EDM has turned dance music into a shipwreck of a pop fart and people are scared to experiment
We last caught up with Aleks Vinter last August. Back then he was still wearing his Savant suit but trying on Blanco shades. Now he’s fully garbed up in his Blanco threads and is ready to drop a trio of full-on EPs.
Forget what you know about Savant and listen afresh: Fusing dancehall, Latin and reggaeton with his full spectrum electro dynamics, Aleks’s original plan was to ‘make something more accessible’ than he’s done before. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a lot more unique than he wanted it to be and a steep learning curve for the Norwegian-in-LA.
The first EP drops tomorrow Friday November 6. Here’s the first full flavoured taste from it: Carpe Diem featuring Turbulence.
Read on to find out more about Blanco and Aleks’s forthcoming Savant projects and hear the Dyland-fronted Camarilla.
We need to talk about Blanco… Again.
We do. I’ve got at least three EPs. The first two I’ll self-release then we’ll see what happens with them before we think about releasing the third one. It’s been a really interesting project because I’ve got a lot of featured artists, which is something I’ve never done before. I was thinking ‘how do you start something fresh and new?’ The answer: work with people who have been around, are great at what they do and are really proud of the project themselves so they want to shout about it too. So when it drops there are people who are keen to listen to it as well as my own fanbase…
Collaborating on this level is kind of new territory for you…
Yeah definitely, it’s been a cool challenge. I’ve always worked on my own and done my own thing. I’ve never felt part of a label. All these big labels have a click and I’ve never experienced that.
You say click, I’m sure they’d say ‘community’ or ‘family’…
Exactly! And when you become part of it you follow their procedure or their rules or their sound… And that’s not me. Even if I wanted to work with these labels, I doubt they’d want to work with me, they don’t know me or what I do. I still feel, even after all these years, like I’m coming out of the blue with this shit. Which is especially weird because Blanco is meant to be more accessible to people!
There’s a lot going on in the music… So many ideas in each track. They sit in their own universe.
They do. I think that’s one problem; trying to shake off the little sounds and signatures and ideas I’ve had for all these years. I can’t avoid them! At first I thought I wanted to make something minimal. But fuck that! Anyone can put a kick and snare together. A monkey can! So I’ve gone the other way and gone totally bombastic and wall-of-soundy. It’s totally unlike anything labels are looking for at the moment.
Fitting in is boring. And the comments on Carpe Diem are very positive…
Yeah totally, that surprised me actually. Putting it on a trap channel was a bit of a gamble because it’s not fucking trap! But people have been very open-minded about it. I thought it would be like ‘ooh boo! Stop doing this bullshit!’ Which is cool because people usually fear change…
Nobody can see what’s in your head when you say you’re going to try something new, they can’t picture it, so they get scared. What I’ve found now is that you talk about your plans or just play a little clip then people don’t get it. You’ve just got to go ahead and make it and then go ‘okay, what do you think?’
How about getting vocalists who’ve never heard of you before involved? Have they feared change?
Not at all. They’ve taken some time to get on board but it’s been great. These guys are proper dancehall and reggae artists, they’re a whole world away from American music industry EDM types. What takes a month or so over here takes way longer over there. We’ve been waiting for emails and calls for ages.
Like ‘who the fuck is this scrawny white Norwegian dude?’
Ha! There hasn’t been as much of that as I thought. These guys are all listening to electronic music because it’s an exciting scene and they’re watching how it all works over here. They’re certainly not like ‘who are you?’ But they are super busy and want to make sure they’re making the right decisions. You get the different kinds of artists – the guys who do it as a job and will sing because they’re getting paid, straight up. Then there are the artist types who want to know themes and inspirations so it all fits in perfectly. Loads of styles of working and ideas. It’s been enlightening. Have you actually heard it?
Of course. Camarilla and Dios are my favourites so far…
You picked the heaviest ones! What’s been crazy about the whole project – especially those tracks – is making something massive and heavy and big sounding but having space for the vocals. They have to have their space and it’s been challenging to make that space.
I know you’re also working on Vex and the orchestral project too… Have you learnt anything from Blanco that you’ll apply in those projects?
What I’ve learnt, just in general, is to make sure the next project is on the horizon at all times. So if people don’t like Blanco then they might like Vex and if they don’t like that then they’ll like the next thing. It stops the fans from panicking and it stops me from panicking too. The EDM trip has changed everything in this sense. There is much more emphasis on making hits and lots more kids coming through wanting to be the next big thing and be a superstar. EDM has turned dance music into a shipwreck of a pop fart and people are scared to experiment… Which bleeds into the underground mentality.
You’re not scared to experiment though, right?
Not at all. Right now, believe it or not, I am trying to simplify things. Savant is always trying to do too much to change things; he’s the guy trying to put his fingers in all the leaking holes in electronic music. He wanted to fuck with arrangement, sound design, repetition, album arrangements, how to view EDM. He’s never been pragmatic and actually really focus on one thing; what works on the dancefloor. Savant wanted to compose something creative and weird and futuristic and if you dance to it, great.
But Blanco? He has more of a formula and I’ve tried to tone down the craziness. I grew up hearing reggaeton and dancehall and always thought it was badass but never dreamt I’d be able to work with these guys… Working with them has been amazing and it’s opened my eyes to working with more vocalists. Now I’m addicted and I want more. Know any good Japanese girl rappers?
Not off the top of my head…
They’re fucking hard to find man, trust me. But Blanco has given me a wider perspective of vocalists from around the world! I love the fusion of languages and cultures and styles. I always have anyway, but Blanco has emphasised my utopian music dreams even more; the best of all the cultures of music and sounds. I’m putting my finger on a map and pointing to different places that are really fucking exciting musically… Then make it in a way that it reaches a lot of people.
You’ve got a lot of travel ahead of you then…
Yeah we have! These EPs are a calling card for what I want to do – I want to find international sounds and celebrate them, learn from them and bring them back to electronic music. It’s all very different to sitting on your own trying to work out crazy ideas in isolation.
Awesome… How about Vex, though?
Well this is an interesting one. Like Invasion, it started off as fun then became something serious. Everything has to start this way – you have to work on something until it proves its existence. You do it to fill a missing peice in your own – and hopefully other people’s – life. Vex could upset the apple cart in a big way; it’s nothing like you’ve heard from me before. It’s diary music, it’s a bit like Sam Smith, it’s very honest and crying. It’s flat and understandable, it’s stripped down pop music but done in a Savanty way.
It’s a bit like Protos was rock-inspired but this is more pop. It has less 80s cheese and more modern touches. Some strings here, some acoustic bits there. The vocals are a lot more honest or raw than I’ve done before. I’ve tried to sing in way that grabs your attention so you don’t have time to say ‘this sucks man, this beat is shit, where’s the drop?’ It’s a bit pink, I guess, not like the big Tetris blocks of music I usually do. I’m trying to touch your soul a bit more… I’ve never done that type of music – that lying on the couch and trying to figure out what the world is about thing – and maybe this will make you feel that way?