Austin Ato: "It’s important to have some balance when you work in this industry" - Features - Mixmag

Austin Ato: "It’s important to have some balance when you work in this industry"

House producer Austin Ato on the Highlands inspiring him and work/life balance

  • Words: Austin Ato | Editing: Ralph Moore
  • 5 March 2020

“Oban’s a small town on the west coast of Scotland where I grew up, and after some years in London I decided to return when I found I could rent a huge studio cheaply. I wanted to work on a new project, and the freedom of a space far from distraction and hype let me explore what I wanted to do next. I moved in December 2015 and wrote all the way through winter. I didn’t see much daylight for a few months, but settled into it when spring arrived and started what would be my first 12”s. For money, I worked in a warehouse and helped on my friend’s boat.

When summer hits, Oban comes alive. People from all over the world visit the town and it feels really vibrant. I had so much fun recording my live drumming, piano playing and more, and being there was so liberating. The solitude brought an end to any pressure, but there was also some loneliness and I missed my old life in London. I’d loved London, but Oban was the right place for me and over the next few years it would prove to be most productive time of my life.

Read this next: Raveheart: How house music exploded in Scotland

But after a few years, and with some releases out, I was DJing more and more – and found that I was back in London every month or so. I needed to be among music people again, and to add a little chaos back into my life after such a quiet time. I felt I was missing out on a social life. So three years after I returned to Oban I made plans to leave.

However, I knew I would still need a studio. Luckily I was put in contact with Glenn Gibbons from Soma, and they had a space in Glasgow. Soma are an amazing crew, and so welcoming: I grew up a big fan of Slam and their night Pressure at The Arches. Both Slam and Soma have had such a huge impact on dance music: they’re still going so strong, and it feels great to be among other creative people.

I’m usually locked away making house music so I love going to their parties. I was at their Maximum Pressure Halloween show where Paula Temple and Karenn absolutely destroyed it!

Read this next: High times in the Highlands: Exploring the outer reaches of Scotland's music scene

So now I’m in Glasgow, a city that’s produced some of the best music and parties in the world. It has distractions, but fewer than London – and it’s certainly not as stressful. It’s important to have some balance when you work in this industry, to have a life. You can get so much from music, but it can take a lot, too. The focus now is to live healthily, but work hard. I’m in the studio every day, I’m excited that so much great stuff is happening with my music and that it appeals to lots of people. I’ve been going out more, and I’m back to record shopping and having a social life again.

I loved my time in the Highlands. I miss being on boats or up a mountain, so I try to get back when possible. For now, though, it’s important to focus on the music but keep the same mindset I had back then. It felt so free to have fun experimenting and creating music, so when I saw a video of Ben UFO dropping my tune ‘Maelstrom’ at Houghton Festival it was a great reminder that I’m on the right track.”

The ‘Heat’ EP by Austin Ato will be released in April on Classic Music Company

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