With fresh music out on Cid Inc’s Replug records, we catch up with Austria based artist Orsen.
1. Hi Dan, thanks for joining us today, it’s been a few years since we first interviewed you, how are you?
Hey Mitch! I’m doing really good thanks, quietly beavering away and keeping out of trouble as per usual. Thanks for inviting me for a chat.
2. Although you’re originally from the UK, when we first spoke you were living in the Austrian countryside, still there I assume? and what prompted the relocation?
Yes, I am still in Austria after relocating some years ago now, although on the edge of Linz again, so I have a nice balance of the city and countryside, it fits my way of life, really accessible but quite chilled for a city.
3. You don’t hear much about Austria in terms of electronic music, tell us about it, what is the nightlife like and are there artists from there you think we should check out? And is Austria home for the foreseeable future?
Yeah, to be honest, I am not involved in the Austrian music scene really, so it’s difficult to comment. There isn’t much progressive going on here for sure, maybe the odd night in Vienna, but I don’t really go out here much, maybe there is a bubbling scene I don’t know about, or maybe I should start something up haha. Even with that in mind, I have no plans to move anywhere else, I am really happy here, the world is a small place these days and it is easy to get to where I need to when required, but this feels like home for now.
4. You’ve got a new EP out this week on Replug Records, I would say your most diverse and accomplished collection of music to date. Tell about how the tracks came together and made sense for the release.
Thanks! Well, like most things I embark on, everything lands in the right place eventually, although sometimes things can take longer than others, a bit like this release.
In this EP, I wanted to have at least one track which harked back to the origins of Orsen, and this was ‘Through the Woods’. The last 15 months or so have been quite challenging, with a move of house and studio amongst other things, so nothing was coming together, I wasn’t in the best of creative places. I found myself out walking a lot in the hills and through some woods near my place, eventually I started taking my DSLR and field recorder with me, waiting for deer and other wildlife to pass by and capture, recording the atmosphere at different times of the day, the birds, the squawks, the cracks of branches under foot, the shuffling of leaves, the falling of water and the drumming of anything I could find with a couple of twig drumsticks I had made, tapping away like a woodland loon! It’s actually quite therapeutic. Through the Woods was a homage to this, the percussive sounds and atmospherics are mostly designed from the recordings of this process, with some modular sounding weirdness driving the track. It was fun to make and seems to have ignited a fire to start incorporating this into productions more again.
Wakey Wakey came about when the first shines of summer arrived one day this year, I was on my balcony looking out drinking a coffee in the morning, everything was quite clear for the first time in a while, so I think the mood carried into the track a bit when I went into the studio that day. My coffee mug that morning had the words “Wakey Wakey” written on it, as it often does and is often needed. There might be a deeper meaning in there, but it was probably just the coffee mug.
Cloudspotting is a funny one, it stemmed from an old idea I had in my bottomless ‘when did I write that idea?’ pot… I find it both good and terrifying dipping into that, sometimes I come across some gems which I can’t remember writing, a loop, an arp or a melody which didn’t find its place at the time of writing. Sometimes there are some truly bizarre ideas that I don’t understand the purpose of in there, but I still like to get them down and saved. I believe if you are compelled to write something and save it, there is something in it for some purpose, you just need to find the speck of gold in there. I used to write quite a bit of trancier edged music many moons ago and I think sometimes it pops its head up to reintroduce itself again, as it did a bit on this track. I wasn’t completely 100% with the final version of Cloudspotting to be honest, but as I have learnt over the years, it is often the ones you like the least do the best. Sometimes you are too close to your own process and music to hear that speck of gold in there. Maybe, I dunno, just my thought on it.
Black Deer was a long one, I started writing it over a year and a half ago, and it took just over a year to actually get around to finishing it bit by bit. I sort of needed to keep persisting with it though for some reason, it had an undercurrent of something which I didn’t want to leave unfinished. It was a process track I think for me, based on mood and feeling, a sense of space and focus as opposed to something melodic or with a big hook etc. I am pleased I carried on with it, it might be my favourite on the EP.
5. You’ve not had that much music out this year, in fact your Replug EP contains your first originals of 2017. What’s been happening in the studio this year? Some searching and experimentation perhaps? Tell us about that and how you eventually broke out with this EP.
Yes, it’s been a while, I am always searching and experimenting, a little too much maybe haha.
Sometimes you can plan, work on concepts or ideas until the cows come home, but in truth, most of what I would loosely describe as ‘write’ comes from a mood or a moment I am in, a spark or the lack of more often than not will denote how a day goes. I have a love/hate relationship with the creative process, when it works it’s free flowing, hyper-focused and I can get loads done, but the long unproductive spells I get in between sometimes can be annoying and affect my confidence and output a bit. I often think too much about what it is I want to be doing, what might work, what is different, is it good enough even? which is daft, because I generally really only try to write for myself and what I think sounds good, but doubt and self-criticism still creeps in. There is an obsessive/perfectionist element with everything I do, even down to the colour co-ordination of sounds, which might not be the coolest thing in music, or the easiest thing to live with haha. So when I started up my ‘Orsen’ moniker it was a project to try and break out of this habitual particularity, by working with found sounds and sound design to be a bit more experimental, this naturally reverted back to dance floor material with less of the sound of the real world and nature in it again, but I am finding more of a balance with it now though which is good, although I am still overly particular.
I find persisting at getting ideas down and finishing tracks even if you aren’t fully into them will open the creative doors to new music which you are happy with. I think this had a lot to do with finishing this EP.
6. The title track ‘Through The Woods’ is one of my favourites and design wise it’s super interesting, tell us about the process behind that one?
Yes, as I mentioned, there is a lot of design and natural sounds in this one. I wanted to experiment a bit with at least one track for the EP, so after spending months gathering sound recordings and turning them into percussive elements, loops, atmospherics and instruments to use at a later point, I started to use a few of them on this one. Thinking back, I started with an arpeggiated loop I designed on the Moog Modular V from Arturia, I love this instrument, endless fun and full of surprises. I then worked on the groove and percussive elements, textures and atmospherics which you can hear from the woods in the track if you listen. I then made a couple of instruments in Kontakt of recordings of me hitting things like bottles and stuff and started to key them into the track. I like to work a lot with rich effects, this has always been a thing for me. Over the years I have developed my own processes and chains which I think are now probably part of my sound. I really like the Eventide, Sound Toys, Brainworx, Slate and UAD plugins a lot, they sort of add that atmosphere and shine which I like.
7. Your last proper EP was over a year and a half ago, which was for Sudbeat Music, looking back on what you released then to your Replug EP how has your production or focus changed?
I think if anything I have become more critical with what I produce, and herein lies the problem. I always want the next thing I do to be different or have something new going on. My production focus has always been quite eclectic behind closed doors, often writing things which don’t see daylight, or at least yet, from experimental, contemporary compositions to electronica, but my main focus remains under the broad umbrella of progressive. I have never really been interested in releasing one track with remixes, I think my focus long term will be to amalgamate everything I have been doing into bigger releases like albums and different projects, but I will always be writing dance floor tracks with something interesting to offer, I hope.
8. You’ve also done two remixes this year, both quite notable in Roger Martinez and Mariano Mellino & Interaxxis. How often do you turn down requests and what is it you look for when deciding on a project?
Yeah, I am quite fussy about taking on remix work, over the last year or two I have turned down a lot of remix requests, this is no reflection on the labels/artists or the music, it is more about not wanting to spread myself too thin. On the few I have worked on, they had something I liked going on. It isn’t really about the artist, it is more about having something to work with which I could make different from the original. I will look at in house remixes on Replug from time to time if something really jumps out, like the remix for Mariano and Interaxxis, that had something which immediately resonated with me, so I offered to do it.
9. For those who don’t know you also manage Replug, the label has really re-established itself since you came on board, tell us about your role there and how you and Henri (Cid Inc) work together so effectively?
Yes, I joined the label a while back to work with Henri as Label Manager and A&R, this is a joint role between us. Of course Replug is very much Henri’s label, but we work together on everything. I have quite a broad creative skillset and have been involved with the dance music industry in different capacities for a long time, so it was a good fit with how we manage all the jobs you need to complete when running a label. We both listen to the music and both have to agree on what we release, it is very much a 50/50 process. It’s very rare that we disagree on anything, we both have similar tastes and know the level and standard of music we look for on the label. I think now we fully trust each other with how we are working, which is essential with Henri touring a lot of the time. I also now produce all of the visual artwork, Henri masters everything, so we keep quite a few things very much in house. I think the label has always had a sound because of Henri, we want to keep that “Repluggy” vibe in there always, but we are both very open to different releases too, I think that is important to help sounds and artists evolve as well as the label.
I definitely feel lucky to be able to work so closely with someone as talented and as genuine as Henri, we have a nice family vibe going on at Replug, and try to make all artists feel welcome to the label.
10. What would you say you look for when signing new music to the label? and does Henri test things out in his sets before deciding on a project?
There is no one thing we look for, but we know it when we hear it. It is normally a memorable or standout moment, or an exceptional production with something a little different going on. We receive a lot of demos as you can imagine, sadly we can’t get back to everyone due to only having 24 hours in a day, but we do get back when it is in the right direction or close with some feedback. I think a lot of producers fall into some of the same traps, like sending one track as soon as it is finished. I often advise it is good to let music breathe and rest a little after writing it, start another track and listen back in a few weeks to see if it needs more work. There seems to be a lot of excitement and impatience around finishing new music, telling the world on social media and then sending demos immediately (understandably), but I can often hear when it has been rushed or just churned out. I would say it’s good to get together 3 or 4 tracks to send over, we can really gauge how something would work in a release then. We would consider one track if it had something exceptional going on or something to work on in a remix, or if we have a VA release coming up as we look for strong tracks then, but generally we like to release EP’s. I think this is better for the artists and helps to develop their sound without being propped up by similar remixes. I see this a lot, labels releasing a standard prog tune for example, then having 2 or 3 remixes of similar standard prog tunes on it, I am not sure whether that really brings much new to the table, so personally I try to look for something more than this.
Yes, Henri does try the music out before we release if it is suitable, we get a very good idea of how it works on the dance floor then and we can feed back if there is anything in the mix to change before a final master.
So in summary I would say – Take your time. Send more than one track. Make them memorable or have a standout moment/element. Avoid sending standard progressive with not much going on. Be as exclusive as you can with your demo, we and probably all other Label Manager’s like that. 🙂
11. Progressive music is in a great place at the moment, where do you see the sound going in the next year?
Ahh, the great ‘Prog revival’ haha, yes this is a topic…
I just think we are in a time of amalgamation again, these things are cyclic and often rejuvenate genres when there is a collision of similar sounds and other factors align, that seems to be where we are right now. I try not to think of my music being solely progressive, or the music we release on Replug, but it fits that term in essence, so that’s understandable. Progressive has to me always been multifaceted and open to change in the past, I think that is how I still see it, not in the singular. I am not a big fan of purity in music genres, I like the mix up of stuff. I think social media, geo-social factors, the global dance music market, Beatport charts getting sorted, the rise and fallout of EDM, have all had a part to play in the wave of popularity Progressive is seeing, and the more underground sounds for that matter. But at the end of the day, good music will always rise to the top, sometimes it is in fashion, sometimes it is not, this isn’t a new phenomenon. I think it is important to not get snobby about popularity if this is where we are heading again. Elitism is one of the dark sides of dance music, it has always been there and I don’t see its benefit, never have done. Surely it was always meant to be inclusive, regardless of how you got there and where it takes you?
So, where is the sound going? Who knows and who am I to say… but I think pretty much where it is now to be honest, with more of the techno and deep house DJ’s and labels also merging more progressive into their sets and releases, which is a great thing in my opinion.
12. What five tracks are you currently loving the most at the moment?
Cid Inc – Shifter [Replug] – I remember when Henri first sent this through to me, I couldn’t stop listening to it, just a killer track.
Budakid – Confused [Last Night on Earth] – one of my favourite producers at the moment, love this track, he has a really interesting style of production which I like!
HOSH with Musumeci – Rose Marines Saga [fryhide] – Brilliant track, can’t stop playing it, it just works for me.
Lane 8 – Fingerprint (Anderholm Remix) [This Never Happened] – This is just a beautiful piece of music, I could listen to it anywhere, over and over again.
Cornucopia – Letter for Poly [Tale & Tone] – Another masterpiece from the never ending well of talent this man has. Love it.
13. And we’ll close by asking you what we can expect for the remainder of the year? Anything you can tell us about?
Personally, I am working on more music for a couple of labels as we speak, as well as some other projects, so hopefully I can get something more out before the end of the year, will see how it comes together.
For Replug, we have a lot of good releases coming up, a new mini VA series with some great music on and some things in the pipeline for next year, all very exciting 😉
‘Through The Woods’ is out now on Replug, you can purchase the release: here