Afternoon Laurent, thanks for jumping us on the phone with us today. Where do we find you and what have you been up to recently?
Airwave:The pleasure is mine! I’ve just moved houses so may I’m talking from my new home, still in Brussels. Before the move I was preparing or finishing up some new Airwave tracks. Some of them are amazing; I am really looking forward to the first reactions.
You’ve just released your new music compilation‘In The Mix –Progressive Sessions 001’. It’s a return to the mix-comp arena after an absence of almost 8 years. Why are you stepping back to it at this point?
Airwave: Well, I have to correct a bit there. To be exact it’s been 6 years, as the last one I did was my ‘BonzaiWorx DJ Sessions’, which was a selection of their great catalogue from the period. The reason I wanted to do this first one for Bonzai Progressive after years of silence on the DJ front is very simple. People know me as a “producer”(which, as a term, I absolutely detest!), but tend to forget that I play as a DJ too and that I’ve been touring a lot over the last 15 years. Even though I’m for 51% an electronic musician and 49% a DJ, it looks like people forget those facts quite easily. Secondly, the last 5 years meant big changes for the industry that you and I are into. And the underground music I like so much was no exception. It was very hard for underground music that I support to stand out in the digital world. For me until recently, a release like this one felt like a drop into the ocean, it wouldn’t have made those incredible artists I like any justice if I had released it let’s say 4 years ago. Fortunately things have changed and we can see a big resurgence in underground and melodic genres. So we (as in me, the Bonzai posse, and my mate JOOF) thought that time finally had come. I couldn’t let this chance go once again and this time I promised myself to release more of those in the future.
Take us through a few of what you see as the key tracks on ‘In The Mix –Progressive Sessions 001’…
Airwave: For the first mix, the openers are Cerulean Sky (my own edited version actually, exclusively for the mixed compilation ) by We are all Astronauts and Immersion by Rise and Fall. The Openers always need to be rock solid tracks, ones that put you in the mood for the rest of the mixes. These two go so well together too. The latest track from my good French friend Phi-phi, “Alone”, makes a huge difference in the mix too. It’s for me the first peak moment of both mixes, then comes Audio Noir “Spaghetti Western”, a unique production of that guy for me. On the second mix, the third track, RNX “Stars”sets the mood while the stompers get in there later, Sean Tyas“9AM”, Alex Di Stefano’s “Dark Purple”, and Rick Pier O’Neil’s version of the latest bomb from Art of Trance on Platipus. These tracks are the big foundations of both mixes for me.
What is the single most important element or factor a track should have for it to be included on a compilation you’re mixing?
Airwave: a human touch. I don’t want a track to be perfect, I want it to feel perfect. That means to me that its imperfections need to be put into evidence so that they become a natural part of the record. This is something that’s getting lost over the years, and the cause of it is that the way electronic music gets made today has too many guidelines, how do you want kids and upcoming musicians to think outside the box when everything is at their disposal, presets, samples, plugins (cracked).
Of the biggest well-known ‘name’DJs out there, which ones do you personally hold in the highest regard?
Airwave: John 00 Fleming, Carl Cox, James Zabiela, Richie Hawtin., Jeff Mills, Derrick May. Some of them aren’t my favorite, musically, but they completely deserve the respect
Which ones do you think have stayed closest or truest to their early musical principles?
Airwave: I think mostly about the same: Derrick May, Jeff Mills, John 00 Fleming, Zabiela, and Hawtin. All the others changed their sound, did some major mistakes over the years, went too commercial or went completely underground, leaving their original public for dead. That’s not supposed to happen when you put the music in the first place. Not into calling people out, there are way too many examples in the commercial EDM scene as well as in the “cool”underground one.
From the artists featured on the album, give us three producer names that people who follow your music should be most on the lookout for this year.
Airwave: Matt Holliday, Chris Oblivion, Rick Pier O’Neil
Outside of you music, which are your top 5 Bonzai (and associated labels) tracks and which do you think have had the most pronounced effect on the labels history?
Airwave: Not very easy for me. There are a few records that really stood out. ‘Universal Nation’ and ‘The Legacy’ for example. An underrated one is Phrenetic System “Wayfarer”, Beyond that there’s ‘The House of House’, and ‘The First Rebirth’ of course. These are, for me, the 5 best records ever on Bonzai.
What are you thoughts on the spread (or return) to the origin trance, with labels like Who’s Afraid Of 138?!, #138 and movements like Pure Trance?
Airwave: In my opinion Pure Trance is from the three options the closest to Trance in its original form. I have extreme respect for Rich and for the label. Although I did tons of those trance records with big fanfare riffs in a Dutch way, nothing beats an epic melody with a great sound. It doesn’t need to be this or that, commercial, 138-140 whatever. Now what follows is the less easy part towards those people: none of the labels claiming to go back to the roots of trance can have a pertinent view on the subject because their views are biased. The roots are before them, and I’m not even sure they know themselves what Trance is sometimes. Check their discographies and you can tell. There’s a huge history of Trance, from back when Sven Vath was a Trance DJ running a label called Eye-Q with Ralf and Mathias, the explosion of Bedrock as a Trance act, Laurent Garnier was a Trance DJ too! Man With no Name, Breeder, Cosmic Baby, and that music was inspired by movie soundtracks and emotional acoustic music.
I guess everyone in the scene ignores that Cafe Del Mar is for 99% inspired from a Belgian track called Struggle for Pleasure by WimMertens. Those people claiming to go back to their roots need a wake up call, you can’t claim this and ignore some of the truth. Trance is about a quest for beauty, it’s not a carnival theme to sell soap. It shouldn’t be abused in order to fool a young public. This is what people like me are trying to do. Educate the younger generation and let them hear those treasures of the past so we get out of that loop period in which every record sounds the same. I’d have them listen to Brainchild’s ‘Synfonica’ a thousand times in a row I think, just to make sure they get it. LOL. I just want to let them hear the truth. And I’m not sure that some of the people claiming they’re trance want to let them know that.
Very absorbing conversation, Laurent. Some very salient points made and fascinating insights given! Thanks so much for your time! Tell the good people when/where their next opportunities will be to catch you live?
Airwave: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to do interviews like this one. You can catch me for a special vinyl only set in Ibiza in September at the Benimussa Park. On September 19th I’ll be in Eastern France near Dijon, October sees me play at ADE, November in Madrid, Antwerp. A good schedule overall.