Slam Duck: TranceFix interview
Trance is currently, thankfully, seeing some fresh faces pop up and make a mark on the scene. And for the past few years, we’ve been keeping an eye on one such face. His name is Alexander Smirnov, but you may know him from his alias Slam Duck. While not really a newcomer, he has been gaining in popularity in the past few years, and earlier this year, he has released an album on Pure Trance - his first under the Slam Duck alias - called Different Together.
Ever since TranceFix’s revival, we wanted to pick up interviewing again. We wished to ask questions we wanted to, we wanted to help deserving artists promote themselves, talk freely, and talk to you. So, in this series of interviews, we bring you the second one.
How did he get into trance/progressive? What made him start producing music? What are his favourite tracks from the past decade? What’s his production/studio setup? Read on to find out!
Slam Duck - Kepler-452b
Hi Alex. Thanks for joining us for a TranceFix interview. How are you? How is the current pandemic affecting you, both personally and professionally?
Hi TranceFix and everyone. I’m glad there is a chance to talk, especially in pandemic times. Well, I’m doing pretty fine, however loads of gigs were cancelled this year that were quite important for me and I’m really sad about this. Hopefully, we will all be playing next year. Personally, I don’t feel any inconvenience in staying at home, for example, but all this mass media panic around this topic makes me nervous. It’s better not to read mass media these days.
Global pandemic aside, you kinda flew under the radar for some time in the trance scene, and now you released an album on one of trance’s biggest (and best) labels after a couple of successful releases. What do you think was the key to your breakthrough?
Actually, like in every breakthrough, everything is quite simple — all you need is a plan, that you need to follow strictly, people who support you and, of course, some luck The plan was to make a system, when you’re able to create tracks without relying only on your inspiration. For example, you need to produce every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday for 2-3 hours no matter what. Then you need to find people, who can help you with advice, or with promotion, or they like your music, they’re in business and you just need to stick with them. Then comes some luck and it’s done
Do you remember your beginnings? What made you choose to make music, what made you choose to make these particular genres of music? Did you, your goals and ambitions change in the process?
It all happened accidentally. Yes, I had some interest in music, when I was young. I recorded tapes, music on the radio, but it wasn’t consciously. Someday in 2002-2003 I went with my grandfather to the market where people sold old CDs they didn’t need. There I bought a program called Dance Ejay, I think it was a second edition, released around 2000. You can check it on YouTube. Basically it was a program with around 500 samples and you could make a track out of it. I made a few tracks and showed it to my mom. She liked it and supported me, so I decided to dig deeper. Then I bought ReBirth RB-338 2.0 program (btw, I’ve recently used it for the lead synth in Outside track released on Pure Trance) and it gave me more control over my tracks (for those who know what it is — it may sound really funny now). Then I moved to Logic and started producing more professionally. It was 2005-2006 when I released my first solid track Fever on ATB compilation on Kontor Records. All these events in my life are still affecting my productions — I like acid, I’m a fan of old ATB stuff that was really diverse, all these plucks and rolling basslines, variety of musical styles — you can hear it in almost all of my tracks. I used to listen to a lot of Dream Dance tapes that my mom bought me as well, that’s why all my tracks have that old feeling in them.
Slam Duck - Towards The Blue (from Different Together)
Let’s switch back to the present now. How would you describe what you’re about, as a musician, to people who might not have heard your work? Which tracks of yours best describe that and why?
I’m not pretty sure about it, but I think I’m trying to be as diverse in genres as I can. Actually, my last album is what describes me the best as a musician, I can’t think of a better example. There is a drum’n’bass track, chill out and ambient stuff, dark trance, progressive trance, some stuff with nu disco influences etc. Also, you can have a look at the following tracks on Beatport: Two-Faced, Feeble, Kepler-452b, Misery, By The Sea. These are all different genres.
You released an album earlier this year. I personally loved it. Every track can stand on its own but it fits well within the entire album, and that’s just one thing to appreciate about it. What was the experience like for you when making it?
The idea was pretty much the same that I described in the previous question. When you release a track on a label as a single or EP, labels are looking for a specific kind of music from you. Of course, there are some exceptions, when you can make a chill track as an extended version of an EP, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s not easy to make tracks in different styles and release it on one label as an EP. So, yes, I’m thinking about making a few more albums
How satisfied are you with its reception and success? What’s the thing you like about it the most? Is there any special story behind any of the tracks?
I would say it was quite a successful release. By successful I don’t mean things like support, sales, I mean things like the album opened a lot of new opportunities for me as a musician and even as a DJ.
Slam Duck - Stargazing (from Different Together)
After this album, what does the future hold for you? Any special plans or ideas for the next couple of years?
This summer I was working on a few loud remixes, they are all different and I love them. They’ll be released soon. I’m planning to start working on a new album and a couple of new singles soon, the ideas are already there. I also started to run my radio show Mercury Radio on DI.FM every 3-rd Tuesday of the month. Recently I listened to the new Martin Roth album and it really inspired me. I wish I could make something similar in future.
You’re one of the few who’s bringing some of the old styles back to life, but still giving them your own personal touch, resulting in something that’s recognizable but still unique to yourself. In a world of templates and presets, that is amazing. Is my description correct? If so, what was the thought process behind this, how have you decided to take that path?
Yes, you got it right. As I said already, that’s what I've kept in my heart since my first track and I guess that’s how I will sound like in 2, 5 and 10 years. But of course, you need to stay in tune with what happens on scene as well. What I’m currently working on is improving my technical skills (never really was strong at it) and arranging skills (some of my tracks were pretty obvious with background parts, I need to work on it as well).
What got you into Trance and Progressive music to begin with? What makes these genres special for you?
I don’t really know how to answer this question, because it happened accidentally. In the beginning I think I always liked music that was quite popular, but didn’t sound too obvious. As an example you can take Schiller’s track Dream Of You. Then I started to discover more music in that genre and started to dig deeper into all kinds of EDM. I heard trance music in its best times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that kind of snob who always talks about old times, but you can’t never get rid of that nostalgia feeling.
What change would you like to see happen in the Trance and Progressive scene?
That’s a tough question and I don’t really think I’m the right person to answer it. This should be addressed to the leaders of industry. However, in my opinion, there are some trance styles that already reached their peak of development and I don’t really think there is much more to add. But the progressive scene is a field for a lot of experiments and it’s going to gain momentum in the future.
Slam Duck - Despair (from Different Together)
Now one for the producers out there: What’s your production setup? What’s your way of working? It’s a cliche question, but where do you draw your inspiration from? Or does it just come to you?
Actually, I’m trying to stick to very minimum when producing a track. I’m using Logic Pro and this software has everything in it already. Sometimes I may use Spire, it’s a very good plugin for plucks and Omnisphere for pads. Nothing else is used. Even samples are typically taken from the Logic pack.
Different Together was a solo album, with no collaborations. Who would you love to collaborate with?
I’m not a proper person to make collaborations with and it’s difficult for me too. The reason is that if I’m working on a track for more than 2 weeks, then it’s better to throw it away. It’s not worth it and I don’t want to work on it anymore. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they’re very very rare. Most of the tracks you hear from Slam Duck are done in 1-2 weeks. For many producers it’s really hard to stick to some plan while producing and it really depends much on their mood. Don’t get me wrong, I really love a lot of producers and I inspire them and their methods of work, but it’s getting really tough when it comes to collaboration. It’s just the way it is and I’m not sure there is something I can do about it.
Even though choosing your favourite tracks is difficult for every producer, we have to ask: What are some of your tracks you are most proud of? What are some of your tracks you feel are the most underrated?
I’ll answer short. Most proud of all my tracks from the album, plus Mercury II, Spaceship and Outside. The most underrated tracks of mine are Edge Point and Rara Avis.
I think that some of the upcoming remixes are really good, because they’re a breakthrough in arrangement for me.
What music are you listening to in your free time right now, and are there any examples where you strongly draw inspiration and influence from them into your own music? What would you like to hear more of?
It will sound surprising, but usually it’s only in a car where I listen to any kind of music, when driving home. So, it’s maximum 2-3 hours a week. Sometimes I listen to dub techno when I work. It’s that kind of music that makes me feel relaxed, it’s all the same, monotonous, but very atmospheric. When it comes to my show, it usually takes about 2 hours to listen to all new tracks from my favourite artists, but I never really listen to them later. There is a rule for me: the less you listen, the more ideas you have. It’s better to live in silence, because there is too much noise these days. I’m also a big fan of the All Day I Dream label and that kind of stuff — that’s in case you want to discover something new outside the trance genre.
We had a discussion in the forum about the best Trance/Progressive tracks of the last decade, with a huge list of suggestions…what would be some of your contenders?
This is a really tough question, but I’ll go with these 3 tracks:
Orkidea — Forward Forever
John 00 Fleming — Space Odyssey
Gai Barone — Mom’s Clown
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
Yes, I own my design studio, we have a small team and we’re specialising in UI/UX, web and graphic design. So, it’s my main source of income.
Slam Duck - Outside
What’s the strangest/funniest thing to happen to you when DJing?
The very first set I played in 2006 in a small Novosibirsk club was pre-recorded and I didn’t really know how that all worked, so I used to pan my headphones to left and right ears, like famous DJs did. It was really funny, when I’m thinking about it now.
What was the inspiration behind your artist name?
My artist name obviously comes from the well-known basketball term called slam dunk, I just changed one letter, liked how it worked and that’s it
Well, that concludes this interview. Thank you for participating, it was really great interviewing you. Anything to add for our members?
Thanks a lot Trancefix people for arranging this interview, I was positively surprised by this opportunity to talk to you!
That marks the end of this interview. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we did making it. Until the third interview (which I’m sure everyone will be excited about), all the best!
Check Slam Duck out here: