Universal Solution Interview

InProgress is an exciting new club brand from Leeds, UK. Over the past two years, they have teamed up with some of the biggest names in the electronic music scene hosting official pre-parties for trance super club, Digital Society, celebrating Silk Royal Showcase’s 100th episode and also hosting an Anjunadeep 05 album launch party. Their weekly podcast, Progressive Intelligence features mixes from residents Andrew Starkey, James Brewerton, Shaun Mynett and Ste Adams, who between them, have DJ’d at some of the biggest clubs in the UK dance scene. As the podcast has recently reached it’s milestone 50th episode they invited Jody Wisternoff, Terry Da Libra and Toby Hedges to contribute hour long guest mixes to celebrate. And its Jody, alongside Manchester based Universal Solution who are guests for the Anjunabeats05 Album Launch Party at Mint Club, Leeds on October 11th 2013.

Universal Solution or Gavin Holland to his friends, has been involved in the music business for the best part of 20 years. He released his debut album entitled Nurture in 2011 and has followed it with releases on a number of cooler labels in 2012 like Kindred and MUM. Ahead of his appearance at Mint Club, Leeds we caught up with the man himself to discuss old skool raving, dance culture and that all important live show.

Hi Gavin, nice to meet you. Thanks for finding the time to have a quick chat with us at This is Progressive. I suppose a good place to start is at the beginning! Tell us about some of your influences and how you got into dance music.
Hi and thanks for having me, a real pleasure.
I’ve always been into the more electronic side of music and the technology that goes with it. I guess I first got hooked in the mid 90’s – I had an Atari ST and dabbled in music production from a really early age. I used to listen to John Peel a lot on Radio 1 and was really drawn to his mad eclectic mix of music especially the more atmospheric electronic stuff. Anything from Aphex Twin to classic sub bass house from the likes of LFO and Nightmares on Wax. You can still hear the sub bass influence in my more Liquatech inspired stuff today. I was obsessed with Warp records too especially the Artificial Intelligence compilations – really diverse electronic music from clubby stuff to more off the wall ambience. I then went to University in Birmingham in the UK which opened my horizons to clubbing and live electronica – it was really vibrant scene at that time with nights like Oscillate in particular with different live electronic acts every week such as B12, Orbital, Biosphere, Autechre, Speedy J and loads of others.
The more traditional clubbing scene drew me in at this time too – the likes of Sasha, Nick Warren and Dave Seamen and the epic progressive sounds of BT, Spooky and Blue Amazon were a big influence. Probably my biggest influence since then has been the music of Tom Middleton – I’m just drawn to the emotional quality of his stuff. The Global Communication album 76:14 for me is just a near perfect piece of electronic music.

For those that couldn’t attend, what were the Megadog and Oscilate parties like? You saw a fair few big names huh?!!
Those parties were just so inspiring, diverse and brave really. Just a mad diverse mix of eclectic electronic music with so much energy and positivity and none of the ego driven ‘cake throwing’ nonsense that surrounds much of the clubbing scene these days.
I was lucky enough to go to the first Megadog tour which was originally called Midicircus back in 1993 at the Leadmill in Sheffield. B12 (Warp Records) were on the bill that night and dropped a track called ‘Hall of Mirrors’ which just blew me away – Its probably still my favourite tune of all time to this day. Electronic music with warmth, emotion and melody – this was the music I wanted to make.
I went to countless Megadogs after that. The one I remember most vividly was a New Years party at Brixton Academy in 1995 I think featuring Spooky, Eat Static and Orbital among others. I can remember they dropped ‘Open Up’ by Leftfield at the stroke of midnight which seemed perfect at the time, proper spine tingling moment.
The Oscillate nights in Birmingham were just incredible too. You walked into the club and the first few hours were just pure beatless ambience, completely mad natural soundscapes. They then put on completely diverse live electronic acts later on including the likes of Autechre, The Higher Intelligence Agency, Banco de Gaia and Biosphere. Totally inspiring and incredibly brave but it worked. That got me hooked on the idea of live electronica really. 

For you which came first. DJing or Production? Where did the live element come in?

It’s all about the production side for me really. I dabble with the DJ side of things and enjoy that but I get so much more satisfaction from performing live and playing my own stuff – a bit self indulgent really. I enjoy hearing my stuff in a club environment to hear the different dynamics. I use a lot of lower end sub bass too so really like to push the sound system to its limits. As I said before I grew up with live electronica and that’s what really excites me the most.

What is your studio set up like? Have you got any favourite toys?
It’s all about Reason for me. I’ve recently upgraded to version 6 after speaking to Tom Middleton about it as he is a big Reason user too. I’ve used it so long from its very early days I know it inside out and for me it’s the easiest way I can bring my ideas to life. I do tend to use it in quite a unique way I’ve been told – Tom got a look at one of my track setups and said it was the most mad and complex rig he had ever seen?! I do tend to use lots and lots of layers and individual components.

Typical journalist question I know, but how would you describe your music and style to the average Joe on the street?
Electronic music that is melodic, atmospheric and emotive. I’ve been told my stuff always has a sense of positivity about it which I like! I tend to go cross genre a lot between Progressive, Ambient and D&B mainly. You will never hear a minimal or dark track from me I’m afraid, I just don’t have that in me.

You released your album in 2011. How long did the whole process take and what production tricks did you pick up to streamline your work flow?
The album was a mix of quite old tunes and more recent stuff. I had taken quite a long break from production after the birth of my first daughter so for the album I had quite a wealth of material from a few years previous and mixed that with newer tunes. I produce a lot of music anyway too so it wasn’t a problem to find tracks for the album at all.

What was your approach to getting tracks signed? Do you email blast everyone, or carefully select labels you think are best?
I’m quite lucky really as my stuff tends to get snapped up days, sometime hours after I make any new material which tells me I’m doing something right I guess. I must be honest and say I’ve never email blasted or invited people to like my pages on Soundcloud or Facebook – I find that totally cringeworthy, it just feels too desperate. Everything that has happened and every follower I have has just happened organically which I’m really proud of. Kindred picked up some of my stuff in the early days on Soundcloud and things snowballed from there. My hometown label MUM picked up the track Salford Salsa which then led to a few EPs with them too. In recent times I have a lot to thank Tom Middleton for. He picked up my tracks Sunrise and Berg and pushed them and put my stuff in front of Anjunadeep too which was a huge break for me.

In:Progress are hosting an Anjunadeep album launch party at Mint Club Leeds this month where you’re doing a live show, what can the crowd expect from you on October 11th?
I will be playing an hour of my own sounds – semi improvised and special live edits of past and new material. I will be playing all the Anjunadeep material too including the tracks from the new EP which will be released on Oct 14th including Yukon, Osheen and new tracks Tora Bora and String Therapy. It’s a really deep and driving set with loads of melody and rolling liquatech basslines – can’t wait to drop it on the big system at the Mint club.

When you play at branded nights like this Anjunadeep05 party, do you find you select records differently or do you always play what you want?
I have a good feel for what Anjunadeep is all about so will certainly tailor my set to fit the sound of the label. I love the sound of Anjunadeep05 anyway and my set will fit perfectly with the other artists on the bill. Really looking forward to hearing Jody Wisternoff on the night as well as the other Anjunadeep artists and residents. I tend to get really inspired by nights out such as this

Whats in your current top 10 at the moment? What is it about these tracks that fires your enthusiasm?
I’ve picked the 10 below that I’m currently hammering. Lots of Anjunedeep stuff which is just killing it for me at the moment particularly the Tom Middleton and Andre Sobota tracks. All these tracks, just like my own music, are positive, feel good with a low end with some punch. Dance music with real substance and emotional quality.

Andre Sobota – Tokyo Dawn
Meramek – FWD
Ian O’Donovan – Firefly
Dusky – Careless
Deetron – Count on me
Golf Clap – On to you
Croquet Club – Awake
Tom Middleton – WYV AUW CHU 
Jody Wisternoff – We Are Heroes featuring Pete Josef
Tiger Milk – Define Love (ROTD REWORK)

Having grown up in the North of England surrounded by a lot of genre defining club brands, you must have seen how the clubbing landscape has changed over the years. Summarise for us the highs and lows for you over the last 20 years.
I was lucky enough to see 808 State in their prime at the G-Mex supported N-joi which was just incredible. I also saw The Happy Mondays at the G-Mex too which was brilliant. In more recent times I’ve had some great nights at the Warehouse Project here in Manchester – a brilliant and diverse series of club nights based in various unique venues across the city. The last one I went to featured A Guy Called Gerald spinning an incredibly deep acid house set which just blew me away.
The big low for me was the knocking down of the legendary Hacienda to make way for a new housing development. I just find it incredible that such a venue that has been so pivotal to dance music culture was allowed to be bulldozed?! Lost forever unfortunately.

Do you have any favourite clubs still in the city? what makes them special for you? 
Manchester has got a pretty diverse and energetic club scene. As I mentioned before the Warehouse Project nights are always very special. The venues are always very diverse, industrial and atmospheric too which reflects the city as a whole really. There are some great smaller venues in the city too such as Joshua Brooks and Sound Control where you can get up close to a regular supply of top names such as Funk D’Void, Tony Lionni and many others.

With the recently reported deaths from kids taking drugs at raves, America is cracking down. I’ve been hearing about US promoters not even allowing alcohol into their events for fear the authorities will raid it and shut them down. Do you think this is an over the top knee jerk reaction, or are they justified in their actions?
Really sorry to hear that about the recent deaths. Truly shocking but there is no simple answer as regards making kids safer at these events – if they are intent on taking drugs then they are going to do it regardless of the venue safety measures. The banning of alcohol sounds a little extreme though. Coming from the UK where we have a big drinking culture there would be absolute uproar if you couldn’t get a drink at an event – there really would be a riot!

Do you see parallels with the early UK scene? Im sure you remember the Criminal Justice Bill and the commotion that caused.
I remember it well – at the time the authorities just didn’t know how to control the situation hence a raft on nonsensical and impossible to police legislation. It was certainly the end of rave culture in that particular form but it just evolved into something different and inevitably more mainstream. More clubs sprung up and a greater diversity of venues appeared but the music and spirit survived – you just had to look harder for it.

This year Burning Man was over run by an aggressive police presence. It seemed from reports it was just a money making exercise by Uncle Sam, so do you think there is a better way to police large festivals like this?
I’m surprised to hear about this at the Burning Man – what’s going on over there? I’ve been to lots of festivals here in the UK and always found the policing to be pretty low key – it’s there but in no way aggressive and tends to be pitched just about right. We have a really well developed and well organised festival culture here in the UK and venues tend to be pretty secure as regards entry which tends to weed out the unsavoury elements.

Finally, whats in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
I have the debut Anjunadeep EP out on Oct 14th which features three tracks – Yukon, String Therapy and Tora Bora and an exclusive mix of Yukon from Tom Middleton. I have tracks also signed to Tom Middleton’s new Sound of the Cosmos label and also releases of my more ambient work on a new label called Paper Pagoda which is a sister label of MUM here in Manchester. Loads of new music in the pipeline all ready to go. There will certainly be another album in 2013/2014 too. I will also be taking the live show out for further dates hopefully. Can’t wait for the gig in Leeds on October 11th to road test the new show – come along if you can!