A (Movement) Conversation With: Sian
International purveyor of “classic modern techno,” Sian is more than your average DJ. With releases on labels like Soma, Poker Flat, SCI + TEC, and of course his own blossoming Octopus Recordings – all of which display his characteristically unique approach to electronic music, it’s easy to see why we were excited to spot him on the Movement lineup. We were even more excited to see him head up the lineup for the Octopus Showcase at Bleu next Sunday night, alongside some of our other favorites, Marc Houle, Kenny Larkin, Justin James, and Weska. We had a chance to chat with Sian to find out more about the party, his approach to making music, his advice for upcoming producers, and more.
RP: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, we’re really excited about the party and seeing you at Movement! It’s the first time you’re playing there, right?
Sian: Yeah, I just held out on my agent until it happened. It’s my first year there, so I’m playing kind of early on the Beatport stage, which is gonna be fun. Even though it’s not a big headline spot I’m still hyped about it.
Your party is Sunday night, and you’re playing Monday, so that should work out nicely.
Pretty excited about the after party we’re doing. It’s almost sold out now, it’s had a really good response and it’s also been listed as a top party of the week by a few magazines so that’s pretty cool. That should be an extra bonus to get people to come see me the next day!
So did you curate the lineup yourself?
Yeah, Jon, my agent, is also Marc Houle’s agent, I told him who I wanted and everyone said yes so that was great.
You also put out an EP this week, that’s exciting!
It seems to be doing well already! The last thing I did kind of had weird vocals and stuff in it and a lot of people got distracted by that but this one seems to be selling well. It’s similar to the tracks that I did last year that went to the Beatport charts really quick, so we’ll see.
How do you usually make your music; do you have a home studio?
Yes, I’m actually in it now! I live in an apartment in the center of Barcelona, there’s an extra room that has big windows in the front and all my equipment set up there.
What are your go-to pieces of equipment right now?
I’m using Ableton Push a lot, and about a year ago I converted over to Universal Audio, it’s like having a separate computer chip in your interface, so all the processing power is on the device and your computer is freed up to other stuff. Do you produce music?
Yeah, but I’d hardly call myself a producer right now, it’s tough to find time to get in there.
It’s hard! You have to commit 100% and basically be a homeless person for a while to get it. You have to sacrifice your social life and things like financial security to start.
Do you have any background of formal musical training?
I kind of played a bit of everything actually, bit of keyboards, bass, and drums and all kinds of stuff. I’m not so into playing stuff, I’d rather just mess around with patterns and arpeggiators to make music. I’m more into the computer-generated stuff. Instead of sitting down and writing a chord, I’d rather mess around with notes and put it through chord generators.
Your label has been doing well, we’ve been seeing it all over the place lately! What’s the best thing about putting your own music out on your own label?
The obvious thing is that I can do whatever I want. That was the reason I set the label up in the first place. I was finding that I didn’t fit on other labels and the kind of music I wanted to make wasn’t really being represented anywhere else.
What sets it apart from other labels?
We have a weird slant on big room techno, it is accessible, and we’re about big party rocker tracks, but in a stranger way. A bit more avant-garde vibe. I think we bridge that gap between big, brainless techno tunes and more intelligent stuff.
Are there any more upcoming releases in the coming weeks?
End of the Beginning is the first single off my upcoming album, I’m going to do another single in July, then the album comes out in September.
What was the main inspiration behind the album?
I’ve been working and working and working, I actually wrote about 60 tracks and then widdled it down to 23. There’s no great concept behind it, it’s a bunch of tunes I was writing and then testing out in clubs and at home on a lot of different sound systems. They all came together to where it felt more like an album than a bunch of singles.
So you’re currently residing in Barcelona, how is it? How long have you lived there?
I’ve been here almost 6 years, I grew up in the south of Spain and was between here and Berlin for a few years. It’s good, it’s sad because a lot of clubs are closing here, but I play at Club4 which is the best spot for techno. We’re doing a party there during Sónar Festival.
Growing up there, were you exposed to electronic music pretty young?
Oh yeah, I started going to raves when I was 14 or so. The first time I went to a club, I was 12 and I snuck in. When I was going out it was very acid house and almost italo disco, so that was a big influence on the stuff I make now.
Who were your first favorite DJs?
The ones that really blew me away when I first started going out were Juan Atkins, Plastikman live, Green Velvet, Jeff Mills, and Carl Cox would be the first ones that seemed like superstars when you saw them.
So when did you start making your own music?
About five years ago I got to focus fully on my own stuff. I was working producing some other people and working on some pop, still electronic, but pop projects.. Doing a lot of other people’s stuff and it gradually became financially viable to do my own stuff. If you keep at it, the rewards can be pretty big.
Do you have any advice you would give for people trying to get to that point?
The main thing is not to give up. Nowadays there’s so much noise, and it’s so hard to get through. In one way it’s more democratic, because you can become a superstar on Soundcloud, whereas when I started there wasn’t that opportunity to get heard. There’s still this attitude where people expect to be famous overnight, but I would say give yourself a 3-5 year plan and take it step by step. One of the problems with new artists we sign to the label is that they seem to think “ok, I have one hit, and I’m going to be touring all over the world.” If you look at it, Adam Beyer has a 20 year career under his belt. Richie has 25. I would set your goals longer distance, not everything has to happen fast like that.
Who are some of your techno buddies, your favorite people to play shows with?
If you look at the roster we’re trying to develop, there’s Etai Tarazi, Boryana, Barbuto, Weska, Daryl Stay.. Some of them are known and others are becoming known, and they’re our Octopus crew, our future heroes.
Lastly, we love tattoos, do you have any current favorites you want to point out?
At the moment I like the ones on my hands and neck because they’re new and the novelty is still there, but it’s an ongoing work in progress.
Catch Sian in Detroit at Bleu on Sunday night and at Movement on Monday from 2-3PM on the Beatport stage!
Special thanks to LCPR. See you in the D!!