Enigma State | Interview

Hensmon

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TranceFix Crew
Jun 27, 2020
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Finally we get the pleasure to post this interview with Enigma State, one of the most talked about Producers on our Forum, and whose managed two no1 track positions in our best of year voting... a confirmed and solidified as a TF legend. Hope you enjoy this guys!



How did your Trance journey begin? What got you into the music and lead you to start producing?

I would say that wanting to make music came years before Trance was the genre we know it. I’ve always had a fascination with synthesizers and I used to spend a lot of time playing a Yamaha keyboard that we had in the house in the late 80s. My first exposure to a proper music sequencer was probably around 1996 when a neighbour used to make music on an Atari with a couple of synthesizers that he had and I used to go to his house and just sit there fascinated watching how he made music which was mostly Jungle.

In 1998 I got a copy of 'Music' for the Playstation 1 which I consider as my first ever music sequencer. I would spend hours playing on it making music and I used to recreate tracks that were already released and try to copy it sound for sound, albeit with limitations.

I think wanting to make Trance music just evolved naturally from my love of synths and Dance music in the 90’s. I was a big fan of Sash! in the mid 90’s (cue the “Sash or Chicane” guys), but I do remember a distinct moment in 1999 when was when I was in a HMV store in Manchester and they had a row of decks where you could play the latest vinyl that came in. I heard a track that was being played over the in-store speakers and it sounded amazing! I asked the store assistant what it was and he pulled out the vinyl, and it was 'Des Mitchell - Welcome To The Dance', so I think that was probably the turning point where Trance became the genre I would focus on. It took a few more years before I got into it properly, when I started using Cubase.

How long were you practicing and collecting hardware for before you started looking to release?

My first proper piece of hardware I got was in the mid 00s and got a Supernova 2 rack which I bought from the guy behind 90s dance act N-Trance. I had a few other pieces like the Roland SH-201 (still have) and a MicroKorg. Over the course of the years I had a lot of stop-starts with music. I was always making music to some extent but mostly just as a hobby for myself. Fast forward to around 2017, my kids were more grown up and I wanted to put more focus on music. I was producing the sounds of modern Trance, but it just didn't connect with me, felt too generic, so I went back to the Classic sounds and that's where my studio rebuild started.

The primary focus was hardware that was used in the 90s so purchased the JP8080, Supernova 2 (again), Nova, DrumStation, an AKAI sampler and Yamaha AN1X. Additionally Behringer were releasing clones of classic hardware which gave me a clone of the TB-303, SH-101, Juno 106, and TR-909.

Was @DazTC from the Facebook Trance Classics page discovering you on Youtube the first step? Could you explain how that unfolded.

The part where Darren came in from Trance Classics was sort of by accident. Around April of 2021 I was in the studio going through some sounds on the Yamaha AN1X and was just playing random notes that came to me. Going through the patches I came across one sound and started to randomly play a riff.....that riff went on to become In My Fantasy. I didn't pre-plan it, it was just by pure chance that melody happened, but as soon as I played it just instantly clicked.

A few weeks prior I had also asked both my daughter's to do the vocal line 'Ecstasy, In My Fantasy' for another track, but didn't use it, so I added that to the track which just fit in perfectly. Once I had got a basis of the track I decided to create a little video and put it on my YouTube channel showing the hardware used and then a clip of it all coming together.

I posted the video on Darren’s Trance Classics Facebook group, Darren watched the video and that's how we ended up talking, and came up with a plan to do a release with the fake video with a vinyl playing that went on the Trance Classics YouTube channel. Initially the fake video fooled everyone into thinking it was an authentic track from that period and some were convinced they had it or previously owned it. From there it went on to become a full independent release.


What's your production comprised of?

The routing setup is a complex puzzle and Ive had to map out the entire routing on a diagram in order to ensure I have a complete mind map of it all. The backbone of my studio is Behringer though. I have their UMC1820 audio interface along with their ADAT which gives me a total of 16 inputs and outputs, and I also have two of their mixing desks which has a combined total of 48 channels which I feed all the drum machines, sampler and synths into as well as the 16 outputs from the interface to allow me to control any audio from inside Cubase on the mixing desk as well as the hardware.

I like to try and be very hands on in the studio and not look at the screen too much other than to structure the track. The way I see it is that years ago a computer was just in the corner of the studio that was used to send signals to hardware, but these days the PC is the focal point so I try to keep myself away from the screen as much as possible.


Is it expensive to build such hardware focused a set-up?

Oh god I wouldn't want to even try and work out how much everything has cost me. I definitely bought it cheaper than what is currently going for at the moment. There's been a resurgence in old hardware again so prices are high at the moment, but thankfully I bought them just at the right time. Behringer has done a few clones of hardware that was used back in the day that has also kept the cost down too.

My studio is a cross hybrid so I do have the best of both where I can produce a track entirely on hardware, entirely in the box, or a mix of both, but can also run soft synths directly into my mixing desk and treat them like an external synth. I do use software plugins, for both effects and synths.

All my tracks are started in hardware and I may on occasion switch to a soft synth if it provides something that the hardware doesn’t or a sound that I don't have, but I generally just go with how I feel at the time. Most plugins I use are mainly for effects and processing, but I do frequently use the Roland Cloud plugins, Korg Legacy Collection and a freebie synth called the Nils K1V which has some authentic 90s sounds.

We've debated on the forum for years about whether or not software in the right hands can replicate the same beauty of hardware. Do you believe this to be the case? If not, why would hardware produce better results?

Yeah I'm definitely passionate about using hardware and just getting my head around the complexity of the set up, the routing, getting it all to sync, and just enjoy working out how producers got so much out of so little back then. I wouldn't say hardware produces better results as the level of detail you can get to with software these days can outstrip hardware, but for me hardware and its limitations is what makes it good as it forces me into making final decisions to commit to sounds, whereas with software you can constantly tweak and you can have unlimited instances of that same synth.

So what’s the secret then? Why are your tracks sounding so damn NICE!? Just a pleasure to the ears. Could you really do that with software alone do you think?

There's no particular secret other than I just love producing Trance music in the way I do it, and that I've spent many years as a listener and also paid close attention to how the classic producers made their tracks and sound choices. Ive also reached out to some of the producers from back then to ask them about their setup that they had to try and get as close as possible to what they had.

For my music I don't do any excessive layering, and my channel count is pretty low in comparison to modern productions, but I would be lying to say that you can't produce a classic style track entirely on software because you can. If anything it's easier in a DAW than using hardware. But the secret to any good track I believe, is the producer themselves.

That does surprise me. Many of us have felt or observed what appeared to be a shift in sound design over the years, from warm and organic, to more sterile feeling Trance. I didn't feel that at all In My Fantasy or Enigmatic. I always thought relying more on software was a primary contributor to this, but am I right in saying you believe Producers simply prefer and choose a more clinical approach today, given all options available?

I wouldn’t say it's a deliberate production choice as such no. Artist's have evolved over the years, as people, in line with technology advancements and a change in the audience. Over the last 20 years we have fine tuned how we produce music and improved the quality of the audio with technology and software, and even put an entire recording studio inside a laptop.

The music back then doesn’t sound as clear or as polished as it does today but 20 years ago a Trance track would have been produced on nothing more than a sampler, a couple synths and a mixer so there were a lot of limitations in place. In my view what made the tracks back then so great was the limitations and the imperfections. At the time those imperfections were because of the limitations, but now I feel they are part of the beauty of some of the music back then. That's partly why I chose to produce in the way I am to try and add those limitations and imperfections back in.

What was the appetite and response from labels for In My Fantasy/Enigmatic? Did you try to sign it?

I didn’t even attempt to try for any label interest on the vinyl release. When the Trance Classics channel got in touch it just felt right to go in that direction before even looking at labels interest. As an unknown artist it kind of worked for us both, the channel got to be involved in a really cool project and it also gave me exposure to a huge fanbase, so it just felt right. Plus it fit in with the whole 'oldskool' approach, and in my honest opinion it was still the right choice today. Had we not done the project and I sent it to labels instead, it possibly may never have got a release at all. Going the route I did worked because it would have never gone to vinyl, and in the end artists like Solarstone, Lange, Thrillseekers picked this up naturally along that journey. Steve Helstrip has played In My Fantasy a number of times in his classic Trance vinyl sets which is an absolute honor.

In hindsight do you think a label would have picked it up? Any you think it would have been a good fit?

It’s hard to tell, the reaction and response has been great, but I’m not sure that if the project with Trance Classics had happened that if I sent it to a label it would have had the same reaction. Maybe Pure Trance would have signed it had I approached that label, as I find Rich (Solarstone) doesn’t have one set style of Trance for his label and is more about tracks that take you on a journey and are unique which I really love about his label. He really liked In My Fantasy and bought it from my Bandcamp page and played it which was a nice surprise.

What are your plans for Enigma State currently? What upcoming releases do you have, what should we be expecting from you going forward?

So I've just had original single released on 17th February on Pure Trance called ‘Waiting For You’. There is an alternative version of that too which will be released but I'll give more details on that later down the line.

From here the primary plan is to do a second vinyl release with Trance Classics, kind of like a volume 2, and I'm also working on additional material, which depending on demand, the idea is to do a full album release on vinyl that will include the first vinyl too. It's just depending on what the demand is and the funds to do such a project.

I’ve done a few remixes over the last year with a couple released like the remix for Stoneface & Terminal with Robert Nickson - From The Sun, and a couple due to be released during this year. My releases aren’t thick and fast as the music producing comes in between the day job and family so that is why there is generally a long gap between the studio teasers and the release, additionally I also want to ensure I have enough new material for the album. The YouTube videos have been a good way to gauge reaction to a track without actually releasing it. I find the feedback on my YouTube is far more important than if a DJ likes it on a free promo. I feel it works better that way and it worked that way for In My Fantasy and Enigmatic which I felt was part of its success.

Oh great news that an album is coming! Some mixed styles or mostly the kind of euphoric energetic stuff you've done so far? Also is Sacred Art part of that album idea or that a separate release?

It will be a varied mix of tracks, but classic style focussed and mostly euphoric type tracks as that’s just what I prefer to do. Sacred Art will be on a release soon, most definitely this year - but most likely be part of the 2nd EP release which will come before the album.



How did you end up with the guys on Premier League records and remixing for them?

I started with Premier League Recordings with the re-release of You Put Me In Heaven With Your Touch. I worked with the original artist Rhythm Of Life to bring that out on that label. From there it was just a natural progression to do some remixes for the label. By the time the Rhythm Of Life track was released i'd decided to switch to the classic sound so did the two under Enigma State for Premier League and also done a remix for that label under another alias called The Jinx Brothers which is a duo between me and my closest friend Craig Young where we produce a blend of breakbeat with Trance

What tracks would you submit to a top Trance list?

Ohh that is a tough one. It would always be classic's but one i'll probably never give a consistent answer to every time its asked, but picking on the spot for the tracks with the most influence on me from years gone by it would be :

Lost Witness - 7 Colours (Angelic Remix)
Lange - I Believe
Rhythm Of Life - You Put Me In Heaven With Your Touch (Lange Remix)
Des Mitchell - Welcome To The Dance
Li Kwan - Point Zero
Jose Amnesia - The Eternal
Free Radical - Surreal (En Motion Remix)
Photon Project - Enlightenment
Aria - Dido (Armin Van Buuren's Universal Religion Mix)
System F- Out Of The Blue

Any advice for new producers in Trance, and specifically for those wanting to create classic sounds?

For new producers my advice would be to just be yourself and do you. There’s a lot of producer tutorials out there which can be helpful, but I feel it’s also has molded the Trance scene that we have had for a number of years and I think we’ve ended up with a lot of producer clones and people producing certain ways because that’s the way someone said it on a tutorial, but there more than one way to skin a cat.

To anyone wanting to produce that classic style, I would say to go easy on the layering, less is most definitely more. Commit early, and don’t stress over the granular detail, most people won't even know it’s there. Find old samples from the early 2000s, and even make use of the 606, 808 and 909 sounds.





Thanks again to Nath for taking the time to do this interview with us! Definitely lucky to have him in the Trance scene and hope we got many tracks for years to come. We're of course determined to sign something from him on TF Recordings *cough* album *cough* so lets hope one day we can fulfil that dream one day.

Enigma State Socals:

YouTube : https://youtube.com/EnigmaState
Bandcamp : Enigma State
Instagram : Login • Instagram
Facebook :
Log into Facebook
 
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Spacetime

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Nov 6, 2021
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Fast becoming a legend of the modern era. Well, at least on this forum anyway. Thanks both for the interview.
 
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proxi

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Jul 13, 2020
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Great interview, and inspiring to anyone creative who wants to get into producing.

Looking forward to the next releases.
 
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Hoahoa

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Apr 23, 2021
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Nice interview guys. News of a album is huge and the fact we get a another mix of Waiting For You is also massive. Biggest year for Enigma State yet it looks like.
 
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EnigmaState

Senior Member
Jan 17, 2021
254 Posts
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Very very impressive! Nice interview.

Edit: I have one question. What the hell are those tweeters on your NS10s? @EnigmaState
They're NS10 clones. Had them for about 16/17 years. When Yamaha stopped producing them, a company called Studiospares continued them with the same driver cone material but different tweeter. I was able to do a side by side comparison with actual NS10s and we're an almost identical match. Years later they needed a bit of TLC so re-skinned them and added Yamaha decals.
 
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They're NS10 clones. Had them for about 16/17 years. When Yamaha stopped producing them, a company called Studiospares continued them with the same driver cone material but different tweeter. I was able to do a side by side comparison with actual NS10s and we're an almost identical match. Years later they needed a bit of TLC so re-skinned them and added Yamaha decals.
Oh I see thats interesting! No even the drivers cant be built anymore (at least in an authentic way) since the trees they made the paper of is protected. Very interesting monitors you have there tho. :)
 
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No Return

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Mar 9, 2022
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Great interview guys. Full hype mode for the album. Pls not on PURE or Borderline as too modern sounding mastering for your magic.
 
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MarnixMulder

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Jul 23, 2020
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What an great pleasure to read, love the dedication, absolutely inspiring. Nice advices in there too 👍🏻

Great to have people like you in Trance 🎶⚡
 
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Hoahoa

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Apr 23, 2021
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Superb interview and this is huge news that we are getting an album.

Pls not on PURE or Borderline as too modern sounding mastering for your magic.

It doesn't matter where its released, it will sound good regardless. As long as we get vinyl release then there is nothing to worry about.
 
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Exodom

Senior Member
Oct 17, 2020
574 Posts
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Wowzer look at that setup!!! I don’t know what any of it is but it’s still cool to see. Awesome interview.

What date are you aiming for the new album?
 
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EnigmaState

Senior Member
Jan 17, 2021
254 Posts
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Wowzer look at that setup!!! I don’t know what any of it is but it’s still cool to see. Awesome interview.

What date are you aiming for the new album?
No date at the minute. I'm hoping at some point this year, but its if I get the tracks done in time.
I've got to navigate a house move in the next few months aswell as most likely build a new studio within a garage so im already expecting to be out of action for a couple months, but I'm aiming to get the tracks done by the time I'm moving house.
 

Jetflag

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Jul 17, 2020
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No date at the minute. I'm hoping at some point this year, but its if I get the tracks done in time.
I've got to navigate a house move in the next few months aswell as most likely build a new studio within a garage so im already expecting to be out of action for a couple months, but I'm aiming to get the tracks done by the time I'm moving house.
Where are you moving too?
 

EnigmaState

Senior Member
Jan 17, 2021
254 Posts
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Where are you moving too?
Moving to a place called Standish. Small place, but not too far from where I am in Manchester.
The other half isn't used to the big city life and I'm not too bothered where I live aslong as I have Internet access (which isn't hard as I work for an ISP), can get Amazon Prime deliveries, and I've got a studio 🤣
 

Dreamless

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Dec 7, 2022
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Nice interview. Do you have any vinyl releases planned for the album or upcoming material?
 

Bobby Summa

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Great interview. Inspiring advice. Can’t wait for the Artist Album. Love albums!

I love the synths… 🫶 . Im turning green looking at your studio pics! 😉
I got to get my ASM Hydrasynth into full swing soon! Gonna try to take your advice about not layering too many sounds, with the Hydrasynth it should sing sweetly by itself if its used right!
 
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