Solarstone dives into his new album, Dreamstate as a brand, DRM, and his favorite foods!
Richard Mowatt is no newcomer to Trance. Better known as Solarstone, Rich has been in it since the beginning when Solarstone was a 3 person group. As the sole heir to the alias today, he’s maintained a strict quality level most artists may find difficult. he’s seen the rise of electronic music as a whole, stuck with Trance, and grew in his own way. Having played around the world and spread the #ILikeItPure and #KeepItPure hashtags, a direct result of his resurgent style known as Pure Trance. Five compilations deep, the Pure Trance style continues to shock the Trance system with beautiful melodies and plenty of energy.
He recently stopped by in California for two shows – One with Paul van Dyk in San Diego, and the other as Pure NRG (with Guiseppe Ottaviani) at Dreamstate San Francisco, and we were lucky enough to catch up with the Trance maestro. See what he has to say below about his new album, Dreamstate, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and his favorite food!
If you missed out, we reviewed the new album already! You can check it out here and have a soundtrack to listen to while reading the interview below.
You’ve been on a busy sweep for a few years now with the #KeepItPure movement, Pure NRG, and now just hit the ground with your new album ‘.—- (One)’. How did you fit time in to keep writing music for the album with all the touring?
The last 5 years have been incredibly busy, yes – and to be honest, a new album was not my No. 1 priority, but I worked on a very large amount of tracks in this time – there were a lot of singles, remixes & compilation albums of course – and PureNRG! But I wanted to wait for the new Solarstone album until I had a ‘sound’ for it – I really didn’t want to release another ‘Pure’ – that really seemed pointless, especially as all of my albums have been different and had a ‘sound’ all of their own. I’m very happy with the response to ‘. – – – -‘. My fans really ‘get’ the album – it is very different to ‘Pure’ but it is still 100% Solarstone. If I was one of those artists who basically make the same record hundreds of times I would not be happy as an artist – I need to express myself musically, not play it safe.
I want to make people think with my music, to take them on a different journey each time. If you go on the same journey every time it becomes a chore, not a pleasure. The new record is the first part of something altogether bigger.
What’s the coolest destination for you personally to have traveled to over the last year?
New Zealand – I spent a few days there during our Australia tour earlier this year, it really blew my mind – I didn’t play there yet, it was just a short holiday, but the beautiful landscape and laid back vibe really suited me. I hope to play in Queenstown at some point, my radio show has been broadcasting there for over 10 years yet I’ve never met my NZ fans.
Having jumped into California a number of times, what is your favorite Southern California staple food to munch on? Maybe it’s a California Burrito or ‘In & Out Burger’?
Aaaah! I’m not a big fan of food in the USA, the portions are too large and it is a very unhealthy diet. I much prefer South American food, to be honest! I do like how you always get free water with your meal though! In the UK they charge you for everything. Don’t ask for a coffee refill unless you want to pay twice!
You recently swung by the new A State Of Trance broadcast studio in Amsterdam promoting the album, sharing a good chuckle with Armin on the air. What was the experience like?
Really good, there’s a wicked atmosphere in the ASOT studio! It is a really great idea by Armin & the team – they invited me to pop in whenever I am in the Netherlands.I’m hoping to borrow their studio sometime for a Pure Trance special!
In that same vein, Armin made the push to simulcasting the video stream for A State Of Trance’s weekly radio show. You also do a live broadcast on Facebook Live for the Pure Trance radio show. Do you see it as a neat experiment or something that will evolve for music broadcasts going forward?
A simultaneous broadcast on all stations & networks is the ideal scenario, but it’s only possible if the time zones make sense. My own stream on Facebook is synchronized with the DIFM broadcast, but neither of those gets very many listeners if I’m completely honest. The main focus of the show is the FM syndication – for example, Dance Paradise radio in Brazil gets millions of listeners.
On Facebook, the sound quality is very poor. Each stream reaches many thousands of people eventually but I don’t think it is the ideal way to reach fans; it’s just an experiment. I do like the YouTube stream of Armin’s show, but I can’t see me doing that – he has a large team around him to help, whereas I do my own show single-handed, I’m not on the same level as ASOT. I would like to grow the show into more of an event, for it to be on a par with GDJB or ABGT eventually – I know that PT radio is in the top 5 of trance shows worldwide already so that’s a start, but Solarstone is a small operation compared to those guys. They have more financial strength than me to get investment to pay for the support network to make it bigger, but that’s OK – I’m happy to be underground!
You launched Pure Progressive as another outlet for the deeper sounds you are into that don’t quite fit under Pure Trance. What gravitates your tastes between the two labels today? If you had to distinguish the two styles – is it more than tempo and BPM that pushes one track to a certain label?
Yes- it’s completely about the tempo and the vibe, Pure Trance isn’t about the BPM, it’s about the feeling, the mood – but I do think it is important to separate the faster & slower tracks so that DJs and labels can know what to expect. I’ve always covered a wide range of BPM and depth with my releases & DJ sets so it comes naturally to me to have these two labels. The deeper more progressive sound is on the rise, which is a good thing. Artists like Forerunners. Arnold & Baggotts, and Gai Barone are ones to watch this year.
Digital Rights Management continues to be a hot-button issue in the industry. As a label owner, and given the plethora of streaming options out there – things like Facebook Live, Mixcloud, Spotify, YouTube Live, and so on – do you think there is any solution out there that is fair to the owner and the listener?
Trance fans don’t tend to listen to trance on Spotify, that’s a fact – for some reason, it’s just not that popular – I make a tiny income from streaming. Short edits are more popular on streaming services, and the music I make & release simply does not fit that format – it’s about the mix, the journey. When you shorten a trance track to 4 minutes it loses its character and meaning somewhat. Also, services like Spotify make way too much money and don’t pay fairly to the artists. They take a huge % of the revenue. But even now with services like Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music costing something like €10 per month some people still think it is ok to illegally download pirated music. I despise those actions. Don’t call yourself a fan if you won’t pay for my music. Don’t come to my shows. Fuck you.
In hard times, Art is even more important than in times of prosperity. Why should we creators make a living too? I know people who use those hacked TV boxes so they don’t have to pay for TV entertainment either now, why do some people expect to get their entertainment for free? They want to destroy the film & TV industry the way they largely destroyed the music industry and all those artists who could not make a living anymore? I despise those actions too. It is biting the hand that feeds you.
We’ve seen Pure Trance touching plenty of your fans; some even have tattoos of your logo. What’s the craziest story one of your fans shared with you?
I don’t know about ‘crazy stories’ but a guy met me at Buenos Aires airport on Friday a couple of weeks ago with ‘I Like It Pure’ tattooed on his arm. I was very moved by that. It is time I got a ‘Keep It Pure’ tattoo myself really! I really want some more tattoos but deciding what to have is so difficult, anyone with tattoos knows that.
Given the back catalog of music you’ve made over the years under a number of projects, what’s one tune you’d love to give the Pure rework to that you haven’t yet?
There are quite a few actually! ‘Destination’ is one; ‘The Calling’ is another. But both of those tracks of course already ‘Pure Trance’ – I would just give them an overhaul. Which other ones… ‘Speak in Sympathy’ perhaps? That needs an update for sure, although Giuseppe and I have been playing a version of it occasionally in our live shows.
From your perspective as a long-standing bastion for Trance, what’s your take on the vision of Insomniac’s Dreamstate brand?
It’s good for Trance on an international level; it’s great for spreading the word & the music, bringing the music to a new audience. The EDM boom partly made this possible – but without elements like Pure Trance, Subculture, FSOE and other consistent Trance labels & artists etc. it would not have happened – that is a fact. Many artists gave up on trance. Hardly surprising though – considering the pummeling and abuse trance and its associated artists received at the hands of media and stupid, ignorant ‘cool’ DJs. A small number of artists and labels kept the scene alive during a hard period in Trance’s history. But completely honestly there are a few DJs who they book which I don’t see the point of – DJs who have done nothing for the new wave of trance. Dreamstate is largely and rightly about who is making a difference now – not only 10 years ago. It’s not a classics event, and it shouldn’t be.
The new generation of trance fans (who are the majority of who go to Dreamstate shows) could not care less about what happened in 1999. If trance lovers in their 30s and 40s want to hear old ‘classics’ from their youth they should use iTunes or go to classic events – don’t expect new events like Dreamstate to be about those old records. I’ve made my feelings known to Dreamstate, and I believe they respect my opinion.
On a general level, I also get generally frustrated when promoters keep booking the same few names for every event. I’m not talking about Dreamstate now, but it’s really bad for the scene overall. What I do in the grand scheme of things – I do for the scene in general, I don’t crave some temporary commercial success; I want to help create something of substance that will last. Hence why I support upcoming names so much at my events and on the labels. There is a lot of jealousy and nasty snake-like stuff going on behind the scene – people trying to damage their ‘competition’ – I despise those actions. This isn’t a competition of who can die with the most money or fame – it needs to be more of a community, with co-operation and a solid, cohesive support network between artists, labels & promoters. I didn’t get to where I am by trying to hurt other artists, so it is possible to work in a positive way in this industry! Most of us labels & artists are ok, but there are a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest. It’s about having a positive state of mind, a caring and positive attitude. There isn’t room for divas in the trance scene. JOOF would have something to say about this too ha-ha!
If you could implant one core idea into Dreamstate that you think could help it truly grow, what would it be and why?
I think that Dreamstate’s heart is in the right place already, but we all need a little guidance from time to time of course, including me! I’d just say that history is a good teacher; learn the lessons of the past and don’t over-reach yourself – or go for the quick buck. Treat your audience with care and respect and they will stay with you.