Everybody’s been listening to it and trance and house DJ’s have been dropping their tracks in sets for years now but surprisingly it has taken promoters a long, long time to catch on and finally book some of these progressive trance artists to perform in South Africa. It’s no secret that the Cape Town outdoor party scene has been dominated by full-on, balls-to-the-wall psytrance whilst clubs like ESP in Joburg have favoured the club trance and house sounds of Europe.
But as the old cliché goes ‘you can’t keep a good man (or woman) down’ so likewise, good dance music is good dance music; you can’t ignore it forever. Thus in something of a watershed year for the progressive trance and psy-tech movement, suddenly we’re being spoilt with a whole bunch of quality artists scheduled to rock our shores this party season, both in Joburg and in Cape Town.
Two such artists are Audiomatic who will be performing here in December – Cape Town and Joburg gigs – and Symphonix who is booked alongside Neelix for mid-January in Cape Town.
Benjamin Halfmann aka Audiomatic has been around since the first wave of progressive trance producers back in 1999 and this laid the foundation for what has proven to be a successful career as both DJ and producer. Here’s his story…
As someone who has been involved in the progressive trance scene for many, many years, what pleases you most about where it is today?
It’s great to see how established it’s become in so many countries all around the world. Even better, it has become a huge international network with so many people traveling and being connected. Today the biggest events have a very professional organizational standard and tens of thousands of visitors but still there are so many underground parties, as well.
So you don’t miss the ‘good old days?’
Honestly, I do not miss anything – I’m thinking forward rather than backward!
You started DJ’ing in 1999. This was when the progressive trance sound first started to develop – did you always DJ prog-trance?
I was enthusiastic about Progressive from the very beginning, so when I started DJ’ing, I played this kind of sound. It was the time of the first big Progressive avalanche in Germany, so it was acts like Atmos, Intact Instinct, Noma and Haldolium that had a strong impact on me.
You were telling me you produced your entire first album, ‘Multiplayer’, on Fruity Loops. How would you say your sound has changed from those first releases to where you are today?
In 2006 I eventually switched to Cubase and there have been several quantum leaps with regard to the technological possibilities. Today a song is made up of way more audio tracks. I can also use more VST instruments and effects than back then. In this way, my sound has become richer and even more melodic. Also, when I started producing, I did not have any idea about music theory or audio engineering but have since gained a lot of experience in these fields and of course this is very noticeable in the music, I feel.
Since you grew up on Heavy Metal and AC/DC one would think you’d be making dark psy or at least much harder music…
For me, it just feels like there is more space for the single sounds in music below 140 IDM. In fact, I’ve become interested in music much slower than Trance. At home, I listen to a lot of Progressive & Tech House at the moment. I’ve also started a side project for this kind of music, using my actual name.
With Germany so strong on the progressive side of trance music, what do you think of all the Israeli artists (normally better known for full on trance) such as Ace Ventura, Rocky etc.?
I think it’s very good that these guys have forged their own sound. Some years ago, there used to only be the German and the Scandinavian Progressive style. Today, there is much more variation! I think Serbia and Greece have also developed their own Progressive sound, as well.
Which producer before 2001 do you wish was still making trance music?
Intact Instinct! I was definitely influenced by the music these guys produced back then. I would really love to hear a modern Progressive track from them.
And new breed producers that impress you?
Phaxe & Interactive Noise! Phaxe has a knack for melodies and I like the way he includes elements of House and Techno in his tracks. Interactive Noise is less melodic, but he really knows how to combine elements of different genres, like Progressive, House, Techno and Electro.
Which one trance track of all time do you wish you had written?
The very first Progressive track that became a giant hit and a great influence for many producers: Atmos – Klein Aber Doktor!
What’s your favourite Audiomatic track of all time?
At the moment, I would say Windows of Our Soul from my recent album Weekend Society. I think it’s a very emotional track. Also, I used my own voice in a track for the very first time, that’s still very special for me.
Brothers Sirko and Stephan have been DJ’ing progressive beats since the formative days of this music style. They’ve also paid their dues throwing many events, the most notable of which is the Tshitraka Project Open Air festival, which they sadly had to discontinue once their artist careers took off. Dedicated disciples of progressive trance since the beginning theirs is a sound that remains true to the roots of psychedelic progressive. Here’s what they had to say…
You grew up in a town called Schwerin. Sounds like a swear word, what’s it like there?
It’s a sweet little city with heaps of lakes around, quite picturesque and rather quiet. There is a local electronic music scene here with some clubs and regular events around though it is not exactly super popular throughout the country. Still, Schwerin is located right between Hamburg and Berlin – which is to say, the surrounding area turns into a huge adult playground once the festival season is on!
Being brothers did you both discover Trance parties together?
Yes, we started spinning records together in 1998. That brought us to Trance music and that again grew into organizing parties. We actually went to our first trance party in 1999.
As brothers have you ever found yourselves competing with each other since you must spend so much time together?
Surprisingly enough, we have never had serious trouble getting along with each other! Actually we found that we complement each other very well. We might have some differences but we are still on the same vibe.
Symphonix is known for lush sounds, warm melodies and deep grooves. What’s the ideal set time for you at an outdoor party?
Easy question… it is the afternoon at any outdoor party or festival.
Germany has always been at the cutting edge of electronic music, specifically Berlin. What’s the most current sound right now that impresses you?
It is quite an interesting phenomenon that the popular Berlin Techno sound is getting deeper and deeper. That goes for the trippy Minimal stuff as well as for the rather fast and hard big-room Techno music. Subtle melodies and pad sounds can now be heard where there used to only be simple chords before.
Your visit to South Africa will be your first. Have you heard much about our country?
Of course, South Africa is a hot spot on the Trance world map! There is heaps of good music coming from there and we’ve met a lot of Trance travelers from this country during our journeys around the globe. So yes, we are very excited to finally go there!
And lastly… shout outs to anybody?
The Usual Suspects are heading to South Africa to prostitute the Wild Life!
Where to catch them live in South Africa this summer:
JHB: Thurs, 15 December – ESP Nightclub
CPT: Fri, 16 December – Venue TBA
CPT: Sat, 14 January 2012 – Outdoors