SIAN calls his sound “classic modern techno.” The boss of well-known Octopus Recordings, his experimental style and ambitious musical vision have earned him a place high in the ranks of the current techno audience.
We talked with SIAN earlier this week about his style, influences and the incredible success of his label.
You were born in Dublin and have spent a lot of time in both Spain and France. Tell me about your time in the U.S. What was your initial impression of the music scene here and how has it influenced your sound?
I think it’s really healthy. I think it’s getting better and better every year. Maybe because there’s a ton of new fans coming into the scene. Maybe they access it through EDM or post-EDM. It seems like there’s a lot of new blood and new life being injected into the scene.
The music you create is incredibly diverse, ranging from the happy bouncy sounds of glitch hop to the darker tones, with a myriad of sounds in between. Is this diversity a reflection of your personality and life experience?
To be honest, I play two types of techno. I play a little bit lighter more groovy based stuff, and then maybe one or two tracks in the night would be heavier, darker techno. I think that’s pretty much the spectrum that I go from, all including those sounds. My favorite type of music is new techno. It’s what the label is all about, kind of futuristic or forward-looking techno.
In an article for Thump you mention a “classical education.” What did you mean by that?
I went to some pretty interesting schools. Nine in total. I studied a wide range of subjects, I actually went on to study biology for a short period after school. It didn’t last long, but it was a good entry into a lot of different interests in science. I still try to learn and keep up-to-date with developments in science and the technological side of it is a big influence in my music for sure.
You wanted your label Octopus to be an outlet for unique styles that weren’t being represented in the industry. Do you feel you have succeeded in this?
Yeah, I think so. We are one of the top five selling techno labels in the world, so I think we’ve got a niche and people seem to respond to the sound that we put out. I’m proud of it. It’s kind of my baby in a way.
What are the new goals for the label?
We are taking the label parties up a notch, we are doing some pretty big shows like Movement, we’re always at BPM, Sonar, Miami. We are trying to expand the label brand in that way, that it becomes a recognizable label showcase at all the big events.
You’ve spoken about “getting people to think” with your music. What do you mean by this? What are you trying to inspire in them exactly?
I think it’s important, even if you are releasing dance floor music that’s hedonistic or for parties, that it has an intelligence or a type of subversiveness to it. A bit of art in there to try and point people in a different direction. Like using experimental sounds in accessible music to make people think more.
Have you found the freedom you were looking for?
Yes, absolutely. It’s my label, we can put out things that we think are interesting and not have to worry about getting approval from the established structure of a company.
How do you build your songs?
I’m kind of different than most people. I start with a synth sound or a more melodic thing or something that was musical before I would go to percussion or drums. Most people start with drums and build a groove then put melodies or sounds on top of that. Putting the music first just comes naturally to me.
I grew up listening to anything electronic. I listened to the 80s disco and electro pop stuff on the radio in Spain. I was really interested in early breakdance, or hip-hop especially, things that were made with machines and synthesizers. I loved a lot of the early (American) hip-hop like Lembata and the kind of wild breakdance music that came of the states.
Are you excited about the show in Atlanta on Saturday?
Always! The first time I played here was this kind of warehouse thing with Dee Washington and a few others. I love it (the south), it’s really nice, good food too.
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