‘Pure Trance’ turns 4 this autumn. All in all it’s a pretty extraordinary paradox of a sub-genre, one that uniquely manages to look both forward and back at the same time. On the occasion of its release we swung by the Solar studios, to have a tête-à-tête with its inceptor-in-chief and his latest co-mixer, Gai Barone.
What Pure is (and isn’t) is pretty well established now. As such, we all endeavoured to get a bit deeper into its ethos, evolution and what’s made it tick (and then kick!) in the way it has. What came up was fascinating, with Rich discoursing on the age of Pure and dropping some truly cracking anecdotes and insights about the passage of the fourth album (none perhaps more so than how that Röyksopp remix came to be!). So read on, readers and get the full behind-the-curtains lowdown on Pure Trance V4!
Out now: order Pure Trance 4 Here: bit.ly/PT4_iTunes
Hello Rich, first of all many congratulations on the release of your fourth Pure Trance album and indeed on the success of the movement in general…
Solarstone: Thank you very much!
When you attempt an endeavour of the nature of Pure Trance, its evolution and success will always come in stages. With it now being year 4 (or 5, depending), but certainly the 4th annual mix-comp, at what stage do you feel the movement is at now?
Solarstone: I’ve noticed couple of things recently, the term ‘Pure Trance’ is being used by online stores such as Beatport, as well as event promoters, DJs and more importantly even fans seem to have absorbed the term into their vocabulary too. I guess that means the movement is at a stage of general acceptance – which looking back is more than I could have hoped for in the beginning! The global trance scene is really healthy now too. I feel that we’ve carved out a distinctive niche within in, which speaking as a DJ is the ultimate, really.
Looking back now, how easy (or otherwise) do you feel it was to get Pure Trance rolling?
Solarstone: The phrase ‘zeitgeist timing’ has been used to describe the rolling of that ball. That needed a certain amount of luck too though. I wouldn’t say any of this has been ‘easy’, but everything has to fit in the right place. The positive nature of the movement certainly helped – I never set out to diss or attack any other sound and I think people understood that. There hasn’t been the backlash, which I was fearing either.
We spotted a post of yours on the Pure Trance Facebook page regarding trance’s perceived lack off cool. Even when it was ‘the in thing’ in electronic music, trance was always fighting off accusations of ‘cheesiness’. As a producer, knowing how complex it is to produce, does it irk you or do you take it in your stride?
Solarstone: I had a great conversation with W&W last year about production techniques. I can spend a day on a trance pad sound & progression, or on subtractive EQ or something – whereas those guys can spend a day on making an EDM kick drum & bass line work together correctly. I know a guitarist who will procrastinate for hours over his bloody delay pedal…
The whole ‘trance is uncool’ narrative has been going for at least 10 years (or arguably far longer). It seems almost routine for sections of the media. Do you think that, in itself, it’ll ever become a passé thing for them to say?
Solarstone: It’s just lazy journalism isn’t it? One area in which this attitude is a real problem is when DJs turn their noses up at a piece of music simply because the label has the word ‘trance’ as part of it’s name. Through fear of being judged by sections of the media for playing a ‘trance’ record, I guess. Recently I sent our ‘Fata Morgana’ to the ‘cooler’ DJs via an important tastemaker service, and you’d be shocked (or maybe not) that DJs were turning their noses up at the ‘trance’ element in the track. Literally – they left comments as such. If you label something as ‘trance’ then a percentage of DJs won’t go near it. Fata Morgana is a track that ‘cooler’ progressive DJs would be playing if it had come from a label like Lost & Found, or Bedrock, which would arguably both release a record like ‘Fata Morgana’. That is frustrating, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with. I’ve sent out tracks as white label IDs previously via a tastemaker and the ‘cool’ DJ’s have lapped it up. I remember one where the tastemaker guy said to me ‘we just need to leave the name Solarstone out and not mention trance’. As Morrissey once said “I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible”.
What you’ve done with Pure Trance is, in essence, to take a sub-genre that was losing its way and bring it back around to it’s fundamentals. In a future-obsessed world like electronic music, that revision is something of a first, isn’t it?
Solarstone: You could be right. I can’t put my finger on another electronic genre that has made so much of a comeback, – albeit once which is still fairly underground mind you. Looking at the way the wind is blowing in the USA in particular I’d be very surprised it next year wasn’t a watershed moment for the sound. But in terms of what I’m personally responsible for… it’s hard to see from where I’m standing. It’s tough to know what to take credit for and what not. What might have happened anyway. I try not to live and work in a bubble; so many artists do that and start to believe their own hype. The Pure Trance movement is being anything other than hype; it’s happened genuinely and naturally. It just needed someone to tip the boulder over. Of course there are other very important acts who have contributed hugely to the survival of trance. Take Aly & Fila for example. They didn’t waver one millimetre away from their sound throughout the downtrodden years. They are without doubt the No.1 trance act in the world now and deservedly so might I add.
There are some interesting and perhaps unexpected inclusions on there. How, for example, did the Röyksopp remix come about?
Solarstone: Now there’s serendipity at work. I bought the Röyksopp album ‘An Inevitable End’ and had a chat to my manager Paula about it, mentioning that ‘I Had This Thing’ was my favourite and that we should reach out to their label Dog Triumph’ about a Pure Mix. A couple of months later I received an email from a guy at the label asking if I’d like to remix the track. I called Paula to say ‘well done for reaching out to the label’… She admitted that she had actually never got around to sending the email at all. It was pure coincidence. Crazy huh!?
The Above & Beyond ‘Thing Called Love’/Pulser ‘My Religion’ mash-up is also particularly inspired… How did the idea for that come about?
Solarstone: Oh that was one of ‘those moments’. I had the acapella of ‘A Thing Called Love’ somehow. I don’t know how I got it. Probably from Giuseppe, and I was playing the ‘My Religion’ at a show somewhere. I keep a bunch of acapellas in my record Box when I DJ and I did a spontaneous mash-up which just sounded incredible. For the compilation we licensed the ambient mix of ‘Thing Called Love’ and used that in the mix. It’s so easy for your average Joe to make a mash-up these days, using tools like ‘Mixed In Key’. But it’s no easier to make a brilliant one. Being in the same key does not a good mash-up make! Their needs to be a spark of magic, like when Sasha would mix two records together and create something new. 1 + 1 would = 3.
You’ve also got a decent proportion of you own Pure Trance Recordings comrades on the album. Who do you see as being the label’s key artists in 2015 and indeed into the New Year?
Solarstone: Definitely Forerunners, who is enjoyed something of a renaissance. His new deep sound is being championed by a good number of labels now. Peter Steele made a big impact with ‘Mantra’ – my favourite track of 2015 no less, and of course Gai Barone is making waves too. As for key artists in 2015 specifically, I think rather than focusing on individual artists it’s more a case of the label achieving a solid fanbase, who eagerly anticipate each release. I’ve tried to balance bigger names with new talent on the label too, which keeps things interesting.
You’ve also launched a sister label – Pure Trance Progressive. What’s the story behind that?
I predicted and am happily witness to a resurgence in the deeper, slower & more progressive side of the sound recently. I signed a dozen great new tracks from new artists for Gai’s disc of Pure Trance 4, so figured I should create a sub-label for those tracks rather than try to squeeze everything out on the main label. The first release ‘Fata Morgana’ (a collab with Gai) has been really well received. Last year I had a memorable conversation in Ibiza with Max Graham about how this re-emergence was likely to happen, and he also made a move by launching his ‘Cycles’ label. JOOF V2 has also recently been launched by John Fleming to support the sound and even John O’Callaghan has been releasing this music via Subculture. I think between us we’re doing the scene a good service by supporting it.
As the ultimate arbiter of what’s Pure Trance and what’s not, when the albums are complete do you do an end-to-end check to ensure that nothing derivative has somehow managed to sneak its way in!?
Solarstone: Haha not really. That filter happens at the licensing point. Gai sent me a couple of tracks to check out which were borderline, so we didn’t use them. There really can be no compromise; house or electro influences can result in a good track of course, but not for this project. The first end-to-end listen though is always a great experience; the feeling of completion is very welcome. It’s a big job putting together a compilation like Pure Trance or Electronic Architecture; I’m always relieved when I get the final product in my hands.
Bit overdue, but let’s bring Gai in here… Gai, I know you’ve played a good few of the Pure Trance nights, but how does it feel to join the movement ‘officially’?
Gai: Actually, it took a bit to realize it! I feel truly honoured to be part of this movement! When I first heard about the Pure Trance Nights, back 4 or so years ago, I thought it would be such a dream to play together with those DJs I really love. So honestly, it’s a dream come true.
Comparative to other shows you’ve played recently, what have been your experiences Djing at Pure Trance gigs?
Gai: Everytime I play at Pure Trance Night I see myself as a part of a theme. You can find a beginning, a story and an end; there ’s an evolution where everyone plays a specific part. From deep and warm to an uplifting climax; everything is complementary and every session is the perfect intro/outro of the other one. Whenever I start a Pure Trance Session I know very well what to play, when to play it and where I want to go, in terms of the selection!
From your personal point of view, why do you think that Pure Trance has captured the scene’s imagination to the degree it has?
Gai: Simply because it’s an honest feeling, and it keeps the good trance alive. After the ‘Pure Trance 4’ release I had so many conversations with music lovers telling me that it was what they were waiting for, it is faithful music to those people who are literally in love with “Real Trance”.
With regards to the mix comp, what was the approach to your mix?
Gai: The most important part of the compilation was the music itself and the flow had to reflect what I try to achieve on my every session! It wasn’t so easy to choose all the tracks, but one day Rich sent me a message: the clue is in the name, it has to be Pure! I followed that tip and started to select and create Disc one, full of beautiful progressive trance cuts blended together. It tells a story, which is strictly connected with the second and concluding part
You’re well known for deeper end music. Take us through some of the tracks with which you’ve set the mix’s early mood?
Gai: I wanted to emphasize the beauty of deep and progressive trance. Sadly not so many DJs play those tracks today. Maybe because of those feelings Rich was talking about before; it seems that terms like techno or progressive house are cool and every word connected to trance is, well, ‘less noble’. I don’t care about that, the only thing that I know that some “posh djs” are missing out on a lot of good music through their predudices, that’ s it!! Talking about the compilation I think that every track is exactly where I wanted to be. For example the Wellenrausch ‘Maschine in Mir’ is absolutely amazing and it’s the perfect intro to start my disc, even though I decided to add some intro pads as well. After that there so many “deep trance tracks” I wanted to include, such as the Slam Duck’s or Jamie Baggots, which are artists I really love!
Rich, with this album, Pure Trance has never gone deeper. Was this your intention when asking Gai to come on board and co-mix?
Solarstone: It was simply to being something different to the series, Gai has been a key figure in the progressive trance scene for a couple of years now, he’s been playing at my Pure Trance events and I love his music. I trusted him to put together a mix, which correctly represented the slower, deeper side of the sound. He did a fabulous job – and I also think that the exposure he will receive via the album will be great for him as an artist.
Gai, Audio Noir is a particularly interesting artist from the trance underground and showing a lot of promise at the moment. How did you come across his work?
Gai: I’ve been following this artist from a long time now. I made a remix for him 3/4 years ago released on Bonzai Progressive and he made a couple of remixes of my tracks as well. What I like most from him is the way he moves from the deep stuff to some more “euphoric sounds”, always keeping the same quality overall. He ’s one of most eclectic producers out there right now.
Solarstone: I’m also a big fan. He does these cheeky bootlegs from time to time too. Recently he sent me one that he’d done of Blue Amazon ‘No Other Love’. I was so excited to play that one on Pure Trance Radio 013 – people loved it! He has a deep understanding of what ‘progressive’ actually means.
Your mix also has yours and Solarstone’s first track together ‘Fata Morgana’. Who’s idea was it to collaborate on that and how did it come together?
Gai: It was really straightforward! I sent an idea to Rich and he told me, ‘I like it, let’s work on it’. I think he built and mixed the whole track it in a couple of days. When I got it I was really impressed because it has the perfect balance. It was exactly how I wanted it to be. It’s definitely the sweet spot between me and the Solarstone Sound!!
Thanks for talking to us chaps and best of luck with the onward release of the album! Anything else you’d like to Pure Trance-heads out there?
Solarstone: Keep It Pure
Gai: #soundifferent and Pure!