Steve Anderson recounts his As & Bs
Reported by Adam Symbiosis
Submitted 21-03-07 16:39
Steve Anderson is not a name that would be instantly recognisable to many people. But the wealth of experience he has playing, promoting and producing is impressive to say the least. Now with a massive release, Eternal Optimism, under his and Chris Breame’s A/B Project guise, his is a name you’ll be hearing more of. But who is this mysterious chap and what’s he been doing all these years?
In fact, he’s been around the industry for well over a decade. Currently running his own label DJSA Records you might also have found him running successful nights under the Club SAturn guise while playing in clubs across Europe and the US. However it all started quite a few years ago in a different style completely.
Instead of spinning tracks and laying down grooves on the computer, Steve was bashing out beats on his pots and pans. “I won world honours as a drummer and played drums in a few bands,” he tells me.
But in his late teens, dance music became an integral part of his life, something that’s never really left him. “In the late eighties/early nineties I was a regular attendee at the big all-nighters up and down the UK such as Fantazia, Streetrave, Rezerection etc. — where the feel good factor throughout the industry was very prominent. Between 1996–1999 I must confess to losing a little direction in the dance music that was around then, and so I channelled all my time into boxing, which is the sport I love with a passion. Once trance blew up in 1998/1999, I fell back in love with it and have remained there since.”
Setting up the label then came around more by default than by design. After he’d recorded his first solo track SAturn, Steve got the track pressed himself and labelled it with the DJSA logo from his website. “Initially it was just to see how the first track was received, then shortly after I was approached by various upcoming producers looking to be signed. So DJSA Records was born, I suppose by accident! From then on I realised it’s something I could take forward to expose new music from other upcoming artists, and that was the start really.”
From 2004 new talent was focussed on and promising producers were given their chance to be heard. Now for the coming year you’ll be able to check out and buy tracks, find out information and much more from www.djsarecords.com (and of course all major MP3 sites) plus there’s the chance for selected DJs to get signed up to their (www.djsapool.com) iPool service to get new tracks before their release. Steve adds: “I have also put a dedicated A&R team in place who will be searching out new music for DJSA Records. The plan is to consistently sign and expose the finest new artists and their music, then to help develop them in terms of stature and quality and we always ensure that we treat everyone 100 per cent fairly in all our dealings. The label is something I am now investing well into, for the good of the scene, and for the development of the music I believe in. Once I committed to taking it forward I didn’t want it to be a short term project, so the plan is for the long term. Every release so far has seen the artists make a return on their work; the ‘SAturn’ vinyl release completely sold out and was even used on ITV’s Boxing. From now on the bar will be raised significantly in every area, and DJSA Records is an exciting label to be a part of. I don’t think my goals will ever be reached, or the job ever done so to speak – as it’s very much a constantly ongoing process.”
But there’s also another string to Steve’s bow, A/B Project, a collaboration with producer Chris Breame, achieving notable success with their first track, ‘Distorted Clarity’ in early 2005. “I suppose this was us trying out our first ideas, finding out about each other in the studio etc and seeing what results we would come up with. The track was released on DJSA Records in July 2005 as a one-sided release and is a tough driving trancer as opposed to being melodic or uplifting. We both love this track, albeit it being a bit different from what we are doing now. There is some nice stuff in there and like you say, it did reasonably well. That said, it wasn’t a massive release and so the success it gained was by hitting number one in a couple of the smaller Trance charts, but sales were good and we felt it was a decent start. I think what Chris and I mainly took from it was that we realised we worked very well together in the studio and there would be more to come from A/B Project in the future.”
That ‘more’ came this year in the form of ‘Eternal Optimism’, a great track with an echoey, floating melody, which has gone on to critical acclaim. “The way ‘Eternal Optimism’ has been received has blown us both away if I’m honest,” he tells me. “We were keen to do a track with a more uplifting feel; melodies, arpeggiating basslines, beautiful strings etc. Once we got started we simply did what we always do; which is experiment with a load of options, and started to pull it all together.”
But what must they be doing right and how is it they work so well? “I think a few of the guidelines that we set ourselves help, such as that we never use an instrument twice in any of our tracks, and we never set boundaries on what to use in our work. I also think that Chris and I have brought different skills and knowledge to the table, which hugely benefit each other’s work and thought process. I have an extensive background as a DJ, whereas Chris has good knowledge of production techniques and audio engineering. Any tips I would hand out wouldn’t be so much technical as I believe everyone finds their own feet in that area, but I would say to write music for yourself and not for other motives such as financial gain. Not only will the emotion come across in your music, but when people really connect with what you have done — it makes it all very satisfying.”
Feel-good even, and that’s a factor they were trying to input into the music eventually leading to the “as corny as this might sound” title of ‘Eternal Optimism’. “It also pretty much describes the mindset in which I constantly live my life by and so it means something to me on a personal level too.”
I wondered though how having this track signed to Mondo Records would affect his own label. “Darren Tate is a friend of mine, he has guested at one of my club promotions before and we keep in touch. I have always heavily promoted Mondo Records and Mondo DJs as part of my everyday work, primarily because I want to. I’ve always been a supporter of Darren’s work as well as the brand, and am proud to be a part of Mondo — both as a recording artist as well as a DJ. Mondo is one of the UK’s finest independent dance labels, with a fantastic catalogue of artists. This can only be a positive thing for me, for A/B Project and also my other projects including DJSA Records. You can check everything out at the label website www.mondorecords.com if you haven’t already done so.”
He also lets me on some exclusive news that you’ll be able to get their next track, ‘Misconceptions’ on Mondo too. “If you liked ‘Eternal Optimism’ then don’t miss this one. It’s different once again to the others, this time with a slightly techy edge, offset with some nice uplifting sections, and even a key change! We are delighted with the results, as are Mondo — so keep your eyes and ears open for it surfacing soon.”
That’s not to say you’ve heard the last of Steve Anderson’s solo music. With a custom built studio just completed with massive help from Chris, you can expect to hear various solo projects plus remixes to some of the new tracks signed up to DJSA. But at the moment it’s all about Steve and Chris. First meeting at one of Steve’s club promotions in Edinburgh, they’d already had some contact via email, but it was the all important demo CD containing some gems that eventually got released on DJSA that was to be the catalyst to their partnership. “We agreed to put these out on DJSA Records and got into the studio shortly thereafter to throw some ideas about.”
With every collaboration, it’s the dynamic between the artists that drives and develops ideas and so I asked just how Steve thought they both compared. “Style wise we are very similar I think, we share the same tastes and ideas of what we want in our output. You could say I have a style dominated by uplifting trance in recent years, whereas Chris suggested last time out that we added a techy edge to the new track ‘Misconceptions’”.
You’ll also find them both in the studio at the same time bucking the growing trend for emailing parts of a track back and forth. There’s another aspect to their affiliation though, in that Chris doesn’t DJ. Is that a problem when designing tracks, a lack of experience of being in front of crowds and seeing how they react? “Chris is in no way lacking experience. He may not DJ (although he assures me he can a little!) but he has a vast knowledge of how trance music is produced, and how it should be done. He never sets boundaries or ever accepts that doing things to the “norm” is the right thing to do, he is always innovative and coming up with new ideas. I find it strange when people say that as a producer I also DJ, because for me it has always been the other way round! I have been a club and radio DJ since 1994, and only in the last 3 years got fully into production. We are constantly picking things up from each other, in different areas of expertise. I previously explored offers of working together with other people prior to A/B Project, but once I got in the studio with Chris I realised that this was the guy I wanted to work with on joint productions. Who knows, maybe we’ll see him behind the decks yet!”
So what else for Steve? He’s run Club SAturn in Edinburgh, taken the brand to Tramps in Tenerife as well as running a radio show there and notching up one of their all time high listener records. There’s also been the small matter of Eden in Ibiza as well. Back here in Blighty though it’s all about the record label and website launch. You’ll see their first track ‘Lost In Control’ by new artist Ignyta, plus other signings in the pipeline actively searched out by his A&R team and they’re still looking. With some great tracks coming up from himself and his stable things certainly look positive for Steve and they could do for you too, “If there are any trance / tech producers reading this who are looking to take their production careers forward and think they meet the quality levels and criteria required then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will provide responses and feedback on absolutely everything we receive, whether we end up signing it or not.” And you can’t say fairer than that.
Photos courtesy of Steve Anderson and Mondo Records. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By Adam Symbiosis:
Godskitchen Xmas Party: Reviewed
The Big Chill: Reviewed
Tiësto at Victoria Park: Reviewed
Lilly Allen: Reviewed
Digital Society May 2009: Reviewed
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.