Berlin-based artist Revivis chats Dance States...
Revivis's is a British, Berlin-based DJ/producer and the man behind the fledgling Santo Tomas label. Devised to maintain his "creative freedom and his unique musical identity", it's also the home of his latest EP, the majestic "Dance State". A record that draws inspiration from early trance and British progressive music, it serves up a fascinating insight into his well-honed talents.
Alongside the aforementioned influences, the artists also cites '90s electronic artists such as Spooky and Scoff as being integral to the record. There's a great mystique to the music too, with his track 'All Over' even incorporating Middle Eastern sounds. What's more, it's also been supported by the likes of Courtesy, Sedef Adasï, Job Jobse, Paramida, Alex Kassian, Jennifer Cardini, Ciel, Secretsundaze. Proof indeed that this is a man whose sounds are resonating with the right people.
We caught up with the Revivis recently to learn more about the record, his many influences, who exactly he makes music for and much more besides. Be sure to check out the release in question on Juno here...
Congratulations on your upcoming release, "Dance State." Can you tell us what inspired the creation of this EP?
Thank you! The EP is inspired by the sound of early trance and British progressive, whilst also drawing inspiration outside of electronic music from Levantine soundscapes to modern technology.
The Santo Tomas imprint is your own label. What motivated you to start your own label, and how has the experience been so far? What's surprising? What did you expect?
I guess the main reason for starting Santo Tomas was to give myself a platform to put out the music I wanted and to have complete freedom in every aspect with no compromises that you can sometimes get when working with labels. I also wanted to create a brand and develop an image of what myself and my music is about. The whole process has been a long time coming and actually easier than I first envisioned! I put this down to the fantastic job that my distributor does. Baldo at Subwax has been a pleasure to work with and made the whole process seamless.
You’ve Filipino roots. Is this something that influences your approach to life and music?
Being half Filipino of course will give me a different approach to life than someone with a different background. Not that one is better than another, in music or in life, just different. I guess being mixed heritage, certain things that would be important to me might not be important to someone else. I grew up with a strong sense of duty and learnt how to be disciplined with myself from a young age. Some might even say my attention to detail and nuance is extreme! Santo Tomas is actually the area where my late mother is from in the Philippines.
You mentioned that "Dance State" draws inspiration from various electronic sounds. Can you share some specific artists or tracks that influenced this release?
The majority of electronic music artists that influenced me when writing the EP, were most active in the first half of the 90s. A few that come to mind are Spooky, Scoff, The Spirit, Acorn Arts & Namby Pamby.
Could you walk us through the creative process behind one of the tracks on the EP? What was your starting point, and how did it evolve into the final product?
I live in an area of Berlin which is largely populated by communities from the middle east. I love it and it reminds me of living in London. Most of the shops and restaurants will often play music typical of those areas. I was always drawn to this Arabic sound which had a mystique to it. I had an idea to make a track inspired by this which is where the track ‘All Over’ came from. I played around with different scales typical of middle eastern music. You can hear this particularly with the lead melody which is out of my Roland MC505.
How do you approach blending different electronic genres like '90s house and acid-flavoured trance within your music? Does this all happen quite naturally?
When I make music I'm not consciously thinking of how I can blend certain elements and genres together. It's only when I look back in hindsight at the track I can see where my influences and inspirations have come from. I try to let everything happen organically. With all art I think you can see when something has been forced or copied.
Early support for "Dance State" has come from notable artists such as Courtesy, Sedef Adasï, Job Jobse, Paramida, Alex Kassian, Jennifer Cardini, Ciel, Secretsundaze, Voigtman, Fantastic Man... Is there a sort of validation with getting support from these guys? And what does their support mean to you?
As an artist I think it's very easy to doubt what you do and to question the quality of your work. Putting your music out there can sometimes make you feel vulnerable. I'm in a fortunate position where I have a network of friends that I trust and will listen to my ideas beforehand and give me honest feedback. Ultimately, for me though, getting support from artists you look up to and hold in high esteem is the best validation one can receive. It's been a bit surreal and overwhelming at times - in a good way! I've definitely had a few pinch me, wtf moments recently.
Do you think you make music for yourself or others? A lot of producers talk about their music making as something they have to do all the time. How do you approach production? Do you share this sentiment?
First and foremost I would say selfishly that I make music for myself. For example, in the studio I will never finish a project if I don't like it, I won't finish the track just for the sake of finishing it - if that makes sense? I have to feel what I'm doing and be connected to what I’m composing. However, with that in mind when producing music aimed at the dancefloor I'm also thinking from a ravers point of view and how this music might make them feel and respond. So both :) Personally, I have to be making music all the time, I'm obsessed. I notice that if I don't have this creative outlet I can get frustrated. Recently though, I've started taking breaks after long creative spells and studio time to reset and refresh and I think this is important too.
Do you have a favourite track from the EP, and if so, what makes it special to you?
I would have to pick the lead track - ‘All Over’. I was lucky enough to hear it being played at Panorama Bar recently. Sedef Adasï played an incredible set and dropped it Sunday morning as the sun was rising. I definitely had a moment of euphoria.
Can you share some insights into your creative process when working on a track? Do you have any specific rituals or techniques that help you get into the zone?
I like to have an idea of what I'm going to do at the studio before each session. However big or small that may be. For example, that could mean having a whole idea for a track to having a small vocal sample to use in that session. It's important for me to be prepared for when creativity finally takes hold. I don't want to lose that moment searching Youtube for a suitable sample. I will seldom start with a blank canvas so to speak. It doesn't always work like this though! I also think it's important to not force it and to let the session go where it wants.
In your opinion, what elements or qualities make a track suitable for the dancefloor, and how do you test your music's effectiveness in that context?
I think when making music for the dancefloor your objective is to make people dance, as obvious as this may sound it's easy to get carried away with tiny details in the production that really don’t matter. If you look at some of the classic dance tracks of yesteryear often the mixdowns aren't technically perfect as they were mostly mixed live on a desk with the stereo file being printed to DAT or tape but the actual idea was incredible. Of course a well produced track is important but the most important thing is the idea. You can have all the best vintage compressors in the world but if the idea is crap it doesn't matter! For me a great dance floor track is something that is memorable and makes you want to move. Something that creates an energy and feeling to whatever is in that space.
Santo Tomas is a relatively new label. What do you envision for its future, and do you have any exciting plans or collaborations in the works?
I’ve just kicked off a hand stamped vinyl only offshoot to Santo Tomas called ‘Santo Tomas Edits’ the focus is on reworking lesser known tracks from the 90’s with a raw aesthetic. With the main label I will be releasing three EP’s from myself this year including ST002. Originally, Santo Tomas was just going to be an outlet for my own productions but this may change in due course. I want to let it grow organically and not force anything.
Finally, what message or emotions do you hope listeners take away from "Dance State," and what can we expect from Revivis in the coming year?
I hope that anyone listening to ‘Dance State’ will be filled with energy, emotion and a range of feelings that will make you want to move and put you in a dance state! This year I'm planning to release more music then previous years with 3 solo EPs scheduled on Santo Tomas. I'm also in talks with a couple of select labels but nothing confirmed yet as it has to make sense to release elsewhere now I have my own imprint. I also want to start working on a live set later in the year but no pressure or time frame on when this might debut. I’ve been a bit more selective on DJ gigs recently to ensure I have enough time in the studio as juggling music, day job and life can sometimes get a bit tricky! For now though, you can catch in the coming months playing in Berlin with a few gigs also confirmed across Europe.
Ok - one more. Will you be making any new year's resolutions?
No new year’s resolutions for me sorry ! I think it makes more sense to make resolutions and change in the Spring. Ask me again then ;)
Keep up with Revivis on Instagram
Revivis’ ST002 is out 26th January via Santo Tomas. Buy/listen to the release here