Interview with Erik Pettersson / Lowbit Records!!
Today we have hooked up with the talented Erik Pettersson more known to you probably as Sonic Union and also as the founder and label owner of the great label, Lowbit Records, that is known for spanning a wide spectrum when it comes to electronic dance music. Let’s get the story about what have happened in the past and what will happen in the future from this multi talented music machine, Erik Pettersson. Enjoy it!
We are truly happy to have you with us Erik, we know you eat, sleep and breathe music 24/7. It’s just awesome to have you involved for this. Could you give us a brief about the early stages of your career? How did you end up in the music business and how did it turn out that you got in to producing?
I’ve always been interested in music thanks to growing up with musical parents, my brother blasting early Depeche Mode 24/7 and the Swedish school system, which makes you try to play an instrument at an early age.
I’ve also always been obsessed with technology, and when two of my cousins showed me how to make music on the old Commodore C-64 I was hooked. From there on I moved on to Amiga/PCs and mod-trackers, and was actively part of the demo scene competing with various groups over the years. In later years I started saving up money to buy synthesizers and fx units and discovered Cubase. For many years I made music with an old classmate of mine from college but nothing really came from that – it wasn’t until I started working with Bastards of Funk that things really started to happen.
Let us know the story about when you moved further and hooked up with Daniel (Bastards of Funk) and how you guys developed everything that now also includes your imprint Lowbit Records?
Me and Daniel met by coincidence back in 2004 when we both were playing at Sun Dance Music Festival in Estonia under the same management and were staying in the same apartment. We instantly hit it off and started talking music, but it wasn’t until late 2004 when I moved to Vancouver that we started to do some work together. Our first EP together was picked up by Glenn Morrison and released in 2006 to great acclaim; I can still remember Chris Micali playing it at WMC that year!
I guess our sounds just matched when we started to work together, I have a slightly darker side and Daniel a more melodic side and together we have a nice gel of influences.
As for Lowbit, in 2008 when I was living in Los Angeles we were chatting on IM as we always do and I had the great idea of starting a label – how hard could it be, right? We got off to a great start with the label getting plays from Jim Rivers, Anthony Pappa, Sister Bliss and more and licensing a track to the Global Underground 2009 compilation. However, unfortunately the person helping us with the label at that time did not pay us our profits, so the label died out in late 2008. In early 2009 it was reborn again, but this time I decided to just do it all myself.
From there on in I’ve just worked on very hard on it and made lots of mistakes along the way, but also learned a lot from it.
If you should try and define your sound, what would you say then to describe it with your own words?
I think our sound is very mixed and has a lot of influences from deep and housey to more dark and twisted. That’s something you can see across all of our releases; they range from really dark and heavy to light and airy and everything in between. It’s fun to experiment and try new stuff and see what you can do, but it also has downsides as it’s much harder to build a solid fanbase that way.
When producing, how do you build your tracks, do you work with a certain strategy all the time or it can be different, sometimes starting with percussion, sometimes with a melody or bass line?
I always start from fresh with a new project. The flow varies; sometimes I drop in a load of samples and start mangling them till I find something cool to work from, other times I start trying to get a good bassline down, other times I build up a cool groove and build from that, it’s never the same.
Are you using both hardware and software for your productions and what DAW’s and plugins (mention a few of your favuorites) are you using?
Today it’s all “in –the-box” for me running FLStudio 10.6 as my DAW (sometimes Ableton Live) and multitude of plugins and fx plugins. Some of my go-to plugins today are U-HE Diva and U-HE Zebra2 – some of the warmest sounding plugins there are. I also like the Sonic Charge plug-ins – especially the new Permut8 that they just released.
How would you define a good progressive track?
A track that keeps you on your toes, that’s not predictable and takes you on a journey.
Let us know a few producers that you really like to listen to and let us also know what it is about their productions that makes it for you?
There are quite a few guys out there that do such good stuff but some of my favourite ones are (in no particular order): Cid Inc, Guy Mantzur, Khen, Kobana, Guy J, Luke Porter, Nikko.Z, Marcelo Vasami, Deepfunk, King Unique.
Their productions just have that edge, and no matter how many times you listen to their tracks you don’t get bored of them
What kind of music do you listen to, are you going strictly for progressive/EDM music or you listen to all kind of styles?
Honestly I am a pretty straight up EDM guy, I find most pop and radio music to be quite un-innovative and boring. EDM always tries to push boundaries and invent itself I feel.
You live in England nowdays, how would you describe the EDM scene, there must be an ocean to choose from really. How would you progressive genre in the country?
Living in London has both its perks and its downsides; there are a ton of clubs and nights to pick from, but it’s also a very hard city to try and promote underground music in. Today’s crowd seems more interested in big names rather than the music, which means that promoters rarely take a chance on up and comers / underground DJs.
The UK is home to some amazing talent and labels, so it’s been great for networking and getting in touch with artists face-to-face. Underground progressive house music is still quite hard to pull off here though, since the north of the UK is still more trance oriented and the south / Midlands more into the tech house and techno scene.
You also work a lot as a DJ, you need to bread and butter of course. Life must suck really, doing the hobby as your profession. If you had to choose, what would you stay put to, the producing part or the gigs out in the clubs and festivals?
I do LOVE DJing, it’s a feeling that’s very hard to match when you play music and see the reaction of the crowd, but I also love producing. I think I have a good mix of the two and having the opportunity to play a hot off the press track is just a fantastic feeling.
Speaking of bread-and-butter, besides running Lowbit and producing and remixing – which in itself is a full time job – I actually also have a full time day job as Head of Audio Technology at a well renowned video game studio here in UK. My day to day work has me coding C++, developing all the audio technologies used in our games, developing the tools and pipelines that the sound designers use and writing most of the “glue” code between the game engine and the audio. I’ve been developing video games for almost 13 years now.
A lot of the music today is not sold, it’s spread through Internet and musicians and labels hardly make any money at all on their productions and the hard work that’s been put in. What are your thoughts about the sharing through blogspots, forums and all other ways for illegal sharing of music and what do you think there is to do about it?
There are so many ways to see these things that I’m not sure anymore where to stand to be honest. Of course piracy is bad and I wish our artists could make a lot more money from their music. It’s sad to see super talented artists struggling so badly that they have to take a full time job and have little to no time left for music.
The only solution to piracy is to educate the pirates about what their actions cause. It’s not just the money coming from sales that the artists lose, they also lose a lot of prospective DJ gigs. A lot of promoters use sites like Beatport to see who is cool and doing well and book them on those grounds – so if the pirates takes that away, they also take away the possible opportunity for gigs. Making music today has become a very important step in promotion.
What can we expect in the coming months from if we talk about your productions?
In my own productions I’m currently testing some new ground and working on several new originals and collaborations. I’ve just signed my first collaboration with Khen to Cid Inc’s label Replug, and a new original with Rumor (from the ‘Feeling Blue’ bootleg) to Nikko.Z’s new label Dopamine Music. I’m also wrapping up a new original collaboration with Pete McCarthey and finishing off a new track with Bastards of Funk for Lowbit’s 100th release!
On the Lowbit side, as I just mentioned we’re very close to our 100th release, and we have put together a fantastic collection of brand new tracks from Lowbit artists including Deepfunk, Anthony Yarranton, Pete McCarthey, Verve, Kobana and more – this is going to be a fantastic compilation.
Where do you see the name of Sonic Union & Lowbit Records in a long term perspective, let’s say in a couple of years time?
I hope to continue to build Lowbit’s catalogue of fantastic artists and keep releasing quality music. I hope Lowbit will be a label known for its consistent quality in underground music and hopefully soon also for quality club nights.
On the Sonic Union side I’m focusing on a lot more originals as most of 2011 and 2012 was spent doing remixes, and I will also do a lot more collaborations. I currently have some great projects going with Khen, Rumor and others, which I’m really looking forward to bringing to fruition.
Time to round things of, it’s been a pleasure to have you in for this interview, any final words to your readers at Progressive House Worldwide?
Thank you guys for this opportunity and all the support you have given us to date, and a very special thanks to all the fans out there supporting us and all the artists on Lowbit – it’s you who have helped make the label what it is today!
September 10th, 2012