“I just said what I think trance is in an album,” grins Trance Wax when we talk about his forthcoming record.
Speaking from rainy Belfast - where he recently moved back to, honouring his roots after a decade of living in London - it feels as if Trance Wax’s sophomore album, ‘Open Up The Night’ is his most authentic yet.
The record follows a journey. Embodying his love for mixtapes and the artistry behind a concise body of work, it builds on itself throughout, with a crescendo ending in the shape of full-throttle psytrance. Sprinkled amongst the 16 tracker are summertime anthems, dark and dingy cuts, and euphoric slices; there’s something under the trance umbrella for all.
Read this next: Trance reborn: The sound is back and big as ever
Marking 25 years since he first began making music on Cubase thanks to a concoction of free CDs from production magazines at just 12 years old, Trance Wax naturally gravitated towards the genre, looking to its icons including Ferry Corsten and Maire Brennan for inspiration. Fast forward to now, and collaborations with both are locked into his discography.
Producing music and DJing under both the aliases of Ejeca and Trance Wax (with the latter project originating as a label), there’s a lot on his plate. Yet, segmenting the two allows the musician to articulate his creativity exactly on his own terms.
For his In Session mix, Trance Wax moulds together a dreamy concoction of 12 dancefloor-focused tracks. He also fills us in on his thoughts on the increasing popularity of trance, the cost of living crisis’ impact on music industries, and how his renowned ‘Rhythm of the Night’ remix was purely a happy accident. Check it out below:
How’s your summer been?
Nice! I relocated back to Ireland after 10 years in England. Living in London there’s no space so I’ve got a proper studio in the top of my house now. I bought loads of kit over the last 10 years and never had anywhere to properly put it so now I’ve actually got somewhere to put it for the first time in my career after, like, two decades of making music. But aye, good, I feel like I’ve got a proper place to work for the first time – it’s not somewhere in the house out of the way, it’s somewhere I can use it. That’s been a big thing this summer.
Of course I've been doing festivals and working on music, so it’s all a balance really. Obviously the weather hasn’t been that nice, but that can help as during the summers when it’s nice weather, especially in London, it’s too warm to sit inside so you don’t make music and you get to the end of the summer being like ‘I’ve got no releases here!’, ha ha. So, I’ve been quite productive.
The album was done at the turn of the year, done a few remixes as Trance Wax and also the Ejeca thing, so it’s just all a balance.
I bet it’s refreshing to be back to your roots in Belfast.
Aye, and things don’t change! I was at a wedding with people I hadn’t seen recently, and nobody has changed - just more balding people!
Ha! Right, onto the music. It feels as if there has been a real surge in the popularity of trance lately. Not that it ever disappeared - but it feels like there is a ‘cool’ label attached to it now. Why do you think that is?
If you look at the age of people going to the gigs, it’ll be their parents listening to it. Makes me sound old, but I could have an 18-year-old going to gigs who’d have listened to the music I was listening to in the house, and that would be what they’re used to. It makes you wonder when bands are going to be popular again if everyone’s listening to dance music again. Who’s gonna get their kids into bands, and rock music, for example? It seems like everything is dance music. It must be a generational thing, like influences you hear from your family. It's so big now.
Social media as well – going to a nightclub used to be so dark and dingy and now everything is so bright and it’s about visuals, how it looks as well as the music. It’s a big part of people’s lives growing up. At one point, it was something done at the weekend, now people go to festivals and go to Croatia or Ibiza for a week and experience the whole thing. It’s more than just a night out. It’s been made more than just the music.
As well, a lot of people call it trance, but in Europe there’s Eurodance which is similar. That was seen as cheesy, and now everyone’s getting back into that. A lot of Berlin people are playing Eurodance, or donk and hard house – there’s a lot of subgenres all related. DJ Heartstring’s stuff is being called trance, but they’re more Eurodance. Eurodance originated in Europe and then here we called it UK trance, which is a different thing. It’s all sort of come back and again, it’s kids who have grown up with it, they’re playing it and into it. They get that nostalgia thinking: ‘I remember that when I was five!’, you know?
Read this next: The 10 best trance compilations from the golden age
What do you make of these sounds becoming more in the ‘known’ domain, then?
Obviously I’ve been DJing for 20 years and there are some genres that are here and never go away, and then there’s some that go big and then go away. So, house and techno, as a genre, will never move. They’ll always be in clubs. Saying that, some of the techno people are playing trance right now! You’ve got things like drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep, some of those genres which will come in waves – you’ll hear loads of it, then it fizzles, and comes back again. Garage is another; it’s in the charts, and then it’s underground again. Things seem to ebb and flow, but as you know, things get too popular and people think it’s not cool.
We touched on it briefly before, but people might also know you because of your Ejeca alias. What made you decide to run two projects for your musical expression?
It’s funny, I did it as two different things because people didn’t like trance music and didn’t think it was cool! You could get away with having it as one act now, but they’re two different things in my head. I see Ejeca as house, a bit of techno, maybe some garage, but that’s the core of it. Tempo wise as well, Ejeca things don't go anywhere near Trance Wax stuff. I’ll keep it below 130 BPM as Ejeca whereas Trance Wax can be anything. You can’t play trance tracks slow, really. People try it, but you can’t really have it at a low tempo. So, I treat it as that. As well, I had a decent career with Ejeca, so Trance Wax was a bit of an experiment. But aye, separating it has worked - I’ll see someone at the airport and they’ll say: ‘you alright Trance Wax?’ - they don’t know me as Ejeca. It’s quite nice.
I look up people who have different aliases too. If you think, Mathew Johnson [who has many], or Matthew Dear who has Audion, which has turned bigger than Matthew Dear, but he’s resorted back to the latter with his album stuff. Even some of the trance guys: Ferry Corsten on Discogs has like 20 aliases and his biggest tracks aren’t necessarily Ferry Corsten. I don’t think you could do more than two; if you did three or four aliases going at once and it was just one person you would definitely not have enough focus. I suppose if you’re in a group or collective it would be easier, but as one person, even with the social media side, you need to focus on getting the message out there.
Read this next: Ferry Corsten has been knighted by the Dutch king
One of the singles that helped launch your new album was the remix of ‘Rhythm Of The Night’, how did that come about?
I make a lot of music! I have a folder of ideas with Craig, my manager, and that always has about 300 things in it – and that’s cut down. Some of these things though, could be 10 years old. I don’t delete things: there’s drum ‘n’ bass, techno, house, ambient, garage, trance, hard house… all the stuff I like. I found a track from about eight years ago where I’m singing on it, and I should delete it, but I just think that you never know, ha!
‘Rhythm of the Night’ was a loop I found. On Rekordbox you have things in certain keys and I found the acapella, thinking ‘these sound good together’ - so I just turned it into a track with that acapella. I actually made the instrumental first and the acapella fit perfectly. These things happen, but rarely – it was an accident, really. I didn’t sit there thinking I was going to make a ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ remix.
A happy accident?
Aye! I put it on vinyl - I forget which Trance Wax release it was, but I think on Discogs people are still paying about £300 for the white label of it. So that created a bit of hype. Some people got the vinyl and played it off there, and then others started asking for the .wav file - Solomun, I think Sasha asked for it quite early on - but the hype was driven from the vinyl being sold out so early on. That was like four, five years ago, and it has drip fed along since then.
There’s some releases at the moment, like where Calvin Harris puts out a track and plays it one week, puts out a snippet a few days later and then releases it… it goes to Number One and then that’s it! But there’s ones like this [‘Rhythm Of The Night’ remix] that take half a decade. Putting it out on vinyl takes nine months anyway to get the thing made, so there’s definitely a patience behind it but it also means that it sits for longer. There’s a bit more sustainability around the release if you can build it slower, like it used to be. So yeah, that’s what happened with the track.
I love the organic growth and the track’s own little journey.
Exactly, it’s not forced. It’s the same with a lot of Trance Wax stuff. I’m like| ‘here’s this’. It’s about letting the music speak and being natural.
Talk to me about the forthcoming album then, because if you’ve got a folder of 300 ideas, that must be hard to whittle down!
James, the A&R at Armada, knows what fits. It was the same as my Anjuna album – it’s up to me, what works as a set, like a FABRICLIVE CD. Starts quite slower tempo and then builds up to more breaky tracks, and then full on at the end, which is what I’d do as a set. And then ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ is like the encore.
The first Trance Wax album was quite ebb and flow, a lot of breakbeats and chillout type things because it came out in lockdown, whereas this one is me as a club artist. I picked out the core tracks, and then was writing the other tracks in between, making sure there were catchy vocals in there - there was a lot of non-vocal in my last album - and I released some singles from this one, like ‘Adeya’, at the start of the summer because I knew that was quite a summery one. Some of the darker ones are going to be on the album out at the end of the month, which are more club-music oriented.
I’m just trying to not throw a load of tracks in there and call it an album; I want to think about how it sounds all in one go. Having flexibility to be creative and write the tracks in between the singles as opposed to putting out just 15 singles was it. It’s what an album is.
You were supposed to be making your live set debut on September 30 at Village Underground, but unfortunately it had to be called off because of costs. This seems to be an industry wide issue right now…
Yeah. The bar is so high with a live show. When I started out, we used to do live shows in a Boiler Room type thing, with basically no visuals and people just watching an intimate live show happen, quite upfront. Now, visuals are the things that set it apart, and scales of the visuals – especially if you’re starting out, because you’ve got to make an impression. It was trying to get a balance of needing a budget, but also the show having to look good. And even if we had a venue double the size, we still couldn’t cover the costs for it.
Rather than start something that couldn’t be properly done, we decided to put it on ice for a bit and see what things are like in a year. Like, screens alone, to rent big screens, it’s expensive. If you have a big tour plan, you can spread the costs, but this was a one off special for a live show; it just became too much and wasn’t going to work.
If you look at Afterlife, and things [like that], it’s like going to the best cinema. It’s not going down the road to the club! It’s a big event in all these cities, and the visuals alone without the music are so impressive. For the bar to be set that high, unless you can go in at a good level, you’re not going to do what you want. You need a lot of investment to get to a level that people are expectant of and Eric Prydz, Afterlife and people like that set the bar. If you can’t go near that, leave it for a bit!
It’s intense. We’re seeing everything rise, from venue’s costs and overheads, to booking, to everything inbetween.
When I first started going out in London, Dalston was the place to go. You could go any night of the week and there were good DJs, and it was like a fiver in, and the club would be rammed. You don’t get that as much. It seems to be now if there is a big event on one month, everyone goes there, and then the smaller venues people just don’t go to. It’s probably to do with social media, but the ones with the biggest draw, it seems people go to. If people don’t know where to go, they’ll go to the popular one, whereas in London you used to just go out, walk down a road and try somewhere that looked good. There wasn't much planning.
But again, with the cost of everything now, small venues struggle to put things on, especially during the week. It’s all part of the same thing. I don’t know how to solve it, but I do think small venues are very important - especially for up and coming DJs and up and coming promoters - and there’s a bit of a monopoly with that at the moment in certain areas. It doesn’t leave much breathing space for new starts or people trying to make a career in it.
It’s such an in-depth discussion point, and really deserves a whole other conversation in itself. I do hope you manage to arrange something eventually with your live show – and I suppose on that note, I’m curious as to where you go from here…?
Under Trance Wax, I’m remixing TSHA, Ellie Goulding and Gregory Porter’s new track. I think I’ve done the only club mix for that. I’ve done a remix for Meduza, too. For Ejeca, there’s a big single, ‘Do You Believe’, coming out on EMI in October. It’s the first big Ejeca one I’ve done in years with putting everything into Trance Wax and goes right back to my house roots. Next year there could also be a very exciting project with a DJ who lives in America - a semi-live hybrid, French house disco thing, but I can’t say too much about that. It’ll be completely different, really going back to my house roots as with Ejeca. Summery, house fun, semi-live, type of thing!
Taking a break from doing a Trance Wax album for a few years and trying to work on a couple of singles. I think that’s the way it goes. It takes all of your energy out doing an album, especially doing the campaign with it. The music is about a third of it! There will be about six remixes from the album - I’ve got X-COAST doing one, who’s a friend of mine - I’m trying to get a mix of older heads and guys like him to do different takes on some of those album tracks.
Can you tell us about your In Session mix?
This mix is a crate digging journey through electro trance. A lot of the tracks I've been playing for over a decade, tried and tested in the club.
Niamh Ingram is Mixmag's Weekend Editor, follow her on Twitter
Trance Wax - Antiga
TSHA, Ellie Goulding & Gregory Porter - Somebody (Trance Wax Remix)
Solee - Exhilaration (Shall Ocin Remix)
Patric & Timo - Du riechst so gut (Timo's Remix)
Scratch Massive - Make It High (Sex Schon Mix)
Hypnolove - Eurolove
Solee - Impressed
Alex Tomb - Paludose Canter
Tin Man - Cassegrain High and Low
Trance Wax - Rhythm Of The Night
Petter - Some Polyphony