After a long summer of musical globetrotting, it's a pleasure to bring Peace Portal back to it's roots with the incredible underground sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and there are few who could better represent that than this month's featured artist, Alkemist.
Alkemist, aka Austin Scheen, touts an uncanny sense of spatial, driving techno grooves. Scheen spent the last several years honing their own magically intoxicating brew of dancefloor witchcraft, combining the organic sounds of analog hardware, with the synthetic logic of DAWs to achieve spellbinding effects. Through releases on Hardonymus Records, as well as their own label Unround Sound, not to mention their prolific string of live stream appearances over the last year, Scheen teases the beginning of an enchanting catalog of releases.
In addition to the usual mix and interview, Scheen also recorded a live video of their set, available below.
Describe for us the equipment you used to create your mix?
It's a hybrid set up being synced together by Ableton for now. Ableton runs a few sample clips, and feeds midi notes to the Behringer Poly D, the main lead analog synthesizer. The Poly D has 4 voices and standard filter settings, which try to mimic the Moog filters. Drum patterns come from the Arturia Drumbrute Impact analog drum machine for this set, and are usually made up on the fly, with a couple preprogrammed "build up" patterns for tension and drops. There is also an RD-3, (a 303 clone) which has some pre programmed patterns sorted by key. These analog elements run into an analog mixer for cleaning up the low end on things that aren't the kick, and this runs into an audio interface, then a final clean up in Ableton controlled by the Akai APC40 MK2 midi controller.
What is your work flow like when composing across analog and digital components?
Lately it's been getting inspirations from a certain feeling or moment, and turning it into a sample. I separate my "music producing time" and "sample making" time. It's basically a lot of throwing stuff together until I find an aha! moment, then focus on cleaning it up. I usually have a specific tone in mind for all the elements. I try to decide who is the star for each track to really dial it in, It's most often the Poly D, or a specific sample. Sometimes just the drums themselves inspire a track.
How has your creative process evolved between your releases on Hardonymus Recordings, Living Habit (May 2020) and Mess of Melodies (July 2021)?
Wow has it changed. Most of those songs came from my whole perspective of dance music being influenced and shaped from my journey of learning to DJ. They were also all made inside ableton. Overall, I've learned to let parts have their own space in the mix more so their story can be heard. It's more about the song itself than how well it's "mixed" or "mastered". However I was a "musician" first and love to play with all the instruments. This last release might be my last "DJ" release for a while. A big change after finalizing the latest release is I am moving onto releasing "Live" tracks. "System Liberation" will be out on Unrounsound, while the tracks in this set I am aiming to release on Awesome Soundwave.
What is your process like for combining your productions in a live set?
Well I finally got into the habit of labeling all of my songs by Key so it makes things much easier to play around with. If I change the key I have to re-tune the kick on the fly. Overall I just have the elements of the songs separated into 7 tracks inside Ableton. I control each clip with the APC40 MK2. The Analog stuff is all on one track with midi clips, then a track of high/mid samples, a track for mid/low samples, two tracks for high hat samples (L&R), a bass/sub elements track, and a "pad" element track. I try to keep it simple and leave room for improvisation by having each track just as one or two scenes of clips (loops).
Tell us about your vision behind the releases on Unround Sound.
Unround Sound started with kind of a selfish purpose at first. I just really wanted to figure out how to get my own music onto DJ stores like Beatport and Traxsource. The label acted mostly as distribution for myself and other dance music artists I am friends with. Then when George Floyd was murdered and there were local protests I attended in the city I was in, Tacoma, I had an epiphany. I could help anyone in the world have access to putting their music on streaming services, not just me and my friends. I made several searches and posts online looking for artists, and then a young man named Pauluwe (Pronounced Paula-Way) contacted me from Lagos Nigeria, telling me he had an entire album's worth of music ready to release. A few releases later, we still work together to release his music, as well as other artists he is friends with in Nigeria. So now the label is more about releasing unique dance music for any artists, especially those who have less access to distribution.