Into the Sunrise with Cosmosis
Reported by Psylicious
Submitted 04-11-09 18:17
It’s been just over a year since Cosmosis performed in the land of blighty, his next stop, Sunrise in Leeds on the 28th November. Influenced musically by Simon LeBon’s (Duran Duran) record collection, it was this background that became Bill Halsey’s first stepping stone over the watery path and into the music industry as a session guitarist. But how did this formative connection go from that to him becoming one of the UK’s most respected psy trance producers; and live act, Cosmosis?
With 14 years of producing and touring the sound of Cosmosis around the World, it has to be said Bill Halsey is nothing but a legend, a term often loosely used by so many. Yet it’s a term that is so fitting to a man who has nothing but passion, emotion and true generosity for what he does, what he shares and most of all his music that echoes around the Globe and onto the trance floors.
So in light of his next appearance in the UK I caught up with Bill, speaking from his home in Switzerland to find out more about his history, his experiences and Cosmosis.
Hello Bill and welcome to HarderFaster. Many thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions for the readers. I believe this is your first feature here?
Bill you have been involved within the music industry for many years now, what got you hooked into music in the first place?
First single I ever bought (vinyl 7 inch, 45 rpm) was Tiger Feet by Mud who were a kind of glam rock band in the mid seventies. Tiger Feet was essentially a hard rocking 12 bar blues track with a pop chorus. Probably David Bowie's album. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was the first album that I played over and over and over.. Around the same time I was spending a lot of time after school with my mate David LeBon drinking coffee and listening to records. We didn't have many records or money so we used to sneak into his older brother's record collection and purloin a stack of records to listen to: Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd, Crime of The Century by Supertramp, Eldorado by The Electric Light Orchestra, Alladin Sane and other albums by Bowie were the favourites and we used to play them over and over. His brother Simon LeBon went on to find fame as the singer in Duran Duran. So my early musical influences really were the records in Simon LeBon's record collection.
Later I got given an album by my auntie that she bought and didn't like. It was called Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath and that got me into heavy rock and I got so inspired that I wanted to be able to create music rather then just listen to it, so ended up buying an electric guitar, then started buying all the Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Lynrd Skynrd guitar based band music I could get may hands on and started learning how to play guitar by listening to the records, dropping the needle back over and over to copy guitar licks..
Your earlier musical years saw you as a session guitarist prior to becoming a producer within the psychedelic trance music scene, what got you hooked to this scene and how did it all happen for you?
Yeah, I eventually ended up being a session muso playing live guitar for anyone that would pay as well as gigging in a number of bands on the pubs and night club circuit, I did that for quite a number of years.
Around that time the sampler came along and the studio work for session musos just dried up and eventually I figured, “if you cant beat 'em, join 'em.” Also interestingly I found that I had a much less conservative attitude to the new music technology than most of the jazz players that I was playing with. Some were surprisingly closed minded about computers and technology based music generally. Whereas I found it exhilarating being able to finally get my hands on equipment that I could actually make records with. So I set about building a small MID studio running from my Atari ST computer fitted with a whopping great one megabyte of RAM!
It was 1992 when I first became aware of early acid house music and the whole sub-culture that went along with it. It was an incredibly exciting time in London. It was a whole new cultural shift that exploded out from those days in the late eighties right up until the present day.
At that time I was already a working musician but I became intrigued by this whole new vibrant and creative dance music scene and the huge creative possibilities that it offered. So much so that I dumped the whole playing in bands thing pretty much overnight and got into making electronic dance music. In reality I kind of cross faded between one career and another, but still the process was quite quick, once I’d decided my direction.
You are well known around the world for being the man behind Cosmosis, how did this concept transpire for you?
As I mentioned in the mid to late 80's and early 90's I was working as a guitarist in different bands and though I was playing gigs two or three, sometimes four times a week I wasn't exposed to dance music culture (or raves as they was called at the time) at all. I had become aware of rave culture through the reactionary headlines of the tabloid newspapers and I had already made a mental note to check out at a later date. Something which caused that much moral outrage was just bound to be a lot of fun.
I got my chance sometime in 1991 when a friend of mine suggested that I come to a club in London's Victoria that he had been going to lately called SE1. I had many insights that night and my musical world has never been quite the same since. One thing in particular that I remember discovering and seeing clearly was that to date my approach to writing and creating music had been very conservative and hopelessly out of date and here was a completely new and powerful form of music which used new technology.
That was just listening to the house and early techno music they played in that club that night, I don't think Goa trance existed at that time. That was my introduction to dance music in general. From then on I switched to making dance music in my own studio.
My early inspiration was German trance and techno records actually by Hardfloor, though I didn't know it at the time. My brother kept supplying me with these cassette mix tapes which I found really interesting and fresh sounding at the time.
I on the one hand was working on re-creating that kind of trance/techno sound in my own studio at the time, using these cassette mix tapes for inspiration and on the other I was also collaborating with a house DJ on some housey, girly vocal type stuff at his studio, he later went on to release some track with the Ministry Of Sound Label.
My introduction to Goa trance came a little later when my brother (again) played me an early Dragonfly Records compilation Jouneys Into Trance by Paul Oakenfold which contained some tracks which were the early precursor to Goa trance. Soon after a mutual (house) DJ friend suggested that Jez Van Kampen and I met because he said we were both interested in making "the same weird music."
Jez, it later turned out had a small collection of early Dragonfly vinyls - which must have been about half of everything that Dragonfly had released at that time, Jez also had a small collection of 2nd or 3rd generation, tape to tape hissy cassette mix tapes of Goa trance, one of which was by a new Japanese DJ called Tsuyoshi Suzuki. All in all his collection amounted to a goldmine of this new, fascinating underground music that was so deep underground that it was almost impossible to find.
We started working together in the studio creating our own version of this fabulous and exciting music that we were so inspired by. We made two projects, one called Laughing Buddha and one called Cosmosis. We released the Cosmosis stuff with Transient and the Laughing Buddha stuff with TIP Records..
You are also behind the Mumbo Jumbo concept with Mitch Davies, how does your sound differ from that of your Cosmosis guise?
Well, slightly slower tempos, less melodic emphasis and more groove based. Perhaps the biggest difference is that the tracks tend to sound tongue-in-cheek and have a sonic twinkle in their eye so to speak. We try to express a certain absurdity. You could say we are taking the piss; which is the intention really! It's a function of Mitch and I having a shared sense of humour. For example any sounds or combinations of sounds that we find in the studio that make us laugh or that we find amusing in some way immediately gets to go in the track. Shame that Mitch now lives in Australia and I live in Switzerland, it makes getting together in the studio a little difficult..
During the past 14 years you have toured Cosmosis world wide. What has been your most memorable experience and gig over that time?
Very difficult to say as there have been so many they tend to blur into one big long 14 year long event. But the events that tend to stand out in my memory for me are the parties which were held in beautiful physical locations, like on a tropical beach in Bali, a rainforest on the east coast of Australia, party on a mountain top in the Swiss alps or under dancing under the coconut palms on a beach in Brazil.
After reading your recent blog via MySpace, it’s good to see your Dodgy Promoter Alert! Feature. A warning to all! Over the years we have had our fair share of this sort of thing, so fully support what you are saying. What are your views on this kind of behaviour from what I can only describe as lack of professionalism, ‘giving the industry a bad name?’
Well, it's better for everyone and the whole scene in general that we know who the crooks are so we can cut them out of the picture. The reason that I posted that alert about that promoter Philip Shiraz was because I wanted to make sure that no other DJs artists and décor teams got stitched up by him in future.
Once I posted that alert, I was contacted by other DJs that had been conned by him at past events that he'd organised. So better that everyone knows who they are dealing with. Thankfully in the 14 years that I've been playing international gigs it hasn't happened that much. Just a few times. The vast majority of promoters and people involved in the scene are honourable.
November sees you up north in Leeds playing for the legendary psy trance event ‘Sunrise’. With a 14 year history behind this event, this must be one you are looking forward to performing at?
Yes. I haven't played in the UK for a year or so and it's always nice to play on “home turf.” In terms of gigs in the UK, I enjoy playing events at the towns outside of London, such as Leeds , Manchester and Bristol as I find the crowd are far more “up for it”
So what is the key that drives you forward, providing so much energy to the trance floors you serve?
Well, I consider it and honour and a privilege to find myself in a position where I can make my living creating and expressing music for others to enjoy and I make sure never to let myself forget that. I guess these are the kind of thoughts that spur me forward. Also obviously some other factors like needing to pay the bills!
Also, music is a magical thing. It has the ability to give pleasure and evoke positive emotions in other human beings. I strive to create music that somehow expresses this profound and mysterious journey of life that we find ourselves in the midst of. Also I strive to have my life be as much a contribution to others as I can make it. Music and performing music is one of my ways to accomplish that.
Fumbling For The Funky Frequency is your latest album, released this year. For the benefit of our readers how would you define this album?
Fumbling For The Funky Frequency is somewhat of a continuation of the kind of approach that I used on Psychedelica Melodica, which approximately speaking was to combine the modern in-your-face kick and bass line, with some of the more melodic aspects of my early Goa sound along with some psychedelic and twisted sounds all wrapped up with a modern production value package.
With Fumbling For The Funky Frequency in some ways I've gone a bit further into my early Goa vibe, as well as funking up the percussion and combining a few more non-trance musical influences.
Here's what I said about it earlier:
I've also been discovering vast previously untapped seams of juicy old school vibe deep in the bag, which I've enjoyed layering on in spades in some of the tracks. Plenty of light and shade, keeping it musical and pleasing to the ear but yet still a phat and pumping, raging and jumpin', feets-don't-fail-me-now, pedal to the metal, high octane, rubbery be-bass lined, monster sub-bass fest...
So when you are not producing music and flying round the world touring the sound of Cosmosis, what do you enjoy doing to wind down and relax?
I tend to play country blues and jazz on acoustic guitar, read and meditate. Finding my inner peace through meditation is an important part of my life, something that I actively dedicate time to.
Bill it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Many thanks for taking the time out for this and sharing your thoughts with us all. Before we finish is there any thing you would like to add?
My pleasure. Thanks for the interview.
And yes, if any of your readers are interested in producing trance or electronic music then check out my website at www.cosmosis.co.uk It has a very popular tips and tricks section (under Dr Bill) in which I answer technical questions by up and coming electronic music producers as well as giving advice on programming sounds, composing percussion, arranging tracks etc.
Another resource for up and coming producers are my new live webinar broadcasts in which I answer questions about music production live, I also have different established producer guests on the show to answer production questions (Jez Laughing Buddha, Colin OOOD and Leon Avalon) were on the last one. Again www.cosmosis.co.uk or my MySpace blog: http://www.myspace.com/cosmosis1 for details of upcoming broadcasts as well as videos of the edited highlights.
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Images and logos courtesy of Cosmosis. Not to be reproduced without permission.
SUNRISE 'A New Dawn'
Saturday 28th November
West Indian Centre [map]
21:00 - 05:00
After 14 years of bringing cutting edge Psychedelic Trance to the UK, SUNRISE is opening a new chapter for the party massive.
With Top Acts, Visuals, Decor and Sound at one of the North of England’s most Psy friendly venues, we invite you to come along for the TRIP…..
OPUS Sound in both rooms by OpusPocus, VJ's from Magic Lantern, 3D Enviro-Mental Decor by Platonix, UV art installations by Ferel Decor & Faeiry Jane, Chai by Cush Tea and Highs from InnerSpace!
Trance. Psy Trance. Acid Techno. Breaks. Chillout / Leftfield.
SUNRISE ZONE – Full on Psychedelic Trance
The Audio Addicts
THE BEATS BIZZARE – Progressive Psy Tek
Full VJ Show by Magic Lantern
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Other Features By Psylicious:
Initiating a ‘Digital Domain’ with Savage Circuit
Breaking into your Unconscious Mind(s)
Expanding Your Senses with Odo7
Talamasca ‘Make Some Noise’!
Blasting off with Zetan Spore
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.