Transcend – Synaethesia (OUT NOW!)
TCD is proud to present a new interview with one of Freeform’s finest producers and DJs: Transcend. If you haven’t heard of this man before, it’s time for you to indulge yourself into this wonderful world, which is mainly created by whatever Transcend makes. This producer has been responsible for many amazing tracks, alone or with fellow Freeform producers such as Arkitech, Douglas, and Lost Soul, to name just a few. A couple of weeks ago he released his first artist album, filled with 22 tracks (only a few copies left), and the album is what many Freeform fans were waiting for. Let’s talk to the legend, the man behind the legendary name Transcend…..
Transcend, how are you doing? How’s life?
” I’m doing great at the moment thanks. Existing mostly in the studio has gifted me a rather fetching little beer-belly, so life for me currently consists of alternating studio with heavy swim sessions.”
If there are people out there who do not have a clue who Transcend is and what he does, can you explain it to them what it is you do.…
“If you’ve not heard of me, it’s probably because I’m a promotional fool. I’ve never been comfortable shouting about myself, of course with this new album I have had to pull my finger out and promote it. As for what I do… I write music! I’ve been writing music since I was 11, it started with flowery piano ballads for the girls in my class. I discovered dance music aged around 16, and got into Hard House aged 19. I discovered freeform quite late… my initial EP on Nu Energy was written with a mere few months of Freeform experience.
Fast-forward to today and I’d like to think I’ve carved out a unique Freeform sound, formed around my deep love of Trance music.”
Let me make this perfectly clear to those who are looking for that movie with Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, you are clearly on the wrong page: you are looking for Transcendence. This has got nothing to do with that movie. The artist name was there years before the movie was released. Where does the name come from?
“Coming up with an artist name is one of the most difficult parts of the creative process… just when you think you’ve come up with ‘the one’, it’s off to Soundcloud to find that there’s already several people using that name. Transcend perfectly captures my ethos of continually rising above previous achievements, and it also shares a few letters with my favourite word ‘Trance’ which was a huge win for me (this is actually a huge lie, I have occasional access to a time machine and jumped forward in time purely to steal this movie title)!”
According to several websites you discovered Freeform back in 2010. But before 2010 you produced Hard House and Hard Dance music. Why did Freeform appeal to you, and why did you decided to produce Freeform music?
“This info is spot-on. I was actually a massive chav before discovering the unbridled joy and freedom of a HardHouse event, so I’ve always gravitated towards scenes which promote a sense of freedom and positivity. One of the things that really appeals to me about Freefom Is the fact that I can experiment in any way I like (within reason!) while writing it. Most genres are so well-defined that by their very nature it restricts what you can attempt musically. Not the case with Freeform!”
A late bloomer. You never listened to any of those UK Hardcore compilations with Sharkey and Kevin Energy playing Freeform on it (or Trancecore as it was known many years ago)?
“Unfortunately I was a very late bloomer when it came to Freeform. Back in 2008 a client was trying to get me to ‘learn Hardcore’, he leaned me his hard drive for a few days with 500+ Hardcore singles on it. Now, I don’t want to knock the awesome UKHC scene but I was most disappointed with a lot of the tracks, I like emotive music and a lot of it was more what I’d call ‘party music’, utilising the same chords, samples and melodies. I was just about to call it a day when I stumbled across a track by Cube::Hard. As the last beat hit and my jaw hit the floor, I immediately searched the drive for more tracks by this artist. Little did I know, this was Freeform! It’s now 2015 and I’m continually finding amazing old tracks that I’d never heard before. Lucky me ”
I could be wrong, oh so wrong, but looking at your Discogs page, you released your first Freeform track back in 2010. How did people react to this new face in the Freeform world, was the track well received?
“If my memory serves me correctly, then 2010 was indeed the year I wrote and released my first Freeform efforts. I was also writing as part of a group you may have heard of… called ‘Endemic’ 😉 we won a competition and secured a vinyl release, this was the beginning of our NEC journey. I was writing more Freeform than we needed so sent some to Kev to see if he would be interested in signing me as a solo artist… and Transcend was born! Initial reactions were positive and I’m pleased as punched to have so many fans who love my music in the here and now.”
Who influenced you during the first couple of years?
“Of course, I listened to a lot of music from the NEC label head honcho Kev Energy in order to work out what the label was all about. A huge influence on my sound has and will always be the oldschool Lab 4 sound, I love the twisted yet melodic nature of their older music. As mentioned above, Cube::Hard was also a big influence, it’s always hard to choose a favourite but I think he might be my favourite Freeform producer, certainly has written some amazing emotive tracks.”
Obviously in 5 years things can change, and sounds too. Looking back at your first release, are you still pleased with it? Was it the start of a path towards your first artist album, or was it still a moment which you were discovering what you were capable of, and how far you could go (producing wise)?
“Oh dear, the first releases… whilst I love the ideas and musicality (Technohead I still think is a really unique track), I think my mixdowns and technique have come a long way in 5 years. That’s a continual thing though when you’re dedicated to your production, there’s never a day goes by that you’re not either testing out new ideas or pondering them. My production in 5 years from today will make my current stuff sound similarly dated, I hope! The intention for the album kinda materialised out of nowhere, and for a while was simply a good intention as I kept signing tracks to labels. Luckily Alex (A.B) gave me the motivation, tools and support to make the album a reality or I don’t think it would have ever gotten off the ground… so you can thank Alex for the album as much as me (or throw stones at him if you somehow happened to hate it).”
In 2012 you were already a household name in the Freeform world. What were your goals back in those days?
“With one exception, my goals back then are the same as they are now… to write amazing, quality music where each track has at least one part of it that does something different. It’s so much more difficult today to be unique as there’s so many people putting out quality music, but the opportunities to do something different are always there if you look deep enough. The exception? I used to actively try to write every genre. Now I focus on Trance, Freeform and occasionally dabble in other styles. I still listen to every possible genre of music! But it’s better from a promotional standpoint to have two or three aliases to keep up with, than trying to do 10–15. Hey, maybe I’m not such a promotional fool after all!”
Your productions are emotive, energetic and beautiful (according to HBC’s website). And that’s a spot on description of your productions. What’s the secret behind a Transcend track? How can you make each and every track a success?
“Those three adjectives from the HBC are definitely the ideas I have in mind when I write a track. I really like juxtaposing light elements with darkness, although I have written the occasional songs that are either pure blissed-out-ness or 7m:47s of evil filth. Also, I have been known to put an amazing extended recording of a chicken clucking at the very end of a track which always goes down well on the dancefloor.”
You have released tracks on Nu Energy, Relentless Digital, Stamina Records and Watchtower Records. If we had to describe Transcend by playing one of your track prior to your album release, to describe his style, which track is Transcend at his best? Which track is basically Transcend from start to finish?
“Aaarrrrghhh… that’s such a difficult question. Maybe ‘Magnificent Light’ from the album. Really chopping between styles and ideas, feeling like you’ve been inexplicably teleported from the dancefloor of Freeformation into a grimy DnB moshpit and back again before you know it.”
Working as a Freeform producer can lead up to wonderful collaborations, and over the years you have worked with Douglas, Greg Peaks, Midas, Dyzphazia, Arkitech and more. Is there anyone you want to work with, you haven’t worked with so far?
“That’s a great question… I get asked quite often if I want to collab online on a track, but for me I love writing music ‘in the now’, it’s hard to explain. It’s a different sort of magic having some people working together in the same room, as opposed to sending files back and forth eventually building a track, which is possible of course. Maybe I’m a bit weird / old-fashioned that way? I’d love to write with some of the Finnish guys, Janne (Substanced) and Harri (Proteus) immediately spring to mind!”
What’s your studio set up?
“It’s modest but powerful. I’m a huge fan of the Yamaha HS8 monitor speakers, they’re not exactly cheap but not exactly expensive either, and sound incredibly flat with exceptional low / high range. That’s coupled to a Native Instruments audio interface which has very low-noise and clean inputs and outputs. I use a novation Launchkey 61 as midi controller (highly recommend), and I’m running a modern AMD quadcore / 8gb ram PC, with a UAD card installed. The UAD card is pricey, the software for it is even pricier, but my word it does AMAZING things to audio. I’d definitely credit the UAD plugins I’ve bought over the years for the increase in my sound quality. I use Cubase 8 Pro as my main DAW.”
The album ‘Synaesthesia’ was released this year, only a couple of weeks ago, and already the albums are flying out of Stamina Records’ headquarter. Only a handful of copies left. Why did you feel the need to release an artist album?
“I was really surprised how quickly the copies have gone, I guess the CD isn’t quite dead yet! As for why I felt the need to release an artist album, I could give you a trite response about how it’s an esoteric project designed to evoke deep questioning about the nature of reality, but the actual reality is… I have created a load of music, which people enjoy enough to kindly reward my creative efforts with financial recompense. I’m so glad it’s happened as believe it or not, before selling hundreds of copies of an album composed purely of my music, I was beginning to doubt whether writing music was what I should be doing.”
Stamina Records decided to release your album via their label, and it has become an instant success. What’s the album about, and why should we all purchase it (before it’s sold out)?
“Hmmm, I’d say the album is about Freeform! Each track is a story in its own right, but I wanted each CDs’ tracks to reflect either a mythology or technology concept kinda vibe. You should buy it because it looks amazing, feels amazing, sounds amazing, and both CDs come with a FREE hole in the middle. Seriously though I think there’s a lot of music on here for DJs and home listeners alike.”
Why did you choose Stamina Records, or did they choose you?
“Definitely a combo of the two… the idea was meandering away, tracks dusty and forgotten on the virtual shelves of my hard drive, when Alex asked if I still wanted to do one. Then I decided, YES lets do this, finally pulled my proverbial finger out, and over the course of several months of applying everything I knew now to so many tracks, Alex and I put it all together.”
No collaborations with any artists, it’s just you on the album. Why no collaborations?
“There were actually supposed to be a few remixes and collabs on there, but one by one they all got nixed due to licensing issues, to the point we just said, sod it, lets make it a pure artist album. I think Communion was one of the tracks I wrote to replace a removed remix!”
The album reviews are all well, people seem to appreciate it a lot! Sadly there aren’t a lot of Freeform artist albums out there, and when one is released, people go mad, literally. How do you feel when you read all those positive reviews?
“I’ve had a few people tag me in their comments about the album, it’s always lovely to hear people appreciate your music. It certainly gives me much more confidence going forward that I can let it all hang out when going for new ideas and really push the boundaries.”
With the extra income from the album sales you must be able to purchase a brand new car, a new house, or maybe a swimming pool in your garden. What does a Freeform producer do with the money earned?
“haha. While it’s true I will make a decent little sum of money from my share of the sales from the album, I’m planning to re-invest it into getting a laptop & LaunchPad so I can start doing live P.As. If it was legal or affordable I’d love to get a pair of macaques and train them to butler. I think the live P.A rig is probably a wiser investment though.”
Which track on your own album gives you the most goosebumps? Yes, I know this question is quite egocentric, but if you have to pick one, which one would it be?
“Definitely Eons. I love the riff and love the vocal sample, the combo work so well!”
If anyone wants to see Transcend perform and play tracks from his album, where can they see you?
“I don’t don’t play out too often. I think realistically, unless I’m on at a future (still to be undecided) ILHB roster, I’ll next be out performing once I’ve bought & mastered the new live P.A rig.”
Any future plans you want to share with us? A new album maybe?
“Currently I have no plans beyond making music I love, and having fun doing so. That’s the important factor I think over the long-term when writing music!”
You’ve started making Freeform 5 years ago, after producing Hard House/Hard Dance. Will you be making a change in music anytime soon, or will you continue making Freeform?
“I really can’t see me ever stopping doing something I love. Can you imagine yourself never masturbating again ever? Can I imagine myself never writing freeform again? Can I imagine yourself masturbating? Ok this has gone wrong.”
Random question: if you had to compare yourself with a vegetable, which vegetable is Transcend?
“This is a very tricky question, I’d like to think of myself as a continually evolving uberveg that say, starts off as a potato, then morphs into a turnip, which sprouts into 50 carrots, which then all assemble to form an Orange Cucumberzord”
Here’s the ‘thank you’ section, you can thank everyone…… and make sure you don’t forget anyone.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alex for getting the album going, everyone who listens, dances to and buys my music, my family for supporting me through tough times, my friends for being friends with a musical oddball, and Martin for providing a welcome distraction from going to the swimming pool and smashing out front-crawl lengths in the form of an awesome interview”
Transcend – Synaethesia (OUT NOW)
If you haven’t purchased the album yet, make sure you head over to Stamina Records’ website, there are literally just a handful left (+/- 30 copies left!). Also make sure you check out this man on the world wide web, and whilst browsing, why not listen to clips of his artist album ‘Synaethesia’.
Thank you for this very interesting interview, mr Transcend. Now I haven’t got much time to talk much more, I’ve got to order the album. Check him out on these pages: