TIP119 – Stelios Vassiloudis
Stelios Vassiloudis is a musician, producer and DJ. He has released music under various other monikers and aliases over the last 5 years such as Stel, Vincent Vega and one of 3 members of Wiretappeur, racking up an impressive discography and collaborating with an exciting and diverse number of labels such as Bedrock, Audiomatique, Selador and Moodmusic. His coveted studio skills have earned him a formidable reputation as a versatile and consistent artist capable of producing music that transcends genres and spans electronic music’s spectrum from delicate ambient sonic structures to driving dance floor techno. Stelios’ original and remix production work can often be found in many a DJ’s track collection and heard on dance floors across the globe. Some of his most vocal supporters over the years have been luminaries such as John Digweed, Sasha, Josh Wink, Laurent Garnier and Steve Bug.
Stelios’ crowning achievement is recent years has undoubtedly been the release of his “It Is What It Is” debut album for John Digweed’s esteemed Bedrock imprint. Released to critical acclaim in late 2011 and spanning over 2 discs of original compositions, it set the global stage for Stelios as an artist and introduced the world to his eclectic tastes, uncompromising artistic vision and unique production work. The album spawned a succession of highly regarded singles and remix releases with notable contributions from Steve Bug, Samuel L Session, Mark Reeve, Russ Gabriel and Satoshi Tomiie.
As a DJ, Stelios brings a similar dedication and sophistication to his DJ sets travelling all over the world to play his brand of house and techno to music enthusiasts and clubbers. His inspired programming and meticulous attention to detail behind the decks have taken him to many diverse locations-from intimate underground clubs in Beirut to festivals in Miami and from the European dance meccas of Ibiza and Amsterdam to the frenetic clubbing underground of Buenos Aires. As one of Bedrock’s most prolific artists, he can often be found supporting label figurehead John Digweed or participating in the label’s legendary showcases and parties around the globe. We were very lucky to catch up with Stelios shortly after his “It Was What It Was” release on Bedrock…..
Hi Stelios, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us. What have you been up to recently?
Hello! It’s my pleasure and thank you for having me. I’ve been very busy in the studio working on my next album. I don’t have much free time in my typical day-to-day schedule, so I’m trying to concentrate on it as much as possible and spend as much time as is necessary to make sure I get it right.
You hail from Greece which has seen some impressive producers and DJs of late such as Dousk, Christian Cambas and of course yourself. Has your home country been a big influence on your musically?
Dousk and Christian are great producers and there are also some other really, really talented compatriots of mine making some great music. Having said that, music, entertainment and information in general are so global that I don’t think I’ve been consciously influenced by Greece in any way.
Where did you learn your music skills? Are you a self-taught musician or were you taught through education?
I was classically trained as a youngster and studied music at graduate and post graduate levels at University. Ironically, I’m mostly self-taught as an engineer, which is probably a good thing, since the technology is constantly evolving and I feel it’s imperative to keep up with all the new developments.
Can you tell us a little bit about the scene in Greece and what clubs are doing it for you right now?
Unfortunately, the economic crisis and Greece’s lack of a proper club scene and culture, has left us with somewhat of a handicap in that department. However, there are a few notable exceptions where people have put in a significant amount of effort and yielded great results. Promotion teams such as Blend, Evolution and Detox put on some good large(r) scale events with big international and local acts, while clubs and bars such as Six D.O.G.S. and Playground are consistent in nurturing the best in homegrown talent. Outside of Athens, there are the worldwide renowned Cavo Paradiso and Paradise Club in Mykonos that are very active during the summer months as well as Elvis, Le Freak and a handful of other great bars in Thessaloniki, that all contribute positively to the Greek club scene. I don’t really gig or go out that much in Greece, so I’m probably not the best person to ask for an appraisal, to be perfectly honest.
Which artists influenced you from an early age and why?
The Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones were my earliest musical influences since that’s the kind of music I was first exposed to as a kid. Those bands are what made me want to learn how to play an instrument and most informed my musical vocabulary. Later on, I took everything in from Jazz to Grindcore so it would be very difficult to credit any artists in particular.
Although you are well known for your solo productions you are also well known for your work with producers such as Sasse, Phonogenic and Nils Nurnberg and Florian Kruse, as Wiretappeur. Is working alongside other producers something you prefer to do?
I used to be very resistant to the idea of collaborations, but I guess I’ve mellowed with age. Electronic music aimed at the dance floor can be very narrow-minded so I find it can be very advantageous to collaborate with people and swap perspectives. Music is a continuous learning experience and collaborations are a great way to assimilate new information.
Can you tell us about when Wiretappeur was formed and how the project came about?
Wiretappeur was a happy accident that occurred on one of Nils and Florian’s very first trips to Greece – probably 5-6 years ago. We started jamming in the studio and making beats and things clicked from the start. Swapping files and projects over the internet has become so easy and immediate nowadays and so continuing the project from afar seemed like a natural choice. Luckily, our productions have been generally well received so it’s a nice incentive for us.
What is your current studio set-up and which toys are your favourites?
I have always kept things relatively simple in the studio and worked with a basic set-up consisting of a Mac Pro running Logic, MOTU card powering Dynaudio monitors and then a nice blend of hardware and software for playing. My favourite toys would have to be my guitars and guitar pedals that I have amassed over the years, since they lend a unique and organic texture to my productions. If I’m making straightforward club music though, I’d have to say the NI Maschine is probably the most essential piece of kit in the studio.
Can you talk us through the workflow of a production from development to completion?
It really depends on the style of music I plan to work on… In general, I like to start playing with either a) exclusively drums or b) exclusively sounds and melodies. Once either a or b starts gelling and sounding coherent, I’ll add the other component and see if I can get a nice 16-32 bar loop that I like and can imagine developing. The challenge from there is to develop those ideas and motifs into a full 6-7 minute track that will keep the listener engaged without becoming boring or over-indulgent.
What part of the production process do you find the most challenging and why?
Without a doubt, arranging is the hardest part of songwriting for me. Striking the balance between interesting and consistent can be very elusive. When you’re in the studio you always have to take into account that your production will very likely not be reproduced in a perfect acoustic environment and that the listeners will not be as focused (or sober) as you are at that moment. I find this to be a very important and decisive factor as far as the arranging and mixing of my tracks go.
There are many budding producers out there looking to break into the music industry. Is there any advice you would give?
I would advise budding producers to be as patient and consistent as possible. Making music and making a name for yourself are both long and arduous processes, so cutting corners is the last thing you want to do-as easy as it may seem. The music business can be an increasingly shitty place to inhabit and the people that run it are, for the most part, people you will struggle to make meaningful connections with. It is thus of paramount importance that you arm yourself with confidence, resilience and a good work ethic and create artful, passionate music that you are proud of and that represents and satisfies your own vision and sensibilities FIRST. In other words, if you don’t like the music you are making, don’t expect anyone else to. No one can ever take that away from you and fighting for your cause and your turn in the spotlight will seem a lot less difficult if you love what you’re doing.
You recently released your new “It Was What It Was” remix package on John Digweed’s Bedrock Records which has some pretty impressive remixes by Russ Gabriel, Guy J and Wiretappeur. How did the project come about and how do you decide on the artists used for the remixes?
Russ Gabriel (no relation to Josh), Guy J and the rest of the crew are all producers whose work I admire and I’m lucky enough to count as friends. Luckily, they were all up for the challenge and were very happy to select a track and remix it in order to bring the cycle of the album to a happy conclusion. The other explanation is that the first set of album remixes was so successful that we thought we might as well milk the album dry and see if we can squeeze out some extra revenue.
Last year you were asked to mix the second installment of Bedrock’s Underground Sound Of Miami Series. How did the project come about and how did you approach the mix?
I think I was probably the only one available at short notice! The Miami series is a successful format as it is, so offering people an added mix of the tracks available is merely a small, added bonus. The fact is that the tracks were carefully selected by John and the good people at Bedrock and they are all fantastic in their own right – so putting them into an order and mixing them together coherently isn’t that big of a deal and should not merit too much attention for me.
I hear that there were a few issues at the release party for your Underground Sound Of Miami mix in Miami last year. What happened?
I think this has been overblown and it’s been a year since it happened so it’s no big deal. Apparently some essential components of the sound system died, the sound engineers had a hard time replacing them, the doors opened late, the crowd were restless, the club staff were rude to them, the crowd complained, the show went on etc. Standard procedure.
You seem to have struck up a very strong relationship with John Digweed over the last couple of years. How did you first get introduced to John?
I think John was indifferent to my music and existence for the first few years I was around. Luckily, my work with Wiretappeur found its way into his hands and (consequently) sets and through hard work and consistency, I guess he warmed to me. The label manager at Bedrock is a good friend of mine, so you could say that he was instrumental in my introduction and subsequent development on the label.
Are there any new up and coming DJs/Producers that you would recommend to our readers?
I don’t really like to single people out – there really is so much amazing music out there these days. I really love Recondite and Steve Moore though.
What was the best party you played in 2013?
Probably B018 in Beirut – an amazing place.
Many people set themselves a New Year’s resolution in January. Have you set yourself one and if so what?
Nothing in particular – maybe lose a little weight.
Finally is there anything you can tell us about what you have planned for 2014 for either yourself or other projects such as Wiretappeur?
Nothing too exciting – I’m just trying to get my album done and that’s my one and only concern, musically speaking. The last one took 2 years to complete, so if I’m going to top it, I need to seriously bust my ass.
01// Safeword – Tangent [Dessous Recs]
02// Cormac – The Present [B-Pitch Control]
03// Mihai Popoviciu & David Delgado – Ajiaco [Highgrade]
04// Temporary Hero – Ballet (Andre Lodemann Mix)[Sidetrak]
05// Mollono Bass & Ava Asante – Der Traumtanzer (Gorge Remix) [Acker Records]
06// Luca Baccheti – A Night in Nassau [Culprit Records]
07// Baikal – Why Don’t Ya (Ripperton Remix) [Maeve]
08// Gorge & Andre Hommen – Hakunyo (Ray Okpara Remix) [Plastic City]
09// Recloose – It’s Too Late [Delusions of Grandeur]
10// Dettinger – Therefore [Kompakt]
11// Soul 223 – Fear of Stopping [Delusions of Grandeur]