For all new artists, DJ and producer Ian Standerwick from Portishead, near Bristol, is an inspiration. Within 18 months of his breakthrough production, he performed alongside Armin van Buuren on the Who’s Afraid Of 138?! stage at ASOT 650 in Utrecht, and his set was broadcast around the world to over 30 million listeners. So when one of the biggest rising stars of 2014 performed at the Together Festival warm up party, at Journey in Cardiff recently, we were thrilled when he agreed to speak to us for an exclusive interview:
TranceFixxed: Hi Ian, many thanks for finding the time to have a chat with us. Have you performed in Wales very often?
Ian: This will be my first time actually, first time in Cardiff anyway.
TranceFixxed: I understand that you play multiple musical instruments, is that right?
Ian: Yeah, my Dad was an RAF bandsman, so as a child I was pushed towards piano, percussion, drums, brass and reed instruments. I was never competent enough to say I was a saxophonist or whatever, but I could probably get away with most things and play in most things. Then they realised from an early age that I couldn’t actually read music, and I was playing by ear! So yes, I can play a number of instruments.
TranceFixxed: Would you say that knowing how to play an instrument and playing an instrument is important to being able to produce quality Trance music?
Ian: I always used to think it was. Having worked with a lot of different producers, not only in the Trance industry but in the commercial world as well, seeing some triple platinum artist from my past, that I grew up with, guys who would sample a lot of stuff. I’m talking 20 years ago when sampling just started, there wasn’t any instruments to play back then so it’s kind of just morphed into what it is today. However I do think it does give you an edge. Watching some other producers, friends of mine, how they produce, they draw the Midi notes, and you wouldn’t really know much difference. But for me it helps. I can probably do things a lot quicker when I sit down, play a melody and work it out.
TranceFixxed: So when you’re writing a melody, do you use a traditional keyboard first or do you go straight on the computer?
Ian: I switch on the Mac in the studio, bring up Logic which I use, and just stick a piano on. Sometimes I work with just the piano, but a lot of the time I put my rhythm tracks down, bass, sub bass, mid bass etc, and then I will find the melody will just come by itself.
TranceFixxed: You stepped away from the music industry for 5 years, returning in 2012. So as someone who has been in the industry, been away and come back: what have you noticed about how the industry has changed?
Ian: In 5 years I cannot believe what happened! It exploded, as far as I was concerned! Facebook, Twitter, the ability to do self marketing, promoting yourself across many platforms; it’s incredible! When I came back, just to be able to contact a record label via Soundcloud or e-mail was amazing. Before I left I was still sending tapes for demos etc. Everything is now that much more accessible, that much more quicker, and there thousands more producers turning out music compared to before I left!
TranceFixxed: You recently performed on the Who’s Afraid Of 138?! stage at A State of Trance 650 in Utrecht. What was that like?
Ian: It all seems a bit of a dream now to be honest! It was an amazing experience. I took Steve Helstrip, my manager, with me. He kind of held my hand throughout because it was pretty daunting! Especially when you get to the stage and look from behind (the screens), and there are that many people are standing there waiting for you…!
So yeah, I wasn’t too bad. As soon as I got up onto the stage I took over from Paul Webster. All I was concerned about really was putting my USB stick in the CDJs and just hoping that there wasn’t going to be any issues. As soon as I saw my set come up I was pretty confident that everything was going to be fine, and it was.
It was such a big event, I had rehearsed that set for 1 to 2 weeks before. I kind of predicted what might or might not go wrong! The only thing that did go wrong, that not many people actually know about, was that the last track Allen Watts ‘Blackout’ should have been track 4! But it slotted in quite well at the end!
TranceFixxed: Was it the highlight of your career so far?
Ian: Absolutely! As far as the gravity of the event, it was absolutely huge! It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind the last 2 years, especially the last 6 months. It all kind of accumulated to that moment and since then it’s just gone bananas really!
Money? What Money?
TranceFixxed: Having experienced life away from the music industry relatively recently and are now at the forefront of it, do you feel you can make a living from music or is it that much harder now?
Ian: For producing Trance music, unless you’re at the very pinnacle of the industry, maybe some money… but it’s pretty pathetic to be honest with you. Having come from a commercial world, where money was no object and when you sign to a publishing company you have huge advances, it’s a completely different ball game altogether. If you’re looking to get into the music industry in a genre like Trance to earn a living I should stick to your normal job! Do it as a passion, or a hobby. Unless you’re going to start delving into the commercial world or running a really successful label with sub labels, don’t plan on running a family on it!
TranceFixxed: Not something to enter for the money then, it’s got to be for the love of the music?
Ian: Absolutely no way! If I had wanted to come back for the money, I would have jumped back in to the commercial world. That’s where the money is, unless you’re at the peak of the Trance scene. Really the only way to make money is to hope your music is successful enough to get you on the road and start gigging and DJing everywhere. Kind of a backdoor way of earning money… so there is a way of earning money but it’s limited.
TranceFixxed: You’re an unusual producer in the Trance industry as you’re a vocalist as well, and have been quite prolific at it. At heart, would you say you’re a producer or a vocalist?
Ian: Producer. I do enjoy doing the vocals, going in a different direction but I feel that it isn’t really the route I want to go. I have really concentrated on producing now, more so than vocals. I may do some more vocals in the future, but I’m not going for it like I am with producing.
TranceFixxed: Do you think vocals add to the appeal of the track?
Ian: I think that there is room for everything. There is room for non-vocal Trance, male vocal Trance, female vocal Trance, and at different tempos as well. Probably the thing I love most about Trance the most is it’s width and variety. (Trance goes) from tempos 120 to 140, and vocals will work well on any of those tempos as well. I don’t think that there is any one tempo or any one way. It’s just about finding the right vocals for that song, if you think it needs them.
The Passing of a Friend
TranceFixxed: Your latest single was with ReOrder under your Skypatrol alias, called ‘Sailing Airwaves (In Memory of Matt Trigle)’. Can you tell us a bit about Matt?
Ian: Matt was A&R for ReOrder’s label Silent Shore. He was a very close friend of Tibor (ReOrder). I got to know Matt a couple of years ago, we talked a lot. He was always a voice of encouragement, if you’d done a tune he would tell you what he thought of it. He was an integral part of Silent Shore and Tibor’s right hand man, so a great loss. It’s strange not having him there to talk to. He would always be there to talk to, day or night. It was such a shock when he passed away because we weren’t expecting it, far from it.
It seemed apt, the right thing to do, dedicating it to him, and I think we captured the essence of him in that tune. I’ve noticed it’s moved up to number 3 on Beatport, so it will be great if it can get it to number 1 for him.
TranceFixxed: I’m sorry for your loss, I didn’t realise that you were so close. I think releasing a song like this is a good tribute and it has been well received. As you said it’s now up to number 3, it’s getting good reaction, so that’s really positive. It’s not the first time you’ve worked with ReOrder. Is it a collaboration that we can expect to hear more from?
Ian: We’re going to continue Skypatrol, see how it goes. It’s quite popular. We love it, we love working together, we’re like brothers really! We’re chalk and cheese together, but have a good relationship. He’s got his things, what he’s doing, and I’ve got mine, and every now and again we meet in the middle to do Skypatrol. Yeah, it’s a good balance.
TranceFixxed: After tonight, next you’re off to Godskitchen for ‘Clash of the Gods’ performing with Adam Ellis. Have you worked with Adam before?
Ian: No, I’ve spoken to Adam quite a few times. We’re friends, and were probably going to catch up in the week, discuss how we are going to nail our set! We can’t wait. Any producer that knows his Trance; it’s Godskitchen, iconic. Great honour for us to play there.
TranceFixxed: Any other notable tour dates coming up?
Ian: Yeah, Future Sounds of Egypt Vs Subculture, in the Netherlands, Trancecoda in Birmingham, Trance Sanctuary in London… you know, I lose count! I’m really fortunate at the moment, there’s a lot of bookings coming in. There’s lots to announce as well, I have a lot more international dates coming up which will be announced nearer the time. Happy to be busy. (See full Tour Dates).
TranceFixxed: Having performed at A State of Trance 650 and you’re going to Godskitchen, is there a dream venue you would love to perform at?
Ian: I’ve got to admit I was jealous of Armin playing at Madison Square Gardens, only because in my younger days I used to follow U2. I remember their gigs quite vividly at Madison Square Gardens and places like that. Having done A State of Trance (650), the buzz, I can’t describe to you the buzz! Performing for that many people. In saying that, I did a boat party on the Thames in London a few weeks ago for a few hundred people. It was very intimate and was probably one of my most enjoyable gigs.
TranceFixxed: Joys of the unexpected.
Ian: Yeah, people enjoying themselves really. Even at these big gigs you can usually only ever see the first 4 rows, things can get a bit dark and dingy after that! Often at the smaller gigs, the intimacy of them means you can bounce off the crowd. Then again, when the lights come on in a place like A State of Trance and you see the wave of the crowd moving like the sea, that’s something pretty special as well!
TranceFixxed: What’s the best way for fans to keep up to date with what you’ve got going on? Facebook?
TranceFixxed: What does Trance music mean to you?
Ian: To be honest, it encapsulates just about everything that I love about music! Harmony, melody and rhythm. There is that special moment, in what we call the breakdown, where you can be expressive, fully express your feelings… and it just encapsulates everything that music is to me.
TranceFixxed: If you wanted to convince a disbelieving friend just how great Trance is, what song would you play them?
Ian: Probably something from Paul Van Dyk, or something earlier of Armin’s work, or maybe a Daren Porter tune even. There’s a lot… I couldn’t narrow it down to one tune, but they are a few of the producers that I would send their way.
TranceFixxed: Final question: what else can we expect from you in 2014, anything you can share?
Ian: Yeah, the new Ministry of Sound ‘Trance Nation’ album is to be released in May has got a few of my new tracks on it. ‘Like They Used To’ which is a collaboration with The Thrillseekers is on CD1, Skypatrol ‘Sailing Airwaves (In Memory of Matt Trigle)’ is on CD2, along with my new single ‘Valyrian’.
TranceFixxed: Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to hearing more from you in the near future.
Standerwick Live at Journey, Cardiff
TranceFixxed Meets Ian Standerwick
Standerwick: On Tour
26th April 2014 – Clash of the Gods @ Godskitchen, Birmingham
3rd May 2014 – Sense For Trance @ Gorinchem, Netherlands
10th May 2014 – Trance Sanctuary @ London
30th May 2014 – Frequency @ Southampton
31st May 2014 – Trancecoda @ Birmingham
7th June 2014 – Future Sound of Egypt Vs Subculture @ Amsterdam, Netherlands
21st June 2014 – Exchange Of Sound @ Poland, OH
Standerwick Facebook – facebook.com/StanderwickMusic
Standerwick Twitter – @ianstanderwick
Standerwick Soundcloud – soundcloud.com/ian-standerwick
Together Festival – www.togetherfestival.co.uk
Journey (Cardiff) – facebook.com/journeycardiff
Clwb Ivor Bach – www.clwb.net