Decoded Radio hosted by Luke Brancaccio presents Guy J + interview

There’s an idea that musical theory inhibits creativity in dance music, imposing rules in artists’ minds where they need not exist. Sure, an experienced pianist might struggle to adopt the melodic restraint that techno requires, but it’s a flimsy notion to apply wholesale, especially when you consider the work of someone who we know as the genius of our times, I am only talking about Guy freakin J, having come from a back-ground that is an exponent of Psy-Trance, the Tel Aviv marauder has been able to capture the hearts of millions with the vibrancy and wily musicality he has displayed over the years and is in fact second to none, no matter what vibe or style he is aiming for in that particular piece. I have seen the man, over the years, just starting to blossom under the patronage of John Digweed’s Bedrock label on to and seeing his career sky-rocket with his original productions hitting number 1 on the charts as soon as it releases, and so the up-swing has been real. From the moment Esperanza hit the air waves, to Once In a Blue Moon, Candyland, thereafter Nirvana which is my personal favourite then, take Diagonal, Pathos and an enviable amount of remix work, to travelling continents across different time zones with ease and humility to boot, here’s a “guy” who puts his unending talent where his mouth is. His ethos is old-school wrapped in a contemporary package and that’s probably one of the main reasons for his success story.

From running his own Lost & Found label to diversifying in to his other pet project that offers up ambient/ electronica Armadillo is a true vessel from where he tries to connect the dots of slow-mo electronic music in to the 4×4 realm with the former being one of the top dance music labels of this age. On paper there’s a lot to bridge the releases aside from, say, a soft focus on servicing a dance floor. But in becoming a fan of both imprints, I’ve been struck by just how much of an aesthetic through-line there actually is.

He is also the master mind of a brand-new dance music property called We Are Lost, the festival has taken the House world by storm already with its second successful edition held at Thuishaven in Amsterdam last month, that pay’s attention to carefully curated line-ups and hypnotic music stories. And I hear a birdie say that there’s a third one well under construction, more on that in the interview.

So, lot’s to talk about and I dive straight in to ask Guy about his feelings from the days of releasing on Bedrock Records the very lauded – Save Me fast forward to now, how he keeps his excitement and energy alive for dance music and considering he is one of the busiest DJ’s of the circuit, how he handles its gruelling schedule and he quips –

“The excitement and energy levels are always high, the ride has been intense as I never stop to look at where I am and where I have been, I do what I do with passion and when you are passionate you don’t stop.”

Unexpectedly fierce words from a calm facade but I do want to find out first about his tactics of production in current times, about how he settles himself down to making the same high quality music from back in the day when he was much less busy and he is matter of fact in saying – “I just have many more toys than before, I still use Cubase like before but I think the way I produce is very simple, almost everything is analog synthesizer so my music gets warmer, and I always learn something small as this world of producing electronic music has endless paths to take in order to get what you want.”

Is he happy with the way his latest two tracker on Lost & Found titled – Synthopia/ Cicada has been received world-wide and there’s quiet self-assurance – “I’m happy with every release I do, it’s always like that, that some tracks will become more like “Hits” and some less and its fine, I’m in a place in my career and life that I follow my instincts regarding music and the label and do what feels right for me.” My next query veers in to the obvious fact that he is an accomplished Piano player, has that training helped in creating such amazing melodies at will, and why is the kick of his tracks the most important thing for him, is half the battle won when one get these two things right and he states simply – “I learned how to play Piano at a very young age but now I don’t remember any of it, I can’t read notes, I guess I have a good ear and imagination which is vintage naughty from a man who knows how to make light of his achievements and also at the same time puts one in place cause he can really be foxy about his talent, of creating things, as easy as me making some ice in the freezer.” One can tell his insatiable quest for good music started young and he verifies that by – “I think just growing up hearing music all the time at home and also growing up when everything that you hear is quality was a big gift, you cannot compare commercial music of today to what was 25 – 30 years ago, and in regards to the Kick, that’s a hate/love relationship to any producer, I think the kick defines the vibe of the track, I think on some tracks I spend most time on finding the right kick, which pays put to my theory.” I push him to talk about his brain child Armadillo Records before we go on to other stuff and its plain to see that he has been paying more attention to the Electronica label a lot more this year, what are the thoughts on this and when did the idea of coming up with this concept hit him, was there a belief that this sort of undertaking would work and Guy goes on to add –

“I think Armadillo has a lot of potential, not in being successful but being a way to connect more producers and listeners, all the producers that make music for clubs, even when it comes from the deepest part of your heart and its very emotional to you, you still need to make it right so it will be playable in a club, with Armadillo it gives these producers including me a path to make something “naked” in a way that there is no boundaries or structure that you need to follow.”

The slight framed large eyed music maker who lives now in Malta has gone on to become a top draw around the world and has come across many talents in his adventures, I was wondering how he goes about compiling artists for the releases from his label Armadillo apart from the signature ambient/Electronica style, if he looks for a certain flavour or story when he selects a track or even an artist who may not necessarily be known to offer slower music and the soft spoken DJ/producer has this to say – “I ask the producers when I approach them to do anything but club music, when a producer is doing a release on Armadillo they have much more freedom on choosing what will come out as long as its not club music related, on Lost & Found I release only music that I want to play at the gigs, music that I believe that have something unique in that sea of music that is being released.”

And at the goading from my end about whether he applied the same ethos to the latest compilation titled Fields Vol. 1 from the imprint, featuring artists such as Sébastien Léger, Spanck, Luka Sambe, Jamie Stevens and others he thinks and mutters – “Fields Vol 1. is a collection of tracks that most of it came out on Armadillo or will be released on Armadillo, I’m trying to think with the person who help me run the label how to give the label more attention and this collection is a great way to showcase what the label is about, largely due to the talented producers who release from under the slow-mo umbrella.”

A thick cluster of dancers in front of him seemingly in a trance to his other worldly label Lost & Found and its genre defying releases means only one thing, the excitement of new material is palpable every time the imprint puts forth either J’s own handiwork or works of artists who keep their soundscapes close to the mother ship and the one thing exciting the little master at the moment is a release from fellow Tel Aviv producer Eli Nissan – Eli Nissan’s release Found05 is now out which for me is a perfect release from him, it’s very melodic and knowing Eli, the tracks really define him and his personality which is an achievement. More beautiful music is about to come he rambles out. Talking about melodies and the machinations of both the labels in terms of creativity he booms about how he joins the artists and their music in to a beauteous pot-pourri with – “I do make connections between Armadillo and Lost & Found some times, I think when you produce different genres you use also different elements and different way of producing and its always tempting to take those tracks and remix them, the will to see what it will bring with its enhancements.” As far as his beliefs with the adage less is more as far as studio gear and production materials is concerned his disposition is joy filled with his comeback – “Well I believe that everyone has their own way of doing things and if they are happy with it and with their results then it’s perfect. There is no “one” way of doing things when it comes to music and that is the beauty of it.” And when I inquire whether he applies any method to the madness of running two labels plus his own gigs and productions schedule, what the management entails the hit maker espouses – “I have a great great guy named Yaniv that is helping me with the labels, it’s very time consuming and I don’t want to sacrifice music production and my personal time at home more than what I do now.”

As an iconic character in music with a breathless schedule and the trimmings that come along with one who is as successful as him I pose a burning question in my head about depression, how an artist can suffer from tiredness or fatigue or even days when the brain doesn’t function as creatively as other sunny moments, the lure of bigger gigs, bigger labels, bigger appearances can take a toll on the best of the best. Emotionally how he would tackle road blocks when he sits down not only to make music, but also to strike the balance of normalcy and to still the mind to get on with it no matter what he replies –

“I think whatever profession you do, when you are the boss of your own thing and your life depends mostly on you, it will bring a lot of stress with it. So, when days like that come, I know they also will pass and I deal with it as maturely as possible. If a day comes and it’s not working out to produce music, I just let it go and wait for the next day. There is always something else to do, there is always something that needs to be done, so you give your attention to those things and that can help a long way.”

On to brighter stuff when asked what his 5 favourite tracks are that he has made and especially proud or connected to he struggles to say but with a glint in his eyes – “probably most of them are not released yet.” I also get to pressing things such as his We Are Lost Festival concept, of how it took shape in his mind and the idea behind the showcases and whether he is happy with the results of this undertaking that gives his brand of musicality wings to a bigger and learned audiences and he doesn’t waste time telling us – “wow, the last edition in Amsterdam on the 18th of May was out of this world, I think I can now be more confident with how I want it to look and sound, it’s going to be an exciting journey that I’m taking. We had a beautiful line up and crazy good crowd at a beautiful location in a beautiful city. Now it’s time to work on the next one.” The latest news in is that Guy J, Lost & Found Records and Ozmozis pres. We Are Lost Festival, sees its doors opening to North America, namely Toronto will be host to the next edition in August, but more on that later. Furthermore, is he planning to take the brand to different parts of the globe in the near future – “Of course there is, but I want to keep it limited, doing it around 4 times a year in different parts of the world is more than enough for me at this point.”

Being no stranger to curating a stupendous goose bump inducing vibe at no matter which party, festival or intimate gathering he may be playing at, out of curiosity I ask whether he plans his long extended sets, or does he go on the fly he retorts with only – “I love playing long sets in clubs that have the perfect setting for it like Stereo in Montreal, it’s just made for it, the sound, the room, the walls. It’s perfect.” Also, his perfect venue where he gets immense creative satisfaction – “Stereo for me is the best sounding club I’ve been and to play music there, your own production is amazing cause you can hear everything perfect.”

Here’s the point where I realise I got to let him go, and I shoot the last one at him like a dart, that whether he can give so many aspiring youngsters some advice or tips who want to be like him –

“My advice is like always to stay creative, to learn all the tools there are and whatever they do, if it’s a track or a gig, do it knowing you gave your best.”

Wise words from the guy who’s ruling the electronic dance music playground with his evocative, emotional productions and the way they weave into his sets, you begin to understand that element of surprise is what most of us clubbers or dancers live for. For me, that moment crystallises when I find him taking over a console and I never want to come back down, every time I have been party to his floor. Godspeed Guy!!

Decoded Radio hosted by Luke Brancaccio presents Guy J.


Luke Brancaccio

01. 16BL – You Are High [Anjunadeep]
02. Prospa – Intended [Subsoul Recordings]
03. Nocturnal Sunshine – U&ME (I AM ME)
04. Xpansions – Move Your Body (Shadow Child Remix)
05. Bontan – 10 Days [Crosstown Rebels]
06. John Digweed & Nick Muir – Satellite (Oxia Remix) [Bedrock]
07. Khainz – Reconnect
08. Rebuke – Better Lost Than Stupid Inside
09. Maceo Plex – Mirror Me
10. Underworld – Born Slippy (Kusp Edit)
11. Eelke Kleijn – Maschine 2.0 (Nakadia Remix)

Guy J “Another Moon”

01. Tencion – Amador
02. Antrim – The Beauty Of The Unexpected
03. Eli Nissan – Arpu
04. Chaim – Gnawa (Sabo_Remix)
05. Dilby – Modern Love
06. Olivier Weiter – Bombay
07. Fluente – Daydreaming (Kamilo Sanclemente & Juan Pablo Torrez Remix)
08. Guy J – Synthopia
09. Alex O’Rion & Paul Kardos – Timeless
10. Guy J – Cicada
11. Polynation – Cascade
12. Roman Fahls – Mediolanum

About the author

Priya is based out of Mumbai and is a DJ/Producer plus contributor to Decoded Magazine, plus hosts her own monthly radio shows in multiple music channels internationally.