Iono Music is undoubtedly one the most respected and successful labels in the psy-trance scene. Founded in 2005, Iono is proud to be celebrating an impressive 13 years running and is still going strong, with a continual plethora of releases in the charts and dominating the dancefloors around the globe! Mindbenderz is made up of head honcho at Iono-Music - Matthias Sperlich aka DJ Cubixx (formerly KoaxKaos) and Philip Guillaume (Motion Drive, Rumble Pack, Blue Vortex). We decided now would be a good time to catch up with Matthias - ahead of the upcoming Mindbenderz debut album release 'Tribalism’ on the 29th October 2018!
You were born and raised in Berlin, Germany. What was this like? Were you musically minded as a child and when did you first discover electronic music, what was it that made you love it so much?
Growing up in Berlin was fun. There were lots of parties and good times. I always loved music and was deeply influenced by the growing Electronic genre boom that emerged after the wall broke down. I bought my first vinyl when I was just 16 - it was Cosmic Baby. I was absolutely fascinated with the new sounds, especially from trance and techno labels like Eye Q and Hard House Records. I began mixing in 1993 and practiced like a maniac for 2 years before playing out. After that I could virtually mix in my sleep so decided it was time to take my skills from the home to the dance floor.
So you were originally into techno music? How did your migration to the psy-trance scene come about?
Yeah that was the sound I first got into and the style played in all the clubs I went to. When I first started playing out and DJing it was techno - I began performing all over Germany with new techno sounds. I took a break in 1999 when my son was born and I decided it was time for me to try and be a good boy, but that didn’t really work out - ha ha. I was unfulfilled when I wasn’t involved in music. In 2001 I attended an amazing festival called Fusion which infected me with Psy-Trance - it touched my soul and since then I’ve never looked back! However; I never stopped listening to Techno - I still love it and will always love it. I’ve even started a sister label called Iono Black which is dedicated to the deeper side of techno music, with a lower bpm.
When and why did you decide you wanted to make music yourself? What style was it?
I think it was a natural progression for me. After DJing for so many years and playing other people’s music I wanted to start creating my own, so I jumped in head first and started learning and crafting my own sound.
Tell us about you as a person, what would you say are your best traits?
Oh so many best and worst ha ha - we are all complex characters aren’t we? I think good qualities I possess are that I am passionate and dedicated to what I believe in, particularly music. I’m also pretty direct and straightforward too, no bullshit with me. Like everyone, I try to be the best person I can be… mostly! Lols!
How about you as an artist – with regards to DJ Cubixx and the act you do with Philip Guillaume as Mindbenderz. What do you prefer, the DJing or the producing?
I like both. I guess I have the best of both worlds - being able to create music from the heart and then get to play it out and see the reaction on the dance floor in the people - how they move - how they smile - how the music can take them somewhere else. Seeing this, and being responsible for creating this is definitely a good feeling and puts a smile on my face. So it’s a mutual and shared love. I love playing our productions to a crowd and love spinning tunes - mixing is like therapy to me.
You and Philip are releasing your debut Mindbenderz album called ‘Tribalism’ on October 29th. Was there a concept behind the album when you started? What were you trying to express when creating it?
The main concept was to create an album with 9 tracks, that have their own story and vibe but still connect to each other. We wanted a modern sound but keeping the roots of the classic progressive psy-trance vibe.
What do you guys use when making your tracks?
To create the album we used a mix between software and hardware. We use the Dave Smith Instruments OB6 a lot; as well as the Virus TI and the new Novation Peak. For software we use the usual suspects like Serum, Sylenth and Omnisphere. For the mixing process we use UAD and Waves.
‘Tribalism’ is the album name and title track, where did this idea come from?
The title track “Tribalism” is the track that stands out most compared to the others I think. We liked the tribal and ethno influences a lot and thought it would be great as an album title and would give a lot of cool possibilities for the cover as well. The idea came from its voice samples that are quite tribal.
Who or what were your inspirations for the album?
Our main inspiration is always the music from other artists such as Zen Mechanics, Astrix and Liquid Soule.
How do you work as a team on your productions?
As the studio is in Zurich, we can’t share as much time together as we would like. Most of the time Philip does a sketch and we discuss things on Skype back and forth. Matthias then comes several times throughout the year to Zurich and we finish the tracks together.
The artwork is incredible, where did your ideas come from?
The idea comes from the title “Tribalism” and our amazing graphic designer.
Do you have a personal favourite track from the album?
I’d have to say ‘A New Dawn’
What was the hardest part of making the album?
I guess finalizing the tracks and getting the production to a level that we were happy with and where all tracks had a similar level of today’s standards.
What was the best part of making the album?
It was great to see that once we’d figured out how to work together and what “our” sound was, that things progressed so swiftly and well - we are very happy with the outcome.
Where did the name Mindbenderz come from?
We were brainstorming for quite a while and it felt like our minds were bending - hee hee. We thought Mindbenderz sounds cool.
When and how did you and Philip meet?
We go way back - have known each other for over ten years now. Our first contact was back when Philip was still doing his solo project Motion Drive and decided to become a member of the Iono family.
What led you to start up your own music label?
Music was the reason - my love of music. Also when I started producing my own music and had my own project going I wanted my own outlet on which I could release my stuff and have sole control over what happened with it. Another reason was my love for progressive psy-trance. I wanted to keep it alive. Way back then, Iboga moved to progressive house for a while and people were still yearning to hear progressive Psy-trance, so I bought many tracks from them as they stated they didn’t want to go in that direction any more, and Iono Music just took off in a big way.
What was your original vision for the label? How does the current label change from this vision, if at all?
My original vision was to simply release good music. It didn’t even have to be progressive psy-trance, but the progressive psy I signed really took off in a big way. But even to this day Iono Music is not solely for releasing progressive psy-trance on. We still release full on psy, techno and chill. My vision has remained unchanged.
What makes you want to sign a track? Are there specific elements you look for or is it more a gut reaction – where you either love it or you don’t?
At Iono Music we’re really looking for the hypnotic spiritual sound - that’s what we love the most. But I am a sucker for any good music. If I love a track; if a track moves me; then I will sign it. I can’t help myself!
What’s important to you with regards to the artists you sign?
That they are passionate, committed, authentic and humble.
What do you love the most and like the least about running a label?
I love the evolution of the label and how far we’ve come. I love the fact I am giving a platform for artists to express themselves on and I love giving the listeners music that elevates them. I least like the paperwork. It’s a headache!
You’ve travelled all over the world performing as a DJ and Live Act, and also hosting Iono-Music label parties too. Do you think the psy-trance scene has changed over the years and if so, how and why?
The psy-trance scene has definitely grown much bigger over the years. It’s also got more commercial. This has positive and negative effects I think. The good side is that being more commercial can mean that those working in the scene have a chance to make a decent living and not be ripped off with illegal downloads and people gate crashing parties. This means they can keep working and producing quality music and events. On the other hand, a large part of the pull of the psy-trance scene for me is its ethos and spirituality, and the underground vibe. We could lose part of this and that would be a real shame. But I think things go in cycles anyway, nothing is permanent and what may be lost will surely return again.
What’s the psy-trance scene in Germany like currently?
It’s grown a hell of a lot in recent years, there are loads of parties and festivals in Germany currently. We have a short Summer though so festivals tend to happen around the same time which isn’t ideal, but they’re cool. The good thing about Germany is that we seem to have more freedom and less government regulations then a lot of countries do when it comes to clubs and parties. As long as you toe the line to a degree, the police tend to let us get on with it. Sadly this doesn’t seem to the case in a lot of other places.
If you weren’t running a music label and being an artist what might you be doing?
Hmm, that’s a tough one - who knows - but I wouldn’t be doing what I love. I actually studied Media Design for Picture and Sound, and graduated in 2005. I started as a camera assistant at a TV studio and then progressed to the Graphic department at a TV company called Cine Plus. I was working as a professional VFX artist for cinema and TV and enjoyed it but still felt there should be more I should be doing. So I guess I’d probably be working as VFX artist if I wasn’t doing this.
What advice would you have for artists trying to make it in the scene?
Keep going. It’s hard work and sometimes demotivating if things don’t go your way; keep the faith and keep trying different ways. Try any and every way possible and, as hard as it is sometimes, keep believing. Most importantly, make sure you keep loving what you do; otherwise, what’s the point?
What’s on the horizon for you?
To keep growing the label and releasing quality productions. To keep playing out! I’m lucky enough to have a healthy spread of bookings which I’m really looking forward to. Also, we are releasing our Mindbenderz debut album on the 29th October 2018, which I am really thrilled and excited to share with you all!
Matthias – thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. All the best for all your future endeavours :-) X