The Elevator Coach

Studio Talk with Hybrasil

Tell us a bit about your association with Ibiza. It seems to go back a long way, right? 

My first trip there was back in 2008, I was on the verge of a massive change in my life path, going from working as a consultant to studying sound and music tech. I went to Ibiza for 2 weeks to soak everything up. At that time Cocoon was at its peak, one of the few underground parties on the island. I saw some incredible performances on the Amnesia Terrace from Sven, Ricardo and Tobi Neumann there. It was truly life changing. 

The first time I played there was in 2015, Eoin Smyth who then worked with the Carl Cox team at Space invited me to play on the Space Sunset Terrace, so I decided to move over there for a month. That was an incredible experience, I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of an apartment in Ibiza town with no air conditioning in the middle of July, going to Space every Tuesday for Carl Cox and every Thursday Richie Hawtin’s Enter party. Richie was playing a lot of my music at the time, I was standing behind him when he played my track ‘Donbot’, so many great memories and we made a lot of friends that time who we are still connected with. 

When Eoin Smyth and Dave Browning set up Game Over after the closure of Space, they booked me to perform Pure Carl Cox at Privilege and One Night Stand at Amnesia. I even moved over to Ibiza in 2017 for the full season. The last couple of years have been amazing there, I’m really looking forward to 2019. 

Do you think Ibiza is as influential a place for breaking new artists as it used to be? 

For me Ibiza has been an instrumental part of where I am. The Game Over guys thrust me into the spotlight over the past couple of years, putting me on line ups with people like Carl Cox, Adam Beyer, Joseph Capriati, tINI and Cassy. I was on two billboards last season. That all made a big difference. I think a lot of people are conscious of who is booked there and it’s still influential. 

Let’s also chat about your move to Berlin. How have you adapted since you moved over? What’s been the hardest thing to adjust to? 

Berlin has been great, I’ve found people here really helpful and I’m lucky to live in Friedrichshain where there’s lots of nice restaurants and I can walk to Hardwax and Schneidersladen. I’m really grateful for the experience I’ve had here so far. In terms of adjusting it took me four months to get set up properly, they say it takes a year to settle in. My advice to anyone moving to any city is to be organised, try not to carry debts with you and have money saved. 

You’ve been really prolific with your releases recently, with a load of releases out on your own self-titled label, another recent one on Octopus Records, Kenja and we just read another to follow via Rekids Special Projects. As a full-time musician, do you go through hot streaks where you’re able to produce a lot of different things? And do you find it difficult to know when a track is 100% done, do you reckon? 

For me it’s more a case of head space and time management than hot streaks in the studio, I can be productive any time I sit down to write something, I wrote two tracks on flights in and out of London recently. Sometimes you need to sit with a track and a final mix down before sending it off, that’s something I am mindful off. If I have a lot of things going on outside of the studio, that moreso effects my flow as I find it harder to concentrate on one thing. I also engineer, mix and master for other people, I find that helps me get out of my own head and look at music objectively, making technical decisions on what needs to be done. That helps me with my own workflow and when it comes to making final calls on tracks. 

Has your sound engineering background been critical to you in that regard? Do you think it gives you an edge over producers who are self-taught on Ableton, Logic etc or do you really think about it like that? 

When I worked as a sound engineer I was fortunate to work with some really talented musicians, from Blues and Rock to World Music. Recording acoustic audio and mixing it afterwards is a great way to learn the production process. This was outside of my comfort zone and I learned a lot in the process, it definitely helped me grow both on a technical and artistic level. 

I don’t really see the technical side of what I do in terms of having an edge on another person, I more so compete with myself to be the best possible version of myself. No matter what field you are in, you need to have a growth mindset, constantly pushing forward and learning new things. I studied Sound and Music Tech for two years, I’ve had some great studio mentors over the years, I watch online tutorials all the time, I regularly go to Schneidersladen in Berlin for their Modular synth workshops, I like to visit friends studios to see what they are doing. 

I have mentored and taught artists in places like the Dublin Institute of Technology and in the Irish Prison Service. Even from teaching others, I learn about myself. There is no right or wrong path for anyone, but I feel as artists we need to learn, develop and grow by any means necessary. Be that through an online course, a full time degree in Music Technology, through self learning or a combination of the above.

My advice is, learning on your own can yield great results if you are really disciplined at it, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, to learn from those who have been there and done it. The more you learn, the more skilled you will become

You’re indebted to a load of different sounds from house to techno. Who do you consider the master in both genres from a production perspective? And what is it about their approach that you so admire?

Jeff Mills is without doubt one of true masters of Techno, I think in centuries to come, people will look back on this period of music and recognise him as the Mozart of the genre. I had the honor of performing at one of his Orchestra shows in Dublin, it was an incredible experience. I bought a Roland TR 909 specifically for that show so that he would have one in good condition any time he came to Ireland. 

His concept driven approach to music production, composition and his label has yielded an astounding body of work in addition to many impressive projects such as The Outer Limits Radio show on NTS, multiple Cinemix’s, The Exhibitionist, his residency at the Barbican Theatre in London, exhibiting at the Louvre in Paris, the list goes on and on. 

For House Music the master was no doubt the Godfather Frankie Knuckles. I was also blessed to have met Frankie a few times and I interviewed him back when I was working in radio years ago. In Chicago, Frankie’s manipulation of records during his residency at the Warehouse and his re-edits with the Roland TR-909 at the Powerplant became what we now call House Music, week on week he would create hours and hours of music for that weekends show. 

I feel really blessed and grateful to have met both Jeff and Frankie, both have inspired me a great deal, both geniuses in their own right. We need to measure ourselves against greatness, that will keep us humble and pushing forward. 

Tell us a bit about the label and your ideas with that. What does it all stand for in your head? 

The Hybrasil label is something I love doing, it’s all my own music and I’m releasing on vinyl which is really important to me. It’s an outlet for music I feel personally connected to. I was always playing tracks like ‘The Man From Sirius B’ and ‘Manhattan’ in my live sets. I honestly couldn’t figure out where to send them or sign them. The Hybrasil label is the perfect platform for that kind of minimalist weirdness. For me it stands for presenting an ideological representation of the Hybrasil sound. It doesn’t sound like any other label because it’s just me on there, it’s honest and it is exactly what it is. 

My next Hyrbasil label release with be a vinyl titled ‘Calculator’ featuring four of my favorite tracks. I am trying to get it pressed before Time Warp comes around, its been sent to the plant so lets see. 

What do you see as the nest steps for you sound-wise? is there one part of the way you approach your music that you would love to get tighter above all else?

That’s a good question, I feel that moving to Berlin has given me an opportunity to step back and work on my technical skills again. I am really enjoying mixing and mastering at the moment. Also my knowledge of certain pieces of kit such as the Octatrack is getting more in depth. When I am playing Live I am just performing off an Octatrack, that machine is very complex so there is always something new to learn and new ways of using it. Live performance is an ongoing learning curve, I am enjoying that process. Overall I feel I am improving across the board, I allocate time to writing, mixing, mastering and experimentation. With time everything improves.