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Interview with Queensyze

Queensyze on being back on Nervous with her new EP

Queensyze is a Canadian DJ, producer, composer, and filmmaker. Having produced in various genres throughout her career, she released her debut techno EP The Pretty Lights in 2019. Supported by tastemaker media like Resident Advisor and Mixmag, The Pretty Lights broke into the coveted top ten Techno Chart on Beatport landing the #5 spot within the first week of release. 

Her long-awaited follow-up to The Pretty Lights on Nervous Records, Smells Like Aciid, will finally be released this July. Originally slated for the winter of 2020, Queensyze suffered a traumatic brain injury that stopped her career in its tracks. Recovery has been slow, but finally, Queensyze is back to doing what she loves, making this follow-up EP even more important. 

Connect with Queensyze on Soundcloud

Thanks for talking to us… how has 2022 been for you so far?

Thanks for having me! Excited to be speaking with you today. 2022 has been a better year than the last few that’s for sure. I’m finally making music again and releasing a second artist EP with Nervous Records set to be released July 22nd. I have another EP I’m shopping around at the moment and I get to talk to you – it’s been really nice to get the wheels back on the train and back to life.

You came up through the underground scene in Vancouver, what for you were some of the most formative experiences of your early years in music?

I actually grew up in Toronto, Ontario so I came up in the underground scene in TO and when I moved to Vancouver I continued on DJ’ing in the underground scene. Looking back I really respect and value the diverse electronic music I got to hear in my early years before I started to DJ. At the underground raves, I was going to the DJs played house, techno, drum and bass, breaks – sometimes all in one night and I loved them all. I got to hear the best DJ’s come through of that time in really cool warehouse settings.

Mostly, I got to hear the latest underground music from New York, Detroit, UK & Chicago so my early influences are rooted from those areas. I was a sponge, most of my musical inspiration comes from that seminal time in my life, those early years are definitely at the core of every track I make and how I curate my DJ sets.

I also remember at a rave at the Masonic Temple in Toronto, David Bowie was roaming around as an audience member. He was checking out the scene with one other guy. It was so cool because everyone just left him alone to do his own thing. Nobody bugged him and tried to tackle him for pics or anything. 

How would you describe your development as an artist in the years you have been active?

Ha, I’m always changing! I’m a Gemini so I naturally cannot sit still; I’m always doing two things at once and trying to figure out what I’m doing next all at the same time. I think I’ve always just done my own thing. I just write what makes me feel alive at the moment. I think it’s because of my early introduction to electronic music, I try to keep the feeling of that first warehouse I went to where I felt the pounding music thrive through my soul and I saw everyone as one, united together in the music.

Because of this experience, my sound reflects a raw yet polished warehouse sound, the rave, big beats, big bass, with ravey lines. I also love sound design, and I teeter the fine line between sound design and driving the beat forward. I like the juxtaposition of the two. And I think this dual energy gets carried on throughout my music, and when I DJ.

Which other artists do you listen to, and draw inspiration from?

I listen to pretty chill music when at home, I like Christian Löffler, Tycho, M83, Robert Levon Been, for track inspiration I like listening to old classics along with pretty tough and heavy techno to draw from their raw energy and get inspired.

Tell us about your latest EP, Smells Like Aciid – was there any specific inspiration for this one?

I guess at the core of it I was inspired by the memories of what it’s like to be at an underground warehouse rave for the first time, similar to my inspiration when I wrote “The Pretty Lights” EP. Inspired by what it’s like to have your eyes closed and you can see the lasers through your eyelids with the thick smoke machine air when the techno is pounding. Just putting myself in that space to write from.

I wrote the title track Smells Like Aciid first as a follow-up to my The Pretty Lights EP. Nervous and I talked about doing another release shortly after The Pretty Lights, so I started writing right away. I wrote Smells Like Aciid first, and then I wrote Give Up Your Love, in 2019. I then played them out a few times and sat on them for a bit as I was thinking about the tweaks and such after I played them on a big system. I like to sit on tracks after I test them out to think about them and to ensure they land on the dance floor. But then I got injured, so I didn’t get to finish them until this year, 2022.

For you, what are some of the ingredients that you aim to add to a track to make sure it stands out from the crowd?

I generally aim to keep the energy of my tracks raw. Even though, I also like them to sound polished, big and sparkly. My goal is for them to have an edge and have that feeling of an indie record. I focus on the idea of being subversive with my sound design and effects while I also lay down the raw emotion and beats to keep it moving.

I guess because I naturally have a dual nature I like the two sides of music both visceral and hard, raw yet elegant and detailed. I also strive to have an emotional element layered in my tracks that makes you feel something, could be in a build or the vocal or how I make the percussion move. At the end of the day, my ultimate goal (and I don’t stop until I achieve this in my tracks) is to make myself feel something while I’m creating. If I can achieve this, then I hope the audience will feel it too. If I’m like, “this is boring”…I’ll keep at it until I’m inspired.

We read that you had to take some time out from music after a pretty horrific injury, can you tell us what happened? 

Yeah sure. A couple of weeks after NYE 2020, I was in a freak accident where an automatic seat in a minivan projectile closed on my head at a high velocity. The impact resulted in me getting knocked out. The doctor diagnosed it as a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), more commonly known as a concussion, which at the hospital, the doctors said would resolve itself within a week. But for me, it took over two years.

A lot of people don’t know this (and I didn’t at the time either) but concussions can take a long time to recover from depending on your injury. And for me, it was a really long up and down roller coaster. For the first eight months, I couldn’t even listen to music. Music made me physically sick. I’m doing OK now though, I’ve figured out a way for me to get back to it.

How tough was it to get back into the studio afterwards? 

I think getting back into music was the last to come back for me during recovery. The intense focus it takes to produce music and the amount of brain processing we do as producers is something extraordinary. Not only that but the amount of screen time you have to do to create tracks is dumbfounding. When I was recovering and I couldn’t do screen time or listen to music, but I knew I needed to start training myself to get back into creating again, I started small. I think it was kind of similar to an injured athlete training to get back into the game after they have injured their key instrument, for example, a tennis player injuring a shoulder.

So, like a tennis player training back from a big shoulder injury they wouldn’t go and play Wimbledon right away, they would do small things to build up to that again. And so I trained my brain in little increments. At first, it was just getting myself to listen to music. Then when that finally didn’t set my symptoms off, I started playing my instruments, then screen time and each step led to a longer time, more intricate details. So yeah, it was very hard for me to get back into the game, and I think I’m still working on this process. 

Smells Like Aciiid sees you back on Nervous Records… how important is a solid label in making sure your music reaches as many people as possible? 

For me, it’s really important to be heard as an artist. The wider audience Nervous has access to helps in my growth. As an artist in Canada, it’s even more important because we don’t have access to the same touring capabilities as Europe or America. Just because our country is so big with few major cities in between.

After my first release with Nervous, they were really quick to say, “when can we do another”. That was so amazing to hear. I’m excited to be on such an iconic label with my second EP.

What is your current studio setup? Do you have any specific bits of gear that you find yourself returning to time after time?

I work in a soundproof room and I have a mix of inboard and outboard gear. My main squeeze is my TB-303. I’ve used it on every single track I’ve produced since I bought it in 2008. I also use my TR-09 quite a bit. For synths, I use my Virus mostly, my OP-1 and some other odd vintage things I have. I love distortion so I have a bunch of pedals and amps.

Can we expect more music from you this year?

I’m shopping around another EP and working on some new tracks too. So yeah, I hope they get out there!

In addition to your music work, you also make films – can you tell us about some of your recent projects? 

I directed an episode of “Canada Is A Drag” – which is an online series for the Canadian Broadcaster called the CBC about Drag Queens in Canada. It was really fun; my subject is also a musician so it was cool to talk about their experience as a Drag performer and a musician. I also compose music for films as well. The last film I composed was a feature fiction called “The Birdwatcher”.

Finally, please can you recommend one piece of music that has especially resonated with you in the last few months…

Most recently I’ve been listening to the “Consumed In Key” album. Being a Canadian I stay close to what other Canadians are doing. This one is a collab between our star piano playing export Chile Gonzales and our techno star export Richie Hawtin, executive produced by our one and only Tiga. It’s such a beautiful record, deep in techno but also rooted in jazzy undertones with the piano. It’s gorgeous to sit on the deck in the sun and listen to the rich tapestry of each track.

Thank you.

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