Today we speak to Kastis Torrau, winner of Sasha’s “Cut Me Down” Remix Competition in 2011, to get some studio tips plus the low down on the Lithuanian underground scene.
Kastis Torrau, thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about how you became an electronic artist?
Kastis Torrau My pleasure. The story of me becoming a DJ and Producer is quite a long one. Everything started from buying some records on vinyls and just listening to them at home. And then one day I got an opportunity to learn some mixing skills. After that I started doing my own small parties and playing collected records for my friends and people who came. I enjoyed it a lot. Then I got an offer to join the biggest local club EXIT as a resident. From then I was 100% into DJing and those years gave me lots of connections with big name Djs from all around the world. Basically they were all advising me that I have to move forward and start to make my own music cause I have a good taste. This meant that they were satisfied with my warm up sets and my point of view about music. Those encouragements gave lots of motivation to move forward and fully connect my life with dance music.
You mentioned in a previous interview that the Lithuanian underground scene is only about 12 years old. Can you tell us about the major club nights in the country and which one has been about longest? Are you playing any of these clubs right now? Who are the coolest Djs in your country.
Lithuanian clubbing culture started back in 1999 – 2000. The first big underground club was EXIT and was booking the leading names in underground house music. I think that this was the start of the real clubbing evolution in our country. From that time lots of things have changed. The biggest clubs went mainstream, so at the moment we have only non regular events in different venues that are focused into underground and I’m playing there and few quite small clubs which are doing underground as well. Basically, the underground scene in Lithuania is very small and I hope with close local support from DJs in Lithuania we’ll make underground bigger in our country. It’s absolutely necessary from my and most of the local DJs point of view!
We have lots of great musicians and also DJ’s in Lithuania names like: Donatello, Arnas D, Vidis, Mario Basanov or Mindaugelis. Those guys are really deep into the underground and strong enough to go for big things not only locally but also worldwide. Mario Basanov (Ten Walls) as you might already know is a real discovery of this year and I believe that he will be very big worldwide.
Being Kastis Torrau, naturally you have played lots of cool gigs around the world. What have been your favourite gig so far and why? Are international crowds different?
Indeed, I have played some really cool gigs but I have to admit that not as much as I would like to. Working now to get more offers from all around the world and I’m sure it’s just around the corner. In Lithuania I’ve always played with big satisfaction because of warm support from my local fans. I could say that “everywhere is great but at home is the best”. But at the same time, I would say that the international crowd is more into music, artists and always know what to expect being at one or another party. Had really great gigs around but I want to go everywhere and try everything. All the differences.
What it was like working with the man Sasha and what were the biggest lessons you took away from your collaboration? Are you still in contact?
At the time it felt like I was dreaming, I couldn’t believe it was really happening and that I was meeting the man himself, let alone working with him. I have to admit that only now when some time has passed it feels more realistic and touchable. Without a doubt it was a great opportunity to work and get lots of great tips from the man. One of those tips was to try to memorize everything that comes in mind while you’re not in the studio. Also to be consistent and keep doing what we’re doing because we’re on a good path. I took this as a great compliment it was great motivation. Sasha is a unique person with unique style of music. We had this one great track, called ‘Smoke Cone’ and after this collab and release on Sasha’s label we haven’t contacted with him. But I really believe that we’ll be working together again one day.
There always seems to be a remix contest somewhere these days. Do you think it’s still important for new producers to enter these competitions?
Sure. I really think that it is one of those ways to let the world know about you as a producer.
How did you go about promoting your remix for the Burn competition? Any tips you can give on how to stand out in these competitions.
Kastis Torrau : We had and still have big support from our Lithuanian fans on social sites like Facebook. Also lots of support from Djs, radio stations and blog writers in the country and we are really grateful for all this help pushing us with our remix in this contest. I believe that without them we could not achieve what we achieved.
What setup are you using when you DJ?
3 CDJ 2000 Pioneer players and DJM 900 Nexus mixer. I don’t use computer or other stuff for my Dj sets. I’m a little bit oldschool.
There are many new producers out there working on simple setups with crappy monitors. One common mistake I hear on so many progressive demos is the low end doesn’t stand out. The mindset out there seems to be compress, compress, compress. The sound is super clean and tight, focusing on the mids and highs, yet sounds flat in a club. Can you share any tips on what producers should be doing?
First of all new producers should know their tools, and how to work with them. A bit of sound engineering theory should help to understand how to deal correctly with the low frequencies. There are tons of lessons on the web showing how to do that, so don’t waste time trying to get the best results on your own. Read before trying something. It really helps!
In terms of my own producing style, first of all I make sure that my sounds are in good volume levels. This is very important because after that you can push some sounds to the front without compressing anything. Then I analyze my frequencies with Waves Paz-Analyzer and when it comes to cutting frequencies I use Waves Req-2. It is a fantastic tool to do that so I use it on many sounds, especially on Bass’es, Claps, Leads and even on mastering. After that I do a lot of eq’ing on bass and kicks and everything starts to sound really clear and smooth.
Do you believe production quality is one of the reasons for the progressive scene’s demise internationally?
I believe that progressive music will always be somewhere around all other music genres. That’s why it’s called progressive. Every genre is evolving and changing by the trend of those days. Techno, House and Progressive House will never die. I think they might change during some periods but will always stay there on bigger or smaller scenes.
Nowadays we have lots of people making music with just a computer and software. Most of these people have no musical education. The main problem is that records labels are releasing poorly prepared music without any hesitation and some artists are playing it. I really think that the quality control should be better for record labels. This would change things in the industry for the better.
Do you have any tips for people that are doing their own mastering?
If you don’t have great monitor speakers trust analyzers. There are many good free VST like Voxengo – Span or Blue Cat Audio – FreqAnalyst that should do the trick. There is a good book about sound engineering called ‘The Producer’s Manual by Sample Magic’. I recommend it for all newbie producers as here are so many ‘goodies’ in it, starting from sound history to exact mastering.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects! Do you have anything new and exciting in the pipeline?
Lots of hard work has already been done during this year. Great releases came out recently with great responses. I keep my full power forward on producing and improving my skills. June the 23rd our remix with Arnas D for Amber Long’s track called “Eggshells” is coming out on Stripped Recordings. I have also had one great collab with Darin Epsilon on one track which is signed for Armada and should come out till summer. Have couple of tracks with Arnas D coming out on Sound Avenue at the end of June. Already started to work on my new project under new alias with a little bit different sound and got involved with some cool singers. Very exited about it and can’t wait to show it to the world.
Now you have a large resume of remixes and collaborations on some of progressive’s most respected labels, is there anyone in particular out there you would like to work with? Plus which artists are you following at the moment?
I have an ambition to move forward and work with the best labels in the progressive world and play at the best events. I am seeking for the highest level and of course would be great experience to join labels like Bedrock, Sudbeat. John Digweed is my superhero of progressive life but also feeling big respect and fascination for Maceo Plex and his capability to make such a big influence to the scene. When talking about not such big names in the scene Shall Ocin and AFFKT are the most impressive producers for me at the moment. These guys are doing that Tech sound that impresses me a lot.