Our latest artist interview features Canadian producer Simon Doty who has a new single out this week on Rhetorical Music.
1. Hi Simon, thanks very much for joining us here, this is the first time we’ve interviewed you so let’s give our readers and your fans some background info. How old are you and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I am 26 years old. I have been producing for about 4 years now, my first release came out Definitive in February 2012, but I started DJing a couple of years before that. I actually started out playing Hip Hop and Top 40 at clubs, because at the time I really wanted to just get my foot in the door and there weren’t any clubs in Alberta that would allow me to play electronic music. It as an interesting experience, I’m glad I went through it because I really learned how to DJ.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Was there any moment or particular track that really sucked you into electronic music permanently?
I come from a pretty musical family, my Mom is an Organ and Piano player and my sister is a fairly established Jazz singer. I’ve always been into a huge range of music, everything from Rock to Hip Hop to all different types of electronic. When I was really little, my Uncle was listening to Blackbox (the early 90s dance group) in his car, and my sister and I were with him and we absolutely loved it. So my mom got us the same tape of the Blackbox album and we listened to it like crazy, so I would say it kind of started there and never really stopped. I would say Deadmau5’s Faxing Berlin is one track that really inspired me, after hearing that track in about 2007 I knew I wanted to seriously peruse making music.
3. So you’ve recently moved to Toronto, how is the nightlife there and what experiences have you had so far? And how different is it to Calgary, I assume a lot?
It’s obviously a much bigger and broader music scene then what I experienced in Calgary. The first night I arrived in Toronto, Hunter/Game were playing, as well as Henry Saiz and Marc Marzenit at a different club, and then Oliver Huntemann at another different club. For me, that variety on one night, in one city, was really cool. Calgary has a great little club called Habitat that some of my favorite artists have played at in the last couple of years; it’s a very tight knit community of enthusiasts. The biggest difference is that here in Toronto, things are happening on a much larger scale.
4. How would describe the music you make? Looking back at your discography you’ve come from releasing on some pretty hefty labels; Definitive, Hotfingers, Toolroom and several others but you’re currently focusing on a new sound to some extent, tell us about that and what has inspired this stylistic shift?
I started out doing pretty clubby Tech House music, I was fortunate enough to get to collaborate and become friends with some pretty established artists, like John Acquaviva, Umek, Prok and Fitch , DJ Dan , Mike Vale, Olivier Giacomotto, just to name a few. I’ve always been a very musical person, and I think I was just realizing that I didn’t love what I was doing. I wanted to start making music that came from the heart and I truly believed in. I wanted to shift my focus to making music rather then just tracks that work on a dance floor. I have always been interested in progressive/melodic, electronic music, so in some ways this me getting back to where I started. I don’t really know what to call the music I make now, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a combination of House, Techno and Progressive elements. A lot of my favorite tracks by other artists are like that as well. For me, it’s kind of the sweet spot, some of the groove and feel of House, the edge and toughness of Techno, the melody and emotion of Progressive.
5. You’ve also got a new record label which just had its first release, what can you tell us about Rhetorical? Who is involved with the project and what can electronic music fans expect from it? And will the label be an outlet for many of your own original productions?
Ya I am really excited to finally have things launching for Rhetorical. I really just wanted to have a platform to release music that I really believe in, from other artists as well as myself. The sound isn’t going to be too specific to one genre or style. It will be music you can feel, and for me, at the end of the day, that’s what music is really about – emotions.
Right now we have a team of 5 working fairly steady on Rhetorical. I am focusing on a lot of the A and R type of stuff but the rest of the team tackles the marketing, paperwork, and keeping me organized so I still have time to make music. We have a great little team and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do this at all without them. We also have John Acquaviva and Mark Quails company, Q and A Music, helping us do all the publishing and other admin related stuff. It’s great to have their support because you would be hard pressed to find anyone with more experience then they do when it comes to the business side of electronic music.
Artist wise, on the first three releases we have singles from myself with remixes from Vince Watson, Ian O’Donovan, Skena, Petar Dundov, Petar Dundov, Ramon Tapia and SevenDoors. We are on pace to reach 8 releases our first year with originals and remixes from more artists I am really excited about.
6. The labels first release is something new from yourself entitled ‘Harmony In Chaos’, there’s an all-star line-up of remixers with Vince Watson, Skena and Ian O’Donovan, who all deliver amazing interpretations. Why did you choose ‘Harmony In Chaos’ as the labels first release and tell us your thought process behind the remixer selections, and also about the production process on the original track.
I chose Harmony in Chaos as the first release because it really signified the journey that I have been through over the last year to start changing my sound. A lot of people thought I was a bit crazy to change my sound when I was doing releases for labels as big as Toolroom, and they were certainly times when I was doubting my decision a bit, but I never stopped believing in what I wanted to do.
Remix wise, we were very strategic in deciding who to approach. Vince Watson is one of my favorite artists of all time and was one of the guys that really inspired me to change my sound and direction. Vince’s music is always so genuine. You never hear anything from him that sounds like he was trying to accomplish something else, like making a hit, or doing what’s cool or popular. His music always comes from the heart and you can hear that.
Ian O’Donovan is another artist whose music I really like and I play his tracks in my sets pretty regularly. He does a great job of making music that is full of emotion but also has an accessibility to it.
Skena is an up and comer from Italy that really caught my attention. He hasn’t done many tracks, but they’ve all been ridiculously good. His sound is unique, which is hugely important as a label that’s trying to establish itself.
7.How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
I did an Ableton Live course online through Berklee School of Music and then also did a Digital Audio Production Diploma program. They were good ways to start and I recommend them to people wanting to learn. A lot of it was self-taught, just a lot of hours of practice. The advice that I got, and that I always give to other people is put the time in and truly learn how to do things yourself. It sounds generic but there isn’t anyway to shortcut it. Some people are able to get by making tracks using sample packs etc. but at the end of the day, the artists who are consistently successful are the ones truly making the music themselves.
8.What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
I think the hardest part for me is staying creative. It’s easy to get into the habit of repeating things that worked on a previous track, and so I am constantly trying to get myself to step further outside of the box and do things differently. If I get stuck creatively I like to just take a break and read some things about music production, or watch videos on YouTube etc. No matter how long you have been making music you can always learn new things, and this is a great way to get that excitement back for making music.
9. What’s a normal day like for you? (Do you have a job outside of electronic music?) And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
My day job is Audio Engineering. I do a lot of mixing and mastering work for other artists so that takes up a lot of my time. Other then that I’m a huge sports fan, I played basketball for 4 years in university, so I am still really into watching and playing basketball whenever I can.
10. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
I really like listening to Hip Hop and Rock for a change of pace from electronic. Incubus is probably my favorite band. As far as Hip Hop goes, I really like guys like Mos Def, Talib kweli, Nas , and Common. It doesn’t really have an effect on my own production too much although there will be times when I get ideas from listening to other types of music.
11. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
I bought a really cool record off of discogs that was a vinyl only release. Vlad Caia – Codex Voluspa was the name of the track I heard it in Raresh’s Fabric Mix, and had to get it.
12. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I am just shy of 6“ 6. I’ve only met a couple of djs that are my height or taller, Umek and Adam Beyer are a couple of them.
13. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
I think one is Petar Dundov, it’s not that he isn’t established, because he is, but I really feel like he should be getting more attention. He has such a unique style and he makes some amazing music! Furthermore, there are a lot of guys that play live and it just doesn’t work that well, but Petar is special at playing live.
14. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
I’m always digging and searching for new artists, there is a ton of great music out there from unknown artists, you just have to really work and be patient in finding it. My inspiration comes from life in general, I’m a very fiery and passionate person and I try to channel that into my music.
15. So you’ve been producing for just over four years now, how has your studio changed in that time?
I started out just having a computer a midi keyboard and some monitors. Now I have a bunch of analog synths and drum machines. I’m not getting into the debate of what sounds better, but for me, having actual instruments to play makes the music making process much more enjoyable and human rather then being a clicking drone on front of a computer.
16. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
Fight that voice in your head that tells you to do something that sounds like someone else. Be yourself, and if you truly love it and believe in it, keep refining your sound and eventually you will have a signature style that sticks out. Practice and have patience.
17. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
George Fitzgerald – Every Inch (Deetron Remix)
‘Harmony In Chaos’ is out now on Rhetorical Music, you can purchase the release: here