Touring the world to promote his new compilation Yoshitoshi Montreal, Sultan, who has evolved as one of North America’s brightest talents, takes the time to reveal some exclusive insights about his producer, guitarist & DJ life.
Q: You are currently in Asia to promote your first solo compilation “Yoshitoshi Montreal”, how is the tour so far?
A: Sitting here on the beach in Bali, I really am speechless. One week into my tour here in Asia and it’s been an incredible experience. On one end there is the clubbing scene and the music, on the other the culture, the people and the scenery. It really is a lot to absorb with stimulation from every place. I played “The Spot” in Seoul, Korea two nights ago and had a great time. So much energy from the crowd! And the staff so caring and attentive. I was fortunate to get a tour of the city from Brian and got to eat some Korean food…yummy! In Shanghai last Wednesday at BonBon I also had a fantastic time. One of their resident Djs, Alex, took me out for two days and showed me the city and the exuberant nightlife. What a city! And now Bali. Next up Singapore. Definitely a trip to remember forever and I hope to make it back out here again soon. A big thank you to Robb Harker!
Q: How did you choose the songs for the new Yoshitoshi CD?
A: Choosing the songs for the Yoshitoshi cd was a whole project on its own. The key point to consider was that this in fact was a Yoshi cd, which meant a compilation with strictly Yoshitoshi, Shinichi and Yo songs. The main thing that ran through my mind was that many of the songs I could use were from the Yoshitoshi back catalogue which meant that they were older songs that people might have heard several times before in the past, have been outdated or that several of these songs have already appeared on previous Yoshitoshi compilations. The other point I had to put into consideration was how many new unreleased songs I could get my hands on and how many older songs I could remix or Mashup in order to make the compilation as fresh as possible.
The compilation took several forms before reaching the point of where it is now. I first went through the entire back catalogue of Yoshitoshi and sister labels to see which tracks I really loved and wanted to use. I chose more than 40 songs then slowly started to narrow it down. I then asked Yoshi to send me any unreleased tunes they had coming up. At that point I also chose a few songs that I really loved and thought of remixing or reworking for the comp.
Q: The compilation starts with two of your own productions: “No Why” and “Aidan”, anything special to say about these songs?
A: The intro to the cd honestly jumps out at me every time I hear it. “No Why” is one of those songs that means so much to me. In fact it was the first song I ever wrote with Zara and the first song Zara ever performed on and recorded ever. We call it our little baby ;-> With Ned Shepard working on the Rhodes on the intro, it just brought the song back to life in a whole new perspective and brought back so many beautiful memories.
Aidan is another one of my favourites from my collaborations with Ned. Its one of those songs we just pumped out in 5 hours and I can guarantee you anytime it’s dropped on a dance floor the impact is huge, probably more than anyone would expect. Play it or hear it and you’ll see!
Q: Typically, your monthly chart features edits, rework and mash ups by yourself and collaborators. Why do you customize your sets and has it influenced the way you prepared and mixed the compilation?
A: Doing mash ups is an obsession I have had for a long time. Since I started djing I always tried mixing tracks in key and the more I did it the more I layered songs on top of each other. Every time I did, it sparked ideas for mash ups or edits. With so many tracks available these days and the internet making tracks so available for everyone to get their hands on, I’ve found that having special edits and mash ups always makes my sets more unique or a little different cause the only times you will hear these songs and edits is when I play. I love seeing the reaction on the dance floor when all of a sudden, when you least expect it, a vocal or an instrumental hook from another track pops into a tune. Gives me goose bumps every time.
All these edits definitely influenced the compilation. One of the first things I did when working the comp was come up with different mashups that would work. The other thing I did was key a lot of the tracks to see how I could make the compilation as interesting and as flowing as possible.
Q: You broke into the industry as a producer then have been labelled as a progressive DJ. Would you say it defines well your sound?
A: I think the reason I have been labelled a progressive Dj is mainly cause I broke out into the scene with my progressive productions a few years back when progressive was the forefront sound of the scene. I would defiantly not label myself as a strictly progressive Dj. I do play progressive tunes but mainly I blend all styles form house to electro to progressive and even tribal, tech and minimal.
Q: At the moment, who are your favourite producers?
A: Lately I have really been a huge fan of productions from Rene Amesz, Maher Daniel, Elke Kleijn, Dubfire, John Aquaviva, Bart Van Wissen, 16 bit lolita’s, Mark Knight Eric Prydz and the Urbantorque Crew amongst many others.
Q: You’ve been collaborating a lot with Ned Shepard and his name appears several times on “Yoshitoshi Montreal”. Do you have other projects together?
A: Ned is the man! My younger brother he is ;-> Ned and I have worked a lot together and will continue to do so for a long long time. Currently we are working on co writing and producing Nadia Ali’s forthcoming album as well as playing live with her on tour with Ned on keyboards and me on guitar.
Q: Can you give us an insight on how you work in the studio? What is your current set up? Are you working on Logic or Protools?
A: Protools baby! Since February this year Ned and I have really worked on tuning up our studio. We got a new location and I just recently acquired the full HD 3 full Protools system. It’s honestly becoming my dream studio. Not only do we have great gear but we have invested into acoustic sound proofing and a great comfortable atmosphere that just makes you want to stay in the studio 24hrs a day. Being in the studio is an addiction!
Lately with all the touring I don’t always have much time to work in the studio and with Ned on tour with Nadia its also made it more difficult however its allowed Ned and I to develop a way of working to maximize all the time we do have back home.
We are at a point now where we know and understand each other perfectly. The live shows with Nadia have also allowed us develop more musically and in the way we feed off each other and play off of each other. This has definitely translated in the studio. With our new system in place, the sky is the limit.
Q: We’ve learnt you also started to play guitar for Nadia Ali live show before continuing the night with a DJ set. How do you find the experience and what are the reactions to this double performance?
A: This collaboration has been amazing in every way. It has been a great compliment for both of our shows (Nadia and I) and I think as a package it has definitely intrigued a lot of people. The live aspect of the show is a whole other experience from the Dj aspect for me. Ned always tells me, “Bro how do you do it? We put so much energy into the live performance for an hour then you continue on to Dj and keep the energy up for another three or four hours! Crazy!” I always laugh. It’s a rush and a passion. One thing I always missed with Djing was playing my guitar like I used to back in the days with my band. And now to be able to do both, well let me tell you, it’s a dream come true!
Q: Do you prefer DJing, producing or playing the guitar?
A: All of the above. They all compliment each other in different ways. I can’t imagine just doing one or two of the above. All three experiences feed each other.
Q: You have your own radio “Connected Live’ on DI.fm (Digitally Imported), an internet radio. What effect do you think internet is having on the industry? How the show is going?
A: It’s the digital era! `There is no escaping it and why would you want to. It’s had a huge impact on the scene in so many ways. The radio show has been amazing. I must admit I did put a lot of thought into the show before launching it and wasn’t sure how the experience would be but now five months into it, I cant imagine not ever hosting a radio show. Not only is it a great tool for exposure, it has really helped me grow as a Dj expanding my sound and style and has allowed me to discover so much amazing music and so many great producers. It’s been such an honor having the guests I’ve had so far and they really add so much to the experience. The show is also now podcasted on itunes making it available for everyone to download the most recent shows as well as all the previous shows. Can’t get better than that!
Q: What’s next for Sultan? What can we expect?
A: Hmmm, so much more. I must admit with the constant touring schedule it’s been hard to focus on working on other projects but I’m always looking for more and eager to work on more stuff. At the moment the goal for the end of the year is finish up Nadia’s album and begin to play the new songs in her live shows. Ned and I are currently working on several new productions and remixes, which I hope will be coming out by the end of the year as well. The focus now for me is to tour this compilation and start hitting new markets. This year has been amazing and so many more doors have opened up. It’s just the beginning with so much more to come.
YOSHITOSHI MONTREAL mixed by Sultan is now available on iTunes. Download it here. In stores: September 25, 2007.