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The Balance Mix Interview with Progressive Astronaut

Ah4ead of the release of their Balance Mix Compilation album, Dave Seaman & Quivver sat down with the Progressive Astronaut crew to chat all things Balance and much more besides. Read it all here >

Hello Guys, thanks for joining us. How are you doing today and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Dave: Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel For You’. Was literally just on the radio as I got out of the car. Brought back some memories of my breakdancing days in 1985.

John: I listen to a lot of rock and hip hop when I’m on my way to and from the gym. Soundgarden – Fell on Black Days, was the last thing I listened to this morning as I drove home.

Tell us something interesting about your day today?

Dave: I’ve just been traveling home from Mexico so nothing too exciting to report. Although I did just finish Guy Ritchie’s latest Netflix series ‘The Gentlemen’ on the plane which was a highly enjoyable gangster romp.

John: Well most of it will be taken up answering these questions because I’m so crap at typing – hopefully some of it will be interesting though.

Looking back on 2023 what gigs of yours have stood out and why?

Dave: I really enjoyed my trips to Argentina, Mexico & Australia. They’ve always been three countries that have been very good to me. And Ibiza was lots of fun always too. And of course Glastonbury never fails.

John: I did a couple of Sudbeat label parties in Argentina last July which were amazing! I love playing (as most DJ’s do) in Argentina. Both shows were in big venues and both were sold out. The Argentines seem to be natural born party people, they will dance for as long as the venue stays open, which is usually 6 or 8 am.

What’s a piece of music (not your own) from 2023 that had the biggest impact on you, and what makes it outstanding for you?

Dave: The last piece of music that really resonated was Pregoblin’s ‘Nobody Likes Me’. I can tell when something really hits home as I have to play it on repeat non-stop all day. And this was one such song. Lyrically poignant, musically really multi-layered and clever but still uncomplicated and unpretentious. The video, the artwork. It had the whole package. So well presented from top to bottom.

John: This is a really tough one.. and I’m gonna have to mention two tracks (I’m sticking with music from my DJ sets for the purposes of this interview). .. Tal Fussman – Persona was a standout for me because it was so unique. The drums, the vocal sample, the attitude, it was just different to everything else out there. But I think the track that had the biggest impact on me was Joseph Ray – Give me a Reason. I’m a huge fan of his sound. I’ve always had a thing about the best tracks having a combination of darkness and light, and Give Me A Reason captures that perfectly. It’s a year old now and I’ve played it so many times but it still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not traveling, what does a day in your life look like?

Dave: If I’m at home and not on tour or in the studio, I’ll get back after the school run and/or a swim and get stuck into my lists. I’m a big list maker. I can make lists of lists! A lot of daily stuff will be Selador related. There is so much to do running the label these days. It’s never-ending. There’s just not enough hours in the day. I’ll also try to listen to as much new music as I can but to be honest, I’m finding that harder and harder these days. Which is crazy as first and foremost I’m supposed to be a DJ! Social media content creation and management has now become as big a part of the job as the music unfortunately. The beast needs feeding constantly. We really have become slaves to the algorithm!

John: I usually go to the gym in the morning, unless I’ve got a lot to do. It’s a mental as well as a physical thing for me and puts me in a positive frame of mind for the day. Then I’ll come home and switch the studio on, check emails etc. and crack on with whatever I’m working on. If possible I like to start new tracks in the morning while my head is fresh, so even when I’ve got other tracks which need work, I’ll often have a go at something new for an hour to see if anything particularly special happens. If not I’ll get back to the other stuff that needs finishing. So I’m always juggling a lot of different projects – as well as trying to keep up with socials, listen to promos etc. I’d like to be more organised but it’s just the way it always seems to go.

Congratulations on being chosen to compile the next Balance compilation. A first time for you both. How does it feel to be chosen for such an iconic series? And tell us how this opportunity came about to work on this as a duo?

Dave: It was something we’d discussed the possibility of a few years ago before Covid hit. Then of course the pandemic put everything on hold which although initially disappointing, actually probably worked in our favour as it gave John & I time work together on lots of original music before making the album. Spending that time together has allowed us to really find out what makes each other tick and form a stronger bond that I think comes through in the mixes.

It’s a series which has hosted a who’s who of electronic music, from Guy J, Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren to Tim Green, Henry Saiz and Danny Tenaglia, amongst many others. What has been your favourite Balance Mix compilation to date?

Dave: So many amazing artists have graced the series it’s hard to pick just one but if pressed, my all-time favourite would have to be Phil K’s. God rest his soul. A genius DJ who is sorely missed.

John: Joris Voorn’s was definitely a favourite from a few years back. He did such a great job of that mix, soooo fucking cool and groovy. Still sounds current 15 years on!

Every track is an important piece in the journey of a DJ set, so I’m curious how you guys went about piecing it all together for a project like your Balance mix. What do the early stages of prep look like for a project like this? The reaching out and collecting of tracks to consider must be a pretty daunting task?

Dave: Yes, it’s a really long process making a compilation like this. Just sourcing the music takes a few months. We contacted as many producer friends as possible to ask if they’d be interested in being a part of the project and then waded through everything that was submitted and then kept repeating the process until we had enough tracks we were happy with. Some things take longer than others to license such as the Underworld remix. There’s a lot more red tape on things like that but we just had to keep chipping away until we were happy with the pool of tracks from which to start the mix. WE needed to make sure the ingredients were the best we could possibly source before we even turned the oven on!

John: Yeah, Daves BVs happened as the track was almost finished. We were working on the the breakdown section and Dave started humming these really high notes. I don’t think he intended to record them himself but they were so high I was like ‘I’m gonna struggle with that mate, d’you wanna have a go at it?’
The mic was set up so we recorded them and they worked perfectly!

There’s a really nice cohesive blend of your own productions, collaborations, and exclusive material from other artists as well. And it should also be stated that every single track on both disks are exclusive to this project. Did you go as far as asking artists to make tracks specifically for this compilation? And to expand on that even further, to fit into a certain place in the mix? What did this process look like in practice?

Dave: We asked producers to make tracks specifically for the album yes, but we didn’t ask them to make tracks in a certain style no. But as all the pieces of the jigsaw started to show themselves we could tell where there may be some areas that needed filling and so set about doing that ourselves which is where ‘The Water’s Edge’ & ‘Fever’ came from on CD1 and ‘Operation Magpie’ on CD2. We also created intro pieces for both mixes too.

Let’s look closer at your own collaborations in the mix, of which there are a whopping five, firstly the lead single ‘Make This Disappear’ which features John on vocals, but in a career first Dave has supplied some backing vocals to the track as well. Tell us about the production process on this track and how Dave ended up contributing vocals as well, was this something you just kind of jammed against a playback of the track which worked or was it something planned from the outset?

Dave: Ha! Well, John is a seasoned pro behind the mic so I’m under no pretensions! It will probably be my first and only time on BVs. It was just a simple case of me wailing a BV idea as we were making the track and as John couldn’t get up high enough to reach that register, I selflessly offered my services. Hahaha With a large slice of help from Autotune it must be said!

There is also ‘Operation Magpie’ and ‘Mushroom Embargo’, the latter of which we were thrilled to host the premiere for. Tell us about the significance of the track titles, surely there are some stories behind those?

John: Yeah I find track titles can be so difficult to come up with, especially when there’s no lyrics, and Dave always manages to come up with these random and interesting titles.

Dave: As the title suggests, ‘Operation Magpie’ was cobbled together from lots of bits of other tracks we’d previously made. Sample culture in full effect. Be interested to see if all the trainspotters out there can identify which bits and from where?

There are five total collaborations from yourselves across both disks, which one has gotten the most play in your own gigs?

Dave’: Mushroom Embargo’ is probably the one I’ve played the most so far. It was one of the first tracks we finished though so I’ve had a lot more opportunities to do so.

John: Yeah, Mushroom embargo for me too. Closely followed by Make This Disappear.

Now taking a look at the rest of the album (excluding all your own collabs or solo productions) let’s ask the same question, which track has gotten the most play at your gigs and why?

Dave: Probably the Kasey Taylor & Jamie Stevens tacks ‘Verlaine’ for me. Been hammering that. It’s got early James Holden vibes for me. Love it!

John: Ben Archbold ‘Psychedelic Halo’ Psychedelic halo. I love the sound of this track. Great bassline & chord changes. It’s got a really uplifting vibe and it’s from one of the not so well known names on the album.

Tell us a bit about your remix of Underworld’s ‘Low Burn’ Dave, as we know this has been a highly sought after production for some time. First off, why have we had to wait so long for it to finally be available? And now that fans will finally be able to not only own a full digital version but also a vinyl copy as well, how has the response been?

Dave: It was a remix I did for them with Jay Gilbert back in 2016 which was supposed to get an official release on the 4th single release from the ‘Barbara Barbara’ album but in the end, they decided not go with ‘Low Burn’ as a single and so it got shelved. This project just seemed like a good opportunity to finally let it see the light of day and after Tim Green’s wonderful update of ‘Two Months Off’ that he did especially for his recent Balance compilation, there was a precedent from the Underworld camp of allowing such a license. It still took some time to get it over the line but I’m very happy we got there in the end. Still really proud of it.

Looking closer at the end of the second disc, I feel like it’s always nice to try and create an end of the night style atmosphere or feeling to close out an expansive mix like the size of this project. The string of tracks from Dave’s Underworld remix, into ‘Verlaine’ by Aussie legends Jamie Stevens and Kasey Taylor and then finally Chicola’s ‘Dust Coins’ and Ron Flatter’s ‘Ovid’ achieves this very well in my opinion. Was this something you tried to achieve? And how much trial and error goes into programming a section like this?

Dave: Yeah, I agree. It’s important for the story to have an ending and I hope we achieved something of a climatic conclusion with that sequence. That all came together quite late on actually when Kasey send us ‘Verlaine’ as a last minute submission. Originally, ‘Dust Coins’ had been on CD1 but we weren’t completely sold on how it worked in the overall flow so when Verlaine came in and we realised it mixed so well with ‘Dust Coins’ and then into ‘Ovid’, it addressed 3 issues in one fell swoop. It’s so pleasing when something like that happens but believe us, it doesn’t happen often enough!

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive DJ Mix albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing the project as well?

Dave: Unfortunately, I don’t think they don’t carry the same weight as they did back in their millennium heyday but I do still think there’s a certain prestige and distinction to a a physical format release, especially one on such a renowned series as Balance. Online DJ mixes are so two-a-penny these days and with that comes an inevitable disposability, whereas with a proper album release like this, there’s so much more time and care and attention to detail put in, that it’s built to last. Hopefully anyway. That’s the aim.

There is also an impending tour to support the release of the album, which kicked off recently in London and Glasgow respectively, where might the rest of the tour be taking you guys?

John: We start in Argentina in April before heading straight to Bali and Australia and then on to Mexico in May. We’ve also got a few things going on together in the summer. We’re playing at Noisily Festival and Seladoria in Liverpool in July to name a couple.

On the subject of DJing, there can be dramatic shifts in emotion being a performing artist, from playing in front of large crowds where there is a tremendous amount of energy to travel days where you may be stuck in airports or on a plane for extended periods of time. Do you have tools or practices that you use to get yourself back to a state of balance?

Dave: Get as much sleep as you can would be my advice. I know it’s difficult to turn down work but I look at some DJs schedules and just see a whole endurance test of mental and physical stamina that will eventually end in tears. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (and debatably a bit wiser) but I try to be much more realistic with my schedule these days. 3 or 4 nights on the trot across different countries over different time zones just doesn’t hold the same appeal for me anymore. I’d much rather do less and have time to enjoy and digest each gig/city. Believe me, sleep deprivation doesn’t get any easier the older your get!

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and also, your work as a producer?

Dave: I think the main thing that’s changed is that I break music down into its individual parts much more now rather than listening to it as a whole piece. And I’m constantly on the hunt for new music which can be to the detriment of the music I already have.

John: Yeah I often wonder if I’d appreciate some music more if I wasn’t listening to specific parts of the production or mix, and just enjoyed it as a piece of music, but I guess that’s just the way I hear music now. When I’m listening to promos I’m always looking for stuff that’s well produced and mixed and also isn’t just following a formula. It’s so difficult these days to find stuff with some originality.

Which DJ mix compilations from the extended past have been most influential to your own career early on? And why?

Dave: Well, all the Global Underground and Renaissance albums have played a part in my career trajectory for sure. Almost everywhere I go around the world, it’s amazing to hear how much affection people still hold for all those albums. They really connected electronic music fans around the world before the internet allowed us all access to everything. I’m still signing copies of those CDs on a weekly basis!

John: To be honest I think the mixes that had the biggest influence on me were the cassette tapes I bought as a teenager (Carl Cox, Sasha, Grooverider) that were recorded at The Eclipse in Coventry and Shelly’s in Stoke. Those tapes were my introduction to House, Techno and Jungle (before drum & bass even existed as a genre) – and changed my life completely. They were the inspiration that made me want to produce this music in the first place.

If you are not DJing, producing or working in the studio, where do we find you? And doing what?

John: I train Jiu Jitsu 3 times a week. It’s something I got into a few years back (after hearing Joe Rogan and Sam Harris talk about it a lot) and although I’m still very much a beginner, it’s a really interesting sport. Super technical and difficult but also quite addictive.

Dave: Ideally, at the football watching Leeds United.

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

John: There are so many.. I watched Shutter Island again recently, for the third time, and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I saw it at the cinema. It’s just so brilliantly done – feels like a bad trip. Like looking into the mind of someone who’s losing the plot – and relating to it – which is pretty unsettling.

Dave: Most recently, Poor Things is the best movie I’ve seen in a while. Such an amazing piece of work. The script, the performances, the soundtrack, the cinematography, the set design, everything was just superb. A work of genius that had me leaving the cinema throughly inspired.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life? (Something completely unrelated to music)

Dave: Oh Lordy, there’s a question. Who knows?! Probably something a lot more respectable. Hahaha.

John: At this point, if I couldn’t do anything artistic I think I’d go and get my HGV license and do some driving. I enjoy driving and I could spend hours listening to audio books and podcasts so I think I’d be happy doing that.

What’s something we do not know about you?

Dave: That all depends how well you know me I suppose. How about I co-produced ‘Go West’ for the Pet Shop Boys with my Brothers In Rhythm partner Steve Anderson back in 1992? Did you know that?

John: Thanks to social fucking media you already know everything about me.

What are some of your favourite TV series? Both all time and recently, what have you been enjoying lately?

John: Breaking Bad & South Park are the two best shows of all time!! I also loved the Ozark, I loved Friends, and I’m currently really enjoying The Gentlemen.

Dave: For all time favourite, I’ll go for This Is England. And more recently, True Detective: Night Country.

Finally, how is the remainder of 2024 shaping up for you guys? What are you looking forward to this year?

Dave: Well, the immediate future is largely centred around this album release obviously. We can’t wait to get it out there into the World and get on tour to promote it. But we’re also very much looking forward to unveiling a new side project John & I have been working on under the name Ewan Hoo’s Army. Although it’s still go it roots in electronic music it’s not aimed strictly at the dancefloor. First release will be out in May and we’re very excited for people to hear it.

John: I’m looking forward to our tour to promote this album. Will be great to go back to Argentina, Australia and Mexico, and I’m also playing Pakistan for the first time in May, so really looking forward to that one. Apart from that, there’s lots more releases to come, on Anjunadeep, SHÈN and Controlled Substance.


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