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Polish duo Karol XVII & MB Valence are producers, DJs, composers, and sound engineers who have more than ten years in the game behind them. They have been previously recognised by DJ MAG as the best Polish DJs, and also been nominated for the Beatport Music Awards as the Best Deep House Artists. They run Loco Records and have released on a wealth of others. January 11th sees the release of their single ‘Aqua’ on Get Physical Music.
Great to speak with you Karol and Marek, could you start by telling us a little about the electronic music scene in your native Poland, and how it shaped your musical style?
The electronic scene in Poland, despite so many years of its existence, unfortunately isn’t as advanced as in other countries. It’s difficult to say why this is the case in a country with a population of 38 million people. This may be due to the lack of strong promotional agencies. A young artist, even if they create awesome things, can rely only on themselves and after some time they simply give up. We have the impression that it used to be better in the past. We’ve come from a period when everyone thought everything would develop big time, but in the meantime it’s rather stagnant. Once there was a nationwide radio station called “Radiostacja” which had a very large impact on the development of club music. After that there was another nationwide radio station “Czworka” which also promoted club music, but unfortunately it also disappeared from the FM broadcast band. At the moment, we only have Internet portals such as the amazing muno.pl. When it comes to places, there are great festivals like Unsound or Audioriver, but when it comes to clubs, they are unfortunately only a few dozens.
We believe you both started DJing at a fairly early age, would you tell us how you both got involved?
Yes, it’s true. We’ve known each other since the time when perhaps some of today’s club members weren’t even present in the world. We met during a meeting where DJs honed their skills. It turned out that we have common interests and similar development visions. Neither of us want to limit ourselves to being only DJs, and in the future we wanted to make music. Of course, that music was extremely different from what we’re currently doing, but the development of each artist follows with time, as was our case too.
Can you tell us the story behind the creation of Loco Records? What’s the label ethos and what kind of music are you focusing on?
The history associated with Loco Records is probably similar to most of the labels created today. The catalyst for the creation was the success we achieved with our recordings around 2008. It was then that our songs occupied top positions on deep house charts in many places. The establishment of a label that would sustain this good streak seemed quite a sensible step. It turned out to be a perfect move and soon the tracks from our Loco Records label shared the fate of our productions. Those started climbing very high up the charts, reaching first places and not leaving the top ten. In 2010, we were the only label whose three tunes were included in the top ten best-selling deep house tracks for the entire 2010 on Beatport. As for the label’s profile, it gently changed over time. At the beginning, it was focused mainly on deep house, but after some time, we started to accept other influences, because our taste in music has changed significantly over the years. We created the sub label Loco Records Supreme just because Maya Jane Coles’s tracks didn’t quite fit the initial profile of the label and we really wanted to release them. And we were right about that, because she rose by releasing her music on our label as well as on a number of other well-known electronic labels. Another thing that influenced the label’s profile were the remixes we received. We prepared our own EPs and later invited our favourite artists to make remixes of our songs. The artists also had their own style which had an impact on the label’s profile.
We absolutely love your ‘Aqua’ single on Get Physical, wonderfully deep electronic music to our ears, could you tell us a bit about your inspirations and the creative process behind it?
We haven’t created too many tracks over the past years, because we’ve been trying to fine-tune our studios. Actually, we changed them drastically. It’s been a very long and arduous process. We transferred one studio from one place to another within the period of two years, creating a completely new setup, completely new working conditions, and in fact a new quality, starting a brand-new stage in our life, as it seems a new and beautiful adventure. We’ve significantly expanded our collection of instruments. We believe and are even sure that these instruments are one of the greatest incentives and inspirations for creating our musical biography. This resulted in the energy for creating new trends inspired by analog sounds. The sound appearing in Aqua was generated by 3 synths: Moog Voyager – responsible for the bass track and Dave Smith OB6 and Korg Minilogue – responsible for the riff. In this very case, the sounds of these three synthesizers inspired us to create Aqua. First, there was a riff idea and then a long-lasting refinement of details that took us up to 2 months. It’s not easy when you know you have a riff and the rest isn’t keeping up with it. It seems to us that the final result we managed to achieve here is at least optimal.
How did the superb remixers (Jackspeare, Jimpster and Lake People) get involved for this release? was that down to the label or did you have a say in this?
When it comes to the remixes, starting from Jackspeare, it is in fact our second alias! We use our aliases depending on the direction of the track. Jackspeare has a more electronic touch and that’s why we’ve decided to assign this version to Jackspeare. As for the other remixers, we got in touch with them ourselves and supplied the entire release with remixed tracks to the label afterwards. Jimpster is great and we’ve been valuing him for many years for his musical genius and feeling for tunes. There was no other option than to ask Jamie for his own interpretation. When it comes to Lake People, he’s an extraordinary producer of the “new generation” that we’ve been watching for some time. We bought his album on vinyl and after listening to it in full, we decided that it would fit perfectly.
Can you each pick your essential bits of studio hardware and software plugins you would be lost without?
As usual, this is one of the most difficult questions a producer can hear. As we’ve already mentioned, instruments are a huge inspiration. Each of them sounds different, each has a different personality, each is almost irreplaceable in some issues. From the whole collection, it’s hard to name one or even five unique ones It happens so that an instrument is taken into the workshop and then it is significantly modified. You interact with it, get to know it, so at a given moment it is the only one that is great. After that there’s another one that turns out to be great for a brief moment. Of course, things are getting better and worse, but like with everything, this is very subjective. In our collection, there are still instruments that we’ve never used before but we know that when it is their turn they will be standing on the podium. That’s when they’re going to be covered in glory. This is the case with hardware instruments. Apart from their qualitative values, staying in touch with them is like interacting with a physical record. We love vinyl records and we still buy them. There is nothing better than to take a cover, see what’s inside, read about what the author had in mind, what equipment he used, what he thought while writing music… That is not included in mp3 files. Unfortunately, this isn’t included in streaming either. We treat it all only like consumption, sometimes adding to it thinking about other things… Recently, we’ve bought Dominion Club from MFB which we’re currently testing in the studio. A beautiful instrument, seemingly small and inconspicuous, but inspirational and like almost any non-modular instrument, it is limited and you get bored with it quickly. Eventually, it will keep sounding the same for us all the time, even though it will sound different for someone standing aside. In our opinion, a man shouldn’t lock himself to a given thing. It’s incomprehensible for us to buy several instruments and claim that for the next 10 years they will still be inspiring us in exactly the same way. For a long time, it seemed to us that when we were shut in a studio based on a computer and software it was beautiful. Theoretically, it is beautiful because you can take your laptop wherever you want and you can start creating. But it’s not the same. Arturia, when releasing its virtual instruments, did a piece of good work. When you listen to the sounds from Analog Lab for example, you may think that this is exactly what you need, but soon reality questions this. You put such an instrument in the mix and try to work it in a good studio-quality sound and then it turns out that it doesn’t look so colourful anymore. Even the fact that you will sound like 1’000’000 other producers doesn’t matter at all. So, you then connect, for example, Moog model D and you say “God forgive me, I have sinned!” But also, there are many software plug-ins that do things that hardware won’t even consider doing, so all in all, let’s hope that this world consisting of two parallel parts of software and hardware lasts forever
We release a track only when we’re completely convinced that the direction suits us and this moment now is almost finished, so we can certainly say that the next track in 2019 will be similar to Aqua.
When you are not immersed in music production, DJing or managing, what do you both do to relax?
It’s different for each of us.
Karol: I love getting in the car and driving far away. If there is a holiday period, I get in my car and go to the Mediterranean Sea. There’s nothing special about it, most people love the view of the sea that is calming and relaxing, this also works for me.
Marek: For me, at the moment, in the selfishness category, such a long break from creating music has resulted in me wanting to devote any free time to catching up. I need to commune with music, I need to get myself familiar with each of the instruments separately. I play basketball regularly, it’s my second passion, but it definitely went down to the second place in terms of spending leisure time in a snobbish way.
Aside from the ‘Aqua’ EP on Get Physical what else can we expect from Karol XVII & MB Valence in 2019?
First of all, we need to make a few more adjustments in the studio to be fully satisfied with it and let us comfortably use everything that is in it. Unfortunately, it is a process that always lasts for a long time and if it ends it usually turns out that you can still make a few more changes and so on. At the same time, however, there are musical ideas that need to be put into effect, so we’re currently polishing the next tune in a vibe similar to Aqua, but, as we’ve already said, the “finishing” process is always extremely tedious. It’s not enough to come up with something, put a beat to it and be satisfied. Such cases are extremely rare. We release a track only when we’re completely convinced that the direction suits us and this moment now is almost finished, so we can certainly say that the next track in 2019 will be similar to Aqua. Then we’ll think about potential remixers for the tune, etc. We aren’t planning anything further, because we try to approach to music as art and this art hates schemes, calendars and plans
Check out Karol XVII and MB Valence’s