Let’s build a perfect atmospheric techno scenery. Firstly, which element of nature should we pick to best represent the music? A thick forest? A light mist? Let’s opt for “a light mist in a thick forest”… Then, what about adding a range of volcanic mountains on top of that, as well as hanging a couple of dreamcatchers in the trees, to bring some tribal touch to the woodland? Perfect… Let’s build the DJ booth now: a long black table on the roots, with our emblematic mixer: the Xone 92, some turntables, a Function One sound system, and a suspended head flap on top to protect the gear. We also need a great audience: we heard that the Japanese minds are particularly respectful toward the music and the artists, let’s send the invitations…
Wait… No need finally, because this heaven already exists: welcome to the Paramount Festival, initially at the Tamagawa Camp Village in the Shizuoka Prefecture. The organisation comes with exotic eco-friendly prescriptions such as “The more you are in a car, the less you pay” or “What comes with you goes with you; remember to bring all garbage home.” No doubt that Mother Nature is highly respected in the neighbourhood and hypnotic techno might be the best language to commune with her. She’s fortunate; in her 2017 epic edition, our favourite linguists were in charge: Luigi Tozzi, Ness, Claudio PRC, and the one and only Deepbass, who comments: “Paramount is by far the most special festival I’ve ever been to. I’ve been there in its first edition in 2016 and again right after in 2017. The location was quite close to Figi, about one hour and a half drive from Tokyo, and mixing in front of such spectacular wildlife left me with an indelible memory. Japan is another world. The culture is different, the people act like nowhere else: everyone is so humble, so friendly, so nice. The vibe is so happy. Anywhere in Europe, you will always have someone in front shouting “faster!”, while on the island, you could hear “Deeper!” Japan is a place where the artists can experience the pleasure of expressing themselves totally freely…”
The “light mist in a thick forest” could illustrate the aerial atmospheres emerging from Deepbass’ music, but not his heavy basslines. An element is missing: if Paramount was memorable, it can’t be where it all started for the Scottish artist…
To track the sources of his music, we have to go back in the more distant past, to an urban environment located in the vaults of a former department store. We are in Berlin one decade earlier; Deepbass remembers: “Glasgow’s nightlife in “The Arches” and in “Sub Club” gave me a culture of techno for the frequent clubber I was, but it’s in Berlin that I found the source of my sound. I travelled there with a bunch of friends, doing the traditional tour: we went to Berghain to get rejected from the door and then followed up in Tresor… It’s on the basement floor of the techno temple that we lived the most amazing club experience. Virgil Ezenger was playing downstairs that night with some other artists, but it wasn’t so much their music that captured us. It was the atmosphere, the vibe of the room: the strobe light was piercing the smoke under powerful basses. It was muddy, strange, but it gave me enlightenment. When I came back home, I jumped on my gear to translate the dark atmosphere musically. This is how my bass-heavy, hypnotic and atmospheric tunnelling sound got born.”
Berlin’s nightlife was a logical follow-up for Deepbass at that moment: he got his first turntables at the age of 12, then spent most of his teenage years chilling out with friends, in his house or in theirs, collecting and playing records. Aged 19, he started to mix fast tribal techno with his mates in small venues, that more and more people were attending: “We created a concept of events and from them, we recorded some mixtapes on CDs. Some friends were then dropping copies in record shops, requesting the owners to give them to the clients. That worked very well: after some time, we started to get known and our venues welcomed more people. Then we got the opportunity to play in secondary rooms of bigger clubs,” he says, before unveiling a fundament of his future sound: “Our fast tribal techno slowly became minimal techno, which was emerging and which was fascinating us. At home, before the episode of Tresor, I started to produce while going from trance to minimal, without really having a clear idea of my style. My experience at Tresor lighted me up that I would replicate a sensation instead of pursuing a music genre.”
Tresor’s atmosphere was deep, dark, with heavy bass: this is how the name “Deepbass” came out, followed in 2009 by the creation of the label “Dark Beat” with a friend, to release music as fast as possible. Deepbass however needed to have his own project, and “Informa Records” got born in 2010, with the help of Edit Select: “I got introduced to him a long time ago thanks to a friend of mine who was a DJ,” remembers Deepbass. “Edit Select also played in Tresor and inspired me greatly. He was actually living at the corner of my street, so I used to visit him: we were sharing our interest in the scene and he was giving me some great tips. When I decided to launch “Informa Records”, he hooked me up with a record store and distribution company based in Glasgow, and a first release came out.”
Informa Records’ first release, “Rabana EP“, contained a remix from Mark Broom and encountered great success in the record shops: “That’s when my project really took off,” says Deepbass. “I got support from artists such as Dino Sabatini, Cio D’Or, all the Prologue crew. People were mailing me. I had never heard of Prologue before; it was when the label connected with me that I got to know more about the hypnotic techno scene, which was the music I was making. I then got to know Claudio PRC and Ness and thought that I was perfectly re-oriented to that scene.”
It was at Test Festival in 2011 that Deepbass met the two Italian artists. He remembers: “It was a small intimate festival and by playing with them, I really felt part of a family of like-minded artists, who love the same sounds and moods. After the festival, I kept in touch with Ness in particular. Together, we used to party really hard, discuss and send each other music very often. At one point, we decided to collaborate on a release: I invited Ness for one week at home, and “Conspiracy EP” got born from our friendship.” Giorgio Gigli also participated in the EP, which somehow reasserted Deepbass’ adoption into the musical family.
If Informa Records was originally a platform for Deepbass to release his own material, he started to welcome other artists on the project as well, such as Hironori Takahashi, Nax_Acid, his mate Ness and another important figure of the scene that Ness one night introduced to Deepbass: Reggy Van Oers. The connection between the two artists has been instant and they both decided very fast to bring to the hypnotic techno world one of its best collaborative projects: CHPTR, whose first release, soberly named “CHPTR001“, sprung like a tsunami. Deepbass reminisces about the birth of the project: “From the first minutes we met, Reggy and I were sharing the exact same inappropriate sense of humour, which built the instant complicity. We invited each other to our homes: the plan was to make music that was representing each of us, but it turned out that the sound which emerged from our jam sessions was very new. We were perfectly complimenting each other in the studio, because I like to work fast, to record sounds and to throw them quickly in, while Reggy is very sedulous on sound quality, so he was rearranging the sound I was sending him to make it as clear and as fat as possible. We realised very fast that we were doing a lot of music and CHPTR got born very quickly.”
Such a testimony says a lot also on Deepbass’ usual creative process based on jam sessions, which he explains further: “I usually set up all my machines, jam and record everything in individual channels. When I’m satisfied with a sequence, then I go back to it and start processing it. I might just catch a two-bar loop from thirty minutes to one hour of jam. My key process is all about having fun, spontaneity and performance. I hate being behind a computer, I enjoy playing. It’s also this process that I use when I work with Ness. We both make individual parts and throw them into the project at the same time. We both enjoy jamming more than producing.”
Deepbass followed up with other fascinating collaborations, and a question emerged from the hypnotic techno community: Thinking of Deepbass’ sound and musical approach in particular, also shared with other important Glasgow-based artists such as Edit Select, Repart and Fernie, can we consider the existence of a “Scottish school” of hypnotic techno?
It is maybe firstly worth defining what “a school” is. To paraphrase the Cambridge dictionary: “It is a group of artists whose work is similar, especially to that of a particular leader.”
While the existence of “an Italian hypnotic techno school” brought by the Elettronica Romana peers makes no doubt in the techno lovers’ minds, the question of a “Scottish school” divides them. As told in the present portrayal: Deepbass’ music quickly integrated itself into the above-mentioned Italian school, although he originally didn’t create his sound under the influence of some Italian artists, but rather of the will to translate Tresor’s atmosphere musically, which was a very unique creative process, worth initiating a movement based on a sensation rather than on an aesthetic.
Some witnesses of this movement could however object that if hypnotic atmospheric techno may have various sources, from a club in Berlin to a forest in Japan, it has mainly been popularised by the Italian school, whose large number of artists justify the status of “school”, while the Scottish producers aren’t enough numerous to form such an entity. This is also what Deepbass himself defends: “I think from the outside, it could look like there is a specific Scottish techno sound, but it’s something I don’t feel so much myself. Of course, there is a connection between myself, Edit Select, Repart who I have known for a long time, and Fernie more recently: we have a similar vision for our music. Apart from that, there is no community or scene for this music here, even if this is something I’m trying to change. The music for sure has similarities but in my opinion, we are all just playing our part in the wider community where location and borders do not play a huge role.”
OUR TOP 3 OF DEEPBASS’ MUSIC
Chart established from his first release until the publishing of this review, in November 2022.
Deepbass – Campello [Informa Records, 2016]
Even if Deepbass’ artistic intention is to capture a sensation rather than sticking to a genre, his tracks however have almost all in common a similar aesthetic, based on the formula “4/4 kicks + rolling percussions + bassline + deep pads”. In rare cases, he breaks those chains, such as in “Campello”, whose structure is perfect to introduce a mix.
It is worth mentioning that the whole album “Campello LP” has been precisely created to express a certain freedom, as explained by its author: “My first album “Campello LP” has been made during my trip to El Campello, close to Alicante. For this work, I took very limited equipment; my laptop, a couple of synthesisers and controllers, then I went by the sea, to a beautiful location, and I stayed there for one month. My only goal was to create an album. The rest of the time I just ate nice food, under the sun and swum in the sea. I think you can hear my very fuelled happiness on the beautiful beach during the listening.”
As a result, the track is peaceful, with a long introduction, some well-dosed acid lines and very trippy breaks.
Deepbass – Orion [Informa Records, 2012]
When hitting play on “Orion”, the smile comes instantly for entering a strong dreamy dimension, noticeable from the first seconds of listening. Charming and hypnotic, the track has been created when Deepbass was building his friendship with Ness: the latter made a mind-blowing remix of “Orion”, showing great care for the nascent relationship.
The EP containing “Orion” encountered great success for also having a remix by Cio D’Or. Deepbass was at that time close to Prologue’s family, while having never released anything on the label. He later briefly participated in the creation of Cio D’Or’s “All in All“, released on Semantica in 2015. In the same year, Ness repeated his feat on his remix of “Alto“, another epic track from Deepbass.
Deepbass – Traveling Without Moving [Informa Records, 2018]
A quick anecdote first: the Scottish artist made a US tour in 2018, which maybe explains the spelling of “Traveling” with one “L”, proper to the American language, instead of two.
In 2017, Ness released his dreamiest album “Trancemigration” on TGP, containing unusual arpeggios and trance vibes. It was the result of his experience at the psytrance Ozora Festival, which enlightened his mind. In the same year, Deepbass released “Stasis“, and one year after “Traveling Without Moving“, two beautiful tracks in the vein of “Trancemigration”.
Not sure if both artists were sharing the same trippy substances at that time, but Deepbass explains having created the track’s album “Contact With The Machine LP” based on his friendship with Ness: “My second album was made in Barcelona in the studio that I used to have together with Ness. That stage of life was quite crazy, we used to party a lot, having a lot of fun. The creation of the album has been very spontaneous: I just set up all my equipment and jammed. The result didn’t really sound like what I was usually doing, but it captured a moment when I had a crazy time with Ness.”
Through “Traveling Without Moving”, Deepbass opened up his chakras from his “tunnelling” techno, offering us a memorable trippy blast.
A MIX YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
Monument Podcast is known today for curating among the best hypnotic techno mixes of the scene and Deepbass is back on the project for the third time, after a first entry in 2014 and the second one in 2015. In “MNMT 345”, Deepbass celebrates the release of his fourth album: “Inward LP“, by injecting some of its tracks among others. Like always, his productions are particularly trippy and therefore very suitable for a mix, whose longer duration allows a deeper musical immersion. The global energy is pretty linear, which, added to the technically impeccable transitions, contributes also to getting lost easier in the journey.
Deepbass comes back to the context of the creation of “Inward LP”: “With my third album, “Atmos LP“, recorded in Barcelona, I wanted to go back to the original atmospheres that crafted my sound signature, in a technically improved and more modern way. “Inward LP” is a continuation of this momentum: I focused again on moving atmospheres, but through a different vibe: my fourth album has been recorded when I came back to Glasgow; a different environment and studio space.”
TRACKLIST (Please buy the tracks to support the underground scene with us)
Having a particular connection with the nightlife, Deepbass shares some of his views on it.
What have been your all-time favourite gigs? Can you describe to us what made it so special?
As for an all-time favourite that would be a difficult question. However, I would have to say my most memorable gig in recent times would be the Fusion party at Vent in Tokyo, which was the final part of my last tour before covid arrived. I shared the lineup with my old friend Hironori Takahashi alongside Kai Galactic & mu’he. It was my first time playing at Vent, although I had been to the venue the night before to check out another event. I was very impressed by the beautiful space and very clean sound system. On the night of the party I could feel a good vibe from the start, and being at the end of my tour, I was in very high spirits myself. The other DJs set the tone for the night just right, leaving me with a well-warmed-up and eager crowd. One of the things I love most about playing for a Japanese crowd is that they really listen to the music being played. They have a deep love for atmospheric music and you can usually see the crowd standing with their eyes closed swaying to the sound and appreciating the finer details. I felt very relaxed and comfortable in the booth and enjoyed getting great reactions to some music I love that perhaps would not have gone down quite as well as they did in other places. The stand-out track for me during the set was my edit of “Northern Lights” by Cobblestone Jazz, which I had made specifically for the tour. It was a special night from start to finish and one I will remember for a long time.
Can you bring us to a typical day of a gig? How do you prepare it, which steps do you usually go through? Are you nervous before going on stage or does it come naturally?
On the day of a gig, I like to take it easy and preserve my energy as much as possible, although this can be difficult if I’m travelling on the day of the event. I try to eat only fresh and light food and these days I don’t drink any alcohol before playing (this was not always the case). I’ve come to learn that a healthy body and a healthy mind help me to focus more on playing the best set possible. I like to go over my music collection, putting together a folder of tracks that fit the vibe I’m feeling at the moment. However, this is only a base which usually changes a lot depending on the atmosphere when I get to the event. I like to prepare but keep myself open to being spontaneous. I wouldn’t say I get nervous, however, a little pre-gig anxiety is perfectly normal and shows that you care.
Since you’ve been travelling a lot in your DJ career, you must have developed a great critical sense of the clubs: what makes an event “a good plan” or “a bad one” for you? Can you anticipate that better now when a promoter sends you an offer?
In my opinion, events are always best when they are done as a labour of love with the curation of artists put together to create a coherent mood for the party and not just for who will sell the most tickets. I can usually anticipate when the lineup makes sense and the party seems to fit the correct mood. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past, so it is important not to judge too much from the start. An event is only as good as the people who attend. The best for me are the ones with a real family vibe. I would always prefer to play for a small room of people who know exactly why they are there than a stadium full of people who are there because it’s “cool”.