Interviews In The Shade: Silicon Syndicate (Part 1)
Silicon Syndicate is a newly launched project coming straight from the US and since this is the first time we interview a duo you get two interviews in one.
First of all thank you Hugh and Kent for dedicating some of your time to answer our questions.
With just two releases under this new moniker we cannot assume all our readers know who you are, even though we promoted both Sonic Tectonic and Impulse Anomaly on our blog. So why don’t you start telling us about yourself and the new Silicon Syndicate project.
Hugh: Hello and thanks for featuring us on your blog and for all your support so far. It’s really encouraging for us! You’re right – the Silicon Syndicate project is pretty fresh out of the gates with those two EPs our first releases. But we’re actually a couple of old geezers who have been close friends for almost two decades and producing together on and off for almost as long.
Kent: We originally met through music way back in 1996 when the psychedelic trance scene was just getting started in the Northeast United States. After playing in an electronic band in college, I was trying my hand at solo dance music productions living in Connecticut and was writing tracks for about a year when I met Hugh on a psy trance email list. I think we discussed details about how to make a particular kick drum sound and realized we had a lot of common interests!
Hugh: I was just out of college, living in Brooklyn and had been DJing for a little less than a year. After further internet chatting about gear or tracks or something, I invited Kent to visit me one weekend for a party a friend of mine was throwing. He brought along his Roland MC-202 to show me how he writes loops and I was keen to learn more.
Kent: So Hugh came to visit me at school a couple months later and we produced our first track together; an over the top stomper called ‘People Of Earth’ full of 303 and samples about flying saucers. We released that on the Dutch label BooM! Records a year later, where I would also release a solo album.
The next summer, we started producing together on a larger scale. Inspired by X-Dream’s legendary Radio album, I’d grabbed a Waldorf MicroWave XT and we put that machine through its paces, setting up a studio in Hugh’s living room. Later we added the Waldorf Q, so much of our sound at that point was shaped by these two synths (in addition to the obligatory vintage Roland gear haha).
Hugh: We called ourselves Shape Shifters, and demo’d our new tunes to promoters we knew through our years already in the scene. Soon we started getting live gigs and for the next year and a half we performed our sets at parties across North America.
Kent: Long story short, after the touring was done I finished my studies in Connecticut, moved to Baltimore for a few years and in 2005 landed a job in New York City. Between 2001 and 2005 I released a handful of psytrance tracks as Mind Warped on California’s Soular Records, occasionally collaborating with Deeper In Zen in his studios in San Francisco and LA.
Then, for the first few years in New York I spent most of my free time gradually building up a studio in a rented space downtown while messing around with skeletal tracks, improving my production and mixing skills. The studio was a mess for years with boxes, cables and electronic gear scattered all over the place. It slowly morphed into a comfortable, efficient workspace for more than one person in 2010.
Although some time for releasing was in ways “lost” I think it was a useful peroid where I was able to work to improve my skills and develop a new type of creative focus, gradually freeing myself from full on psy-trance tendencies, which had for years been my default mode of production.
Hugh: So one night after a meal with friends at our favorite Malaysian restaurant just a few blocks from the studio, we made a pact to start meeting at least once a week to work on writing tracks again. This was in November 2010.
Kent: Our first day in was kind of weird. Neither of us was very active in any kind of techno scene at that point nor buying much in the way of electronic dance music. So we just started putting sounds together, basically randomly. I had no idea what sound would come out. We talked about trying to go in a particular direction, but decided it would be more rewarding to just let our sound organically develop. I guess there was the subconscious effect of the music I was hearing from Hugh’s DJ mixes and other sources, but we didn’t specifically try to go for one sound… so far it seems to be working out.
Hugh: I had been dallying with some progressive house sounds and the very rare progressive psychedelic trance tracks, but was actually going through a 60s and 70s psychedelic rock phase when we started working on what would eventually become ‘Impulse Anomaly’. But the progressive sounds I was getting into were definitely an influence on where I wanted our sound to go, without sacrificing the psychedelic aspects we’ve always enjoyed.
Kent: So both of us went in with the only desire to make tracks as good as we could make them sound. Hugh and I just wanted to make tracks we ourselves would like to hear at parties—and weren’t hearing at the time. That’s still our main goal.
How is it to launch a new underground project in 2012? Especially considering how long you have been active on the scene and surely have witnessed it changing so much.
Kent: Back in our psy-trance days, it was so much work getting in touch with labels. All the big labels were entrenched with rosters consisting of close-knit friends and it was really hard as outsiders from the US to get them to take us seriously. I mean, our production skills back then weren’t quite what they are now, but it was much more of an uphill battle getting the attention of labels back then.
Another challenge was just that there weren’t many people around to collaborate with on psy-trance and also there was no one to learn from which I think is a key aspect of dance music genres that had developed in Europe and elsewhere. Social media and has changed all that. Also, the plethora of online videos and other training materials has also helped us a lot with our mixing.
Hugh: SoundCloud and Beatport have really revolutionized dance music promotion and distribution. It was incredibly easy for us to contact exactly the people we wanted to reach and promote our demos. I was impressed by how many of the labels and artists I was following on Beatport had presences on SoundCloud and even more surprised by just how accessible and friendly everyone is. It’s also really incredible to see how many people in how many countries around the globe are listening in and composing incredible music.
Kent: We received responses and license requests so soon after our first promotional push, we almost didn’t believe it to be true. Considering how our tracks sort of straddle a few genres, we thought we’d have trouble finding interested takers. But within a couple weeks of posting our demos to SoundCloud, we had seven tracks licensed.
Hugh: And, I might add, to labels I had a great deal of respect for and had been following for years. I mean, it kind of blew me away to get a contract from Plusquam. I can pull Plusquam’s first 12” single, which I bought new in the shop nearly thirteen years ago, off my shelf at home. And Mistique was a label that came to my attention way back in 2008 and inspired a lot of our shift toward deep progressive house sounds.
Remaining on the scene topic. We are very curious to know more about the New York psychedelic scene, as the world financial mecca is surely not the first place we associate to psychedelic trance music.
Kent: The psychedelic trance scene here in New York got started around 1995 but took another year for it to really take hold; coincidentally right around the time when Hugh and I first met.
There was a huge Return To The Source event back in 1996 and another in 1997 and for a long while after that we had a constant string of sizeable parties thrown by two or three more-or-less dependable promoters. Big parties would bring about five hundred to a thousand people without much difficulty. The scene today is reduced in size from its peak in the late ‘90s.
These days you might get 500 people at a large party with a lot of promotion and a solid lineup and maybe 200 at your average weekly club event. Plus you now have prog psy, full-on psy, dark psy sub-genres.
Hugh: The main thing that made New York the biggest city for psy-trance on the east coast was the international community that was calling New York home at the time. The biggest promoters were Swiss, French, Italians, Israelis and Russians and the nationalities of the partygoers were just as diverse. That will always be an advantage New York has over most US cities.
Before jumping straight to part 2, enjoy this preview of Silicon Syndicate just released new single:
For more information about Silicon Syndicate, check out:
- Silicon Syndicate – Impulse Anomaly (Mistiquemusic)
- Silicon Syndicate – Sonic Tectonic (Icarus Creations)
- Interviews In The Shade: Silicon Syndicate (Part 2)
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