You can bank on Alan Banks
Reported by Andy Dunford
Submitted 30-01-08 17:01
Having hit London just over 2 years ago and going from strength to strength playing at some of the most high profile events that London has seen, 2007 was a great year for trance DJ (and all in between) Alan Banks. With 2008 looking set to be an even bigger year not just in London but else where around the country, Andy Dunford sat down with him for a nice chat over a cold beer to find out what heís been up to over these past 2 years.
So Alan, some people won't realise but you've actually been DJing for some 10 years! How did you get into it?
Yeah itís been a long time! I actually started DJing on a school radio station that had been set up. A few friends and I had started a show that ran every Friday for about a year. We used to get various teachers in for interviews and totally grill them and try our hardest to embarrass them on air! Because we were that little bit older as well we could get away with some risky questions. It seemed to work really well and all the teachers were good sports. The music was a mixture of dance and chart (so nothing really cutting edge) that we played on an old hospital radio mixing desk and about 4 CD players. It was good fun and it certainly gave me a taste for it so much so that I started to do mobile discos for friends and family, weddings and birthdays. It was ok but I much preferred the dance music side of things so taught myself how to mix and the rest is history.
How did you get your first break in London then?
I had already started a club night in my home town of Chelmsford back in 2004 with Chris Cee called Fundamental. In a bid to really promote it we found loads of clubbing websites and while on HarderFaster I saw a post on there looking for up and coming trance DJs to play in London. I had recently completed a two disc demo set called Awaken that had already got a good response from my friends. The aim of the first disc was more a warm up sound, with the second disc geared for the more banging side of things. I sent them in to see what would happen and received an email soon after from a gentleman called Jurrane who said he loved the discs and wanted me to play at their first party, Boundless! The launch party was at the old Soundshaft and I was on warm up. It was a great night and a real memorable experience. From that party I got to meet loads of friends that Iím still mates with now and from that one night it opened me up to the whole new London scene.
So what have you been up to since hitting the scene?
Well since playing for Boundless I was really lucky to get gigs all over London playing for Tidy, Wildchild, Vaccine, Party Proactive, Anjunabeats, Judgement Sundays, Electronic Sessions, Knowwhere, Heat, Planet Angel, Spangulation and many more. Trance is really alive in London for so many trance events to be going on, we really are blessed when you look around the rest of the country.
I have also been working on FUndamental and the branding behind that over the last couple of years, and last year I started my Ibiza Sessions weekly mix show. The idea was over 12 weeks of the Ibiza Season to do a weekly mix with various styles ranging from house, prog, techno, trance and chill out tracks that would compliment the Ibiza feeling. It was really good fun doing the mixes as I was able to showcase an amazing amount of diverse sounds, something which I canít always do in a club. I was receiving on average about 200 downloads a week from around the world which is simply amazing. I have also been busy with the production side of things as well as appearing on many online radio shows. Itís been quite busy!
You're just starting to get into production - how is that going and what are your aims for the next year?
Yeah I made it my aim for 2007 to learn about the production side of things. It seemed to be the natural progression from DJing. I have been lucky enough to get into the studio with friends and learn the basics and those same friends have been invaluable when asking for advice so for that I would like to say thank you to them. I made it my mission to learn the technical side of it for myself rather than rely on an engineer so I have been learning from scratch and Iím now at a level where I feel I could send some bits out to people. My main aim would be to just get some good recognition for the bits that Iím putting out, whether that being signed to a label or getting played out by friends in the industry.
For people who don't know how would you describe your style? How has it developed over the years?
My style, I would say, comes under the trance umbrella. But I have worked really hard to get away from the floaty, synths and strings that you find in some of these trance tracks. Iím not a fan of these massive breakdowns that take you on an epic journey for about 3 minutes. You loose the flow of the dance floor as there is only a certain amount of time the crowd can hold their arms in the air! I try to look for tracks with great melodies, huge riffs and massive chord changes. Something thatís memorable rather than Ďpaint by numbersí. If Iím humming the riff of a track then I know itís got a quality that will work on the dance floor. You need tracks like that, those that will make people try and sing along to after. I also mix my sets up with lots of house and techno to keep it interesting and varied. Iím a big believer in variety being the spice of life!
I think over the years itís not a matter of my style or what I like changing but more of the tracks that have been produced. At the moment people are really liking the tech side of things and so producers are making lots of these tracks so of course that will filter into the sets I play. No doubt in the future more producers will give up on the tech and concentrate on the uplifting side and then there will be lots more choice. The key I have always had is quality in a track; if thatís of a good standard then I will play it. I try not to pigeon hole what I play and this leaves me open to a huge palette.
What tunes are really doing it for you at the moment?
Iím really enjoying some of the housier side of things at the moment. Dubfire has been doing some great stuff. Deadmau5 is also making some amazing tracks. On a more tranceir tip, Onova (who is responsible for one of my biggest tracks of the year) has been doing a great job with his track Platitude, John OíCallaghan is also on fire with Big Sky and his remix of Talla 2XLC, Thomas Bronzwaer has also had an amazing year.
Who do you most respect as a producer and also as a DJ and who have been your major influences and why?
There are so many great amazing producers about that I donít think I could put my finger on anyone. I have lots of respect for John OíCallaghan, Guiseppe Ottaviani, Thomas Bronzwaer, PVD, Marco V, Stoneface & Terminal. Kyau vs Albert, Above & Beyond, Gabriel & Dresden, Chicane, I mean the list could go on. All these boys named have been doing some amazing things over the past couple of years.
On a DJ tip Iíve been influenced by many people. Paul van Dyk has been on the top of my list since seeing him at Cream in Ibiza, he totally blew me away. He must be doing something right for him to still be at the top of his game after all these years. Paul Oakenfold back in 1997 was unstoppable. I saw him when I was 16 and the way he worked the crowd and Ďperformedí in front of them was incredible. Dave Angel always gets me dancing every time I see him play. He has a great ear for real groovy techno music that really makes you want to dance and he mixes it up really well keeping the dance floor really entertained. Other influences have also been my friends who DJ themselves. Its great to meet up with them and discuss new music, share ideas and is also a great way of hearing new music that they have recommended that I would have never found.
What would be your favourite moment while DJing?
There have been loads. When I played for Vaccine at Turnmills it turned out to be one of the best sets I have ever played. All my friends were there to support me and the place just went off. I dropped Agenlli & Nelson Ė Holding onto Nothing as my last track and the place just went totally crazy.. I recently played a set at Spangulation as well that had similar effects, a great night and a great crowd for a promotion I love to play for. Other favourite moments have included when running my own event and to see the club full is very satisfying. An example would have been when Fundamental hosted a room at Judgement Sundays its was really great to see our room and the main room being packed out all night and equally when we hosted a room at Party Proactive and the place was going off the promoter said that we should keep it open for as long as possible. They are always great moments.
Who do you rate at the moment in terms of up and coming producers or djs? Who do you think will make it big in 2008?
Yet again Lizzie Curious keeps blowing me away! That girl canít do a bad set! I saw her totally rock the Electronic Sessions boat party in December. She has just released her own artist album as well which is very varied and a great listen if you like the housier side of things.
The last 2 years have been really big for producers making it as DJs - in your opinion how has this affected the scene?
Yeah this is an interesting one. Iím personally a believer that just because you can produce amazing tracks doesnít mean your going to make an amazing DJ! Far from it, in fact the worst sets I have ever seen have been from these well known producers who havenít a clue how to DJ but just use there sets to showcase new material from themselves. Countless times have I seen these DJs clear dance floors with no way of knowing how to fill it back up again! Itís quite bad for a clubber hearing those kind of sets as it puts a downer on things and a newbie clubber would wonder what this music is about and may not return to a dance music club! I really do think in some cases its damaging to the scene.
The good DJs who may not have the production status but have rocked a crowd consistently are getting pushed back because the producers have a bigger global name. Itís a shame because I think they are two very different disciplines. Both however are an art form and take time to learn and master. I mean a guy whoís been producing for a month is not going to have a track signed straight away is he?
One of the most difficult things for new DJs is being able to read a crowd - what advice would you give in this area and what do you look for from the crowd when deciding which path to take with your sets? What makes a good DJ for you?
The art of a good DJ is to know what tracks to play at what time. Experience gives you that ability to learn this. Iíve always been a believer that you canít have them jumping about all the time and constantly going crazy for 2 hours. Itís good to let them actually dance to the music. But knowing the right moment to throw in an uplifting banger or to bring them down to chill out a bit is a mark of a great DJ. If you are doing a warm up set and there are only a few people dancing then tailor your set for them and make them dance even more. Youíll be surprised how when a few start dancing then theyíll be joined by more people. No one you see wants to be the first to get up and dance.
How do you think the scene has changed since you first started going clubbing?
Itís a strange one as all reports are that clubbing is dying. In some cases and for some genres of music it is. But there are still loads of smaller parties around that are really pulling in the numbers. Spangulation and Planet Angel spring to mind of parties that have been going on for ages and still pull in the crowds. Youíve also got to look at a global scale as well. Across the world dance music is exploding, Eastern Europe is going mad for it and the top DJs are travelling more than ever before. In England itís mad when the summer months come round and the festivals hit us. They are selling out, proving that clubbing or dance music is far from dead! I think it s a generation thing as well. When I started clubbing dance music was all in the charts and super clubs ruled. Obviously over the last 7 years the charts have been dominated with urban music and dance music has taken a back seat. But these things come round in circles with the different generations and dance music for sure will have its day again and clubs will be full to the rafters again.
There have been notable techno and electro influences in trance recently compared with the more epic sound of 2003/04 - where do you see the scene going in the
next 2 years? Where do you hope it will go?
Well I remember going to see PVD at Heaven back in 2003, believe me the trance he was playing was far from epic. It was a very banging, tech infused music. Very groovy, but really banging as well. I think these influences have always been about in trance but you just needed to find those tracks. One of my all time favourite tracks is by Eisbaer called Groovezone. Listening to it now you could quite easily call it tech trance and that came out back in 1997! Itís just flavour of the month.
People were getting bored of the trance made famous by Ferry Corsten so looked else where. No doubt in time the tech will get boring and people will look towards a new sound. The music is about; you really just need to find it. I was playing tech and electro back in 2003 even when it hadnít exploded but at the end of the day great music is great music.
I donít think dance music will die. What I would like to see is more clubs taking risks and not sticking to one genre but to build the night properly. There is so much great music out there I think with this one genre only music night approach people really are missing out on so much. A whole night of hearing the same sounding music for 6 hours bores me senseless!
There's a lot of talk about clubbing being a dying passtime. I wouldn't say that but things have definitely changed - what can be done to halt the decline?
I think people are going to always want to go out and dance to music, meet people and have a great night out. I think the glory days of the 90ís though wonít be seen for a very long time, if ever again. But you will see an increase in numbers if dance music dominates the charts again. Donít forget that the biggest DJs in the world command huge fees as they can fill a club based on there celebrity status. Dance music needs to be seen as exciting again and Iím sure with time it will happen.
Recently, the internet has become so important as a means of promoting yourself with websites such as Myspace and Facebook. How important is it to keep these up to date? Are you a reluctant convert or do you see these as a great opportunity for people like yourself?
The internet has been a huge factor in dance music. Where there are huge advantages of it there are even bigger downfalls. I for one use the internet for many things. I have a Facebook and Myspace page set up as well as my own website. These are all tools of the trade and common practice now. In the past you had C.V. and DJ promotional packs to push forward your name now it is more interactive and can be more personal. The ability to promote yourself has always been there but I think these websites have just changed how it is done.
Taking everything into consideration, DJs, promoters, the media etc who would you say are the most powerful influences in trance today?
Well the superstar DJs do have some power but I still think the power is with the people. They dictate what they want to listen to. They dictate charts, music and media. If the people donít like something then they wonít support it.
Youíre playing at Electronic Sessions 2nd Birthday celebrations in February. What can we expect?
I really love playing for the ES boys. Ross and Greg love their music and are really open minded to all kinds of genres. I think your going to get a full blown Alan Banks set, full of twist and turns, uplifting moments and a few classics. End the night on a massive high I think.
Thanks for you time Alan Ė See you on the 9th
Photos courtesy of Alan Banks. Not to be reproduced without permission
ElectronicSessions 2nd Birthday
Saturday 9th February
22.00 - 06.00
£12 Cons / £15 on the door / £8 Early bird
EARLY BIRD TICKETS - www.electronicsessions.co.uk
ONLY £8 Until Jan 9th!
Click here to buy tickets
7 sell-out boat parties, 7 club events, 5 different top venues and over 100 different DJs... that's just a slice of what ES have delivered in the last 2 years, and we're certainly not going to hold back now!
Ladies and gentlemen... boys and girls... we present to you...
THE ELECTRONICSESSIONS 2ND BIRTHDAY BASH!
THIS IS NO ORDINARY EVENT - it'll show you a side of London clubbing you haven't seen before and it'll certainly raise the roof! Come with us as we put the PARTY back into the party and show that there's more to things than meets the eye...
Trance. Tech Trance. House. Deep House. Funky House. Prog House. Tribal House. Vocal House. Electro House. Soulful House. Tech House. Techno. Club Classics. Electro. Disco. Soul. Chillout / Leftfield.
Filth & Splendour
Kriess Guyte Vs Matt Kaycee
Matt Dahl Vs Markus Buhmann
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Other Features By Andy Dunford:
Electronic Sessions: Reviewed
Knowwhere preview with Alphazone
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.
| From: Carine on 28th Jan 2008 15:46.56|
Alan - I am yet to hear a bad set from you... You always find the right balance between uplifting trance, techy and house and more importantly you know how to read a crowd and adapt your sets accordingly. A rare quality as so many dj's content themselves with playing what they want to hear.
Someone we love having a Spangulation and my favourite dj by far
Very much looking forward to hearing you play at ES
From: Pandora S-K on 28th Jan 2008 16:39.11
Great interview Alan, nice little read
Also nice little write up Andy x
From: Mike Harris on 28th Jan 2008 19:46.50
Yeah he's not bad, not quite as good as me but not bad at all
Hehehe, good stuff mate, see ya sooooon!
From: Jurrane on 29th Jan 2008 08:06.18
Echo everything Carine said. Great interview from one of the most talented DJs I've ever met, with an ability to read the crowd that's second to none. Incredibly versatile across a range of styles and one of the scene's genuinely nice guys, Alan deserves every success he's getting. See you on Thursday for curry night down in the burbs!
From: Mark Landragin on 29th Jan 2008 11:01.44
An enjoyable read
From: Mizz_behavin on 29th Jan 2008 11:30.44
He's allright that Alan bloke
Cool interview, nice to read more about you
See you on Saturday, lets reach for those lazers!!
From: paul jack on 29th Jan 2008 13:16.19
top stuff alan
good luck to u sir!
will defo pop along to this
From: *VaNeSsA* on 29th Jan 2008 13:18.07
well done my dear. I see your taking my advice on the shirt wearing lol x
From: ravechick on 29th Jan 2008 13:24.30
GREAT read Mr Banks, keep up the good work xx
From: Pathfinder on 29th Jan 2008 17:35.07
Good stuff mate. See you soon
From: sullivan on 29th Jan 2008 20:50.58
Looking forward to you playing for us on the 9th Banksy baby!!!
From: K.A.R.L. on 30th Jan 2008 10:43.20
A great read from one of the most musically clued up London trance dj's. Good stuff Mr van Sheridan.
From: Greg Blaquiere on 30th Jan 2008 17:13.31
Good stuff fellow VW. Always guaranteed to deliver a sterling set, and he's not a bad bloke either! Good Q's too Andy! See the pair of you tomorrow...
From: Ian Edwards on 1st Feb 2008 11:42.12
Nice work Al..
From: Hitch the Knife on 2nd Feb 2008 21:40.35
From: Tina Martin on 3rd Feb 2008 12:50.21
Good interview babe! You're a wise old bean eh! Good to see you other week and good luck for ES if I don't catch u xx
From: Sara on 3rd Feb 2008 16:26.41
Great interview Alan. x
From: Lizzie Curious on 4th Feb 2008 12:54.17
What a great interview, really interesting to find out more about the legend that is Alan Banks! Can't wait for your set on saturday mate :-) and thanks very much for your words of support too xxxx
From: CustardUK on 4th Feb 2008 21:40.05
Top interview mate. I knew we were on to something when we booked you for Boundless! . Can you believe how much has happened since then, for one of the hardest working DJs I know! Keep it rockin mate and good luck for ES!
From: James Rae on 7th Feb 2008 18:37.44
Nice one mate! Good interview from 2 guys with an ear to the ground and a good understanding of the London scene and dance music in general. When Alan gets his own studio I'm going to come round every Tuesday and break it.
From: Menthol Taz on 9th Feb 2008 09:51.45
Nice one Banksy !!!!!!!!!!!!
Great to see your time has come, all the best & hope to catch you soon.
Big hugs atcha xxx
From: Alan-Banks on 18th Feb 2008 13:42.06
Thanks for all your kind comments people. Also thanks to Andy for doing the interview
Roll on 2008!!