Guy-J is one of the few artists to have made the true sound of progressive-house cool and sexy once more. His productions are in a league of their own, oozing sophistication, charisma, and emotion but transforming them into a musical journey that has grabbed all our attention in a short space of time. With a direct line to John Digweed and his Lost & Found imprint, a part of the Bedrock family we could be forgiven for thinking he has reached the pinnacle of his career but that is not it with Guy-J. The moment you talk about music his eyes light up and his passion for the music , the scene and his craft exudes and it becomes clear why this quiet , un-assuming young Israeli is one of the champions of today’s scene.
This is an interview with Guy-J…
You recently played at Melodic/Dublin, a more intimate venue. How do you prepare for a gig like this?
It’s been a while since my last visit to Dublin and I tried to complete the musical gap with what I’ve been doing since the last time – of course 2 hours are not enough, but I’m always going to try to represent my sound. Size does not matter, place does.
Ableton live is a big part of your set as we have just witnessed, what kind of preparation goes into your set before playing?
I search for a lot for music and I write a lot of music all the time, Ableton allows me to play loops over loops and go crazy with the tracks I play. I always think a great night can be when the DJ delivers a story or journey to the people who are coming to the club and Ableton supports this point of view.
What’s the one downside to using software to DJ with as opposed to CDJs or turntables? (If any)
If there is a downside, sometimes I feel a bit disconnected from the crowd because it is necessary to be so focused on what is running, but it feels great to know you can play in a way that not many do and that the music you play can’t be played by anyone else.
Do you ever get nervous before playing?
I used to get nervous when I started DJing, now it has turned into excitement and I think that’s natural when you love something so much – first you’re afraid you’re not doing it right and maybe that you’re doing it right but people won’t get what you’re doing, then with time you get the confidence that you’re good at what you do. You still might not be the best but you know you’re good and you’re coming to give the club the best night you can.
What’s the biggest sacrifice when away from home?
Being away from home!
What do you feel progressive house stands for in recent years?
I think it’s very hard to define… Progressive, from what I remember, is totally different from what it is today – it still has that soul in it – musical soul – but is just struggling to find a new originality. Electronic music has developed and changed so much in the last 10 years that it’s hard to describe a genre these days, so maybe I would say energy and soul.
You’ve made a big impact on the scene with your productions and have been one of the few to have made the true progressive house sound cool and sexy once more, is this how you would like to be remembered?
Hehehe… I really don’t know! I guess I could return to this question in maybe a few years? I think I’ve not been in the scene for long enough to think about how I would like to be remembered.
On today’s scene is it still the job of a DJ to take the listener on a journey and create a unique experience?
Definitely, I think more than ever! There’s a lot of music out there and a lot of DJs, so what will make you different from the rest? I’m lucky to get to return to some of the venues I’ve played before because people had a good journey with the music so I get asked back. It’s hard to stay original but should be a top mission for any DJ, people who have a great night will remember this for a lifetime.
The current debate is that a lot of download releases are not always up to standard and it’s becoming harder to find the quality music from new artists, do you still actively source music from digital stores?
I do, it is almost impossible but there are times you can find a lot of good music and sometimes there is nothing. I have the tools to be able to create music so this situation is not that bad for me, but I’m not jealous for people who need to look for it – you will find great music out there, it is just will take long nights and days…
It’s frustrating when you arrive at a gig and there is a problem, what’s the worst hiccup you’ve had at a gig?
A couple of times it happened that my laptop decided to stop playing music and I had to restart, but I’m not getting stressed from it because not everything is in my total control. Experience teaches you not to get agitated about things that don’t always go as you plan.
What are your other passions outside of the music sphere?
FOOD and photography – I think both have something from the ethos of music production – when you make food it is exactly like making music, you work on it to satisfy the person or crowd and it feels great when they like it – I love being in the kitchen, I enjoy it a lot! As for photography, I find it a very powerful medium of expression – a split second in life that you can keep and have a million words in a picture, you have the ability to freeze a moment and take it with you.
You’re at a point in your career that almost all producers only dream of – Lost & Found is part of the Bedrock family and you have a direct line to John Digweed who has supported you a lot, do you ever have to pinch yourself when you wake up in the morning?
It is a dream that became reality, but I find this lifestyle very intense and I work a lot on my music, so with all this stuff that is happening with me there is no time to really sit and think about it. I try to stay original in my productions and keep on delivering what I do, so it’s all coming after a lot of hard work.
Your productions are constantly being described as having class and sophistication, how would you describe your sound?
I call it soul electronic music. Even if it is without melody every track means something for me, if it’s sophisticated or not is hard for me to say, but I know I write it from the heart.
You’re quoted as saying your Virus Ti is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your studio, is it the first thing you will go to when creating a track?
The Virus TI was the first and most important piece of equipment I bought and I still use it in every track. It’s great for bass-lines, pads, leads – so many options and all sounding amazing!
Is hardware one of the most essential parts of a studio in order to produce a more refined, quality of sound as opposed to just using software VST’s?
To be honest, since I got the Virus around 8 years ago I am using less and less VST’s so I’m not up to date with what is going on. I’m sure there is good stuff out there, but there is something in having an analogue synth, I’ve got a couple of other synths since and they add more “colour” to the music. It’s magical when you have something like that – with a presence, with buttons – I love it!
How do you approach making a new track, do you start with a hook and work from there?
I go over the sounds if they are on the Virus or DSI Poly Evolver and just play with them – start getting ideas – and when I find something I start building around it – I can listen to a loop a million times until I get the sound and vibe I want. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t and I leave them – I have a lot of unfinished projects that I started.
You’ve released tracks on a number leading labels now, what would your advice be to producers trying to follow in your footsteps?
I think my advice would be to stay original. It’s good to have inspiration – a lot of producers inspired and are inspiring me, but you need to find your own sound. If there is something good out there and you try to follow it and you are just beginning, what are the odds to create something better or original? I think it is wise to use time to find your “sound”, it’s a spiritual process that you need to take some time to discover.
You’ve recently remixed Omid-16B’s “Escape”, does the feeling become more special when you’re remixing a track that means something to you?
Yes a lot, also remixing a track that a lot of people know its very hard, I don’t want just to create another bass-line and another drum section with the same idea of the original, I want something very different that gives my point of view to the track and pays respect to the original.
Your label Lost and Found has been in action for over a year and has seen single releases from some well established artists like Eelke Kleijn, Secret Cinema as well as your own work however most recently there is a superb mini LP – “Found 01” from the talented Navar. What has made Navar’s productions stand out for you?
Navar writes music from his soul, you can hear it in his tracks, it is honest music and I think he made an amazing release for Lost & Found. I think a good producer can deliver different styles and still have his particular touch in everything and Navar does this very well indeed.
Is “Found 01” the start of a new series of Mini-LP releases we can look forward to?
Yes it is, I came up with the idea of doing it every few months – have mini albums where producers can show more of their sound and what they are doing but don’t have to make a full-length album and avoid some tracks losing the attention. With “Found” you have 5 tracks, more or less, and the producer can include some music that is not necessarily “house music”, so maybe it can be down-tempo or breaks – like in Navar’s “Long Lost Friend” track.
Has running the label given you more creative control of the direction of your music?
It did give me more creativity as I also remix some of the tracks that come out on the label, and also I hear great music by great producers so I learn more all the time
Where in your opinion is the future of electronic music going?
Everyone is now exposed to electronic music – if it’s commercial or not is a different story -but commercial music opens the door to quality music as well. It looks like right now things are divided into commercial music and underground music, but I think things will blend and merge into new styles and interesting hybrids as the commercial always feeds from the underground and everything is always in a state of flux.
What’s next in 2014 for Guy J, a new album perhaps?
I think this year is time for an album, I am feeling very creative lately, a lot is going on in my life and I want to express it through music. Lots of tours are in the process of being planned, so I’m looking forward to another great year.
Lost & Found kick-starts 2014 with a double-header featuring stunning Guy J remixes of two classic tracks from 1999…
AMbassador – The Fade (Guy J Remix)
Twice As Nice – Overture (Guy J Remix)
(Lost & Found) LF011
Release: 27th January 2014
Listen here: http://soundcloud.com/lostandfoundrec
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