DJ Schwa (Michal Schwa) is the founder of Beef Records and one half of the new electronic music duo Shades Of Gray. Known for his late night house and techno vibes, he's also quite fluent when it comes to downtempo and chill out, or what we at Magnetic call ELM- electronic listening music.
He's recently released a new mix compilation, Lay It Down, featuring artists like Elina Monova, Superloader, Jon Kennedy, The Timewriter, Herb Lf and more. When it comes to ELM, this compilation represents some of the best of the best, and it's mixed to perfection by Schwa himself.
He recently gave us a few moments to chat to talk about the mix and how it developed. He's what he had to say:
DJ Schwa thank you for taking the time to talk with us! First, great job on your new mix compilation CD Lay It Down. We are diggin the downtempo chill out vibes- definitely a refreshing change from endless stream of high energy stuff out there right now. What was your inspiration for putting this compilation together?
Thanks for the nice words about the compilation mix “Lay It Down”. I have always been digging slower types of electronic music. It’s king of an escape for me from the club music I listen to and DJ with a lot. I have always been influenced by jazz music. When I was younger my dad used to take me to a lot of Jazz concerts so the CD is very inspired by that. I was playing with an idea of a downtempo release for a few years in my head. I actually wanted to start a new label as a platform for this kind of stuff because I started receiving quite a few amazing demos with this leftfield and downtempo music. At the end when the compilation was taking a more concrete shape I decided to put it out on Beef Records.
It looks like some of the tracks go back quite a few years. What era would you say this compilation reflects?
For me it doesn’t reflect any particular year, style or musical box. It reflects music that I like hearing in a nice café, in a car or at home on lazy Sunday afternoon. However I always wanted to avoid the Café Del Mar and Ibiza kind of chill-out cliché. There is so much great non-banging music that is still underground and experimental and not overly melodic, cheesy or too chill-out. This LP is not focused on DJs. It’s for everybody who enjoys this kind of stuff. That’s why we released it as a mix as well as separate tracks. It can be purchased digitally (Beatport, iTunes, Traxsourece) as well as physically (Juno, Amazon, etc).
How is music different now from that back in the earlier years?
I don't feel that music is much different then lets say 10 years back. Of course sound always evolves but the 'feeling' in the music I like is very similar. There are a lot of new technologies now and writing music has become accessible to huge amounts of people. Because of that we have a huge amount of 'producers'. Looking for fresh and original music because more time consuming and difficult. But this can be also fun… depends how you look at it and where you look for fresh stuff.
You mention that most of the songs on here are from friends and people you had worked with in the past. Did you get to reconnect with anyone you had lost touch with? Was it interesting to find out where they've been and what they were up to?
Well, some of the first tracks for this project were signed more then a year ago. It took a while to collect all the songs. But at the end I actually ended up with more songs then I actually needed. That gave me a lot of freedom to put together a mix that flows well and to choose only songs that somehow jell together. I have to thank all the artists involved for being so patient with this CD! It’s really taken a while. However as your mentioned most of these artists are friends, colleagues or DJs I often share a stage with… so the process was quite fun and easy going compared to projects where you have to deal with big agencies and managers.
Let's get down to the details of the mix. How did the mix evolve once you had the songs selected? Did you mix it all in one take or break it up into sections?
I had a selection of about 22 tracks. From these I choose the final track list when I was working on the mix. I wasn’t too concerned about particular songs or names. More important for me was to give the mix a nice flow and story that evolves through the set. It’s a mixed CD so it was important to join the tracks together carefully. There are a lot of different tempos and that doesn’t make any easier.
CD's Or vinyl on the mix? What about live?
The mix is done digitally so I didn’t use any vinyl on this one. However I still buy records and I love DJing vinyl. When I DJ I play house and techno music. So I gotta admit that the Lay It Down CD doesn’t reflect music I play in night clubs very well haha. I don’t want people to get too sleepy at 2am in a dirty sweaty club. I play often live with Nick West as Shades Of Gray. We have a new album coming out soon so keep your eyes open on that one.
What are your favorite genres to play live?
House, techno, electronic music that has energy and strong deep feeling. I love old drum machines, acid basslines and moody pads. All things raw, analog and vinyl are my big passion.
Do you think there's going to be a resurgence of downtempo and chill-out?
I think so… You can’t listen to 4/4 bagers all the time without going mad.
What's up next for you in 2014? Any US tours? Personal goals?
Yeah, we are talking to several promoters over in US at the moment. With the new Shades Of Gray album there will be a US tour for sure. We are going reveal all the details soon. My personal goal is to keep doing what I do and keep evolving musically and artistically. My taste is always changing and that’s what I love about music. It gives you so many options and feelings. When people trust you on your selection as a DJ you can experiment a lot. That’s why I am kind of escaping the whole digital platform lately. Downloading best selling tracks on Beatport doesn’t satisfy me anymore. I love crate digging, researching and exploring. But who knows what’s going to happen in a few years time.
What about Shades of Grey? Beef Records?
Beef Records is great fun. It’s like my little baby and its great to see it going well. We have some great music in the pipeline. However the main focus at the moment is the new Shades Of Gray album for which we are organizing remixes. We have Rio Padice, Smash TV, Terry Lee Brown, Sean Roman, Dick Diamonds, Kruse & Nuernberg on board so far.
Special thanks to DJ Schwa to talking with us. You can find out more about the compilation off any of the links below.