Get To Know: Dark Sky
You have said that your main musical influence is from the city you’re all based in, London. Can you explain in what sense you mean this by?
For sure, it definitely is one of our main influences. I suppose a big part of it is the speed at which new music and artists emerge in London, whether it be in record shops or through different club nights. That speed creates an energy that drives us to keep experimenting and pushing sound forward.
What artists do you look to go and see on a night out to draw inspiration as a group and individually?
We are into loads of different stuff individually but recently we’ve been taking inspiration from live acts whilst working on our own live show for the past year. We try to pick up ideas wherever we can and then develop them in rehearsals. Some acts that we’ve been fortunate enough to see play live recently that really inspired us include Theo Parrish at the Forum, Bad Bad Not Good and the Gas Lamp Killer at XOYO, Moses Boyd at the Crypt in Camberwell, Kassem Mosse at Corsica Studios, The Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury, Caribou at Brixton Academy.
Now 10 months down the line after the release of your debut album ‘Imagin’ how was it when the album was going out, are you satisfied with the response it got and now you’ve had your first taste at an album are you burning inside to get on and work on the next or do you think there will be a long time?
For sure, we were happy with the positive responses it got from artists that we look up to and from the responses the tracks were getting in the clubs from dancers. Nonetheless there were a few things that we would of liked to have done differently in hindsight but we are looking forward to having a stab at those the second time round. The whole album writing process was a massive learning curve for us. We’d just about managed to get our head around writing EP’s so stepping up to writing an album was tough mentally and physically. Saying that we really appreciated having such a creatively open minded label like Monkeytown behind us the whole way. It definitely made the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
We would like to know a bit more about our pick from the album, ‘Odyssey’. What’s the history behind the track, influences behind those sounds and the making and merging of the genius production? Did you know immediately after finishing the piece that it was a hit?
I think we lost track of how many different versions there were of this track as it was transferred between 3 different studio setups! We were sitting on it for around 2-3 years and playing it consistently in our DJ sets which gave us lots of time to road test it on lots of different systems. The feedback we were getting from the crowd was really positive but after living with it for so long we began to wonder if we’d pushed it as far as it could go sonically so we decided to have a go at mixing it down in another studio using a mix engineer by the name of Milan (masterworksaudio.co.uk). That was the first time we’d mixed down a track in another studio and we found the process really rewarding so we decided to mix down the whole album with Milan, which took around 3 weeks.
We love the incredibly smooth ‘Vidid’. How was it working with Cornelia? Did you already have a relationship before writing the track; can we see any future collaboration?
Thank you. Working with Cornelia was really cool and was something totally new for us. We actually got to know each other through Soundcloud whilst working on the album. We’d basically write a few sketches and then send them over for her to record something to then give feedback to her and repeat the whole process over and over again until we were both happy. We took a less hands on approach to give her and all the other vocalists on the album room to be as creative as possible which helped produce some interesting results. With regard to future collaborations… There is currently nothing on the cards yet but who knows!
Where was the album written? Is there a space you prefer to write in or do you just start once you hit this studio?
We each have our own setups so lots of the tracks were started in different places but all the tracks were finished at Matt’s studio where the main setup is.
The synthesis in the album certainly has an analog feel to it, particularly in tracks like ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Manuka’ . Was there a conscious effort to move in this direction?
Thank you, Manuka and Odyssey were actually made just using just soft synths but we tried to give them that analog feel using lots of different layering techniques to fatten the sounds up. There wasn’t really a conscious effort to move in that direction, we’ve always just been interested with experimenting with different sounds no matter where they come from as long as they resonate with us in some shape or form that’s the most important thing.
Was there a particular track that set the course for the aesthetic of the album?
No, not really on this occasion all the tracks existed as individual pieces with their own identities. We tried to avoid repeating ourselves at any point but we still tried to create a feeling of coherence between all the tracks, hopefully that feeling comes across in some shape or form.
Having recorded the album and toured with live sets, which bits of kit can't you live without, whether it be synths, samplers or drum machines.
Our live setup is fairly simple to keep it a transportable. It basically consists of a Roland SPD-SX and Nord Drum 2 for drums, Novation Bass Station 2 for Bass, an MPC 1000 for sample triggering, a Roland Space Echo and SP-404 for effects, Ableton 9 hooked up to Push for triggering more samples, click tracks, ambiance tracks and midi tracks and finally a Dave Smith Tetra and Roland Aira for additional synth sounds.
Tell us about the writing process for the album. Have you found that playing live sets has changed the way your tracks come together?
100%, we’ve been rehearsing regularly for the past few months, which has helped massively with coming up with new ideas on the fly that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to come up with in the studio alone. Also just the act of playing things live creates the potential for weird and magical happy accidents to occur which we do our best to try and record using our phones and then try to dissect these ideas later in the studio.
Last year you began ‘officially’ doing live sets. Do you prepare your live performances before hand or simply go with the flow?
There’s definitely a lot of preparation and rehearsing that goes into the live sets but one of our main objectives is to reach a point where we are all comfortable with playing tracks as you hear them on the record but then to be in a position where we are then free to improvise for however long we see fit transforming the tracks in something totally new but then being able to bring them right back down to a recognisable state without killing the flow of the originals. The whole process of flipping tracks on their heads live is really inspiring us at the moment. It’s also really rewarding to see the reactions people have to these jams when we play live.
How does the mood differ between a Dark Sky Live Set and a DJ Set?
They are both quite similar but at the same time quite different. During a live set we will play just original material combined with visual projections. The set list is normally pre-defined on the night but each track has the potential to be improvised on the fly to a certain extent whereas during a DJ set we like to vibe off the moment and play music that we love and inspires us taking cues from the crowd. Each of us takes turns to play 2 tracks, so you never really know what to expect which can create a nice unique energy. But whether it’s live or a DJ set, one of the main things for us is to try and take the listener on a journey which they haven’t experienced before.
Which festivals are you most looking forward to playing this summer?
We’ve actually just been fortunate enough to play at Glastonbury this year, which was definitely one of our highlights of 2015. We also really looking forward to playing at Melt! Festival in Berlin alongside the Monkeytown family and also at the Warehouse project 10th Birthday in Manchester on the 18th of July.