After the global success of Unleash The Beat, and a succession of hit tracks over the last few years, Sonic Species is firmly established as one of the world’s top psychedelic trance acts. In between all of the jet-setting and rocking the biggest events and festivals across all corners of the globe, we caught up with Joe from Sonic Species, ahead of his forthcoming gig at one of London's hottest psy trance events, Astral Circus.
Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to catch up with us! It’s always very exciting coming across such phenomenal UK talent, and the UK seems to be overflowing with talent and great acts at the moment. Can you tell us how Sonic Species came about and how you got involved in the psychedelic trance scene?
It was around 2001 that I went to my first outdoor trance event in the south east of the UK called Liquid Connective. It was such a powerful and amazing musical and social experience that I was instantly hooked to that dance floor energy. A couple of years on me and my friends threw outdoor parties ourselves in the same area and so I began my DJ career. As time went on I began making music with Cubase and playing at events in London as well as organising the odd party myself, eventually developing a full live set as Sonic Species and beginning the journey to where I am today.
With all of your globetrotting and jet setting your passport must be getting very full! Over the past couple of months you’ve been to Switzerland, Israel, India, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, Tokyo, South Africa and more! What has been your most memorable gig to date, and why?
I have to say my most spectacularly memorable gig moment was Ozora Festival 2012 when played the closing set on the penultimate day. That was such an epic moment, the combination of the music, the people and the connected vibe on the dance floor in the golden beams of light … wow that was honestly one of the best moments of my life. It felt unmistakably like the last 12 years of my life had been leading up to that one performance!
Sonic Species Live @ Ozora Festival
On all of your tours you must have seen some interesting things and have some stories to tell. What has been the most interesting place that you have visited? And what is the funniest thing that has happened to you (or another artist) whilst on tour?
One of the most interesting places I visited was the mountains in Nepal and one of the temples in Kathmandu… what an epic place that is.
One funny story that springs to mind was my album launch party in London. Me, Avalon and Tristan arrived together and within around two minutes of entering the party we all had a large balloon and went to stand by the speaker. I ended up passing out from a massive nitrous hit within minutes of entering my own album launch party in London! I awoke to find myself going headfirst through a door and then being ejected from the premises by a security guard, much to the protest of Tristan and Avalon whom I had arrived with. I can just faintly remember hearing them saying, “No! No! You don’t understand… you can’t kick him out, he’s the headline DJ!” Needless to say they were correct and everything worked out fine. Classic!
So let’s talk tunes and production. Your early releases Lost Transmission and Bend The Future caught everyone’s attention in 2008/9, but we then had to wait nearly a year before getting our hands on the Machina Terra EP, which quite literally took the psy trance scene by storm. Why was there such a gap between the releases? How do you know when a track is ready to release? How much tweaking and live testing do you tend to do?
Well the gap was because we actually ditched around three versions of each track on that EP, so what you heard on the final Machina Terra EP was triple distilled Sonic trance! Perhaps we were a little over the top but in the end the EP worked out well and people liked it so despite the gap I believe in quality over quantity.
I know when a track is ready to release because I listen to it and it transports me to a place in my mind where I am smashing it on the best dance floor in the galaxy with all the grooviest intergalactic beings rocking out with me to the music. I test tracks for production etc. but when it’s a tune it’s a tune. I can feel when something is going to rock, then it’s cool to test a bit, check it, and then booooom it’s there!
Tell us about your musical background. When did you first start producing? How did you get into it? From the sounds of the chord progressions, harmonies and melodies in your tracks I’d say you’re classically trained. Tell us more.
My Mother and Father encouraged me to learn piano as a kid. My piano teacher was a legendary older hipster called Maurice who eventually introduced me and my friends into alternative culture and dance music. Quickly I moved from piano to guitar to punk rock bands and eventually to my decade long psychedelic funk band Bonze, performing at Glastonbury Festival in our peak. Trance took off after that and the content of my tracks is just a reflection of the countless hours of jamming and performing I have done on the stage fronting my various live bands over the couple of decades.
Being classically trained in music, do you notice you have a different method to other producers who are more self-taught? In what ways does understanding music theory empower your style and creativity?
I just jam things out on the keyboard a lot and tweak the knobs live as I am playing. I feel like that produces a more human edge to some of the synths in my tracks. That’s one thing that I think produces my signature sound. Also I operate still with the classic Pentatonic scale that I used to rip out on lead guitar, from stairway to heaven solo to punk to funk on the bass guitar.
The experience of playing in bands for that long and having a vibe and rhythm and knowing what I like and how I play as a musician has meant that it’s very easy for me to know what I like and know what I am going for in my dance music. I think playing live has been a most valuable asset to my trance career... no doubt.
When you go into the studio, what are your main influences? Where do you get your motivation and inspiration from for starting a track?
My motivation comes from my experiences of the best dance floors on the planet combined with my desire to recreate those experiences in others and of course take things to the next level and spread positivity and revolutionary thought through vibration a.k.a. music. I don’t need to listen to music for inspiration, it’s just there 24/7. I think it must be my mission in this life.
Over the years you have remixed Astrix, collaborated with Zen Mechanics, Avalon and many more. Who has been your favourite producer to work with, and do you have any exciting collaborations/remixes in the pipeline?
I have a new progressive project coming very soon with Avalon called Future Frequency. We are working hard on this and it’s set to take off with some big remixes and an EP for Nano and then a full album in spring 2015. I have EPs on the way for HOMmega Records, Nano, Alchemy and Digital Om among others. There is about to be a big wave of new releases from me so keep your eyes on the charts people!
With so many releases, live sets and features on compilations under your belt, are there any plans for another album? What future projects do you have coming up? Sure totally. After the Future Frequency album is complete in 2015 I will start immediately on my second solo album. Through all the collaborations I am doing currently I am building and developing my skill and sound to new levels beyond the scope of my 1st album, so I am very excited to do another album and will be smashing that out in mid- to late-2015!
For all of us studio geeks, talk us through your studio set up, and what set up do you like to use when playing live?
I have a Virus TI Polar, midi keyboard with knobs to tweak and PC Alienware Laptop with Cubase 5. I use Sylenth VST a lot and like to hammer it out and jam out with FX chains on the synth channels to give me an idea of what the synth lines will sound like when they are finished.
For playing live I use Ableton 9 and tweak a series of FX and track clips and warp it a bit whilst delivering a clean live sound with fully mastered tracks.
Quick fire questions (that we’ve all be dying to ask)
Mac or PC? Both
Cubase or Logic? Cubase (Logic if I have to)
DJ or Live? Both
Favourite soft synth? Sylenth
Favourite hardware synth? Virus
Favourite piece of kit? Macbook Pro
What’s best for kicks: samples or Bassism? Samples
What studio monitors do you use? Dynaudio BM6 MK 1 (1st album was done on Adam s3xh monitors)
Sample packs or synthesis? Synthesis
T-Tracks or Waves? Waves
What’s your favourite plugin or FX unit? Bionic Delay hahahahah
And most importantly, what’s your favourite drink? Glass of wine with dinner or a beer with the boys or when I am eating Mexican cuisine … or Singa Beer with Thai food!
Now, you are a regular at some of the most kicking events London has to offer such as Elixir of Life. What have you heard about Astral Circus events? What are you most looking forward to? And why should everyone that loves psy trance come down?
I have heard nothing but raving reviews about Astral Circus and as all us London folk know there are not a lot of decent events going on at the moment. So I am honoured to be a part of this edition and anyone who follows my gig schedule will know that I hardly ever play in London… maybe two times a year on average… so if you want to see me play then Astral Circus is your best bet this side of 2015!
Finally, as one of the psy trance scene’s fastest rising stars, with a seriously impressive collection of releases and tour dates, do you have any advice for the aspiring DJs and producers out there?
My advice to all the hard working aspiring DJs and producers is this. Develop your taste, be discerning, know what you like and what rocks the dance floor. Don’t get too caught up in what is cool and what is underground or commercial. If you have your finger on the pulse of musical styles that rock virtually every dance floor on the planet then you will be in a good position to produce something that will be very successful and well received by all the myriad of global cultures. You can learn how to produce and you can be taught how to DJ but there’s one thing money can’t buy … and that’s Vibe!
Thank you Joe for taking time out to catch up with us... we look forward to your set at Astral Circus, London, on Friday 27th June!!
Two earth years since Astral Circus crash-landed into the visible area of the electro-magnetic spectrum, the resonating frequencies have again converged to bring a spectacular display of light and sound that will illuminate our social matrix, and further our collective exploration of the universe!
We are very excited to bring to you the next edition of Astral Circus, celebrating our 2nd Birthday.
From: Nikki Son 4th Jun 2014 15:34.06 I just have to say it was an absolute honour to be able to interview Joe from Sonic Species. One of my all time favourite psytrance artists and a massive inspiration!! … On top of that he is a total legend and we are SOOOOOO looking forward to having him play at Astral Circus' birthday!!
From: Taraon 4th Jun 2014 18:57.44 Great interview Joe & Nicki! Can't wait to see you both play at Astral Circus!
From: Nikki Son 5th Jun 2014 21:40.25 Woop woop! It's going to be awesome!!
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