It would be feasible to write a good news story about Aleks Vinter every week. No clickbait hype based on tweets or rumours, but actual activities, real creative ambitions and thoughts and opinions that most artists would be too scared to make public. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: electronic music needs more characters like Savant.
One example of his forthright commentary that made us raise an eyebrow was a frank update on his Facebook about suffering depression, having two albums near completion, more projects at a conceptual level and a whole load more.
We needed to know more, but it took us while to connect; 2015 has been his busiest year as touring artist to date. But, as always, it’s been worth the wait. Read on to find out the complicated story behind Vex, the exciting influence of his Blanco project, why he’s taken his performances back to beat-matching basics and many more reasons why the world really needs more Savants… And why he thinks we need the big cheesy EDM superstars.
They’re the consciousness of humanity right now; those guys are the definition of the bottom line crap the mass market wants. The more happy-go-lucky the music is, the more stressful and frustrating and shitty real life is for most of us. We need that angry music!
You seem to be touring like a bastard this year!
I am, man… I wasn’t built for this shit! But breathing costs money so I gotta hit the road and do some DJ sets!
Sounds like you’re having fun, though…
Oh yeah it’s a lot of fun playing and being a DJ but the travelling kills you… And you can’t take a million dollar studio with you. You can’t get proper shit done. I don’t want to slap shit together, I need more time. I know all this sounds a bit DJs Complaining, right?
A tiny bit, but I get it. But you’re clearly getting some studio time… Blanco is bubbling right now!
Yeah, I’m really excited about Blanco actually… It’s a vague fantasy mash-up with my favourite dynamics and elements of acts like Knife Party and Major Lazer with African and tribal influences. Like family friendly jungle terror with 80s horror movie feels. Or something! We’ve got some really fun plans with the way it’s being promoted and delivered…
Blanco actually started in 2010, right?
It did. But then Savant took off in a way that I never imagined and now he’s this moody teenager I can’t control. He’s in a nightmare condition with too many hormones and growing pains. So Blanco is back to me having no rules and no foundations. I needed that freedom again.
I hear you. How much of the original Blanco relates to this all new Blanco stuff?
Very little! That was just a very crude idea of what it could potentially be. I wanted to throw everything at it; Spanish influences, Puerto Rican influences, reggaeton, electro, everything. So the new one is a lot more African influenced. That said, I’ve got one of Puerto Rico’s biggest artists on this new one. He’s got such a mad voice, he’s too cool for me to try and imitate. He raps in Spanish, and some of the tracks are named in Spanish, so in that way it’s pretty close to the original idea I had. But I’m working with a wider range of vocalists; a whole bunch of Jamaican artists I’ve reached out to as well but I can’t confirm.
Is there a date for all of this to land?
Who knows man? That’s in the hands of labels, but the sooner the better.
The first sign of this was the Wes – Alane remix last month, right?
I guess so. It’s the first Blanco thing I’ve put up in years anyway. Alane was a record from my childhood that’s so bad it’s good. I wanted to spin it when I play out, but I needed to put drums on it. That’s the thing; I need the real deal when I’m playing now. I won’t play off a laptop anymore. I love the sensation of the hands-on mixing and having special tracks and VIPs to drop.
No more laptops?
Nope. Just little old me and some USB sticks. That hands-on feeling is so much more versatile and allows you to do everything on the fly. Plus if you fudge a mix you can push it back in place… That ain’t gonna happen on a laptop. When you fuck up on a laptop…
… you smash it up live on stage?
Exactly! I’ve been there… Maybe I’m doing the safest thing imaginable?
You say safe, I say honest. You’re not just pressing play; you’re beat matching, you’re selecting, you’re able to react to what the dancefloor wants…
Yeah sure. You get so used to a laptop and MIDI controller set-up you can do it with your eyes closed. Computers don’t have the versatility that mixing needs in order to be fresh. Basically I wanted to go back to the roots and see what I can do on four decks. I know it’s not vinyl but it’s the same spirit and it means I have to challenge myself with every show.
The dream would be for me to be the music equivalent of Tesla and get paid by the government to experiment! But other artists seem to love milking it. It’s easier to do that than it is to hide away. It’s easier to play the big star than it is to keep it real.
So let’s go back to all these other unfinished projects… There’s the pop album, Vex, right?
Well the pop album stalled due to the situation and the label it was with. I can’t say any more. I changed course and did Blanco and the guy who owns the label wasn’t down with it. Even though, to me, it’s the most honest reflection of what the dancefloor is loving right now. Who knows what’s happening there….
You mentioned an orchestral album on Facebook a while ago too…
I did. But that’s last priority. Dance stuff is more important than orchestral stuff… Right?
In our noisy electronic world, yeah. But have you seen Pete Tong at The Proms?
Oh yeah! I saw this! That is the dream right there! That’s death bed business for me… Having my favourite tracks arranged by orchestra would be incredible. But the money involved in that is beyond what I can imagine…. I would love to do that shit.
I thought it was cool that the Pete Tong thing happened on the same week when certain artists were remixing nursery rhymes and the theme to the Titanic! Proof there’s still creativity in the big league cannon…
For sure man. The whole EDM side of things are being pushed to the max… Look at what happened to metal and synth pop back in the day. They get pushed and pushed and pushed. Look at 80s hip-hop. Some of the best hip-hop ever made. Then Vanilla Ice pushed it too far and it all went back underground with gangster rap. Someone has to push things to the breaking point when we’re like ‘ah fuck we need some grunge again!’
So we need men like these big EDM cheese masters?
We fucking do man! They’re catalysts for the cool stuff that happens as a reaction. They’re the consciousness of humanity right now; those guys are the definition of the bottom line crap the mass market wants. The more happy-go-lucky the music is, the more stressful and frustrating and shitty real life is for most of us. We need that angry music! All my metal-head friends are the most chilled people I know.
Same with D&B heads…
Yes! Totally! D&B, dubstep, grime… Anything hardcore, angry and uncompromising gives you that outlet. Fans and communities built around that type of music are much more real than the bimbos and dudes and lads who flock to the festivals without a clue and lose themselves in the moment to something they don’t really care about. It’s a weird loop of bullshit which all musicians suffer from too. All the big EDM cats follow that because that’s where the money is.
It seems the higher you go, the harder it is to avoid these big buck compromises?
Yeah, they’re like heat-seeking missiles! People want to make a million bucks. Even those really big superstar headliners DJs; they’re like the business men in Robocop. Totally jaded after only a very small time in the industry, relatively speaking. Make $20 million and it’s like ‘fuck you man, where’s my golden helicopter? I’m going to the moon!’ That’s what it takes!
What’s your limit? How much do you need to be paid until you tell us all to fuck off?
Ha! Too much man. An unimaginable sum that I will never be paid. Genuinely I have no idea how much money I have… I don’t care as long as I have money for food, weed and plug-ins. What I do earn, I save. The dream would be for me to be the music equivalent of Tesla and get paid by the government to experiment! But other artists seem to love milking it. It’s easier to do that than it is to hide away. It’s easier to play the big star than it is to keep it real. I find it weird I’m getting recognised in LA now.
Didn’t you move there to avoid that?
Exactly! I wanted to be the smallest fish in the biggest pond but now it’s already happening. It’s scary… I didn’t sign up for that. It kinda gets me down sometimes.
Was that part of the depression you suffered earlier this year?
Oh no no, I love LA. The depression I mentioned on Facebook was just personal stuff but I kinda need it in a way… It’s my muse. It feeds my music. If I’m feeling really shitty then I make the craziest, more emotional music. Like Ridley Scott putting more and more smoke on Blade Runner. The sadder I am, the more noir my music is. Art isn’t supposed to be about being happy and clapping hands, right?