“Deep, dubby, techno with a Detroit edge and a touch of soul.” Toronto techno mainstay Greg Gow talks us through the making of his debut album.
Toronto isn’t necessarily the first city that springs to mind when you think of techno, but the links run deeper than you might expect; the Canadian city is, after all, just a couple of hundred miles up the road from Detroit. DJ and producer Greg Gow has been instrumental in maintaining those links over the last couple of decades, releasing music on his own Restructured label as well as iconic imprints like Derrick May’s Transmat and Kevin Saunderson’s KMS. After making music for 20 years, Gow’s full-length debut comes via Social Experiment Records, with all profits going to Music Against Animal Cruelty.
Greg explains that the album process began around two years ago, when he passed some demos to No.19 Music and Social Experiment’s Nitin, who in turn passed them on to Social Experiment co-founder Jonny White (also of Art Department) and encouraged Greg to work on more tracks. “Over the next eight or nine months I put my head down and focused on creating a series of tracks in the same vein,” Greg explains. “Deep, dubby, techno with a Detroit edge and a touch of soul. At the time, my inspiration was some personal shit I was going through, so the timing was perfect to work it out through the music. I lost a great amount of time dealing with some family shit, hence the title Lost Days.”
The resulting album straddles the line between the dancefloor and home listening, with dubby elements sprinkled throughout. Greg talked us through how it was made…
I’ve always enjoyed albums which were dynamic and offered more than just straight up dancefloor stuff. The first track is ambient and sets the mood for the album. I decided to create several tracks like this to create tension throughout the LP.
In my home studio, I work in the box for the most part and like to keep things pretty simple and just focus on the writing. I use Ableton on a Mac, combining several outboard synths and internal plugins. A few of the outboard pieces I used for the album are my Roland Juno-106, and TB-03 and TR-09 Boutique synths. After the tracks were written, some of the mixes needed work so I took them to a Toronto studio called The Treatment Centre which is owned by Nitin and Butr (Matthew Butterworth). Butr helped me work out some of the mixes and add additional FX. A couple of months later the album was done.
I was in Scotland playing a show, and there were signs all over the place that said “no fly tipping” (meaning no dumping your garbage). I didn’t know what that meant, but I ended up writing the track at Gareth Whitehead’s house (who I was staying with in Glasgow). That’s me in a nutshell – weird things that inspire me.
CURL DE SAC
I wanted to have at least one house-style track on the album. The idea was so that it could be a crossover track: one that a house DJ could play, but also a techno DJ could fit it in their set if they were bringing down the vibe a bit.
Refraction is another interlude track, or rather the calm before the storm. The track after this, ‘Lost Days’ is supposed to be the banger of the album, so this one is really meant to clear the table and strip things back. Then when the title track comes in, the mood is in the right place and the main track of the album can really bring it back up.
Initially this track came about using some dub samples and delays in Ableton, and I was working out the programming for about two or three months on it. It thought it was missing something after the break, so I took the MIDI I used for the dub component, and ran it through a Boutique 303 and that produced the secondary part which came after the break.
Furthermore, we took it to The Treatment Centre and ran it through a tape delay and Roland Space Echo, which allowed the melodic parts to sit better in the track, and give it some ear candy.
If you’ve been really playing hard and slapping people in the face with banging tracks for a while in your set, this one is good to bring the mood back down for a track and reset before you bring things back up again. Nuff said.
For this one I used the Sylenth synth plugin, and there was a particular patch I found which was dubby and deeper. I put the jack sample in to take it back to that old-school feeling. Even through the track is techno, I wanted to show that influence from classic house. This track also went to The Treatment Centre for the Space Echo and tape delays.
The influence behind this track is three-fold. One, to give this idea of Detroit once being a big economy of bustling car factories, but that time has now come and gone. Two, the car noise in the background of the track represents technology. Three, the dub element and the space countdown represents the current state of being lost in this world of automation, creating a matrix of emptiness but still being fuelled by the product (which is the cars).