Interview: Satori

Satori is a Dutch artist known for his charismatic live performances that incorporate a unique blend of world music and electronic sounds.

With his previous releases coming on labels like Crosstown Rebels, he has built a solid reputation as a producer and most recently put out a special reworks album on American imprint Sol Selectas.

We spoke to him about the new album, how he came to work with Sabo and Sol Selectas on the project, his thoughts on performing live and Covid-19.

Let’s talk about your new Re:Imagined album on Sol Selectas, what’s the main inspiration behind this one?

It all came about as a bit of a surprise, I was preparing for a 10 hour live set in Amsterdam and I always like to include some other tracks that I can jam with in the moment. I reached out to Sabo who was kind enough to send me the full catalogue of Sol Selectas. I started jamming with a couple of parts from certain tracks and they worked really well. From there, I decided that for every track I wanted to use, I’d dive in to the origin of the samples and the artist to study the local music, instrument, rhythms and art in order to get inspiration.

It’s unusual for an album to blend originals and reworks, what came first, the originals or remixes?

In a way they started at the same time, I’m always working on multiple projects in the studio, and never with the intention to make a track per se, but usually to make little jam elements for my live show. Remixes and originals both started this way for this album. In the end, it was a matter of shaping them into tracks, and making sure they have a shared energy, which to me gives this project a cohesive feeling. I always start from scratch to have the same approach for a remix as I do for an original.

Who picked out the Sol Selectas tracks that you reimagined with a rework, did you have the whole of the Sol Selectas catalogue to choose from or did Sabo shortlist the tracks?

I was lucky enough to have the full catalogue, but Sabo helped me along to suggest several tracks that he felt could work well for me, and he was right!

How did you approach the project? Did you feel any pressure considering how iconic some of the tracks are such as Namito’s Stone Flower? 

Well, for Stone Flower particularly, I was already using loops of it in my live set, and when I used the vocal sample of the legendary Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir, it really came together. After a video of this track surfaced online it went kind of viral, and the daughter of Ahmad Zahir reached out to me expressing her excitement for the track. She also gave us the full rights to use this original sample, so for me personally, it is one of the most special projects I’ve done.

You are known for being a live act instead of a DJ, have you ever tried to mix records on a set of decks, or is it just not a you thing?

I started out with DJing in late 2008 and did that for about 3 years, but even at that time I just felt limited. It’s not a stab at DJ’s because I really respect and love the artform, but for me I was not able to express myself properly. It felt like my hands were tied, and after moving to live performing I started to experience complete freedom. Playing live gives me the opportunity to really push the boundaries, so I’m constantly trying to take more risks, and explore the options, which I really love. I always felt awkward receiving applause when I was DJing, as it was not my own music, but I always want it to be.

Talking of playing live, I see you are still planning to do a show at this year’s ADE, how much extra planning was involved to make the event Covid safe?

I was planning to do two seated shows at Paradiso this year, however in the most recent Covid update of rule changes mean we must postpone them. It was a lot of work to get this done, and we were able to have 250 visitors per show, however at the moment we can only do 30, so it doesn’t make sense anymore.

When playing live, do you follow a prearranged set list or free-flow and play what feels right in that moment?

It’s completely improvised, as when performing I need that freedom. I get bored really easily, and the moment what I’m doing feels repetitive, then I have to go to the studio right away, as that means I need to make new hooks, loops and jams. I strive to always challenge myself whilst performing, and want to evolve during every show. I want to have a dialogue with the crowd where we feed off each other, because if there isn’t that back and forth communication, then it becomes a monologue, which is really boring and uninspiring.

Outside of Sol Selectas which you clearly have a lot of love for, which other labels do you really respect, and are there any labels you hope to one day release with that you haven’t had the chance yet?

To be honest I’m not keeping up to date with too many labels at the moment, when I stopped DJ’ing and moved to playing live I kind of lost a little touch with my label knowledge, but Ninja Tune would always be nice.