A few years ago, somewhere lost among the uncountable amount of parties, my mind was lost in the midst of a psychedelic alien kingdom. My soul had finally found its home; I found a place where I belonged. Jubilant crowds of younger and more experienced party goers came together in celebration of life itself, guided by the rhythm and beat of music of a co-experienced journey as such that we have undergone for thousands of years. Since that time, no other gatherings have been able to blast me off into ecstatic momentariness and hyper-awareness until I encountered the equally beautiful, emerging self-proclaimed “conscious” bass music community. This is when I first heard and met Kabayun, who was performing at the peak hour of one of Fractaltribe’s infamous Subculture events at Therapy in Providence, RI.
Everyone donned alter ego personas via psychedelic masks and face paints, while thunderous kicks and bass lines with geometrically manipulated sine waves pumped through the massive sound system, completely enveloping the crowd. Everybody was moving and grooving to the beat in an original organic mechanic fashion with disorientation of time and space. For those 120 minutes, I felt the energy which Kabayun was trying connect to us with. That night, we formed a bond and an understanding that can only be transmitted through music. Years later, I still remember thanking him for the blissful frequencies, and his response changed everything; “All of you inspire me and are the heartbeat of the community. We are all equal, there is no separation between performer and audience. I feed off the energy you create while dancing, thank you for contributing to the atmosphere.”
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David Mostoller, better known as Kabayun, has been producing the right frequencies in the international psytrance community. Hard working and with grand visions, he still keeps the local community together while touring around the globe. With many new tracks and collaborations soon to come out and through his legendary all night SYNC parties in Northeast USA, this motivated homegrown producer is a model for the modern aspiring electronic music producer. Performing at some of the most acclaimed underground electronic music gatherings, I was able to chat with David about his future plans, style, and workflow, as well as the state of psytrance in the US and around the world.
[LiS] Why are psy gatherings such a unique experience, what differs trance parties from the rest?
[Kabayun] At psy parties, it’s all about the music, and the vibe… People don’t come to see and be seen, and they don’t go to meet people to bring home for the night contrary to a lot of other electronic music events in clubs. People are all dancing together, but individually. It’s a spiritual experience shaped by the music, art, and the people. We all come together to do the sacred trance dance, that people have done for thousands of years, only we use modern technology that fits with our time.
What got you into electronic music/psytrance?
I started playing classical and jazz piano when I was a kid, then moved on to guitar and then bass guitar in high school. I would just jam out with a few friends in high school, sometimes for hours on end with no real “songs” to speak of, but we had some pretty nasty grooves. When I got to college, all the musicians I knew were forming bands, none of which I really felt like I belonged in. A few friends of mine used their computers to make music with Ableton Live and other programs like Reason, and showed me how to record and the basics of production. I fooled around with various styles but never really found my calling until I heard psytrance at a party for the first time, in Koh Pangan, Thailand. I wasn’t intending to go there until we were on a bus full of Israelis who were on their way, and my friends and I decided to follow. One of the clubs was playing some really sick music (which I later found out was psytrance), and I danced for the whole night. Back in the states, I met some friends who introduced me to some psy artists, and I was hooked. A few years later Andy Aylward and I formed Unwashed Tomato and started to really put our energy into psy production.
What have been your main influences in producing groovy, full power psy?
Artists like Ajja, Yab Yum, Southwild, and the Looney Moon artists have been my biggest influences in the past few years. By 2010 I had become a bit bored with some of the heavier psy that I had previously been into and was trying to find my place in the scene. Then there was this resurgence of funky, groovy, bouncy psy that was still full power and twisted, and I knew that this is where I belonged. Between my friends in the psy scene here in the states, there is a lot of variety in terms of which sub genre they like. Some are into darkpsy, some into prog, and some into full-on. I wanted to make all of them smile and dance to my music. To me, there is nothing better then seeing all my friends stomping around, smiling and laughing and sharing in the moment to my music.
The psytrance scene is truly international. How does this affect the way gigs are found and music is made? How is the marketing of your tracks affected?
Well, this is an interesting question. There have been some challenges for me as a psytrance artist from the US. The scene is much bigger in the rest of the world, but we do have a very nice vibe here. Since the US is such a large country, and the places that have psy scenes are spread far apart, it’s hard to get consistent gigs, and it is almost impossible to survive off of producing/performing psy here.
I am lucky to have made friends with a global crew of producers and DJ’s who have helped to guide and inspire me on my journey. My travels in Europe are helping me to make new connections and see what the vibe is like in the rest of the world. My music is already marketed globally, through the internet and the small number of online psytrance music shops that really spread the music to all corners of the globe. Hopefully in the future I will be able to get more gigs in other countries, as there are so many places I would love to travel to.
This is one thing that is really unique and special about the psy scene, its globalness. You can go to pretty much any country and find some people who are into psytrance. If you tell them you are into psy as well, you will instantly be accepted as a member of the tribe or family. Psytrancers’ capacity to open themselves as brothers and sisters to an otherwise complete stranger is something that is truly amazing. I guess since the music is so underground, people think, “Hey, if you like this crazy music too, you must be cool.”
What is your view on the state of the music industry and its relation to free music and piracy?
I’m realistic about it. I don’t expect to ever make money from selling my music. I don’t think anyone in any scene, except pop music, has a good shot at supporting themselves this way. But I think it’s still worthwhile to sell music, because there is value to it, and it takes a lot of time and effort to produce. The people who want to support the artist or get the high quality files will pay, and those who just want the music will pirate it. It’s just the way it is. Doing things like a free release can also be a nice idea though because you can get the high quality files out to more people and keep them connected with your gigs, promotions, etc.
Last year you signed with Looney Moon Records. Explain who they are and what they do. How will you be involved with them?
Looney Moon is a fantastic label from Italy that specializes in groovy night psytrance. They have really developed their own sound, with a heavy presence of Italian artists like Dust, Assioma, Phase, Mole, as well as a handful from the rest of the world like Whiptongue and Pantomiman. The label is already earning respect, with a handful of compilation and EP releases and many more on the way. I think Looney Moon is poised to become one of the big players in the scene, as their sound straddles the line between twisted night music and groovy full on. It’s got something for both the head and the mind, and really works at all hours of the night and day.
Not only are you travelling all over, but you still manage to organize underground events under the moniker “SYNC.” What is SYNC, and what are the goals of SYNC?
SYNC was started with the idea that better parties are possible, even on small scale. We strive to bring psychedelic artists, regardless of genre, whose music can really connect with people and take them somewhere, even if that type of music might not be their favorite. We try to have realistic goals for our events, and really cater them to our audience: the few hundred hardcore freaks in the Northeast who love an all night stompfest! SYNC is all about mutual respect, between the promoters and the artists, as well as with the audience and dancers who are the ones who make our parties truly special. We believe that if you put the right intent into an event, and really let the event develop on its own, rather than knowing exactly what it will be like before starting to plan, amazing things can happen!! Check out our website, s-y-n-c.com for info on our upcoming events.
SYNC is at it again on April 19th for a special Bicycle Day tribute “Just a Ride” with Dirty Saffi – Bom Shanka Music (UK), DJ Nuky – Bom Shanka Music (UK), and DJ Philoso – Kamino Recs (Austria). It also includes a lineup of the best of the northeastern US community such as Kabayun – Looney Moon Records (NYC), Progress *Live*- AntiShanti Records (RU), and Brandon Adams – Free Radical Records (NJ). Previous headlining artists include Grouch, Sensient, Electrypnose, Mr. Bill, Electrocado, Bombax, Mark Day, and Ben Rama.
SYNC presents Noctilucent in Allentown, PA on September 16, 2012
You just got back from a long tour. Tell us a bit about where you’ve been. What does the future hold for Kabayun?
I just got back from a long 6 month journey spanning 12 countries and countless gigs. I’ve had shows in Italy, the UK, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Austria, Morocco, India, Costa Rica, Panama, and the United States. Thus far I am performing at Tangra Festival in Bulgaria, Momento Demento Festival in Croatia and Bakony Festival in Hungary this summer in addition to a few US gigs. Who knows where it will lead from there!
Describe the workflow/process you use to create a track.
I sometimes just sit down and spend hours making new sounds and patches over a bunch of kick/bass loops and percussion, then I’ll save all those and use them when I am working on tracks. I usually just set out a key and a general theme (either a certain vibe or feel, or stemming from a certain lead that I like a lot) and then just start to make it up from there. Sometimes I plan out the structure of a song first, other times I just write completely freeform… It really depends how I’m feeling. I don’t like to think too hard or make the approach too rigid, I really try to just let the music flow through me, as cliche as that might sound. On the other hand, my best tracks are highly structured and complex, so I guess you just have to balance the two sides out. I end up spending most of my free time working in the studio, but it’s always fun. Nothing like stomping around the studio alone at 4am, half-delirious, to a track you have been working on all night.
What gear do you use?
To produce I use Ableton Live with a VST’s and a couple of hardware synths too (Virus TI, Nord G2 Modular, Korg MS2000). For my live sets, I use Ableton with a couple of MIDI controllers. Currently my setup is an Akai MKP mini and a Novation Launchpad.
What are your other projects?
I have a techno/prog project called Sm0ke, and I am a member of the currently hibernating duo, Unwashed Tomato, with Andy Aylward. As for Kabayun, lots of collabs are on the way with Looney Moon artists like Dharma, R2, and Harmonic Rebel. I am also currently working on a collab album with Drip Drop, and amazing producer from Greece. Recently, I had a track released on Pixan Recordings‘ latest compilation In Blast We Trust as well as on the most recent Looney Moon compilation Looney Boom.
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Where does the name Kabayun come from?
Kabayun is one of the names for the West Wind, the language of some of the First Nations in what is now Eastern Canada. As a kid I went on wilderness trips that had stories passed down from Native guides, including stories about the spirits of the directions and winds and the name Kabayun always stuck with me. The West Wind was generally speaking the rowdy/mischievous one that would bring foul weather and turbulent times. But, usually the foul weather was followed by stretches that were beautiful and calm. This is how I usually feel when dancing to psytrance all night, and is close to what I try to do with my music: let people shake out their issues and whatever is on their mind, connect with the other dancers and smile, leaving the party feeling refreshed and alive. So I thought the name fit pretty well.
Your new EP Imagine the Future was recently released. Tell us more about it, what is its premise, and what are the feelings involved?
This album is about making your life what you want it to be. With the right intent, anything is possible. We have the power to determine our destiny. Just imagine the future, what you want it to be, and then manifest that into reality. Let go of your fears, anger, judgements, sadness, stress, and everything that the world builds up in us and start down the path on the funky adventure that is your time on this Earth. The original title of the cover art, “Surrendering To Love,” fits with this theme perfectly. I am honored to have such a talented artist, Totemical, allow me to use this beautiful work for my release.
Quick 5 Questions…
Absolute highest quality electronic producer or band right now:
I think Ajja is really performing at the highest level right now. He has a unique sound that nobody has been able to imitate, and he is continuously playing all over the world at the top parties and festivals in the psytrance scene. In addition to his solo project, he is also working on the project Yab Yum (one of my all time favorites) with DJ Gaspard, as well as a project with Cosmosis featuring live guitars, and is a part of the Peaking Goddess Collective, a live psychill group. I was able to see him perform many of these projects in Goa this season, and he always got the dance floor moving.
Favorite party you’ve ever played:
I would have to name many, here are two that come to mind immediately…
One would be the party I played in Amsterdam at the Psychedelic Church in Ruigoord. The party takes place in an old church and when I played it was completely packed, and the energy there was really something special.
Goa is a very special place, and there is no venue there that is quite like Shiva Valley, on Anjuna beach. I had the good fortune to play there twice, once live and the second time I closed the party from 4:30 to about 7:15. Nothing like playing on the beach while the sun comes up, to the most energetic and positive dance floor around.
I have been lucky to have been able to use a Virus TI that belongs to a friend for the past few years, and I have to return it soon. It is a really great piece of gear but unfortunately is too large for me to carry when I am traveling, so I am looking to buy a Virus TI Snow, the smaller and more portable version, so that I can take it with me on my global adventures.
Best foreign food:
Well I am a sucker for Indian food, especially the vegetarian variety, and fresh juice, so the whole time I was in India I was very happy.
Tips for aspiring producers:
Don’t get bogged down in the details at first. Just try to get the music out, as best as you can, and make sure you are always having fun. There are many things you need to learn to make top-notch electronic music, and it takes a lot of time. So just keep working, and eventually everything will fall into place. Make sure to try to find your own voice, and try not to mimic other peoples sound. In the long run it will be very important that you have your own characteristic style, not just well-produced music.