TF Interview: Enlusion

Enlusion: Trancefix Interview

[11.03.2021]

Hey guys, here's our first Interview for 2021; Forescape Digital Label boss and producer Enlusion aka Kirill Smirnov. Hope you enjoy it!


Enlusion Copy 3.png



Hey Kirill, thanks for taking the time to chat. 2020 was a very busy year for you, how do you reflect back on this year, as both a musician and as a label owner, and how has 2021 begun for you so far?

2020 was a year of changes for me. After receiving a few harsh comments from certain underground trance labels on my music I've almost lost my will to produce music at all. But I've recovered quickly and finally finished my album Misty Shadows which was in progress for almost 2 years. I made decision to stop sending any demos to other labels (unless I have carte-blanche from them to produce what I want like with Transpecta label group). I decided to stick to my own label as i mostly the only place where I can release what I really want to produce. With other labels (even in the underground world) they either tell you to copy a style of certain artist or to make a copy of your previous well-received track with just different melody, I hate to do both things, it's not for me.

If you take a listen to my Misty Shadows album which was released last summer you can hear how different all the tracks are. It shows the diversity of my musical taste. I could sign some of those tracks on pretty good labels and release a few strong singles instead of the album, but this way there would be no place for tracks like Dream Broadcaster (which is my own favorite track of all time). So I released an album which reached Top 2 Trance releases on Beatport and shared the podium with artists like Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk which was a pretty decent achievement I'd say, the Trance audience enjoyed what I did.

As for my label, 2020 was the most successful year so far for Forescape Digital. Quality of releases was higher than ever, every single release was fantastic for my personal taste. Singles from Basil O'Glue, Rick Pier O'Neil, Cosmithex, Gordey Tsukanov, Dark Matter, Narel, Coredata, Subtara, collab of Slam Duck and You Are My Salvation, wow!

2021 has begun with a massive success of Dark Matter's new track called Girl with the Rainbow Hat which was played by Markus Schulz, Ferry Corsten and Solarstone. This track is not exactly what I tend to release on Forescape but it's produced and mixed so well that I couldn't resist, progressive trance track straight from the golden era of our genre.

I've got some really cool releases in the pipeline for this year, including at least 2 albums (one of them is scheduled on late March). Also, there's 100th release coming up in August, working hard on this. Expect a slight shift towards the techno genre which I enjoy the most these days.

Enlusion - Dream Broadcaster (taken from Misty Shadows)
https://soundcloud.com/enlusionofficial%2Fdream-broadcaster-original-mix

Whats the nature of the harsh comments?

Those comments were about my production skills and inability to produce something that would sound professional. It was recommended for me to use a sound engineer or to work with someone who knows how it's done. I was sent examples of proper sounding tracks and I was told that I tend to use generic synths and samples. Those guys also mentioned that there's no groove in my music and people in clubs would get bored of it quickly.


You mentioned that Girl With The Rainbow Hat is something that you wouldn't usually release on Forescape. Why is that? Some labels in the past were very successful in having a somewhat diverse range of releases, HOOJ Choons is the classic example.

I release a lot of different sub-genres of electronic music on Forescape. Progressive House from RPO, Breaks from Vitaly Shturm and Satinka, Psy-Trance from Cosmithex and Dreamcast, Uplifting Trance from Dark Matter and You Are My Salvation, Techno from Slavlotski and even electronica from myself. So the diversity is in place for sure. Girl With The Rainbow Hat is a sort of track that I would have loved a lot 10-12 years ago when I was strictly into light/positive side of Trance with euphoric melodies. This track reminds me of that time and I still like some of the tracks from that era. I signed this track as a B-side to the beautiful "Under the Influence" tune.

In the last couple of years my musical taste changed. Nowadays I prefer dark, mystic, serious tones in music. You know, something that JOOF used to play 5-10 years ago. Now with every month it feels like I'm getting more and more away from John musically as he and his label shifts towards the Hernan Cattaneo sound rapidly and loses the key identity of the JOOF sound. This shift helped my label a lot.


What lead you to creating Forescape Digital to begin with, and what challenges have you experienced running an independent underground label?

I started Forescape Digital back in 2016 because music of my favorite producers at that time was completely overlooked by DJs and listeners and those producers were struggling to find home for their tracks. I wanted to do my very best to deliver proper underground trance music to the key players of the scene. After 5 years of running a label I can say that the results have exceeded my expectations massively

As for the challenges, 90% of music released on Forescape has been delivered to me after direct e-mails/messages to my favorite producers, it's the hardest part of running an unknown label and there were a few moments where I had absolutely nothing to release and thought that I have to stop, luckily every time I received a great unexpected demo and kept on moving.


And recently you added Forescape's entire discography to Bandcamp. Do you see this platform as legitimate way to promote and generate revenue for the label, potentially outperforming traditional channels such as Beatport or low paying streaming services like Spotify?

Yes, Bandcamp can potentially out-perform Beatport for sure. Currently Bandcamp is on the 2nd place for me and I don't even have database of e-mails of potential clients. Monthly revenue from Spotify is ridiculous. For example I've got $12 from all label streams in January, that's not even funny.

Enlusion, Dreamcast - Melting Wind (taken from Misty Shadows)
https://soundcloud.com/enlusionofficial%2Fmelting-wind-original-mix
You mentioned how labels can impose or deny stylistic choices on a musician. Bandcamp you could say gives more flexibility and freedom for musicians to self publish the music they want, without the need for labels involvement in things like distribution, style influence and payment handling. Do you foresee a shift in the industry towards more musical independency for artists, and potentially the dropping of artist-label relationship?

For these reasons artists like me, Solid Stone and Grum opened their own labels, while other artists just started using Bandcamp more often. Label still plays an important role when it has a wide auditory of followers but some of these well-known labels don't do any promotion at all, they just throw releases on Beatport and that's it, no ads on social media, no promo campaigns for DJs, no marketing at all. Also some labels charge artists for artwork (which is almost the same for every single release), promo campaign, marketing, mastering, anti-piracy and digital distribution of their own release, that's around $50 in sum. When artist sees these expenses in his\her royalty statement he/she will most likely never work with that label anymore (as his/her balance in 90% of cases would be negative).

I know examples of such labels (established and minor labels like mine) but I'm not gonna burn the bridges now and say who they are. it's absolutely stupid in my opinion to charge artists for all of this. It's label's business to deliver their release in the best possible quality and to the wider audience. There are of course good examples of labels like Anjunabeats who invest hell of a lot in promotion and marketing of each release and that's why people want to release their music there, they have a huge audience and following too. If label managers think that they only have to send music to the stores and don't do anything else because they have some followers, then they're doing it wrong. Imagine engineers and mechanics of Mercedes or BMW promoting the cars they've created instead of the Marketing and Promo department of the company, that's bollocks ha!. I can clearly see a shift towards the musical independency of the artists even in our small underground world.


What was your path into electronic and Trance music to begin?

I've started listening to the electronic music in 2007 when eventually found a live set of Infected Mushroom with Skazi. That day changed everything for me once and forever, I've quickly switched from Heavy Metal / alternative Rock to Psy-trance with guitar leads and then to the regular, commercial Trance music a few months later. In 2013 I've discovered John 00 Fleming and my musical taste has matured. I remember being an ASOT fanboy and at that time I didn't get why people enjoy the dark underground stuff so much. But ASOT started getting too commercial and fluffy after 550th episode so I decided to try something different and listened to Global Trance Grooves 122. I've immediately got into the serious side of things and never got back to the mainstream, commercial side of Trance since then.


And growing up in Russia (Moscow?), what has the scene and appetite for Trance and Progressive music been like there?

I live (and grew up) in a small city called Ramenskoe, that's 47 km's away from Moscow. There's no Trance or Progressive scene here at all so all my gigs happened in Moscow so far. I had a few bookings for spring of 2020 outside Moscow and even Russia but it couldn't happen for known reasons. So yeah, my chances to play a gig outside Russia are higher than in my own city, I don't want to play Russian mainstream stuff at local clubs even for the money.


Does Moscow have a scene for Trance and Prog music, or is it different genres that the city gravitates towards?

Moscow has a scene of both Trance and Prog House but there's a problem. Promoters and organizers of events fight with each other instead of joining forces. Only a handful of promoters (and those aren't majors of course) are likely to share with you their plans for upcoming events. Thus quite often there are 7 events held on the same night with more or less the same styles of music, just because promoters hate each other and they fight for the auditory. It's such a nonsense but it is what it is.

As for the musical preferences in Moscow, electronic music is quite popular here, the mainstream side of it, but still way behind hip-hop, rock and pop music. We've hardly gathered 150 people on our latest event which took place on December 26th in 2019 (feels like it happened in my previous life!). Daniel Lesden is the boss of our promo group called Rave People, we've slowly started reviving the underground scene in Moscow in 2019 but this virus stopped us. We've had a fantastic line-up of artists for April 2020's JOOF Showcase event with Cosmithex, Slam Duck, Gordey Tsukanov, me and Daniel, all-stars of the Russian underground trance scene plus a genius from Estonia, I'm still devastated that it couldn't happen! Hopefully this year the situation will start improving.

Dark Matter - The Girl With The Rainbow Hat (released on Forescape Digital)


What equipment are you using to produce and what can you tell us about your creation process when producing a new track?

My production setup is really simple. Sennheiser HD 25 headphones and AKAI MPK49 keyboard. I produce in Ableton Live. I use a lot of internal plugins like EQ Eight, Delay, Reverb, Vocoder and Utility. As for the external plugins: Spire, Serum, Sylenth1, Gatekeeper, Replika, Kickstart, Fabfilter Saturn and Phoscyon.

I always start a new track from the kick-bass combo, then I add rhythmic elements and percussion, then I try to come-up with the melody and create a climax part of the track, I mean the main drop. Once I'm done with all of that my new track is basically 90% done. I always come back to the project on the next day to make some adjustments, sometimes I create like 10 different versions of one track when I'm not sure about something. This happened with Dream Broadcaster, I've done 16 different variations of melodies and pads and was finally happy with everything 1,5 years later. That was all worth it as it's my own favorite record now. As you might guess, in most cases I can't listen to my own tracks when they finally get released, I get tired of them during the production process. The most important part of the track for me is the melody. I've never been to the music school so every time I just draw them chaotically (well, inside the scale of course). I still have no idea how people make music without melodies, like in Techno, that's beyond me. I'm sure that if some techno guys would send me their project and tell me that it's finished then I'm gonna add some melodies on top and reply back with “now it's finished bro”


But you yourself mentioned in the forum about moving towards Techno as a producer. What's inspired that transition?

I planned to move towards the Techno world, that's true, but after all I couldn't produce a really good techno record, simply because I was still trying to produce Techno with Trance ideas in my head. I finished around 6 tracks and a few established techno guys told me that they aren't really good. After that I took a break and thought deeply about the situation I've found myself in. I had a choice to either completely reformat my brain, buy a few production courses from techno guys like Alex Stein or just fall back from the unfriendly territory and produce my trademark sound. Eventually, my good buddy Daniel Lesden got a bit tired of my whining in the messenger that I can't produce techno and proposed to make a collaboration, so we've done it in a couple of weeks and it's a banger! More details soon, I can't post any previews at the moment, sorry!

Daniel has recovered me from the limbo state and last week I've finally got back to the music production. What style of music? Not techno!


I assume that as producers and as friends who form relationships in the underground scene, you have a lot to discuss, about the good and the bad...

Yes, the discussion is always ongoing on this subject. From one point of view we're the underground so we don't expect and even want our music to be played on major festivals and to gain millions of streams. From another point of view social media algorithms (on Facebook for example) have gone in a bad way recently and unless you pay like $100 per week your posts will not be seen even by your followers! When you create an audience for your ads on social media being an underground artist you have to be extremely specific and creative, otherwise your posts will be shown to followers of Armin or Ferry Corsten and those aren't people who would be interested in our stuff in most cases.

In order to keep our audience up to date we create channels and groups on socials like Telegram where algorithms don't decide what to show you and what not. We're interested in honest feedback and not something that mainstream guys on big labels get in the comments on YouTube, I mean hundreds and thousands of generic comments from bots and bought likes. As for the forums and social media, constructive feedback helps a lot, especially when it's coming from the other producers. If we're talking about the feedback on the forums, the chances that producer's gonna seriously take your words into account and change something in the production process are next to zero, simply because you can't please everyone and feedback from an established artist means more than feedback from a random guy on the Internet. In our underground world Ii's really hard to find someone who's gonna give you an honest feedback among the artists. Almost all producers don't like to upset others as they know what it takes to finish a record and it's a problem. There's too much loyalty and tolerance in our world and you will not make any progress when all the feedback you get is "cool record" and "nice one dood".

As for the recent changes, I can clearly see how some particular underground artists have started moving towards the wider audiences, playing too much obvious records from an established producers to gain more streams on their mixes. Another huge problem in our world is nepotism. DJs tend to only play records of their friends, from labels of their friends and from compatriots. Yes, even in the underground world it's so. DJs don't even open promo e-mails containing music from unknown producers. For example when I send out promo of a new Basil O'Glue release it gets opened by 60% of recipients, but when it's a release of Enlusion — around 10-15%. DJ's authentic nature is to be an explorer for his audience and not to play exactly what all other DJs do play. Major labels even include this in contract with the artist, he/she must play certain percentage of tracks from the label in all their mixes. Yes, that's rubbish and blatant, but it's business and they don't care at all and it's exactly why you don't see music of unknown producers in mixes of big DJs these days, and that is exactly how career of these big artists kickstarted back in the day. Nobody wants to have even a bit of an extra competition so they stay in their safe zone playing tunes of bro's and sis'.


Many know you here on through the forum, but what else can you tell us about yourself.

I have a main daily job as an IT manager in a Russian outsourcing company and the monthly label royalties only cover my regular expenses for mastering, promotion of releases and advanced payments for big artists. My main hobbies apart from music are football (rooting for Arsenal London since my childhood plus all Russian players abroad) and Formula 1 (rooting for Russian drivers and intrigue in the championship). I also like sim racing (Assetto Corsa Competizione), I enjoy watching races of our Russian streamers on YouTube to relax after a working day/week. Sometimes I take part in races too.


Dream collabation? Any artist from any period

I think Vibrasphere from 2006. Their Archipelago album is out of this planet, my all time favorite. Robert Elster is still producing music so it's hypothetically possible!


Soon we'll be starting our Trancefix Top 1000 Trance list. If you could choose 10 tracks to be on there what might that look like?

It's an extremely difficult question of course, but these 10 tracks mean a lot to me.

Robert Miles — Children
Vibrasphere — Sudden Comfort
Tony Walker — Field of Joy (Ferry Corsten Remix)
Breakfast — Through the Night
Cosmithex — Aquarius
Astrix — Reunion
Perry O'Neil — Bass Society
Rex Mundi — Scorpion
System F — Spaceman
Tiёsto — Suburban Train


And finally...

Armin or Ferry?

Ferry of course. His mix compilation Global Trancemissions 01 was the first Trance mix I've ever heard btw, golden classic.

Tiesto or PVD?
This is a very tough one, but I'd go with PvD, just because he's still true to his roots.

M.I.K.E or Oliver Lieb?
M.I.K.E., simply because he produced endless amount of timeless classic trance music that I still enjoy.

Solarstone or Airwave?
Solarstone. I work with Rich a lot, he's one of the best in the industry, always 100% honest and straight-forward on any topic, it's a rare thing these days.


And that’s a wrap. Thanks again Kirill for taking the time, the great answers and your continued efforts in the underground Trance world. See you on the forum!

Super excited about this interview! It was a big big pleasure for me! Thanks a lot.
 

Attachments

  • SFP2GxTD.jpeg
    SFP2GxTD.jpeg
    77.4 KB · Views: 361
  • Enlusion Copy 3.png
    Enlusion Copy 3.png
    225.7 KB · Views: 6
Last edited:

Manofearth

Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2020
Messages
208
Thanked
114
Fantastic read. Thanks to TF and Enlusion for that.

Eyes wide open for the new and upcoming Forescape releases and albums. Any clue to who those albums will be from?
 
  • Thanks
Reactions: Gagi and Enlusion

Enlusion

Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2020
Messages
158
Thanked
147
Location
Moscow
Website
facebook.com
Fantastic read. Thanks to TF and Enlusion for that.

Eyes wide open for the new and upcoming Forescape releases and albums. Any clue to who those albums will be from?

First album is from Narel, It's gonna be released on March 29th (Bandcamp exclusive for 1 week). It's full of dub techno, ambient and electronica. The second one is from me, that's gonna be 100th release of label in August.
 
  • Thanks
Reactions: Manofearth and Gagi

Progrez

Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2020
Messages
248
Thanked
126
they either tell you to copy a style of certain artist or to make a copy of your previous well-received track with just different melody, I hate to do both things, it's not for me.

This is quite sad to read. The fact that labels want you to produce the same style of other producers. Where is the human factor, what happened to originality? Coming up with your own signature sound. No wonder when I spoke to Stiven RIvic and Michael & Levan asking them to make more of how they used to produce their older tracks not the same sound but they pour their heart and soul into their tracks and now they telling me that this is not what the club scene wants to hear.
 

Enlusion

Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2020
Messages
158
Thanked
147
Location
Moscow
Website
facebook.com
This is quite sad to read. The fact that labels want you to produce the same style of other producers. Where is the human factor, what happened to originality? Coming up with your own signature sound. No wonder when I spoke to Stiven RIvic and Michael & Levan asking them to make more of how they used to produce their older tracks not the same sound but they pour their heart and soul into their tracks and now they telling me that this is not what the club scene wants to hear.

Their Mistique Music label was one of my favorites ~7 years ago, It's a shame that they switched to this trend of boring latin «progressive» house music
 

Progrez

Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2020
Messages
248
Thanked
126
Their Mistique Music label was one of my favorites ~7 years ago, It's a shame that they switched to this trend of boring latin «progressive» house music
Their old production was so good. Now it just sounds like boring flat directionless progressive, latin deep tech house or whatever they call it these days.

Their old stuff I will always love and cherrish.