dancefloor is very important if you want to produce music or dj in such a context. If you just want to produce good music, then it doesn’t really matter because the quality of your music is want really counts.
On the other hand, if your objective is to be a good composer, a musician crating music, then being just in clubs could be a very strong limitation. It could be a risky choice, because the only world you experience is clubs and you will most probably end up producing tracks that works only in clubs. So if you wanna be a good composer, then study a lot of different genres of music, at least that is what I do.
I try to study and experience the broader possible spectrum of music, but not only that. I include in my formation also other arts form, such as for example painting. You can take inspiration from almost anything artistic in this world, so my advice if you wanna be a good composer would be to open up an be ready to experience art and music in various form, not only via clubs.
– I would like to broaden up a bit the discussion with a reflection on the dance music scene of today. We all have been touched by what happened to one of the world famous icon of dance music, Avicii, and just a few days ago also Luciano opened up about the challenges and the possible heavy consequences of the so called ‘dj lifestyle’. Always on the run, traveling, risking sometimes to loose the grasp on many important things in life such as family and an healthy lifestyle. Have you ever experiences these issues? And how do you cope with the many risks related to the life of a globally acclaimed dj?
SATORI: This is a very complicated issue, I need to be careful.
I would say that basically you are your own boss, you are responsible for the choice you make and you only. We can’t be considered as the victims of a system here. What I do understand is that sometimes this life can be really hard. All these flights, delays, sleep deprivation, hotel rooms. You find yourself surrounded by thousands of people and all of a sudden you are alone in a hotel room. I did this for a while, but it wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t the life I wanted.
So I sat down with my agent and we decided to work around the schedule in order to have a minimum of six hours of sleep, to get things organised in order to be the less stressful possible. Before I accept a gig I need to make sure that connections and flights will allow me to have time to rest properly.
The second aspect, is drugs. The amount of drug I see while playing around is insane, that will burn your body out. I don’t take any drugs, I barely drink, I try to exercise and do yoga everyday. I think that we should treat ourselves as professional athletes, we need to be fit and ready to face the problems and difficulties associated with the lifestyle. There’s no other way around it. I approach this profession as a top sport activity, I watch my diet and control the alcohol consumption.
So I don’t really get it when someone complains about the dj-lifestyle. It is not hard by itself, they make it hard by going to after parties to after parties, by taking drugs and not taking care of them. That is the issue, we should be focused and behave as professionals, that’s it.
– If you could go back in time, is there any choice in your musical career that you would like to change? And what is the main advice you would give to a young boy/girl dreaming today to be the ‘Satori of tomorrow’?
SATORI: I am really happy that you asked this, because of course I would change a few things about my past and maybe I can help someone by telling a bit more about my mistakes in the beginnings. My main advice would be, don’t release music too fast. This is something I wish I did differently when I started.
There was a time when I was learning how to produce music and trying to understand more electronic music specifically. Within that learning process I created my first beats and consequently my first tracks. I liked my tracks back then, some labels also thought they were worth to be released. And of course, especially at the beginnings, it is hard to say no, also because in that particular moment you feel proud of your music.
However, looking back at some of those tracks a few years later, they really sound like amateur. I am not talking about a style that’s not representing you anymore, that is normal: as a musician, artist, you evolve with time. But there tracks I honestly don’t feel proud of, that I wish I could seriously erase from the internet.. I was not ready, I was still learning back then.
So my main advice would be to not release music too fast, be patience, take your time, you will get there.
– A technical question for the music nerds here. What is your preferred when you play live set?
SATORI: I try to build up my set in order to make it as live as possible. For example, I would not consider a live set if I was to come and simply use a launchpad with a laptop and just triggering my clips already pre-programmed in the studio. When I see people doing that I can’t think about it as a live set.
Instead, I like to allow some space for things to come alive on the stage, and more importantly to be guided by the night and the feelings coming from it. Let the crowd inspire me, me inspire the crowd and together move towards something big.
To get to this, I start with two laptops. The first one contains my songs samples, I use it through a launchpad/controller with some faders and knobs, and I control baselines and some drums, very basic.
The other laptop on the other hand, is filled with instruments, no clips. It contains sounds designed by myself, from flutes to pianos, violins and more. I control this laptop with Ableton push, on Ableton push I play drums and arpeggio. I control it with a Roli Seaboard to play pads and organ sounds. Then I have the Nord Lead keyboard used to play piano, the arp and synthesizers paths. I also bring with me an electronic flute which I use to play the clarinet, the duduk – a traditional Armenian instrument very common also in the Serbian culture – and other wind instruments. For my singing parts, also I have a microphone of course.
So this second laptops is the one making everything very live!
I don’t use synthesizers as I realized that they don’t bring something unique with them, anyone can get the same synthesizers and just reproduce the same sound. What makes a true live set exceptionally good is the ability to create your own sound by sampling, recording, and by using the immense possibilities of the digital world.
I can safely say that with this choice, I am the only one who has my sound.. nobody else!
– One last thing. Can you tell us what is the one location/club/festival you have never played yet, but where you would love to propose your music?
SATORI: It would be a dream to play at Byblos International Festival, set up in Lebanon in one of the oldest city in the world. That is the place where all the biggest names from the middle east music scene normally play and the music there is so beautiful and incredibly inspiring. Fairouz, Tinariwen played there.. but also Sting or Paul Simon. This festival has never welcomed electronic music, so maybe being the first one in this sense would be fantastic. I have no idea if this could ever actually happen, but who knows!