Podcast / 23 September 2021

VOLTAGE Podcast 16 - Locked Groove

When considering the variety of his musical influences, it comes as no surprise that Locked Groove’s productions and DJ sets are as versatile as they are - and his passion for music of all sorts is self revealing in his name. With a career spanning over almost a decade already, his first record was released on Scuba’s massively respected Hotflush Recordings - an imprint he remains close to to this day.

Although his most popular records use a four to the floor rhythm swinging through fleeting melodies, you know a Locked Groove record when you hear one - especially when he releases on his own record label. With his productional roots seemingly lying in house and techno, he differentiates himself by exploring club music differently - combining genres, using syncopated rhythms, and turning up the resonance to create collages of sound that leave space to breathe between each element.

Interview

What have you been up to lately as a musician / producer?

I’ve been working a lot in the studio, like most musicians I believe, in the last year. I started working on a second album two weeks ago, which would come out in 2022. So, making a lot of music basically and experimenting with different genres.

Is that a spoiler, the album?

Yes, that's news. The idea is slowly forming, I’m not sure what direction I’ll be taking it in. It might be an evolution of the previous album, but it’s going to involve a bit more radio-friendly tracks as well, some shorter tracks & a couple club tracks of course. So that’s been taking most of my time the last couple of weeks.

And as a music enthusiast, have you taken the time to discover new stuff or redevelop your interest in drum n bass music?

Definitely. I’ve always been a big fan of jungle music. I played a full jungle set at Hör, the Berlin online radio, a while ago. I still buy jungle almost every week, but I rarely play it. That Hör set was a good opportunity to do so and I really enjoyed it.

That said, I’ve discovered a lot of music that I wouldn’t have bought before through the bandcamp fridays, it’s great.

I also received a lot of old records from my dad last year, close to 5 or 6 thousand - a broad spectrum of genres, from Italian library music to disco, new beat and some EBM. I didn’t have the space to keep them in my apartment so I placed them in a storage room. Now I decided to slowly go through them, piece by piece. They are divided into packages of 50 per bag and I’m discovering a lot of crazy & older stuff which I really enjoy.

When a day appears where I’m not really feeling inspired, it’s amazing to have an immense stock of records I can take home to get the ball rolling. I don’t have phone reception in the storage, so for the records I don’t know I mostly take them home to listen if the name rings a bell or it just looks intriguing.

I’ve thought about getting a small Vestax player so I can take a small turntable down there and listen. But now it’s also nice because you get home, listen to them and it’s super fresh as some of these records I’ve never heard before. At times the cover looks amazing, but the track turns out to be rubbish, but the other way goes as well. At first glance it looks awful, but then turns out to be an amazing record.

At what age did you move to Berlin? What was the reason for the move? Did you have concrete plans moving there or were you just interested in the city for its rich (techno) background?

When I was 23. My girlfriend had just finished her college degree and she lived in Berlin for an internship so I moved in with her for six months and we decided to stay. We love the city, the quality of life is great and it’s so big as well. You can basically discover something new everyday.

Have you been following the Belgian scene since you left?

Yes, definitely. There is a lot of cool stuff happening in Belgium!

Innershades is someone I follow closely, he’s a good friend and we’ve worked together in the past. We Play House, I of course also still check out regularly.

Then labels like Basic Moves and Ultra Eczema have been putting out really interesting releases too. C12 started their own label and released some really cool music. There are names on those releases I’ve never heard of before, so it’s great to discover them through the Belgian scene.

A lot of the younger generation have a very interesting take on techno these days. It’s less big-room and four-to-the-floor stuff. It’s really nice to see how that sound is evolving.

In my opinion it’s more difficult to make an interesting four-to-the floor techno track as all of that has been done before. It can get cheesy. Good to see that a lot of people are experimenting with more broken beats and syncopated rhythms. It’s probably also because more artists are using modular synthesizers, which instantly makes things a bit more groovy. Plus you can mix it with the four-to-the-floor tracks to make your set more interesting instead of just pounding 135 - 140 bpm tracks.

And that’s exactly what you are known for, mixing it up.

Respect for the people who can play a full on 4 to the floor set, but I would start losing interest after about 20 minutes. I’ve tried it and I’ve done it, but it’s not for me.

Indeed, you’ve proven that you are not keen on sticking to one specific genre, with previous mixes and productions ranging from melodic Chicago house to breaky patterns or even hypnotic rhythms. What can we expect for the upcoming mix for the VOLTAGE podcast?

It’s a blend of all those! I’ve mixed some of my current favourites with some of my new productions.

Tracklist handwritten by Locked Groove - a typed out version can be found underneath the interview

Speaking of your diversity when it comes to track selection for mixes and for your own productions, you are able to meticulously blend things together into one cohesive story. How would you describe your trademark? What’s the thread that ties it all together?

For me, it’s all about adapting to the situation. I’m a firm believer that for a DJ it’s about more than just selecting great tracks, it’s also about playing the right music at the right time and in the right location. There’s no point in me doing an outside event for 200-300 people in the afternoon and playing a 150 bpm techno set. So for me it’s really about adapting to your crowd as much as possible.

I like to try things out as well. If I make a mistake and fuck up, that’s fine. I’m human, it happens. Sometimes I play a track and think it will be amazing, but it flops completely. That’s fine - that same track or the same combination the show after could go amazing. Taking those risks is really important as well, it keeps me motivated to do better and push myself.

I wouldn’t say that I don’t mind mistakes, but I definitely welcome them because I can only learn from them.

It’s what keeps it interesting for both the DJ and the crowd, right?

Absolutely. If you take a look at Jeff Mills; he plays four decks which is super impressive in itself, but he doesn’t beatmatch flawlessly. You can hear him changing tracks or rhythms, and that’s fine, he’s human as well. It’s also the reason that for my shows I use 3 decks. I don’t always use the third deck for mixing, but I’ll have 2 playing and use the third one to see what fits on it.

I don’t fully prepare my sets either. When preparing for a gig I just throw all the tracks I want to play that weekend in one folder, and I just see how the show evolves.

The only thing I usually do before I play is check who’s playing before me. Even if I’m doing a warm-up. I think a lot of artists are a bit too singular nowadays, doing their own stuff and not really taking into account what the other artists might be doing. I don’t believe in that. In my opinion you always have to check who plays before and after you and see how you can accommodate each-other and make sure the full night is a nice experience for the crowd.

Locked Groove's studio setup.

On the 23rd of July you released your newest EP ‘Cosmic Transition’ on your very own Locked Groove Records. One of the tracks ‘Hypnos’, hints back to your early days in drum n bass, but which brings so much more on the table than just that. Congrats on the release!

With a full drum and bass/ jungle set at Hör a couple months back, is this something we might expect more often again from you and are we already able to hear that ‘Cosmic Transition’?

Thanks a lot for the kind words :)

In terms of jungle and drum-'n-bass; on my new EP the ‘Cosmic Transition’ track is 150 bpm fast and it has a lot of amen breaks in it, so that’s leaning towards the drum-'n-bass side. In terms of my set; it depends on the crowd. There are so many genres you can mix with jungle music, because of the tempo. You can go half-time and throw in some New Beat as well, it’s so flexible. Dub techno, such as releases on Chain Reaction can go up to 150 bpm, so you can mix that in as well.

In the last year, the tempo has been pushed up on most of my productions. They usually range between 135 - 140 bpm, but the trick for me is to create a fast track without it feeling rushed. If you look at B12 for example, it doesn’t feel as if you’re playing a gabber tempo track. Breaks can be a good facilitator to that, it makes everything cool down a bit.

In terms of producing straight up drum-'n-bass or jungle music; it’s such a specific thing to do. I’m not sure if I can make an entire, jungle or drum-'n-bass-only album that’s interesting all the way through. But it will certainly have its place on the album and upcoming EP’s. The next EP also has a halftime track - 85 bpm - on it, but it also has a more autonomic drum-'n-bass feel to it.

So it’s something that I’m always exploring for sure. I’ve always liked the idea as well of taking 2 different styles, completely opposite to each other - like drum n bass and disco for example - and blend those together to see what comes out of it.

The cover of the EP is a unique piece of art as well. What’s the idea behind it and how did it come to life?

Well, all of the artwork on my label comes in a series of 3 and so does this artwork.

We worked with Ollie George for this series and I love what he did.

He wanted the artwork to align with the releases’ eclectic layering of sounds, so he made a dense collage of natural, digital and synthetic materials underlaid with imagery in the public domain of archaeological and historic engraved illustration, and visual output from the open source game Sandspiel.

I’d like to get those covers printed on a silk scarf, about 5 of each cover, and auction them for charity. It’s something I’ve been thinking about, but the idea still needs to mature a bit.

Is combining technology with music something you are actively exploring?

I’m looking into combining artificial intelligence with my music as well. I think you could get great output from it, although at the moment it’s still a bit uncontrollable and I don’t want my music to sound too random either.

Next to that, I’m a big fan of old analog synths, but I’m not an analog fetishist. I really love VST’s as well. Some of them have insane capabilities. Especially in the last few years it has become so hard to distinguish what is a VST and what isn’t. I remember with my first album I had people asking me how I got to such a great sound, what synth I used on it, while it was actually a free VST I downloaded from a random blog. There’s just so much good stuff out there, it’s just how you use it that’s so important.

To make something for and from this time, I believe that you also need to use something that’s made in this time in order to make an attempt at expanding what’s been done before. This is the biggest challenge in today’s electronic music field; creating something that hasn’t been done before.

Having a mindset believing that everything has been done before might withhold you from discovering new things. That’s why we try expanding on it, which is just as good as doing something completely new.

Last question: When do you have the most fun as an artist? Is it when performing in front of a crowd? Is it when you are tweaking knobs in the studio? What hypes you up the most nowadays?

Definitely standing in front of a crowd, preferably a smaller crowd of about 300-400 people. I love playing outside as well.

Not that I don’t enjoy big festivals, but there’s something that can be said about a smaller crowd. It’s more intense and scary because you are so up-close with them, which means they can see every move you’re making, as well as every possible mistake. I feel like it’s easier to control a big crowd. People are herd minded. If 20 people make the same move, the ones next to them will do exactly the same.

Let’s hope everything opens up pretty soon - knock on wood - so I can come back soon and play again.

Thanks a lot for your time Tim.
Enjoy the rest of your stay in Belgium and I wish you all the best.

Tracklist:

Mariechen danz - The Storm
Valesuchi - Autopietic Unboxing
Pugilist - Contagion
Hassan Abou Alam - Unkindled
Tinkah - Closing Chapters
Philip Gorbachev - Jump High
Dj Durbin - Drems
Rosati - Elastik
L.S.G. - Netherworld
Black Scorpion - Teknitron
Rene Wise - Changa
Stellar OM Source - Lost Codes
Poltrock & De Roover - Tinder for cellos
Hysteria Temple Founda - Gamesh (Gabriella Vergilov vocal)
Sonic - 8082devast8
MOY - Cyberweapon
Granul - Maqa
Nadia Struiwigh - Starring

Next up: Reka Zalan

Interview by: Michiel Demeulemeester
Editorial Team: Noah Hocker and
Michiel Demeulemeester