The Beginner DJ Blog
BeginnerDJ Interviews DJ Basilisk
Alexander Synaptic (aka DJ Basilisk) is a dedicated DJ located in Toronto, Canada.
His mixes of Progressive and Psychedelic Techno has given him great recognition and allowed him to play at some of the best parties in the great white north.
When he’s not mixing, he runs the netlabels Ektoplazm, Drumlore, and Omnitropic which have seen some very impressive releases and millions of downloads.
Recently I’ve had the honor of talking to DJ Basilisk about DJing, parties, his labels, Ektoplazm and more.
Let’s get to the interview shall we?
Hello, please Introduce Yourself
My name is Alexander, otherwise known as Basilisk. I have been DJing
for a decade now and I operate a free music portal and a group of
netlabels dedicated to psytrance, techno, and downtempo music.
What Made You Become a DJ?
It all started by accident. Back in my teenage years most of my
friends were swept up in the burgeoning rave moment in Toronto.
Buying turntables and learning how to DJ was a participatory aspect of this subculture. I had no real interest in it at first but my friends coaxed me into messing around with the decks at various house parties.
Soon I was accompanying them on record buying missions downtown and, once I landed my first real job, I began to amass my own record collection.
I didn’t want to become a DJ and play parties or anything–it was only when the music turned minimal around Y2K that I decided to get halfway serious about it. Even then, it was only to play some of the more colourful and melodic music that I found poorly represented at parties in those days.
Before I knew it I was DJing fairly regularly and, with every passing year, I went deeper into it.
Where Has DJing Taken You?
It has been a wild ride at times but only in the last 3 years have I
really begun to travel. I’ve made a lot of really great connections in
different parts of North America, particularly in British Columbia.
This year I expect I will be playing out even more with many festival
bookings this coming summer.
Last season most of my bookings were for smaller grassroots festivals, perhaps because I am generally aligned with free music and the Creative Commons. And this is fine by me; I really enjoy visiting new communities and seeing within them echoes of other pockets of this scene.
Tribal dance culture is more connected than it knows!
What Is Your Favorite Memory from All This?
It’s really hard to say as there are so many different experiences
that I have had.
Certainly I am quite proud of the success of my web site but this is less a memory and more a diffuse sense of general satisfaction and contentedness.
I suppose that playing Eclipse last year would qualify as a highlight.
Even though it was very early on in the festival there is nothing like playing on such a big sound system and pulling off a really good set.
And, further back, I have a very fond memory of playing a night set at an outdoor bush party under a meteor shower on the Niagara Escarpment.
Now that we’ve been taken through the life of Alexander, let’s ask those technical questions that’s been on our minds.
What Kind of Equipment Do You Use?
I’ve been playing on CD decks for five years now but hope to transition to laptop DJing soon.
CDs are very reliable (when you know how to burn them right, anyway) but creatively limiting compared to what you can now do with software and a controller.
What is Your Favorite Genre to Spin?
These days I am really into cutting edge techno on the borderlands of
psytrance, minimal, tech house, and progressive.
I’ve been playing psytrance for so many years that techno feels extremely revitalizing to me. So much psytrance is overproduced to the point where invasive mixing really detracts from the musical experience.
At that point the role of the DJ is to choose tracks and otherwise let the music speak.
It is more fun for me to spin techno–this is music you can rip apart and reassemble, moreso with the new creative tools DJs can use–but even with a regular CD or vinyl setup there is a lot of room to mess around.
I might get back into psytrance eventually, but for now… techno is what I am really into spinning.
This is reflected in my new project, Drumlore, the techno netlabel I founded alongside DJ Lexicon.
Where Do You Think DJing Is Going?
The future is looking wide open: expensive equipment is no longer a
barrier to entry, music is abundant and easily obtained, and all the
formerly obscure technical details are readily available on the
Anyone can become a DJ but it still takes a lot of work to
be any good at it. For the pros, new software and technologies promise
to blur the boundaries between DJing and live performance.
Still, even with all this new technology it is important to remember that the point of DJing is to shape a meaningful human experience of music.
What Advice Could You Give to a DJ Just Starting Out?
Skip the physical media and jump straight into digital.
Don’t forget to learn the basics–I hear too many new DJs playing tracks out of phase or straight-up trainwrecking without even noticing it.
You can’t always rely on software to match tracks perfectly–you need to train your ears to tell the difference between a solid mix and one that is slightly (or even completely) off.
Beyond that, be original. Don’t stick to the Beatport charts; that’s boring. Dig deep into music and hear what there is to discover. Blaze your own trail.
How do you find tracks for your DJing?
It has never been easier to find great new music but it does require a significant time investment.
Think of it as doing your homework!
For techno I regularly scan Beatport and Juno to see what my favourite artists and labels are up to. This accounts for the majority of my purchases but I also like to incorporate fresh material into my sets–and that means making new connections to unfamiliar labels and artists.
The best way to accomplish this is to check out tunes listed in top tens or featured on mixes from names you already follow.
Besides DJing, Basilisk also runs a variety of netlables. The one in particular we are going to cover is Ektoplazm, a netlabel which releases free psytrance and other psychedelic music. Let’s get some questions in…
What is Ektoplazm and Why Did You Start It?
Ektoplazm is a free music portal and netlabel family incorporating
psytrance, techno, and downtempo channels.
I started it up to provide artists with a professional alternative to the commercial music industry. It isn’t meant to replace the existing distribution system–I just wanted to give artists a choice.
Over the years I have known far too many exceptional artists who have struggled to release their music simply because it did not have a particular bass line or BPM.
The psytrance marketplace operates with such tight profit margins that most commercial labels have to be fairly risk-averse to survive–they develop a specific formula and stick to it over the years.
End result: many artists making non-standard or unconventional music are shut out, and that isn’t right. I developed Ektoplazm to give these artists a voice.
Of course, the site has grown to encompass a wide variety of artists–some of whom have genuine commercial potential–who feel that giving their music away for free is the way of the future.
What Sort of Response Have You Received From Ektoplazm?
It has been nothing short of fantastic, growing more each and every
year. People really respond to the concept and it shows: Ektoplazm has
become one of the top 10 psytrance sites in the world.
My mission is to continue improving the quality of the offerings on the site–to raise the standard of free music and really demonstrate what is
possible with this different mode of thinking.
What is the Future of Ektoplazm?
The release schedule is already looking very busy for 2010 with
several albums, EPs, and even a new compilation on the go.
I also have some ambitious new features planned but this will have to wait.
After all, I am a full-time university student and Ektoplazm is just what I
do in my spare time!
Now that we’ve had a tour of Ektoplazm, we have one last question to ask Alexander:
Where Can We Find You?
Bonus! DJ Basilisk Set
There is a great set posted on YouTube by DJ Basilisk, be sure to give it a listen. This video is 1/9 so be sure to check out the others!
Big thanks to Alexander!
There you have it folks, a round of questions with DJ Basilisk.
I hope you found this interview as entertaining and helpful as I have. There is over a decade of knowledge you can learn from Alexander.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Alexander for such a great and inspiring interview. Whenever you are visiting Canada or want to chat to a great guy, be sure to leave him a message on Facebook/Twitter and be sure to check out his netlabels!
About the Author - Muxx
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