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Interview: Slytek

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Written over a two year stretch, Slytek’s second album release features 12 stunning tracks spanning deep and minimal house through to melodic techno; all with a common thread of the duo’s signature melodies. With a retailer wide release this week, we catch up with the long standing duo for an exclusive chat. Enjoy!

Hi guys, thanks for joining us.  What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

The planned return of live music events in the UK soon is really exciting so we’re feeling more upbeat than we have in a long while. But we’ve also had a chance to discover so much good music in recent months; we’ve been listening a lot to Sasha’s LUZoSCURA project as it brings so many of our early influences together. We’ve also been loving forthcoming tracks and remixes by our label-mate wouds; a lockdown discovery who appeared out of nowhere late last year, who we think will do great when clubs re-open.

What are your plans for the coming week?

We’ve made good use of all the extra time to produce music in recent months and at the moment we’re just finishing up a couple of singles and remixes that will be ready for mastering this week.

Talk to us about your music background and any influences that have affected your musical taste and the music you make?

Dino grew up in Greece and studied music in Birmingham from ‘89 to ‘94 when the UK club culture was arguably at its most exciting period, and then moved to London permanently in 1996.  Jon grew up in the UK and got into the DJ side in the late 90’s and played mostly deep and progressive house at events in the midlands which included Media, The Bomb, Renaissance, Progress, God’s Kitchen and Deluxe. Between us we’ve got that 90’s period pretty well covered and it really influenced our music which tends to be labelled as the Melodic House & Techno genre today, and it’s cool to see so much interest in those sounds currently.

What music from your youth had the biggest effect on where you are today? Are there certain tracks or albums which profoundly influenced you?

As a musician from a young age, Dino was exposed to the entire range of music from classical to experimental to jazz and to world music. However, the influence that has remained most consistent is that of the otherworldly sounds of purely electronic music which influenced so many producers in the late 70s and 80s. Noteworthy artists include Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk along with legendary labels like Warp and R&S.

You’ve lived through a few decades of electronic music history at this point, what years do you look back on most fondly and why?

That feeling of being a teenager and having the freedom to gravitate towards whatever you like. Walking into your local record shop and being handed a personally curated pile of limited pressings to listen through. Getting to the point in a DJ set where you’ve got the crowd totally locked into your sound, then being able to drop more unusual tracks and the crowd LOVE IT!

Your new album ‘Breathe’ was recently released on your Standby Records imprint, you must be quite excited. Tell us how it began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?

Slytek has always been quite a diverse project and we’ve explored and evolved over the years to what now generally sits in deep melodic house and techno. The real reason for the album was to make sure this is understood in a way that an individual track can’t convey, and we definitely didn’t want it to be just about following dancefloor conventions either. The album developed organically over a two year period, releasing a few singles along the way before we selected the final tracks to round it off and be coherent but interesting as an overall record.

Was there anything that inspired the album? And where does your inspiration come from generally?

There’s no single source we’ve ever been able to identify. What we do know is that we tend to get inspired by unique new sounds or great music that sits just outside of our usual style. It’s nice to have the balance between familiarity and novelty refashioned when inspired by these.

How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?

With this album we settled on a final 12 tracks, and left out several other finished tracks, and another 20 or so ideas. Those that didn’t make it were largely due to being more club style tracks and probably more suited to a single release rather than a place on the album. It can be a hard decision, then you have the often harder decision of what order to place them in(!) but we’re really happy with the final result.

How difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?

Our focus when it came to track order was just to make sure the first five tracks really engaged, captured and kept the listener interested, while demonstrating some diversity of styles / influences. An album has some similarities to a DJ set; naturally we placed some of the slower and more musical ‘listening tracks’ early on, and left the higher energy ‘club tracks’ for the end.  However, the big difference is to keep things interesting we didn’t want tracks of the same key or similar styles of tracks next to each other.

Was there ever a thought of potentially releasing in on another label or was Standby also what you had in mind for it?

We’ve released tracks and remixes with several labels over the years, but Standby has always been the natural place for the majority of our releases (as Jon owns it!). ‘Standby’ was actually originally a weekly radio show on Ministry of Sound Radio (back in the early live streaming days!) and the label was created as a platform for emerging producers we’d discovered on the show, including Slytek’s first productions. So we’re really lucky to have the freedom to go in any creative direction we want. and have maintained full control and ownership of the majority of our music.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there any plans to do that?

Yeah totally, remixing is such an amazing way to get fresh ears involved and translate music to suit different audiences, DJ’s or curators. After being so focused on an original track it’s really refreshing to hear where somebody else then takes it. We plan to focus a lot more this year on remixes and actually have Breathe – ‘The Remixes’ album coming out on April 30th with some stunning re-works of tracks from the album by T4ILSPIN, wouds, Andre Sobota and Neon Skin.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums?  And do they still carry the weight they once did or should?

Yes, and no. Streaming has for sure driven the focus towards singles and it’s not necessarily a bad thing; in the past often many albums would only have a few strong “single” tracks and the rest would be fillers. But fans would persist and listen over and over, until they bonded with all those tracks regardless. That was special. But now, with 60k new tracks released every day, there’s no need to bother with average tracks, you just skip to something else that you like more. As listeners don’t build a relationship with the artist in the same way, the live side is more important than ever for establishing genuine fans.

How much road testing or friend feedback is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

We’re a pretty good team between the two of us; Dino is a producer and professional mastering engineer, and Jon brings the industry, label and DJ perspective. Having the Standby label also offers a good network of other producers to share ideas with also.  Normally the ability to test tracks out live to a crowd is so important, but we’ve all had to live without that for a while now!

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

From the production side little has changed for us. The hard bit is imagining how a production will work with a crowd live in a club which used to be something very easy to test and hear, so used to come quite naturally; but that is a gradually fading memory and we know how much everyone hopes for live music events to return soon.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

Clubbing celebrates people, freedom, expression, emotion, happiness; and many of the best things in our lives.  After the long period of reflection, we hope more people find a way to appreciate more and incorporate those elements into their lives, both inside and outside the club. In truth it’s actually less about the music, more about the people, but good music really helps!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

It has been on everyone’s minds recently I’m sure, but being outside with people is just the best thing. Music can be enjoyed alone of course but shared appreciation of it with other people makes it infinitely better.

What does the remainder of 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

A total focus on recordings at the moment with Breathe (Album) which was recently released on Mar 19th,  then we have Breathe – The Remixes (Album) to be released on Apr 30th and we will announce further singles later in the year. It’s a little too early to say about the DJ/ live side but we can’t wait for that to return.  We’ve also recently started another project under the artist name T4ILSPIN as a separate entity for our deeper organic and experimental productions and we’ll be growing that through the year also.

‘Breathe’ is out now via Standby Records: https://bit.ly/3rgm3TR

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