Super-Frog Saves Tokyo
- TranceFix Interview -
In his debut year, David Harrison AKA Super-Frog Saves Tokyo featured in TranceFix's top 10 of the year with his first ever single, Kyoto. Next year, it was the same with Ark. This year, he releases his debut album. So naturally, we wanted to talk to him about this, his passion for music, his artist name, some of the burning issues, as well as geek out about synths, and so much more. Enjoy!
Let’s begin with something that a lot of people ask about you in general - your artist name. What’s the story behind it and why did you choose it?
I studied English Literature at University, and towards the end of my course, a peer recommended Norwegian Wood by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. I duly obliged, and then over the next few years became obsessed and read everything he ever wrote.
There’s a certain ambience and ‘feel’ to his work, and even when describing the most mundane, the feeling pervades. Sometimes we connect with the work of others, and I guess I just found and - to this day - find beauty in his work.
In the mid-2000s, I happened to be over at Rich’s [Solarstone] house catching up, and I took a new synth I’d bought over there, and we quickly started making a track together (the track in question ended up as Spectrum from his RSE album).
As I drove back and forth to his house, at the end of each session, he’d burn a CD and I’d listen to it in the car to work out where to go with it next. Each time he burned one, he’d write a different name on it - usually something ridiculous.
Rich and I share a love of books and reading, and at this time, I’d not long read the collection of stories called ‘After The Quake’ by Murakami, and my favourite one was called Super-Frog Saves Tokyo. It was an insane tale of a six foot frog trying to save Tokyo.
On one of the CDs, Rich wrote ‘Super-Frog’. I think I’ve still got it somewhere. But it was just a stupid joke between the pair of us.
Years later, when I’d decided to finally make my own music with a view to releasing it, the subject of my artist name came up. I’ve always been notoriously awful at trying to name bands/projects, but given the history, Super-Frog Saves Tokyo seemed memorable enough to go with.
Talk to us a bit about your background and your music influences.
When I was young, my family lived in a bungalow, so my bedroom was in close proximity to the living room. Being too young to watch a lot of the VHS videos around at the time, my parents would often watch them after I went to bed.
On one occasion, my dad got hold of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, and I distinctly remember hearing that throbbing bassline through the wall.
It was otherworldly to me. I’d already had a good musical education, as my mum was a massive music fan, my dad had a ridiculously large vinyl collection, so I got to listen to Beatles, Kraftwerk, Can, Bowie, Roxy Music, and pretty much all the classics, as well as obscure soundtracks and really mad stuff my dad was into such as The Residents, among others.
However, once I’d heard that bassline I definitely gravitated towards the more electronic stuff I could get hold of: Depeche Mode, PSB, Human League, and then naturally, this led me on to stuff like Yellow Magic Orchestra, early Detroit, Bomb the Bass etc.
In that same vein, what made you want to create music in the first place?
In the nineties, the place where I grew up was thriving in terms of bands and music in the local indie scene, and literally everyone was in a band or wanted to be in a band. I was one of the only synth fans around, and had bought a Yamaha RY-30 drum machine with some birthday money I’d saved, so I started messing around locally.
In terms of ‘creating music’ I was more than happy to just create. I loved writing as well; any form of expression, really, but words and music were what I was most comfortable with. Though music in the non-traditional form. Let’s be honest, I just love making noises and programming. The technology side of it really drew me in.
How did your development as an artist go, from the moment you realised you wanted to be one, to having your debut artist album ready for release on one of the biggest trance labels?
I’d been pottering for years in bands and making tunes at home, but understanding the unlikelihood of gaining success, I simply didn’t seek it. I had a good job, a lovely family, was relatively comfortable, so despite amassing a pile of synths and music gear, I didn’t really have much ambition to release stuff or push it.
I’ve always had major issues finishing work, so my hard drives are generally filled with 16 bar loops in need of development.
Just prior to the pandemic starting, Rich and I were on holiday (we generally go away with our kids each year where possible), and I’d recently been laid off from my long-term job due to Brexit, and a subsequent job I rushed into hadn’t worked out, so during a long chat one day, he suggested I (finally) put a few tracks together and try for a single.
As these discussions so often went this way, I did the normal agree and nod, but then the following January (2020) just prior to the pandemic, Rich had a project he couldn’t possibly fit into his hectic schedule, so he kindly invited me to participate and asked if I had any ideas.
I headed up to his with three demos, all of which were used on that particular project, and we wrote track on the fly over a week in the studio.
After this, I guess the momentum had started, and I’d also found a little bit of much needed self-confidence. Making tracks at home for yourself is amazing, but then actually playing them to someone else is a whole different ball game, and I guess like most artists, I suffer from pretty severe imposter syndrome.
I’ll often finish a track and then listen to a track by an artist I love and just think my stuff is inferior in every respect. However, having spent more time discussing music, playing it to people, and sharing these feelings with fellow musicians, it’s clear this is something every artist goes through, so I’m kind of okay with that now.
Once I overcome this, I took six further demos to Rich, which were roughly 60% of the way there, expecting him to say ‘yeh, let’s use these two out of the four’ but he listened to them all a couple of times, and his unforgettable words were ‘I wish the demos I got sent were this good’ so that was a major confidence booster.
Of the six demos, every single one made the album, and the rest of the album was pretty much 90% completed in my home studio, and I took it up to Rich’s for some touching up.
But by the end of the process, I’d really hit my stride and felt the later songs I did were the best on the album. I won’t prejudice potential listeners’ opinions by naming them, but let’s just say Ark was one of them.
The whole pandemic was absolute hell in finishing the album. I was perfectly capable of doing it at home, but in truth I loved driving up to Rich’s and chilling for a few days and working together. First and foremost we’re friends. The music came much, much later.
But my partner was working from home, I’d been forced to take a job working nights in order to pay bills, and quality noise making time untethered by inconvenience or tiredness was rare.
Had we continued at the pace we set pre-pandemic, the album would’ve been out 18 months earlier, but due to the timing, it just wasn’t to be. Even recently, we’ve considered delaying, but it’s increasingly evident that Covid is something we need to live with, but none of us could’ve foreseen this in the early days of lockdowns.
Fundamentally, I’ve been sat on the completed mastered album for eight months, and it’s been absolute hell.
What are some of the things you've learned (good or bad) along the way, and what do you wish you learned earlier? You also seem to have a good relationship with Solarstone, is this part of your journey into the Trance world?
I wish I’d have learned a lot earlier when to finish a record. Left alone, I’d be forever tinkering with things and tracks would remain incomplete.
When you listen to a record by one of your favourite artists, what they give to you is finished and presented as the final product.
You don’t sit down with other people’s records and try and complete them in your mind, or sit there thinking ‘oooh, I’d have dropped the kick out for the last bar of that bit’ and if you do, maybe that music just isn’t for you!
So it’s almost perverse we do this so much to our own, and often don’t know where to leave it. I’ve quickly developed the necessary skill to know when enough is enough.
Another thing I wish I’d have done earlier is trust in my own ability. You have to have confidence in your own ability or you’ll end up getting to over forty and then rushing to be as prolific as possible to make up for lost time, like I am currently.
I do have an amazing relationship with Rich. We met thirty years ago when we were both seventeen at a local club called JB’s in Dudley, in the West Midlands. He was in a band who I enjoyed watching, and at the time it was relatively rare to see synth set-ups in the local band scene, so I immediately gravitated towards him and we struck up a friendship which has lasted ever since.
I went off to Uni, he kept struggling to start a new thing to put his energy into, and our love of gear and music remains to this day. Back then, music equipment was ridiculously expensive, and our endless quest for someone we could borrow an AKAI sampler from went on for years.
I always recall the time I returned from Uni at Christmas one year, and we went for a drink and he introduced me to a friend (with whom he eventually signed to Hooj) and the first thing he said was ‘he’s got an Akai S1000’ so that kind of set the template we’ve lived by ever since.
Let's go back to the release of your first ever single, Kyoto, which ended up as one of our top 10 tracks of 2020. How satisfied were you with the response in general, both from the crowd and from the artists and DJs within the scene?
First up, let me say a massive thank you for being so positive and kind regarding Kyoto. I can’t explain quite how much it means when people back or promote my music, and when it’s well received by such a rich, warm and knowledgeable community as this one, it’s humbling.
Overall, I loved reading the responses and enthusiasm for Kyoto. The responses have been amazing.
However, I will let you into a slight secret: I’m still YET to hear any of my music in the clubs. Yes, I know that may sound weird, and I’ve seen it played out via YouTube clips, or videos people have sent, but it’s still not the same as feeling it in person, so I’m looking forward to that shortly.
I do recall Rich premiered Existence - which we co-wrote - at ASOT 950, and I watched it live on a stream in early 2020 prior to Covid, and watching the reactions and happy people was surreal.
I’m confident this will change in the near future.
You have an upcoming album 'Straw Man', of which we've already heard some fantastic singles. What can you tell us about this, mainly the approach and goal with the release and, of course, when we can expect it to drop.
The album has been a real labour of love.
Firstly, it’s a relief to get the first one out of the way, and to be happy with it in the way I am.
To speak of the approach, I used to have a routine whereby each Monday a new album came out, I’d rush down to my local record shop, grab some nice snacks on the way back, and would sit and listen to it in its entirety whilst chilling out and relaxing.
This used to be my little ritual, and I’ve lost count of the amount of albums I experienced in this way back in my youth. Albums by the likes of Leftfield, Aphex Twin, Underworld, Massive Attack - all the big hitters of nineties electronica.
The defining thread through all of these classics is they take you on a journey; they creep up on you. Starting with an almost subdued intro, banging into a heavy dance track, then moments of beauty, subtlety and excitement.
In the modern streaming world, and understandably, the concept of the album has diminished somewhat.
With Straw Man, I just wanted to make an album with a varied pace you could sit down and listen to from beginning to end, and feel you’ve had a bit of a journey - however cliched that may sound.
It’s certainly not all 126+ bpm bangers by any stretch. There are quiet moments, there are slow tracks, there are tracks clearly influenced by the soundtracks I adore, and then there are tracks which absolutely burst out demanding to be danced to.
I just hope some folk out there are happy to be led by me, and find at least some element of it they can connect to.
With regards to its release, let’s just say there is a box full of physical product currently in transit to me, so expect a firm announcement shortly.
[Editor's note: The album release has since been announced for April 8th!]
Electronic Architecture is a brand new label on which you have already released a couple of your album singles, and where you will release the album too. What can you tell us about this label?
Following on closely from the above, I think people will quickly realise I’m not a fan of being pigeon holed, and to have released the album on a trance label simply wouldn’t have worked.
My original plan was to try and work out some management, a booking agent, and head out on the road, gain an audience, and even try to emulate the much lauded British toilet-circuit whereby you play little clubs and venues and build a following, then present this to record labels as a bit more of an oven ready project for them to take you up on.
However, Covid happened, and none of us could’ve foreseen this, so I had to rethink this strategy.
Rich has immeasurable experience regarding the business side of music, and to be perfectly honest - this side bores the living shit out of me. I literally could not find anything more intolerably dull and - in my limited experience - populated by people I really don’t want to be commenting on my work.
For me personally, you’ve got this lovely creative streak, and then you put it in the hands of people for whom money is the ultimate goal. It seems fucking insane, and leads to the kind of issues we’re seeing with streaming now. However, this is purely my opinion.
So to depend on someone who is so clued up, yet so focused purely on maintaining such a high quality of output for all his labels is the perfect situation for me. I’ve seen the personal toil and the incredible passion he puts into literally everything he does, and his unparalleled ability to still continue to grow and learn.
The Electronic Architecture label was borne out of a love for a wider range of musical output that doesn’t necessarily sit in one particular genre, but absorbs and embraces all influences, with the ultimate goal of putting some great music out there.
What's your production setup like? What are your go-to synths/effects?
You’re probably going to wish you hadn’t asked me this.
I am an absolute gear nut.
My production set up is extremely varied, and in terms of go-tos, I literally use everything I own regularly.
If I roll off a few pieces that made it onto the record, I guess that’d be a good start.
I’ve owned a Roland Juno 106 for 25 years, and that generally ends up on everything (Kyoto and Ark to name just two).
I have a relatively sensible Eurorack system which I’ve built over the past ten years, with notable inclusions such as an AJH MiniMod Moog clone which is all over the album, an Intellijel Atlantis which is used extensively, as well as some dirty Moog CP3 style mixers, an AJH Noise Source (which provides a noisy carpet on certain tracks), analog 808 kick and snare clones, a CR-78 module, and various other percussion modules.
These are all synced using Pamela’s New Workout, a Deeper MIDI/CV interface, and sequenced by an Arturia BeatStep Pro. I use Expert Sleepers’ sync devices to keep it all in time, and once I press play, everything syncs beautifully,
I often just record individual outs from the Eurorack into Cubase Pro 11, and often just jam and make noises which I then cut up and play with, making little arrangements, sample presets etc.
In addition to this, I’ve got crap laying everywhere to be honest. Most of it covered in Star Wars’ Lego.
I have a couple of the little Roland Boutiques (the 909/303), a few more 303 clones both analog and digital, and to be honest - I generally use them all. If I had to offer a preference, I’d say I feel the Cyclonic TT-303 is my favourite, but once in the mix, they all get used regularly.
I have a couple of Moogerfooger pedals which I love, and use them regularly even if it’s just running hardware through them to warm it up a bit.
I also have quite a decent collection of guitar pedals, and a Strymon Big Sky reverb which I absolutely adore (one album track is simply the wet output from this, a Moog, and a 909).
As I sit here now, I’m leaning on my Access Virus TI which was used, alongside a Moog Sub 37, a Roland System-8, TR-8S, and possibly my favourite synth - the Dave Smith Pro 2.
I own a few little analogs and random bits like a Dreadbox Erebus V2, and a Meeblip Anode as well.
My main interface is a Universal Audio Apollo, and my monitors are Adam A7Xs with a Lego Y-Wing on top. Not sure the Y-Wing affects the sound, but if I’m ever stuck, I generally fly it around like a child. Currently digging Mandalorian Lego as well, which is everywhere.
If I talked plug-ins, I would literally be here for months, so I won’t go too deep.
For Straw Man, I used Cubase Pro 11. I do use Ableton, but that’s exclusively for live use.
Go to plug-ins included Fabfilter Pro Q3, Universal Audio stuff (it’s all excellent as far as I’m concerned), Izotope Ozone, Unfiltered Audio’s range, and lest we forget ValhallaDSP’s utterly incredible reverbs - these are some of the best out there regardless of cost.
I don’t use templates, and I don’t have a single way of working. Sometimes I’ll wake up with a melody in my head, sometimes I’ll hear something I love and will try to achieve a similar effect, and sometimes I just jam for hours and cut up any interesting bits.
The most important thing for me, is having everything in sync, everything ready to record, and positive approach.
Naturally, in keeping with my obsession, over the years I’ve worked out how to develop pretty much any sound in moments, so that does help. This is why I generally gravitate to musical artists whose sounds are so otherworldly and unfamiliar I find myself perplexed as to how they make them (take Jon Hopkins for example).
Let's talk a bit about the analog vs digital debate. You yourself said you are very much influenced by the 90s electronic music. Your recent single and a track from the album, Ark, was a demonstration of that. There have been a number of producers trying to combine the old styles with modern gear. So, in order to make a good track (and especially one that resembles the olden days), do you need old hardware? Or can you do it in the box completely? Furthermore, do you feel like trance nowadays is missing that imperfect, rich sound of a great analog synthesizer or an effect? What do you prefer?
I am indeed influenced by the 90s electronic scene. However, I wouldn’t say this is something I consciously feel influences my musical output. Being of that era, I guess those techniques are the ones I grew up with, but I keenly adopt modern digital technology as much as anything.
Back in the nineties I was always lusting after digital samplers: Ensoniqs, EMUs, AKAIs, but they were simply out of my price range.
Ironically, the same shops I used to frequent used to have piles of old unwanted analog equipment around which was more in my price range.
I picked up a Roland SH-101, and a Roland MC-202 in mint condition for 150 pounds for the pair back in 1995. I loved them and still have nightmares to this day of not having kept them. I sold them for about 150 pound each in order to fund a little digital sound module: the Akai SG-01v. I could still cry when I think of it. Not for the money value I’d have made nowadays, but just for the absolute beauty of these machines.
There’s a stunning immediacy to the old hands-on analog stuff. I love my 106, and it’s something I’d never part with, but sat beneath it on my rack is a Roland System-8 which emulates it. Clearly, having owned the 106 for so long, and now having owned the System-8 for a few years, I honestly think I’m as qualified as anyone to suggest the analog vs digital debate is pointless. The System-8 is as immediate and sounds as good, In fact, the fact the machine is so focused on the past means a lot of people miss out on the S8 engine itself which is absolutely brilliant. Way more flexible and as full sounding as any of their analog classics.
But people are so obsessed with the whole debate. You have people comparing 303 accents on oscilloscopes and then arguing over the slightest of discrepancies, and I find it all utterly futile.
In 2010, I miraculously acquired a boxed Roland TR-909 in absolutely mint condition. It was absolutely beautiful. It looked, smelled, and felt incredible and I loved it. The sound was stunning, the immediacy just lovely, but in 2016 I had an offer for it which meant I could afford a MacBook Pro, and the Roland TR-8.
I had the TR-8 alongside the OG 909 and you know what? Despite what you read anywhere, the difference was not worth the several grand difference.
But I was so reluctant to part with it because of the box; the smell; the physical beauty of the machine. Obviously, I did sell it, and I think what I’m trying to get at here is the fact collecting these machines and making music are different hobbies which on the surface seem highly related but generally aren’t.
But the internet gives everyone a voice, and as a result you’ve got owners of classics shouting down the lovers of the new generations of clones as inaccurate, but their aims are completely different.
Old hardware is lovely, but it’s ridiculously expensive, notoriously expensive to maintain, and if you haven’t got the luxury of infinite resources, ignore what the internet tells you and grab some of these amazing clones that are out there.
Having said that, to answer your question about trance, you can go too far the other way.
I mentioned earlier the synth I took to Rich’s around 2006/7. The synth in question was the Access Virus TI, which I still own and love. Rich purchased one straight away after spending time with mine, and then I guess he told his peers among the scene and suddenly everyone had one. It was literally the modern equivalent of the JP-8000 with it’s infinite trance plucks and supersaw-esque sounds, and then suddenly it was everywhere.
Then came Serum, then came Massive, but what you also have in equal measures is the ability for people to access these tools, and though this is a beautiful thing, all of a sudden everyone can afford these VSTs, and MIDI Chord Packs, Sample Packs etc. and you start seeing a lot of formulaic and similar kind of tracks getting out there. Trance started to develop a bit of a sound which it wasn’t framed by in its past, and I think this could be looked at as slightly detrimental to the overall scene as far as I personally could see. Everything started to sound the same to a degree, though I confess I’m no connoisseur so my opinion is probably outmoded nowadays.
I guess what I’m aiming at is the fact you need to find your own path with music. What are you comfortable with? What makes you happy? What makes you productive? And most importantly, what makes you translate what’s in your head to your DAW, or DAT or whatever you’re using?
There has also been an increasing supply and demand of retro-styled electronic tracks over the past few years. It’s mostly about the 90s, but we’ve been seeing that happen with post-2000 trance styles and sub-genres as well. While obviously being a part of it, what do you think of this shift in the electronic genres, and what does it say about the scene in general?
It’s a bit weird for me, personally, as I spent a lot of time enjoying dance music, clubbing and heading out to raves etc. back when I was younger.
I always kept a very keen eye on the electronic music scene, but when I had children I guess it became an alien world to me to a large degree, and I stuck with what I knew and didn’t particularly keep track of what was going on.
I got heavily back into making music, and next thing I knew was sub-genres had their own sub-genres and Disco Polo, Chillstep and Psy-Chill-Ambient suddenly existed.
It all seems to have gotten a little out of hand, and to be honest, I found it quite hard to keep track of. However, for me personally, I know what I like and that’s the most important thing.
Joking aside, I do appreciate the whole world seems focused on providing and consuming content nowadays, and if a new genre has to spring to life to enable someone to stand out and scrape a meek living and continue doing what they love, I think that’s a positive thing.
I think the prevalence of affordable and excellent gear nowadays also contributes to the whole retro-stylings, and it’s lovely to see kids playing with tactile and hands-on synths like we used to back in the day, especially when they could effectively do everything ITB.
If it’s all the result of choice, and not because you’re an old bastard who knows no better like me, then that’s a wonderful thing.
Eventually, every genre wears its influences on its sleeve, so it’s nice to see people who may have not been around or part of the original scenes pay tribute to the originators.
What are some of the challenges you face when you’re making and mixing a track, especially with labels having certain requirements about dynamics, cleanliness and even arrangements? How do you navigate that, and how do you find the balance between your tracks fitting in sets, and sounding authentic and true to how you imagined them?
Making my partner’s head bob. If she starts nodding when I’m making and mixing a track, I know I’m onto a winner.
In terms of dynamics, cleanliness and arrangements, I’ll happily take a steer on the arrangement side of it from someone more experienced in the way of the dance floor than I, but I do get bored with having to add 16 bars of pure kick and percussion at the beginning and end of tracks just because it makes it easier for someone to mix. Especially given DJs used to manage this without the luxury of the ‘sync’ button.
I generally make what I make, and leave the rest to other people.
With the exception of cleanliness…
If you listen to the beginning of Kyoto on the album, you’ll hear authentic Juno 106 chorus hiss. It’s these little imperfections I love, and I feel they contribute so much to the finished project.
Anyone can automate a filter from close to fully open over 16 bars and make it sound pristine. But for me, it’s all about the live take and actually performing and fiddling with the knobs whilst recording it.
Every take is individual, and despite you being able to achieve this with automation, errors and inconsistencies are what I like, so they stay in. There’s a couple of bits across the album where you can actually hear me switching guitar pedals off if you listen carefully.
You’ll never please everyone, but if you please yourself, that’s a good start.
As yet, I’ve not been asked to change much, if anything, so I must be doing something right.
Let's now meet Super-Frog Saves Tokyo as a music fan. What sort of music do you enjoy?
Now you’re asking!!!
I love all sorts of music, it must be said, from alternative to electronic, with everything in between.
If I were to just go with the USB Memory stick I currently have in my car, you’d find Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Can, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, various techno-compilations, Pure Trance 9, Orkidea’s Pure Progressive Vol. 1, Flux Trax compilation, Pavement, Sufjan Stevens, Goblin, John Carpenter, 2001: A Space Odyssey OST, Grizzly Bear, Four Tet, Ceephax Acid Crew, Squarepusher, Posthuman, Daniel Avery, Erol Alkan’s Fabric Comp, Beak>, and - of course - Super-Frog Saves Tokyo ‘Straw Man’.
What's the perfect trance track for you? Can you describe a perfect trance track, and name a few?
A perfect trance track for me generally follows its own path, but also dips in and out of convention, but it needs to contain tension, melody, emotion, underpinned by something you can dance to.
I absolutely love Marmion’s Schöneberg. It has a sparse set of amazing parts that dance around each other, is memorable, and drives from beginning to end. Just astounds me every time I listen to it.
Do you listen much to modern trance? If so, what do you like and dislike about it? Who are, in your opinion, talented and underrated producers?
I do listen to some modern trance. What I like about it is there are a lot of producers out there still making music which is their own modern take on the very essence of trance.
What I don’t like about some modern takes is when it is simply lazy, test-tube style paint-by-numbers trance which offers absolutely nothing new or simply sounds exactly the same as everything else with zero personality of individual character.
Sadly, when you get the current zeitgeist-genre gatekeepers casting their negative outlook over what they deem ‘trance’ it all too often seems to be the easy targets; the overly commercial stuff that could literally just be banged together from a few MIDI chord packs and a pack of Serum trance plucks.
But then I’m old and miserable
Spotify lists over 5500 genres these days, some being straightforward like Trance, and other obscure like Escape Room. What do you think of this phenomenon and its effect on trance and music in general?
I think it’s insane. The amount of genres out there now is hilarious. I guess fundamentally, the great stuff is still out there, but you just have to dig a little deeper or wade through the multitude of material that’s out there.
To add to that, you said to us how you take inspiration from a lot of genre-less electronic music from the early 90s. How does music labeling and categorization help improve music, and what are its bad sides? How would you label your own productions with regards to genres?
Yes, when I used to buy electronic music, I never really considered genre. It was more just ‘dance’ or ‘electronic’ which just made it really simple.
I guess labelling and categorisation is just a way of providing a signpost to find what you want, so if taken in that respect, it can only be a good thing.
That’s the sensible measured side of me speaking. But then the other day, I saw an advert for a ‘Slap House’ YouTube tutorial and absolutely laughed my ass off. I’d never even heard of it, then an hour down the wormhole later, I’m listening to Radiohead covers at 146 bpm.
With my own productions, I’m somewhat stuck between multiple worlds, which probably informs my own comedy-negativity towards certain genres and labels, but fundamentally I make electronic dance music.
When it’s more melodic and upbeat, it definitely lends itself to the trance world, but with my own slant, and I’m proud to be able to say that.
Other times, I just want a distorted kick and deep bassline looping for 5 minutes, bringing back fond memories of dark, sweaty dance floors in little techno clubs I’ve been to over the year.
If I were to label my music I’d just consider it as interpretations or snapshots of dance/club experiences I’ve had over the years, so if I capture a slight bit of a particular genre, I’ve done my job. But broadly speaking, the album goes from ambient to melodic techno to brutal techno to trance and back again.
Amusingly, I received the physical formats of my album the other day, and subsequently had a few beers then listened together with a friend who was a little worse for wear. A minute into the second track, he spun out and vomited, and to be perfectly honest that was the most perfect review possible.
Since we're at Spotify, what are your thoughts on streaming services vs online music stores vs Bandcamp vs physical format?
Back in my early teens, I used to rush out and collect every single Depeche Mode release on 12”, CD, cassette, just to ensure I’d received every mix of every song, as I just didn’t want to miss a thing.
The thought we can literally pop online and get any single piece of music we want from any era, geographical location, genre etc. etc. is a beautiful thing. It’s mind boggling that if I shout out for a random gig performance from some obscure club in 1995, chances are someone will help, it’s just fantastic.
However, the problem is the monetisation of it, and there are far more eloquent and considered takes on the subject with far more depth and expertise than I can possibly hope to offer.
For me personally, I love physical releases. But then I’ve got friends who have digitised their entire collection and have switched solely to streaming.
To surmise, I honestly think choice is absolutely amazing, but musicians need to get the lion’s share of the profits, or the industry on our level will simply not be able to continue as we know it, and we’ll be left with Steve Aoki productions where the breakdown is an advert for his latest multi-million pound NFT purchase.
We know these two years were all about the pandemic, and you made your name right as it was unfolding. Do you have any plans on getting behind decks once the clubs reopen fully and festivals finally get going?
Yes. I’m spending my downtime rehearsing a live set which has its own challenges, so once I feel I’m ready, I’ll try and get a few slots somewhere to test the water.
I will attempt to pick up the decks again at some point, though I’d have to find an environment suitable enough. Last time I was messing with the decks, I spent ages trying to mix Sly and the Family Stone into one of the Chemical Brothers’ Electronic Battle Weapons.
What are your career plans and goals for the future?
Well there was a lot of leftover material from the first album, and I’ve pretty much written the next one, so once the album is out, I’ll attempt to continue while I’m still prolific.
Ideally, I’d be able to scrape a living out of it, enabling me to continue writing, recording, and touring.
Are/were you an avid party-goer? If so, do you have any memories you would care to share?
Yes, I certainly was an avid party-goer, and spent many a morning watching the sun come up on the way back from a club.
Had some magnificent nights in various places over the years; Atomic Jam at the Que Club was probably my favourite club night.
Had some great nights over in Ibiza, as I often tag along when Rich is playing, but the older you get, the more difficult it gets.
A few years ago, we went to Amusement 13 in Birmingham where Solarstone played with Orkidea and Gai Barone. The next day, we had a prearranged lunch at midday, and ended up all pushing salad around our plates in a burger restaurant…
In recent years, I’m trying to find the perfect balance between partying, and not ending up crying to myself in the bathroom on a Tuesday morning following an all-nighter on Saturday.
If you had to submit 10 tracks for a Best 1000 Trance Tracks list, which ones would you choose?
Wow, great question, and not something I’ve given a great deal of thought to… I appreciate some of these are odd choices, but these are ones I listen to regularly:
Cygnus X - The Orange Theme
Vernon - Vernon’s Wonderland
Marmion - Schöneberg
Zombie Nation - Kernkraft 400
Grace - Not Over Yet
Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar
KLF - What Time Is Love
Paul van Dyk - For An Angel
Underworld - Kittens
Solarstone - Seven Cities
What are your top 10 tracks of 2021, as well as the best album, artist, label and compilation?
As mentioned earlier, just prior to the whole pandemic, I lost my long-term job due to Brexit, so after a few months off, I was forced to take any old job to see me through. Basically, I thought I’d sit out the whole Covid thing, and see what kind of world we were left with when it ended.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened, and it looks like we’re going to be learning to live with this horrid thing, but basically, for the whole of 2021, I was working up to 60 hours per week doing nights in a warehouse to pay the bills, and any days off I had were pretty much focused on family and kids, and trying to stay awake, so in terms of music/labels etc for 2021, I’ve just not been listening to any new music, unfortunately. Aside from the Electronic Architecture and Pure Trance annual entries, naturally.
I absolutely aim to remedy this during 2022!
Anything to add for the end?
I’d just like to extend my thanks for this opportunity to chat, and also extend my massive gratitude to the trancefix.nl community for such kind, positive words regarding my music.
We would like to give huge thanks to Super-Frog Saves Tokyo for agreeing to do an interview with us. We're very excited for his new album, Straw Man, which drops April 8th. Hope you liked reading this, as we have even more content coming in 2022.
Make sure to follow SFST on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. His music can be found on all platforms, among others Soundcloud, Beatport, Spotify, Apple Music.