American electronic musician ‘Eco’, known for his soul – stirring experimental trance sound, is back with a new artist album titled ‘Wolves’, which was released on the 14th of October. We use the occasion to get an insight into how the album came to be and what is to be expected from the same.
Hi Marcello! Firstly, congratulations on the release of your first album! Can you tell us a little bit about the premise on which “Wolves” was based on?
Thank you! When imagining the theme and concept behind “Wolves”, I had in mind a vague story about a kid running away from home and everything the kid knows, in order to reach “the unknown”. I wanted to convey this journey through music, and so I set out crafting the songs in the mould of the story. The kid’s time lost in the forest would be physically trying, as well mentally. I imagined a pack of wolves that the runaway is running from, but that a duality could exist: are these wolves real? Or are these wolves a figment of the kid’s imagination, a representation of all the mistakes and missteps made in the kid’s earlier life?
What kind of music and what artists have you been listening to in order to draw inspiration for “Wolves”?
I drew a lot of inspiration from bands like Sigur Ros, Explosions In The Sky, Arcade Fire, even Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd. Notice: no trance. I really tried to put myself in a different mindset while making this album, and not get sucked into the trap of “trying to sound like other trance records”. I like to think that’s what made it so unique; or so I’ve been told!
This is the first time we have seen an artist release a book along with their album. How was this conceptualised? And what was the idea behind the book and the album? How exactly do they compliment each other?
I gave a lot of thought to the theme and the concept, as you saw in my answer to the first question. But the challenge of telling a very specific story through music (and mostly instrumental vocal-less music, at that) became more difficult than I’d imagine. I eventually made peace with the reality that the story would be left untold and vague. However, a friend of mine, Gabriella Petrillo, a writer here in New Jersey, offered to put help put pen to paper on this very story. And so I let her hear the album, and after she went on a bit of a journey herself (she drove across the United States over the summer and then came back), she returned full of inspiration and energy, of which she channeled into the short story. Her story was actually the driving force in a last minute reshuffling of the track order in a way I think made more sense. I changed the track order less than a month before the album’s release date, and I think it works way more closely with the story. They compliment each other incredibly.
How long did it take you to complete the entire album?
Over three years! Although, there were moments during this span where I did not really write much, and other moments where I wrote a lot. I think about a year and a half ago is when I got really serious and started to put some really consistent work toward the album’s completion. By June of this year, it was about 95% complete, and I made the last bit of changes late August!
What was the reason behind you temporarily giving trance a backseat? What drew you back to the sounds?
I wouldn’t say I gave trance a backseat, but I guess I kind of lost some interest in the genre. In my “day job”, I work in architecture, something I really enjoy and have an equal amount of passion for, so I settled into that lifestyle, and musically, trance music wasn’t really interesting me all that much anymore; and generally speaking, it still isn’t. But eventually, I guess I kind of woke up and decided to write some ideas down and start making trance music on my own terms. I have a great job, I make the money I need to survive, so let me get back to making trance 100% for fun. Let me experiment, who the hell cares? These were my thoughts as I began to work on the album. I think you can sense that sort of attitude in the album, as it doesn’t sound like it’s trying to be a hit record; it’s just trying to be itself.
What would be your main inspiration behind the entire album?
I’d say some of the great concept albums of the 1960s and 1970s were my biggest inspiration. Some of the Pink Floyd concept albums, like “The Wall”, for example. It’s always my aim to tell a story with the music and a full-length album is the perfect format to do so.
How did you expect people to receive and react to your album?
I kind of prepared for the worst. I recognised that I hadn’t really put out more than 1 or 2 tunes over the span of several years, hadn’t really played too many gigs or made too many waves. The trance scene is interesting like that, it’s very easy to fall off the map very quickly, and I came to terms and accepted that. I knew my most diehard fans would really like it, but I didn’t expect it to make too many waves around the scene. And then it came out, and the next thing I knew, it was in the top 10 on iTunes’ Dance Charts, ahead of some really really really big names; and number 1 on the Beatport Trance Releases Charts. These are numbers I’ve never really done before; and more important than that were some of the messages I’d received from fans, about the impact the album had on their lives. That’s the most amazing validation you can receive.
If you ever had the opportunity to perform the work from your album live, would you take it up? What is your opinion on trance being performed live as compared to general mixing of sounds?
Not only “would” I, but that’s the plan. I plan on going live in the next 2 years. How exactly that’s going to do? I don’t really know yet haha… But I think that’s the next direction, not only for the genre, but for myself. I need to keep pushing the boundaries, I have fun DJing, but it leaves me unfulfilled compared to when I’m producing. So I think performing live would bring a whole new energy to my act.
We have seen that you have been receiving a lot of support from various artists including Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten and Solarstone to mention a few names. How essential do you think is this for making “Wolves” more successful?
Oh, so essential. We wouldn’t even be doing this interview if it weren’t for the support so many of the big names have given me, not only now, but over the last 10 years. Armin van Buuren, especially, has been a fan of my music from the start and has given me the opportunity to be listened to by tens of millions of people worldwide. That kind of marketing is invaluable.
How do you think we can overcome the fact that music is so disposable nowadays? The lifespan of a track today is approximately 2-3 weeks. How will “Wolves” be any different?
I don’t think there’s any way to change it on the business or listener end. I think the change needs to start from the artists. Maybe we should stop making music that’s so disposable. So many artists cut and paste templates and the same samples and the same synth presets, as if they’re all using the same bits and pieces to create different stuff; but at the end of the day, it all sounds the f*****g same. Commercial, underground, uplifting, psytrance, people put themselves into these categories and then all sound the same as the other 20-30 guys in those categories. It’s frustrating because trance music has no boundaries, it can be anything, and yet most of the producers in the scene almost voluntarily create these boundaries that they work within, and the result is a scene where 9 songs out of 10 all sound the same. I guess that’s another discussion for another day!
Any musicians you are looking forward to work with in the future?
Definitely! There are a lot of non-trance vocalists and instrumentalists out there I want to work with. I haven’t approached them or talked to them about this, but a few names would be: Phoria, William Ryan Fritch, Vessels, Doe Paoro, Kishi Bashi. This is a wish list though, many of these people are out of reach, but hey, you never know!
I clearly remember this post that a fan had once written to you, where your track “A cry to the moon” had literally managed to bring out the suppressed emotion of a man sitting beside him while he was travelling. When you get to hear such positive anecdotes and reactions about your tracks, does it motivate you to produce more?
Oh yes. Without a doubt. The messages I have gotten after the release of “Wolves” have even surpassed that! One message I will never forget, I received the very night my album released. The message was from a cancer patient who said that when I announced the “Wolves” release date, he used that as motivation to keep fighting, to keep living. For months, he was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer. And right before my album released, he said the doctors told him that the treatment had worked. The cancer was gone. He sent me this message on Facebook around 3AM, and my album had released on iTunes at midnight, so he must have just listened to it. I’m telling you the very short version of that message, but the long version made me cry that whole weekend.
I get a lot of messages too from American soldiers overseas, in Iraq or Afghanistan; and a ton of messages from people who’ve told me that my music saved them from some dark places, in some cases suicide. This is what keeps me going, this is why I do what I do; and I will do it till I die.
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