Heralded as a forward-thinking, envelope-pushing experimentalist whose sonic signature virtually refined modern conceptions of what it means to be inimitable, SOPHIE and her pioneering contributions to music advanced the landscape in a unique and transformative way. These are the sentiments not only of the Glasgow-born producer’s devoted following, but also of the countless artists across genres who took to Twitter to mourn the news of SOPHIE’s January 30 death, paying tribute to a creative and trans icon who changed the lives of many through her music and perspective.
After converging their talents on four respective one-offs in 2020 alone, the Italian-Haitian shot caller and Lylez are now showing that the serial nature of their collaborative history won’t be confined to the past year, and that’s very good news for listeners, to say the least. Blu’s opening number of the new calendar year, “Fall in Love with the Music” arrives hot on the heels of “Forever,” which provided the finale to his 2020 run. Not coincidentally, “Forever”—a future house rinse of Chris Brown‘s 2008 fan-favorite—also awarded vocal credits to Lylez.
Lylez’s vocal versatility has been unquestionably clear on past Blu releases, and his dynamism holds on “Fall in Love with the Music.” The single taps into a sultry, ZHU-reminiscent style of underground house that, despite its crepuscular tone, finds some of Blu’s signature buoyancy in its future house hook. Blu’s studio is blissfully open again for business in a year that holds the promise of it being his best yet—to no one’s surprise.
St. Louis native Xavi has delivered his first cut of the new year, “The Warmth Of Known,” which doubles as the second single from his forthcoming album, To The Endleess Searing Skies. Following the December 2020 release of the upcoming LP’s debut single, “Neverless,” “The Warmth Of Known” is one of Xavi’s most adventurous pieces to date. Contorting styles from across the board such as indie, future bass, melodic dubstep, and more, Xavi remains unshackled by the constraints of genre.
“The Warmth Of Known” is a synth-driven heavy hitter that cultivates an emotional energy akin to Porter Robinson‘s originals while still maintaining a euphoric and upbeat atmosphere. The experimental bass producer has not only mixed and mastered every track on To The Endless Searing Skies, but has also impressively lent his own vocals to the track as well.
Premiering via Seven Lions‘ Ophelia Records, the upcoming album will be the label’s second album release, following Jason Ross‘ highly acclaimed 1000 Faces.Listen to “The Warmth Of Known” below and stay tuned for more diverse outputs from Xavi soon.
Whethan‘s debut album, Fantasy, is a genre-bending spectacle that continues to linger through the airwaves here in 2021. After three years in the making, the 15-track project utilized an “underlying theme of alternative meets psychedelic dance music,” quoted by the Chicagoan himself, with features all across the spectrum including indie band Grouplove, frequent collaborator Oliver Tree, RL Grime, The Knocks, and more.
There’s a thread of amazing frequencies projected from the album, but now, Whethan has tapped now-solo actMidnight Kids for a remix of the LP’s lead single “Stay Forever” featuring synth-pop band STRFKR. The Kids elevate the album’s aforementioned theme, adding an explosive nature to the original’s distorted guitar riffs and steady bassline. STRFKR’s vocals are very much present in the rework, backed by harmonizing leads and pounding drum and bass.
Midnight Kids released their stunning debut EP, The Lost Youth, in May of last year, followed by a pair of remixes for Zedd and Winnetka Bowling League. On January 19, the celebrated duo announced via Instagram that Dylan Jagger Lee would no longer be a part of the project moving forward. The “Stay Forever” rework is the first material to come out of the Midnight Kids camp following the news of their split.
ARTY embraces everything that is characteristic of his style in the best way with his new output, “Take Your Time.” Strong and dynamic vocals blend with a progressive melody that envelopes the listener from the track’s first note. “Take your Time” is the producer’s first release of 2021, and if this year is indicative of the last, there will be a continuous stream of music to come from the artist.
ARTY explained the meaning behind the production in an official release, noting that although he wrote it before the COVID-19 shutdowns took over the world, he feels the message of the single resonates even louder now:
“‘Take Your Time’ is a very personal song about the right and wrong times in your life. It doesn’t always go the way you expect or want, but you need to be patient about things coming the way you manifest them, because eventually the time will be right. Although the song was written back in 2020 right before COVID started, I feel it hits the nail right on the head considering the times we live in now. I really hope that ‘Take Your Time’ will resonate with the listeners and make their day a little bit brighter, because we need to believe that the good days will come.”
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the (socially distanced) party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
Thomas Gold has had the consistency and in turn longevity in his career that many aspire to achieve. Born Frank Thomas Knebel-Janssen, the German DJ and Producer started releasing music in 2006 under his Thomas Gold alias. Like many producers with a career as long as his, he has experimented with his sound as the years have gone on. Originally known for Progressive House, Knebel-Janssen has produced everything from Big Room House to commercial crossover releases to Tech House under his side project AU-1. His output is as steady now as it has ever been, and he has frequented Nicky Romero’s Protocol Recordings throughout 2020 with no less than six releases put out on the label over 10 months.
As COVID-19 took over the globe and touring halted, Knebel-Janssen wasted no time assessing how to handle the shift in the industry. He took the challenges of the 2020 lockdowns in stride and got comfortable with two uncomfortable concepts: adaptation and flexibility. He spent his energy reshaping his role in the industry instead of ruminating on the loss of touring. He and many artists have acknowledged that there is a long road ahead when it comes to resuming live events in the capacity that artists and fans were used to pre-COVID. What is still unknown is whether there will be a change in consumer habits on the other side of the pandemic, so Knebel-Janssen ruminated on these different factors and pivoted. That is where “xxound” and Ten A Season were born.
Knebel-Janssen has made it his mission to equip up and coming musicians with the right tools and coaching to get to where they want to go. This mission is the foundation and inspiration behind both of his concepts, and it is what his time and energy is now devoted to in addition to producing music. He started with a familiar endeavor in the form of xxound, which is a digital music platform for music producers to get production software tools and coaching. The concept of experts coaching up and comers has become a trend within the electronic music industry. Armin van Buuren and Deadmau5 have taught production MasterClass’s, and many artists including industry heavyweights such as Martin Garrix, NGHTMRE, and SLANDER are bred from production schools like ICON Collective in Los Angeles and Herman Brood Academy in Utrecht. The services provided by xxound are far from unheard of, but the platform blends many different needs for those just starting out. As a result, it is already expanding into new territories.
Teaching did not stop with xxound for Knebel-Janssen. Documenting the journey of aspiring musicians is a show concept that has been executed repeatedly and successfully thanks to shows like American Idol and The X Factor, to name a few. A concept less explored, if at all, is documenting the journey of rising music producers. Ten A Season is a producer’s version of this musical journey, and the series will document 10 producers from around the world as they seek to perfect, and hopefully sign, their first hit track. Each producer will work on one project together with Knebel-Janssen and his team from the beginning (an idea or draft) until the final mastered production. They will do this through filmed weekly online coaching including track feedback, homework, and one on one coaching from Knebel-Janssen. In addition to focusing on the evolution of the track itself, the producers will discuss special topics and be trained on ‘the job’ of being a music producer.
As Knebel-Janssen puts it, “we will give our participants the ‘full picture.’ So we will also coach them on topics such as mastering their social media, how to handle a record deal, and how to manage relationships with labels and agencies.” The season will consist of weekly 25-minute long episodes which will be released on the show’s channels.
Knebel-Janssen is taking the next steps in his career with xxound and Ten A Season, but the show will still go on, metaphorically, for the producer and his own musical output. He shares, “I already have released a good amount of music during 2020, and I have worked on a ton of productions in the past months, so I will be releasing new music constantly in 2021. Some stuff you know me for, but also some rather unexpected things. There are also 2 huge collaborations: one with Quintino, another with Timmy Trumpet that are on their way as well…”
In order to get fans excited for what is to come, Knebel-Janssen has crafted a dynamic one-hour long Saturday Night Session mix that is ‘a bit of a journey through the Thomas Gold universe,’ as the producer puts it. Applications are now open for those looking to apply for Ten A Season, and fans can rest easy knowing that a plethora of Thomas Gold releases are in the pipeline in addition to the producer’s new ventures.
2020 took us all by surprise, and different people have responded in different ways to the slower pace of life and the lack of touring. How has it been for you?
As you said, it hit us by surprise…in the first weeks, I thought (and I guess many others did as well) that we would just have to wait a bit and then everything would get back to normal. But after a month or so, I realized that the situation due to Covid19 won’t be gone that quick. Of course I kept making and releasing (a lot of) music, but I still felt the need to do more than that – instead of just waiting. So I created and started two new businesses based around music production but with two completely different approaches…
What projects other than producing music have you been involved with and can you tell us about them?
One of my first ‘actions’ was to work on a new business concept which I had been thinking of a while before already, and now was the time to turn it into reality. So I founded ‘xxound’, a digital platform for music producers where you can get production software tools, coaching and general help for your music production. We had a great start, and we are currently expanding into new territories (we are working on a school-like online ‘academy’ concept for music producers).
As xxound was all set up and as it’s running smoothly with my team behind it, I wanted to take the next leap. So I launched TEN A SEASON (TAS) – a completely new concept for a producer ‘bootcamp’ turned into a TV show and – completely free for the participants. We started working on TAS in December and we are actually in the ‘Application Phase’ (where we cast 10 producers worldwide to be part of the show). And we are preparing everything for the actual show (start end of February).
We already got some really cool partners from the music industry on board (radio, festival, media, music production software and labels) who will support us with free coverage, software, interviews with A&R’s and much more.
TAS is something completely new, I have never created and produced a TV/YouTube format and it’s more than exciting to see it all grow!
Is nurturing up and coming talent something you are passionate about?
Absolutely! During my career and after having done a good amount of Masterclasses and tutorials, I can say that coaching and training people in small groups or even one-to-one is one of the best ways to get them to take their next leap. Since I started my label Fanfare Records, I have helped many of the relasing artists to get their demo productions to the final level, and they were always grateful, which made me happy as well. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with motivated producers, so why not make a business out of it? Which – in addition – makes me a bit more independent from shows and traveling!
What can the ten lucky producers expect to learn throughout TEN A SEASON in addition to mastering a song?
Each producer will work on one project together with us. From the beginning (an idea or draft) until the final mastered production. Each producer will receive separate weekly online coaching 1:1 sessions with me, get team feedback, and homework. We will discuss special topics, issues and train them on ‘the job.’
But it is more than that. We will give our participants the ‘full picture.’ So we will also coach them on topics such as ‘mastering your social media’, ‘how to handle a record deal’, and on relationships with labels and agencies etc.
During the 10 weeks of the ‘Season,’ the producer will get a 360 degree training on what it’s like to be a producer within the music industry nowadays. We will bring in people from the industry for group chats and meets, Q&A’s or just for industry-level feedback on the projects.
All of this will be filmed and edited into weekly 25 minute long episodes which will be released on our channels (website, Youtube). These episodes will show the story of the 10 producers with their ups and downs, what happened during the weeks, and some behind-the-scene infos. PLUS, we will make ALL full-length-coaching sessions accessible (for free!) to our viewers.
What is your hope for the first season of TEN A SEASON?
I hope that at the end of Season 1 we will have 10 amazing music productions, 10 happy producers who could make it on their own at the ‘next level,’ and that we will have an audience who learned a lot from the show as well!
There is a good chance that some of the producers will end up getting a record deal for their production as we are working closely with some renowned labels (e.g. talks with A&Rs from Revealed and Protocol).
We are already thinking of Season 2, so this would of course be the next step for me to take. I can’t wait to get the show started, and we already have loads of applications which we will start reviewing in the next few days.
When it comes to your own music, what can we expect from you in 2021?
I already have released a good amount of music during 2020, and I have worked on a ton of productions in the past months, so I will be releasing new music constantly in 2021. Some stuff you know me for, but also some rather unexpected things. There are also 2 huge collaborations: one with Quintino, another with Timmy Trumpet that are on their way as well…”
What kind of a Saturday Night is your Saturday Night Session getting listeners ready for?
You should get ready for a bit of a journey through the Thomas Gold sound universe – starting with some Big Room sound, transitioning into house and then tech house grooves…Enjoy!
SOPHIE, the groundbreaking British musician has died. According to a representative, the influential electronic and avant-garde producer experienced an accidental fall on Saturday morning in Athens, Greece.
In a joint statement, music labels Transgressive and Future Classic wrote,
“True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us.”
Although details on the incident are scarce, her representatives ask for respect and privacy for SOPHIE’s family given the sensitivity of the unfortunate news.
Beastie Boys’ Mike D is auctioning some of the band’s memorabilia for charity.
Beastie Boys founder Michael Louis Diamond, better known as Mike D, is currently auctioning memoribilia from the Grammy-winning American hip-hop group’s history via Sotheby’s.
The auction, which finishes tonight, lists over 10 lots of iconic items from the group’s history, which includes the RIAA 1987 Gold Sales Award presented to Michael Diamond for the Beastie Boys 1986 Columbia/Def Jam album ‘Licensed to Ill’, the MTV 1998-1999 Video Award (“VMA”) presented to Mike Diamond for the Beastie Boys 1998 promotional music video ‘Intergalactic’, and the RIAA Platinum sales award presented to Michael Diamond for the Beastie Boys 2004 album ‘To the Five Boroughs’.
Some of the lots, including the Gold Sales Award, have bids over $5,000, with the MTV award $2,000 above its asking price at $12,000. All the money raised via the auction will be donated to Good Eats, an organisation which provides free weekend meals to children experiencing food insecurity.
The festival had originally been scheduled for June
DJ Mag Staff
Friday, January 29, 2021 – 14:16
Awakenings Festival has been postponed until September 2021.
After being forced to cancel the last year’s edition of the event, Dutch festival Awakenings has postponed this year’s instalment, moving from its original dates in June to September 2021.
In a statement published to Facebook, Awakenings said: “Unfortunately, June 26 & 27 comes too soon, so we now aim for the second weekend of September. The COVID-19 pandemic is still not over, but things are starting to look a bit brighter.
“Just like you, we can’t wait to party together again. We have boldly taken the first step and are preparing for our first post-pandemic event for you, the DJs, the scene, and everybody else involved.
“We are very grateful for your support; almost everyone chose to keep their ticket last year. We hope to come up with an update as soon as possible.”
Awakenings is now scheduled for September 11th and 12th 2021, and you can read the full statement below.
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The visionary experimental pop artist died in the early hours of Saturday morning in Athens, SOPHIE’s team has confirmed in an official statement shared with DJ Mag. You can read the statement in full below.
“It is with profound sadness that I have to inform you that musician and producer SOPHIE passed away this morning around 4am in Athens, where the artist had been living, following a sudden accident. At this time respect and privacy for the family is our priority. We would also ask for respect for her fanbase, and to treat the private nature of this news with sensitivity.
“SOPHIE was a pioneer of a new sound, one of the most influential artists in the last decade. Not only for ingenious production and creativity but also for the message and visibility that was achieved. An icon of liberation.”
The Scottish producer, songwriter and DJ was known for groundbreaking, experimental takes on pop and underground electronic music, having risen to prominence early in the last decade with singles released on Glasgow’s Numbers label, ‘Bipp’ (2013) and ‘Lemonade’ (2014). These tracks would go on to appear in SOPHIE’s debut compilation release ‘Product’, in 2015.
An affiliate of the subversive, experimental multimedia label PC Music, SOPHIE co-produced QT’s scene-shaking ‘Hey QT’ with A.G Cook in 2014. SOPHIE’s collaborative spirit would lead studio sessions with some of the biggest names in pop, from frequent collaborations with Charli XCX to production credits on tracks by Madonna, Vince Staples, MØ, Kim Petras and others.
In 2018, SOPHIE released the Grammy nominated debut album ‘Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides’, which DJ Mag named as its best album of that year. Writing about the album in her DJ Mag cover interview with SOPHIE, writer Anna Cafolla described it as “a record that challenges the binaries of what pop and underground music is, of gender, and what both our bodies and sonics can do.”
The lead single and opening track of ‘Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides’, ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ was the first track to use SOPHIE’s fown vocals, and its release marked confirmation of SOPHIE’s existence as transgender.
In an interview with Paper magazine’s Pride issue in 2018, SOPHIE said: “Transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting against each other and struggling to survive. On this earth, it’s that you can get closer to how you feel your true essence is without the societal pressures of having to fulfill certain traditional roles based on gender.”
A visionary artist who altered the very fabric of pop and electronic music, SOPHIE’s influence on electronic music culture cannot be understated. Tributes have been paid across social media to the singular artist, who’s music touched and inspired so many.
Tributes have been paid across social media for SOPHIE, including from the Numbers label, who tweeted: “SOPHIE was a true inspiration, the World has lost an icon of liberation. We are devastated”.