A friendly catch up with Sensient - artist and label owner at Zenon Records!
Reported by Jessica Alici
Submitted 17-09-18 15:27
Sensient (aka Tim Larner) has been a highly rated figure in the psy trance scene for over 15 years. Not only as a well-respected DJ and producer in his own right, but also as a successful label owner of the legendary Zenon Records. Renowned for his epic 3-hour sets spanning genres from psy techno through to psy prog, we decided it was time to find out more about this veteran of the scene.
Firstly tell us where this all began. You were born in Australia. How did your love for electronic music develop? Who and what were your early influences?
I didn’t have much exposure to electronic music until I was 20 years old. Before that I was into rock/metal/funk etc. but then my brother took me to a big outdoor rave in the Aussie bush and what I experienced there blew my mind!
When, why and how did you decide to launch your act as an artist? And what about the label, when and how did this come about?
Well after that first experience I really wanted to try and re-create the sounds I heard so I got a computer and a copy of Fruity Loops and started experimenting. My first release (little known fact) was one track under the name Psy-Kik (cringe!) on EdgeCore records in 2001.
After that I changed my name to Sensient and got some interest from European based labels and started to release with them, with my first album appearing on Tastu Records in 2003 (which at the time was run by D-Nox - well known these days for his tech-house vibes). The label idea came about shortly after as I had a desire to give myself and other artists in a similar style a platform to release our dark, minimal styles.
Tell us about your move from Australia to Germany and then back to Australia again…
I first lived in Germany between 2013 and 2016. I had been touring Europe since 2004 so toyed with the idea of basing myself there and was glad I finally did! By the end of 2016 I was feeling a bit homesick so moved back to Melbourne for 18 months. That was a great time, but it was hard to support myself and my family in Australia as the scene is much smaller than Europe, and it’s too far away from everywhere, so now I'm actually back in Berlin since 2 months, and it’s going great!
You’re known for playing a range of genres, and using lots of additional effects and controllers during your performances. Tell us about your set up on stage, and in the studio. What would you say defines you as an artist?
Well actually my setup on stage is fairly simple. I’ve never been one to break apart my tracks and re-arrange them live. After spending days perfecting them in the studio I don’t have a desire to de-construct them just so that I am less bored on stage. So I am DJing my music, with FX on top for added fun and colour.
I am also doing many DJ sets these days as I always have so much fresh new Zenon gear to play that I can’t resist dropping the fresh bombs! In the studio I’m in the box using Ableton 9 as DAW. I use Omnisphere a lot with audio samples and a bunch of effects plugins.
What are some the best parts of being an artist in this scene and what, for you, are the less fun aspects?
The best part is getting to share music that I love and am deeply passionate about with a responsive crowd through a massive sound system. It’s awesome :-) I also love connecting with friends on tour and on the road, especially my Zenon family. The less fun part is being in hotel rooms bored and alone, and all the time waiting in airports, or long drives to festivals.
What characteristics do you feel you need to be a successful artist?
Focus, drive and musical talent. Although the cynic in me would say a good social media plan
You’ve been running Zenon Records for 15 years now. What would you say are the reasons you’re still a highly respected and successful label?
I would say the main reason is because Zenon has managed to rise up to be one of the larger labels with zero musical compromise. I have never selected any music with a thought of whether it will be commercially viable or not. The art has remained pure throughout, and I think people can see and appreciate that.
What would you say you have gotten right and what would you say you may have gotten wrong over the years?
Got right: stayed true to my musical passion and not been swayed by trends.
Got wrong: partied too hard when I was younger and wasted a bunch of time coming down after parties when I could have been doing something productive.
On your label page the biography states that you “spawned your own genre” - ‘Zenonesque’ - tell us about this…
Ah well, this term was coined by the owner of Ektoplazm, and now I have started using it (why not!). Lots of people that I meet talk to me about how Zenon started its own genre, which I guess is true in a way, so I’ll take it. The Zenon sound is very recognizable (although very wide ranging at the same time).
Does the label have an ethos? What defines Zenon Records?
Musicality, futuristic, organic, technical sound design, deep-mood-creating.
How do you feel the psy trance scene has changed in the last 15 years and what would you say are the pros and cons of this?
Well of course it has become much more commercial and mainstream in the last few years. As an artist I like it because the treatment is better, everything is more organised, and I get hotels, airport transfers, etc. instead of a tent behind the stage like when I started. Also, it’s easier to make a living nowadays, as there is more slice of a bigger pie to go around. I don’t really see any cons to this - it doesn’t really bother me about the commercialisation of the scene - I usually play more underground events anyway.
What’s your view on platforms such as Spotify?
As a listener I love it - it’s amazing that you can have instant access to so much music. From a label perspective it’s probably not so good; sales have been down for a long time now, and everyone knows the money is in playing gigs as an artist.
Which artists are you really impressed with currently and why?
Well to be honest I don’t really have time to listen to anyone outside of Zenon artists (in the psy-trance scene) - so it’s a biased answer, and honestly, there is so much talent there that I cannot name one artist. Outside of psy trance my fave artist of all time is The Flashbulb, closely followed by John Hopkins and also been digging Rival Consoles lately.
Where would you like to see yourself and the label 5 years from now?
Hmmm I'm quite content where I am right now, so as long as things don’t go backward I'll be happy!
Aside from music, what are your other passions?
My wife Ruby! I’m also a coffee freak, I like going to cafes and sitting outside to drink my coffee slowly and watch people walk past. I am also a Christian so I enjoy spending time with my church family.
If there were to be a film made about your life, what would its title be and which actor would you like to play you?
It would be a gritty drama about DJ life and I’d be played by Ryan Gosling and the name would be Beats Working.
Many thanks for taking the time for this interview Tim, and good luck with everything for the future
Click below to follow Sensient on Facebook:
Click below to follow Zenon Records on Facebook:
Here’s Zenon’s website for further info:
Join Music for the Underground here:
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Facebook Group - Prog-Psy-Techno:
All images are courtesy of Tim Larner. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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