Chemogen from One Foot Groove / Beartrap – Exclusive Interview
Chemogen is Aviv Hallale. Aviv began his DJ career playing metal and industrial tunes around popular alternative clubs in Obs. Although Aviv had heard some psytrance tracks before, it wasn’t until MMD‘s first party in 2007 that he was able to experience the psytrance culture to its fullest. We had a phat chat with Aviv about how his Chemogen project has progressed since then, as well as his video production company Twilight Industries. You can catch him next month playing alongside Strain at Remanufacture.
Psymedia: Hey Aviv! Tell me a little bit about how you got started. I recall seeing you play years ago at those messy Wednesday nights at Cool Runnings in Obs – that must have been at least four years ago?
Chemogen : Heya! So during high school and a couple of years after, I was pretty involved with the local goth and metal scene. When I was in Grade 11, I started DJing death-, black-, doom- and (urg) nu-metal at the venue above Gandalfs which was known as Mordor at the time. After about a year there, I moved down the road to the now – defunct Gotham where I played sets of traditional gothic rock, darkwave, EBM and other gothy industrial styles. On Fridays I’d play at Mordor and Saturdays at Gotham although in truth I was just a human iPod, literally just starting the next track when the last one ended. At the same time, I was fooling around in Fruity Loops with a generic darkwave project without any real understanding of audio engineering or composition but it was my introduction to the world of production.
I’d heard psytrance here and there when I was in Matric. I’m The Supervisor was on repeat in my friend’s car and I tagged along to Studio 47 a couple of times. I never had anything against the music, I thought it was pretty fun but being a stubborn goth, I was quite indifferent. I even went to Earthdance Cape Town in 2006, which was my first outdoor, but I really didn’t experience it. I went to sleep at 22:00 and pretty much left when I woke up. In early 2007, I tried again at the first MMD party at the Enchanted Forest. I wont go into detail, but lets just say that something about that party opened my eyes like nothing else. In short, I was blown away by everything from the people, to the sound and décor and obviously the music. It was like some kind of crazy, futuristic adventure in mind and consciousness. At the time, I just remember being so proud of this country for pulling off this cutting-edge, advanced stuff under everyone’s noses. I couldn’t get that vibe out of my head and in the proceeding weeks, I quickly started shedding the PVC, nail-polish and eyeliner. With the help of the legendary Organik nights at Roots/Cool Runnings I became more and more immersed in the music and culture. Those Wednesday nights were honestly the highlights of my week and I’ll never forget them.
Psymedia: How did you hook up your first couple of gigs?
Chemogen: I developed total respect for DJs who could beatmatch and seamlessly mix and producers who were putting out world class music, quickly realizing that that was something I wanted to do. I expressed that desire to Ricky from MindMelt and he invited me to play a DJ set at one of his impromptu parties at Call-A-Pizza. To cut a long story short, that set was an epic fail with train-wrecked mixes all over the place, seeing as I had no idea how to beatmatch or really how to mix in general. Nevertheless, he must have had some faith in me because he booked me for his New Years Eve party which was huge motivation to actually learn how to mix, which I devoted the rest of the year to doing while at the same time, trying to produce psytrance.
A couple of months before the MindMelt New Years Eve party, I gave a DJ demo to Warren, one of the Organik organisers and submitted one of my tracks to a relatively new label called One Foot Groove who must have spotted some potential because they signed me as part of a year-long initiative to recruit and develop emerging talent. At the end of the year, they (thankfully) never got rid of me and I’ve been with them since. It’s been seriously awesome to grow as an artist alongside a label that now has a stellar roster of artists and an overseas branch. I played my set at the MindMelt New Years Eve bash and managed to pull off a relatively seamless mix. The next week, I got a message from Organik, asking if I wanted to play a set that Wednesday. I excitedly accepted and the rest is history. Slowly but surely I started landing more gigs for different crews and started getting my name out there. Earlier this year, I became a resident DJ for Beartrap Productions which I consider to be quite a milestone, as their parties were some of the first I started going to back in the day.
Psymedia : How did you come up with the name Chemogen?
Chemogen : It came to me before a college lecture and I’ve heard some of the weirdest pronunciations you can think of but in short it means Chemical Generation, although if you take the gen suffix (like in empathogen) as meaning creation I guess Chemogen could translate to chemical creation. For those who are still wondering, it’s pronounced key-mo-jen.
Psymedia : In the last couple of years we’ve seen a large number of new names in the scene. Even though psy is growing and there are more opportunities, is it hard to get bookings?
Chemogen : I think the easy access to DJing software and DAWs has definitely contributed to the influx of new DJs and producers. It’s not hard to download a cracked copy of Traktor, get a handful of badly encoded MP3s and call it a day. Like any other industry, a lot of it is really about who you know. If you’re friends with a promoter, it’s going to be easier to get booked. I know some amazing producers that barely get a booking which is pretty depressing. I tend to go through phases where I get a comfortable amount of bookings and others where I feel like Lindsay Lohan and no one wants to touch me. I absolutely yearn for the former, because playing good music for great people giving off a crazy energy is one of the most amazing experiences I could ask for.
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Psymedia : It seems like some of the sounds coming out recently are a bit stagnant and rehashes of each other. Do you think artists should be a little less reluctant with giving out their trade secrets? What’s the best way to deal with this situation?
Chemogen : Kind of tied to the last answer, just like acquiring DJ software is easy it’s also not hard to get a copy of Cubase/Ableton, a Soundcloud account, a Facebook fanpage and start pumping out really generic sounding stuff with iffy production standards and presets/samples that have been going around since 2004. I think that’s the biggest contributing factor to the sense that there’s a wave of music that all sounds the same. I have no issue with established producers who share knowledge and mentor developing talent, just as long as said talent doesn’t end up sounding like an inferior carbon copy of their teacher. With resources like Isratrance, it’s really easy to get some killer tips for improving your production and developing your own sound which I think can only be good for the scene.
Psymedia : It seems like you’re making a transition towards a new sound and trying to differentiate yourself a bit. Is that fair to say?
Chemogen : Yeah, I think that’s pretty fair to say. In the beginning I was intent on writing hard, twilight beats but recently I seem to be leaning more towards groovy, daytime sounding stuff although it really constantly changes. I listen to so much different psy that with each new track I write I find myself going in a different direction. In essence, I’d just like to develop a unique sound that can slot in at any time of a party. It’s pretty damn hard trying to nail that balance though. My favourite local producers are Biorhythm and Headroom. If I can get my stuff sounding as good as theirs while striking a decent balance between those two vibes, I’ll be stoked.
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Psymedia : Once you’ve nailed a new live set, will you leave DJing behind or is that something you will always do?
Chemogen : Never. I started DJing as a way to make a name for myself while I honed my production skills but I found myself getting deeper and deeper into that side of things. There’s nothing better than playing an epic track you’ve stumbled upon after sifting through hours of fodder on Soundcloud/Beatport, just knowing it’s going to decimate dance floors, while being able to seamlessly and creatively transition between a whole body of work, constructing a unique musical journey. I guess the only thing that can top that feeling is when the stuff you’re playing is your own. In all honesty, I’m terrified of playing a set that’s 100% my own music. I just have nightmares about realising after ten minutes that it sounds horrible on a big rig, clearing the dance floor and then having to sweat out the rest of the hour. I’ve played a few live sets, but I just stress wondering what it sounds like on the other side of the speakers. At least when I DJ, I know that stuff sounds fat. I definitely think it’s time to get over the fear and start seriously pumping the live side of things though. I believe the biggest way you can stand out from the rest is by producing original, creative stuff.
Psymedia : With regards to being nervous about playing a full 100% live set, is this where the internet has been a great tool to release music and see what kind of reaction you get?
Chemogen : Oh, definitely. It’s awesome being able to get feedback from producers and listeners around the globe. Resources like Soundcloud and producer forums have been really beneficial in terms of seeing what I’m doing right and what I can improve on. I don’t think this is the kind of thing where one can ever stop learning so the more feedback I get, the more motivated I am to write more.
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Psymedia : Your debut EP entitled Welcome to New Earth was a digital release. Do you ever see yourself having a physical release? What are your thoughts on the digital shift – do you think ‘physical’ releases are dying, or is it merely because CD’s as a format are becoming obsolete?
Chemogen : Maybe my album will be both digital and physical but I think digital is the way to go. It’s cheaper, easier to distribute and more accessible to DJs who wont have hassles when it comes to getting their hands on those tracks. Before my EP release, I compiled a V/A for One Foot Groove that was initially physical but it really is just way more expensive to get done and tougher to get seeing as for the most part physical sales are all mail-order. Music sales are low enough as it is, so I don’t think physical releases are that profitable anymore but there really is something nice about having a hard-copy in your hands and being able to flick through a cover art insert.
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Psymedia : Have you made any recent hardware or software additions in aiding your new sound? What gear do you use?
Chemogen : I bought an APC40 controller last year when I was in the UK. It’s a really amazing piece of kit that interfaces with the Ableton Live software and opens up so many possibilities when it comes to live performance. When the eventual set is ready for the masses, I’ll definitely be using it as the core of my performance to keep things fresh and hands-on. It also rocks in terms of production. Something about solid, hardware controls at your fingertips just feels far more satisfying than tweaking a synth with a mouse.
I also really enjoy scouting out new soft-synths and effects to give them a whirl. The exponential increase in sound quality from VSTis over the years is really an incredible thing to behold. The creative potential of sound-design just gets bigger and bigger every few months. I think we’re quickly reaching the point where the difference in quality and character between a hardware synth and virtual analogue software will be negligible. That said, I really wouldn’t say no to a Virus TI which is a pretty iconic piece of hardware in electronic music.
In terms of gear, I work off Cubase 6.5 and Ableton Live 8.3 through a Novation Nio 2/4 interface, monitoring through Samson Resolv65As. In terms of MIDI control, I use the APC40 and an Edirol PCR300 keyboard/control surface.
Psymedia : I believe you also have an advanced diploma in sound engineering. How beneficial is formal training as a Producer? Have you done any work outside of psytrance?
Chemogen : I have a total love for digital media, both visual and aural. I studied audio engineering to supplement a diploma in film production I received the year before. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything theoretical you’d learn in a formal course that you can’t teach yourself for free from online resources and just general practice. Electronic music production education played a very small role in the syllabus of the course I did but the knowledge I picked up about engineering in general was great. I’d say the biggest benefit about enrolling in such a course is the gear you get to play with and the people you meet. I freelance as a videographer/editor and sound-designer., I’ve done a bit of work outside of psytrance for clients ranging from advertising agencies to book publishers. I constantly strive to improve my craft and It’s something I’d love to make a lifelong career out of. Currently I’m also working on a side project called Plazm which focuses on other genres of EDM.
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Psymedia : Tell me a little bit about your Twilight Industries project? What’s it like experiencing a party from that perspective?
Chemogen : The Twilight Industries project started in 2008 when I took my video camera to an indoor party. It really began out of a desire to share our music, scene and culture with the world although as I’m sure everyone’s aware, a psy party is just inexplicable unless you’re actually there in the heat of the moment. Over the years things started snowballing and I began to take the project more seriously and currently run it as a small business. With each new project, I try up my production standards and get everything looking more polished which I think is evident if you start from the beginning and watch each video until you arrive at the more current releases.
When I’m in production mode at an event, I experience the party from a whole different perspective which I think is great. I also tend to get a certain kind of satisfaction out of grafting for hours gathering as much footage as I can and returning home with hours and hours of footage. For Psynoptics’ Jungala 2012 festival, I think I ended up with just under ten hours of footage after shooting from Thursday to Monday.
As soon as I can afford it, I’d like to upgrade to an HD rig. While my camera (Sony VX2100 for anyone that’s wondering) is a rugged beast and has treated me amazingly over the years, it is beginning to get a bit long in the tooth and I’m yearning to enter 1080p or 2K territory. The image quality on the full-frame dSLR cameras available today is astounding and I definitely want to get in on that. Hopefully the TI project will keep on evolving and showing off our awesome psy culture!
Psymedia : Are you working on any upcoming releases?
Chemogen : I’m working on my debut album but I tend to run into a problem I think a lot of other producers do. I’ll write a track, it’ll sound awesome and I’ll think to myself “ Ohhhh yeeeah, this is definitely going to be on the album! ” Then I’ll write another track and it just blows the last one out of the water. So then I think “ OK cool, I wont bother with the last one – everything I write after this is going to be on the album.” And that pretty much repeats over and over again. Currently I’m concentrating on trying to get as many single releases out there as I can to get my name out there more on the global circuit, but when I really buckle down and focus on writing a cohesive body of work I think it’ll be a concept album. I want it to tell a story and be akin to an epic adventure film.
Psymedia : Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you want to add before we end things off?
Chemogen : Thank you for the interview! I’ve always enjoyed the work Psymedia puts out so it’s a great feeling to be on the other side of the screen. In closing, I’d like to thank all the promoters and labels who’ve had faith, booked and released me over the years. Most importantly though, mega-thanks to all the crazy stompers who’ve jammed during my sets, shared my music and just generally supported the Chemogen project. You honestly make it all worth it!
- Chemogen on Facebook
- Chemogen on Soundcloud