when were you two first bitten by the dance music and production bug?
My dad played me a cassette almost 25 years ago when I was 6 and Inner City’s “Big fun” was one of the first tracks. Even as a kid I was completely blown away because it didn’t sound anything like I’ve heard at that time. The bouncy echo of the chords on that track, also with Techtronic’s ‘Pump up the Jam’, was just this intriguing out of this world sound. I should mention that I’m an Ethiopian Immigrant in the states so this all happened back in Ethiopia. It was soon explained to me what synthesizer keyboards were and immediately started recognizing Korg M1s, Yamahas and Rolands whenever I see them. Of course you didn’t go out and buy those things back then unless you had a band since they used to cost thousands of dollars. One interesting thing to note is that the disco generation (like my parents) considered most of 80’s house music as a modernexperimental take on disco until these tracks came around in late 80s and were undeniably different from anything that came before them.
For example, that same cassette also contained Chic’s ‘Jack Le Freak’ which is a house version of the ‘Le Freak’ from a decade earlier that my parents were dancing to. So as far they were concerned it was disco of the 80s. I feel like that story gets left out sometimes, including how popular Hip House was around ’89, ‘90, dare I say even more mainstream than classic house? Anyway, I had discarded the possibility of making music until around 2000 when I was a freshman in college and had an ‘aha’ moment while looking at some WAV file editor application on my computer. Next thing I know I’ve ripped all the drums, snares, hats, Crashes from most mp3s I had and started arranging them within the wave editor itself. The following year my friend shows up with FruityLoops software and I never looked back. I’ve been working with FL Studio for more than 12 years now. So it’s safe to say I have few hundred of amateurish tracks that have accumulated for a decade and half. Baby steps compared to what I’ve been doing for that past few years but I’m happy that I’m getting better incrementally each year.
My father was a big fan of Disco, Funk and 80’s house music and I’m glad he got to see my first EP release before he passed away last November. He was just as much surprised as I was about that release and he actually liked the EP.
Cool. Can you talk to us about the latest release? We’ve been loving the 4 stomping tracks on it!
I have a thing for heavy kick drums and wanted to make this release slightly more dance floor friendly than the prior EP. I tried to have different historical house elements in different tracks. For example Parkway and The Tropics have that late 80’s Detroit stabs, while Lighthouse has the classic Garage house Korg M1 Organ bass from the early 90’s. With Arthropoda, I wanted to explore new soundscapes and blend it with a heavy bass.
What ideas were you trying to convey with this one? What production styles did you use when doing it?
I just want people to dance and have fun. All are four by four, swing, and heavy kick drum actions with bouncy chords to get people moving. I intentionally made the melodies thicker though since most tracks as of late are light on that front.
Were all the tracks made with an EP or mind or are they ones you have had on your hard drive for some time?
I’d say they were partially produced with an EP in mind but I wasn’t sure which ones end up where given that I have a slightly more than average pace of producing tracks. For example Renaissance ended up as a single, and one track is deferred from this release to become a single later on so it’s hard to tell. It’s a non-issue for me as to how they’re released but yeah all of these tracks are made in the past few months.
What do you reckon are the key foundations of a dance music track? How do you usually go about mapping your tracks?
Heavy/punchy kick drums, a good swing and reverbed chords with a rich melody. These are the foundations. Aggressive filters and effects only add value to a track once the foundations are strong. Otherwise it’s like freshly painted house on a sand dune. It won’t work.
And how happy were you when sinnmusik* decided to release your music? What’s your ultimate ambition as an artist?
I’m very delighted to be working with sinnmusik*. I’m still mulling over my ambitions as an artist because this was just a hobby until very recently. I want to go as far it can take me.
Are you a self taught producer by the way? Or are you trained in music?
My dad showed me few guitar tricks when I was a kid, I’d say I’m a self taught producer through and through. I do have an appreciation for professionally trained musicians. I’ve been continuously reading up on music theory the past decade and can’t help but notice how much math is behind it. And given that I’m a programmer and an artist, a logical next step is to write/create new VSTs from scratch and see what I can come up with. So this is something that I’m also working on right now.
What’s your take on the EDM scene by the way? A good thing in the long run or just plain awful?
Assuming we’re taking about the popular/pop EDM scene – and not Deephouse, for example, as some people use it as an umbrella term for all dance music made electronically including house and techno – It’s a good thing for a number of reasons. The first thing is, even though I’m not into the sound of pop EDM; it helped turn the tide when it comes to younger people becoming aware of proper House and Techno. I know a number of 20 somethings that became fan of the poppy EDM sound first and then worked their way into classic house and techno which now they’re a fan of. Another long term benefit is the experimentation aspect of it. There’s a lot of uncharted artistic space in dance music that is worth exploring. For example, a lot kids in the mid nineties including myself were wrongfully dismayed at the meteoric rise of trance overshadowing House & Techno, the unappealing mutations of garage music, and the ever speeding up tempo of drum and bass that eventually rendered itself undanceable compared to its predecessor Jungle. But in retrospect, we would not have had minimal techno, 2 step garage, and later dubstep if these artists weren’t experimenting with their tools.
I’d also add that this dialogue is a recurring theme of every decade. Motown and Rock fans looked down on disco in the 70s, and House/Techno experimentation in the 80s. Disco fans didn’t like hip-hop of the 90’s. And most fans of the 90’s music in general weren’t too flattered with the releases in 2000’s. But it is a necessary experimentation that needs to happen if this music is going anywhere. Otherwise there will be little artistic room left after a while and we’ll start hating the very tracks we love after endless permutations of similar arrangements.
What more should we look out for from you over the next while?
I have a single coming up in July titled ‘Atari’ with remixes from Bis Boys Please and Sake. I’m currently working on a number of other tracks and experimenting with new VSTs as well. So this year is shaping up pretty well so far.
Fasika’s 4th Law of Motion is out now on sinnmusik*. Check it out below: