Times & Tunes with Gabriel Szatan


W
hat does one of the team behind massive online platform Boiler Room, trusted London party and label No Bad Days, and self-proclaimed ceiling punchers HMT have in common? The answer is (obviously) the curator of our latest contribution to the MIXEDBY series, Gabriel Szatan…well, he will be soon.Gabriel comes across as a passionate and tireless soldier in the battle to keep the world dancing—juggling roughly every role there is between both the online and physical dance communities. Having assembled some of 2017’s most eclectic and fun shows for Radar Radio and others, we asked Gabriel to take some time out with Bolting Bits to share his unique perspectives as well as yet another encyclopedic addition to his roster of must-listen mixes. 

INTERVIEW


Hey Gabriel, thanks for taking the time to speak with us and thread some tracks together for us to explore. Know this mix has been cooking for some time—care to give us a hint at the recipe?
I want to do something standout for you guys, to really try and put thought into it. There’s a loose theme of using deep cuts and B-sides from well known artists in a different way, trying to throw back to a bushy-tailed time before being “in” the “biz”, blah blah blah. At heart though the core vibe is set as ‘serene silence while out walking on an icy morning’ aka ‘eyes closed facing the bright horizon in winter’ aka ‘When The Sun Hits’. But then I took too long and it wasn’t balls-freezing anymore and I have to wait for the seasons to turn again. Typical!


Tell us a bit more about your 2018 so far! It seems your splitting your time these days between an ever-increasing array of projects; do you have anything new lined up this year your excited to embark on?
Ha, you’re walking into a minefield asking this I’m afraid. 2018 has been a challenge. In quick succession I saw my dog crushed to death in a car collision, was robbed in broad daylight, abruptly lost the lease on my flat, collapsed on air at Radar and – while on a drip in A&E – read about the station itself collapsing the very next day in scandal, shelled out over half a grand to have a corrupted hard drive fixed, only for the fixed version to get damaged in transit on the way back to me, wiping my music library of 70,000+ tunes…you know, not exactly ideal stuff.

All through, I’ve been hobbling along with something chronic and as-yet-undiagnosed that renders me bedbound one day and oddly fine the next. Lots of hospital visits and blood tests yet everyone is stumped. A spot of broken sleep could paralyse my right arm all day or some ravioli might trigger a Tony Soprano style collapse, it’s weird (amateur doctors, I’m by the phone and waiting for your call!). Bit of a bummer. It’s definitely inverted the tirelessness you kindly allude to.

Conversely, there’s been fun to buttress that frustration. Lately I’ve been involved with some of the most gratifying BR shows we’ve ever done; Manchester especially was a blinder. Dekmantel, VIVA and a big doofer in Rotterdam are round the corner too. I gave a quasi-TED Talk about failure to a predominantly Flemish-speaking audience, who now know all about my cracked teeth and college dropout woes. That was a first…and probably last.

Jake and I are plotting an exciting run of No Bad Days shows in and around London for the remainder of the year with our favourites joining – that’s good. Also good: HMT Hard Cru made it alive out of the bizarre, brutal battlefield of Bangface. Both are hitting their straps for #marketability: I could in fact now go Monday to Friday wearing just NBD and HMT merch if I wanted to. I don’t, but you get the point.

I’m forever delighted when something new and daft comes off: I managed to sneak into the BBC schedule again, sneak a piece about Madonna into national press, and sneak a roadtrip deejay tour into reality. And I am still entrusted to do so many nice things for, and with, a lot of great people across the musical map. That remains a sturdy raft of joy to cling onto in a choppy period.

What was one of the biggest musical highlights for you of the last year?
I’d love to give you a credible answer but, honestly, watching Foo Fighters at Glastonbury with loads of mates and a 2 litre bottle of decanted Buckfast was probably the biggest. Also happening across a Minion mansion of my dreams in New Orleans. That’s not music as such, but it is high art.

In listening to your radio shows and mixes (especially the raucous New Year’s mix as part of HMT), it’s clear that you have a deep reverence for the music of your childhood; are there any particular songs that have taken on new meaning to you as you’ve explored your own taste throughout the past few years of presenting and selecting?
I deliberately topped and tailed the 8hr Radar finalé with some tunes that have stuck with me for that very reason. The ones with especial resonance, that give off a sheen of familiarity even for people having their first listens. I’d gladly admire the dewdrop notes of Suicideyear’s version of “When You Sleep”, or get lost wandering around the cavernous dubby basslines on Smif-N-Wessun or Sheila Hylton, for the rest of my days.

Also, genuinely, I’ve been hearing the Goldeneye 007 soundtrack in a whole new light. Some of those songs absolutely go off when played out. Fuck the fidelity, “Frigate” is a turbo-banger. Big tip.

Your (not so) recent sit down with Benji B and Blackdown to discuss the 10th anniversary of Untrue for Contemporary Classics was so enjoyable and eye-opening in terms of the context London itself brings to the experience; are there any particular favorite albums of yours that you’re looking forward to showcasing and deep diving on?
Just had a bucket list one the other week in fact, on Sound of Silver. My parents came and drunkenly fanboy/girled out with LCD’s guitarist Al Doyle, which was really cute.

I desperately want to do Speakerboxxx / The Love Below, perhaps to coincide with its 15th anniversary this September. At this stage it’s strangely both overplayed and underrated, plus there’s so many stories to tell with OutKast. But mainly hearing “Where Are My Panties” pumped through a £100,000 tube amp would be priceless.

You raised a fascinating point in the end-of-year feature for Mixmag regarding new, younger fans of dance music and a lack of sensitivity to the context and role that sexism and harassment unfortunately still play at many events. Do you envision a future where respect can be fostered and nurtured alongside a growing passion for dance music?
Yep, I have a healthy amount of belief in that. The last few years have seen a huge acceleration in the depth of understanding and steps toward inclusivity. Old dregs out of the scene are being cleared out (hi Funk D’Void), gobsmackingly tone-deaf artwork is being called out (hi Elrow), more promoters are setting out important rules of engagement for physical spaces; all this is key.

But I do reckon shaping more safe, equitable and harmonious dancefloors is a two-way street, and respect cuts both ways. Rancorous dialogue at the moment is not nailing all the right targets. There’s in-fighting and, in some corners, heightened elitism which runs counter to the “all welcome” mantra. When firebombs are pelting down, it could create what I can only imagine is quite an uninviting proposition for young fans gingerly trying to nurture that burgeoning passion and develop their ethical code.

Welcoming the next gen up with a warmer, more sympathetic touch will pay dividends in the long run. Else we could end up with a mirror of what’s happening in wider politics: an invasion of scorned mini-Jordan Petersons to counter the wave of vital new voices and perspectives who have come to the fore lately and refreshed the landscape. No-one wants that.

Ungainly but eager 19-year-old ravers bumping around and getting their wings at a Mall Grab show are
really, really, really not the main enemy out there.

Looking back at your start in music, what were some of the challenges you faced coming from a more journalistic background as you moved into more tangible roles putting on traditional events, running a label, and playing music out yourself?
That’s a very good question and something I’ve never considered before.

I don’t really have the temperament or talent to stay still and commit to just one thing; jack of few trades, master of none. My hearing is shot so I’ll never be the most precise DJ, and this innate hyperactivity means I can cannon out a 3000 word email with ease, but wriggle through the laborious parts of putting out releases and booking up shows –– which I’m sure infuriates a lot of the long-suffering folk that have to be around me (sorry!)

Being articulate at shouting about others does mean you’re less likely to have anyone shout about you. I see a lot of musos, even in their 40s, grapple with this lopsided relationship. You’re forever a ring-bearer or bridesmaid on someone else’s special day. But that’s fine.

I guess I’m alright at understanding the link between this and that era or sound, absorbing line-ups and lists like osmosis, remembering pointless facts, and generally mentally cataloguing music in a Rain Man kinda fashion – so that’s my USP. It’s not a challenge so much as different wiring. You end up with a slightly tweaked way to approach the DJing, booking, A&Ring or whatever from someone who possesses a more organic drive to their chosen field. It’s all passion at the end of the day; the same record, just rotating at a different speed.

Do you have strong bread preferences? I ride or die for ciabatta.
Ciabatta’s up there with brioche and challah, yep. But the very best I’ve had in recent memory was on holiday with my partner in Atlanta last year. There’s this spot called Mary Mac’s, which is a proper institution down there, with fading peach decor, whole wings of the building reserved for post-church gatherings, and all these celebrity visitor portraits hanging on the wall. They brought out a basket of home made bread before our meal – nothing unusual there, we thought. Wrong. I don’t know what the fuck they did to them, but these standard-looking small white bread rolls were the real deal. Like, off the chart good… transcendently, face-meltingly good.

There was a framed photo of a beaming Dalai Lama next to our table, and I’d like to imagine he got his face melted too.

Some tasters for the eventual mix:


Interview by Dan