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Chaum [Interview]

28 min read

Having been involved with music since the young age of 15, the Greek-born UK-based artist Angelos Moutsai decided to explore the darker electronic territory and created his 'Chaum' moniker in 2016. Honing his craft and sound to align with the futuristic vision, Chaum's productions can be found on well established labels like Hernan Cattaneo's 'Sudbeat', Mango's 'Mango Alley', Tash's 'Movement' and Jelly For The Babies' 'One of a Kind', 'The Purr' and 'Rynth'. This week sees Chaum making his Juicebox Music debut with 'Cressida' and 'Mesec', two tracks co-produced with Serbian progressive phenom Hobin Rude.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Chaum to learn more about the release of 'Cressida / Mesec', his background, studio process, inspirations, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

 - I am listening to my upcoming EP at the moment which will be released by Juicebox Music. Plus, I am in a relaxed and pleasant mood.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and otherwise, please.

 - My day begins with a cup of coffee, igniting my creative spirit. I switch on my music gear. With inspiration flowing, I experiment until a captivating hook emerges. From there, I spend hours crafting the track, getting lost in the creative process. When the day comes to a close, I feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing I've made progress in my musical journey. And tomorrow, the creative cycle will begin anew.

You were born in Albania but raised in Greece, tell us about growing up there and your first introduction to electronic music; and who from Greece was inspirational for you when you first discovered electronic music?

 - Growing up in Greece was a beautiful and memorable experience for me. From a very young age, I found immense joy in listening to music, and electronic music quickly became my favourite genre. I spent countless hours tuning into radio channels, eagerly soaking in the mesmerizing beats and melodies that captivated my soul. One particular moment stands out vividly in my memory - the first time I heard the remix that Solarstone did for the Young Parisians. It was a transformative experience, as if a whole new world of sound opened up before my very ears. The combination of ethereal sounds and pulsating rhythms left an indelible mark on me, igniting a passion for electronic music that would shape my life's path. From that point on, I knew with unwavering certainty that I wanted to become a music producer and a DJ. The idea of creating music that could evoke emotions and move people in the same way I had been moved filled me with excitement and determination.

You eventually relocated to London fairly recently, what prompted the move and how has that affected your career path in electronic music? And more specifically your creativity in the studio?

- Moving to London was a significant turning point in my life, driven by an unyielding desire to chase my dreams in the realm of electronic music. Since my arrival, my creativity has soared to new heights. The energy and dynamism of London's electronic music community have breathed new life into my productions and DJ performances. Interacting with fellow artists and attending events at the city's renowned clubs and venues have been transformative experiences that reshaped my artistic approach.

Meeting like-minded creatives, sharing ideas, and collaborating on projects have all played a pivotal role in expanding my creative horizons. Engaging with diverse musical influences and witnessing the mastery of DJs I had long admired inspired me to explore uncharted sonic territories, taking my music to unprecedented heights.

Having lived in London for about three years now, we’re curious what clubs you’d take a tourist to see and what local DJs should they hear?

 - Definitely Beat Club and E1. As for local artists I really enjoy Sonic Union and Nichols.

How would you say the nightlife in the UK differs from that of Greece?

 - The nightlife and electronic music scenes in the UK and Greece are both vibrant and lively. In the UK, cities like London offer diverse genres like techno, house, and dubstep, with high-energy clubbing experiences that can last until the early morning. In Greece, nightlife can also extend late into the night, featuring a mix of local and international DJs and blending traditional and Mediterranean influences with popular electronic music genres.

Where do we find you if you are not DJing or socializing at clubs? And doing what?

- You will find me at home drinking a nice coffee or walking in the park with my headphones, listening to some classic music and ambiences.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

 - I started my production journey at 14, self-taught by playing with sample packs and learning to chop and edit samples. Over time, I delved deeper into production and released music under a different name. Wanting to enhance my skills, I studied audio engineering at SAE Athens and later pursued Audio Production at Middlesex University London. Nowadays, there's ample knowledge online, especially on YouTube, but it's essential to filter and double-check information. For new producers starting their musical journey, the wealth of online resources can be a game-changer. Platforms like YouTube offer tutorials, tips, and insights from experienced producers. However, it's crucial to supplement this knowledge by engaging directly with artists.

You have a new EP ‘Cressida’ which you co-produced alongside Hobin Rude out now via Juicebox Music, tell us about the release and what sort of sound you guys were after on this project.

- With Hobin, we have a similar sound. I reached him out and asked him if he would be interested in a collaboration because I really love his music.  We aimed for a 2 track EP with a heavy groove, powerful and dynamic sound-design, reflecting our similar styles. The process was amazing, and we're excited to share the results with Juicebox Music.

These are not your first collaborations with Hobin as you guys had a track on Sudbeat’s ‘Showcrates’ collection earlier this year. How did you guys meet and then eventually decide to work on music together?

 - We met through social media. I personally have been following Hobin’s music since his first steps. As I said previously, I had the idea of collaborating with Hobin and when I dropped the question he said “mate, you are in my mind”. I can currently tell you that I really enjoy collaborating with this lovely guy!

Collaborating with another artist is always interesting, how would you say these productions differ from something you would have produced in solo capacity?

- Collaborating with another artist is an exhilarating experience that brings a refreshing dimension to the creative process. Working together on productions allows us to tap into a pool of diverse ideas and perspectives, sparking a dynamic exchange of knowledge and inspiration. While collaborating, we merge our individual styles, techniques, and strengths, resulting in a unique fusion of sounds that becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Let our readers inside your studio, what is your current setup, and what tools are featured heavily in the writing of your Juicebox EP?

- My tiny little studio at the moment consists of a pair of Genelec 8030 monitors which I love and trust. Universal Audio Apollo Twin as my main interface, my fav little beast synth is DSI Mopho which I create the heavy baselines and my summing processor and fav gear is Tegeler Audio Creame Compressor/EQ. For the Cressida EP I used the Mopho synth to create some crazy bass FXs.

Let’s look a bit more at production, once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

- In the world of production, the process of finalizing a track is a unique and personal journey. There's no one-size-fits-all recipe for achieving perfection, and each piece requires its own time and attention. For me, it's essential to allow a piece to "rest" once it's seemingly complete. I often step away from the track and let it lie for a while, allowing my mind to reset and my ears to approach it with a fresh perspective. Admittedly, not every project reaches the finish line. In fact, I'm willing to delete around 80% of my works if they don't meet my personal standards or resonate with my creative vision.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

- I love mixing. Finalizing the tracks and the balance between the sounds. I also enjoy changing the arrangement of the tracks, usually I swap the outros with the intro because that can change the entire energy of the track. I can assure you that this little trick always works!

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

- DJing, for me, is a connection with the audience. My approach revolves around adapting to the mood and energy of the crowd and each set becomes a progression of power and emotion. I can’t really say that I improvise while djing.. It’s all natural.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks, and also, your work as a producer?

- It helped me a lot to understand what people like. What they love to hear on pick times or on warming up times. Preparing a set at home versus a set at the club is a huge difference. Whenever I DJ in front of people, it becomes crystal clear what I want to achieve with my productions. The connection with the crowd and the power of music inspire me to create something meaningful and unforgettable through my own tracks. DJing ignites my passion to craft music that moves people and leaves a lasting impact on their hearts and minds. It's a constant reminder of my purpose as an artist - to create something extraordinary that resonates deeply with listeners.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book, and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

- Hmmmm.. definitely Guy J, Hernan Cattaneo, Graziano Raffa, Nicolas Rada and John Cosani …with the reverse order for the set times! :D

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

- Movie: Interstellar. Great sounds and music. As for books, I read a lot of modern Greek literature. It helps me relax and re:think of life.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

- Chilling with friends and family.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

- In the remaining months of 2023, I have some exciting plans in store. I'm thrilled to announce some amazing upcoming releases and collaborations. Additionally, I am embarking on a new venture by launching my own label and radio channel in collaboration with a prominent artist from the progressive music scene.

'Cressida / Mesec' is available now via Juicebox Music: https://bit.ly/3ODNq95

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