Baroque Records latest installment of their ‘Protocol’ series is out this week and it’s been compiled and mixed by Beat Syndrome. I had a chance to catch up with Canadian producer Hamed Safi aka Beat Syndrome just prior to Protocol’s release.
1. Hi Hamed, thanks for joining us here! It’s been a while since we interviewed you so we should probably give people some sort of background info so let’s start with some basic stuff. How long have you been DJing and producing? How did you get into electronic music?
Beat Syndrome: Hi Mitch. Thanks for having me; indeed it has been a long time since we last spoke. I have been Djing and producing for over 10 year now. I got introduced to Electronic music when I was about 15 years old. I had a few friends at the time that attended a lot of parties in Toronto, so I got to see a lot of DJs over a short period of time and heavily got into the scene and the music. Soon after I realized that wasn’t satisfying enough for me and I wanted to play my own music. I got a set of turntables and a few instruments and started learning how to make music.
2. Where do your musical roots lie and when did you know you wanted to pursue electronic music seriously?
Beat Syndrome: I used to be a drummer and play rock music in my teenage years. I was always a big fan of music in general and loved collecting records and finding out about new artists and stuff like that. I was very passionate about performing arts and theater also at the time. As soon as I got into electronic music and watched a few performances, I knew this was what I wanted to pursue seriously. I think it was around 2003/2004 when I decided to fully focus on production and developing the Beat Syndrome Brand.
3. Have you lived in the Toronto your whole life? What is the club and party scene like there, are their places you can go to hear good electronic music? and do you get a chance to DJ in your home city much?
Beat Syndrome: I have been living in Toronto for 20 years now. The scene has certainly changed a lot over the years. I have to say that I am actually really proud of the city for developing such a great reputation for electronic music in recent years. I do feel that the crowd here seem more educated about electronic music now and open to hearing something they are not used to on the dance floor. There are definitely a lot more events that go on in Toronto now with quality shows and great artist line-ups. I don’t only mention this about electronic music but even in any other genres you see a wave of international artists flying in and out of the city all year around. As a music fan and someone who loves going to live shows and watching performances I am very happy about this. I have been quiet busy in the studio recently and was very focused on developing a few project for this year. But I am happy to say that most of them are in final stages and my focus for the rest of the year will be on playing shows and certainly more events in Toronto.
4. So you’ve recently compiled the latest installment of Baroque Records ‘Protocol’ series. The release is out this week and having listened to it several times I can say it’s a great collection of music. Talk a bit about the process of putting something like this together? How long did the whole process take and how many demos do you estimate you listened to?
Beat Syndrome: Thank you! I’m very proud of this album and excited about the release this week. Its been along time, maybe 2 years, that I have been thinking about recording a compilation of tracks that I get to pick and put together as a mix. I was really happy when Keith McDonnell approached me with the idea of doing the next Protocol LP on Baroque. I can say that as an artist, my inspirations and influences change and evolve all the time. Over the past year Beat Syndrome has gone through many changes as well. So my goal initially was to show this musical progression that I am experiencing, in this album. I had a few artists in mind that I wanted on the album. I approached them first and asked to send me some of the projects they are working on and they were very nice about developing their songs to fit the album more precisely. Meanwhile I was going through a lot of demos too. I think I listened to over 300 tracks and it was really tough to narrow it down to 17 at the end. The process took about 5 months plus a few weeks to mix the album. I’m really happy with the result and being able to work with such great people on this project.
5. Your DJ mix of ‘Protocol’ is a very well programmed selection, was the mix something you had started to work on before you even had all the tracks signed? and as you continued to sign tracks you started filling in the holes in the mix so to speak?
Beat Syndrome: It was alittle bit of both to be honest. For example the first track French Kiss & Matteo Monero – Dont Stop To Sink, was sent to me early on in the project and I just knew it had to be the opening track. Or when later on I heard Travis’s Yoga Pants track I liked it and wanted to use it, but I knew it had to be part of the ending of the set. So I had a few versions of the mix I was working on and slowly it started making sense and pieces started falling into place.
6. In terms of the mix how challenging was it to get an end result you were satisfied with?
Beat Syndrome: The mix was a challenge indeed. I had all these great tracks but they varied from deep tracks to progressive to techno. I knew I wanted to play some of the deeper and spacy tracks first. I started dividing the mix into 3 sections and made small mixes and pretty much glued these smaller mixes together where it sounded appropriate until I got the end results.
7. Now that ‘Protocol’ is out what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Beat Syndrome: I have a few more releases coming up which I’m really excited about. I have an original track coming up on Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat label and a great project called “Toro” which I worked on with my friend Estroe a few months back in Toronto, EP will be out on Sound Avenue this summer. I think the upcoming releases are some of my best production and cannot wait to share them. I will be focusing on performing for the rest of the year to promote my releases with a few international gigs for this fall.
8. Beat Syndrome is now a solo project but in the beginning it wasn’t. How if at all has your sound changed since then?
Beat Syndrome: I do feel that the sound has evolved and changed since then. It is very different when 2 people try to create a sound together verses working on my own in the studio. I feel more focused on the sound I like to create and have a clear plan of where I’d like to take the brand in the future. My influences change over time and its really nice to be able to carry these inspirations directly to the studio and feed off them. I enjoy the process a lot.
9. Your tracks always sound impeccably produced, did you study production or sound design at some point and if not did anyone help you out along the way?
Beat Syndrome: I studied Sound Engineering in College. I had a few friend who studied electronics and taught me a lot about signals and Decibels and general recording studio knowledge. However learning how to play musical instruments was something I did on my own over the years.
10. How has your studio setup changed since you started producing and also since becoming a solo artist? and have you always produced club music?
Beat Syndrome: My setup hasn’t changed much since I’m working solo. I still use Ableton for production and sequencing, however I tend to use a lot more hardware to create my sounds than ever before. I have always produced electronic music but it’s varied in genres. If you visit my youtube channel www.youtube.com/thebeatsyndrome you will find a lot of bootleg remixes and various electronic experimental tracks I have done over the years. But my passion for club music and something everyone can dance to will always there and I love the process of creating a dance track. I recently signed a remix to Nettwerk music Group for “The Be Good Tanyas” which is one my favourite projects. I think this will open up more opportunities for me to display a more musical and experimental side of Beat Syndrome in the future.
12. Do things always come easy for you in the studio? What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult? and what gets you through a period of writers block or lack of inspiration?
Beat Syndrome: I enjoy the process of creating tracks in the studio. I find the most difficult part is to come up with an initial theme or mood that I like to build a track on. I spend a lot of time creating that theme. It’s not always easy to find what im looking for right away. I have learned to become more patient with sound design and focus on each element a great deal. Sometimes it might take a month for me to find the right project to focus on finishing. I am used to working on a few projects at one time and switch back and forth between them.
13. What advice would you give new producers just starting out?
Beat Syndrome: I would tell new producers to practice a lot and keep making tracks. I think in order to become good at anything you have to try many many times and possibly fail at it once or twice. However in my opinion the “quality over quantity” rule always applies in music production, so be selective with the music you choose to release. Keep making music that you enjoy and moves you, don’t worry about genres and trends. Good music always stands out and speaks for itself.
14. If you had to pick one track which solidified your love for electronic music early on what would it be?
Beat Syndrome: I think I will never forget the first time I heard Sasha’s Baja from his Expander EP. It is still an absolutely timeless track for me.
15. What was your first and last DJ gig?
Beat Syndrome: Both were in Toronto actually. First one was at a small venue downtown and the first time I heard my own records really loud in a club. Last gig was last month at Cabal.
16. What was the first and last record you purchased?
Beat Syndrome: I think the first one was a Timo Maas record. And last one was today; I purchased Baths – Ocean Death EP, which I have on repeat.
17. What would you say is the highlight of your career thus far?
Beat Syndrome: I think for me this year working with labels like Nettwerk and Sudbeat has been really exciting. I’ve played many good shows and met so many great people in the past 2 years; I consider it all a highlight really.
18. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Beat Syndrome: I hate the band U2.
19. Who are some of the best-undiscovered talents in your eyes?
Beat Syndrome: Baths, FKA Twigs, Might at Night, Atom TM, Heiko Laux
20. Which producers consistently inspire you?
Beat Syndrome: Eelke Kleijn, Tennis, Isolee, Ricardo Villalobos, Ame, David August
21. What artist or track would you love to remix? and who would you love to be remixed by?
Beat Syndrome: I would love to do a remix for Lake People or Sailor and I. It be cool to be remixed by Mano Le Tough or Christian Löffler.
22. Record labels are a dime a dozen these days and the majority of people feel most of them are mediocre music factories. Which ones if any standout for you?
Beat Syndrome: Cocoon, Ilana Tape, Stil Vor Talent, Pampa and City Life just to name a few.
23. What would you say is the best mix compilation of all time?
Beat Syndrome: This is a tough one so I will name a few, Sasha’s first Involver, Nick Warren ‘s Renaissance The Masters Series, Deep Dish Moscow Global Underground, Faithless Back to Mine series
24. Current Favourites (you can list more than one per category if you like)
Food: Seafood and Salads
Drink: Whiskey, Wine
Drug: Marijuana, Music
Animal: Dogs, Cats
TV Show: True Detective
Movie: Most recent would be Gravity, American Hustle
Video Game: Grand theft Auto
Album: Sohn – Tremors, Oliver Koletzki – I Am Ok
Track / Song: Colo – Holidays (Christian Löffler Remix), High Heels Breaker – Come Easy feat. Sarah Palin (David August Remix)
Producer / Band: Mind Against, Nils Frahm, David August, John Talabot, Active Child
Record Label: Life and Death, Maeve, Kompakt, Sudbeat, Dystopian
Nightclub: Coda (Toronto)
DJ: Guy J, Tennis, Tale of Us, Jamie XX, Mano Le Tough
25. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Beat Syndrome: Nevee – Steel and Stone (Beat Syndrome Radio Edit)
Beat Syndrome’s ‘Protocol’ collection is out now on Baroque Records, you can purchase the release: here