Home Featured Feature: Henry Saiz [Interview + Premiere]

Feature: Henry Saiz [Interview + Premiere]

24 min read

Hello Henry, thanks for joining us. How are you doing today and what was the last piece of music you listened to?
Hello! I'm doing great, thank you! The music I'm currently listening to while we talk is a Japanese 80s City Pop/Jazz Fusion playlist. I love 80s and 90s Jazz...

How has 2023 been for you so far? What moments have made an impact on you? And what are your plans for the coming week?
I think 2023 has been a year of global impacts, and honestly, I'm fed up. The world is in a really chaotic and violent state, but there have also been positive impacts, and that's what I want to focus on. My plans for this week include starting the promotional tour for my new compilation for the Balance series, beginning in Belgrade and moving on to Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand next week.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and more, please.
A typical workday for me would be something like this: I usually wake up around 9-10, depending on how late I've been working. I have coffee while soaking up the sun to let my brain wake up. I do some stretches, exercise, or engage in some activity that requires movement and sunlight. I try not to enter the studio until at least 2 in the afternoon. I handle emails and office work until I dive into the studio to work and hopefully compose. I'm always in the midst of some creative process, so there's never a moment in my creative life when I'm not working on a project. Once in the studio, I take breaks to rest my brain and do some exercise if possible. Some days, I go for a walk or hike a beautiful mountain in my city or take a stroll on the beach. Being in contact with nature is crucial for my mental health and inspires me to return to the studio. In the afternoon, I break my fast (I rarely have breakfast in the morning), have dinner, and continue working in the studio. Nights are when I'm most inspired, and that's when I make the most of my time to write and jam.

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?
In my case, I am 100% self-taught. I've taken courses and studied sound engineering, but almost everything I've learned and perfected has been through trial and error and working obsessively on my own. The only advice I can give to new producers is to be motivated to invest hours and hours in the studio to develop their own voice. There really is no other way.

We’d now like to primarily focus on your new Balance Mix, which is coming out shortly, the 32nd edition of the series and your third, with the first being Balance 19 well over a decade ago. With signing on to do a third one, did you have any apprehensions about how to make it different or stand out from the previous ones? And how did your approach differ on this one?
I always try to offer something new; I can't motivate myself if it's not a challenge in some way. It took me over two years to shape this Balance and figure out what I wanted to convey. In the end, I decided to showcase my most experimental and hard-to-define side on CD 01, my more recognizable club language on CD 2, and a more futuristic and techno style on the third. A kind of past, present, and future to try to encompass my vision as a DJ and producer.

AI and your recent ADHD diagnosis were two things that influenced the creative process of this project. Talk to us about that and how they played a factor in your vision for the mix and the end result.
Well, I have to say that this project took a lot of mental effort. I had serious issues with concentration, finishing what I started, and a project of this complexity requires a lot of focus. I was diagnosed as a child but never received treatment. Investigating the reasons for my concentration problems, I discovered that I still had ADHD and how a brain like that works, and suddenly everything started to make sense. It was a complex process, and I could talk about this literally for hours.

I’ve read that you love to work under concepts because it allows you to develop an idea properly. Tell us how this mindset played a factor in the early stages of your work on Balance 32.
It's exactly because of my ADHD. If I'm not working on a specific concept, my mind goes in all possible directions, and it's frustrating to work that way and understand what I'm talking about.

There’s a really nice cohesive blend of your own productions, collaborations, and exclusive material from other artists as well. Did you select artists to make tracks specifically for this compilation? And more so to fit into a certain place in the mix?
I try to make the tracklist surprising and feature many new and exciting artists. This tracklist is a mix of that and people as relevant and veteran as Royksopp. What matters is that the tracks flow together and tell a story as a whole.

Give our readers a look into your studio. What is your current setup? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of tracks for Balance 32.
I have many hardware synths and every VST you can imagine (maybe too many), so the possibilities are always endless. I used mostly Ableton and both hardware and virtual synths and effects, but the novelty is the introduction of experimental AI tools in some tracks.

Every track is an important piece in the journey of a DJ set, so I’m curious how you go about piecing it all together for a project like your Balance mix. Let’s look at ‘To Steal a Star from The Night’ by yourself and Jesse Somfay. This comes at the apex of disk three or the entire set essentially. So is this a track which gets specifically made to fit exactly into that spot or general area of the mix? And is this something which was made early on in the project when the tracklist and flow were unknown, or is it something you create once you have a better idea of the flow and where it will sit in the mix?
Every track was different; maybe one or two were created to fill a gap, but mostly it was a very intricate music collage. That song, in particular, was done for the compilation, but without knowing where it would fit, so I didn't restrain ourselves creatively.

One thing that I've read about you, which I can really relate to, is you being a metalhead. I'm curious what bands you enjoy most, both from the past and present day, and how does a deep fascination with other music genres help your own productions? And perhaps even the flow of a mix album like Balance 32.
My music is the result of all my artistic influences, which are countless. From extreme metal to the cheesiest Pop music, I can enjoy pretty much any music genre. For some people, this is very challenging, for me it comes just naturally. Some of my favorite metal bands are Emperor, Opeth, early works of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Arcturus, Soilwork, and of course classics like Iron Maiden.

Let’s talk about DJing and more specifically how you DJ, which for the most part is using Ableton I think? How would you describe your approach to DJing? And how has Ableton given more depth of sound to the Balance mix?
I started with vinyl and CDs, then started doing live shows using Ableton, and then naturally I came up with this way of playing DJ from a producer's perspective. Again, probably due to my ADHD, I get bored easily playing only with CDs, and what I love about Ableton is I can basically remix a track or mix it in a completely different way, so that makes my sets different each time and has that live performance feeling where I'm able to change and do layers and layers of mixing. I used the same technique for my 3 Balance series mixes.

Looking at Balance 32 and more specifically disk two and three, which disk would you say is most representative of what it would be like hearing you perform at a club? And will there be a tour to support the release of the album?
Probably CD2 is more like my usual club style, but I'm going faster and more techno lately, so CD3 would be for sure a good example.

Which DJ mix compilations from the past have been most influential to your own career? And why?
James Holden's Balance series for sure and pretty much all his sets. The Late Night Tales Mix series has influenced me probably more than any other, but these are not club-oriented only, they are more diverse as I am. Especially the ones by AIR and Royksopp.

The subject of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable, and hedonistic. Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of, and as a prominent artist, how important is it for you to raise awareness on subjects like ‘mental health’?
I've been interested in all realms of psychology since I was a kid, so I encourage everybody to talk about these issues. Yeah, this profession, like any other, has its ups and downs, and the tour life is certainly very demanding and not for everybody. Travel constantly, all the BS of the commercial side of this, especially nowadays, always trying to push yourself to keep people entertained and many other things make this lifestyle very hard sometimes. But in my case, it’s who I am and who I’ve always been, so you just have to learn how to deal with all the dark sides of this and make it worth it.

There are dramatic shifts in emotion being a performing artist, from playing in front of large crowds where there is a tremendous amount of energy to travel days where you may be stuck in airports or on a plane for extended periods of time. Do you have tools or practices that you use to get yourself back to a state of balance?
In my case, besides all the mental gymnastics to cope with anxiety in my life, the external tool I use the most is Cannabis. It really pushes my creativity and makes me see the world in a more positive way. To the point that I worked also for 2 years on my first cannabis genetics along with one of the biggest seed companies Royal Queen Seeds: https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/tropical-mirage

If you are not DJing or working in the studio, where do we find you? And doing what?
Trying to spend quality time with friends, hopefully in Nature, probably also in the island of Lanzarote where I'm building my house/studio.

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?
The list is endless! I devour information… But the writer that impacted me the most was David Foster Wallace when I discovered him back in the 2000s.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?
Who knows, but probably psychology but always making something creative somehow.

Finally, how is 2024 shaping up for you? What are you looking forward to next year?
I'm gonna work on a new Henry Saiz album, lots of EPs and remixes, more MIRAGE parties, touring, new projects, and basically anything that motivates me.

Henry Saiz ‘Balance 032’ compilation series is out now!

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