First of all, what took you so long to finish you new album, Tour de Trance?
Atmos: It took me one year from the day I started until it was ready to master. In the rest of the time, I was building my previous studio and loft I used to live in, in Goteborg. I was on the road touring a lot and I was doing other stuff that make life worth living, like taking care of my girlfriend and my dog, fixing and tuning my motorbike and learning how to fly a paraglider. That is my hobby for the last 3 years. And of course I spent time with my friends and family.
You worked 4 years on Tour de Trance. What was the goal you were trying to achieve with it, did you have a master plan?
Atmos: I worked 1 year... and you waited 4 years ; ) No, sorry. Joke.
OK I had a concept and that was to write an album with baselines and melodies from the style of my first album, Headcleaner, but recorded in the sound of 2008 (minimal and analogue). Believe me a lot have happened to sound and music since 2001. I wanted to write the music my project Atmos is known for, but I had to consider the fact that progressive music was blended by minimal techno and electro house.
To have a chance that DJs would play my music when it was supposed to be released, I had to make it sound like the music being played at the different parties all over the world. Don't really know if that is a master plan but I'm glad I waited until now with the release of my latest album.
I heard somewhere that you have like 3 or 4 finished versions for some tracks on the album and that you just kept re-writing them. Why was that? Were you looking for a new sound? Did your taste change in the meantime?
Atmos: In 2005 Anti, at that time the head of Spiral Trax, was supposed to release my 3rd Album. Due to the unfortunate collapse of the label that year we decided to wait with the release till I found a new label. The new label that I found (Digital Structures) was supposed to release it in 2006. In the mean time the music had changed a lot from what it once was to the more electro / techno style. I just felt that I had a chance to remix (not re write) my songs so they still would sound like my sort of deep trance, but with a new, modern and fresh soundscape. How you style your final mix is the key to success. Melodies, riffs and baselines are timeless. The soundscape of a tune tells the listener directly if the song is fresh or just sounds old fashioned.
You can look at it as buying new modern popular clothes for yourself when it's time for that. The clothes look new and modern but inside it's just the same old you. It's not very important what melody or baseline you have in a song. The most important thing is that your music sounds as fresh as the other music around that all the DJs like to play in that moment. If my music would sound old fashioned (Iím not using the words old school, thatís a totally different thing), no one would play it and everyone would think that I'm getting too old for my own good ;-)
Did some of the old tracks make it to Tour de Trance? My theory is that bonus tracks on the Compact Stick are from the 2006 album, because they all have a very particular sound that is very different from the other tracks. Is that true?
Atmos: The only old tunes that made it to Tour de Trance are: 46@daz (originally called Trance in Balance/ T'níB), Skintrade (originally called Iso-B) & Rhythm Is. I listen to the original versions sometimes. They sound pretty cool but I'm glad I fixed the songs to their present versions as they are released today... cleaner, with dynamics and a groovier sound too. Ha ha... so funny you say that the songs on Compact Stick are older. Yes, actually 3 of them are a bit older. Believe me or not but the songs you thought are older sounded much more electro house at the time that I wrote them around 2005-2006. I didn't like the idea of that sound so I remixed them to sound like deep trance. The time I remixed them was in October-November 2008. My concept was to actually try a little bit if I still know how to write the type of music that I used to do on the Headcleaner era, in 1998. Of course, also with a fresh soundscape.
Thank you for skipping the annoying electro-house bandwagon!!!! I remember hearing your live-set around 2006, and I remember hearing some arpegiated bass-lines. If the album would have come out back then, would it have been full of electro-house?
Atmos: No not really. I have never really been a fan of electro house. Pee pauu, piki piki pauu... no no man. Have you ever heard me playing nerd music ha ha.
Itís true that I have a passion for playing to slow (low bpm), sometimes too mellow (afternoon cheese), or too deep, but never ever poppy, cheeky or with some 80s punk feeling, electro sleaze bull shit, never.
How were the reactions to Tour de Trance. Are you happy with the reception it got?
Atmos: Oh yes. I'm super happy. A lot of people have written beautiful things regarding the music on the album. What is so nice about it is that it's people from really different backgrounds and age. Sometimes people that never normally listen to electronic music have found me on myspace, heard that I'm releasing a new album, got it and were stunned of how cool electronic music can be when they drive a long way by car for example. Even people that normally listen to hip hop also had a positive experience from my music. I got some requests from a hip hop / breaks DJs to use some of my songs on their myspace profiles. All in all I see it as a very good reaction.
The only thing that I don't understand (actually, itís pretty funny) is that some of the Dracula-gollums-dark-psy-full- on DJs are still upset when it comes to my releases. Upset that they are not fast, dark or underground enough... only 180bpm rules the world, dark, dark... bla bla... Ha ha ha. I would just love to ask these DJs whenever before did I produce dark, fast and hard music that they are waiting for it so much? Itís doesnít matter, I'm still happy that they are writing something. It means that they have listened to the album and got an opinion... The fact that they spent time listening to my album (liking it or not) is a victory for me. I would never waste my time on listening to something I don't like ;-)
What I like most about your music that it is so easily recognizable, yet it always sounds so simple and natural. Even though all your albums are very different from each other, one can tell immediately its Atmos. How do you do that, what makes an Atmos track an Atmos track?
Atmos: The personal touch I have is something I can't change or actually explain. Itís like I would ask you: ďHey man, how do you manage to be yourself again? OK, you have different clothes today, but one can tell immediately it's you.Ē :-)
You get me, yes? I can't change it, whether I want to sound like Atmos or not, that is just me. The day that my sound is not popular anymore I will have to look for a new job... one will tell immediately that it's old Atmos trying to fool us that he is someone else... ha ha ha.
After listening to Tour de Trance I concluded that what you are really doing is a very unique fusion of trance and deep-house. What are your thoughts on that?
Atmos: Until 2005 my music was built from the elements of FUNK. House, Tribal, Techno and Progressive was 98% built on drum loops from funk music. In 2006 when electro house was getting into our lives it fucked up the rules of electronic music. Suddenly the building stones of electronic music where supposed to come from electro. All sample CDs started to sound old, all music on the labels I used to buy music from started to sound old. My album, that at that time was just ready to be released sounded old... why? Answer = Funk. When I took off the percussion from some songs and programmed the same song with, for example, rhythms from music like early Pet Shop Boys, Rick Astley, or just random Italo disco cheese from the 80s it suddenly sounded perfect. I would never imagine that the super cheesy beats from 80s disco shit would sound so electro on a trance song of today. I could clearly see that all my songs, new and old, for the coming new album needed a beat and percussion change to that of the 80s to sound modern and fresh like the rest of the music today. I also realized that rhythms of Pet Shop Boys, Rick Astley, Dead or Alive, and New Order was from the same family as Africa Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, Paul Hardcastle, Harold Faltermeyer, Herbie Hancock and Grandmaster Flash = Old school electro heroes.
Like the old song of Krafwerk Tour de France, my fusion of the music from Headcleaner programmed with 80s drum machines of electro became... Tour de Trance.
What about your use of vocal samples. You like to use them a lot and you use them extremely well. Do you sit with a recorder next to your TV set every night watching Sci-Fi movies? How do you always come up with samples that stick in your head for ages and never leave?
Atmos: Ha ha... My friend Anthony Sillfors (aka S-Range) is doing that for real. ha ha ha... I'm serious. With me it's not that bad. I use something from film sometimes if the movie is quiet with a lot of monologues, but many of the vocals you hear on Tour de Trance are voices of me and my friends. With todayís FX and plug-ins you can make your dad sound like your mum and opposite ;-)
Talking about vocal samples, A lot of people asked me to ask you this, even though you probably answered this question like a million times, what does the woman in The Only Process really says?
Atmos: Ha ha ha... here we go again :-) The woman is speaking pure British English and she is saying:
ďThe Only Process, The Only Process... Vitalizer"
Everyone seems to be doing something techno/minimal these days. How about yourself, are you thinking of starting a new project to explore new territories?
Atmos: Sure I am. I'm actually writing techno simultaneously as I write my trance music. I'm not releasing it under my name Tomasz Balicki, so use your ears and guess who I am out there? he he.
This question is from a friend of mine who you met in the summer, and you both found out that you have one thing in common: You both drove tanks during your military service. How did driving tanks influence your musical taste and music making? Klein aber Doctor seems to be the perfect soundtrack for invading another country in big-ass tank ;)
Atmos: Ha ha. Say hi to your friend from me. He was a really cool guy. I did my military service 1992-1993. At that time I was listening to music like Blue Pearl (Dancing Naked in the Rain), The Shamen (Move any mountains), Jam & Spoon (Stella), and Dance 2 Trance (Power of American Natives). Our Mechanic in the tank crew fixed in a car stereo that we had plugged in to our headphone system. So sure we stormed enemy positions playing Naked in the Rain as loud as we could.
You are probably one of the artists in our scene with the most classics, or stand-out hits. Which one is your favorite to play, let's say as the last track at a big festival? And which one is your favorite track of yours?
Atmos: Hmm. There is always that last song on the festival. Sometimes I would like to play a favorite song of mine but more or less I have to always play one of my bullshit classics to finish the set or something... I don't know. I have learned that people pay for a concept. If I want to hear good stuff about one of my live sets, it will be 100% the one where I played some of the classics like The Only Process, Klein Aber Doctor, Drums Don't Stop, and so on. I understand that people like the classics, but for me it sometimes feels like an obligation when it comes to the old songs, and it takes the good feeling away from them.
My personal favorite is my first release on EVE Records 12" in 1998. It's called Rebirth of Cavanough. I just wish I still had the files for it. I'd love to give that song a new remix and play it more out today. Unfortunately, the sound on it is a bit cheep for today, but the song itself is timeless.
By the way, look out for a Greek magazine named Freeze. There will be 6 pages cover story with a mix-CD included. It's called Atmos- Beat Archeology 1996 - 2001. That CD will contain my favorite old tunes mixed with the classics of yesterday. Out in April 2009. Freeze Magazine (Greek) ... check it out.
Lately you have been doing some old-school sets where you play all of your old hits. Do you like playing those sets?
Atmos: No, not really. It feels like a must many times. It also feels like I'm doing it because many fundamentalist promoters don't want to move on in time to hear something new and fresh. I don't want to sound rude but that is how I feel sometimes. There is one condition where I actually love playing a retro set. That is if the whole party is Retro. I mean if all DJs and live acts on that party or dance floor are meant to play retro music from say 1998, well that I can do for hours. I really hate when someone tries to book me for a retro set and I'm the only one playing old retro bull shit and all other DJs play new music. I can really kill a promoter like that... on top of that, the promoter go and ask if maybe I can play my retro set faster as well... Ha ha.
What are your biggest musical influences these days? Is there anything in your player that you would like to recommend to people? Maybe give us a Top Ten?
Atmos: I don't want to give you a top 10 because top 10 is a dated thing. Someone maybe will read this interview in a year and that will definitely not be my top 10 at that time. Maybe I can just write some bands from all kind of music that I really loved during my life. OK here we go. Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, Duran Duran, Jean Michelle Jarre, Grandmaster Flash, Mantronix, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Public Enemy, Harold Faltemeyer, Jam & Spoon... bla bla bla. The list will never end :-)
Let me also say, thank you guys on Isratrance for a good job out there. Let me also apologize for my language. I have a tendency sometimes to write the things I feel for the moment. Sometimes it may sound like I'm speaking against something or so. Everything in this interview was answered and written with more or less a smile on my face and I really hope I haven't offended anyone out there.