MODUS says ‘The Future is Behind Us.’ [Interview]
The first time I heard MODUS, or at least the first time I took notice of the artist name, was when I discovered and consequently played the track, ‘Organic Panic,’ released on HOMmega in 2017, in a DJ Set.
If you’re a DJ and you play a track out for the first time, especially from an ‘unknown’ artist, and it really stands out as a highlight of the set, you’re going to embed that artist’s name in your mind and look out for more releases.
In one’s own mind, you’ve discovered something you’re hoping few others have heard of, and they’re what I like to call my ‘secret weapons,’ to play out in my DJ sets.
But, alas, when an artist produces good music, unique music and music that gets the floor grooving in a certain way, there’s no hope of holding on to that ‘little secret’ for too long.
With some high-quality remixes under his belt and a steady list of top-notch singles, Israeli music producer, Asaf Tsemach aka MODUS, has segued his way into the minds and ears of many a DJ, psytrance lover and festival dancer, which now sees him arrive at a pivotal moment in his career… the debut album!
No mean feat, considering he produced half of it in lockdown, The Future is Behind Us is a remarkably refreshing collection of eight solo tracks and one collaboration with his label mate, Freedom Fighters.
It’s not easy to create dance music that is NOT just for the dancefloor and can be listened to from start to finish as an absorbing journey into sound.
MODUS – The Future is Behind Us – does just that and I highly recommend it for any fan of deep, groovy psytrance.
My interest piqued, I tracked the man known as MODUS down and decided to find out more…
I think that this year without the dancefloor made me focus more on the musical side and how I tell a story with my music rather than breaking the dancefloor.”
I am sure like most of us you had that first experience at a party where the music and the psy scene just made complete sense to you and you left with a burning desire to create your own music. Do you remember that occasion still?
MODUS: In 2011 I travelled to South America and I’d heard about the Universo Paralello festival that was supposed to be taking place at the end of the year in Brazil.
I decided to go to the festival with some friends, although I knew nothing about it and I’d only gone to small parties here and there, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
One week at this festival really changed everything for me…
I don’t have any specific DJ or artist that made this experience any different to me, it was all together – the people, the music, the energy…
I came out of this festival completely in love with Psytrance and one year after, in 2013, I started Modus.
I know psy can be heard everywhere in Israel so I wonder, based on your own experience, when kids get to go to their first party, do you think it is as mind-blowing an experience as it would maybe be if they were on the beaches of Goa or at an massive beach-festival like Universo?
MODUS: I guess you can taste some of the euphoria and experience epic moments at the right party but I really believe that the “mind-blowing experience” that happens to most people is a combination of being with the right people at the right place listening to the right music, and probably on the right substance, so I really think It can happen anywhere.
But it will probably be more powerful when you’re on a long vacation so your mind is set to a different energy and you are in the “I’m searching myself” kind of mood. 🙂
Sticking with the past for a minute, I really enjoyed tracking back and listening to your early music from 2014 onwards, before you joined Stereo Society. You started of progressive and naturally your first releases were a bit more generic as you were still finding your sound. How did you go from a fairly standard progressive sound to this new, uniquely ‘MODUS’ signature sound which is a LOT more psychedelic but also super groovy?
MODUS: Naturally, I started producing the music I was listening to at that time so it was more of a copy-paste kind of period.
I didn’t really think it through and looking back to that time I think I was more ‘producing’ rather than creating music.
At some point, I started getting feedback from people like Eyal Yankovich (R.I.P) and I remember he heard one of my old tracks in 2014 and said it sounded like something he had heard before and that I have to find my own sound signature.
This was some of the first feedback that really resonated with me for a while.
Putting that aside, after exploring and listening to a lot of electronic music and learning so much, I feel like I’m constantly evolving and this is what really drives me today.
You did some notable remixes earlier on in your journey, notably Freedom Fighters/Sub 6 – Gravity, Juno Reactor – Shine and Altruism’s blaster, 311. How did working on tracks by these significant artists help shape your confidence as a producer?
MODUS: It feels amazing when an artist you like asks you to do a remix, especially if you create a good remix that gets heard and played everywhere, it’s a great satisfaction.
Prior to the album, which track has amazed you the most at the dancefloor reaction when played out?
MODUS: There are two kinds of reactions from my point of view…
You have foot reaction and mind reaction.
For foot reaction, I had the most amazing response from my remix of ‘Altruism – 311’, especially in Brazil where it really exploded.
As for mind reaction, it’s my track ‘Pac-Man Theory‘. When I play this track, I feel the dancefloor is on a different frequency.
The Future is Behind Us…
The concept of the album is basically the idea that the past is shaping the future all the time, everywhere…”
First question has to be: the album name… it is also the name of one your tracks. What inspired the track name and indeed, the album name and what does it mean, ‘the future is behind us?’
MODUS: The concept of the album is basically the idea that the past is shaping the future all the time, everywhere…
Take music for example, let’s say you are inspired by an artist from the ’90s and you’re making music based on that inspiration from the past.
So, what this really means is that you are creating the future by your past references…
In other words…The Future Is Behind Us 🙂
It also connects to what I consider my “style” of music: Old-school vibes with a futuristic approach.
I’ve noticed that ‘Fear of the Unknown,’ and ‘Visitors’ are the only two tracks with vocal samples which is also something different to most tracks we hear these days…
MODUS: I will only use a vocal that inspires me or means something to me that I can relate to. It’s not a must-have on every track in my opinion.
Tell me about the ‘square bass’ movement among selected psytrance artists. There’s a small batch of you who create this style. How and when did you start experimenting with this bass sound and what draws you to it?
MODUS: The thing that can be best heard on square bass tracks is that they have more air and they sound groovier than most running bass tracks.
It gives you more room for creativity in my opinion, it’s like you have more space to play with.
Around 2014 (and until today) I explored a lot of old-school music and I came across Union Jack / Art Of Trance. You can hear it all over their productions from the ’90s.
As I said… The Future Is Behind Us 😉
Nine tracks, 8 of which are solo productions, is quite an achievement for an album these days. Before lockdown and our entire world was turned upside down, how far were you with the tracks that have made it onto the album?
MODUS: Before COVID-19 I had around 3 or 4 tracks for the album and the rest was done during lockdown.
For me, there’s a big difference between my tracks that were made before and after COVID as I was less exposed to dancefloors and had fewer inspirations from parties.
Inspiration came from other places so some of the tracks on the album are deeper and some are more dancefloor material.
I love the fact that you start with a chill/breakbeat style opener, cleverly called ‘To Start Press Any Key’ and end with the beatless ‘After The Storm.’ It really does make it feel like an album to absorb from beginning to end. What track took you the longest to be satisfied with?
MODUS: I would say ‘Fear Of The Unknown’ was the track that took me the most time to be satisfied with.
I changed the kick and the bass about three times and changed the length of the track a few times as well so it took me a while to get to the final version.
And which track was the easiest to finish?
MODUS: ‘Visitors’ was the easiest by far… everything happened in two or three sessions in the studio and it took me about a week to get a playable version of the track.
I’ve been playing it since the end of 2019 which is the time I started writing this album.
Having finalised ‘The Future is Behind Us’ at a time when there’s been no parties to test final versions of your tracks at, has this made it any easier to just let go and be happy with what you have done, or are you still a little nervous to see the reaction on a dancefloor?
MODUS: I can kind of imagine how some tracks are going to impact the dancefloor but there are few tracks that make me curious about how people will react to them.
Besides that, I think it’s natural that some of the tracks are more dancefloor-oriented and some tracks are more of a musical story.
I think that this year without the dancefloor made me focus more on the musical side and how I tell a story with my music rather than breaking the dancefloor.
The most important thing for me is that I’m happy with this album and I think it represents me and my capabilities.
In this digital age of streaming where music comes and goes so quickly what are you hoping that people will take way from listening to ‘The Future is Behind Us?’
MODUS: What I really hope is that people will have some kind of a journey while listening to this album whether it’s at a party or home or whatever. If I left my mark inside someone’s heart, then my work is done.
Final question… name one artist (any genre, style) that you think has probably influenced your musical taste and style the most in your life…
MODUS: If I can only choose one name, then I’ll have to say it’s Infected Mushroom.
They cross all genres and they are musical AF!
Their sound is on fire, they are psychedelic, they have an amazing live show… it’s a 10 out of 10 in all parameters.
A big inspiration for me since the first time heard about them years ago.
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