Interview with Kris O'Neil about his In Trance We Trust vol. 019 compilation. With 18 triumphant volumes in the series, “In Trance We Trust” still appears like clockwork and now presents the 19th majestic volume. Commander in chief behind the decks this time is Danish DJ/Producer Kris O’Neil, who delivers 16 of the hottest cuts of the moment; everything captured in a well-constructed live DJ mix with, as tradition demands, plenty of exclusives, meticulously selected for “In Trance We Trust, Volume 19”. Kris O Neil is constantly touring Europe, Latin America and Asia, playing alongside the biggest names in electronic Dance music such as Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Sander van Doorn and Paul van Dyk, releasing singles & remixes for legendary labels such as Black Hole Recordings, Armada Music, AnjunaBeats and Enhanced Recordings, as well as being voted Denmark’s highest ranked DJ for 2 years in a row, you might think that Kris’ thirst would be distinguished – but think again!
With a sound that is somewhat progressive, somewhat housey, somewhat techno and somewhat trance, or as Kris likes to describe it ”somewhat classy, somewhat trashy!” as well as a flawless mixing technique and an euphoric & energetic presence in the booth, this superb DJ is often ”that guy” that gets the dance floor cooking!
Now it’s the turn of Kris O Neil to get behind the decks and become the DJ who will compile and mix the 19th volume of the legendary and highly influential trance compilation ‘In Trance We Trust’ which is considered to be one of the strongest assets for Black Hole recordings. After the great mini interview that we conducted at the beginning of 2012, with his ‘Best of list of 2011’, it’s time to expand, and the release of this fantastic compilation is the perfect opportunity to request an interview with him. Kris is always positive on interviews, and we are very glad that he replied in such informative and detailed way.
The best way to enjoy it is press play on your CD player and while his seamless mix is playing, read his very good answers and I’m sure that will put his answers into the right context.
He is a gifted and intelligent artist with so much more to give in the EDM scene. Watch his name rising….
Dimitri: When and where were you born? Are you fortunate enough to come from of a family that has any kind of connection with music, particularly electronic music? Did you have the support of your parents to pursue your musical career as a DJ and producer?
Kris: I was born and raised in an average sized Danish city, called Holbæk in December 1986. I would love to say that I was the son of Beethoven, but I'm afraid that would be a lie. My parents have never been involved in the music business, but there was always music around me when I grew up. They were always really supportive; driving me to my gigs before I was old enough to get a drivers license, as well as tolerating the constant sound of electronic music from my room before I was old enough to move out.
Dimitri: Is it possible to list for us the Top 5 DJ’s or EDM producers that have the major influence in your style of your productions, and give us a short comment about each of them?
Kris: I'm not sure I can rank them by priority, but among my 5 favourite DJs/Producers are...
Sander van Doorn
I've been a fan of him pretty much since he launched the “Sander van Doorn”, but especially when he released “Reach Out”, I was absolutely sold. Also, all of his “Purple Haze” stuff are classics in my book! Probably my favourite producer.
He has a very wide range of styles within house music, and it's not all of them that are my cup of tea, but when it comes to making Bigroom, Banging Progressive House, he's just second to none! For instance, “Beautiful World” and his remixes of “You've The Got The Love” (Florence + The Machine) and not least “Sun To Me” (Faithless), is just a perfect balance of what I like to listen to at home, and dance to at the clubs. And you just can't deny that the man is a dance music icon!
Might be an obvious choice, as he's been a friend of mine for nearly a decade, but especially during the past 5 years, he's just found a sound that is truly his own. Also, his stuff just fits my sets perfectly – been hammering pretty much every production of his for several years now. Probably the producer who has the support-rate.
Just like Mark Knight, he does a wide range of styles, and it's definitely not every release of his that fits my sets, but when it comes to melodic progressive house, Eric Prydz is just in a league of his own!
Kyau & Albert
Even though their sound is slightly more Trancy than what I usually play, they always seem to find their way into my sets anyway. Just like Schössow, these guys truly have a sound of their own. I've been playing pretty much every track from them since they released “Velvet Morning”, which I suppose will soon have its 10 year anniversary.
Dimitri: Do you have professional training in music or are you self-taught? Do you think it’s very important for a young producer to attend music composition classes or do you feel, as many people, that formal training kills creativity and innovation, and nowadays it’s easier to learn to produce with amateur video tutorials from YouTube?
Kris: I don't have any real training. I played a few instruments during elementary school, but nothing that ever got too serious, and nothing I will give any real credit for what I do today (except the curiosity for making music!). I definitely think it can be useful to play instruments when producing electronic music – especially the piano, but a good ear for chords and note combinations is definitely the most important. When it comes to producing electronic music, I'm pretty much self taught. I met up with some other guys who were producing as well, and we were sharing tips & tricks. It was before the YouTube era, so you didn't really have the opportunity to watch tutorial videos. I really enjoy watching those videos today though – always fun to see how other people produce!
Dimitri: Please take on a virtual tour in your home studio and tell us the kind of hardware that you use. Do you have favourite music composition software that you love to use, and you can recommend to other artists, which is reliable and with good creative possibilities?
Kris: Studio gear and music production is my favourite single subject in the whole wide world, so I'd love to give you a tour. Obviously, I'm on a Mac, on which I'm mainly using Ableton Live (which I've been using since version 5), often rewired to Reason (which I've been using since version 1). I'm slowly starting to convert into Logic though, in which the stuff I've done with Kiholm is made. I'm getting pretty comfortable in Logic these days, but when it comes to creativity and workflow, Ableton is still my go to DAW. I'm a sucker for hardware, and got 4 different compressors (a (G)SSL, JoeMeek, TLA Ivory and the classic Alesis 3630), a few hardware equalizers and channel strips from old mixing desks, a Lexicon hardware reverb, some pre-amps and other stuff. Fooling around with hardware just gives you a completely different feeling rather than tweaking stuff with a mouse, which was definitely not what I dreamt of when I was 12 and wanted to make music. At times, it can be a pain in the ass compared to the simplicity of software, but the pros just outweigh the cons big-time. Also, I'm getting motivated and inspired when surrounded by physical gear. I've had the studio I'm in now for 4 months, which I've spent a lot of time and money to get reasonable acoustics, with the help of foam, bass traps and “clouds”.
Dimitri: You started mainly as a trance producer and DJ. For which label was your first production, and which track was the one that you believe that has helped you to get more recognition and support in the trance scene? Also can you recall your first ever DJ gig, and how you felt in front of a large crowd for the very first time.
Kris: My first proper release was “Tears of Blue”, which I did with Mac/Stalker/Anders Mikkelsen who also did the Arcane stuff with Niklas Harding at that time. It was originally signed to Somatic Sense, which was pretty big at that time, but seemed to disappear from the scene pretty much over night. Instead, we signed it to Novascape, with remixes from Cressida and Van Gelder, which was my first vinyl release. God I miss vinyl!
My first DJ gig was in Odense in Denmark back in 2003, when I was still just 16 years old. It was an amazing experience. Playing the music you love in front of people who really appreciate it... wow!
Dimitri: You have released so far many successful personal productions and you have done remixes for many well known artists. Can you choose for us your all time best ever Kris O'Neil productions and your 3 favourites remixes that you produce for other artists and give us a small comment about each of them?
Kris: My favourite single is probably “Those Mornings”. I think it was my first single that I’ve done entirely on my own and it was the first trance single to be featured on Danish national radio for nearly a decade. Also, it was the first single I signed to Black Hole Recordings, whom I've stuck to ever since.
Also, my first track with Kiholm, “We Just Did”, is special to me. We hooked up mainly just for fun and to nerd around in the studio, neither knowing or caring too much about what was going to come out of it. The next day, the tune was pretty much finished, and a few hours later it was signed to Marcus Schössow's “Tone Diary” label. The support from the big guys on this one was pretty huge. I really like working with Kiholm. We obviously prefer to get stuff done, but when we're in the studio its most of all just about having fun and nerd around doing what we love the most. Things just usually work out for the better, when you remember to have fun while doing it – otherwise, what's the point?
On the account of remixes, I think my 3 personal favourite, in random order, has to be.
Jes – Closer [Magik Muzik / Black Hole Recordings]
Motorcycle – “As The Rush Comes” was really one of the tunes who got me into this scene back as a teenager, so to actually get to remix the voice behind this classic, was huge to me. I'm really, really happy with the sound that I got out of it, as I really think I ended up with a result that was truly my own. Also, not long after the remix was released, Jes asked for an instrumental version for her to use in her live shows, which was a huge compliment!
Andain – Promises [Black Hole Recordings]
Like with Jes, Andain was one of the acts who got me into all this in the first place. Both “Summer Calling” and “Beautiful Things” are in my top 5 of all time classics, so to get to remix the comeback single was mind-blowing to me. I don't know if it's my best piece of work, but once again I think I ended up with a sound that was my own. And with those vocals, it's pretty much impossible to screw up – Mavie's voice will be one to remember for several years to come!
Marco V – GOHF [TAO Recordings]
This is actually my latest remix. Marco V has always been one of the biggest icons in electronic music, so I was stunned when I received the remix request. Also, I'm really happy with the result, which really shows the sound I do these days! There's definitely more to come down this alley!
Dimitri: Can you explain the way that you produce a track. Do you always start from the beginning, or do you first work with the breakdown, and then with the rest of the parts?
Kris: For an original, I always start with the element that will symbolize the track – usually the lead melody. For a remix, the main element is already there, so I can skip that point. Then I find a bassline to suit the lead element, and start to work on the groove. When I have all the main elements sorted, I start on a rough edition of the arrangement, and then build the breakdown, effects and details around that.
Dimitri: Your latest project is of course your massive compilation ITWT 019. How do you feel that the Black Hole team choose you as the DJ behind the latest volume of this legendary compilation?
Kris: “In Trance We Trust 019” has definitely been a milestone to me, and I was overwhelmingly honoured to be asked to mix it! I've been with the guys at Black Hole Recordings for over 5 years now, releasing originals and remixes, but I've also done a few digital compilations (the “In The Mix” series) – there's a fair chance that is one of the reasons they chose me as well, as they already would have an idea of what they could expect. The only thing I love more than producing is DJ’ing, and I will always be a DJ first and foremost, and when it comes to mix compilations, the ITWT-series is just one of the biggest!
Dimitri: From the previous volumes do you have any particular one that is your absolute favourite which has inspired you in your career or personal life?
Kris: I own quite a few of the older ones, from even before I started DJ’ing, and it's impossible for me to choose a favourite. I don't know if the older editions “changed” my career per se, but they were definitely motivating me to get started. As a kid, growing up with trance, doing a compilation like this is a big dream – I'd never have thought it would become true. I guess patience and hard work pays off after all :-)
Dimitri: How long did it take you to complete the final tracklisting, and it was hard to pick up the tracks? Are there any tracks that you would have liked to include, but for whatever reasons were not able to?
Kris: It went quite fast from when I started to collect tracks, until I ended up with the final result. 2-3 weeks I guess. And yes, there were a lot of tunes I would love to feature, that I couldn't – mainly because you can't fit 500 tracks down to a single CD :-) I knew in advance that I wanted to use about 16 tunes, so I made a list with a little over 20 tracks that I would like, got a list back of what was possible – fortunately, for the most were – and then cut the list down to the 16 tracks you see on the disc now.
Dimitri: Did you mix the compilation as live with CDJ’s or did you do the mixing digitally with the aid of computer software. If so, please can you let us know which software you use?
Kris: I like to call it a “hybrid” mix. To get 16 club tunes to fit on a CD, you need to shorten some of them down a bit, so I did a bit of editing in Ableton Live. The whole mix is recorded and mixed in real-time on my Pioneer mixer though – every single transition is made “live” by me turning the knobs. I would never make a compilation “off-line” by drawing in details with a mouse. Making a DJ album with the “live” element just wouldn't seem right to me!
Dimitri: Did you make the final mix in one take or did you make several takes?
Kris: Just one take! I was perfectly happy with the result, so I didn't find any point in spending 70 minutes making another one :-)
Dimitri: Please pick up for us your 5 most loveable tracks included in the compilation that gives you goosebumps whenever you hear them.
Kris: Picking 5 out of 16 tracks you really love is hard, but let me try. Obviously, our (Kiholm and me) remix of Allure feat. Henrik B – Mariestad is special to me. The remix can still only be found on this compilation, by the way. Also, the opener, The Attic feat. Oh Laura – Release Me (Dr. Kucho! Remix) have constantly been growing on me ever since I got the promo back in February – I know instantly when collecting tracks for the CD, that I wanted this one! Also, at the time I was looking for tracks, I was really hoping for a new Kyau & Albert track – and bingo, Marc Marberg with Kyau & Albert - Robotron drops in the mailbox. Also, I think it's one of their strongest releases in years! It was a similar case with Marcus Schössow, who always does quality stuff, and during my collection of tracks, his remix of Marcel Woods – The Bottle was all fresh, so that was a no brainer for me. As I love playing full-on techno inspired stuff. I'm really happy that I got to feature Joint Operations Centre feat. Full Tilt – Heavy Gear, which is just pumping and grooving in all the right ways!
Dimitri: Are you going to support the release of the CD with a club tour? If yes please mention for us the clubs and countries that you are going to perform in soon.
Kris: My agent is working on a few dates in different continents – so far I'll be visiting Edem Club in Corfu (Greece) and Stellar City in Tampere (Finland) – and there should be a few more on the way :-)
Dimitri: From the countries and clubs you performed in so far, can you choose your all time favourite club or big stadium event, and your favourite country with the finest club crowd?
Kris: It's hard to pick one country/crowd that is better than the rest, but one of my biggest memories was when I played in El Salvador. I had just turned 19 and it was one of my first foreign gigs. The way people treated me was absolutely overwhelming – like a rock star. My cheeks still hurt from smiling in all those pictures people wanted taken ;-) Beside that one, The Netherlands is always nice, and I had some great experiences in Sweden as well, such as warming up for Tiësto a few years back.
Dimitri: Do you actively use the internet and the social networks? Everyone nowadays talks about the Facebook or twitter generation after the MTV generation. Do you believe in the importance of Facebook or do you feel it’s a bit exaggerated and overhyped by the media?
Kris: There's not really much of a choice – you have to. Facebook etc. is really good for promoting your career and interacting with people. For personal use it's slightly overrated though – to be honest, I don't care much that my friends “just did the laundry”. It's a lovely tool for communication though. Twitter is my favourite social tool though – the atmosphere seems a bit more “laid back” and “cosy”, where as I find Facebook often either being too business minded or just plain nonsense.
Dimitri: One of my favourite questions to all the DJ’s is that one about self-reflection and self-criticism. Out of 10 with what score do you rate the various elements of your DJ performances and why?
a) your mixing skills:
b) your ability to choose the right track for the right occasion:
c) your friendly attitude towards the fans that come to shake your hand when you perform and after that?
Kris: Oh god, I will get to sound like a complete arrogant douche bag now. None the less.
a) 10. Ever since starting, I've always been extremely focused on my transitions and I rarely ever hear people that I consider better than me on a pair of CDJ’s. Hopefully most people who have ever heard me live will agree.
b) 10. I play whatever I would like to hear as a clubber by that specific time of the set/night. Obviously, track selection is a matter of taste. I play a lot of groovy and techy stuff, so if the people are into 3 minute melodic breakdowns, they will absolutely disagree on my choice. If I wasn't 100% comfortable about what I played, I would probably be looking out of the wrong set of glasses.
c) 10. I always take time to talk to people pre/post show. First of all, because I like it, and second, without those people, there would be nobody to play for. To me, electronic music is as much about love and good vibrations as the music is!
Dimitri: Is it possible to tell us about future tracks or remixes that you are going to release within 2012, and if there are plans for an album as well at a later stage??
Kris: At this very moment I'm working on a remix for a legendary trance duo, a legendary trance solo artist, and reasonably prolific artist. I'd rather wait revealing who, until the remixes are done and approved – otherwise I would look really stupid if they for some reason never got released. On the account of singles, I'll go to The Netherlands in 2 weeks to go to the studio with Kiholm – hopefully a third collaboration should come out of that :-) I've got no plans of an artist album at this point, as I would rather focus on making singles and remixes.
Dimitri: At the moment many DJ’s are doing heavy campaigns in order to persuade their fans to vote for them at the DJ Mag top100 DJ’s list. Why you believe your fans should vote and support you? Do you really believe that this list is important at all?
Kris: I believe my fans should vote for me, if I'm actually in their top 5 of favourite DJs. Otherwise; please don't. I'm getting a lot of messages from people who voted for me, and I'm absolutely honoured about that! I have not, and will not, do a single “please vote for me” post or mailout, so the votes I get are as sincere as can be. I'm not much of a fan of the list, but mostly because it's getting out of proportions. People should vote for their 5 favourite acts – not the 5 acts with the biggest campaign or fanciest email design.
I know the list is important to some, as some promoters are booking acts based on that list, rather than what's actually going on out there in clubland worldwide. Ignorance is bliss.
Dimitri: Many thanks for the interview, please give us your message to the people who will read this interview.
Kris: Thanks for interviewing me, and thanks for those of you reading it! Don't ever let anyone dictate your taste!
Many thanks to Kris O Neil for his fantastic answers making this one of the best interviews for 2012 so far
Many thanks to Jeroen Polak at Black Hole offices for his assistance in organising it
Many thanks to Mark at Black Hole offices for his support with my show
Many thanks to Paul at 1mix for proofing the final version of this interview
Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Radio/DJ/Music Journalist
ITWT vol.19 Tracklist:
01. The Attic ft. Oh Laura! - Release Me (Dr. Kucho! Remix)
02. Allure ft. Henrik B - Mariestad (Kiholm & Kris O'Neil Remix)
03. Cosmic Gate & Jes - Flying Blind (Tom Fall Remix)
04. Motif ft. Hannah Magenta - Never Let Go (Boyan & Boyer Remix)
05. George Acosta - To The Sky (Gerry Cueto Remix)
06. Marc Marberg with Kyau & Albert - Robotron
07. Mat Zo ft. Linnea Schossow - The Sky (Club Mix)
08. Daniel Wanrooy & Blake Lewis - Stay In The Moment (Alex Kunnari Remix)
09. Danilo Ercole ft. Roberta Harrison & Steven Taetz - Meet You Where You Are (Ryan Mendoza Remix)
10. Maor Levi - Won't Say No
11. Andain - Much Too Much (Mike Shiver Remix)
12. Andy Duguid ft. Shannon Hurley - I Want To Believe
13. Marc Simz - Forbidden City (Marc Simz & Aerofoil ReDub)
14. Joint Operations Centre & Full Tilt - Full Gear
15. Marcel Woods - The Bottle (Marcus Schössow Remix)
16. Bobina - Diamond Hell (Wezz Devall Remix)
In Trance We Trust 19 mixed by Kris O’Neil is now available in all shops and on all known portals.
The CD is available at:
The download is available at:
Amazon MP3 Store