Canadian DJ, producer and musician ATTLAS who first hit the spotlight back in 2015 and is signed to mau5ville, was recently featured on deadmau5‘s most recent album ‘mau5ville: Level 1,’ and has released his new track titled Courante which is now available on all major music platforms.
Putting his vision in this brand new track, ATTLAS made a very beautiful song. The single is very uplifting and euphoric, really capturing a surreal vibe and a classing blue light feeling. As someone who used to go to many trance shows growing up this really reminds me of and older ATB & Paul Van Dyke but with a modern twist. ‘Courante’ really captures what melodies should sound like and is a perfect track to get lost in to.
ATTLAS has been a very impressive DJ and has a hunger and passion to keep growing. This track really captures the evolution in music, and raises the standards for other producers. I had the pleasure of interviewing ATTLAS for XMPL – listen to his new single ‘Courante’ and read the full interview below:
XMPL: Toronto’s music scene is second to none, can you tell us what venues and artists inspired you to become a DJ/Producer?
ATTLAS: For me, it was wanting to be a creator/musician long before the focus became a bit narrower under the umbrella of electronic. I was born downtown, and first bounced in my stroller when my parents pushed me through the now-gone Sam the Record Man store. Skipping ahead a bit – I spent most of my undergrad splitting time between the Rex and the AGO. Not necessarily a harbinger of what was to come sonically, but places where I really fell into who I was as a listener and creator. In particular, an exhibition of Canadian artists’ Janet Cardiff and George Miller at the AGO informed a lot of the way I aspire to use sound, music, and characters to tell story with a bit of narrative ambiguity but retaining emotional gravity. Of course what’s a conversation about Toronto music venues without mentioning the Guvernment eh? It was the mecca – a place for electronic music when it was less cool and you didn’t have to be either. You could hide out in a side room getting your head down to a minimal record, shuffle on upstairs for a sunrise set on the rooftop patio, or get sweat on in the main room to Mark Oliver until well past breakfast. My parents still tell me stories about when the venue was called RPM – generational and Toronto misses it (and a great many other music venues lost in the last decade).
What was your most memorable experience as a DJ and which city did it take place in?
I’ll go with my first set ever – Verboten, Brooklyn (another venue that’s now gone and reformed). I was opening up for Matt Lange and deadmau5 – acts I had put on a pretty high pedestal for their production detail, professional discipline, and creative control. And to get to play with them after just putting out my first records on mau5trap? It was a dream come true. I had some family and friends there too. I’ll never forget what it felt like to feel a kick on the back of my leg only to turn around and have it be my new boss, Joel. Minutes later we were playing a b2b for a sold out room in a great city with my friends and family within arm’s reach off stage. A magic memory and an articulation of what, at that time, had been dreams.
You released 4 tracks in 2018 ‘Want’, ‘Treehouse’, ‘Concussion’ and ‘You’. What do you focus on when you create your music and how personal are those tracks to you?
I’m writing every day – I think I gave my manager a folder of 129 tracks just a couple weeks ago – but they spread a lot of sounds I’m into and curious about. I’m at the piano frequently, I’m at the guitar frequently, and I’m twisting knobs frequently. There’s an exploration that happens when you’re a bit free-er in the creative process (like, why don’t I keep the low B in throughout every chord this time? or what happens if I print just the reverb send from this track and PaulStretch it to a massive pad?) that then comes to a point of focus when you’ve gotta make sure the tracks come out in a way that makes sense. I would say my most personal music is still shared in my small circle of friends and family, but the next track we’re putting out “Courante” is really meaningful to me. There was a time when I was hyper aware of the minutia of music releases, genres, sounds, bookability, trends… until I realized none of that mattered if I wasn’t happy with who I was. I love being outside, learning, exploring, taking chances, trying to stay positive, and everything that melody and harmony can do to you. Courante feels like myself more than a lot of my music, but it’s been what I’ve working towards for a while (that is, songs that sound like who I am, not necessarily Courante as my perfect vision or anything). I can’t be afraid to be a bit happy or introspective or patient in my tracks while learning who I am through the creative (and destructive) process of music making.
Listen to ‘Want’ below:
Those 4 tracks are great because they sound very different compared to other music. What advice do you have for someone just starting to make music?
My advice is to really love music. There are a lot of times when it threatens to poison you from the inside out with money and ego popularity contests and what’s trending and what sounds old… but music can save you. You can learn and explore and make something that hasn’t been made before. It doesn’t have to be good, but just like that cake that didn’t turn out the first time, or your first run where you huffed and puffed the whole way, there’s something human in the effort of creation. You can’t know what works and doesn’t until you put that time in. Find what works for you. I keep to myself and realize when I talk to other writers and producers that are workflows are often completely different. Don’t get bullied, don’t bully – nothing is the same for two people and you can’t convince anyone of anything so don’t worry about it. You can control how much of yourself you give to the music, so control that.
Please elaborate on your journey as an artist and what kind of path you want to layout for following artists.
Well I’d say I’m a bit of an anomaly, and there are times when I’m sure I’ve made the wrong decision or decided to pursue things that didn’t come to fruition, or should have put out a banger instead of a chill thing (or vice versa), but I can share my story for sure. I grew up moving around with my family, so family and my hobbies are what’s closest to me. I learned the piano, guitars, banjos, mandolin, trumpet, and even picked up clarinet and french horn when i wanted to record them for a project of mine. My first gigs were jazz trumpet – the first time I was ever paid to play music was filling in for my trumpet teacher at an Edmonton club called Blues on Whyte. In university and afterwards at the studios I worked at, I was convinced I was on a path towards big film composition, and even made the move to LA to work under a big award-winning composer and learn hands on in the heart of it. But I was always fascinated with electronic music – my intro was through Wendy Carlos’s work for Kubrick, and that led me happily to the world of Warp Records. After deadmau5 and mau5trap expressed interest in signing a few of my demos ( they were the only label who I fired stuff of to – they were a threshold of quality I wanted to be at before I thought about it with any more seriousness) I made the risky decision to leave LA and the path of ascension I was on with film scoring to pursue a different adventure. The pursuit has still been mostly internally focused. I’m not chasing a booking at a certain venue, a particular festival slot, or a ranking on a chart. I’m trying to write good music, and in the process I’ve learned so much. Last week I spent an afternoon playing Gordon Lightfoot songs on my piano, and later today me and another producer friend are going to play a b2b on some CDJs we have set up by the window. Those musical worlds aren’t far apart inside of me.
How would you describe Canada’s music scene? Do you feel it’s overlooked at times?
I feel our big “exports” are as big as any in the world, and we all know those names. We can foster and develop true world-class music and musicians here, but it’s about finding the right kind of support. I actually don’t know if I have a good answer to this question – it’s a good question. I have a lot of peripherally related thoughts on it though. Toronto has changed a lot. Five years ago, my entire apartment cost what I now pay for just my bedroom in a shared place. The artists and venues that made Toronto the place it was for creativity can no longer afford to live and create at the same pace in this city (if they can afford it at all) and so I think we’re losing a lot of that perspective in creativity. People are stressed and spread thin and working longer hours and there’s more digital entertainment to consume than ever before at whatever price you want to pay for it, so the artists that do put on the local shows and experiment with sound and genre and performance are more of a risk than something safe, because who can play risky when it comes to covering costs? I really feel for bands too – when a DJ can come with a usb and get the whole night’s fee, vs a same size venue trying to account for the load in time for a band of five people with all their gear and techs, and that night’s fee has to be split between all of them, you really see the unfortunate balance sheet games that also take place as the landscape has changed over the last decade. I love Canadian music so much, and am out supporting it whenever I can at the venues I walk to every night (Cameron House, the Rex, Horseshoe, Hideout etc) and truly don’t think our quality is anything to worry about. Reach in the modern era is a massive world unto itself with algorithms and social media post timing and behind the scenes conversations that change overnight. I’m rambling a bit and I know I need to answer the question still eh! How would I describe Canada’s music scene? Honest and hungry.
What are some of your influences outside of music?
Outside of music I try to keep a humble, balanced, disciplined life. I have a daily routine I stick to that includes meditation first thing in the morning, fasting, and running at least 12 km or more each day. I find this keeps my head on straight, and lets me really appreciate my loved ones and the blessings in my life. I love being outside and just came back from a canoe and portage trip with my girlfriend and another couple. I’m at art galleries a couple times a week, I love reading, and cooking has been one of my favourite things to do since I can remember. Alongside gardening, trying to give the right amount of time to the people I care about, and drinking enough water, I think the aforementioned describes 99% of my days I’m not on the road. I’m a curious person who loves adventure, and I’m just trying to do the right things to my body and mind to let me continue this awesome journey for as long as possible.
Bloom EP was a great catalog of your music, what kind of projects can we expect from you in the future?
Bigger ones with more stories 🙂
Listen to ATTLAS’ new single ‘Courante’ below!