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TranceMag Interviews: Dennis Sheperd and Protoculture

If you are an aspiring trance producer and haven’t heard of the upcoming Bali Trance Retreat yet, do yourself a favour and check it out! With a concept that is a first of its kind, you can spend a week in the beautiful city of Bali, being taught the craft by 4 world-renowned trance producers. Comprising of Dennis Sheperd, Sied van Riel, Protoculture and Mark Sixma.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dennis Sheperd and Protoculture (aka Nate Raubenheimer) to discuss the retreat, their musical inspirations and beginnings, and more.

TranceMag: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today gentlemen, how are you?

Dennis Sheperd: Really good, thanks. Writing you from the train being on my way from Berlin to Zandvoort to attend Luminosity as a guest.

Nate Raubenheimer : All good, just on my way home from some shows in Ibiza and recording a guest mix on ASOT in Amsterdam.

TM: The upcoming retreat is something I’m sure is exciting for all involved. Can you tell us a bit about it?

DS: Sure. The concept is very unique and something like this hasn’t been done before. There will be 4 producers and up to 12 paying guests who will all stay in a villa in Bali for a week of seminars and 1 on 1 sessions. We got our inspiration from what digital nomads often do: Workations!

NR: There are a lot of tutorials out there for up and coming producers, but nothing that’s as hands on as this, plus it’s exciting for us producers to get together in the studio to discuss ideas, and all in an idyllic setting like Bali.

TM: How has the response been since it was announced?

DS: Absolutely breathtaking! Everyone loves the concept, the producers and the public! I already have a huge list of people who already had plans and couldn’t make it this time but want to partake next time!

NR: I’m not too involved in admin side of the whole concept but the feedback so far via social media etc. has been great.

TM: Have you done anything of this kind before? Or is this a first?

DS: As this is a unique concept, it’s a first. But I have done many 1 on 1 classes in my studio in Berlin before, and I regularly do Skype teaching sessions.

Dennis Sheperd

NR: I’ve done a few video tutorial series for companies like Sonic Academy and Futurephonics. For Futurephonices we did live google hangouts but this Trance retreat is the first fully hands on and in person lectures I’ll be giving.

TM: You have both cemented your status in the scene, but everyone has to start somewhere. How did music production start for you guys?

DS: I didn’t have a clue about music production at all but knew that I love Electronic Dance Music. Therefore I started with Dance Ejay in 2004 (super amateurish software) and then quickly went to Reason after getting some good feedback on my early tries. Everything was pretty much self-taught, there weren’t any tutorials on YouTube and Facebook back then. But at least I learned it the proper way and know all the basics!

NR: I’m an audio engineer by trade plus I’ve been fiddling with electronic music production since I was 12. I started out with software like Fastracker and Voyetra Pro ages ago before studying and moving onto Logic and Cubase. I met the guys from Nano Records at college and got sucked into the psy-trance scene after that.

TM: If you could go back to the early stages of this process, what advice would you give yourself?

DS: I would give my parents the advice to get myself into playing piano as a child. 😉 Unfortunately I didn’t really grow up learning an instrument. It would have helped though. Other than that teaching myself music production was pretty straight forward and I didn’t have too many issues learning it. One thing I probably did right, was: Just getting there by learning, by doing, and not being too theoretical about everything.

NR: Be honest and true to yourself, I’ve often spent too much time as an artist worrying about what other people think. Do your own thing have faith in yourself and you’ll go places.

TM: There seems to be a popular question. Which DAW is best? What platforms do you guys use and what would your answer be?

DS: There is no best DAW in my opinion, honestly. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages. You can’t go wrong with any of the professional DAW’s. Personally I use Cubase as my main DAW nowadays but can also work in Reaper, Ableton & Reason.

NR: I’ve been through so many over the years and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I settled on Cubase after Logic went mac only, but I really fell in love with Steinberg’s approach to audio editing. It’s kinda like Pro Tools but with great midi implementation as well. Other software I’ve used over the years include Cakewalk, Logic, Ableton, Reason, Fruity Loops, Acid, Pro Tools, Soundscapes and a few others.


TM: Aside from themselves, what can the participants bring to this event, either physically or mentally?

DS: It’s a whole big group gathering. The idea is for the participants to connect with each other as well as learning from us professionals. Helping each other is what has helped me most in becoming a good music producer. We want the participants to prepare 1-2 of their own nearly finished tracks as well for a possible opportunity to get some of those tracks mixed & mastered live. Also the participants can bring a small keyboard to help making their experience better. It’s not mandatory though. What is mandatory is a good production laptop and good studio headphones, to be able to work on stuff and following the seminars.

NR:  I guess just come prepared with questions. We’ll obviously try to cover as much as possible but there’s so much to audio production that having a sense of what your strong and weak points are would really help focus the lessons.

TM: You have both performed in Bali before. What can you share with us about the city?

DS: Lovely and vibrant city. People are friendly and the scenery is very beautiful and inspiring. A perfect spot for our first Retreat!

NR: My only complaint about Bali is I never get to hang out here enough! I love playing there, always a good time.

TM: Also known as ‘The Island of Gods’ Bali seems to have a spiritual appeal. Is this something you’ve experienced there? How does the concept resonate with you?

DS: No, I personally didn’t have much time in Bali the first and only time I went, so I couldn’t venture out to temples or do yoga sessions. It is a very interesting topic though, but I think during our retreat week there won’t be enough time to give this a try unfortunately.

NR: I’ve never spent enough time there to experience the island to its fullest, but have heard great things and would love to in the future.

TM: The location itself is sure to provide a lot of inspiration. Where do you guys find your inspiration?

DS: Daily life & experiences + listening to music. But inspiration can come even during the production from as little as a certain sound played in a certain way.

NR: I spend a lot of time in the mountains in Cape Town. I’m lucky to live really close to some amazing ranges and spend a lot of time trail running, climbing and mountain biking which is often where I get to really soak up inspiration.

TM: Any current or upcoming news for you guys?

DS: I think it’s safe to say, that Nate and I have worked on a collaboration while I was recently visiting Cape Town. Other than that I am currently working on a release for Coldharbour Recordings. And just recently, my tune “Reconnected” has been released and my fans love that record!

NR: I’ve just released a new single with Statement Recordings, but tons of other stuff is in the pipeline. Delivered 4 to Armada for release in the coming months and starting work on a new album now soon too.

TM: Do you have any final words to those wanting to be a part of this amazing opportunity?

Don’t miss out! This will be a once in a life opportunity and I can guarantee you that it will be one of the best weeks of our lives! Check out the website and if you have questions, get in touch, we don’t bite!

There you have it folks, two of the A-League producers you will be learning from at the inaugural Trance Retreat in Bali. Head over to the website now and secure your spot, before it’s too late!

Website: Trance Retreat

Connect With:

Dennis Sheperd: FacebookTwitterWebsite

Protoculture: FacebookTwitterWebsite

Press images courtesy of Edwin Tsui (co-organiser)

About Chris Lipapis

South Australian born/Melbourne-based DJ, with a decade-long passion for Trance music. If I’m not listening to it, I’m studying the industry, and global scene…Also known to be a sucker for 80s and Metal music…

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