New Arrivals, Familiar Faces.
Reported by Craig Gunn
Submitted 23-01-13 14:10
In the case of writing a feature about psychedelic act CHAMPA (Isaac Houlli aka DJ Prozak) - I can be accused of nepotism on a grand scale. The act of interviewing and promoting a good friend of 12 years, the man responsible for introducing me to my future wife, may sit uncomfortable with some. For that I plead guilty. But, I would not be bringing this to the attention of die-Harderfaster members if I didn’t think it was of current relevance and assume you’d be interested in his music. Otherwise I would have touted his virtues years ago.
Why the change? DJ Prozak has been a firm favourite on London’s underground dance scene for well over a decade. From promotions like ‘Quake’ and ‘Logic’ to ‘Antiworld’ and his own nights including recently the 414’s very own ‘Cohesion’ - his uplifting and hard style and personable nature have seen him on a cacophony of flyers. He has distributed tonnes of bootlegged CD’s that have circulated the stereos of many ‘kick-on’ after house parties. He typifies the underground trance scene in many ways. He has given an almost lifelong commitment to DJing and promoting parties and has done it with passion and enthusiasm – (we ran ‘Subsonica’ together as well….)
However, as UK’s musical tastes have diversified, once popular hard house and trance sounds have been diluted and subdivided into other genres and the rise of once sub-psychedelic culture has crept in from squat parties and warehouses to such hallowed institutions as the Ministry of Sound. The global ‘PSY’ scene (not to be confused with the little chap and his Gangnam style) has been a booming market and Isaac has moved with the times and adopted a ‘full-on’ driving trance sound. His new direction has meant less gigs in London, but plenty of festivals around Europe playing to, and appealing to, an array of nationalities.
Isaac always dabbled with production. He helped people write tracks, even made a couple themselves and released a few on his label PH Level. But things never quite ‘clicked’ – and he’ll agree with me on that. Personally – I never thought he was ready to unleash his myriad of ideas, generated after many a club nights out, onto an unsuspecting public.
But then circumstances change. Life’s fickle like that.
In Isaac’s case a long standing relationship with fellow psy DJ Sati and the birth of his son Vinnie. Things changed dramatically when his hobby became an integral part of family life. During this transition his music production life changed too. Inspiration flowed and years of experience understanding the ebb and floor of the dance floor culminated in the inception and his new moniker. And so, CHAMPA, was born.
On the 1st March 2013 his debut album ‘My Son’ is unleashed onto the world on psychedelic label Yellow Sunshine Explosion &Sub Label Headroom Productions. I’ve had a sneak preview. I’m impressed. I haven’t specifically told him that - it’s hard to tell your mates its good as you don’t want to inflate their ego (you want them to strive for better). CHAMPA produces the kind of music that needs to be played loud and danced to with a smile upon your face. His live performance is of a high intensity and uplifting vibe. Combine this attitude with groovy bass lines, funky percussive rhythms and a relentless driving melody and we have serious psychedelic fit for a pan-global audience. Some of the tracks have soaring memorable vocals and there is also punctuated humour in some of the samples - CHAMPA has had to dive deep into his record archive to create the ‘My Son’ unique sound.
So in his words – and in the sanctity of his home studio I give you my interview…done with love I hasten to add ...
So Champa is a new creation for you. You have played out a few times with this new moniker so what has been your highlight so far?
My best gig so far performing as Champa has got to be when I played with Astrix & Infected Mushroom for Halcyon at the Ministry of Sound Club in London. The vibe was amazing, a full house and the crowd very much suited to my style. I couldn’t have asked for a better time. And in the DJ box there was loads of room to dance behind the array of CDJ’s!
The psychedelic scene is much bigger in Europe than here in the UK. I noticed you’ve already done a few festivals already and have lots more in the pipeline in 2013.
Goa Dupa Arts Festival in Poland was outstanding, an intimate festival near the city of Krakow. The venue was simply amazing in the mountains enclosed by 50 metre high rocks and gorgeous tall trees in a National reserve. The people were extremely up for a great time. I got to play with Avalon, Tristan (Killawatts) and Mechanimal. The organisers were extremely supportive and had everything in their mind for the people to enjoy.
Do you enjoy outdoor festivals or small indoor clubs?
Simple answer, both. They have their own vibes, who doesn’t like to be outdoors under the sun where you can feel free. Equally I really enjoy smaller private more intimate events where you can be in the vibe of a house party.
So what are European crowds like compared to British?
From most of my abroad gigs, I can say that each country has distinct personality traits. In London, you’ll get a huge difference as there are so many nationalities in one place. Normally a party in London will only have around 20% British and the remaining made up from the world. But somewhere for example like Poland or even Spain, you would only expect to see maximum 20% of internationals at the events. I can say one thing, you never know how a crowed will be until you’re at the event. So far… Happiest people have been in Spain and the more reserved have come from Sweden. Last point on this, the Germans know how to party like its 1999!
Have you ever asked for anything ridiculous on your DJ rider?
Not specifically or unusual. I’m pretty easy going. I would hope that Pioneer CDJ 1000’s + Pioneer mixer would be available. But I can work with anything, as I am well trained from the 90’s and making errors of spinning vinyl’s.
Do you have any superstitions before playing or gigging abroad?
Haha, funny that. Well I’m a bit OCD sensitive so I’m continually checking my bag that everything is there, even though I know it’s there and I just checked it. A good example is the passport. These days when I play live I have this mood colour changing mini lamp that I like to have on when I play. It’s also wise if I have 2 beverages for my set as I don’t like to ask anyone to get me a drink.
For the un-initiated how would you describe your current psychedelic sound?
A full-on psy sound. High tempo with lots of melodies and cheeky samples.
Has any new talent you’ve heard recently inspired you and who are your musical influences?
I still listen to absolutely everything including lots of metal and pop. Actually most of the music that inspires me comes from minimum 10 years ago and beyond. There are many talented producers out there in the psy genre, not many new artists has inspired me, but the more experienced artists such as Polaris, Protoculture, M-Theory, Mechanimal, Ital, Astrix, and Infected Mushroom have all infiltrated my musical direction.
To you, what makes a great trance tune?
Well for me, everyone likes something different from the next. So it’s important to make your own sound. Whatever makes you happy! That’s what I feel anyway. Because I miss hearing happy driving grooving trancing sounds. We don’t hear as much as we used to, some people may say it’s a bit on the lighter side, but those people like it darker, simple as that. I just want the people who like my sound to be happy, that’s what it’s all about. Giving music to people, so they can dance in front of the speaker for hours with a big smile on their faces.
You’ve spent a large chunk of time in the studio recently, do you have any tips for would-be producers?
Keep learning, it never ends. There are so many products on the market, so choose wisely. I choose to buy the software over an unreliable crack version. I’m currently using Cubase 6 with Native Instruments Bundle, FiltersFabfilter Total Bundle, Izotope Ozone Plugin and a recent cool one the DADA Sausage Fat. I used to own a lot of outboard in the past, but don’t find I need it so much anymore with all the available soft synths and samples around. Maybe one day I’ll find something neat, but for the moment I’ve held on to my Roland MC-505.
You’ve just finished you debut album “My Son”. Why the title and what's the inspiration behind it?
My Son (Vinnie) is the real influence that kickstarted me into the production world of Psychedelic Trance - and about time it was too. Fortunately my beautiful partner Kamila (Djane Sati) has been very supportive in helping me to stay strong with head above water and pushing my drive forward. I sorted my out-of-date studio with current software at my studios in London “Psy Sushi”. And set my sites on making music that certain psychedelic trance fans were now missing from the scene. A bit old skool but most importantly something purely to dance to in front of the loudest speaker at the event.
What are your grand plans for 2013?
Let’s see how the new album plays out along with bookings for the year. I have lots of friends in the underground scene and I hope I can garner some support this way. I’ll write a few more EP’s and a couple more singles for other labels for now and from there start producing the 2nd album! Really want to work with some new artists on collaboration’s so in the future there will be some eye raisers! I have an open door policy for new talent.
And finally mate what have you learned from all you years of clubbing?
Wow what a question. I’ve learnt too many things. Some of it which I wouldn’t be able to mention for legal purposes. Knowing wink and the interview ends.
Champa debuts album ‘My Son’ is available on CD from the 1st March 2013 on psychedelic label Yellow Sunshine Explosion & Headroom Productions from Psy Shop and from the 14th March on Beatport and other digital download sites.
Images courtesy of CHAMPA. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By Craig Gunn:
I survived Glastonbury 2015
HarderFaster Guide to Glastonbury 2015
The Speed of Sound
THREE ‘BRINGS’ THE CROWD TO LOST DAWN
Cracking the Global Code with Greg Downey
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.