The 4th volume of Pure Trance was out last month. We sat down with Rich Mowatt aka Solarstone and asked him how did he go about this.
Hi Rich, pleasure to have you back on Trance Hub, Pure Trance Vol. 4 is just out, what was the first thing you did after the release?
Hey guys, thanks for inviting me back! First thing I did was breathe a big sigh of relief! It’s such a big job, compiling and mixing an album like this, you have no idea.
Could you take us through the track selection of Pure Trance 4?
That’s a big question, probably easier for me to answer more generally. When I compile a compilation I’m looking for several things. Firstly, the music needs to fit the brief. That’s more difficult that it sounds, because it involves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the artist, asking them to mould the tracks specifically to work within the mix. It often involves them supplying the tracks as stems, so that I can create fluid mixes, which are not possible sometimes as elements need to be extended, cut, repeated or re-arranged in the pre-masters. Secondly, the artist selection needs to be interesting – there’s no point in just calling all my big-name mates and asking them for tracks – it’s important to bring some new talent to the table – having a track included on a popular compilation is a great leg-up for new artists, it gets them in the spotlight and associated with a popular ‘brand’. It’s way easier to get attention from record labels if you’re already associated with something successful. Thirdly it’s getting the balance right between vocal and instrumental tracks. It’s the same when I Dj in a club – to keep the guys & girls on the floor you need to balance out the dubs with the vox – traditionally girls like to hear vocal tracks, and if the girls are on the floor then the guys join them! I tend to balance out 3 instrumentals with a vocal track in my sets, and on the compilations. I can get a bit obsessed with these things though; sometimes I have to slap myself.
What made you choose Gai Barone for this edition of Pure Trance?
It was simply to being something different to the series, Gai has been a key figure in the progressive trance scene for a couple of years now, he’s been playing at my Pure Trance events and I love his music; I trusted him to put together a mix which correctly represented the slower, deeper side of the sound. He did a fabulous job – and I also think that the exposure he will receive via the album will be great for him as an artist.
You mentioned you were elated to remix one of your favourite track from the latest Röyksopp album, how did that come about?
Now there’s serendipity at work. I bought the Röyksopp album ‘An Inevitable End’ and had a chat to my manager Paula about it, mentioning that ‘I Had This Thing’ was my favourite and that we should reach out to their label – Dog Triumph’ about a Pure Mix. A couple of months later I received an email from a guy at the label asking if I’d like to remix the track. I called Paula to say ‘well done for reaching out to the label’… & she admitted that she had actually never got around to sending the email at all – it was pure coincidence.
You recently did an open to close set at ADE, how different is the preparation for such an event?
Open2Close sets are fabulous, so long as the technical setup is right in the first place. Sometimes promoters supply poor quality CDJs where functions such as looping are unreliable – that makes a 6-hour set a real challenge, but presuming that the right gear is in place, it’s possible to have a really magical experience. I have my entire record collection at my disposal, and having the opportunity to play rare tracks, exclusive new edits and forgotten gems is amazing! I generally prepare a few ‘chunks’ of tracks – grouping together tracks in terms of mood, and making a note of important tracks I don’t want to miss out. But apart from that, it’s pretty much free style. As a Dj you can prepare all you like, but you can never predict the mood of the crowd, so it’s essential to read the crowd then take them with you. I’ve seen Djs play pre-programmed sets many a time, and I have even seen a crowd completely unmoved by these Djs – wanting something different – but there Djs have nowhere to go, they already decided what to play before they got there. There’s no skill there at all. It doesn’t make sense to me, that approach. Sometimes you can set out to drop a #138 set, but realise early on that the crowd are in the mood for something else, something deeper or more progressive, so you take them there then bring them around to your way of thinking slowly, then everyone goes on a journey.
On the other hand, don’t you think sets at festivals are getting really shorter?
Yes, it’s insane to fly for 12 hours then play a 40-minute set, which I have done. You just wheel out the big guns and hit people hard. I ended up playing a 3-hour set at TomorrowWorld a few years ago in Atlanta – that was a real treat. Another Dj didn’t turn up or something… I love playing the Festivals, but they need to be part of the bigger picture, not the main focus.
It has been 5 years since you’ve started the ‘pure trance’ movement are you satisfied with where you have reached?
The fact that it has grown organically & naturally has given the whole thing a firm foundation. It’s not hype or built on cynical marketing or any bullshit like that, it’s something pure – hence the name J
Soon you will be playing at the second Dreamstate festival in the USA, did you ever think the US would have a full-fledged trance festival like this? What can the fans expect?
I’m playing at the second Dreamstate in January. I’m not surprised that it’s happened, no – it was on the cards – so much money was spent on the big EDM festivals that Trance – as an upcoming genre – needed to receive some big focus from the big promoters. I’m proud that I’ve contributed to a scene in which a festival like Dreamstate is possible – and the Djs I’ve spoken to who played at the first one said that it was incredible!
On the other hand, even if UK has a massive trance scene, there hasn’t been a single ‘Essential mix’ by a trance artist in 2015, what is your thought on this?
Frankly I’ve been disappointed with the ‘trance’ Essential Mixes that I’ve heard in recent years. No journey, nothing exciting or unique, just a load of tracks bookended. An Essential Mix is supposed to be next level. Historically they were always something special. Maybe they asked the wrong Djs and were disappointed by what was delivered. Maybe that’s why the powers that be at the BBC don’t ask Trance artists to do them very often.
After Pure Trance Vol. 4, what next? Have you been thinking about a new album or a new journey you want to take your fans to?
I’ve been working on the new Solarstone album for some time now, it’s shaping up really well. I have the title and half a dozen tracks finished, a few of which I’ve been playing out for a few months – people seem to really like it so far. I’m working with some really interesting names on the new album too – I hope people will like it. It will be released in 2016, that’s a promise.
Message for your fans?
Thanks for the enduring support; it’s very much appreciated.