Photo: Press (Bwana)
Sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction. On a flight from Manchester to Berlin, Groove’s editor-in-chief Heiko Hoffmann overheard two DJs speaking about one of them considering getting in touch with our magazine to record a mix for our Groove podcast. That DJ turned out to be Bwana, a Canadian whose career has taken some rather surprising turns ever since he had uploaded his debut track “Baby, Let Me Finish” in 2011. Ever since, Nathan Micay has gone from playing Objekt tunes to a Skrillex crowd (no, that didn’t go well) to radically reinventing his sound, being the first North American producer on Aus and providing some much needed fitness advice to fellow DJs and producers. One of Bwana’s main passions however – besides anime – is Trance and Progressive House, a fact reflected in his contribution to our Groove podcast. Just because life is stranger than fiction, doesn’t mean there can’t a happy ending, right?
You are a fan of anime and have even released a remix album of the classic Akira score and sampled Naruto and Dragonball Z. Just a few days ago, a trailer for the live action remake of Ghost In The Shell was launched, featuring a Steve Aoki remix of the iconic soundtrack. Speaking as a fan, what’s your stance remakes like those and what was the idea behind your own Akira remix project?
Indeed I am! I had to google the Steve Aoki remix if I’m honest as I’m trying to not watch any trailers for the film so I can see it with a totally open mind and no preconceptions. Kinda wish I hadn’t heard it now. As for what looks to be an onslaught of live action remakes of classic anime, I get it. There’s a pre-existing audience and money to be made. I don’t think it needs to be done but at this point I just hope they don’t screw it up like the Avatar: The Last Airbender Movie. That was unforgivable! I’m glad that Christopher Nolan is taking on the Akira re-make, at least that’s what I hear. If there’s anyone that can nail it as a live action then it’s probably him. The idea for Capsule’s Pride was pretty much to re-tell Akira using dance music. I took the film, studied it, dissected the sounds and tried to compress that narrative into a dance music LP. Hopefully I did it justice!
Your fascination with Trance and Progressive House is well documented, in fact Sasha even played a tune of yours in his Essential Mix. What draws you to those genres that do not exactly have the best reputation in some circles of the Dance Music community?
Yes, that was a glorious morning when I heard that. Well, I should say that I think Trance is having a big moment right now! You go on YouTube videos for the classics and you see “Played by Nina Kraviz here” or “Ben Klock played this there!” Classic trance is a big reference point for a lot of people at the moment, whether in an ironic way or not. As for myself, I’m totally fascinated by the mythology and ethos of the early trance movement. I love reading the YouTube comments about classic tracks where people recall their memories of the 90s and talk about this era of community and a movement of spontaneity and pure ecstasy – the feeling, not the drug. It doesn’t really feel like there is anything close to that anymore and so listening to old CD compilations and mixes is my way of trying to re-live that, I guess. There is also so much music to explore. I enjoy going down a Trance hole on Discogs and searching for a gem until I realize it’s 5 am.
Accordingly, your mix for Groove also ventures into Trance territory at times, throwing in Emmanuel Top’s classic “Acid Phase” in for good measure. What was the idea behind it?
Something I’ve explored this past year is taking very fast tracks like ‘”Acid Phase”, that have a BPM of 135-140 and playing them super slow at 105-110. It sometimes can sound like an entirely new track and the space it creates in the groove can be very effective and hypnotic. So in this mix my idea was to show the full range of a track like that. I have the beginning at about 105 BPM and it ends at 135. Like almost anything in dance music, Trance can be used as a versatile tool.
You’ve handed in the mix a bit later because you were waiting for a certain tune to arrive on vinyl. Which track was that and did you have to wait out necessity – some of the older tracks in this mix might not be available digitally – or do you have a strictly vinyl policy?
It was a CD actually! The last track by Om, a collaboration project by Dennis Ferrer and Tetsu Inoue. It’s off their album Instant Enlightenment which you can only find on CD now. Quite of a bit of the best releases from the early 90s are only CD unfortunately, which is a real pain in the ass given that most computers no longer have a CD drive! The other rare track I needed for this mix was A.W.A.’s “Together We Can Learn”. Aside from it being an incredible dance floor weapon, it has a great underlying message that I think we can all appreciate in this current political climate. I really wanted to stick that in the mix and so ordered it especially for y’all! If you value your heart health I wouldn’t advise looking at the Discogs asking price at the moment. (laughs) I don’t like to take these vinyls to the club anymore as first off, they’re so rare and expensive that I don’t wanna risk damaging them and secondly, half the time I don’t even get to play them as there is some technical issue. So I’ve become a fan of making rips! However, if I know the club has a great set-up I’ll bring the wax and it’s an absolute joy to get to play them.
Besides DJing and producing music full time, you have become somewhat of a personal trainer for other DJs. What are the most common health mistakes you see DJs make and which tips would you give DJs with straining touring schedules?
Yeah, somehow this has taken over my life! A total accident, but I’m happy to be of service if my fellow producer and DJ friends are in need! I wouldn’t say there is such thing as a common health mistake. Everybody’s body is different and you learn as you go along how it will react to certain situations and lifestyles. For myself and my friends that ask, I just say listen to your body and give it what it needs. If you feel tired and have the opportunity to catch up on sleep, take it. If you know you’re traveling for two days, prepare some bags of snacks. Simple things like that.
You’ve recently started a podcast called Studio B: A Beginner’s Guide to the Music Industry With Bwana & Friends on Berlin Community Radio, for which you also invite over people working behind the scenes. What are the biggest misconceptions you have encountered in your career about the music industry and which changes have you witnessed yourself since putting out your debut track “Baby, Let Me Finish” in 2011 on YouTube?
Good question. I mean it’s cliché, but when I first started I was a naive 19 year old and assumed the music was all that mattered. I know better now. (laughs) As for changes, definitely more and more screens out at parties!
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m playing at a very famous party in Berlin this spring. One of the great honours of my life to be included on the bill. Then after that I’ll be doing some more shows in Europe and the UK before heading to the USA and Canada for spring. Then back here for more in the Europe and the UK and my first trips East of Germany as a DJ! Looking like a small Brazil tour in the works for later this year as well. As for new music, I have a new EP out in April and am sitting on enough release ready music to carry me through to 2019. Now it’s just a matter of plotting it all out in a way that makes sense! Also more remixes and edits with Avalon Emerson as part of her Cybernedits series.
Stream: Bwana – Groove Podcast 97
01. Craig Leon – One Hundred Steps [Rvng Intl]
02. A.M Synaptic – Partial [Paradise Productions]
03. Emmanuel Top – Acid Phase [Attack Records
04. Paradise Connection – 111 Belltrees [High Society]
05. Real Man – Fashion Victims(New Beat Remix/Bwana edit) [Carrere]
06. Bwana – Threeway Is the Hard Way (Avalon Emerson Remix) [17 Steps]
07. Bwana – Where Were We in ’93? [white]
08. K-Hand – Computer [K7!]
09. Cam Des Puig – I Am That Living Soul (Bwana’s ‘Trance Is Eternal!’ Re-work) [Cybernedits]
10. Melody Boy 2000 – Sound Stealer [DUM]
11. Hardkiss – 3 Nudes In a Purple Garden ft. Hawke [Hardkiss Music]
12. A.W.A – Together We Can Learn [Tuch Wood Records]
13. Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia – Exit 23 [Sacred Summits]
14. Lambda – Hold On Tight (Nalin & Kane Remix) [La Maison Grande]
15. Om – Here Comes The Sun [C&S Records]
16. Om – Be Here Now (Bwana’s ‘End of Night’ edit) [C&S Records]