Phoenix Rising: System 7
There are few acts that have had the longevity of System 7. Then again there few musical outfits that have members with as an illustrious a musical history as Steve Hillage, with a packed CV including playing in playing in the progressive rock band Gong, producing Simple Minds and Charlatans albums and becoming a leading light in the ambient movements alongside The Orb in the 1990’s. So with a career spanning over 30 years you’d forgive Steve and his partner Miquette if they wanted to slow down and reminisce about past glories. This however is far from the case as the duo maintain a hectic touring schedule playing at some of the worlds most esteemed venues and festivals wherein their techno ensemble continue to push boundaries. So with a new album entitled ‘Phoenix Rising’ recently released we thought it was time we caught up with Steve to talk about his memories from within the industry, where system 7 are now and what they’ve got planned for the future. Exciting times lay ahead…
As scene veterans, you must have seen at lot of changes in the within the industry as trends come and go. Do you feel pressure as DJs and producers to always be one step ahead? A lot of producers from across the electronic spectrum seem to have jumped on the EDM or ‘deep house’ bandwagons of late.
We don’t actually use the term EDM as we associate it with David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia whose ethos is far distant from ours. We’re not really competing with other producers – our pressure comes from ourselves and our wish to stay true to our creative aims and to deliver consistently good quality tracks. You are only as good as your last mix or your last gig…
Is there anyone or any track that you’re particularly proud of from your catalogue as you’ve worked with some really amazing musical talents? What do you see as your greatest musical highlight so far?
We’ve had many musical highlights in the 20-plus years we’ve been doing System 7. One stand out track is ‘Alpha Wave’ with that amazing Plastikman remix that that never seems to sound tired! We dropped it from our set for a couple of years, but have just stated playing it again, and it still works. Our label A-Wave is named after this track which I think gives you an idea of how much it means to us.
Tell us more about your rise through the industry. Do you think it was more difficult getting a big break in the music business when electronic music was more niche?
I wouldn’t say we really had a big break at System 7, but it was a good moment when Virgin Records in 1989, after pestering me for years to make another rock album, agreed to support our new dance music project. Meeting Alex Paterson and Derrick May at that time was also important because we created enduring relationships that last to this day from which we learned a lot and made some great tracks.
Starting out in electronic music when you did you must have been surrounded by some of the scenes seminal figures. Were there any major influences from certain key people, DJ’s, producers or clubs you can tell us about?
My number one all time musical influence is Jimi Hendrix. Meeting and working with Alex Paterson (The Orb), Derrick May, Carl Craig, Laurent Garnier and others has had a profound influence. We’ve never had the opportunity to work with Jeff Mills but he also has been a big influence. Spending time in Ibiza at both the big clubs like Pacha and Space and the small clubs like Underground has been big for us, as has playing at massive trance parties like Universo Paralello in Brazil and Boom in Portugal. More recently spending time in Berlin has had a major effect, and experiencing clubs like Berghain/Panorama Bar with DJs like Ben Klock has rocked our world!
How does it feel to have been working in the heart of the scene for the twenty years or so that you have been working as System 7?
We love what we do and as long as we keep having fun, learning new things, and meeting interesting people we will continue onwards and upwards.