In conversation with Alex O'Rion
2011 has already marked a revolutionary epoch in the career of Alex O'Rion. He successfully initiated his new radio show/podcast, became head of A&R for Black Hole's Terminal 4 label, and released his wide-scope debut album, 'The Bigger Room'. Rachel Rixham interviews Alex to find out more about this up & coming trance star.
Hi Alex, It's a pleasure to grab a chat with you today, how are things going?
Hi Rachel, nice to meet you and thanks for this interview. I can only say that things are going really well at the moment. Very well actually, today I received the first copy of my new album. It's great to see the result after all those months and months of hard work.
Can you quickly introduce yourself and tell everyone at home how you came to be on the road, heading towards a musical career?
Sure, my name is Alexander van Schooneveld and I live in Nijkerk, a quiet little town in Holland. I joined Black Hole Recordings about two years ago and recently signed with Integrity (Bookings Agency) in London. Besides all this I also do A&R for Terminal-4 records, which is really great, cause I get the chance to meet a lot of new producers from all around the world.
When taking the first steps in to the industry as an upcoming DJ and producer, many challenging hurdles present themselves along the way, which for an artist can be rather counter productive, not to mention confidence shattering at times. Can you remember any of those challenging moments, and if so how did you combat them?
I know exactly what you mean, but gladly I didn't encounter an awful lot of obstacles. I think it's important to see things in the right perspective when you start to release your first tracks. Even when you receive amazingly good feedback from many top-jocks like Armin, Tiesto, Above & Beyond it doesn't necessarily mean people will also accept your music right away. So don't get too disappointed if you don't see your track landing into Beatport's top 10 chart. People have to get acquainted with you and your sound before they accept you.
Whilst the Alex O'Rion sound was beginning to take shape, were there any artists in particular that you took minor influences from?
I usually am inspired by tracks rather than a particular artist. I like to listen to other kinds of musical styles in my spare time as well and I'm finding a lot of inspiration in more alternative kinds of music. But you want to hear some names, right? I'd say Glenn Morrison, Eric Prydz, Mat Zo, Henry Saiz, Marcus Schössow and Sasha have always been really inspiring to me.
In addition to the above question, many would say that you are very much a protegee of Richard Durand, as Richard Durand is a protegee of Tiesto, would you like to share your thoughts on this?
I think the term 'protogee' is really a bit too strong for me as well for Richard. For sure, he's always been there for me when I needed advice on all sorts of things, but we grew up with a totally different style of music. I remember years ago when I just started making trance music I sent a lot of tracks to him as a demo for his label. With high expectations I waited for him to answer, until he rang me back to say: "Sorry Alex, it's just not good enough". Hahahah... he was never really good at giving feedback. All I want to say is, he did his thing and I did mine and we've just started to grow towards eachother music wise for the last two years. But I must admit that it's definitely not cool to see people writing that Richard is the producer behind my music. Trust me, it's all coming from my own disturbed little mind.
You've been gathering a sizeable amount of support on your releases from the Black Hole Recordings label, how does it feel to have so much backing from such a well-respected label?
Black Hole really is a great label. It has always been about the music at Black Hole and I think it's great they gave me the opportunity to release my own album so soon.
Let's talk about your most recent releases. Firstly 'The Jabberwocky'. I couldn't help but feel as though this track combines a little mischievousness about it, not to mention it sounds very different to anything you've produced before. Where did the inspiration come from?
You've pretty much caught me with this question, cause I have actually borrowed the melody from an entirely different song. Did you really have to pick out this one? Hahah.. I'm a really big fan of 'Future Sound Of London' and I really like a song of them that's called 'Everyone In The World Is Doing Something Without Me'. I got really inspired by the melody of the operavocal they used.
The track 'Changing Pace' is to be featured on your new album 'The Bigger Room.' It's a delightful uplifting track that seems to harbour a lot of emotion in its core, was this intentional?
It's usually up to the listener to sense this, but I always try to get a certain amount of emotion inside every track. Otherwise it's just meaningless to me. But, it does get more noticeable when it's really dramatic and sad. I do remember people telling me that Changing Pace made them feel sad. Well, without wanting to sound like a narcist, that really made me smile.
Moving in to more detail about your début album 'The Bigger Room' the first curious question that springs to mind is why the name?
The title is derived from the trance genre 'big room'. Aside from that I like to consider my tracks as separate spaces, rooms if you will, which I can furnish to my own taste. With this album I've tried to really capture the bigger room sound by working with loads of different layers and big sounding effects.
When developing the albums theme/storyline if you will, did you have a firm plan of action on how the album should sound, or was the album created from sheer imagination and lots of mused moments?
Well, first of all I wanted to make something really special with loads of variety and different sounding tracks. Not a few big ones and some easy leftovers to fill up the gaps. I usually produce and mix my tracks in a way so they can directly be played in the clubs, so I also needed to find a good balance for the album, cause most people don't own their own club. But I didn't write down some sort of a plan. The last thing I want is to create boundaries when I'm making music. I like to be led by the song rather than by a plan.
Upon hearing a promotional copy of the album, my ears pricked to attention as the track list began to unfold. Notably worth a mention is the breathtaking 'Dragons for Breakfast' – A very atmospheric start! How did you go about selecting the tracks for your album, furthermore how long was it before you were completely satisfied with the final track listing?
That actually went surprisingly well! I can only say that I'm really happy with the final result, but that's obviously up to the listeners to decide.
Can you kindly choose three tracks that you feel represent the albums sound the most and give them a brief description for the readers?
Sure, first track that comes to mind is 'Introduction'. Funnily enough the first track on the album is the track I produced at the very end. I was looking for a short 30 second intro with some progressing sounds, but as usual things got out of control and I ended up making a complete track. It has quite an emotional melody and the beat sounds pretty different than most songs. I used the same kind of groove I used in 'Changing Pace'. For the producers amongst us, it's all in 1/24. It turned out to be one of my personal favorites.
Than we have 'Inside The Music Box. It might sound kind of strange but with this track I always get the feeling I'm stuck in some kind of music box. The tune is very melodic and new elements keep on appearing. I actually released it a while back on one of my earlier Bigger Room EP's but I gave it a good extra polish before putting it on my album.
Another track that comes to mind is 'Rise Up Again'. Just like 'Craters of the Moon' it's also featured on ISOS9. It's a pretty rough track, with an ever rougher bassline. I spent a lot of time on this one to find the sound I was looking for. Later on the track it goes a little bit more into the uplifting direction. Haha... it's just so difficult to translate your own music into words. So I think I'll just leave it with that if that's ok with you.
With the album finished, wrapped and almost ready to be released through Terminal-4 on the 30th May 2011. What do you hope to achieve from 'The Bigger Room'?
Most important thing for me is to reach as many people as possible with my album. Sharing music, that's what music is all about for me.
What can we look forward to for the rest of 2011 from Alex O'Rion? Any exclusive information you'd care to share with us?
I'm also starting a new radio/podcast under the name 'Bigger Room Radio' this month. Besides that I'm having some pretty cool collaborations lined up and I'm working on some cool bootleg remixes as well.
And finally, do you have a special message for close friends, co-workers and fans, for the on-going support you have received thus far?
Yes, I'd really like to thank everyone for all their support. Things have really taken off over the past few months, that sometimes it's just hard to comprehend it all. I hope you guys like the album and I'd also like to thank you Rachel for this interview.
Thank you for your time in answering this interview, we wish you all the very best for 2011 and further.