Luke Brancaccio and Simon Berry are two artists that have been in the industry for some time now and influenced so many people over the years through their productions and DJ sets. Luke is well known for his work with production partner Bruce Aisher with tracks like ‘Strapped’ on Bedrock Records under their White Room guise, and of course their huge track ‘Lovely Day’ which was released on Credence. Simon Berry records as Art of Trance is one half of Union Jack and is the owner of Platipus Records which has been an institution for great records over the years including tracks by artists like Hardfloor, POB, Humate, and Moogwai. Luke and Simon found time to chat with us here at Decoded Magazine after their recent collaboration was released on Bedrock.
Hi Luke and Simon, and thank you for both taking the time to chat to Decoded Magazine. What have you been up to with your day?
SB: I’m just travelling back from a festival in the Israel, right on the Syrian border where I did a Union Jack Live set.
LB: I’ve just come back from Vienna; went to a gritty techno club, I could’ve stayed there for days! Also just finished a mix for John Digweed’s Transitions radio show, which is exciting.
Both of you have influenced generations of dance music lovers but what first got you both into dance music?
SB: Initially I was inspired by 80’s synth artists such as Depeche Mode, Art Of Noise, Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis followed by Detroit techno artists such as Juan Atkins and Derrick May in the late 80’s. That was when I bought my first synth: a DX7, and travelled up to London so I could hear all the pirate radio stations on a regular basis during the good ‘ole hardcore era and when I first started experimenting with sound.
LB: I was actually always into hip-hop when I was younger. Then I started living in this flat where everyone was listening to dance music. I remember hearing “Windows” by SIL and “Not Forgotten” by Leftfield and it all started from there.
Let’s talk about your new release on Bedrock. How did the project come about, and how did you find working together in the studio?
SB: We only met around 9 months ago at a house party about 1/2 a mile from where I live in West London. It was quite a random thing as we both aware of each other’s musical past to a degree. However, our paths hadn’t crossed until then. Several drinks later, we made a plan to have a jam in the studio and after six afternoon sessions, ‘Oblivion’ was conceived.
LB: Working with Simon is an absolute pleasure. We both complement each other which really helps to create a strong, collaborative partnership.
Can you talk us through how the track was constructed and what tools in the studio you used when creating ‘Oblivion’?
SB: I think we started with the bassline from the Moog Sub 37, followed by some white noise percussion and a lead line from the Sub 37 too. The main sequence came from the TAL Uno-LX emulation of the Juno 60 (which I had back in the day) and we layered up some dark Mellotron drone-like chords. A few Reaktor effects etc were used along the way for good measure.
The release features a remix by HOSH that we love here at Decoded Mag. What made you select HOSH for remix duties and what were your thoughts when you first heard his remix?
LB: I’ve been a massive HOSH fan for years and he was top of our wish list which we sent to Digweed. Luckily he was up for doing it! He gave us a choice of several versions and this was our favourite. As soon as we heard it, we knew it would be big!
Most people dream of getting a release on Bedrock. What was the process for this track finding its way onto John Digweed’s label? Also, can we expect more in the future?
LB: My relationship with John and his label started back in the early 2000’s when Bruce Aisher and I signed our song “Strapped” to Bedrock under the name White Room. Since then we’ve signed several tracks to Bedrock and even did an album without project Suicide Sports Club. I really respect John and his label continues to be one of the top dance music labels in the world. We knew with Oblivion we wanted to give John first refusal – and he went for it, and now here we are! It’s an absolute pleasure to be back with them again and we will definitely be doing something else with Bedrock in the not so distant future.
SB: I had the pleasure of meeting John several times at the early Bedrock events in Heaven nightclub in London. Shortly after, John and Nick kindly did a Bedrock remix of Humate’s classic 3.1 for Platipus. For the past two decades Bedrock has consistently been a benchmark for progressive house productions for many, and so it was an honour to have a track on the label, and for me personally, my first release outside Platipus since ’93.
You have both been in the industry for some time now and have seen a lot of change over the years. What do you feel have been some of the biggest positives and negatives on the industry over the past 20 years?
SB: On the upside, I think the constant development and progression of music technology has been one of the biggest drivers in providing fresh, interesting and ever-changing sound palette for producers to vibe off, whether it be the creation of unique sounds via innovative new soft synths or the implementation of complex modular effects plugins. Both these factors undoubtedly influence the genres and sub-genres of the future. The continued affordability of technology has also enabled the ability for entry into the music production world to far easier than it was in the past when synths and samplers were luxury studio pieces. Whilst this is a good thing, I believe it also has the disadvantage of potentially flooding the scene with sub-standard bedroom-based tin-pot productions that make it harder for the quality tracks to get the attention they deserve.
LB: I’d say it has to be the internet; people always talk about how illegal downloads have ruined music and that’s probably true. But on the flip side, the internet has also enabled people to really immerse themselves in music. You can hunt down all kinds of special stuff and the internet has given people an opportunity to put their music out there and find new music that otherwise may not have been accessible. It also means that music can reach further than it ever has before and that, in my opinion, is a good thing!
Simon, you were a member part of both Union Jack and Art of Trance that both stamped their sound on dance music at the time. What do you feel have been some of your most memorable moments and releases over the years?
SB: ‘Two Full Moons & A Trout’ was the first Union Jack track to really take off. Come to think of it, it was our first Union Jack track, and I remember we threw everything in the pot, from ethnic vocals, dramatic orchestral strings with unorthodox key changes, trippy psycho-acoustic warblings, African percussion, slowly evolving 3-time acid riffs; literally putting all our favourite type of sounds in it without any pre-conceived idea of how we thought it might materialise. Something that is perhaps lacking in the way a lot of music is approached these days, now that sub-genres are so defined… I blame the DJ’s! Whilst ‘Madagascar’ was my biggest Art Of Trance release, ‘Octopus’ was probably my favourite.
Luke, I think most people will remember your track ‘Lovely Day’ on Credence which was played by pretty much every house and progressive DJ I can think of at the time. How do you think the progressive sound has evolved over the years and did it ever really go away?
LB: It’s come full cycle and now it’s even better; technology enables us to do things we weren’t able to do before. I hope it continues to evolve even more.
I often see people of my generation posting comments along the lines of “it’s not like it used to be” when referring to the dance music scene. First, what does that quote instantly say to you both, and what are your thoughts on today’s scene compared to the early to late 90s?
SB: It’s possible these comments are down to the perception of today’s tracks lacking the identity that so many tracks had in the 90’s had. I guess there was a bit more freedom to create tracks with big riff’s and strong musical identities back then, and to a certain extent I think underground producers today (myself included) are a lot more wary of being perceived as pastiche, cliched or cheesy and are tempted to overly-urge on the side of caution in favour of more non-musical elements of production resulting in tracks that are more subtle in their production (which can be a good thing) but potentially also result in more anonymous sounding productions. I also sense the tide is changing slightly with regard to this and the appetite for more musical elements are being welcomed once again, as they have been with Oblivion, but as always, it’s a fine line.
LB: Of course it’s not, and in some ways, it shouldn’t be. Things are constantly changing and we go through phases where things are better, more inspired and exciting and other times where they are not. That goes for music as much as it does for anything else.
After this latest release ‘Oblivion’ on Bedrock can we expect more from you both? Have any new releases been penned in for a future release?
LB: We were so excited after ‘Oblivion’, we knew we definitely wanted to continue with our partnership; as our musical relationship is quite a symbiotic one. We have made another tune which has been taken on by Yousef’s Circus Recordings. We are so excited to get it out there and can’t wait for you to hear it!
SB: Also, we’ve just completed a joint remix of a track by German producer Martin Merkel who has a forthcoming album on Platipus very soon.
If you had to identify one non-dance music track that has influenced your life the most what would it be?
SB: That’s a really difficult one to answer. I remember ‘Tour De France’ by Kraftwerk had a big impact on me when I first heard it.
LB: There have been different songs for different stages in my life but the tune that keeps blowing me away is ‘1/1’ by Brian Eno on his album “Music for airports.”
Can you tell us a little about how the mix was put together and why some of the tracks were selected?
LB: We both compiled this mix and we picked the tunes based on what’s been inspiring us of late. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I really do think that this mix takes the listener on a bit of a journey.
Finally, I would like to thank you both for your time, and the great mix. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
SB: Thanks for your support.
LB: Thank you Decoded Magazine for this opportunity, and watch this space!
01. Yeah But No – Sand (Ruede Hagelstein Remix)
02. The Dying Seconds – Mora Minn (Eli Nissan & Jenia Tarsoi Remix)
03. Unity 3 – Age Of Love Suite (Chris Fortier Remix)
04. Lank – Run On Fuse (Gai Barone Remix)
05. Rauschhaus & Peer Kusiv – Triton
06. Luke Brancaccio & Simon Berry – Oblivion (HOSH Remix)
07. Luke Brancaccio & Simon Berry – Oblivion
08. Jam El Mar – Three Full Moon Nights
09. Thomas Schumacher – Unconfused