Cut To The Chase with Alic/Adamson
ALIC / ADAMSON (GER)
“ Imagine your head feels as if every cavity inside it is filled with a fizzy, hi-proof drink while you're being catapulted through this kaleidoscopic trip. ”
Well, have fun imagining that…
...this time on Cut To The Chase, I bring you Adam Thiele, who is one half of the legendary Psychedelic Techno-duo Alic and solo he is Adamson. The other half is Volker Jakubzik, but Alic is not their only collaborative effort. They both also run the net-label Digital Diamonds which has been a long lasting pillar in Psychedelic Techno.
Since 2002, Alic keep up the original idea of Psychedelic Techno in form of their passionate studio and live project and in form of their popular netlabel Digital Diamonds, founded in 2006. In their own words: “All these commitments strive to combine Psy-Trance and Progressive Techno in a fresh and innovative way, but without the drag of getting too clubby or too minimal.”
The first time I heard of Alic was their EP “Proper Language”, in 2010 on Digital Diamonds and ever since then, I find an aesthetic and attraction in their music, that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. Give it up for Adam from Alic/Adamson.
Let’s get stuck in...
1. Adam, I ask the same old intro question every time but it applies perfectly to you too, the as same as to every guest before you: How are you so down to earth? What is the secret? :)
Good question... It's not really a secret. It's probably because music is more important to me than fame, likes and numbers. What drives me are the fun and the passion I'm having with quality music... and I'm trying to catch enough sleep each night ;)
In terms of social interaction, I've only few social media apps on my phone (only messengers and chats) and try to avoid fake people or people with blown-up egos. Instead I'm surrounding myself with humble and authentic persons. That has a positive feedback loop on me which keeps my feet on the ground.
2. Which are the first memories that you have of music?
Coming from a musical family, I think the very first conscious memory I have is the sound when you put a needle on a vinyl record, that first noisy, crackling seconds before the sound starts playing. The first memory doing music by myself is running and drumming around with pan lids and killing the nerves of my parents. Second memory is grabbing "Europe - The Final Countdown" and "David Hasselhoff - Looking For Freedom" from radio on cassette and creating my first mixtapes (including moderation).
3. Outside of psychedelic techno, what music do you keep coming back to for leisure-time?
Actually I don't have much time to listen to other music than demos, promos or new psychedelic techno releases... but if by chance I got some free time, I'm totally into Crossover, Synthwave, Triphop and Soundtracks. To drop a few names: Faith No More, Life Of Agony, Darkside/ Nicolas Jaar, Burial, LORN, Downhill, Tricky, Mr. Robot OST, TRON OST, Drive OST... You can find some of that leisure time music mixed under my Adam Andaluz fun-side-project: https://www.mixcloud.com/AdamAndaluz
4. How did you develop an interest in the music you’re making and playing professionally today?
I had my first electronic parties at Waldfrieden and Fusion Club in Western Germany around 2000. By that time I listened to Nordic/ Scandinavic Trance (Son Kite, Atmos, Yumade, old Iboga tunes, etc.) and German Techno (Sven Väth, Der Dritte Raum, Ellen Alien, etc.), but also a lot of Spiriallianz/ Midimiliz tunes. So basically when Volker and me started Alic the idea was to merge psy sounds to feed your head and techno rhythms to move your body, kind of merging the best of both worlds.
5. And did you come across any personally transformative events on that journey? Did electronic music offer any sort of “revelation” or “mindblow” to you on the way towards appreciating it?
Absolutely! I'm having a transformative event each time I'm behind the decks: I forget everything around me and dive into the sounds and am just here and now in that very moment. Regarding events, there are definitely some festivals and Burns that are still having a strong influence on me, like Fusion, Boom or Afrika Burn. At these festivals it’s possible to reset yourself temporarily from „the Matrix“, to act out and live temporary in an utopian reality/ parallel universe.
Another personal revelation was that I'm not doing music to pay my bills... I do it, because I love it! Music business is a tough business, which is why I want to be involved as little as possible in paperwork/administration and focus the max on music! Therefore I'm also free and independent to do it the way I want, without the need to follow any market or media trends.
6. Ultimately, what led you to becoming a producer/performer?
It just happened somehow. Initially I was just super interested in the electronic music scene, it felt like a 2nd home. At the beginning I've been working as a drug worker for different NGOs, offering risk reduction services at parties. My friends Roberdo and Heike/ DJoanna introduced me into DJ mixing (vinyls and CDs). I learned from them to mix the "male" (hard cuts) and the "female" (soft fading) way. On that basis I developed my own mixing style. So I was invited to play at parties more frequently and in parallel I participated at a Cubase workshop with Roberdo, where I met Volker.
7. Which was your first experience with a music label and what label was it?
Our first release was a collaboration with The Osmotic Effect called "Supplements" on Mindsoundrecords compilation "Beat OM Beat". Second one was "The Gentle Way Of Minddestruction" on Horns And Hoofs compilation "Abracadabra".
8. What made you and Volker start the net label Digital Diamonds?
We just felt that by that time (we're talking about the year 2005) there was little Techtrance/ Psychedelic Techno labels, where our Alic sound could fit in. Further the whole music industry was still focused on physical sales (CDs, vinyls), but we wanted to try something different, do something more state of the art: a purely virtual/ digital netlabel, based on Creative Commons license. By that time, Beatport, iTunes etc. were just in their beginning stages; Napster has been criminalized...we wanted to make a statement. And thanks to technological developments we could manage the whole release process on our own. On the other hand we've been working many years as A&Rs for Horns And Hoofs, but then decided to focus on our own label, due to lack of time and due to different label management approaches.
9. What does “a day at your label office” look like?
Every day is different and full of surprises, so there isn't a typical day on the office ;) I got my office always with me on my phone and work when on the road. For sure there's a certain routine regarding checking demo submissions, chatting with artists, spotting new music,working on release schedules, mastering, artwork, promo/ marketing, networking... etc. Mondays are reserved for studio time :)
10. You are playing live acts to present your own music creations, but do you play DJ sets as well? If so, what’s your preferred medium for it?
Actually we call them Producer Sets and not Live Acts, as for us "live" means to create the music in the moment/ on the fly, which we obviously don't do as we play mastered tracks and add some samples, loops FX etc. We prefer to play DJ sets, as we're more flexible, can react better to the crowd and always have some unexpected twists in our sets. Also, it gives us the possibility to try out unreleased tracks on the dance floor and observe the response of the crowd.
11. What is your opinion on modern features to make DJing easier or more efficient or more creative? (Sync Buttons, Sampling features, Controllers, etc)
Modern features simplified a lot of aspects and made DJing more efficient: You got your full DJ collection at one place and can deliberately find any track that comes into your mind very quickly. But my perception is modern features also bring DJs to mix more visual, that is analytical and less intuitive. Nowadays you know the key, bpm and so on and just by knowing those parameters it influences your track selection. Also you got a lot of text info for each track, which triggers the rather logical parts of your brain. I personally use Traktor and Rekordbox occasionally to prepare important sets, but I'm much rather an "old-school guy" and prefer to play with USB Sticks on CD players, which is very comfortable. The modern features made DJing probably a bit more creative (I play around a lot with loops), also the FXs are sounding quite good nowadays. Summing it up: Every feature has its right to exist, depends on what you want to use it for.
12. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you stand on the seemingly eternal battle of “analog vs digital” in music production/mixing or even mastering for that matter.
Same statement applies here too: Every way has it's right of existence. Analogue is known for adding more warmth and depth to the sounds; with digital you got a lot of very powerful tools like e.g. iZotope Ozone or the Waves Bundle. But I think most of the people who listen to electronic music barely hear a difference between analogue and digital productions, it's rather identified by producers and sound nerds. What is more important is the mixing of a track and that the track itself tells an interesting story. We at Digital Diamonds are doing digital mastering and artists, as well as fans are happy and satisfied with it.
13. Considering that you have a family, I would like to know are you super dedicated to consecutive hours of production time or do you split it up into little bits and pieces?
Well, in my current life situation I have to split my production time. I'm working 4 days a week Tuesdays till Fridays, Learning Consultant and Project Manager. My lady and me got two little boys (2 years, 4 months) who are both very vivid and active ;) So mostly I produce in the eve/at nights, at the weekends or I try to exclusively dedicate Mondays for music production. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes less... as you probably know you cannot force creativity out of your mind, it just appears/ happens.
14. Would you like it any different though?
Personally I think I've figured out the right balance between family, music, real-life job and leisure time. That balance helps me to avoid psychological problems like burnout, depression or panic attacks and maintain a certain psychological hygiene.
15. Shine a little light on your process of making a track. Who is starting it? Do you start in a particular way and is there a structure or scheme to how you and Volker are making a track.
Regarding Alic tracks we're working solo and sending us beta versions of the tracks asking the other for feedback... After so many years we're in sync, so that was the most efficient way. Actually we currently produce less Alic tracks then we did the years before, as the label is consuming most of our time + Volker works 5 days a week and has family too. But we finished some new tracks few weeks ago. Volker had sent me some stems of projects that he began some months ago and I've rearranged them. As Adamson I'm continuously optimizing my template. Many years I've been working without a template, but by now studio time is a precious good to me, so once I'm in the studio I want to start immediately with no barriers. I also love to do remixes and collabs, as you learn a lot and for me it is every time a very enriching experience.
16. Talk about your work-life-balance. Running the label, making music, being a DJ, do you have a work-life-balance or work-life-chaos?
Hehe, a bit of both ;) As I mentioned before I think I figured out my personal family-work-music-balance, which most of the time goes well, when you're disciplined. But when you get lazy or when you're coming from a gig with no sleep it can get chaotic sometimes.
17. On that note I’m interested in your opinion on the topic of: artists getting professional help to organize or to further their career, with the intention to focus purely on being creative instead of dealing with bookings or book keeping or things like that.
Well, if that's possible and you got the right team, why not outsourcing the non-musical aspects? Being a music artist means to feed social media, networking, paperwork, solving technical challenges... so maybe only 10% of your activities are related purely to music. On the artist level we're only covering the necessary minimum as you probably saw on our Facebooks, Insta, etc. Our bookings will be managed by Daniel from Open Bookings (ZA) in the future. On label level we've expanded our team by:
Olli (Frame And Bar Media) to give it a push on our visual language
Doing so Volker and me can share the workload and focus on our core business: which is locating, polishing and delivering Digital Diamonds, pure Psychedelic Techno to the world :) We also want to improve networking with other crews and labels, but that will happen step by step over the next years.
18. Who are your favorite producer(s) and/or personalities of the industry?
Wow... there are so many... For me there are two important criteria: the music has to be not only good, but mind-blowingly good, plus the artists have to be humble personalities. That applies to Eeemus, One Million Toys, Aleckat, Perfect Stranger, Trilingo, Luis M, Ash Roy, Uone, Out Of Sorts, Code Therapy, Ben Rama, MYDA, Flembaz, Bass To Pain Converter... please forgive me in case I forgot anyone :)
19. How was Alic formed?
Volker and me meet at a Cubase workshop and decided to do music together. We produced our first collab track (see above) and the rest just happened.
20. Are you playing Alic gigs together with Volker?
Yes, if we're booked together we play together, which has always a different dynamic compared to me playing solo. But we also play solo gigs, depending on our availability and the promoter’s budget.
21. Where in the world have you been so far with Alic? Where do you feel like you still have to bring it?
Most memorable gigs were at Burning Man, Afrika Burn and New Zealand. The Burns were in deserts, that is in the middle of nowhere. I received loads of positive feedback to my sets and am ask nearly every year when I do come back. Kiwiland was crazy, as it was in a small dewatered boat, whipping to my beats. I would like to play more frequently at festivals during daytime, festivals like Fusion, Ozora, Hadra, Modem or Boom. And for sure I would love touring South Africa, India, Australia, Mexico in a few years, once my kids have grown up a bit more.
22. What is Adamson?
Adamson is a spin-off of Alic, born at a private open-air party in the outback from Berlin in 2015. By that time I felt the desire to head to new musical directions and production techniques. I switched from PC and Cubase to Mac and Ableton... still not regretting it ;) Of course there's some style overlapping between Alic and Adamson, but Alic has more epic melodies and psy-elements, whereas with Adamson I intent to be more simplified, less melodic, groovier and more minimalistic.
23. Looking back at how you got here, do you have one piece of advice for young Adam from 10-15 years ago, aspiring to become an international music artist?
Actually there are several pieces of wisdom for my younger self: be more disciplined and focused and avoid procrastination when producing; reduce booze consumption at gigs; be aware that music business is a hard business and don't let promoters bully you! Learn to negotiate so you get fair deals; avoid people who drain energy from you; don't get too frustrated if you cannot translate what is in your head and heart into your music, just try to make it better the next time. When a track is finished, move on to the next one.
24. What do you think was your main struggle when you were starting out making music?
Not having enough patience, which resulted in frustration. Not having a good structure/ procedure for production/arrangement. But I've learned it over the years ;)
25. Do you have any advice for producers/live acts who are starting to get notoriety and starting to make waves in their scene?
Enjoy it while it lasts; it soon could be over. Stay true to yourself and to the people close to you; if shit comes down one day, they're still there to support you. Set yourself realistic expectations and don't be shy communicating them, but don't be an arrogant asshole neither.
26. What are you most proud of?
Running a top notch label since over a decade, staying true to its initial values and that doesn't need to follow music industry trends - instead Digital Diamonds itself sets new benchmarks and offers a starting point to so many highly talented underground artist like Trilingo, Code Therapy, Unknown Concept, Aleckat, Spintribe, Point, Lampé... But mostly I'm proud that our label is economically independent and we're free to release how and what we want.
27. Do you have anything lined up for us to keep an eye out?
There will be new Alic tracks on some VAs at Soupherb Records and Digital Diamonds. Also I’ll give Adamson a push, releasing some remixes at Techgnosis Records and Alula Tunes. Also an original Adamson track is scheduled for the next Digital Diamonds VA. This track will be a tribute to Afrika Burn. I definitely want to get back more into original productions and maybe do a real Adamson live act on day... what is one of the main reasons why I started producing music. Also in pipeline are a fresh podcast by Alic for Digital Diamonds (closing the mix with our upcoming track „All Is Bright“ and by Adamson for my Berlin friends from 4/4tel Pakt. Last one will be more hypnotic and industrial, which is a bit different to my usual style.
So stay tuned!
Massive thanks and appreciation to Adam for lending me his precious time. I admire his views and I share a lot of them. Here are few more Details:
Until next time.
Author: Robert Hundt // Date: January 2nd, 2020