This week we caught up with the ever-so decent Stephen Kirkwood to chat trance, techno, his hugely succesful music school SKapade, studio tips, after-parties and more!. With an impressive 2017 already under his belt, the Scottish workhorse tells us all about what we can expect from him in 2018. Read on...
Hi Stephen, so please tell where it all began for you, what set you on your path as an international Trance DJ/Producer?
Hi guys, for me I started properly when I was 17, getting my first gig in a place called Clydebank near my hometown was where it all kicked off. Following that I started my own club night called ‘Culture’ and this brought me into the world of booking artists, playing warm up sets, finding out what music I liked etc. Trance was really big at the time and my early influences certainly included a lot of trance. Following the promoting I enjoyed a lot of great DJ gigs that got my name around the country, playing big Scottish festivals like Coloursfest and EH1 were highlights, and of course I managed to play the very famous and sorely missed Glasgow Arches various times. Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to play the club of all clubs Amnesia in Ibiza over 5 times for Cream. Mind blowing stuff. Producing music ran parallel with me promoting nights and DJing, picking up influences as I went I’m now producing a hybrid Techno/Trance type sound which is constantly evolving!
Has trance always been your main passion?
Absolutely not, I was buying just as many house and techno records as I was trance, for me I grew up on dance music listening to artists like Chris Lake, Deadmau5, Sander Van Doorn, Mauro Picotto, Sasha, Randy Katana and Mark Knight to name a few! Trance has made me a sucker for a top quality melody which I don’t think will change, its part of me, but now I’m more influenced by the Melodic Techno stuff that is kicking around from Enrico Sanguiano, Spektre etc. It’s closer to real trance than most of the trance kicking around today.
Growing up around Glasgow you must feel privileged with the wild rave culture the City has always had to offer. What are your favourite clubbing memories and where did you cut your teeth?
The city is well known for its culture and rave mentality for sure! Inside Out at The Arches was one of my favourite stops, they had a thing going where each room had a different style going on, from house to techno to Trance it was a mecca for dance music, the ‘one night only’ best mates you’d meet in there seemed liked the soundest people you’ve met in the world! I guess that’s what happens when you throw a load of similarly minded people together in a sweaty club! Haha.
Also throw in some more recent experiences at Pressure and The Sub Club watching DJ’s like Gary Beck & Alan Fitzpatrick. The City has always been at the cutting edge of the scene bringing in the biggest and best in the world, as well as helping to break huge artists through like Jackmaster & Denis Sulta.
As we embark upon a new year, outside of music, what resolutions have you made to yourself?
This year I aim to simplify things, less on the to do list, which in theory means more focus on the things that matter!
Please tell us about your day job, SKapade?
What started as a hobby creating music in my bedroom as now turned into an award winning studio complex with now 8 members of staff in just 3 years. We are currently in the middle of the whirlwind with it at the moment and I am loving every minute. We are a group of artists, DJ’s and creatives all working together making music, running workshops, hosting radio shows, presenting podcasts, creating content and generally just supporting each other in a scene that is sometimes quite unsupportive. We are based in my home town of Dumbarton and we have a number of DJ’s big and small come through the doors to work on music or just start their career in the music industry. Last year we appeared on the BBC, STV, and hosted a big DJ show 200ft up the top of the Titan Crane with my good mate Will Atkinson in Clydebank. It was some experience! This year we have a few interesting projects that are in the pipeline which I’m excited about!
Being exposed to lots of emerging talent, who should we be keeping an ear out for in 2018?
2nd Phase, Will Atkinson although more established, I feel he is only just getting started, Ashley Smith, Luca De Santo and Roberto Capuano to name a few. Also I’ve had an eye on Julian Wasserman who you can read more about on our website. His track ‘Jupiter’ was the soundtrack to our Ibiza 2017 experience! We actually interviewed him for our site for anyone interested.
Julian Wasserman Interview - Click Here
Being someone who lives the studio, what has been the most solid studio tip you have picked up lately?
Hmm good question, recently I’ve been running the bass and kicks into a return channel with a good compressor & EQ’ing out everything 300Hz down. Small nudges into the return track beef up the bottom end and can add that little bit of warmth you need to the low end!
Any exciting releases, projects or tours for 2018 you’d like to tell the readers of Trackitdown about?
Release wise, I have just signed a second track to Future Sound Of Egypt for 2018, that’s 2 high energy Techno/ Tech trance singles due out early this year on that label, planning some more tunes with Subculture too, as well as a big big remix for one of the legends of the scene which is coming out in Feb. I have just done a bosh remix of ‘SL2 - On A Ragga Tip’ too which has been going down a storm in my sets, planning on giving that one away for free at the end of Jan! I am also working more closely with some techno labels just now also with the look to bridge into that world some more this year which is exciting as the scene is absolutely flying up here. Gig wise I’ll hopefully be back in Ibiza, Belfast, Glasgow and The Netherlands! All to be confirmed so keep an eye on my page for gig updates.
What are your views on the current UK trance scene in general? Any room for improvement?
The current trance scene in the UK from what I can see seems to be in a strange place, sometimes I feel it’s on the up, then other times I feel it's non existent. I think Trance needs a kick up the arse to be honest, it needs new blood, sounds and inspiration and that can only come from newer innovating artists in my opinion like Will Atkinson, 2nd Phase, Shugz and myself (and of course some more), thinking a bit outside the box and bringing the sounds from other genres into Trance. It needs to appeal more to what’s going on just now as opposed to hanging onto the glory days which I feel the majority of the scene in the UK is still at. On a positive note, Trance is getting some big support from DJ’s like Nina Kravitz & Alan Fitzpatrick which is tuning the ears of the current clubbers into a more melodic sound, this could mean there is an opportunity for trance to up its game and get some traction. I may be wrong, but that’s what I think about it at the moment. It all has to come back down to the music, and as I mentioned before a lot of ‘Techno’ seems to be pretty much great trance music these days, so is it all called Techno now? Is the word ‘Trance’ just reserved for that terrible 140 cheesy recycled ‘uplifting’ sound that attracts only the die hards and older crowds from way back when. Who knows. Quite excited by Sander Van Doorn at the moment, as he is turning his hand to really cool innovating trance type stuff under his ‘Purple Haze’ alias.
Finally, we all know you Scots can hold your own in the party stakes, what had been the craziest thing you have ever witnessed at an after-party?
I have been to several after parties over the years and seen some crazy things haha! I’ve been to so many over the years it’s hard to think of one! I remember one of my warm up DJ’s a number of years ago got a bit trigger happy with the smoke machine and ended up setting the fire alarm off, emptying the full complex out into the snow covered streets. We lost about 150 people to the elements but the hardcore people braved the cold and got back in an hour later to finish the rave haha.
Cheers guys, thanks for the interview!
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