Simon and Janiv, known musically as Silent Sphere, have been in the game since the late 90’s. With over 20 years of experience on the dance floor, in the studio and in life, there’s a whole lot of insight they have regarding the making of music and even just for life.
This interview has been a particularly emotional one from the start; from listening and falling in love with the album, formulating the questions that will garner the most in depth answers and then receiving the answers- of which they gave wholeheartedly.
A truly powerful experience was delving into their remix of Cosma Yok Yok and the friendship they shared within and beyond the music. It may be way before my time but anyone who appreciates psy trance today will know the massive impact Cosma had on many of the producers whose music we know and love today.
For this intro, I’d rather like to suggest listening to this album while reading the interview. Getting to know the producer really adds so much value to the listening experience and vice versa.
I’m not going to say anything more as it’s all below.
Here is Silent Sphere and this is their space. Welcome and enjoy!
Janiv and I were together with our friends on the Boom dancefloor. After only a few seconds, we realized that Yok Yok would be played in the DJ mix. We looked at each other and laughed and screamed with joy.”
Hi Simon and Janiv, known as Silent Sphere. Congratulations on your new album My Space, which is out now via Iboga Records.
As a duo, how did the idea for the album come about? Does one broach the subject to the other or was it a mutual spark of creativity that drove the initiation of ‘My Space’?
SILENT SPHERE: Thank you very much!
We produce our tracks without any real goals about where and when the track will be released. Producing under pressure never works out well for us. We usually have five to ten projects that we finish on an ongoing basis. When we get a request for a track that should be on a compilation, we finish the track that we think is best for the compilation.
It’s the same with the album. We wanted to release the album in 2020, but because of the pandemic we postponed the date to the end of 2022. It would be a pity not presenting our album at a party, which is why we are happy releasing music that will not only be heard on headphones, but on fat sound systems! That’s what the music is made for. So, the tracks we wanted to release on the album were actually already chosen back in 2018, but we’ve been making adjustments constantly, and now it’s here. My Space!
There’s a definite theme in track names and the music behind it- Super Computer, Peacemaker, Gaia, Tribe, Fantasia, Titicaca.
Each track seems to have a theme and a meaning behind them. Was that intentional? And what is the message you are trying to send out with the album as a whole?
Simon: I’m not very talented in finding names for a track. I’d rather leave that to Janiv.
Janiv: Finding a track name is always a challenge. When the track is finished, I try to find a suitable name. The name should fit the song and have something special to it. The message we want to convey with the album is that this is our space / our kind of work. Every track is its own story without rules or guidelines, just what we were enjoying while making it. We made everything on this album ourselves- Production, Mixing & Mastering.
The influence the late, great Cosma has on many producers in psy-trance is profound. You collaborated with him on Moving, an iconic track that recently resurged through a remix by Ritmo- a dance floor banger!
Now, for your new album My Space, you remixed Cosma- Yok Yok. Where do I even begin! I love how you stayed true to the original track and kept it Cosma- especially with the atmospheres- but with modern production and your Silent Sphere spin on it. I cannot WAIT to hear it on a dance floor. I have a few questions within this question:
What made you choose Yok Yok to remix?
Simon: I could remix every single song from Cosma. It makes me feel closest to a friend I miss. It reminds me of when we used to talk intensely about music and life at an age where we wanted to change the world with deep conviction and energy. That was 20 years ago, a long time. We wanted to produce ambient music together. We were also fascinated by film music and in fact, everything that leads to creating an emotional and even melancholic mood with deep and moving sounds. It’s hard to do that with Kick and Bass.
I remember that for Cosma the album ‘Nonstop’ was a suffering path. Too much influence came from outside, about how he had to produce the album- “Music should be able to sell.” In many cases, that’s what a label and distribution want. Cosma didn’t want to experience this much influence from the music industry in the future. Those who know his music, know that he looks beyond the musical habits of a style, hence the desire for ambient or film music – to be completely free in the production process. Personally, I find his ambient productions to be the most beautiful songs he made. They remind me most of his personality.
We started various projects but unfortunately parts of them are lost or cannot be restored for technical reasons. But what I still have are his sample-cd’s. Like “Distorted Reality 1 & 2” (still available, where you can find a lot of the Cosma sounds) and others that we exchanged like trading cards. We experimented a lot, especially with monk chanting and bringing religious rituals into the electronic world. It’s actually quite simple- you take a monk chant and run it through a guitar amplifier and just be amazed at what happens. That’s how we spent our time together.
I started organizing psytrance parties when I was 17, and that’s how we met. Cosma was playing at many of my parties. He came days before or spontaneously stayed in Bern (CH) and booked a new flight. Even when he stopped over in Zurich we would also meet. It was a wonderful time, and I am very grateful to be able to carry on his influence.
Sorry, I’m rambling. Why specifically Yok Yok. Pixel is a mutual friend. Cosma showed me his first track and we were blown away by “Pixel – Black in Black out”- what a masterpiece! After that, Cosma booked Pixel for me, and he played a few months later in Bern at my party. Pixel also helped me in producing. An amazing talent!
About seven years ago we decided to make a remix. Pixel came to Bern, and we started to produce this remix. Later Astrix came into the project. Finally, we couldn’t agree on how the remix should be, which is absolutely ok. So, everyone has his own version and can do with it what he thinks is right. We are happy to have released the track now.
A few have written that the music should not be remixed because it is unique while others are grateful that these remixes see light, as they remind many of us not only of Cosma, but also the life situations where we have heard the music. Anyway, this track is one of the most important I have personally ever produced and released. Here I would like to thank again the family for the permission, the label Hommega for the support and Iboga Records for motivating me to release the track.
What was the process remixing the track?
SILENT SPHERE: We decided to keep the song structure 1 to 1, replaying the melodies and using different synthesizers. When Astrix was involved, he put the question on social media about the origin of the sample. That’s how we got the clue from where Cosma got the sample.
You have to imagine that you see a wooden statue and you want to rebuild it. So, you go into the forest and cut down a tree and start from scratch. We have an infinite number of versions of this track, but I don’t know why we chose this one- Probably because we heard the track on the dancefloor at Boom festival, which was part of Ace Ventura’s set. So, it was clear that the track had to be released to the public. Exactly as it is.
How did it feel being on the Boom dance floor watching Ace Ventura play out your remix and seeing the crowd dance to it?
SILENT SPHERE: It was an incredible feeling. Yoni aka Ace Ventura asked us if we could give him the track Yok Yok (We always send tracks on request from our friends.) Unfortunately, we forget to share the tracks from time to time. So, we were very happy about the request. However, we had no idea that Ace Ventura would play the track.
Janiv and I were together with our friends on the Boom dancefloor. After only a few seconds, we realized that Yok Yok would be played in the DJ mix. We looked at each other and laughed and screamed with joy. We felt like we were at our first psytrance party. It was an amazing moment. You produce a track, and you are standing in the middle of the action. You see the people dancing and cheering. For us it is an unforgettable moment. Thank you Ace Ventura and thank you Boom Festival for the experience. Already the day before our label boss Emok played three of our tracks in his opening set of Boom Festival 2018. But Yok Yok was absolutely the crowning glory of the whole festival.
You also created a Cosma Beatport chart- the love is evident. What did Cosma mean to you as a friend and fellow producer?
Simon: I made the playlist because generations may no longer know or perceive Cosma. This requires attention, such as this playlist. However, there are other tracks which unfortunately were not on Beatport to include them. On Discogs you will find all the works related to Cosma, which is very worthwhile to browse through.
What many do not know is that in one track Cosma sings the sample himself, which of course takes courage. But this is typical of him- he does not care what the music industry, the scene or other artists have thought about his work. He is a great personality.
To the question of what he means to me, I have already mentioned it at the beginning. Even if a friend is no longer alive on earth, he can be with you more than one who is still alive. When I’m in the studio I talk to him. Sometimes I think in a way – Cosma, what do you think about this, am I melancholic enough? There I have to laugh at myself, which is better than crying. Mourning is only for a brief moment, memories should be positive and for eternity.
I think it was in 2012 when I met Janiv in the city. We didn’t have much contact before that. I missed psytrance. He was also not so active with his psytrance project and produced more techno. So, we decided from a place of “missing” to start a revival.”
Moving on… Silent Sphere has a very interesting history, dating back to 1999, when Simon started the project. After sharing a studio for more than 10 years, Janiv joined Silent Sphere and that was that. How did it come about? What was the evolution from sharing a studio to saying, ‘let’s write music together?’
Simon: When I organized the first psytrance parties in 1997 I needed storage rooms for the decorations we made- one of these rooms is the studio we have today. Since 2001 we were both tenants in an office building, in the first basement. The room was too big for me alone so I asked Janiv if he would like to move in with me with his then project “Genetic Noise”. So, we shared the studio. After organizing the last Atmosphere Festival with about 6000 visitors (in 2007) I completely retired from the scene after two albums and world tours. I continued my professional education and also wanted to see something else of life. It’s also nice to spend time with friends on weekends instead of always being on stage and missing birthdays, weddings of family or friends and concerts.
I think it was in 2012 when I met Janiv in the city. We didn’t have much contact before that. I missed psytrance. He was also not so active with his psytrance project and produced more techno. So, we decided from a place of “missing” to start a revival. The project Silent Sphere was perfect for it. At least a few regional ravers still knew the name. Otherwise, you are not worth mentioning after a few years. So, we started from scratch. Either way, it was a process – two people running a project is difficult. Like in any relationship, at the beginning everything is exciting, but at some point egos, habits, views, ideas come in and we are very different. but that’s what makes us a perfect team.
There’s a lot of variety within the album- a smorgasbord of progressive gold. Straight up daytime, more techy, old school, moody, light and everything in between. Is that to do with being a duo in the studio- two minds coming together and sharing ideas, going back and forth within production, or was it planned out that way when you started making the album?
Simon: The reason we have such different tracks probably comes from our varied interests. I go on a classic tour with my father every year where we listen to concerts and operas in Europe, more recently at the elb-philharmonie in Hamburg- which is not only an impressive building- but houses the best acoustics I’ve ever heard.
I also find rock to metal music very inspiring. It has various melodies from bands I admire a lot, like Muse, Porcupine Tree, Archive, Pendulum, Fluke, Schiller, Leftfield etc. Most of the time the best things happen by accident and coincidence, from which whole tracks are created. But a track can also be created from videos or films. We listened to Rajaram’s documentary about his art collection, and from that we copied a vocal sample and the whole song in relation to his narration (track: Tribe). Thanks, Rajaram for the fantastic sample. I guess he will probably never hear it and realise that it is his voice.
Janiv: I like many kinds of music. My first DJ experiences started in 1999- at that time drum&bass and uk-garage. Later I became enthusiastic about the trance melodies which brought me to psy and progressive Trance. I also love techno. I think the diversity comes from the background that we are very open to different music genres and certainly also because there are two of us. We like psychedelic synthesizers, beautiful melodies, driving beats and basses and cinema effects. From these preferences we compose our music freely.
Is there a formula you follow when producing a track? Is someone specifically attuned to writing the Kick and Bass and the percussion and then someone the mids and tops- or does it chop and change based on who started the track, etc? What is the Silent Sphere process in the studio?
Simon: We never actually plan our production. Most of the time I start with the chaos. I fill the project with samples, melodies, breaks, effects, and everything it needs for the groove. I arrange the tracks so that it has a beginning, a middle part, and the main part of the track. Janiv takes over the project and brings order and structure to the chaos.
This way of working has resulted from technical reasons; I work in the Ableton program, Janiv is a Cubase fan and the two cannot be combined. Ableton is a very intuitive creative tool for us whereas Cubase is perfect for final production. So, we always work with two different music programs. It’s also our personalities; I start projects, innovations, but when it comes to detail work I’m bad at it because it doesn’t interest me. There I’m already thinking about the next one. Janiv is the opposite. He optimizes everything in his life. An example: he can’t cook a simple menu, it’s the rebirth of the sense of taste. It’s the same in the studio. He can spend hours optimizing a single sound that’s audible for 2 seconds. This realization took time. After years, we found out how we work best together. Actually, it’s not a collaboration, it’s more a merging of skills. Only at the end, after Janiv has optimized everything, do we discuss the track. Then only a few changes are made.
Janiv: We have learned over the years how best to work together. Simon and I often start producing a track ourselves and from time to time we also start a track together. We often start with a melody or Kick and Bass. I prepare a loop with all the tracks/elements I need for the arrangement. Again and again, we work on the song alone or together and then arrange it in the end. There are many unfinished projects on our hard disk that we keep working on.
I like it when all the elements are already in the project before arranging so I can concentrate on the flow of the track structure without having to look for new melodies or other elements. Of course, there are moments until the end of the process where an idea comes up and we create it. Simon works mostly in Ableton, and I work in Cubase. Simon works very differently than I do and that’s great. He is the creative scatterbrain, and I am the perfectionist. All Ableton projects end up in Cubase after arranging. That’s an interesting challenge, especially with the chaotic projects with over 150 tracks. In the end I’m responsible for finishing, mixing, and mastering the tracks. Finally, I did the mastering for our album ‘My Space’ myself.
Performing in front of an audience is usually like a reward for all the hard work. It’s so much fun when you can present your own songs and watch how the partying people take them up on the dancefloors.
You’ve had a very active summer, playing gigs all over Europe. What was it like being on the road again, dancing with friends, listening to music on a rig and playing music to the masses?
Simon: Generally, it is getting more and more difficult with the bookings. As a psytrance promoter I have to be aware of my responsibility to find the best musicians and to keep the whole party exciting with the right playing time. Increasingly there are booking agencies that tell you what time the artist should play, or how big the font size of the artist’s name should be on the poster and are forcing you to book artists to get their headliners together with rising prices for artists. Rising prices are an issue everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we have more visitors because of it.
Here we have reached an interesting point. The organizer is not allowed to raise the entrance fee very much, even though everything around is increasing; artists, decoration, music system, staff, security…. And party people end up opting out of the event because the price looks like “capitalism”. In short, the organizer really has the most difficult job of all. And at the same time don’t kid yourselves that the psytrance scene has exactly the same potential of capitalism as Mc Donald’s. A potential doesn’t mean that we are already there. But hey, don’t let it come to that.
My wish is: the agencies don’t put themselves above the party organizer. And to the organizers (and here I have to include myself): don’t always book the same line up, let the young generation have their place to develop and evolve. Dear party people, the value of a party is equal to the entrance fee. Find an organization that matches that, and support them with everything you have, they are going through a challenging time. Also, I appeal to more festival and event organisers to ask their Audience what artists and music they would like to hear.
Janiv: I am very happy to be on the road. For me, there could be many more gigs around the world. I like meeting old friends and meeting and hearing new artists. Performing in front of an audience is usually like a reward for all the hard work. It’s so much fun when you can present your own songs and watch how the partying people take them up on the dancefloors. But the business is not easy. The booking structure makes it very difficult to play more and at new festivals.
When test driving your album My Space, which tracks gave you the best crowd response and were there any tracks you changed or tweaked based on dance floor reaction?
SILENT SPHERE: That’s a tricky question. A track is never finished. Not even when it’s released. We only play our own tracks. We can also play 3h sets with our own tracks. Because we have such varied tracks. But the identical set can create a totally different atmosphere one week at another party. It’s the whole package of atmosphere on the dancefloor: the club, the people, the decoration, the music system… There are so many factors that influence how your set is. If the track goes down well or not so well you can only judge with many, many sets and attentiveness. We can’t imagine having a notepad next to the DJ-set up and take notes and so on. And besides, we think if we get the best out of ourselves, then it’s not possible to get more out. That’s just us, Silent Sphere. Like it or don’t like it. The main thing is to be honest and authentic.
With the album nearly out and European summer over, can we maybe expect to see you in the sunny Southern Hemisphere? 😛
Simon: Oh, that would be fantastic. We have a lot of listeners from Cape Town (if that’s what you mean by “southern hemisphere”). Almost 20 years ago I was able to perform for the organization “Vortex” at a new year’s party. That was a very nice experience. Besides the party I was able to admire the landscape and made some nice trips. The time with the label boss of Midijum “Bim” at that time was also unforgettably nice.
Janiv: I have never been to South Africa. It is a dream to perform there.
Silent Sphere ‘My Space’ album is available here
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