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Solis (US) [Interview]

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Based in Madison Wisconsin, American artist David Hammond aka Solis [US] first came to our attention in 2022 with a series of releases which showcased a cohesive blend of deep, melodic and progressive house. David's unique amalgamation of sound would earn him fans across all those genre spectrums, while landing key releases via Clubsonica and Deep Down Music across 2023, in turn earning support from Gai Barone, Hernan Cattaneo, K Loveski, Subandrio, Weird Sounding Dude, amongst others. Now, as 2024 begins Solis [US] returns to Deep Down Music for his first single 'Neshira', alongside a remix from Michael A.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Solis [US] to learn more about the release of 'Neshira', his background, nightlife in the USA, creative process, DJing, and more. Enjoy.

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

Thank you for having me. It's early, so I haven't put anything on yet, but last night my dad, brother and I all tripped out to Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. I'd never listened to it before and it is one of the most complex, sophisticated, and mind-blowing pieces of music I've ever heard.

I’ve also had Alto Astral & Nicholas Van Orton - Black Water on repeat for the past two days, so I’ll probably be hearing that again soon lol.

How has the start to the year been for you and what are your plans for the coming week?

It’s been fairly mellow so far, and I’ve already finished two new tracks that I’m excited about, so that’s a good start.

Plans for the coming week are to wait out a huge snowstorm tomorrow, then drive a few hours north on Wednesday with a moving truck to move an old friend out of his apartment and take him to an alcohol treatment center.

We’re going to store his stuff in our garage and foster his sweet cat while he's there, so that should be rewarding.

Then do pre-release marketing, sending promos etc. for my Solis [US] - Neshira January 12th release on Deep Down Music with Michael A on remix duties, which I’m very excited about. Also will be working on a great DJ mix opportunity for Deep Down Music as well.

Take us through a typical day, what does a day in your life look like?

We have four seasons in Madison, so I generally spend more time around the house during winter, taking care of personal projects while making sure to get to the gym and studio, then meeting friends on weekends.

Typical day I’ll wake around 8-9am, check emails, news, messages etc, before settling into whatever needs to be done. Then I try to get 10 minutes of sunshine before hitting the gym.

If I’m having a studio session that day, I’ll plan to be there by 4 PM, and then can easily go straight through till midnight or even much later.

If it's summer, I always take a break for a few hours to catch the sunset down at the Terrace by the lake, often with a good friend just to people watch and unwind before heading back to the studio. Or I'll just continue writing music there.

How would you describe the music you make and who have been some of your biggest supporters so far?

I've written everything from drum & bass to techno, but the past few years I've focused mainly on progressive house, both festival and deeper progressive styles. I wrote a lot of organic house tracks in 2020 while watching Tony McGuinness’s lockdown sets on YouTube that have been released over the past year, but progressive house is my first love.

Industry-wise, Adrian Armendariz, A&R manager for Anjunadeep/Anjunabeats has been incredibly supportive.

Also, Mark MacLeod from Deep Down music has been absolutely encouraging and a real rock in this sometimes-fickle industry, offering great advice and support. Anybody who signs with Deep Down Music is going to get a true support system, along with some of the best artists out there.

Among friends, I’m very grateful to have many people who support my music, but my friends Monique Svazlian, Ben Silver, Greg Nordeng, Nate Brost, Eric Young, and then of course my girlfriend Naveen, have all been very supportive. I've also got a fantastic global producer network that has been just amazing.

Talk to us about growing up and living in the USA and more specifically Madison, Wisconsin, how did it affect your path into electronic music and who were some of your local heroes when you first discovered the music?

As far as the USA goes, I’ve lived in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and Philadelphia, among other places, so I’ve developed great relationships with lots of club managers and DJs and have gotten to hear consistently great music. Going out dancing with my friends almost every weekend was a massive inspiration to come back home and write music.

More specifically, Madison is one of the larger US college towns with a pretty diverse national and international student body that has always made it artistic and culturally forward-thinking.

It’s only a quarter million people, but back in the 90s you would still hear all the biggest global underground dance tracks at every party or club you went to. It was an amazing time.

I graduated college in 2000, so the whole Sasha & Digweed, Nick Warren, Paul Oakenfold, Hernan Cattaneo scene was pretty dominant, as well as DJ Shadow, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Goldie, Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, etc and then house and techno like Mark Farina, Richie Hawtin, etc, not to mention an underground rave scene going back to at least 1992.

I fell in love with this music immediately, so I switched from being an extremely passionate lead guitarist to music production as soon as I was able to, getting a Kurzweil K2000 synthesizer workstation before eventually building my own computer.

Some of the main local DJs at the time were (and still are) DJ Mike Carlson, a godfather in the scene who runs MC Audio, an iconic DJ/producer and gear shop.

Then Brook Bartels, who was also spinning all the coolest underground stuff at The Cardinal and other local clubs. Despite being the biggest local DJs, they were always super approachable and down to earth.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Wisconsin, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Madison has fun street festivals throughout summer with local, national, and international DJs, so Willy Street Festival, Musique Électronique at Fete de Marquette, etc, and corresponding afterparties at local clubs like the High Noon are pretty amazing through a local group called Remain in Night (RiN), run by Jason Van Nurden and crew.

Robinia Courtyard is a beautiful outdoor hidden gem in the city center that always draws a diverse and worldly crowd. Ben Silver is a talented national touring DJ and old friend, and we like to DJ there together.

Foshizzle is another local crew that throws fun parties along the lake at sunset and elsewhere, run by Max Wasinger and Jordan Ellerman, but they’ve been active with other projects lately.

And then local DJs like Glynis Fisher (Kitty Spit) are doing great warehouse rave techno, underground-style sets, with other regional acts. Liquid is also a huge club in the city center that has some of the biggest headliners in the world come through fairly regularly, as well as several others. Then there’s the lakefront Terrace, holding about 3000 people, five restaurants and bars, and a pretty insane variety of free live music five nights per week that can range from standard indie artists to some of the most insane experimental electronic music I've ever heard.

Also cool because with the huge international crowd there every summer, probably 60% are from countries all over the world, so it’s a pretty magical place, as is Madison in general.

You were around for the first big electronic music boom in the US which would have been in the late 90s and early 2000s, what was that like, what are some good memories you have from that time and how has the scene changed since then?

That was such an incredible time for music because every party, club, and pub you went to, people were listening to the coolest electronic music, and everyone was so passionate about it, sharing tracks and remixes etc.

My favorite memories were just going to so many friend’s parties where everyone was dancing to the best global artists and feeling it on such a positive level. Seeing Carl Cox spin an insane techno set with four decks at Cabaret Metro in Chicago in July of 1999 changed my life in terms of what I saw was possible with sound, vibration, and frequency.

Even recently, I met my good friend Greg by handing him a flyer for my Robinia set, and then he and our friend Nate show up and dominated the dance floor in a positively infectious way.

Then we all go back to my place and end up bonding over Lost Tribe’s Gamemaster, from Paul Oakenfold’s 1998 masterpiece Tranceport.

Or my friend Joanna, who I’ve known for fifteen years. Turns out she and so many of her amazing friends are into global electronic music, and especially progressive house, so they all show up for our party that ends up being just magical.

Madison’s scene has gone through many ups and downs, losing a club, then gaining it back under a different name etc., but overall I think it's consistently improved, with more places to play both big and small. Also, dance and electronic music isn't really a novelty anymore, and more of a thing that a lot of people are just into. Plus the scene has lots of fun souls in their 30s, 40s, and 50s now, which makes it much more interesting and dynamic.

You have a new single ’Neshira’ out now via Deep Down Music. Tell us a bit about the track and how it showcases your current sound.

Neshira is a special track for me because it was the first one I wrote after accidentally discovering a melody technique while listening to a lot of Alex Orion’s DJ sets.

After listening for a while, I’d walk into a different room where I could no longer hear the music, at which point a melody would immediately pop into my head. So I’d hum it into my phone, assuming I was mimicking what I had just heard. But after walking back in and scrolling through the set, I discovered that it was entirely original. That lit a fire within me and I've been doing it both consciously and unconsciously ever since. I've probably got hundreds of melodies in my phone now that I pull out whenever I need one lol.

It also showcases my sound because I prefer writing music with at least some emotional impact. It doesn't have to change the world or anything, but I want it to make my drives emotionally enjoyable. The car is where I test out my tracks as a listener. It's also pretty anthemic, and who doesn’t love writing anthems when they show up?

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically ‘Neshira’.

For simplicity, and because I love to write music while traveling as well as being outdoors, I’ve become an "in the box" producer, meaning that I work entirely on my 2022 MacBook Pro, with an M1 chip, which is unbelievably powerful.

I’ve spent more time playing piano than any person with no training ever should, but since I’ve learned that the best melodies (and basslines etc.) are those I hear in my head, I no longer use my midi keyboards.

For Neshira, I used a lot of Spire, Serum, and Diva, run through Ableton into my Sony HS8 monitors.

I also check my mixdown and mastering through Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, and Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

And then I always do the final testing in my car and my girlfriend’s car, because I know those systems better than anything. B

Believe it or not, the VW GTI has the flattest response of almost any system I’ve heard. If you can make it sound good there, it will sound good anywhere.

This is your debut on Deep Down Music, but you’ve signed on for some future projects as well, what makes the label a good home for your music?

Mark MacLeod from Deep Down Music has been the most inspiring, supportive, and helpful mentor anyone could ask for in this business. I genuinely consider Mark to be a friend, and so it's really nice to have somebody to run questions past, share victories, sentiments, and funny stories, and hopefully we both grow in the process.

He's also been infinitely patient with my perfectionist tendencies. Then we're also of a similar spiritual bent, so that helps. And then of course all of my favorite artists are on his label, so that's a huge inspiration.

Michael A has provided an excellent remix on the release as well, was he someone you had in mind for the track once it got signed and why was he a good fit to re-interpret this track?

It's funny because since Neshira is a melodically-intensive track, I specifically wanted a remixer with a propensity for melody, like Ezequiel Arias, Luciano Scheffer, or maybe Ben Bohmer etc.

But after hearing Michael A’s remix, I quickly realized he’s exactly what was needed. I actually wrote it as more of a mainstream festival track, so Mark picking it up was a very pleasant surprise and the in-house feedback from some of my favorite producers has been amazing. I think Michael A’s more subdued and minimal remix is a perfect way to round out the EP.

Who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback? And how much revision do you do on a track before you consider it ‘finished’? What does this process look like in practice?

I'm pretty blessed to be in daily contact with a talented and supportive group of global up-and-coming artists. We collaborate, talk shop, send tracks for feedback etc., and it's pretty indispensable.

My friend Max Brown (Lateral Shift) from Melbourne has an amazing ear. We’re on many of the same labels and our first collaboration, with Spring Tube, will be released later this month.

Flavio Massa (FLEIV) in Barcelona is doing some incredible mainstream progressive house, and his MEDUZA x Eli & Fur - Pegasus remix is approaching 200K YouTube views after only a few months.

Rajesh Deshpande (Miraj [AU]) in Canberra writes consistently high-quality deep house.

Weider William (Rivvo) in Brazil has similar target labels as me and we’re finishing up our first collaboration soon.

Then, my British friend Steve Smith (NEVUSSIDE) writes incredible tracks for MC’s that are pure synergy, and he’s even getting played on BBC.

Also, Soren Hartvig (Favna) from Denmark, James Marsden (Recurv) from the UK, both of whom write very high-quality progressive house. Also my local friend Eric Young, who used to run a studio in Prague.

But honestly, one of my favorite things is to be driving with my girlfriend Naveen and then play her my latest tracks because she doesn't really listen to this style of music except through me, so I get that much-needed perspective. She thankfully loves all my music now, but she didn't always lol.

My process starts with a 16- or 32-bar loop where I’ll write everything I need for the song – bass, melody, counter melody, pads, strings, transitional effects, etc. And although it’s pretty unorthodox, I actually do all mixdown and mastering in the loop before I even arrange it, with eight or ten reference tracks. I want it to sound as professional as possible to generate the inspiration to write out all the parts and then arrange it, so it's just something that works for me.

It also avoids non-creative revisions down the road, which I find much less inspiring. Once I have a loop I’m happy with, I can usually turn it into a full song within an hour or two. After that, I may have one or two more sessions adding random effects, ear candy, or tightening up the overall sound.

You seem to have a knack for writing melodies so I’m curious is that something you enjoy doing most in terms of production? And what is something you enjoy the least and why?

Thank you. I honestly love all of it equally. I love sculpting out a kick drum, slowly developing basslines, even agonizing over the pre-delay of a snare's reverb. And since all my melodies are either in my phone, or they just emerge as I need them, it's a pretty quick process to draw everything out. At first I missed all the random experimentation writing everything out in midi, but I write songs 100 times faster now.

Gainstaging is probably my least favorite aspect because it’s so crucial in getting everything that follows afterward correct, but it's not particularly enjoyable or artistic. I don't like using templates for that because I don't want my music to sound too uniform, but I should probably get over that.

You recently recorded a set for Tripp Baronner's Proton show Dialectics, tell us how you approach DJing and more specifically programming a set.

I generally like to create both a dynamic rhythmic and emotional journey, sometimes as much as I can get away with, to keep both the listener guessing and myself interested. Totally different, unique, sexy rhythms one after another just seem to get dance floors moving, in my experience. And the only time I'll play fairly straight four-to-the-floor without a lot of unique rhythm is when it's got a really great vibe. Hopefully Neshira falls into that category. After that, it’s basically a fairly steady build with appropriate peaks and valleys. I’ll also take a few 90° turns, tossing in a completely random track if I think I can get away with them, just to keep things interesting.

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 perhaps also, your work as a producer?

DJing really shows you how much it’s all about the groove, because people like to dance. I tend to be a songwriter more than a producer, so DJing helps ground me in just making sure it’s got a powerful groove first and foremost, and then worrying about the details afterward.

Some of the most powerful songs on the dance floor have little to no melody, because they’ve got such an incredible groove. And a song that may seem fairly uninteresting on its own can sound absolutely amazing at the right point in a great DJ set.

DJing helps you to recognize those unique tracks and incorporate their influence into your own music. DJing also helps with arranging because you have to think of where you’d want to bring in your own track, or what unique elements you'd like to hear in both the intro and the outro. I'm also not a fan of super long breakdowns, and watching the energy drop for too long on the dance floor can be a powerful detriment.

It's also probably the main reason I edit tracks before playing them. And of course DJing teaches you the power of the drop. I think everybody has spun tracks that are not ideal overall, but then the insane drop just makes everybody go nuts, so it's worth it.

How much prep do you put into the sets you play, or are they spontaneous for the most part?

Sometimes I’ll do everything spontaneously if it’s a low-pressure set. But if it’s particularly important to me, I’ll usually focus a lot more on prep. What’s funny is when the no-prep shows are just fun and exciting as high-prep shows because you’re just a lot more in the moment.

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?

7PM - KYOTTO

8PM - Volen Sentir

9PM - Alex O’Rion
10pm - Guy J

11pm - Hernan Cattaneo & Nick Warren

Current top five tracks in your sets?

I try to rarely repeat myself with individual tracks, but I’ve been playing a lot of K Loveski, Mayro, Alex O’Rion, Volen Sentir, Subconscious Tales, NOIYSE PROJECT, Weird Sounding Dude, Hobin Rude, plus a lot of my own released and unreleased tracks.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

If I wasn’t doing music, I would definitely be working with next generation AI creative tools to make videos, short films, and art, etc, both serious and deep, and then funny, ridiculous stuff. I’d love to do movie trailers because I love video editing and quality seems to be so rare these days.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Madison is an extremely beautiful city with a pretty cool populace. So in spring, summer, and fall, I’m out as much as possible just walking around. But one of my favorite spots is chilling at the Terrace on the lake with my girlfriend or various friends at sunset, hanging out and having great conversations. Stimulating discussion with familiar souls and a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine while people watching is one of life’s great pleasures for me.

What are some of your favourite TV series? Both all time and recently, what have you been enjoying lately?

Dark, Haunting of Hill House, and Midnight Mass are top favorites. Recently, From has been pretty interesting, and I think Black Summer is really underrated.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

That would be my girlfriend Naveen, our cute home, and then our sweet goofy kitties, Toki, Chompers, and Shalipu. And we’re also going to be fostering a new kitty Miles soon, so it’s going to be full house. Really just trying to simplify life while putting focus on things that have the greatest and most positive impact.

What does 2024 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Along with my upcoming Neshira release on Deep Down Music January 12th, I have a three-track EP release coming out on Balkan Connection, another favorite label.

I also just sent my remix of Nicolas Benedetti & Fer De Risio - Edoras back to Milos last night. My friend Lars (LARSa) in LA and I recently demo’ed our first collaboration and are currently deciding between three pretty sweet label offers.

My first collaboration with my friend Max (Lateral Shift) is coming out on Spring Tube in a few weeks.

Then two more releases with Deep Down Music, one of which, Soulspace, was chosen by one of my favorite producers, K Loveski, to remix. I am absolutely dying to hear what he does with it and honestly cannot believe it's even happening.

Also heading to Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne in February to visit old friends, and will definitely be at ADE in Amsterdam this October.

I’m feeling pretty excited about 2024 :)

'Neshira' is available now via Deep Down Music: http://tinyurl.com/4n5zexd2

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