An interview with San Soda

Over the last half decade, DJ and producer San Soda (a.k.a. Nicolas Geysens) has been making Technotronic proud with a steady stream of some of the finest House music to come out Belgium (see “Pump Up The Jam“). Thanks to his tight mixing, song selecting and flawless productions, San Soda was the only artist to feature on all our Top of 2012 lists, with his EP “Toch Al De Vijfde” receiving the top spot.

Nicolas also finds time to collaborate with his hometown friend and label mate Red D, under the moniker FCL. Their track “It’s You (San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version)” is one of the most talked about underground anthems of last year and is not far from becoming a cult classic of the genre.

We caught up with the We Play House associate to talk about his beginnings in Belgium, what’s new for 2013 and football.

OK, so I would like to start by asking you the obvious question: how did you get in to music?

I started off doing some work for a local radio, and I was doing a sports program. Other DJ’s on the station were playing music and I got into that with a friend. We started playing some big high school parties for under-age kids that the radio was throwing, and that’s how I got into DJing, but it was mainly commercial cheesy music. After a year I saw some DJs play in my home town, Red D and Tyree Cooper, and that showed me that there was more to music than playing cheesy mainstream music… and that’s how I got into House, Disco and Techno.

Can you remember the first record you bought?

Sure, the first record I bought was Mylo “Drop The Pressure”

Drop The Pressure – Mylo

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Mylo%20-%20Drop%20the%20Pressure.mp3|titles=Drop The Pressure|artists=Mylo]

I love that tune!

(Laughs) yeah that’s nostalgia for me. I also bought Lifelike  – “My Precious Diamond” that day. Before that I was listening to some Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Justin Timberlake, Blink 182… whatever was playing on the radio really, but then I finally got in to House music through Bart (Red D), my partner from We Play House. He was playing almost every week in my hometown, he was playing House and that’s how I got a bit more in to electronic music.

Would you still listen to Blink 182 or Justin Timberlake?

Some of the stuff I used to play I still listen to. Some of the Aretha Franklin, and yeah some of the Justin Timberlake I still like… not Blink 182, that one (pause), no … Not sure if I sold Mylo “Drop The Pressure”, but I sold almost all of the records I bought in the first year cause they were crap. I know I still have “My Precious Diamond“. I still listen to it and I still love it.

My Precious Diamond – Lifelike

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Lifelike%20-%20My%20Precious%20Diamond.mp3|titles=My Precious Diamond|artists=Lifelike]

You were talking about Red D before, how did you two meet?

We started playing football together actually. Football was my thing when I was young and then around 15-16 I stopped, and then I started playing again in this local amateur team in my hometown Deinze with Bart. Bart was a goalie, I had gone to see him DJ once or twice and he asked me to join. That’s how we got to know each other.

And Red D started We Play House as an outlet for your music right?

Yes.

So, I was wondering, seeing what We Play House means today in the music scene and the following it receives, how do you feel about having been pretty much the triggering element for its birth?

Well at the beginning I thought he was crazy. He said to me “let’s press up 300 records and release your sound”, and I was like “yeah, you can do whatever you want but I don’t believe in it”. So it was a surprise for me that it actually worked and I’m happy… He’s been throwing parties in Belgium for a very long time, he’s been around, he’s been to Detroit, and he knows a lot of people. He had been in the music business for a very very long time, so it was surprising that he wanted to actually do something with my music. He already had the idea of starting a label and I am just happy I delivered some music that he could finally do that with. So yeah I’m happy that he made that decision, because at the beginning I never believed in it and since then I just trust him now, give my music to him and see what happens you know…

So would you say that you trust him more with your music then you trust yourself with your music?

Yeah, absolutely, yes. If it was up to me I would’ve only released maybe 10% of the music I’ve released. Sometimes it’s better to put out some music that you don’t really like just to get a momentum going and then getting a chance to DJ more and to make more music.

And just out of curiosity what would go in to that 10% of songs that you are proud of?

That’s a very good question. Well I’ve got two tracks I really like on my Immers & Daarentegen album, the cover version of Daft Punk, “Something About Compression” and “Kylie Bling“. Out of the last records “You Hear Me” and “Kaizen“. That would be the 4-5 tracks I would’ve released by myself.

Something About Compression (Original Mix) – San Soda

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Something%20About%20Compression%20(Original%20Mix)%20-%20San%20Soda.mp3|titles=Something About Compression (Original Mix)|artists=San Soda]

You Hear Me – San Soda

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/You%20Hear%20Me%20-%20San%20Soda.mp3|titles=You Hear Me|artists=San Soda]

Kaizen – San Soda

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Kaizen%20-%20San%20Soda.mp3|titles=Kaizen|artists=San Soda]

What about “It’s You“?

(Laughs) Well it’s the first track ever that I actually started playing myself, because I never play my own music, or very rarely. Only when people really ask for it I’ll play something but, with “It’s You” it was the first time ever that I started playing my music because I actually wanted to play it. So, yeah, I’m really happy with that one… now it’s been played a bit too much but I’m really happy with it. Normally I have about 50 records in my bag and the reason why I never play my own tracks is because I prefer the 50 records in my bag to my own tracks. So this is the first time that I can put my record next to these other records and say “hey I played this together with all these other tracks”… so yeah, it makes me happy.

It’s You (San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version) – FCL

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/It%27s%20You%20(San%20Soda%20Remix)%20-%20FCL.mp3|titles=It’s You (San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version) |artists=FCL]

And “It’s You” is an internet sensation right now. There is a lot of chatter about it and I wanted to know a bit more about the digital release on Defected. Could you tell us a bit about that decision?

Well, it was getting a bit out of hand. I mean, we honestly never ever thought it would have this much appeal to people. The initial idea was to make it as a thank you gift because of the labels 5 years, press up a little bit and give it to DJ friends that we like, Prosumer and others. It was just something to hand out and to thank people for supporting us. That’s why we only sold it at the shop in Belgium (Ghent’s Music Mania record shop), because that is our home base and that is where all the support came from at the beginning and we also sold it through the website a bit, but we never thought it would have a broader audience than the underground. Then it was just getting out of hand. People were emailing constantly to get it digitally, and Bart and me always said to each other that we were not going to give it to anyone. Very big DJs were emailing us and we always said no.

The whole Jackmaster thing on twitter?

That’s even later. He didn’t even send us an email. That’s unacceptable; they were just asking each other for rips. On the one hand it’s flattering because they really want to play it and we are happy with that, but on the other there is always ethics to respect how the music industry works, and that’s not how the music industry works. I never wanted it to be sold on Discogs. I was very angry when people were selling it on Discogs. I sent an email to everyone who was trying to sell it on Discogs.

…Wait, I’m just going to check how much it is priced at today… Still very high prices…

That is not what matters. I’m just really hurt by those people who try to sell it because, as I told you, it’s a gift that we wanted to give to people, not a gift that we wanted to give to people to make money with… I emailed some of them and they were saying “yeah I need money for my rent” blah blah blah, and I don’t know, it’s precious, it’s a precious gift and we would hope that people would treat it that way and not sell it for 200 euros on Discogs. That’s just stupid … So yeah, then Defected came along. I always played it in every set and other DJs did too, so it got spread pretty quickly. Then we just got an email and we talked about it because people would not link a digital Defected release with We Play House ethics of course, but it was getting so out of hand that we thought ‘OK, let’s just make it available digitally so everybody can listen to it’. There were also awful edits and awful remixes coming online…

The Vin Sol one for example…

Yeah (pause) like they still don’t get that they shouldn’t just upload a stupid edit of a track, put some beats underneath it, and say it’s a remix… and put up the We Play House logo and all that. I had fights with them online, but yeah, pfff… it’s not my problem. Now with Defected let’s see how far it can spread because we obviously had the choice of doing something with it again ourselves, with We Play House. We could’ve easily pressed up a 1000 copies and sold them all but we didn’t want to do that because we wanted to respect the 150 people that bought it first and that were honest and bought it from us and supported us.

So yeah, we didn’t want to do that and Defected have a really good distribution and promotion team. I think it might be the right way to introduce the track to a bigger crowd, although it comes with risks of course. If you have a mainstream outlet then people will… I don’t know I’ve got a certain vision of how the track should be played for example, and I know a lot of people are going to buy the record from Beatport or wherever and I’m not going to have the same feeling about it. So that annoys me. I know some people will not play it until the bass drops and feel the need to mix in a kick drum quickly. That’s not how I want it to be played. If you listen to the track enough times from start to finish then you know you don’t have to play the track that way.

So you’ve been working on your live set lately. How is that going?

Well my live set is pretty much finished, I’ve got everything I want gear wise and sounds. I did three shows last year and that was a lot of fun. It was pretty intense because I didn’t use any computers. I was on the road with all my gear, my drum computers, mpc, synths, mixer etc. It’s definitely something I want to do but I don’t have time to do it right now. I have too many DJ gigs on right now and a little bit of producing work as well, so I’m just waiting for a good moment to start doing it really. It’s really nice, I had great fun with it, but I have to take my time and whenever I get 3-4 months I’ll introduce it again.

On your live set are you doing everything on your own or do you have instrumentalists or singers involved?

Well I might have another producer to join in. I’ve been thinking about that because it’s all analog and with two hands I can only do so many things, but I might keep it this way because sometimes limitation is good and you can do something very interesting by yourself instead of doing something that conflicts with others ideas. And about adding a singers, I was thinking of having Lady Linn maybe. I’ve done it 2-3 times with her.

Last year you played all around the place. Would it be fair to say it was your busiest year so far?

Yeah, probably yes. I was playing nearly every weekend.

How has playing every weekend changed how you organize yourself?

Well, every DJ set I feel like I’m still learning and getting better. So it’s really nice. DJ sets have been my main focus for the last 6-7 months and I’m buying a shed load of good records. I think that’s my favourite thing to do, to just look for records and then play them on the weekend. So yeah I’m really into it. I just bought a new mixer and I’m always demanding long sets now. I like to play 3-4 hours and go on little excursions, play disco, funk, soul and other stuff.

The longer sets, is that a Berlin influence?

Yeah, probably yes. I was never used to play more than 2-3 hours in Belgium, and in the UK…

You get one hour…

I know… I did it once and now I always demand minimum 3 hours. So yeah it’s definitely a Berlin influence. It’s so relaxed to play here as a DJ, you don’t have to hurry, it’s like making love. When you are in London you get one hour, two hours, and people expect you to mix a record every minute every two minutes and it has to be energetic and if you don’t give them anything new then they lose interest. Here at least you can take your time and decide step it up or control the moods in the atmosphere. Here we can make love at a normal pace.

Ha ha… foreplay and so on are involved…

Exactly.

So what would you say was your favourite weekend or gig last year?

There is a couple. The day after I made “It’s You” and played it out. I played it twice, it was incredible. The shutters were open and it was a perfect DJ moment. I also really enjoyed Ibiza, cause I’d never been to Ibiza. I played at Zoo Project twice and it was so nice, such a good atmosphere, I had a lot of fun. Those two parties were really surprising.

And I believe you’ve forgotten the Flux Summer Closing Party on your list, ha ha…

Was that with Morgan Geist?

Yes.

Oh, that was a really funny one. We had to take the train to Leeds by ourselves because of an accident on the highway. Ended up in a car with Morgan, my girlfriend at that time and her mom who I’d never met before trying to find the address of the station but only finding an ice skating range with the same name… But got there in time and the party was great!”

It does sound like the perfect setting for a comedy. Morgan GeistSan Soda and his mother-in-law search for the ghost station.

So, 2013 what should we be expecting from you?

Well I don’t want to put out too much music. I have to move out of my flat in three weeks and the objective would be to find a new studio space because I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head. I bought a lot gear last year but I haven’t really been making music with it because I didn’t have the proper space or time to do it. Production wise I want to do some music similar to the one I’m really in to, like Floating PointsMike Huckaby or Caribou. That’s what I want to do production wise this year.

Also with We Play House we’re going to do a New Beat project, don’t know if people are familiar with the genre. It’s been there since late 80s and it’s a hidden treasure, very slow and raw. A lot of essential records were made during that period and they were mainly played in Belgium and the UK and a bit in Berlin with a more industrial vein. For the project we basically asked about 10-12 good producers to make a track and give their interpretation of New Beat. There are some really interesting names in there. I think it will be out by March as a double EP or something. So yeah, a revival of the genre would be really nice. It will also be very interesting to see how certain producers interpret New Beat because we selected them for different genres. We have some Dubstep, some Techno, some House; it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.

San-Soda4-Post-Featured

by Desiré van den Berg

It certainly sounds interesting! Are there any big dates your looking forward to on your schedule?

Well I’m going to Asia for the first time. I’m just going to play in Singapore, probably Bangkok but I’m really looking forward to the trip and the food, then I’ve got Australia and US later this year, so that’s something to look forward to. Other than that I love playing in Holland and in the UK. I actually have more UK dates planned than last year, so I’m excited to play a bit more there and playing longer sets.

How long have you been in Berlin now?

One year.

And have you got any plans to move somewhere else?

I would like to go to Holland, to Amsterdam or the outskirts of it. I have a lot of friends there and people are so nice. So I’m thinking of moving over to Amsterdam after the summer or in a years’ time, depending on how fun Berlin is this year.

I have this last question. I believe you’re in to football? FCL stands for your football club, right?

Yeah, FC Leiejongens.

Are you still a big football fan? Do you follow it regularly?

Only Belgian football.

OK  well I hope this works… I’ve got a ‘song association’ game ready for you. I’m going to tell you a series of footballers and you have to answer with a song that reminds you of them or that represents them.

Are you ready?

(Laughs) OK.

Messi?

I would link him with a Floating Points track for sure. “Vacuum Boogie” by Floating Points (thinks). Yeah that’s perfect for Messi.

Vacuum Boogie – Floating Points

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Floating%20Points%20-%20Vacuum%20Boogie.mp3|titles=Vacuum Boogie|artists=Floating Points]

Mario Balotelli?

Oh, a Dance Mania. I know the one, something aggressive, Paul Johnson “Booty Call”. If you can’t find it to link it up then “Feel My M.F. Bass“.

Feel My M.F Bass – Paul Johnson

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Paul%20Johnson%20-%20Feel%20My%20M.F%20Bass.mp3|titles=Feel My M.F Bass|artists=Paul Johnson]

Johan Cruyff?

It will have to be a classic…Oh! Ron Trent “Altered States”.

Altered States – Ron Trent

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Ron%20Trent%20-%20Altered%20States.mp3|titles=Altered States|artists=Ron Trent]

Zidane?

Something a bit more classy-House… maybe a Larry Heard tune would be nice. Larry Heard “What About This Love”.

What About This Love – Larry Heard

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Larry%20Heard%20-%20What%20About%20This%20Love.mp3|titles=What About This Love|artists=Larry Heard]

Fellaini?

Uh (thinks). Osunlade “Cantos A Ochun Et Oya”.

Cantos A Ochun Et Oya (Original Mix) – Osunlade

[audio:https://www.fluxmusic.net/flux/Files/San%20Soda/Osunlade%20-%20Cantos%20A%20Ochun%20Et%20Oya.mp3|titles=Cantos A Ochun Et Oya (Original Mix)|artists=Osunlade]

Well that is it. Hope you enjoyed yourself?

Yeah it was fun!

 

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