Ahead of his four-hour set tonight at Twisted Pepper, here’s an interview with San Soda from last year.
Details of tonight’s gig, which also features Norman Nodge in the basement, can be found here: http://www.bodytonicmusic.com/events/3401/
Words: Joelle Molloy
Tonight is my first phone interview with Belgian born DJ and producer San Soda, aka Nicolas Geysens. Tonight is also my first lesson in how to go from being beautifully early to horrifying late – in 60 seconds. The time zone penny dropped a little too late. Late being the operative word.
A self-induced heart attack or two later, all is swell once again. Lucky for me this charming musician is a patient fellow. I stifle my mortification, apologise and get on with it.
San Soda has become an increasingly vital component of house music over the last few years, developing his own signature style with a harmonic synergy of both new and old sounds. He is shedding a very fresh light on different aspects of the genre and making preconceived boundaries work around him. Nicolas gives me some personal insight on the different types of exposure he had to music in Belgium as he was growing up.
“I started off with pop music,” says Geysens. “Playing popular music for students. I kind of grew up listening to all styles, like commercial music. There was this one little club in my home town – which is a pretty small so everybody knew each other – and there was only one thing to do which was to go to this youth bar where they invited some good DJs. One of the first DJs I saw was Tyree Cooper – a Chicago DJ – he was kinda the first DJ apart from one or two residents in the club that I saw that played underground. He played disco and house and soul and funk and he was also emceeing in between. That was something completely new to me. So that night I really knew what it was about, what music was about, it was cool.”
Veteran Belgian DJ Red D has become one of the integral figures in Geysens’ development. Red D had been one of the residents at that club in Deinze before he and San Soda started making tracks together musically. They played on the same football team, FCL, where Red D showed major interest in Geysens’ aspirations. After hearing Geysens’ demo tape, Red D decided to follow through with his dormant desire to create a record label and so was birthed We Play House, initially for the purpose of releasing Geysens’ music under the San Soda name. It was Red D who pushed Geysen to release his music, becoming friends with and encouraging the young producer from the start.
“He was the first, besides the one or two other residents from that particular club in Deinze,” says Geysens. “The people that played there taught me about music. But apart from that there weren’t really influential friends or people I knew in my immediate environment that I could share it with and talk about it with.”
It was very stimulating to speak with an artist whose passion stems from within so organically, without much – if any – dependency on external influence. The way he speaks is fresh and without any trace of presupposition. I asked him about the significant depth in many of his tracks like ‘Juno Love’ which plummets far deeper into introspective and atmospheric realms than most. It seemed peculiar to me that Geysens wasn’t hugely influenced by ambient music.
“I never really thought about it when I made those tracks,” he says. I mean I listen to all kinds of music and sometimes down tempo slow stuff, all kinds of things.”
“At that time I was listening to a lot of Aphex Twin and stuff like that but I never really make tracks in inspiration of one or two, I just have global view.”
After a bit of thought I realized it’s certainly a point worth thinking about with regards to the evolution of music as we know it. Are we getting too caught up in who or what has influenced the present day talent, while ignoring stand-alone ingenuity right at our doorstep? In San Soda’s case, the process in which he goes about making music seems to be directly proportionate to the fluidity of the sound itself; it’s untainted, and it’s real. However, Geysens remains unsatisfied with what he’s done to date, with both eyes set firmly on the future.
“I don’t believe that the music that I’ve made so far is a good representation of what I have to offer as a DJ and as a producer,” he says. “There are only a few tracks that I really like actually.”
“It’s just, I’m still learning a lot about music, as a DJ. I keep changing my vision and my boundaries, so I want to do different stuff than what I’ve done so far. I wouldn’t say that I was unhappy to release all of my tracks but it was mostly Red D that pushed everything. If it was up to me maybe I would have released only 15% or 20% of the tracks that I’ve made so far.”
With many producers/DJs, the balance between studio work and playing live can be a tough one to balance. Geysens preference for performance means he thrives on the club atmosphere.
“I’m a DJ first,” says Geysen. “That’s always my main thing. Like, for example, I never play my own tracks, like maybe one or two sometimes if I want to hear it at one time but I rarely play my own tracks. For me it’s two completely different things. Separate things. Also now I’m DJing more funk and disco and soul and boogie and a little bit less like the stuff that I produce. So for me it’s completely separate. And I preferred DJing by far – until now.”
Geysens’ 2010 album on We Play House, Immers & Daarentegen, displayed much versatility for a debut long-player and the thought of moving away from capital-H House is an attractive one for him.
“I started off with house and disco,” he says. “Those were obviously the first things I was interested in making, but now I’m listening to a lot of other stuff, so I don’t feel a particular need to make house stuff. Well maybe for We Play House, which seems logical to me – house and techno. Like, I did drum and bass tracks and hip hop tracks as well so I don’t really think about what I should release or what genre.”
Plans to join forces with Red D again under the FCL banner are already under-way, with a new single due out after the summer.
“I’ve just finished a track which is a cover of ESP – ‘It’s You’,” says Geysens. “I was with Lady Lynn in the studio – I don’t know if you know her, she’s a famous jazz singer here in Belgium – and we ended up asking her to sing an element of the song with her voice you know, like the bass or strings. She remade every part with her voice as a synth and now I have a tool of 5 or 6 minutes of her singing in I think 12 or 13 different layers. So it’s nearly finished. And we’ve been playing it the past month and a half/2 months and it’s been crazy. So we’re going to give it to 10 or 20 DJ’s now, then release it after the summer. That’s the first project. Then we have one EP we want to do, also with the same singer. Then maybe some stuff for other labels.”
When asked for some final words of wisdom to sum up his approach to his art, the openness of Geysens’ nature is immediately obvious.
“I don’t know I’d say that there shouldn’t be boundaries in music whatsoever,” he says. “Like, technology-wise or genre-wise, nothing should be split up, no categories, everything should be viewed as sound waves coming into your ears – that’s it.”