Xi’an-born and Toronto-based producer, pianist, and DJ Ciel steps up for the next Phonica Mix with a slow building club room warm up. With a selection of deep and chugging bass, house and techno this is a mix that equally see itself lending its ears to the home listener as well as the club dancefloor frequenters. Its this diverse sound that has seen Ciel take the helms of some of the greatest clubs, festivals, radio shows and podcasts as well as releasing solid records on labels like Mister Saturday Night, Peach Discs, Coastal Haze and more her sound is truly solidified through these outputs. We are delighted to have Ciel join us ahead of some of her amazing shows this year like Kala Festival & Multi Multi(Where we will also be hosting a 20 Years Of Phonica Stage). We had a chat with Ciel about the mix and about some of the releases she has coming up:
Hey Ciel, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us about your mix and what the idea behind it was?
Recently I played at Nowadays in NYC for Anthony Naples’ residency. Most of my sets for the last four years have hovered between 130-160 bpm, ending in 80 bpm downtempo. That night I really felt the urge to do something different, especially because I had a longer set time (4hrs). I love faster tempos and have been doing that for a long time but it gets repetitive after a while (especially because everyone else is now too) and I can feel how physically exhausted it makes me night after night. That night at the 2hr mark, I decided in the moment to bring the BPM down from 142 to 118. So for the last 2hrs I simply played chuggy, groovy, spacy tracks. The crowd did thin out later on but the people who stayed were loving it. We had some really beautiful, emotional moments on that dance floor and after it was over, these lovely fans told me how much they loved the slower BPM and one fan even told me she cried. What a time to be a pro DJ that 120bpm feels extraordinary, but it was and I wanted to recreate that portion of the night in my mix. That was really the idea behind it. Something slinkier and spacier so we can hear the space between the beats 🙂
Can you tell us a bit about how you usually approach recording a mix or a set?
I’m not sure if there’s a one-size-fits-all approach. I play a lot of genres and I find it’s usually futile to try to fit them all in one 90-min mix. So instead I try for a specialist, focused approach for most of my mixes. I threw parties and curated lineups for a long time so it’s helpful for me to relate it back to the context of a DJ lineup – where would this go? Is this more of an opening set, or a peak time DJ set? I also make music, so sometimes I will build an entire mix around specific songs of my own that I want to include. Overall when I look back at my back catalog of DJ mixes, I think my most successful ones have focused on a particular mood/vibe instead of genre, for example my Fact mix or my Baihui mix. Much like making music, having an artistic intent before I start making a mix is super important to guide me in the process of staying on track, and it’s very much discernible to the listener.
What are your preferred methods for finding new music—do you still enjoy digging around in dusty crates, or do you prefer to buy online?
My favourite way is still using the holy trinity of Youtube-Discogs-Soulseek. Failing that, I try to hit up record shops whenever I can. Playing old, used, out of print records was my bread and butter when I was coming up as a DJ in Canada. These days I’m so busy, I often do not get time to dig anywhere except on Bandcamp or trawling through my promos and demos friends/labels/fans send me. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge benefits to playing mostly new music, but it feels a little less rewarding to me.
Your Mister Saturday Night record you put out recently has been on repeat in our shop and definitely perked the ears of all our staff for sure and now we are quite excited to hear your forthcoming double LP release “Ecstatic Editions Vol. 1” which we read is a collection of unreleased work on Eris Drew’s new label of the same name, how did this project come about?
My Ecstatic Editions release, actually Eris hit me up about it way back in the summer of 2021. I was on a roll of releasing tons of remixes, EPs, and collabs. It was lockdowns and I found I kinda loved it because it meant I could just go to the studio everyday and work on music which always made me feel really excited and fulfilled. I didn’t see a point in putting a stop on my release schedule because it was covid, tons of people were stuck at home and desperate for a musical escape. But there was definitely a downside, which was that a lot of my own favourite productions didn’t really make much of a splash in the press. So when Eris told me she wanted to start this imprint partly because of my music, I felt super affirmed and also grateful that these tracks would get a chance to reach a bigger audience.
Also do you have any valuable tips for people who are getting into music production?
Music production is a skill and craft that takes passion, dedication, and daily practice. Maybe DJing is something you can be a bit more casual about, but from my experience I only started to make significant improvements in my music production after I forced myself to work on music every single day. I use the word “forced” intentionally, because when you’re starting out, you’re less knowledgeable and experienced, so doing anything in the studio can feel like pulling teeth and is therefore less fun. I felt discouraged a lot and making music often felt like a chore because there was so little I knew how to do. It’s a catch-22, because you’ll never learn more if you don’t do it everyday and have discipline about it, but without the knowledge and experience, doing it everyday is just not enjoyable. I grew up playing classical piano, and that world is so highly regimented and disciplined. It kind of took the fun out of it for me, but it also taught me that while music is fun, it is also hard work and sometimes it’s not “fun”, but it’s no less rewarding. Now as an adult, I try to take the best of what I learned in that world and combine it with the best of what I’ve learned within the underground music world. I think it’s been really helpful for me.
We also saw you are playing at Kala festival at the end of this month, what can we expect from your set there?
Oh who knows? I never know what I’m going to play until a few moments before my set, even for festivals. I’m going to come a day early to soak up the vibes as I’ve never been there and I wanna check out the festival. That usually will really inspire me and what I end up playing in my set.
What do you have up your sleeve for 2023?
Tons of releases to come. I have my debut album lined up for fall release on my label, Parallel Minds. I have at least 3 collaborative EPs, and two solo EPs. I have a busy tour schedule through the summer in Europe and Asia, and America in the fall. Looking forward to exploring new territories, maybe South America? That’s a big dream of mine. Also two releases for my label Parallel Minds to come as well. Exciting times!
Thanks Ciel 🙂