The rising star of the Drumcode stable plays Egg, London this weekend
With tracks signed to Drumcode, Octopus Black Label, Syncopate Black and more, as well as a series of self-released EPs, Toronto-born producer Weska is a name that should be familiar to most self-respecting techno lovers by now.
He hasn't always been a technohead, though – or even, originally, much of a clubber. Rather than spending Friday and Saturday nights on the dancefloor, a younger Weska dedicated his weekends to snowboarding, skating and mountain biking. So his first exposure to electronic music was on the extreme sports videos he avidly devoured.
Accordingly, it was EDM stars like Eric Prydz, deadmau5 and Steve Angello who were his first inspirations. Slowly but surely, though – and perhaps not unconnected to a move to Berlin – he found his way into darker, more underground pastures, even if tracks like Alpha Rhythm, released on Drumcode's A-Sides Vol 8 back in September, or Transforma, from 2018's Filth On Acid EP Stellar Tidal Disruption, still evidence an EDM-like appreciation for big room drama and soaring melodies.
This weekend you've got a rare chance to catch him in action in the UK, when he plays Egg in London tomorrow night (Sunday 8 December). So what better time to find out a bit more about the lad?
As this is the first time we've spoken, can you start by telling iDJ readers a bit about yourself and your musical background…
"Hello iDJ readers! I’m Weska and I make dance music of all sorts. I’m originally from Canada but I now reside in Berlin, Germany. I’ve been doing music my whole life – piano, guitar etc – but I’ve been DJing for almost 10 years and producing for six".
You had a collaboration with Bart Skils out on Drumcode a couple of months back, so tell us about that: I gather you and Bart have been friends for a while?
"Bart and I first met years ago in Toronto when played a show there. He actually played one of my tracks that night, which was a big deal for me at the time. We had a bunch of ideas and had been talking about making music. We sent stuff back and forth by email and Polarize came to life! The whole process actually happened both quickly and smoothly."
I'm also told Eric Prydz has been something of a mentor/supporter over the years. How did that come about, and what do you feel you've learned from him?
"I listened to Eric’s music long before I produced and DJ’d, and it would be wrong for me to say I’m the only one who’s learned a lot from him. He’s created his own Prydz genre, which acts as his own kingdom of music. It consists of techno, progressive, housey progressive and more – which he does so well.
"His melody layering is insane, that’s definitely something I’ve admired about his music over the years. But his DJing is also great, technically and sonically, and I’ve incorporated a few of his techniques into my own style of DJing as well."
Your music has appeared on many of the most respected techno labels around, including Drumcode, Cocoon and Filth On Acid… yet I gather that when you first got into production, you were more a progressive house kinda guy?
"Like I mentioned above, I was into Eric’s music from the beginning. Some of the other Swedes inspired me too, Steve Angello for example, and deadmau5 from my hometown Toronto. I’m a sucker for a good melody, in pop music or in any genre actually. I love when chords just flow, when an arp gives you goosebumps.
"But I think my music sounds the way it does now because of what I listened to in my early days of listen to electronic music, which was Eric and Joel. It’s ironic how they did a whole tour of back-to-back shows and are friends this day. I still listen to some progressive tracks from time to time, but I find a lot of techno these days is getting very progressive anyways."
The boundaries between 'techno' and 'prog' are indeed very blurry right now, and some have complained that techno is getting increasingly trance-like. Thoughts? A healthy breaking down of barriers, or a sign of the techno scene becoming increasingly commercialised?
"I think techno will always be around. The reason it's done so well and other genres have perhaps faded, is that for techno you just need a good kick, but for real. It’s almost tribal or ceremonial – dancing around a fire just to the beat of a drum. That’s what techno is, a consistent rhythm. These other genres, there’s a time and a place for them, but they can get tiring, sonically but also taste-wise.
"Techno now, yes, I would have to agree – some of it is getting a bit trancy, but it works! I used to be all about the large breakdowns, but as I’ve DJ'd more and more, I’ve steered away from massive breaks because it sometimes kills the vibe on the dancefloor. Or I’ll add some rhythm into the break or keep a loop going, keeps the dancing going instead of just stopping. I do think a big melodic moment is important in every set, just not every single break down. Catch my drift?
"I think techno is becoming more commercial because people’s tastes are changing and they’re digging deeper into the roots, but you’re right – the barriers are becoming thinner and thinner."
You're playing in the UK soon, aren't you? Fill us in…
"Yes, I'll be in London on 8 December with my friend and fellow Drumcode artist Layton Giordani. We are both playing at Egg. It’s going to be super fun and I encourage anyone in London to come have a dance with us!"
Speaking of DJing, how do you see yourself: as first and foremost a DJ, or a musician/producer?
"Both, 100 per cent. I love both, I need both, and they both completely play off each other, for me at least. DJing came first in my world, and it got to a point where I had a few friends making music, it sounded fun, and I really wanted people to dance to my own stuff. Because I do both, they each play a super-important role in the production process.
"I get inspired by mixes I do when I DJ live, and try to re-live and remember these ideas in the studio. And when I’m making music, I try to think of the special moments I've had when DJing or on the dancefloor, and create those kinds of atmospheres. It’s also great making a track and then going and playing it and seeing the crowd reaction.
"It’s all about the music in the end, and I love that I can make it anywhere in the world with my computer."
Just your computer? Are you an 'in the box' kinda guy, then, rather than a hardware nut?
"I have a few hardware synths, the Nord Rack and a Yamaha CS Reface, but I’m mostly in the box. I don’t do anything super fancy, but I love a few Waves plug-in’s, all the CLA stuff is great, and iZotope’s Ozone – they’re a great company and that thing is magic. More recently I’ve gotten into Kush Audio’s stuff, they really shape your sounds properly and give them this warmer, less digital feel. As for synths, I rotate heavily between Serum, Sylenth and Diva. They’re all wicked."
As one long-haired guy to another – and there aren't that many of us around in dance music these days – may I congratulate you on a fine mane! Any hair care tips to share?
"Ha ha ha, cheers to you as well mate! I try not wash it very often – that’s my main tip though."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I have lots of music coming out soon and I can’t wait for you all to hear it."
Words: Russell Deeks
Weska plays Egg, London on Sunday (8 December). His self-released First Wave EP is out via all major download stores on Friday (13 December)