A chat with upcoming Ukrainian DJ/producer, Sony Synth...
Sony Synth is the sort of artist that makes running a website like ours such a pleasure. A man who’s definitely on the up, alongside names such as Silat Beksi, Joss and Kirik, he’s part of a new wave of Ukrainian DJ/producers who seem destined to leave a unique stamp on the global electronic music scene. His productions back this up too, as you’ll surely agree once you listen to the likes of Empryean, which we premiered on our Soundcloud channel and you can listen to here. As a native Ukrainian, there’s obviously a lot going on in his world right now, so we were super chuffed to nab him for a quick chat recently. Here’s what he had to say…
Hi Sony, thanks for taking the time to chat to us today. Let’s start by going back a bit. Where did it all begin for you electronic music wise? Who were the big inspirations for you growing up?
Hi! Well, it all started in 2018, I believe, with my first ever visit to a club. I remember there was this dark, old-school, underground progressive house playing and the complexity and groove just fascinated me a lot. So, I started trying to make my own music in that style. I opened up GarageBand on my phone and got to it. In 2019 my friend Gregory (Youfelll) introduced me to the Minimal scene with the track “Lucy Liu” by Dimmish and I just fell in love with those minimalistic bleep-bloopy sounds that make up an immaculate groove. Then I transferred to GarageBand on mac, made some god-awful tracks (which I really liked at the time), then came FL Studio, Tracktion and finally - Ableton. My main inspiration was and is Sweely. How he manages to create something complex, intricate and timeless everytime is just pressing some buttons in my head. Can’t forget Toman and Parsec as well! And in September of 2019 I independently released my first ever EP - “PURA”.
Listening to your latest EP, there’s a great ‘musicality’ to the tracks which I often find lacking in contemporary electronic music. Are you as influenced by other genres as much as you are by electronic music?
Yes! I really adore listening to Jazz (Miles Davis especially), Acid Jazz, Bossa Nova (Stan Getz, Joao Donato and others) and Jungle. It’s rewarding when you correctly combine musical elements with punchy, fast-paced drums and percs and enhance the feel of the track that way.
Did you receive a formal classical education? Do you think this is important in terms of how you approach music? If not, is it something you think you’d benefit from? Or how did you learn production?
I do not have a formal musical education but when you spend a lot of time producing tracks, looking at scales and playing the notes, you pretty much start to memorise which key goes best with another key and what keys to add to make everything sound like you want it too. I reckon formal education can be extremely helpful when writing progressions and recognising the best way to execute what you want to. About producing, I basically just watched a 2-hour long tutorial on YouTube and immediately started making my own music and progressed through. I still watch tutorials on different subjects from time to time.
Everything from your sound to your alias hints towards the future and has a real ‘space-aged’ aesthetic. Is this a conscious thing?
I created the name Sony Synth because I felt inclined to synthetic, cyber-ish sounds (pads, leads, synths, etc). That also can be extrapolated to my drums and percussion that are minimalistic and synthetic in almost every track.
You’re a resident at both Freeture and Tutz Tutz in your native Dnipro. Can you tell us a bit about your work at both? Do you usually play warm-up or peak-time sets? Do you have a preference?
Freeture, for me, is more of a hard-hitting party. I enjoy playing there, it kind of opens up my other side which is less musical but more fierce. I usually prepare faster and darker tracks for it. Tutz-Tutz, on the other hand, has more of a sunset, open-air, laid-back cocktail vibe which I absolutely adore. Usually, I play warm-up sets but sometimes I manage to secure peak-time slots for those parties and I definitely prefer peak-time sets because I feel like my music correlates with them.
How has working as a resident advanced you as a DJ do you think?
I’m very grateful to Igor (Yung Berkut), the guy that founded Freeture, and to Grisha and Timur, the founders of Tutz-Tutz, for giving my music selection a chance. Playing there definitely pushed my understanding of set-building and crowd control to the next level and I got the opportunity to showcase myself to a wider audience.
How have artists such as iO (Mulen), Olga Korol and Nastia inspired you? Do they act as great motivation as someone who’s coming up in the scene?
For me, iO (Mulen) is definitely a legend in the Ukrainian scene. Can’t say that I listen to his stuff a lot but I really admire the work that he puts in his productions and his labels, really high-level stuff. Olga has an incredible taste in productions that resonates with what I’m usually inspired by. Nastia is one of those DJs that everybody knows about and a lot of people have a great impression of. Can’t say that I’m into her stuff but I surely see her footprint on the Ukrainian electronic music scene.
Talk to us about Kyiv as a place to experience electronic music. It’s quite a special place for it, right…?
It is. Unlike Dnipro, Kyiv has a far more advanced and wider music scene, and before the war you could see a lot of people from all parts of Europe and even the US visit all sorts of music events in Kyiv. I’ve lived in Kyiv from 2020 to 2022 and I’m really grateful for that time because I’ve met a lot of great like-minded people like JorDee. Amazing guy. I’m actually playing in KURENI on 4th of February (invited by JorDee), warming up for Gianluca Felline.
With so much going on, I guess it’s hard not to mention the war right now. Can you tell us a bit about the response by Ukraine’s electronic music community? Have you really seen the best side of it in terms of how you’ve helped one another?
Oh yes, for sure! Since the start of the Russian invasion a lot of Ukrainian artists started different charity funds, released a lot of charity releases and compilations. The war really showed how great some people can be in high-stress situations.
I believe a number of clubs are now open in Ukraine, but this proved quite divisive. Where do you stand on this? I would think that escapism and the need to dance and let go is stronger more than ever, right?
I can surely see why people’s opinions are divisive on that matter. Some people say that it is like a feast in the plague and it is immoral, and some people say that it’s ok, that’s the part of the pre-war past life that we are lucky to still enjoy. But what everyone should remember is that club tourism and public catering are a big part of the Ukrainian economy and by trying to continue living life, donating funds to charity organisations, volunteering and stimulating the economy we can speed up the process of victory.
Normal-thinking Russians also stand with Ukraine. Has the electronic music scene over there reached out at all? Or do you think they ought to do more to support?
Russian music scene is almost fully inactive in that question. But I know some artists that are conscious and are talking about the war.
You always have brilliant artwork on your releases, and just a casual scroll of your Instagram suggests you’re a person interested in art and aesthetics. Is it fair to say that this is something important to you? Do you treat art and music as one side of the creative process?
Glad you like the artworks! I feel like art and music go toe-to-toe and good artwork on a release, for example that suits the music, can enhance the perception and the experience of that release.
We’re really digging your latest record, This & That and are delighted to premiere Empyrean especially. Can you tell us a bit about the vibe you were going for with this track especially?
Empyrean is more of a “simplicity is key” track. It contains deep, booming bass, minimalistic drums and vocals, hypnotising, airy synths and a little out-of-tune flare. Basically, trancy and mesmerising.
The record encompasses minimal, house, even breakbeat sounds. In terms of artists with a similar sound approach and aesthetic, who has really influenced you over the years?
First artists that come to mind are Sakro and Black Loops, the versatility of their skills, the diversity of their productions, the intricacies and subtle elements that have an effect on a listener's subconscious mind are just immaculate. Every track has a different feel to them and that's truly amazing. They can sound similar yet different and that is what inspires me a lot.
In terms of what’s next for you, can you tell us a bit about that? Is it difficult to make plans right now or do you think it’s important to keep on persevering?
Right now, planning is like a gamble but without it comes stagnation, in my opinion. I want to move to Manchester next year to study Sound Design, Audio & Music Technologies, if everything goes right, to deepen my knowledge on music and its technical and creative sides, and to expand my network in the music scene.
Finally, if you were to introduce your sound in three records, what ones would you choose>
Check out the premiere of Sony Synth’s Empyrean here.
This & That by Sony Synth is available to listen/buy here
For further information on Sony Synth (including Bandcamp, Instagram and Soundcloud links) check his Linktree at https://linktr.ee/sonysynth