As we mentioned in our premiere yesterday, Austin Ato is Scotland’s next underground sensation. A producer with a few aliases, producing music under many different styles and genres, it’s no wonder he’s able to combine so many varying influences with ease. Perhaps best known for his Drums of Death alias, he’s quickly put himself on the radar as Austin Ato, filling the bags of many a DJ with his records, most of which have been released within the past year.
Listing disco as his primary sound, it’s a genre that is clearly heard within his productions but alone is definitely not the only defining label, as he clearly draws from many other sources as well. When djing however, perhaps we hear a bit more of that disco flavour creeping in, as heard in the mix he’s put together for us today. Read the full interview and get to know Austin Ato a bit while taking in his impeccable selection below (and don’t forget to check out his new record here):
Hey Austin! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. This is your most recent alias which has garnered quite a bit of success already. Can you tell us why you decided to switch musical directions and pursue a more loose, disco-and-house-oriented sound?
Thank you, my pleasure. Glad to talk to you and to do the mix as well. I wanted to make music that was more personal with more live instruments and trying to create in a different way than I had in the past. It’s disco, it’s house music.. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, just create the very best records I can make that are purely my sound, my take on this music I love so much. The response, I have to say, has been amazing and the best of anything I’ve done before.
You were living in London for some time but moved back to your native Scotland, kind of the opposite of what we see from a lot of DJs. Did you just need some downtime and perhaps a fresh perspective?
Aye, I love London and was just there playing a show. I miss the excitement of the city but that excitement doesn’t always make a healthy environment. In the highlands I have a huge studio, beautiful nature all around me and lower living costs which let me work longer on pieces of music and ideas that won’t pay off for a while. I unsubscribed from all the promo lists I was on, I don’t care what anyone else is doing. I just want to work in a studio away from everything and just play with sound.
Has disco always been one of your primary influences? Who are some of the artists/pioneers that you really look up to?
It’s been more and moreso over time. Arthur Russell’s been a huge influence on me as has the mixes of artists by Larry Levan, Tom Moulton and later Frankie Knuckles. There’s a reason why these names keep coming out the mouths of modern producers and DJs, the music is timeless and still now, years later, a huge influence on younger people. Equally important to me has been people such as Theo Parrish, Moodymann and newer names like Motor City Drum Ensemble reconextualise and rework that music.
What about some of your local Scottish producers, a famously wealthy pool of talent. Is there anybody who you’re in touch with on a regular basis or somebody that has helped you in any way over the years?
I’ve been sending music to Harri of the amazing weekly Subclub party Subculture pretty religiously over the last 18months and he’s been great with playing it out and giving me his thoughts. Auntie Flo and The Revenge make really good records as are the records put out by the Huntley & Palmer’s, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and Numbers families. Glasgow produces a huge amount of musical talent but being from the highlands where there’s less of us and we’re more remote it feels extra special being so tucked away.
Can you tell us a little bit about your production process? Do you use much hardware? How much sampling do you do and where do you get all of your fantastic vocals?
Some tunes take an hour to make a sketch of but then I work on them for weeks after to get right. Dah Dah Dah and Ben’s Groove from The Sound Of EP on Me Me Me were live takes in Ableton that I then stemmed and transferred to Logic to chop up and rearrange. The only hardware I use is a drum kit, guitars, upright piano. Everything else is soft-synth with lots of processing or samples. I don’t use any sample kits or sounds, just the 909, 808 and 606 clones by D16 and Arturia’s awesome (but buggy as hell) Spark. There’s my live h-hat playing on almost all my previous 12”s and now on Putting It In My Way I played it again. I tend to prefer sampling tiny amounts, like making 2-beat loops. Loops that don’t harmonically resolve and can repeat forever. Ella’s basic rhythm is basically that I added all the chords and synth lines. Putting It In My Way is my voice as I had a choir idea for the tune with a lower, almost Chicago-like other part. Turned out pretty good.
So far all your new material has been originals barring one remix (that we absolutely love). Do you plan on doing any more remix work and is there anyone in particular you’d like to see rework one of your tunes?
It’s actually two remixes, I was so happy to work with my old friends Greco-Roman and remix Balako an awesome band from Brazil. That came out a month ago I think. The Folamour one was great fun, I loved his original tune but I wanted to just, again, make a loop that could repeat forever. I’m about to do a remix of Louis Vega for Glitterbox, Defected’s disco label and maybe a few other things. I personally don’t want to release anymore remixes of my music as part of a record. I feel when you buy a record with my name at the top it should a full 12” of original music, I feel it’s more value for the fan and also it makes you produce more music and maybe try something weirder of different. However, if say, Louie or Danny Krivit wanted to have a go at remixing my music I’d have to rethink that last statement.
Was there any specific influence behind the fantastic mix you’ve prepared for us? How do you normally approach a DJ set when playing a gig?
I wanted this mix to be a great for listening to if you were at work or just doing house work, even getting ready to go out. Something vibey and with groove but not banging. I planned the mix out from a disco and afroy/drum machine beginning into something with more pace and energy into a trio of my own tunes and slowing down a bit for the ending. I’m into playing slower in my mixes and DJ sets. I made a little edit of my pal Erik Hall aka In Tall Buildings for the final tune which felt real nice.
Finally, what’s next for Austin Ato? Can we expect any more releases this year? Have you considered working on an album at all?
I can’t wait for people to hear Ella and Putting It In My Way, it’ll cap off a great year, four 12”s in that time and I’m not slowing down. I have a records lined-up going into 2019 on Defected and Classic, saying that makes me so very happy I cannot describe it! I’m working on my album with loose ideas at the moment, I think that’ll be more focused on slower tracks with primarily live playing. Right now though, it’s all about more 12”s, more music out there and playing more parties and shows.. I can’t wait to travel more to take my sound to new places.
Interview by Igor.