Over the past year, us folk at TranceMag have tried to offer you an insight into the lives and releases of some very interesting people in this scene of ours. Now, the time has come for this insight series to continue with Swedish production wiz John Eriksson, better know to you and me as You Are My Salvation (or simply, YAMS). We caught up with the man himself, and threw some questions at him, while patiently waiting for a result. The aftermath of all that, below.
TranceMag: Curiosity is an interesting quality, and one that is at the root of the first question, namely what influenced you to start producing?
You Are My Salvation: I don’t think there is a specific answer to that. I’ve been listening to Electronic Music for the last 25 years, but it’s maybe the last 10 years I’ve been making music myself. I was just a listener for a long time (and still am). I think my story is not that different from a lot of producers out there. I got a hold of a copy of a few eJay products, and when I grew tired of the pre-made loops, I discovered FL Studio. Back then, I was just fiddling around, unaware what I was doing, but maybe around 2008-2009, I really got into it.
But what influenced me? Well, I think it was (and still is) a way to express myself, to unleash energy and my creative thoughts.
TM: Nearly a decade of producing is no small feat, so congratulations on that front. I assume this wish to express yourself is also reflected in your stage name, You Are My Salvation. Is there a particular significance to this alias?
YAMS: An alias is something that almost belongs to the past nowadays, it seems. Long gone are the days of having multiple aliases, which saddens me a bit. I really like the idea of an alias, not for building your own brand, but to take the focus away from the brand and the person(s) doing the music, focusing instead on the music itself. Take Oliver Lieb or Airwave for example. How many aliases did they have back in the day? For my YAMS alias, I wanted something to reflect the atmosphere of my music. Something a bit dark and mysterious. I guess I also wanted it to have some religious undertones as well.
I was also a bit inspired by some indie rock bands, for example God is an Astronaut, Explosion in the sky, and Maybeshewill. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to write out, so YAMS is also ok.
TM: On the one hand, having multiple aliases allows you as an artist to present different styles of music under different monikers, therefore catering to a specific part of your fan base. On the other hand, it does take slightly more time to properly manage each one, which might be why some folks have drifted away from having more than one.
YAMS: Indeed, and I guess it all boils down to creating some sort of brand. A good brand is what will land you gigs, and gigs are where the money lies for a producer within this industry. So I totally understand why producers have one alias they focus on, but it takes away a bit of the mystery for me. Perhaps I’m a bit stuck in the past, when you bought physical records, taking the time to discover who was behind this new vinyl you just bought. I still really enjoy buying CDs and vinyl, just to discover new names, and unknown aliases of producers.
Also, back in the day, the artist contracts looked quite different than how they do now. A producer could be tied to a certain label, and the only way of releasing music was to use a different alias in order not to breach any clauses in the contract. But still, I think that a lot of the focus has been shifted from the music and to the person behind the music, which I think is a pity.
TM: It’s interesting you touched on that last point about contract clauses, because listeners may not have considered that aspect. There are a fair few factors to consider when going through the process of building up another alias. And speaking of a fair few factors, what do you think convinced you that Trance – or rather its Progressive side – is best suited for your musical endeavors?
YAMS: What really grabs me about Trance music is the plethora of feelings one can experience with the music. I personally have never experienced that with any other kind of genre – not that I don’t listen to other sorts of music, because I do. The melancholy of a beautiful Uplifting Trance track, the atmosphere of a well executed Progressive Trance production, or a the energy from a Full-On Psytrance piece is hard to beat.
My own endeavors into the more progressive sounds actually grew on me. I was mainly doing Uplifting tracks in the beginning, but I was a huge fan of the Progressive House movement back in the 90s, when Sasha and John Digweed were hammering it out. Moreover, John 00 Fleming has always been a hero of mine, and I really loved the sounds coming from his JOOF Recordings imprint. His White Label compilations were awesome as well. This is why I started to venture into the more progressive sounds, trying to find my own sound. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Uplifting Trance and really like producing it, but it’s nice to venture into the dark from time to time.
TM: I’d dare say that this kind of varienty that can be found within it is one of Trance’s strongest points, actually. You pointed out Sasha and Digweed, as well as John 00 Fleming. Are there any tracks from them or indeed anyone else in the history of the genre that have had a big impact on how you approach the creation of your own music?
YAMS: There are many. One of my biggest influences is Marc Mitchell. The stuff he and Stuart King did under their Sunday Club alias is so ahead of its time. I guess they are most known as the starter from Tiesto´s Magic 1h mix with Healing Dream, but man, what a journey that is. Another big influence on my sound is Whirloop. His music is the definition of Trance for me. Psy with Uplifting elements and a lot of energy. The atmosphere he was able to create in his tracks is phenomenal. I really miss him, and his sound. There is no one really like him today.
Others who I have listened to a lot growing up and are still my favorites today are Flutlicht, Astral Projection , Solar Fields, Vibrasphere, and Son Kite.
TM: I see you enjoy a varied assortment of genres, from Psy Trance (and its predecessor, Goa) all the way to Ambient / Chillout. Could you expand a little bit on those individually, and perhaps the reunion of them, something most folks call Downtempo Goa or Psybient?
YAMS: My love for Psytrance (and Goa) goes back to the nineties, when I got a hold of a Destination Goa compilation. It was something I had never experienced before. The quirky, twisted melodies and the fast grooves – I was fascinated. Astral Projection was my go-to favorite artist, because they combined everything I loved (and still love) about Trance. The energy, the euphoria, and the twisted melodies. Some other favorites were Chi-ad, MWNN, Hallucinogen, and Mystica. All of them combined Uplifting elements with the twisted side of Psytrance, which really spoke to me.
My door into Ambient and Chillout was a Gatecrasher compilation (Experience i think it was), which has one CD with Chillout remixes of famous Trance tracks. Then, I discovered Ultimae Records, which is maybe the most consistent label for Ambient/Chillout, in my opinion. Artists like Aes Dana, Asura, and Solar Fields are really inspiring to me. Again, the atmosphere in their tracks is out of this world. Especially Solar Fields, who might be one of the most talented producers in the last 10 years. From mind-blowing Ambient albums, to cutting edge Progressive Trance albums. I envy him.:)
TM: While Solar Fields is certainly a very talented artist, you have some downright fantastic releases yourself, from your Psybreaks piece Asynja, to the more recent Prog remix of Aquya’s Subsystem. Could you shed some light on the creation of both these seemingly different facets of your sound?
YAMS: Asynja was signed to Chris Voro’s label, Blacked Out Recordings. I have been a fan of his for a long time, especially his Psy take on Breaks. I tried to incorporate a bit the label’s sound into one of my tracks. To be honest, I don’t really know if I succeeded in that, but it turned out quite nice in the end. Chris’ remix really complemented the original as well.
With my remix of Subsystem, I did not try to create something that would work in a club, but something with my atmosphere. Whenever I do a track, whether it’s an original or a remix, I never aim for it to sound good in a club. I make music that you can sit in you favorite chair or sofa and enjoy, just as I enjoy music. I’m not a clubber, and I try to add that in the music I make.
When it comes to the production aspect, the workflow does not really differ from a remix to an original. I start out with a good groove, and add in bits and pieces along the way.
TM: Looking a bit towards the near future, you have a release coming under Forescape Digital. Is there anything you can share about this mysterious piece, maybe give us an insight into why it’s named as such?
YAMS: Yes, It’s called Tired Giant, and it’ll be out on August 28th. I was playing Shadow of the Colossus a lot when I made the track, and the game really inspired me both musically and also in naming the track. In the game, there is a beautiful dystopian world, filled with giant colossi. The game is a bit melancholic, so I tried to recreate that in the track. Tired Giant was first signed with Addictive Sounds, but the label shut down unfortunately. Then, the track found a new home with my friends at Forescape. This will be a single release, but there will be a remix edition later on, with some huge remixers, so I’m really looking forward to that.
TM: Speaking of things people should look forward to, you recently unveiled a new format for your mix series, the aptly called In Session, which is geared as a follow-up to your Escapism brand. Can you expand a little on that subject?
YAMS: It was a combination of two things. The major one was that I felt I did not have the time to do a 2 hour show each month, considering a full time job, and a family with two small kids. It takes a lot of time to search for music, check promos, do the show and finishing touches. The other factor was that I was a bit tired of the feeling that in order to be valid, you need to play the newest music, which to me is really weird if you think about the amount of released music there is. That’s why I felt it was time to put Escapism to sleep.
But i really love doing mixes, searching for music and playing the music that I love, so I felt that “In Session” was a proper substitute. It’s on a “when-I-have-the-time” basis, so I can have the freedom to play whatever and whenever I want. My main aim is to play whatever I want, be it either 145 BPM, twisted Psytrance, or 120 BPM, mellow Progressive House. I’ve done two sessions thus far: one with lush Progressive House sounds, and one with the dark and warm sound of Coldharbour.
I also see In Session as a way of showcasing maybe lesser-known music that I feel hasn’t gotten the attention it deserved when it was first released.
TM: We’ve touched on what the near future holds, but is there anything else, perhaps later down the line that you’d like to mention?
YAMS: I’m thinking in very loose terms of doing an album. I love artist albums, so why not do one for myself? I’ve actually finished 4-5 tracks already, so perhaps it will see the light of day, eventually. The perfect artist album in my mind is one that takes you on a journey, that tells you a story. I know it’s a bit cliché, but I really do think so. I would love to showcase my whole palette of genres, from slow Ambient, to full, pumping 145 Psy. Hopefully, I will find the time and inspiration to finish it someday.
TM: In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say to those reading this interview?
YAMS: Thank you so much for managing to read it all to the end 😉. No, but thanks a lot for all the support out there. All the positive comments and support are big reason why I continue to make music. A special thanks to TranceMag as well, for doing this interview.
We’d like to extend a warm thank you to John (YAMS) for taking a bit of time to sit down with us and respond to our questions. Don’t forget to grab your own copy of Tired Giant when it hits stores tomorrow.