S.A.T. – A Talk With Aybee, Ron Trent & Jerome Sydenham.
S.A.T, short for (Jerome) Sydenham, AYBEE, and (Ron) Trent brings together the creative energies of three of the electronic realm's notable stalwarts. With the mood in Sydenham's Berlin studio loose and organic the trio set out to produce an album full of the elements they love about the dance floor experience. After three weeks of literally living in the studio the S.A.T album has emerged. Set for release later on this year it's been getting us rather excited… and we've not even been privy to what it may sound like yet. Suffice to say with these three involved we're pretty hopeful it'll be rather good.
Ahead of said project's release into the world and a re-creation of it in the confines of a club environment this weekend we sat down with the three of them in their studio to talk about about the project. [Interspersed in this article are images of Berlin as picked by the trio].
So how did S.A.T. come about? You’re still mastering it now aren’t you?
Ron: Yeah we’re just mixing down at the moment.
Jerome: It really came about because Ron extended his stay here in Berlin.
Ron: Basically what it is is that the fellas and I have been in the studio for the past couple of months creating a more electronically-based album to galvanise the energy of being in Berlin. For me it’s being in Berlin 20 years later which is a new era and Jerome and Aybee now being residents here. We wanted to create an experimental project that would summarise the energy that we’re feeling right now about music and where we think music is going. Berlin’s kind of like a territory for the new and up and coming electronic music scene, Berghain/Panorama Bar being a leading venue in Europe. We wanted to really just pay tribute to that and to our roots and where we come from. This is our love letter to that.
So the whole thing is a reflection of Berlin basically?
Jerome: No. It is more related to our individual histories in music but appreciating and respecting the Berlin influence on the general music culture of today so it’s a combination of both.
You’ve all played there for quite a while now, it must have been very interesting to see how it has evolved.
Ron: Absolutely, when I was here twenty years ago there were a couple of clubs but it wasn’t as developed as it is now so it’s interesting to come back here and see how things have changed – how there’s this new budding scene with a lot of younger folk moving here with dreams of being artists. It reminds me of New York in earlier days in some senses in terms of being a little cheaper to live and for artists to be able to come here and develop something. What we’re doing is paying tribute to the roots of where we come from because there’s high-visibility on the era of the 80s and 90s in particular at this time. We’re celebrating our roots and trying to deliver a message of sensibility.
Jerome: Appreciated across the board. The youth of today and the heads of yesterday will all be able to relate to what we are doing at the moment.
You say it’s quite primarily electronic this one? Has it just been in your studio…
Jerome: We did everything at the Ibadan recording studio here in Berlin, yes.
How’s it going to come out?
Jerome: It will initially come out on a double vinyl in September and then eventually digitally thereafter. But there won’t be any CDs.
Let’s not go too far into promo music because it’s boring now, it’s been trodden over so many times the way in which people promo music. Gone are the days of people sending records to people…
Jerome: The people who want the record can go to their local record store and buy it. Certain DJs who the product is appropriate for will be privileged enough to get the record in advance but that’ll be a very very limited amount of people. Obviously certain members of the press core who are interested in that sort of thing and are willing to support these sorts of creative endeavours will also be thanked with the product but that will only be to respect them and say thank you for their responsible journalism over the years.
You both moved to Berlin how long ago then?
Aybee: I moved to Berlin in October 2012.
And what was the reason?
Aybee: For me it was just a different change to my life really. I came here for a larger creative canvas. I think I had creatively plateaued where I was in Oakland, California, in terms of what I was doing. I had just been a little bit pass the ten year mark with my label and so I was looking at the next ten years – what are the new challenges? I had an opportunity presented to myself to come here and I took it. I just jumped through a small wormhole and ended up here and fell in love with the city, the people, the experience and it just fit my work style perfectly.
Do you find that the shit weather helps make you more creative?
Aybee: Interesting, I mean I came from California which had great weather but for my work-style I spent a lot of time secluded away from people so it’s fine, the weather’s shit – great! I can stay inside and be creative.
I was having a chat with someone recently about London and Berlin and it’s pretty terrible weather for about 6 months of the year so people stay indoors and they make music.
Aybee: Yeah, it was funny because the Berliners were like ‘What’s wrong with you?’ because I didn’t have winters where I came from. I came here and it was snowing and I was like ‘Oh wow, look at the snow’ and they were like ‘You’re not depressed?’.
Jerome: But you have to realise that the weather in Chicago and New York is much worse than the weather here. This is like spring here compared to New York and Chicago weather; we've had much worse winters. I didn’t break out my thermal underwear once since I’ve been here!
Aybee: It was a very light winter we just went through, it was a beautiful winter actually!
Very light actually, just the last few weeks have been a bit rubbish. I think the same with Chicago and New York creatively, weather drives people indoors and they’re forced to make interesting.
Jerome: I actually disagree with you. I don’t mind the cold and it doesn’t drive me indoors, the darkness doesn’t drive me indoors. It drives you out and then you huddle up in the clubs and dance and sweat – it makes you even more social I think.
I agree with you on that point, that’s the nocturnal activities but I guess the rest of the time… When I spent some time in Berlin I just wanted to stay inside and work, but in a good way. Let’s agree to disagree on that… You’re doing Need 2 Soul, 10 years, you have quite a long running relationship with them don’t you?
Jerome: We do, yes. Ron and I actually did a CD several years ago where we did one disc each in the mix. How long ago was that Ron?
Ron: About 6 years ago.
Are we going to be seeing some of the fruits of the SAT project?
Jerome: Absolutely! You’re going to hear the project in its entirety at the need2soul anniversary party for sure.
Obviously the 3 of you are playing in Room One all together, how is that going to be created?
Jerome: I guess we’ll work that out with each other; people will play certain songs and others won’t depending on how we do our set and then obviously at some point we’ll probably be playing together, having lots of fun and playing great music. It’ll work itself out but nothing’s staged for sure!
I want to pick up on a Tweet of yours Aybee; ‘If you’re over 30 listening to rappers talk about killing, hurting each other and other general hate including misogyny I guarantee you’re not happy’.
Aybee: Yes sir!
I was just discussing that in the office, it’s an interesting point – could you elaborate further?
Aybee: Does it need elaboration? [Laughs] Well yeah, in my particular feed I was getting a lot of, some of my more vociferous hip-hop fans were tweeting a lot of particularly vile things about selling drugs etc. And I was like ‘Ok, as a kid your consciousness level is low, you just want to be down with your friends’. You’re over 30 – you have to have some kind of social responsibility for what you listen to and the messages you’re putting out and actually the person that sparked that response from me was a woman and she is particularly unhappy. I know a lot of people that listen to these messages, I remember listening to Kayne’s last album and thinking ‘Why would I want to listen to somebody call me names for an hour?’ That’s basically what it was! You call me out on my name for an hour and talk about what you have and what I don’t have, I get the point. How does that service me? I just don’t get that people of a certain age, some people that have children and families, why they would still be listening to those types of messages and then wonder why you are unhappy.
I agree completely. I don’t want to keep reading through your Twitter feed, I’m not just being lazy here, the whole point of the ‘fetishization of analalogue equipment and the 80s’. Analogue has become the word of the year almost and everyone has become completely obsessed with photos and imagery of that side of things and I think that it’s not particularly productive, is it?
Aybee: Well I mean, it is what you just said it is. That was actually from my man Jordan, Jordash. Excellent point because of course he and Juju and along with David as Magic Mountain High, if you’ve seen them perform live they bring a tonne of analogue gear (808s, 606s, stuff like that). It was particularly key for him to say that because if you post a picture of an 808 you get 855 people responding but if you post some new music 15%. People are obsessing over technology that’s been obsolete for nearly 20-30 years and you’re not doing anything new with it. These machines were technically exhausted in the 90s – everything that could be done on that machine has been done and you’re not going to do anything new. It’s fascinating to see people just obsessed with analogue gear but that doesn’t mean your music is good. Just because you have an 808 doesn’t mean you’re going to make good music. If it’s really about making music, what are we talking about here? Why is everyone so obsessed with saying ‘I use this that and the other’. I don’t care what you use! When I heard Stevie Wonder’s music, or any great artist like Jimi Hendrix, I didn’t care what guitar he had. It was the music that hit you. It’s a dangerous territory when it comes to worship of the machines or is it about the music?’
Yeah, technology has moved on so far now that you don’t need to… It’s a difficult argument because we live in this age where everything is so transient and so quick to move on so people need to hold on to things like that in a way. I completely agree with you, I just think we’re in a very difficult transitionary period. I guess the younger generation don’t have anything real to hold onto.
Aybee: Before Malcolm McLaren passed he made some great points in an interview, it might have been the last interview that he did. It was about exactly what you just said; He said that the generation coming up now has not yet found that thing that defines them. They have access to everything but not really anything to hold onto for their own. As I said, a lot of these machines have been technically exhausted for years but a new generation of people grab them and do you really push it forward and come up with new sounds, palettes or colours? Not really. I am a big proponent of technology as I come from the Bay Area home to Silicon Valley. I Love what technology lends to us as creators, and the possibility of new music, and colors. Their is some tremendous talent and music floating around from people that are really taking things to new realms. I'm interested in hearing that not a picture of 80's drum machine.
Do you guys work together on producing this or do you all go off separately and do bits and pieces?
Aybee: We’ve all been in the studio, we’ve been locked in here in Jerome’s studio for 2 or 3 weeks just banging it out. It’s actually been a couple of months now, I’m losing track of time… We had a bit of a break but the first couple of weeks were pretty intense and then Jerome went off to do an Asian tour and Ron went to go do a few gigs and we came back together to finish things off. It was really an intense couple of weeks just being in here every day.
Out dancing as well?
Aybee: Oh always dancing!
So it’s coming out in the middle of the summer, is that right?
Jerome: In September, the vinyl will be out in September and then we’ll let it just sit for a while and marinate.
Would you mind if I asked you a few stock questions as well?
Aybee: No problem!
What was the first electronic record you ever heard and how did it make you feel?
Ron: First electronic record I remember hearing was Kraftwerk. One of my favourites was ‘Home Computer’, I remember that being like a super-craze in my neighbourhood because guys were break-dancing at the time and that was a big, big record! Of course there’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ which was also played on the radio but ‘Home Computer’ was one of my favourites.
Jerome: For me I have to go with Ron on that. That’s the one that turned me onto it because it was so fresh and different. Those 2 songs especially really hit the black worldwide community pretty hard!
Aybee: I want to say Yellow Magic Orchestra – ‘Computer Games’. There were tonnes of tracks but that was just… There were so many! Back then when we were hearing this stuff it wasn’t like the genres that we have now, like ‘this is electronic music’. We were like ‘This is DOPE!’ and we just gravitated to it. It still gives me butterflies to this day.
Jerome: That’s such a good point that Aybee just made. We didn’t regard it as electronic music, we just regarded it as a great new product. That’s all. Later on people over-categorised things and turned things upside down but we just thought ‘There’s a hot new record out, have you heard it?’
So your music now is not described as electronic, it’s just music then?
Aybee: Yeah, I mean at least for me creatively that’s how I’ve always treated it. I don’t regard myself as an electronic musician, I regard myself as a musician using electronic instruments.
Great! Last record bought?
Aybee: Mr Trent? You probably bought one about 30 seconds ago?
Ron: Yeah, I’m a major record collector. I’ve actually been buying a lot of Kraut-rock. Let’s see… I don’t have them in front of me but there’s a group by the name of Krang and an album in particular that’s pretty hard to find that I got that’s been kind of like my own personal soundtrack; it’s a Firefly album. Really dope music, electronic-jazz-rock experience.
Are you a kick drum, a hi-hat or a snare and why?
Combined: You can’t separate! It’s like separating your hands from your feet! And a shaker, and a cymbal… You need them all!
Let’s end on this one; What’s your answer to everything?
Jerome: Everything is everything.
Could you pick us some images that mean Berlin to you?
Aybee: Interspersed throughout this article.
S.A.T. Project is out later this year on Ibadan Records.
You can catch a recreation of it this weekend at the Need2Soul 10 year anniversary at Fire on Saturday June 7th.
S.AT. group photo by Marie Staggart