Based in Zurich Drumpoet Community releases music detached from any trend or current hype and has exactly therefore gained a reputation beyond its hometown. Label-founders and fathers Ron Shiller and Alex Dallas always follow a strict yet open-minded label-philosophy releasing deep or melodic and forward-thinking music from artists – known or upcoming. And their concept has proven to be successful since Drumpoet Community has been existing for more than a decade. The latest release on the label comes from affiliated producer Quarion, whose first EP on DPC, ‘Karasu’, goes back to 2006. Now the Berlin based producer compiled his album ‘Shades‘, which will see the light of day in a few days. Shortly before the release Torture the Artist had the chance to speak to Quarion about his (musical) career, producing music and much more.
Quarion: Good day to you! I’m currently sitting in front of my studio computer. I’ve been at the office today (I’ve started working for Ableton not so long ago) and will spend the rest of my evening answering your questions!
Torture the Artist: You have just recently finished producing your upcoming album, Shades, a long-awaited comeback on Swiss-based label Drumpoet since your debut with Karasu almost 13 years ago, has your daily routine changed drastically since its completion? What are some of the things you enjoy now that you have a little bit more time in your hands? Do you miss the long hours in the studio and having your mind occupied with a big project nearly 24/7?
Quarion: Indeed, I was able to enjoy a full-time music career in the last few years but for several reasons (mostly financial to be honest) I’ve been on the hunt for a steady job since the end of 2018. I finished the album in the early weeks of 2019 and went through the mastering process a few days before I started my new position at Ableton so I would say that the timing was perfect. I’m very happy that my project is now finally available for everyone to enjoy and I’m glad that my mind is not 24/7 occupied by it… but I do miss the long hours in the studio and I’m looking forward to start working on some new material very soon.
I felt the need to summarize this experience in a special way and this crystallized in my first Quarion release, ‘Karasu’.
Torture the Artist: We’ll get back to the album later. First, we want to pry a bit about the very beginning of your Quarion project. How did it come about, in both broad and specific terms? When did you start the idea of Quarion, its musical approach, the characteristic sound, and how have you evolved through the years?
Quarion: I’ve been producing for already quite some time before I began using the Quarion moniker. Using the name ‘Ianeq’ I would make pretty intricate house, techno, broken beat and hip-hop but I noticed that I would never play out my tracks… so I would say that ‘Quarion’ evolved from the desire of making music that could be deep, fluid yet still aimed at the dance floor. In spring of 2006, after coming back from an intense and honestly, life-changing tour of Europe and Japan with the ‘Enterplay’ project, I felt the need to summarize this experience in a special way and this crystallized in my first Quarion release, ‘Karasu’.
It was clear for me from the beginning that I would go for ‘the long run’ and that my life would always be intertwined with music, even if I don’t make a living out of it.
Torture the Artist: Over 13 years digging, selecting, making music, being part of an influential cluster of artists, as Quarion. Does it feel like 13? Or has your concept of time changed meaning when you put your musical career in this perspective? What were some of your favorite or most memorable years and how does that particular time period influence you now, both personally and musically?
Quarion: Even if we’re reminded on a daily notice that time travels in strictly one direction, the theory of relativity teaches us that time is actually not linear and could be bent in numerous ways. So when I look back on a 13-year career as Quarion, I can only say: Yes, it feels like 13 years and no it feels shorter but also longer than 13 years.
I don’t think that my perspective of time has necessarily changed if I look back at my career: It was clear for me from the beginning that I would go for ‘the long run’ and that my life would always be intertwined with music, even if I don’t make a living out of it.
In that sense, it can be difficult to highlight a specific moment in time as I feel that every year, maybe even more the ‘bad’ ones, can be very important for your creative process and your journey as a human being. But of course, there are some milestones and for multiple reasons, I would say that the last 4 years (2016 to 2019) might actually represent the most important period for me as a musician and as a person.
I guess that the appeal for a city with a thrilling music scene was just too tempting!
Torture the Artist: You are based in Berlin now. Where did you grow up and why did you decide to venture out to electronic music capital? Has this proved to be a crucial decision in further developing your artistry and career?
Quarion: I was born in Switzerland but grew up in many different countries. My father was working for the International Red Cross and our family moved around the world until I was 16. Back in Geneva, I honestly thought that I would then stay in Switzerland for the rest of my life but I guess that the appeal for a city with a thrilling music scene was just too tempting! I was extremely lucky to move to Berlin straight after the release of ‘Karasu’ and this record became a “business card” of some sort which allowed me to immediately meet people from the scene and integrate it rapidly. I’m forever thankful to these Djs, producers and fans who truly welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to live my dream when I moved to the german capital.
Friendships and love are actually my biggest sources of inspiration when it comes to making music.
Torture the Artist: It’s been over a decade, and before you know it, it’ll be two. Starting out as part of a ‘community,’ does a particular sense of community play a major role in your musical journey, or have you often found the need to seclude yourself, just you and music, and perhaps lonesomeness? Are friendships an integral element of your career?
Quarion: Indeed, the sense of community is very important and I wouldn’t be where I am today if 13 years ago Alex Dallas didn’t call me up to say that he’s starting a new label and if I had any tracks for him… Playing, producing and performing are musical expressions that are usually more satisfying for the soul when they are shared. Over the years, I’ve felt the most happy when I’ve been deejaying with the Drumpoet crew or performing with the artists from Retreat. And working in the studio with Ripperton or jamming with Joel Alter have also been highlights in my life. Friendships and love are actually my biggest sources of inspiration when it comes to making music. I don’t necessarily need to be with that specific friend (or friends) and make music with him/her/them but they’ll definitely influence my art in an important way.
Torture the Artist: Not only are you a gifted producer, but you are quite compelling at curating the dancefloor as well. How do you typically balance life as both DJ and producer? Do you feel content about the amount of time and effort you allot for each segment of your musical career or do you often wish you could do things differently?
Quarion: I absolutely love deejaying and there’s not much that can surpass theses moments of being ‘in the zone’ but if I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m a better producer than a DJ so I usually spend more time in the studio than on preparing a set. It’s actually not a situation that I’m particularly happy with and I wish that I would invest more time in the Deejaying craft. I’ve been thinking a lot about performance lately and I’d love to prepare something special for my gigs, maybe a hybrid set of some sort but I’ll definitely need time to think this through first!
Torture the Artist: Over the course of your DJing career, name a favorite venue or event you have played in. Tell us about a particular gig (or few) that moved you. How much does playing sets and connecting with your audience impact your music production?
Quarion: It’s funny but if I’m completely honest, I don’t think that playing out influences my productions that much. I find that I’m way more influenced as a listener/dancer in the club than as an DJ/performer. Some nights out spent in Zukunft (Zurich) or Panorama Bar gave me more inspiration than actually playing in them!
Performing and connecting with the audience always felt for me like the extra gift (or reward) for all these long hours spent in the studio or practicing on the turntables. And on certain occasions, when the atmosphere is right and that you’re in a perfect symbiosis of giving to and taking from the crowd, you can achieve that specific ‘plateau’ where music magically flows through you and you just become a vessel for one of the most powerful forces in the universe…
An idea can sometimes be born out of pure jamming without any plan.
Torture the Artist: You’ve experimented quite a bit, or so we think, with different styles, approaches and influences. What moves you to pursue a particular idea? Was there ever a point where you thought you veered to far out and did not feel like yourself anymore? How do you draw yourself back in?
Quarion: An idea can be sparked by many inputs, sometimes it can be a movie, the thought of a friend or a specific studio setting that I want to try out. And of course an idea can sometimes be born out of pure jamming without any plan. Even if I go ‘far out’, I always believe that the end result is 100% me. It might not be ‘Quarion’ but it will always present a part of me.
There was a period in my career was I was showing my influences too much and where I was trying to sound like some of my heroes such as Mad Mike, Kerri Chandler or Global Communication. This was the moment where I did not feel like myself anymore and took my first conscious break of not making music for about 6 months. This break allowed me ‘rekindle’ the fire of inspiration and write more experimental yet personal, material.
I try to create music without setting too many barriers when it comes to ideas.
Torture the Artist: When starting out a project – an album, track, remix, do you follow a particular method and criteria in jumping into one? Can you think of the boldest move you’ve made, one which surprised you more than others?
Quarion: It varies from project to project and I can sometime begin with a very clear path or with being completely lost in the wilderness! It’s however difficult to think of a particular ‘bold’ move that I’ve made because I try to create music without setting too many barriers when it comes to ideas. One thing I do remember though is that my remix for Jamie Lloyd (one of my most famous tracks) felt way too ‘ravey’ when I finished it and I recall thinking ‘maybe this is too much?’. But I chose to propose this version to the label anyway as and it turned out to be a very good decision! Since then, I’ve always went for the gut feeling and would take the “bold” direction if it was offered to me.
Torture the Artist: Back to your latest venture, ‘Shades‘. What a rich tapestry of sounds, textures, saturation and hues. When did you come up with the idea for the project? How long did it take to put it all together? Was there a timeline set for its completion and release?
Quarion: Thank you very much, it means a lot that you appreciate it! I would say that the first impulse for that project is that I’ve been trying to make an album for years. There have been at least two periods in the last decade where I was actively working on an album. I had pretty much finished writing all of the music both times but it never felt 100% right so I scrapped these projects after a few months. I have a very ‘romantic’ view regarding the concept of the music album where I feel that it has to be a whole and not just a collection of tracks.
‘Shades‘ was conceived in a very particular period of my life: I had just broken up with my former girlfriend but then met my true soul mate at the same time so I was going through a lot of emotions. There were also some terrible events happening on the political scale (Brexit, Trump) and all of this fuelled my inspiration. The studio became a safe space to express my various feelings and I was doing music every day without over-thinking too much. After a while, I noticed that most of these new tracks had a particular ‘colour‘ that linked them well together and for the first time in my career, I felt that I had a good shot at doing an album.
Torture the Artist: Shades of blue reign this 9 track voyage. What is your personal relation with the color blue? How did it become the muse of your current musical devotion?
Quarion: In my opinion, the color blue perfectly symbolizes the idea of depth, openness, thought and melancholia. Every piece of music that I’ve done tends to radiate a certain colour (at least for me!) but while working on these new pieces, it was the first time where I’ve felt that they were all gravitating towards the blue tones.
And I was also very lucky to come across Natasha McDowell’s beautiful paintings while working on these tracks. The way she was using colours on canvas completely resonated with what I was going through and I was thrilled when she accepted to make the cover for ‘Shades’.
Torture the Artist: Would you say that the album (or EP) progresses in chronological order? Did you deliberately place them to tell a linear story or are each vignette separate chapters that hold their own as much as they make up the compilation?
Quarion: As I mentioned earlier, I love the idea of a music album as a whole, similar to a journey that would take you from point A to point B. I’ve deliberately placed these 9 productions in a specific order and have spend almost as much time on sequencing the tracks between them then on working on the pieces themselves! But the beautiful thing with music is that the listener is always free to rearrange an album in the way that he/she wants or skip tracks so I also made sure that each piece could stand on its own.
I would say that there were many different types of emotions at play while I was making music.
Torture the Artist: Working on the album, which emotions drove your momentum? Was it particularly nostalgic or did it evoke entirely new feelings, new realms, new dimensions for you? Was it more hopeful, melancholic or both?
Quarion: Even if the album resonates with a unified vibration, I would say that there were many different types of emotions at play while I was making music. Some sadness, nostalgia and melancholy for sure but also passion, love and anger. Many tracks have a dreamy aspect to them but I also believe that some have a definite ‘physicality’ about them, something more sexual or even animalistic.
Torture the Artist: Which shade of blue does Quarion feel today? Which shade is most uncomfortable for you?
Quarion: After answering to this interview, I would say that I’m in a ‘cobalt’ mood today! There’s not a particular shade which makes me uncomfortable, it also varies on my feelings in the moment but I would say that ‘Turquoise’ would be a bit too much for me today!
Torture the Artist: Now that the album is done, what more can we expect from Quarion for the rest of the year?
Quarion: The only thing I can say for sure is that I’m definitely looking forward to get back on the road to promote this album!
Torture the Artist: We’re in need of some inspiration, can we take a peek into your soundcloud? Last ten tracks played please?
Quarion: I generally switch between multiple streaming platforms and media formats when it comes to listening to music so here are the latest ten tracks/albums/mixes that are currently on rotation:
- Ripperton – Contrails (Digi Bonus – Mixtape) – ESP Institute
- Baikal – Hear Me / Baby, you (promo) – Maeve
- Iron Curtis – And The Temper (12”) – Office
- Dego – Too Much (LP) – 2000 Black
- Tool – Fear Inoculum (LP) – RCA
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana (LP) – RCA
- Atjazz & Julian Gomes – Love Me (Karizma Defibrillator Dub) – Atjazz
- Julian Stetter – Sensual (Matt Karmil Remix) – Mireia
- Lexx – Wave – Phantom Island
- Jor-El – Human Matrix – Uncanny Valley
Interview by Marie J. Floro