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Talal [Interview]

27 min read

With a career that spans the better part of two decades, Talal has taken his far reaching sound to Hernan Cattaneo's Sudbeat Music, Solee's Future Romance, Renaissance and Spectrum (NL). Also, highly regarded as a DJ, Talal has toured the world, with Robot Hearts Further Future Festival, New Zealand's Shipwrecked Festival and Cream Amnesia Ibiza being just a few of the notable stops in his gig diary. Now, getting 2023 off to an impressive start, Talal makes his Deepwibe Underground debut with a two-track showcase entitled 'Composite'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Talal to learn more about the release of ‘Composite’, her studio process, musical background, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

I am on a 14 pills a day antibiotic course for a stomach issue and last night I found several items in a demo I had already sent out that I am hoping to quickly remove/edit, so am trying to hopefully see past these items.

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

I am heading to London shortly from Bahrain, it's been a productive time so far I think I have signed some items to decent labels up to about June 2023.

Can you name five tracks that were important in your musical development and why they are so significant for you?

I struggled with this question because there are many more than 5 and they would go into very different genres and decades of sound, so to shorten I just selected 4.

The Knife - We Share Our Mothers Health (Trentemøller Remix) has I think the best break I have ever heard in a song, yet in an interview Anders was very humble and said anyone can make/do this. Years ago I used to go to Miami often in March, and I still remember the year where a friend was very excited about Dosem - Beach Kisses (Joris Voorn Green Mix) it was a completely refreshing song/writing and of all the memories from Miami that was one of only several songs I really remember long time later and it meant a lot to me years down the road to sign a track to Joris Voorns Spectrum label. Depeche Mode Precious - Sasha's Spooky Mix covered many parts of my life, this was when I was living in Los Angeles for a number of years - and was not far off from Sasha’s Involver remix/albums time period - it was an interesting time to see the 80s synth pop sound revitalized and also engaged/remixed by the main electronic music artists of the time, and then years later in London one of the Depeche Mode band members lived in the same neighborhood and would be at the pub most weekends and always open to discuss some music and review some new music. Way Out West - The Gift has always kept a unique place amongst all songs for me, and I had the unexpected fortunate experience last year to spend a few minutes with Nick Warren at the hotel coffee shop before both heading to BEON1X festival in Cyprus to play that night - he was very generous with his time and explained the writing/composition process of the original song and we talked about the history of the record label it was signed on back then.

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?

Hong Kong in the late 1990s was fun in a sort of  Matthew McConaughey Dazed and Confused sort of way, also in that time things weren't as divided genre wise so an event would have a range of major artists who today tend to play in separate nights.

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

I am handling about 3 items usually, trying to go running every other day, working on some production/writing but more slowly in the sense let an idea develop and scrap it/changes it over days but allow that process to unfold, and there are some startup/venture related projects I am assisting in with some investors/partners.

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

I wouldn't focus on clubs per se but more a tour of the different music facets of London (Probably worth, with the right event, the Roundhouse or Brixton Academy, a club perhaps Fabric, summer boat events along the Thames were great not sure if they are running these days Twisted Audio and Electronic Sessions, and then consider the variety of promoter organized warehouse/unique venue events those can be an interesting way to see parts of the city you didn't know about). Covering all the above someone would get some glimpse at the range of items from many great dj’s Yacine Dessouki (at fabric or E1 or Hovarda), Nadia Benlakehal​, Redfreya, Mia Aurora​, Asch Pintura, Emma Nicholson’s Danceluvhub events, Mez Sommer’s Golden Hour at Night Tales Hackney the list goes on.

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

I spent a lot of time writing music so when I am not doing that I’ll try to go to less noisy places, there are some nice pubs alongside some parks, a friend runs a great small blues/folk venue Spiritual Bar in north london I will try to visit early evening before it gets busy.

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?

To be honest from the start up through to today, I am always trying to learn new components - that doesn't have an ending per se. However - with that said I would say the largest steps I made in my learning were with Nihil Young and still till today if I hear something somewhere which I don't fully understand how it was constructed - I’ll message to hear his thoughts. For new writers I would say don't think about going from A to Z, just focus on going from A to B, and then from B to C - one step at a time, the rest will take care of itself.

You have a new EP ‘Composite’, out this week on Deepwibe Underground, tell us about the release and how do these tracks showcase your current sound?

I am not sure if I have a current sound per se to be honest, over the next 6 months there are releases in a couple genres - however these 2 tracks on the Deepwibe EP were both made while I was in Istanbul for a couple months back in 2022. I think I made about 5 tracks around those months.

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

These tracks are all made on Ableton, I am usually using some samples which then get some processing/manipulation and there are for the moment several synths I have been using, mostly access virus, sylenth and some omnisphere.

Let’s talk about production for a moment, where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play? And was there anything that inspired the tracks which make up your ‘Composite’ EP?

To be honest I kind of go blank when asked this question, I just enjoy the process of writing and composing, some times/areas/circumstances the process is better other times slower.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

I don't think scents or reading poetry play has come to mind much. For me it's been just keeping a good routine.

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? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

I think in my earlier days I made the mistake of being too biased to see items through to conclusion, now I try to be flexible and allow components to evolve/change or be left alone and dropped - but to take time to reevaluate these parts throughout the process. I am fortunate to have been collaborating with Frequenza Records label boss Nihil Young for years, he is very generous with his time and we sometimes discuss items to change or remove altogether, or ideas to further work on for future compositions.

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

I think I prefer the beginning of the writing process, less the middle and ending (which can become a bit detailed) - and I am finding lately another part I enjoy is when I think a song is done but then I notice one part 75% through a track which can just blow up and become a whole new narrative on its own.

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

Actually it wouldn't be so much the synthesizers, but just a specially designed room with good padding / shape and excellent monitors, that context would be great.

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?

These days I am trying to mostly play my own songs when djing, I would just suggest having a good understanding of your folder so you can provide the right things for the audience.

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?

Interesting question, if one was to be completely free producing/writing ideas - it would take a very unique platform/label to engage that material, however from a DJ perspective there are some ballpark parameters that will be sought out from certain genres/audiences/labels.

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?

To be honest for me the ideal setup would not be about the line up per se, I think a good experience has many components, a good event planner with a clear idea of culture, that tone will impact the fabric of all involved people. You could have some of the most expensive headliners on earth, but with poor management and unhappy personnel it's going to be a not warm experience for the audience. Jason Swamy (of Robot Heart + Wonderfruit) is also an excellent example of someone with the right approach to ideas, planning and culture. Denis Alentief (of DAR label + BEON1X) has a very wide approach to things from the culture to the artist/crowd, and Tom Pooks + Ludo are doing amazing in developing as well a full experience under their Family Piknik sort of universe.

There is a famous old cinema in west London, even if the movie you go to watch isn't great, the experience is still amazing and not a wasted day just due to the quality of the seating, service and architecture of the cinema.

Current top five tracks?

Tragically I think I am writing too much these days, have been mostly listening to my own music - so some of my list is new and old.

Graziano Raffa - Masquerade - Sudbeat

Maceo Plex - Revision - Ellum

Drunken Kong - Spark - Tronic

Monkey Safari - Safe (Joris Voorn Remix) - Spectrum

Solee - Bariel - Future Romance

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

I have been sitting here on the keyboard trying to think of an answer but I think the more honest thing to say is that no there hasn't really been a book or film lately that has really left an impact on me.

What is one superpower you would like to have and how would you use it?

I think I am ok as is, being too powerful in any one component can be tricky and make people lose perspective.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Spending time with friends and being in good health.

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

Some releases are upcoming on John 00 Flemings JOOF label, D- Formations Beatfreak, David Hohmes Where the heart is and some other demos are slowly making the rounds now. I cannot yet say with complete certainty but there are also some event/festival discussions through 2023 for England, Cyprus, France, Hong Kong, Bali and maybe Tokyo - but I prefer to keep a wait and see approach.

'Composite' is available now via Deepwibe Underground: https://bit.ly/3jHpg0K

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