This latest exceptional Bedrock release comes from Hyperspace, USA, courtesy of Dance Spirit. This Producer/DJ duo are part of a global family of like-minded artists, striving to move hearts, minds, and bodies with original music that draws from a collective ancestral past, and pushes forward into the future, without limitations or borders. John Digweed has featured Dance Spirit tracks and remixes numerous times in his live sets and on his Transitions radio show (including guest mix slots for episodes 555 & 663 – listen below), building towards their breath-taking debut Bedrock release – ‘Thoughts Like Stars’. So, we thought it high time we find out more about this exciting duo…
Chris & Reagan, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on the release of your ‘Thoughts Like Stars’ EP on John Digweed’s Bedrock Records. The first thing we’ve got to ask is what makes this label so special?
Chris: What makes this label so special is the man behind it! John has been creating a dance music legacy ever since “Heaven Scent”. Having the Bedrock stamp of approval on our art adds us to this legacy and is of great value to our career
Reagan: John Digweed and Bedrock were and still are pioneers of the always blossoming, forever evolving sound of electronic music and culture and their contributions to the scene have helped shape the environment of music we have today. It’s an institution and it’s an incredible dream and honour to be on the label of the man who’s responsible for my discovering of the music!
For anyone not already familiar with your music, how would you describe your style? Can you put your finger on the elements of your music that makes it so engaging and distinctive?
Chris: Dance Spirit presents a more refined sound that creates and conveys beautiful emotions utilizing music as a universal language. Our love of heavy layering and deep rolling low ends produce an addictive futuristic minimal techno vibe with Pink Floyd and Radiohead influenced melodies and hooks sprinkled over the rhythms to give our expression of dance music a unique flavour. Our style is in a constant state of flux but our technique and philosophy never changes.
Reagan: Our style is a culmination of many years of experimentation and personal philosophical growth, getting in touch with ourselves as artists rather than just producers or engineers, and getting in touch with our deeper selves as tools of the universe to bring beauty into the world. We combine a lot of aspects of the different genres, and don’t limit ourselves to just deep house, techno, tech house, minimal or whatever… We love music in all it’s forms and are always creating, whether it’s for the dance floor or not.
What’s the philosophy behind Dance Spirit and how did it come together?
Chris: Dance Spirit came together quite organically and over a very long period of time. Reagan and I have been brothers in art for the better part of ten years now and there were many other projects along the way. Dance Spirit was originally conceived as a nameless act at the beginning of 2012 as a name that we could grow into, and now we have. Our philosophy is about using music as a tool for attaining subconscious harmony through rhythm, timbre, melody, and movement.
Reagan: From an early age I’ve always felt a deep healing connection to music that has an intense effect on the soul, mind and body. It’s gotten me through incredible difficult times in my life, kind of like a sort of safety blanket I guess? Through the years of refining my personality to become a better person to myself, and others, I’ve really discovered an even deeper connection to the universe and music, so it’s my intent in every song we make to imbed the song with love. The intent behind everything we write is to help people have a deep meaningful experience on the dance floor, hopefully helping the person work out whatever is going on in their life and allowing them to give it up to the universe, find love, leave the dance floor, and spread that love back in to the world. There’s a spiritual jazz song from the end of the 1960’s by Albert Ayler titled “Music Is The Healing Power of the Universe,” and besides being a beautiful work of art, it’s words speak true, and is a belief I embody in every essence of my being. Dance Spirit is our mission to bring love into this world through music and art and help people find the better versions of themselves and in return, help others.
Talk us through the ‘Thoughts Like Stars’ EP tracks…Are there any intriguing stories going on here?
Chris: Well, the story behind the EP is its evolution. John has been a big supporter of our music since the beginning of the project and gave us a guest spot on his ‘Transitions’ radio show in 2015, in lieu of our “The Sun Also Rises” LP on Supernature. He continued to give us play on the show and in the clubs and at the end of last year made an offer of interest to work with us in 2017. This came at a perfect time for us as artists, as it really made us push ourselves in the studio to craft music of Digweed calibre – a bigger sound for bigger crowds without sacrificing the integrity of our art. After about a month we had finally tapped into our new aesthetic and debuted a large body of that work at the ‘Lightning In A Bottle’ festival. It all went over really well and we selected the top 3 tracks from those sessions and sent them over to John. He got back a few weeks later and gave us the exciting news that he was taking them!
Reagan: Pretty much what Chris said… It was fun going back to the early roots of what initially got me into the music, and meshing it with our modern inspirations to create our modern take on the “Digweed” sound. I guess it’d be considered progressive house, but I like to call all of our music hyperspace music, because we traverse hyperspace to reach the source to channel its love into this world!
Do you find it easy to express your emotions in your music, or is this something that finds an outlet only in certain, special tracks?
Chris: Well for me as an artist, I am always trying to convey and express beauty through my creativity, so our music must always have element of beauty in it for the music to be appealing to me. Out creative process is usually very spontaneous and we have our own methods and techniques down pretty well at this point so finding that psychedelic beauty isn’t that hard to arrive at any more. I’m not saying it’s a breeze every time either, but we have been making music all day everyday for about a decade now.
Reagan: The more I’ve delved down the never-ending spiral that is music and gotten more in touch with myself, I’ve figured out how to reach in to the various vibes of emotions and pull them out into the audible form that is music. I’m generally a very happy, cantered, zen person these days, but my past experiences led me through a plethora of lots of different emotions from a very early age. Rather than needing to embody these experiences on a daily basis to stay in touch with them, I’ve learned how to tap into those and bring them forth in a controlled way to embody the feeling in the music. I like to play a lot of our hooks free hand on the piano, grooving with the music and the beat in the moment for maximum expression. I find it’s important to mesh myself with the instrument, however real or synthetic it is, because you need to feel the moment, feel the body, and feed it into the system. You can sit there and pencil in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in the piano roll all day, but it will sound stagnant and mechanical even if you account for velocities and humanization. Only playing it, feeling the song, being in touch with it on a deep level in that moment will bring forth the full beauty. This is why I like to encourage people to work outside the box as much as possible, and learn how to play and instrument, and learn to play with feeling. An A minor chord with no intent is just a stagnant A minor chord!
Tell us something about the psychological effects of music that totally blows your mind?
Chris: Wow, where do I begin!? Off the top of my head I would have to say that I love how much music is available to us at this day in age, and for me music is total symbiosis. If I am angry I will listen to Nirvana, goofy some 80’s music, when I read I listen to jazz, to celebrate life I will listen to dance music, for every human experience or thought you can bet there is a song that expresses that, so in a way with music you are never alone.
Reagan: I love the way music affects us. It’s crazy how you can capture an emotion in a melody, a feeling in a groove. Rhythm is all around us, patterns make up our lives and the universe around us consist of varying frequency waves. Everything is connected by energy. The universe is something like 0.000001% physical matter and 99.999999% ENERGY! Music takes the very essence of the universe itself and thrusts itself into your brain and works its way on you like magick. Minor chords make us moody while major chords make us happy. When you move from minor to major something magical happens, you embody both light and dark at the same time, and create unity—singularity—the birth of the universe itself, and it sends chills down your spine. Your brain has it’s different “active” modes: you’re either in beta, alpha, theta, delta, or gamma. When you’re alert, your brain produces gamma waves; when you are hyper-aware, you’re producing gamma; relaxed, alpha; dream state/REM sleep, theta; deep sleep, delta. Audio has a direct effect on our brains, and there’s a technique to sync your brainwave to any of these states naturally via the use of slightly detuned sine waves which create these micro-phased-stereo-beats. Any rhythmic music is doing this to some extent, so I like to incorporate my knowledge of these things into the music we write to be aware of how to manipulate the mood and brain.
Let’s rewind for a moment, what are your earliest musical memories?
Chris: I have many because my father had a huge record collection and loved to play it loud. The first song I ever fell in love with though and thought it was all mine was “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles.
Reagan: My earliest musical memories are of me dancing around the living room to my dad’s stereo, listening to Depeche Mode, New Order, and the Pet Shop Boys! Before that I would sit with my mom at the piano while she played songs like “My Favourite Things” or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That was when I was about 3 years old I think… I blame her for my musical addiction!
How did your musical tastes develop? When did dance music come into your lives?
Chris: Well for me I’m a product of the slacker generation, so I was initially into all the major classic rock as a kid because of my father. When I got my own tastes it was Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, GNR, Dead Kennedy’s, Sex Pistols, The Pixies… I could go on and on and on… The first rave I went to was in 1995 however I really didn’t get sucked into the culture on a heavy basis until about ’97, so I have been at the party for about 20 years now!
Reagan: My first exposure to the music was in 1997, when I discovered Sasha & Digweed’s Northern Exposure at the record store by some random chance. Maybe they were playing it over the sound system? I just remembered I heard these sounds I’d never heard before and it changed my life forever – suddenly I was living in a future world, and I’ve been chasing it ever sense. That was the beginning of the end. The funny thing was, I had no idea there was a rave-dance-underground-global culture behind the music until probably 2002. It was all kind of abstract and surreal to me, as I was the only person in my high school that listened to electronic music… I finally went to my first party when I was 21 in Montreal at Area, and saw Adam Freeland play, then Stereo to hear Danny Tenaglia…! I was doomed after that!
At what point did you get into producing and DJing?
Chris: I bought my first pair of Technics in 1999, and my record collection started then. I loved to play and collect vinyl and had no ambition to become a DJ as my vocation and passion were always the visual arts, so the music was always an intriguing and fun element in my life but never a career pursuit. It wasn’t until Reagan and I met in 2006 that I actually knew someone who was a producer. We started working together in 2007 and its just grew from there. We have always had a great creative chemistry with each other and our tastes in the music have always evolved together which makes the creative process fun and flowing.
Reagan: I’ve been able to sit and play the piano ever since I can remember. I composed my first song when I was 5, a little song about dogs, cats, horses and pigs, for my grandfather – I recorded on a tape cassette for his birthday. I took piano lessons from 6 years old until about 14 or 15, when I decided I was sick of the piano and practicing and just wanted to pirate software on the macwarez/zelifcam chatrooms on AOL and live an internet life. Through software piracy I discovered a talent for graphic design and coding, and music kind of took a backseat – not to say I wouldn’t frequent the piano to improvise my own music, I just hated practicing! Eventually, in 2000, a long time friend of mine from the fringes of the internet asked me if I had reason… and I was like “what? Of course I have reason?” But then he explained it was a program for making music, and I was instantly intrigued. So I downloaded it and that was the start of my getting in to music. I graduated high school in 2002 and went to college for graphic design, but realized while I was there I wanted to do music, so dropped out after the first semester as well as my roommate at the time who was into making music and shared similar tastes and we started working together. After that, a bit of life happened, and then I met Chris and we started working together… and the rest is history!
In what ways do you think your particular journey through life has influenced the electronic music you make now?
Chris: Wow that is an interesting question. I would have to say that pursuing an excellence in a form of art or body of work has been the story of my life at this point. Being determined and driven, choosing a path that is completely unpredictable in an environment where balance is essential for health and growth has been the challenge and the reward. If you aren’t in complete awareness or control of your self, this music biz thing can really fuck you up in the subtlest of ways. I have also often felt the obsession with creating dance music is like a surfer with his waves, you are always trying to catch the perfect wave, and even if you had caught it you would be happily waiting for a wave of even more perfection.
Reagan: The journey of us has been a beautiful and humbling experience, especially with the intent we have behind our mission to bring love into this world and help facilitate the move in to the next paradigm of humanity’s story. It’s required us to better ourselves in all areas, mental, physical and spiritual. It’s required us to have the utmost integrity and utmost love for ourselves and others, and be completely selfless in all walks of life. The path to being an artist has made me grow more than any other experience and I’m truly grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned over the years of doing this. It’s been a long journey for us, challenging ourselves every day, pushing in the studio and fighting for our art and passions, but where there’s trials that we overcome, we gain new insight and skills. The music business is a kind of make your own rules, create your own culture, do your own thing business. It’s not easy, because it requires you to have 100% unwavering faith in your vision, and not compromise to others that want to bend you to their will. I believe in collaboration over completion, because I believe together we can create something more magical and long-lasting, as opposed to competition, which forces us to battle it out over one another for top place. That does not mean you can’t do your thing, but pushes you to do it in a way that is completely selfless and for the love of the art, and your vision, as opposed to doing it for the money, love, fame, sex, drugs, whatever else. Dare to be an artist in a sea of copycats!
Having witnessed the evolution of the underground scene in the USA over the years, how do you view where things are at now? Is it healthy? What could improve things?
Chris: USA is booming right now! Between people’s exposure to ‘Burning Man’, tons of music festivals, the EDM craze in our pop music like Guetta and Tiesto and the Mau5, the Dubstep thing… it has all led people further into the music and allowing people’s tastes to evolve and grow. Almost every city we have played in the US this year has had a lot of other underground artists in town as well, so there is definitely healthy growth going on and plenty of eager dancers ready to show up to all these parties. Even though we’ve had to put up with tasteless entertainers, the trickledown effect has been great for us guys in the trenches
Reagan: Pretty much what Chris said… It’s really exciting to see the local scenes growing stronger and stronger in all the cities across the States. It’s a beautiful time for growth and discovery!
What are the pros and cons of playing at huge festivals compared to intimate club environments? What have been some of your favourite places you’ve played recently?
Chris: I am grateful every time I get to play and to see anyone dancing to my music. I would have to say playing the Mirage in New York this summer was a really cool experience as far as a bigger event goes. For the smaller ones, I would say recently in Atlanta, our man there – Bobi – has been building a very eager and intelligent community of dance music lovers!
Reagan: As we write this we’re off to Dallas to play for our extended family there. Our friends Bon & Corey there throw these excellent parties that sometimes go on until 11am or noon the next day. I think the biggest difference between playing big to small venues is that it gives us a chance to play tons of different kinds of music – festivals give us a chance to really just bang it out, while the other more intimate settings let us get a little deeper and creative with our performances.
Which of all your Dance Spirit tracks do you consider to be your most accomplished creation to date? Why?
Chris: That is hard to say, but I do really like the EP for Bedrock! However, we are always working in the studio and have a ton of new exciting stuff we are performing at our shows right now. So ‘23d_TEK___049’ has been a solid one to do throw down lately… haha.
Reagan: Yea, it’s very hard to say indeed. We average about 100 songs a year, not to say all of them get completed, but we do finish a good more than half of them. Not all of them are release-worthy either. It’s hard to pick one creation, but for me recently it’s a non-dance floor jam called “It’s All Up to You” which blends psychedelic blissed out guitars with catchy hooks and vocals. It’s constantly stuck in my head!
You released your beautiful debut album – ‘The Sun Also Rises’ (Supernature) – in 2015. We want to know – is there a follow-up in the pipeline?
Chris: Well my intention with our ‘Kindisch’ project earlier in the year was our second album, although it was never promoted that way it was still a large body of work in the form of a mix that was intended to take the listener on a journey, I’m not too sure if it went over that way… haha. We do have a nice body of work that is more in the musical / listener’s kind of place and have exciting plans for these pieces.
Reagan: As Chris mentioned, we have a good bit of music that’s almost an album’s worth that we’ll be putting together shorty. We also recently put out a 1hr10m mix of ambient and down-tempo music entitled ‘Soothe’ which will be the first in a series of more of these journeys into abstract melodic soundscapes and experimentalism. We’re working on another edition right now for our friend’s show.
Since we’re nearing the end of yet another great year of music, how about you talk us through your Top 5 tracks of 2017 (by other artists)
- Ricardo Villalobos – Empirical House EP – [Airpr]
- Kelela – Take Me Apart Album – [Warp]
- Matthew Halsall and The Gondwana Orchestra – When The World Was One LP
- Kevin James Gisbosn – Her Flood Knocked Me To The Ground (But I Was Already There) [Kompakt]
- Savvas, Vivid – In The Sky To The Stars – [Manjumasi]
Reagan: I always hate choosing top tracks – there’s too many! But here’s what I’ve got for ya…
- Ryan Crosson, Cesar Merveille – Time Constraints [Visionquest]
- Mathew Jonson, Jerome Sydenham, The Martinez Brothers, Filsonik – No Pop [Cuttin’ Headz]
- DJ Tennis – Certain Angles feat. Fink (Club Mix) – [K7]
- Gabriels – Amethyst [One Records]
- Tantsui – Planet of the Apes (m.O.N.R.O.E. Remix) [Kindisch]
If you could remix any track by any artist (ever) what would be at the top of your wish list?
Reagan: Oh man that’s a tough one… Would love to remix Mirko Loko’s ‘Tahktok’, but both Villalobos and Carl Craig already delivered such epic remixes I’m not sure it warrants another one… haha. Really this question is too much for me I like too much music!!
Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Chris: Love yourself and love others.
Reagan: Be in control of your dream, or be subject to someone else’s.
What plans have you got for 2018?
Chris: Well, right now we are just focusing on wrapping up the year. Definitely going to be in Europe in June and July, and we are working with some exciting labels for releases.
Reagan: I’ve been working on a quarterly printed Zine for the local Los Angeles underground electronic music and art community, working to get the first one out in December, and then start lining up the rest of 2018. Other than that, step up our shows and keep plugging away in the studio! We also have an idea for new label community and party brands we’ve been envisioning so will keep on that.
Dance Spirit – Thoughts Like Stars EP (Bedrock) is out now!
Dance Spirit Info: