On a recent sunny day in Calgary, I was able to meet up with Dan Solo and Evangelos Typist for an interview, park side. Together they make up Sanctums, a multi faceted downtempo type project. These two (and their respective crew of homies) are constantly exploring genres and pushing musical boundaries. I can say with confidence that I was introduced to both dubtech and juke at one of their various DJ nights around Calgary, as well as many up and coming artists that are now in heavy rotation on my iPod.
It is no surprise that their self titled Sanctums LP is a unique and lovely effort. I have taken to drinking my morning coffee to these soothing sounds, and am so pleased they will be making their Sanctums debut at Basscoast this summer with a sunrise set. Together we talked musical influences, DJ nights, the current state of hip hop, and best of all Sanctums.
But before you get reading, be sure to download the free new track from Sanctums, Did You See Me?, included below. Enjoy!
K Lea: So first individually … Dan can you explain a couple of your musical influences to me, and a bit about your musical style.
Dan Solo: Definitely my first love in music was hip hop in the early to mid 90s. That’s what turned the light bulb on in my head, and got me wanting to be involved in music. I got into electronic music in the late 90s early 2000s. I guess my style is a hybrid of those two. Modern electronic dance music and hip hop influence.
K: Same thing to you Evangelos.
Evangelos Typist: I grew up listening to hardcore and 90s metal. Lots of thrashy metal. I started listening to electronic music in 2006. I was playing a lot of electro and techno. From there after I met Dan I started getting really into hip hop.
K: There’s quite an age gap between you guys. How did you meet?
D: I was working at Phonics, the record store. I had just moved here (to Calgary) from Vancouver. I was probably one of the only people in the city playing electro at the time, like late 2006. You know that heavy …
E: Turbo kind of sound.
D: Yeah, like early Edbanger stuff. And a lot of people here weren’t really open to that at the time. Funk, and breaks and disco were still kind of the big thing here at the time. That was before dubstep had caught on, and Evangelos and a few other people would come into the store, and they were the only other ones open to the same kind of music I was into. Everyone else was into their older genres. So we kind of formed a bond on that. We started doing shows together.
E: And yeah, it just kicked off from there.
K: So you were just of age back then?
E: Yeah I had just turned 18. I may have even been 17 when Dan and I met.
K: So let me just ask you then … when I was underage and sort of coming up in this scene all ages ‘raves’ were sort of a big thing, but then that kind of went away. How did you get into electronic music with the lack of an all ages ‘rave’ scene?
E: It comes out of my tastes for heavy metal and hardcore. I was buying 7 inches of Death From Above and on the b sides of that you’d get remixes by Justice and that kind of stuff. That was my introduction, and me and some friends were starting to get into DJing just for fun. I kind of broke off and decided I really wanted to take it seriously, and I met Dan. Every week I’d go into the record store and say ‘alright, what do I need now?’ and he’d be like ‘you need this kind of turntable’. So I’d work for a few months, save up and get it, then ask ‘what do I need to do now?’ and Dan would say ‘get this record’ … eventually within that same year I started throwing parties under the name Midnight Social. I was throwing my own kind of rave parties at The Underground and Marquee Room. I had a music blog going, and after that I decided to go into post secondary so I was away for a couple years. As soon as I moved back I got involved with Modern Math and we’ve been tight ever since.
K: It’s interesting to me how younger people get involved with good music of all genres. There seems to be sort of a lack in all ages events.
E: There was actually a great all ages scene when I was growing up. All of the people that are in good bands today … Feist, The Dudes, SIDS, The Pants Situation … when I was growing up there was a great all ages scene, and music was very open back then. Even synthy music was popular with a lot of these bands. Maybe lately it’s not as strong genre wise, I think it’s mostly hardcore. But when I was in high school that was what we did.
D: Neither of us really came from the rave scene. I was traveling abroad and developing my own tastes through traveling and meeting people abroad. When I was living in Vancouver there was definitely and underground party scene I was going to, like the early Lighta Crew parties. I guess you could call those a rave to an extent but they definitely weren’t all ages. When ‘rave’ was big here in the 90s I was definitely more into hip hop. A lot of my really close friends were, and I’ve been involved with Shambhala since almost the beginning because my older brother is very closely connected with it. So that was what kind of really brought me into electronic.
K: That’d be kind of different to be involved with Shambhala before you were really into electronic music.
D: Yeah that’s kind of what got me into it, and it’s been interesting to see it change so much over the years
K: So you guys are pretty musically compatible then … I was going to ask you how you started your night Natural Selection.
D: How did we start that? I think we were just listening to a lot of hip hop.
E: Things were changing a lot with Modern Math because we were having venue issues.
D: And the whole local electronic scene in general was changing. It was kind of entering a phase that we really weren’t stoked on.
E: We wanted to do something different.
D: We wanted to have a night where we could play a different kind of music.
E: We were already writing music together by the time we started the night. We were spending so much time together that we wanted to DJ too.
K: Are you both involved with Modern Math and Northern Lights also?
D: Definitely Modern Math, Northern Lights is a bit more me and Sandro and some other Hifi people.
K: So was Sanctums a bi product of your Natural Selections thing?
D and E: No, it was before.
D: It was kind of the same reason that we started the (hip hop) night. We were kind of bored with the current state of electronic music. We weren’t really inspired by a lot of what was happening and what was coming out. We didn’t want to make anything where we were pressured to make stuff for the dance floor. We just wanted to make music for the sake of making music. So we started this intentional project of writing songs without any intention of them being dance music songs.
K: So how would you describe the sound of Sanctums?
E: I would say it’s film music with a hip hop backdrop.
D: Yeah, kind of like cinematic soundtracky, classical music inspired, ambient, downtempo … you know there is like, a bass element, like a lot of heavy sub bass in most of the songs, but it’s a very soft kind of sound. We took a lot of time writing the chords and writing the progressions of the songs.
K: So how did you come up with the name Sanctums?
D: I don’t even know
K: You just sort of bounced a few things off each other?
D: I think when we started making this music we kind of wanted it to be music that would take people somewhere, into a nice place. And that’s kind of what a sanctum is, a holy sacred place.
E: There’s like a healing factor involved in that too. We specifically don’t write menacing. We pick a lot of chords that are warm and a lot of major scales.
D: We want to make people feel happy and feel good. Calm and meditative.
K: How do you solidify your sound in the studio? Do you guys have a specific process for that?
D: I dunno. We just usually sit down and start with writing some drums and figure out a chord progression. We have a lot of instruments we use over and over for sort of the same sounds.
E: Guitars, pianos … There’s not like only one way about it either. A lot of times Dan will write a track and we’ll take a look at it together. Or I’ll write a track and Dan will re-write some of it. It kind of switches every time. The only thing I can say about our process is that it’s organic. Sometimes we even decide to do covers or remixes and they end up being originals because they don’t sound anything like the original.
K: So you guys have a pretty well anticipated morning set coming up at Basscoast this year. Are you looking forward to that?
D: Very much so. It’s going be our first live set ever. We haven’t performed yet.
K: Not even in Calgary?
E: Not as Sanctums.
D: No, because it’s not really DJ music. Eventually we wanna to DJ sets. They won’t be anything like our normal DJ sets.
K: It’s almost like this morning set at Basscoast is perfect for this type of music.
E: We wouldn’t want to be playing this in a club.
K: Do you guys have anything else planned for the summer?
D: Right now we’re in the process of writing some new material, so that we’re not just playing stuff off the album. So we’re going to have some new material and we’re going to build a live set. There will be definite glimpses of the album in the live set, but it’ll be live so it’ll be completely redone and different.
E: Yeah, the whole thing’s basically going to be like a remix. You’ll have parts of the original album, but there’s almost a feng shui flow to a live set I think we’ll both try to capture. We’re both very ‘live’ people. We want to stay away from the conventions of just pushing buttons on Ableton.
D: Yeah, there’s going to be actual real instruments involved. Guitars and distortion pedals, different effects
E: Yeah, I’m going to play guitar.
K: Do you guys play other instruments?
D: Yeah, he plays guitar and piano. I play a little but of drums and percussion.
E: Dan plays keyboard too.
D: But mostly percussive are my strengths.
K: So, the samples in your music. You play all of them?
D: Yeah, all the chords we played ourselves. There’s no samples taken from elsewhere.
E: Yeah, even the stuff that sounds sample-y was originally created from looping guitars.
K: Can we expect to see any more releases from you guys any time soon or ever?
D: We’re already sitting on some songs we did that are unreleased. We’ve got about four songs that didn’t go on the album. We might give that out as a b-sides release. We also have another song that’s probably the closest thing we’ve ever made to a dancefloor song, and we might be dropping that a little closer to festival season. There’s also already some new songs in the beginning phases. Maybe we’ll release another full length before 2012 is over.
K: What about individual sets this summer?
D: Yeah I’m playing Basscoast with Piranha Piranha and Shambhala as Dan Solo and Piranha Piranha. Fractal Forest and the Beach stages.
K: And other than that you guys will be keeping your regular nights going?
D: Yeah, lots of stuff at the Hifi and Broken City.
K: What’s going on with Modern Math?
D: Well, we encountered a lot of venue issues, and we’re kind of at a point where Modern Math was such a great thing where it was in its time and place, we don’t want to cheapen the name.
K: You don’t want to force it.
D: Yeah, we don’t want to force it in a space- like we really think the identity of it when it was at it’s best was at the Lord Nelsons, and now that’s done … we may still do Modern Math presents type events, but as far as the night being a regular thing, it’s probably run its course.
E: Yeah, what makes Modern Math so different and special is that we don’t cash in on the brand. It’s not a money making thing. As Dan said, it was a special time and place. We could have it anywhere. We could call Northern Lights Modern Math but it’s not the same thing.
K: Can you give me a little breakdown of all your different nights and what type of music they are? And also what individualizes them from each other?
D: The thing is all of our tastes are not monotheistic. We are always adapting and changing our styles and it’s been sort of what’s separated us from other people in this city. We haven’t just done the same thing for years. Some people don’t like that, some people really do like that. I’d say Northern Lights started as a lot more dubstep and bass music, but now we’re doing a lot more house and rap and techno. Modern Math is … well I don’t know. All of our nights were kind of about exploring new territories of music. Whether it’s techno, or juke, or some experimental micro genre from another city. We’re not playing stuff that’s guaranteed to kill the dancefloor. If we wanted to pack the room we would just play your generic build up and drop dubstep.
K: And Natural Selection is all hip hop?
D: Strictly hip hop.
E: We advertise 80s and 90s so we only have to play good new stuff. That way I don’t have to play Obie Trice requests. But I mean, if something cool comes out like that ScHoolboy Q …
D: Hip hop and rap is in the best place it’s been right now since the 90s, there’s a lot of new fresh urban artists that are doing some pretty cool stuff. Lots of wicked beats, that’s definitely my inspiration.
K: Can you pick five?
D: ScHoolboy Q,
E: A$AP Rocky
D: Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson
D: And then in terms of producers Clams Casino, Ty Beats, Haji Beats … so much good
K: Do you find it gets hard to search through it all?
D: It takes a lot of time. I spend probably 10 hours a week strictly finding music online, going through it, and preparing my sets and forming my taste for that small period of time.
As usual these two have opened my eyes to something new. Spaceghostpurrp is the greatest hip hop name ever! As the rest of us begin our months of fun in the sun, these two will be locked in the studio making more tracks for their anticipated Basscoast debut. They have set up the album sales for their Santums LP as a pay by donation. All of the proceeds are going to the Help Keenan fund, an admirable cause to support. For more information on these guys and their crew visit www.therinseout.com, and to get the album here.