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Flo Circus [Interview]

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Born in the early 80 ́s near Frankfurt Germany, Flo Circus had first contact with the electronic music scene at the age of 16. He immediately was fascinated by this new world of sounds and started working on his own visions and ideas. Today Flo Circus is not only a Dj and producer, but also a self taught musician and artist. From years of diving into music production and audio technique, to learning everything about acoustics and building his own music studio, he also founded his own label Circus Music in 2019 to release his work on his own platform. Flo had many releases on different international labels from 2013 until today. His first time playing live was 2014 and it took only 2 more years to become a resident Dj at MOVE Frankfurt, where he is not only playing on a regular base, but is also part of the organisation team and managing the events of the brands MOVE and Colours at the club Tanzhaus West in Frankfurt. Over the years Flo played many different clubs and open airs in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The sound Flo is playing and producing today can be described as Progressive, Melodic House and Techno. From more deep and grooving tracks to faster driving styles, he has a wide range and can always adapt to take his audience on a fascinating journey to remember. This week Flo releases his much anticipated ‘Transformation’ album which is comprised of seventeen tracks that were produced over two years ago and should have been released in 2020, but then things didn’t go as planned worldwide. Now the time feels right. All tracks have been tested in the clubs and got great reactions. You can expect a selection of melodic, sometimes emotional tracks, that work great on the dancefloors. From gliding to driving baselines, arpeggiated synths, warm pads and harmonies, you will find influences from the genres Techno, House, Progressive and even some Trance elements. We had a chance to catch up with Flo for an interview leading up to the release, we hope you enjoy it.

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

Hi, thank you for the invitation. I am very busy at the moment but I enjoy it and feel good. I just listened to a track I am working on, testing it in my car.

How’s your year been so far? And what are your plans for the coming week?

My year was great so far. In April I had my first club gig after a break of more than two years. I was already playing shows in Germany, France and Belgium, so I would say it is a very good restart for me. Next week I will continue to work on events, my music and my label.

Do you consider yourself a DJ or producer first? And which do you enjoy more and why?

As a musician first. I just love making music. DJing and producing are two different ways to do that for me. Producing is a more chilled, creative part, while playing live is more energetic. So I enjoy both.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Germany, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make? It was quite an interesting time in electronic music and particularly in Germany with DJs like Sven Vath rising to prominence from his sets at Dorian Gray, Omen, E-Werk and more. Did this movement influence you at all?

Until the age of 14 I had listened to many different genres of music, a lot of Pop Music from the radio, but also Heavy Metal, Hip Hop or Punk Rock. Then I discovered the world of electronic music and was really fascinated. We had a very famous radio show here, the Club night, and I recorded hundreds of sets on tape and mini disc. With the age of 16 I could not wait longer and went to a club for the first time. It was the U60311 in Frankfurt, which had just opened after the Omen was closed. Sven´s Cocoon events where our place to be and we had many great nights there, dancing to sets of Sven, but also by Chris Liebing, Gayle San and many more. So this movement definitely influenced me.

What are some of your best memories from first going to clubs? Were there specific nights or sets that really made you feel you wanted to pursue electronic music?

I remember that we were very impressed by the whole atmosphere and vibe that those nights had. So many different kinds of people came together to celebrate and have a good time. I really liked the idea that I could make this kind of music by myself and make people happy, so I sat down on my computer and just started to play around and experiment with different music programs.

What have been some of your favourite venues to perform or attend events at in Germany, and why?

As a raver I really loved the club Palazzo in Bingen. It is an impressive old townhall with very high ceilings and a gallery above the dance floor. Unfortunately it is one of the many clubs I have seen closing in the past.

The place I enjoy performing the most is actually where I have my residency. It is the Dora Brilliant floor at Tanzhaus West Frankfurt. The DJ booth is on the same height as the dance floor and I love being so close to the people. I enjoy that connection and it is something totally different than standing on a big stage many meters away from the crowd. There is also an amazing sound system and the room is acoustically treated.

You’ve gained some nice notoriety within the world of melodic house & techno since first emerging almost a decade ago, is there a release or track you could point to which had the most impact on your career thus far?

Thank you. To be honest, not really, or not yet. I am now more focussing on enjoying the whole process and releasing tracks on a regular base.

Your debut album ‘Transformation’ is coming out shortly on your Circus Music imprint, please tell us about the release and how these tracks showcase your sound.

The oldest track from the album, “Miracle Tones”, was produced 5 years ago and you can definitely hear a more Tech House vibe in it. It was the time when my sound changed to a more melodic style. So these tracks do kind of show the transformation that my music has made over the past years. All tracks were produced before the lockdowns early 2020, so they do showcase my sound from that time and give you an idea where I come from soundwise.

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?

No there was no goal of writing an album. It is a collection of tracks I produced in that period, so it really happened organically in a way. I was not sure how and where to release these tracks and had a feeling to wait. Today I know why. So I decided to release them all at once now on my own label, to kind of draw a final line and conclude with that time. And also to show, that even after a break of 2 years, I am back and still very serious about my music. I have many more tracks ready to be released and there will not be another break.

The album is entirely club oriented music and it has a timeless sensibility throughout I would say. Tell us about the inspiration behind the album and why it was important for you to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in a club-oriented album.

Yes it is, because that is what I am mainly producing music for. The moment and the whole experience in a club or on an open air. I really like that phrase “timeless sensibility”, thank you. The inspiration behind my tracks is to create something positive, that makes people happy, dance and smile. With that in mind I just sit down, start a new track and let it just happen. So, there are not really any thoughts when I produce music. It feels more like a natural process when I am in that flow.

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?

As I said before, these tracks were all produced over a certain period of time. There was only one track, that I did not like enough to put it on that release.

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

I think that point is not so important with club music and I think my tracks are all quite similar. I just tried to start with the most melodic, chilled tracks and build up from that.

What does your studio set-up look like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of ‘Transformation’?

I am working on a PC with Steinberg Cubase, an RME interface and Neumann KH120 speakers plus Adam Sub8 subwoofer. For the drums I have an Elektron RYTM and for synth and bass sounds a Moog Minitaur, Novation Bass Station 2 and an Audiothingies Micromonsta. I use all of those instruments in every track I make, but I do also add some samples and soft synths for layering or additional elements. For me personally getting physical gear was a great step, because it just feels more like making music, when I can play and record the sounds like instruments. And of course there is that magical, warm analog vibe everybody is talking about 😉

Walk us through the production process on one of the album tracks, whichever you feel might be the most interesting.

It is very similar in most of the tracks. Mostly I start with a kick and some basic drums and percussion from the RYTM, to get a beat going. Everything will be tweaked in detail later, so it is really just some basic stuff. Next I play around with the bass sound and try to find a tone and melody I like. I let it all run in a loop of 8 or 16 bars and start to add more elements. The arpeggiated synth sounds come out of the Bass Station, pads mostly from the Micromonsta. When I need soft synths I use the Cubase built in stuff, like the Retrologue and the Halion. So this loop is running and I just play around with the sounds, add new stuff, take some away, until I am happy with it and have all musical elements that I need. At this time I do also add some basic mixing and mastering, to get a finished sound as good as possible before I start with the arrangement. There is not really an order in those steps, as I do everything at the same time. Adding something here, tweaking an EQ there, putting some compression on the master. It feels a bit like a painter, just throwing colour on the canvas and then getting more and more lost in the details. When the arrangement is done, I record the analog instruments in realtime, turning knobs like the filtes and modulating the sounds. In the break of the track “Liquid Minds”, there is also a field recording of some waves on a little beach at the river Rhein here at my place. I like to add some natural, organic elements like that in my tracks. Sometimes you can also hear some vocal samples.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process, now that it’s done what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

As I said above, it wasn´t really writing an album, but just producing one track after the other. The production process is what I really enjoy, but when it comes to finishing a track and deciding what to do with it, thats where I always struggle.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there plans for this?

Yes, I really like having my tracks remixed by other artists. I have already received some remixes for tracks from the album and like how other producers do reinterpret my melodies.

What led you to start Circus Music? Is your first foray into running a record label?

I just wanted to be independent and be able to release what I want and whenever I want. Yes it is the first time I run a record label myself.

You’ve only released your own productions via Circus Music, will there be a point where you will sign other artists and if so what advice would you have for them?

Yes of course. I just wanted to get this thing started and gain some experience with my own releases. I have already received the first tracks by other artists. Emotions in the music are very important for me, so if anyone wants to join my label, just make sure to have some nice melodies and a positive vibe in your tracks.

Generally speaking, do you find it more difficult to come up with original tracks than remixing a track from another artist?

An original is more work because you start from scratch. When receiving the stems for a remix a lot of the work and the creative process is already done. So I would say doing a remix is easier for me and I really enjoy it.

What’s the task you enjoy the most when producing and what is something you’d rather have taken care of by somebody else?

I love the initial process, experimenting with melodies and sounds. Running everything in a loop and playing around, doing first mixing and mastering until I am happy with it. For the arrangement I mostly need to motivate myself, but once started it also flows most of the time. The decision when a track is finished is something that I mostly do not decide alone in the studio.

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?

Every track has to played on an event and a big PA before I can say that it is finished. It is something totally different, because only with an audience I can see and feel if the track is good soundwise and also if the arrangement is working. That is what I am producing these tracks for, the dancefloor. Besides that I do also get first feedback from my wife, friends and DJ colleagues.

What has the last two years been like for you? Have you focused more time on making music? And did the pandemic affect your creative spirit in any way?

Yes it affected my creativity very much. In the beginning it was just like a hit in the face, when all events were cancelled. I had just started my label some months before and went full time self employed with music and events in January. When I realised that this wont be over in some weeks, I got depressed but I found a way out of it and learned to accept. There were many months when I did not produce or even listen to my music. For me the producing and playing live go hand in hand, so I decided to take a break from both, until events without any restrictions are possible again, what was in April this year.

Tell us about MOVE events, you are a resident DJ there and also part of the organization team. How did you initially get a residency there and what was it that made you want to be part of the team going forward?

MOVE is a monthly event series at Tanzhaus West in Frankfurt. It is going on now for over 12 years and we have been there for the first time on their second birthday. We were really flashed by the whole concept and went there nearly every month. After a while we got to know some of the Djs and the team and thanks to my wifes cogency, I got a chance to play there. So they liked what I did and asked me to join the team. Today I am also doing the organization and back office stuff for MOVE, but also for our second event Colours. Seems like I have a kind of talent for those things, altough it is not my favourite work. But I am really thankful for the opportunity, because I do learn a lot about how this whole business is working.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

An absolutely high end studio monitoring system, to further improve my sound.

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

I don’t watch movies very often. Books with an impact were definitely Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now and A New Earth. It is quite spiritual stuff, but it really helped me to be more present and enjoy life as good as possible.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest risk you’ve taken and what made you do it?

To quit my regular job for making music full time in 2019. It was difficult in the beginning, but I managed to become fulltime self employed in January 2020. At least for two and a half months. But looking back from now, I regret nothing.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Spending time with my lovely wife. Without her all that would not be possible, as she is supporting me so much. I also love mountain biking, gardening and cooking.

What does the remainder of 2022 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Many more shows to play, more tracks to release. No highlights to point out. Making the best out of every single moment 🙂

‘Transformation’ is available for pre-order now via Circus Music: https://bit.ly/3ShigU1

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