Interview with Bissen
He has released tracks on various labels including Armada, Discover, and Flux Delux. He has collaborated on releases with Roger Shah, Thomas Datt, Chris Hampshire, Victor Dinaire and has some major releases and remixes in the works. His recent track Skylands just hit the Beatport top 100 trance releases and has been supported by Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Bobina, and others.
If you haven't heard of Bissen, you better keep your eyes peeled because he is working on some big things in the coming months.
Hello Bissen, How are you today?
I’m fine, thank you. Currently on a flight back from Hong Kong, so understandably a bit tired…
What has been on your agenda for the past few weeks?
For live gigs, it has been a rather busy month. I had a couple shows in New York, one at Webster Hall (elaborated below) and one with singer Senadee at Le Poisson Rouge, the latter not actually being a DJ gig, but rather a live concert, where I was handling keyboards and laptop while Sena performed with his guitar. I also just got back from Brighton, UK, from playing the Discover 10 Year party alongside John Askew and Activa, which was, to be honest, one of the best gigs I’ve played so far.
On the production front, I just finished Senadee’s 5-song solo EP with him while he was in New York, which is completely pop/rock/electronic based. A remix for one of those songs I did, “Life Support Machine”, will be featured on Paul Oakenfold’s new mix compilation, so I’m quite excited about that.
I also just finished a bunch of remixes, including the tune of the night at all my latest gigs-my remix for Cowboy Mike’s “No Way Back” which will be released on Christopher Lawrence’s Pharmacy Records soon. Also, I did a remix for Gemini’s Edge “Save You” with Victor Dinaire, and a remix for Zack Roth “Mata Leon”, both for Noel Sanger’s Dissident imprint.
While Victor was in town last week, we also completed a second classic remake (after our wildly successful “Symmetry C” remake by Brainchild, which has garnered massive support by Gareth Emery, Judge Jules, Sean Tyas, Christopher Lawrence, and John O’Callaghan, to name a few). I can’t quite say yet which tune it is, but it is really well known and there has surprisingly never been a proper remake of it ever!
Lastly, I’ve been working on the follow-up to “Skylands”, and another original for my “Crossover” alias for A State of Trance label.
You recently released the track “Skylands”. Which fellow artists have been supporting it?
Many have supported it, most notably Above and Beyond, who think it is “Excellent” and Armin, who called it a “nice track.” Also, Ferry Corsten has given it a spin on his Countdown, and Bobina went clubbing with it in Russia. Interestingly enough, each one of the mixes have gotten support by different DJs—which makes me quite happy as I have been able to create a well-rounded release all on my own, that is without outside remixers.
Are you currently working on collaborations with any other artists?
Yes, absolutely. I actually love collaborations, as being in the studio can be quite lonely at times, and it’s also great to bounce creative ideas off of one another. Specifically, there are the aforementioned ongoing projects with long-term collaborators Victor Dinaire and Senadee. But I also recently finished 3 tracks with singer Jess Bennett (Jeza), and a track with Kyler England (Relyk), as well as working on some pop-dance productions with Robbins artist Alice Edun.
Are there any plans to pursue any future work under your Coastline alias with Roger Shah?
Haha, you always pull up a rather obscure project of mine, and I can’t believe you actually know about it! While I really like the song, and I would have liked to see it get much more exposure than it did, I do not see myself working with Roger again anytime soon, as he’s quite busy with other projects, and this particular project did not go over quite as anticipated. I am, however, planning on working with Madelin Zero again soon—we have been talking for a while now to do another collaboration, so stay tuned for that.
You have recently released a few tracks on Matt Hardwicks label Kill The Lights that is a sub-label of Recoverworld. How did you sync up with Matt?
To be honest, I am not personally in touch with Matt, but rather it was Recoverworld’s head honcho Chris Hampshire who passed my tracks on to Matt. I am rather pleased to be doing a lot of work on Kill The Lights though, as the releases have been extremely solid on that label, and it is starting to carve itself out as an extremely credible label in just a couple years.
Are there any compilations or even possibly an artist album in the works?
The big project that I am currently starting is my compilation for Discover called “Global Trance US”, which is part of Discover’s “Global Trance” concept—an album series which is geographically limited to artists of a particular country or region. So basically, only US-based artists will be featured on this compilation—and in doing preliminary outreach and research, it is really amazing how much talent has come from the US in recent years. So that will be my focus.
We are quite familiar with the Global Trance series here at Electronic Night Life. We actually just hosted a contest for the UK installment of the series. We are definitely looking forward to hearing the US installment as well.
You recently performed at Webster Hall alongside Dash Berlin. Can you share some of the highlights with us?
It was really great to play in my hometown, and at a large venue at that. Jeff is a really nice guy, so I was quite happy to share the stage with him. I think trance is picking up a lot of steam again in New York, and this show proved it.
Do you have any upcoming performances scheduled?
Yes, I’m doing quite a few shows in New York in the coming months. I also have a couple West Coast dates lined up in July, as well as a gig in Philly. Other shows are in the works, but need to be confirmed.
Tell us more about your gear. What hardware do you use for DJing and production?
For Djing, I’m a bit of a purist. A club experience should be about good, new music and not about DJ showmanship. I’m vinyl-taught, but since most music isn’t available on vinyl anymore, the second-best thing are the trusty CDJs, and that’s all I use. I don’t see myself going into fancy computer Djaying—I am even a bit against the idea of the capability of the CDJ-2000’s to spin off of a USB stick. While massively convenient, it is now harder than ever to tell if the DJ is actually spinning records or just playing a pre-recorded iTunes Mix.
For production, I am also quite the purist. While obviously using technology to my advantage, I still use quite a bit of outboard gear, and mix everything on an analog console, rather than doing 100% digital mixes, which, while perhaps sometimes sounding “cleaner” will never be as effective in a club. With that in mind, I do use a G5 core-duo Mac, running Ableton as my main audio engine (I used to be a Logic head, but it is way too clumsy a software at this point). Another big workhorse in my studio is the Roland Fantom hardware synth, from which I get a bunch of my lead and bass sounds. I generally run my kicks through an HHB Radius 50 tube compressor, which I also use as a pre-amp for vocals and live instruments, which are usually recorded with the Neumann TLM-103 microphone. The rest of the percussion is usually sent through the super crunchy DBX 266XL compressor. I also use a Lexington Reverb box for vocals and lead sounds. Less frequently used are the Alesis Midiverb and the Bellari RP583 tube compressor, and, for live drums, I usually use the TC Electronic M-1 effects unit.
What do you use in terms of software?
Like I said, I’m a complete Ableton head. I have a bunch of soft synths, such as Reaktor, Absynth, Metallix, old Korg and Roland emulators, just to name a few. I do make a lot of my own sounds using Ableton’s internal sound modules, which are extremely versatile. I often get this question, and no, I do not own any Nexus, z3ta or other common synths, which may be useful when starting out, but don’t sound original or edgy enough for what I set out to do.
Aside from DJing and production in the electronic music scene, can you tell us more about some of the work you do for commercials and television shows?
Ah yes, my other job. Honestly, Djaying and dance music production is taking up more and more of my time these days, and is therefore also becoming a much more significant part of my income flow. Nevertheless, doing music and audio for TV still form the backbone of my business, and I love the challenges that come with that aspect of the job—i.e. having to write in all kinds of genres, short deadlines, short-form music (as short as 10 seconds), doing sound design, recording voiceovers. It keeps me on my toes and forces me to constantly reevaluate what I do.
What shows or commercials have you worked on recently?
Literally having premiered a couple weeks ago is the TV show “Pregnant in Heels” on Bravo for which we did the theme song and a bunch of music cues. It’s about as far removed from dance music as can be, lol. It was a grueling project at times—sometimes we were writing 40 cues per week. Basically one piece of music every 1.5-2 hours. But again, the challenge is what keeps me going. Perhaps the most well-known thing we’ve done in the last year were those “Sprint” commercials here in the US, with all the statistics. The track was a minimal track called “Perception” by German artist Haito. While not actually having written that track, we administer the license and publishing for it. “Perception” appeared on Cologne-based minimal label Boxer Recordings, on which, in fact, a track of mine has been released under the monicker The Shock. Other recent projects include music for AT&T, Sierra Mist and Burger King.
Are you still designing presets for synthesizers? Which sounds have you tweaked recently?
Yes. I mostly do this for Ableton. Most recently I was asked to create sounds for their new Amp/Cabinet devices—needless to say, there were a lot guitar and bass sounds included in that batch. I also recently consulted them on their sound library, everything from layout, navigation and quality of sounds. Expect many amazing changes for Live 9!
What other aspects of music would you like to be involved with in the future?
I see myself being involved in all aspects of music. I’m not satisfied with doing one thing only ever. While trance is and always will be at the forefront of my passion, there’s too much music in me to limit myself to just that. I am currently working myself into more pop-oriented production and writing, and eventually, I would also like to give movie scoring a shot.
Do you see yourself running your own label one day?
It is not currently a goal I am working towards, but it is not a bad idea! It is a lot of hard work, especially to do it well. I see it as I do A&R RedForce recordings out of Philadelphia. Getting a hold of really good music is getting more and more difficult by the day, as the market is just completely gluttoned with mediocre music these days, since it has become so easy to make relatively decent sounding records.
Describe your most life changing moment?
Honestly, major milestones in my life, professionally and personally, all pale in comparison to the birth of my son last year. Nothing has quite thrown my life out of whack as much as that little fellow! It is the most amazing experience, quite humbling, and also gives one a very different perspective on life and the meaning of it all
Do you believe you will be involved in music all of you life?
Yes. No question about it. I have been writing music since I was 5, and I will still be writing when I’m 95!
What are some of your goals for the remainder of 2011?
Finishing that compilation, tour more, finish up contracts for the dozen or so tracks of mine that are currently being dealt, and be happy.
What advice would you give to up and coming producers?
I am not going to echo the usual “stick with it, hone your skills, follow your heart.” While all true, and necessary, having a healthy amount of passion is just the beginning. Persistence pays off in the long-run. But, one has to accept failure as an option in order to succeed. You create your own luck, and it is very important that you choose the right people to surround yourself with. It takes 10,000 hours to become good at anything, and while you may think someone just popped up out of nowhere, chances are they have already worked those 10,000 hours to get to where they are. Lastly, don’t believe the hype and stay true to yourself. It’s a tough world out there, and you must ask yourself honestly if you have what it takes to stick it through.
Do you have any other comments for our readers?
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. Some of you have told me my music has moved you to tears—if my music can touch just one person, then I have done my job. My job involves that which people value most—what to do with their free time. If they choose to spend it listening to my music or coming to my shows, it is the most humbling experience, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Lastly, thanks for reading.
P.S. Bissen is playing in NY in June at Red Velvet for the Trance Mansion event. Check out the event thread here:
Electronic Night Life
Last edited by euphoria on May-19-2011 at 15:08