After his latest Tech House / Deep Tech release ‘Resist You’, which gained praise and support from artists like Groove Armada, Green Velvet, Kolsch and Claptone, Soul Alt Delete returns with the dark and brooding Bilbao EP.
A mixture of rough synth sequences, glittery leads and heavy thumping kicks to lead the way, Bilbao is set to be another success to add to the rising star’s portfolio.
Inspired by the music of events such as Resistance, Cocoon and Awakenings, Soul Alt Delete has combined the dark atmospheric techno sounds that control the room at these headline events, with the artistic, bizarre nature of the city the EP is named after. The artist was inspired to write these tracks upon his visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, particularly the unsettling nature of the Jennny Holzer’s ‘Thing Indescribable’ exhibition, alongside the intimidating ghostly spider shell of Louise Bourgeois ‘Maman’ that stands prominently in front of the contemporary art museum.
Soul Alt Delete’s Bilbao EP out on Only Ambition is set to intrigue the listener with its dark and imposing arrangement, the same way the Guggenheim influenced him upon his visit.
On top of premiering the title-track from the EP, we had a chat with Soul Alt Delete to talk about his roots, the release itself and his plans for 2020:
Soul Alt Delete, for anyone out there who is yet to hear your music, how would you best describe it?
I would describe my music as a mixture of traditional low end heavy four-four techno with a Balearic twang. I’ve always preferred traditional consistent kick drum patterns as it really carries the energy and gives my music the consistency I’d like to hear if I were a clubber hearing it.
Alongside that as a foundation I like the minimal percussive and synth rhythms. I’m a big believer in less being more as far as techno and tech-house of music goes, it really creates a very hypnotic and enveloping feel in a live atmosphere.
For someone yet to hear my music I would say expect thumping kicks combined with subtle elements. Perfect for high quality sound systems that capture the low end, which gives my music its energy.
How did the Soul Alt Delete name come about?
Yeah, it’s interesting actually I’m sure a lot of people are intrigued to know the answer to this. I think the first thing to note is that in computer functions, Ctrl+Alt+Delete is the combination of buttons to press when locking the computer screen. I judge that fans and listeners so far are under the impression that my name points to me suggesting I have no soul, when really, I’d say the message is that it’s there, but locked away.
I grew up in a very tough area and had a difficult time as a child at school especially. I think my name comes from the fact that growing up in this area and being a man, I had to act in a socially accepted way: tough, fearless, scary. I’ve always felt that a part of me, the human and emotional part, never got the chance or nurturing to really develop. I feel now that I’m definitely becoming more comfortable with what it means to be human, but certainly growing up where and how I has had a lasting impression on what I am and gives real meaning to my artist name: Soul Alt Delete.
Who are your biggest influences? What Is it about them that shapes your sound?
Wow, there are so many. I’d have to address this question chronologically from when I first got into dance music versus what has really shaped my sound into its more mature state that is has entered over the past 2-3 years.
Certainly, as an early teenager, one of the standout artists that captured my imagination and attention was Deadmau5. I recall on my iTunes that his track Strobe had somewhere close to 7500 plays recorded. Which I look back now as borderline craziness. But there was something very impressive about the uplifting drop after the massive and atmospheric build-up. After I’d listened to this track for the first couple of thousand times I wanted to learn how to DJ. So, at age 13 I began. But for this, I would need to build up a collection, which is where the focus of my mid-teens began, and I’d say which is when my knowledge and understanding of dance music truly began.
In my mid-teens, the artists that were filling my catalogue were those such as Eric Prydz / Pryda, Benny Benassi, David Guetta, Mark Knight, Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Chicane, Yomanda, Energy 52 and Redlight. At this point I was really immersed in the sound of House music and enjoying the rhythm it was made in. As I moved into my late teens I was discovering artists and labels such as Glasgow Underground, Toolroom, Chus & Ceballos, Rafa Barrios and Adam Beyer. I was beginning to move into the more hypnotic and club-ready tech-house sound that I think helped shape my modern sound a lot. There was something about the consistent drumbeat that really captured my attention and was something I wanted to pursue as far as creating it went. But it wouldn’t be until I was 17 I began making my own music.
In my late teens moving into my early twenties I’d blown the lid off the dark Balearic sound characterised so well by those such as Nicole Moudaber (whose set at Music is Revolution, Space, in 2014 I’ve watched almost daily since I found it when I was 18), Nic Fanciulli, and Sven Vath. I think this part of my life musically was where I began to understand and appreciate the beauty of minimalism in dark tech-house and techno tracks.
In the last 2-3 years, I’d have to say the biggest influences on my style has been the German and Berlin representatives. Particularly Chris Liebing, Pan-Pot, Paula Temple, Rodhad, Ben Klock, Boris Brejcha, and Oliver Huntemann. My favourite outlet on YouTube is definitely Awakenings and Time Warp, where performances are built around the big room Techno sound. All of which are high bpm and have such amazing energy that it’s hard to listen to and not dance!
I hope this brief summary has given you an idea of where my music is currently and why it sounds the way it does.
You’re set to release your Bilbao EP, of which we have premiered today. What did you set out to achieve with this release and do you feel you succeeded?
I’ve always been a big fan and follower of modern art, particularly that of surrealism and abstract style, which I really like to relay in my work. When I’m putting together any piece of music it has to reflect some part of life and existence. As for this particular release, the city of Bilbao did most of the work for me with its abundance of inspirational quirks and ways. I guess the most sensible point to start when explaining what I set out to achieve, or more importantly, how I arrived at the idea of what I wanted from the project, would be to explore what drove me to travel to Bilbao in the first place.
During my travels around the world to various art museums, I found myself in the Guggenheim in New York. I’d been curious to see the Guggenheim’s New York branch due to its bizarre and outlandish exterior. It has to be said the interior was no less audaciously crafted than the exterior, which I think really added to the environment in which art should be viewed. After experiencing the exhibition on Chinese art following Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, I was really drawn into the mission and style that the Guggenheim group projects.
Following New York’s brush with the Guggenheim franchise, I then researched the groups’ locations around the world, and where I would go next. To my amazement, there was one in Bilbao, a short flight from London. Discovering this I booked my plane ticket and hotel and off I went to explore the incredibly unique and artistic city. I’ve been to Spain many times, particularly Madrid (where I spent many days in the Reina Sofia Museum), as well as Barcelona and Toledo. There seems to be something about Spanish culture that makes the art so much more exciting and forward-thinking than anywhere else. Although these other Spanish cities were as unique as they were culturally dense, none of them had the surreal mix of historical depth and bold futurism that I experienced in Bilbao.
When one enters Bilbao from the airport, it is inevitable to go over a massive, metal bridge that connects the main city to the surrounding cliffs of Basque country. This bridge almost goes directly over the top of Guggenheim, so you have little choice but sit in awe in your taxi at the giant metal structure as you descend into the city. As if the council that commissioned the bridge really wanted to drive home the fact you were entering an area of the world that took art, especially modern art very seriously.
During my fourth day in the city, I finally embarked toward the very reason I came to this magical city, the Guggenheim. After the traditional Basque breakfast of ‘pintxos’ and coffee, I had every day in one of the city’s main squares, I headed from my apartment in the Old Town of Bilbao, toward its industrial outskirts. As I arrived at the museum I came from the riverfront where Louise Bourgeois’ infamous ‘Maman’ stood. I’d seen this once before in New York but was now seeing it perched famously at its home in Northern Spain.
Anyone that has seen Maman in person is aware of how intimidating and surreal the 30+ foot statue is. I knew from being met by this strange figure outside the already bizarre-looking structure of the Guggenheim, this was going to be a very interesting and inspiring visit. I was lucky that the main exhibition that was there at that time was Jenny Holzer’s ‘Thing Indescribable’, a fast-rising star in the abstract art scene. Whose work seems to focus on war crimes, death and mind-blowing light sequences and displays. I’d seen a smaller guest exhibition of her’s at the Tate Modern roughly a month before going, which focused on the Iraq war. The underlying theme of her Bilbao work really focused on recurring nightmarish thoughts, which really gave me an idea on what to title my second track of the EP, ‘I Dream of You’. The meaning of this at face value being dreaming of a lover, but I also wanted ‘You’ to suggest something not human, instead of the personified form of a nightmarish, violent memory.
Overall, I think the EP was a triumph as far as finding myself a new distinct sound that really combines the deep, Ibiza-style tech rhythm and sound I build my music round, with the bold, thought-provoking spirit of Jenny’s exhibition, the Guggenheim and the city of Bilbao as a whole.
How did the relationship with the label come about?
It’s a very funny story actually, one of the label owners is someone that used to go to the same secondary school as me. Although we didn’t speak much at school he listened to my first release, Hologram when it came out and messaged me saying he really liked it. I think we then began talking and he invited me to come and watch his band play live in Soho I recall. So, when I was down there at the venue I was chatting to him when he introduced me to his business partner and other label owner.
The other label owner and I got on very well and are similar in many ways. So, he and I began speaking and I would send him tracks to get his opinion, all of which he really liked. At this point he then mentioned he would like to release some of my music and also act as my manager. As a manager it it’s really cool to have someone as reliable and hard-working as him on board to help with wading through the paperwork and less sexy side of making and selling music, alongside keeping me headed in the right direction.
Although I’ve now got a handful of other larger labels interested in signing my work, I can’t thank the guys at Only Ambition enough for their belief and financial assistance in helping my music to really begin to take flight. For that I will always be grateful, on top of that, I also plan to keep one of the label head’s as my manager for the distant future. I’m the talent and he’s very much the brains (laughs).
You seem to be quite fluid with the genres you produce, what is your favourite style of music to make?
Yeah, what I make changes drastically depending what day it is. Although it is all within the realms of tech-house and techno, the speed of the music and the atmosphere can really differ. So recently I’ve finished 2 remixes for labels I can’t mention, that are between 124-126bpm. Really deep-tech, almost entering deep house territory, alongside that I’ve also finished some original productions for a label that are very industrial techno that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Len Faki set at Berghain. I think as far as my favourite genre there are two main styles that really get my blood pumping and that is the 130+ European industrial techno, and the sexy slowed down modern Balearic deep-tech sounds as events like Resistance.
When in the studio, do you aim to produce a 130bpm techno track over tech house, or do you take it as it comes?
I think this is a good question as it really looks to explore the creative process of a multi-style artist. What I can say is that whatever I sit down to make, reflects the type of music I have been listening to in the days or weeks prior. I’ll go through phases of listening to particular genres relentlessly and have massive drive to make tracks in that style. So, for the last 3 weeks or so I’ve been listening to 136bpm+ trance-techno, especially classic Ibiza cuts and sets. Which has inspired me to write my next album titled ‘Soul Alt Delete Goes Large’, named after the film Kevin and Perry Go Large, which for many is the summative Ibiza party film. The album is going to be a selection of Balearic 135+ bpm trance-techno original pieces by myself.
I think the link between sexual experiences and art produced seems to be overlooked or taboo when talking about what drives an artist’s sound. I think the style of music I write really is a product of sexual encounters I have and how they shape my mood and mind, it operates in cycles. So, although some days I want to write some industrial and faster techno, I will eventually get bored and move it to a slower, deeper and overall sexier sound and style. I think slower and deeper grooves are far more me, but hey, sometimes it’s fun to speed it up and get a little rawer.
What is your set up like, are you more software focussed? What would you say is your most defining plugin?
I’m a big believer in software over machines, I’m sure the purists are reeling in horror as their eyes scan over that sequence of words. But I have to say having used a Moog Sub37 for the first time last year, I was incredibly underwhelmed. I’d heard so much about the synthesizer’s immense bass capabilities, only to be sadly let down when I got into the studio to create a bassline for a track. After that I decided rather than give Moog the £1500 they were asking for, I’d invest in some other instrument plugins instead.
I wouldn’t even like to begin thinking about how much I’ve invested in software instruments and effects over the last 5 years, I think I’d probably have to lie down for a while if I got an accurate figure. But, if I had to pick some standout pieces I use regularly, I couldn’t go any further without mentioning the Rob Papen Go2. Which ironically is one of the cheaper instruments I use when creating the unique sounds of my tracks.
I think the art of creating a truly big sound in your tracks really is down to modulation over instrument. Similar to what you’re told about abs and gym, and how diet is the essential element of the fitness mixture. The instrument is important, but without the correct modulation you’ll never have a great sound. Therefore, although I won’t reveal which particular modulation software I use, I will say that my favourites, and those that really add character to my tracks all come from Waves Audio.
2019 is very nearly over, what would you say have been your biggest Soul Alt Delete achievements?
It has been a very strange year with crushing lows and euphoric highs. The year began with me breaking up with a long-term girlfriend in order to pursue music due to the demands of this type of work. For months it all seemed like I had truly blundered until my first release with Only Ambition came out. During the press campaign, I felt growingly dizzy when my press agent informed me that he’d had outstanding reviews from senior representatives of Beats by Dre’s music department. As well as from scene heavyweights like Danny Tenaglia, Groove Armada, Green Velvet, Kolsch and Claptone.
So, I think as an achievement it was made so much more emphatic by the huge risk I took breaking up with someone to allow more time to perfect my sound and be able to create a quality of music to this degree.
What are next year’s goals?
I think now I’ve really captured people’s attention with my music. When I began my career into becoming an Ibiza household name and touring DJ I knew there were two options:
The first was play as many live shows as possible, as small as they were, take as much coke as it took to keep up with the relentless socialising and ass-kissing to progress, and occasionally put out some purely sample-based tech-house tracks with minimal musical impact beyond being something to show promoters. This is viewed by many looking to become DJ’s (whatever that even means anymore) as the quickest and easiest way to achieve your goals. But for me it was never an option. I’m never one to give respect and applause where it’s not due, if your ass hasn’t the back catalogue or integrity to kiss, I ain’t kissing it.
Which leads me onto the way I chose to progress into live shows. The lengthier, more difficult, but overall more foundationally strong of the two ways to do it. Spend hours in the studio creating your own sound and sticking to it despite it not fitting in with what is currently the ‘hot’ sound (downloading a handful of Latmun sample packs and rearranging into something you can loosely call your own). Alongside this, attend conferences and live events build your network in the real world, not just simply have ‘fans’ or ‘followers’ in the digital sphere. I have had my first show scheduled for next February in Brighton at one of the biggest venues in the city, and with several more being spoken about currently. I think that as a producer it’s far more difficult to get shows than those who describe themselves as DJ’s, but once you start really finding your own sound and having confidence in what you make, others will really start to feel that energy. And will give you far more marketability as a brand.
In relation to next year’s goals, I feel I’ve now spent enough time creating a distinct sound in the dark depths of my studio, I can really begin to push on with live appearances where they present themselves.
Can we expect to see more Soul Alt Delete music too?
Certainly, the opening 4-5 months of 2020 are to be very busy in my release schedule. I think I have at least 3 releases coming out in that time period, all of which are the deep-tech and techno sound listeners can begin to expect from me. I’ve also plenty of unsigned work I think will begin to see larger labels sniff at as my profile expands from these coming releases. So, for now I’m staying healthy, hydrated and getting enough sleep so I can continue to write this music for you all.