Interview: Steven Julien
One of the most prominent representatives of London House Music, Steven Julien (aka Funkineven) will return to Amsterdam for the first ever Lente Kabinet weekender.
With his Apron Records imprint instrumental in introducing the likes of Greg Beato and Shanti Celeste to the world, and inimitable technical skills behind the decks, Steve Julien is a complete (and unique) voice in contemporary dance. Born and raised in West London with Grenadian blood, his first foray with rhythm came as a dancer, MC and beatmaker, before moulding smooth cuts of his own, as representative on his 2009 debut EP with Eglo Records.
Steve Julien brings these smooth sounds to Lente Kabinet as it takes over Het Twiske from 27 – 27 May. He will be joining a stellar, and diverse, range of acts across the spectrum of electronic music including Ben UFO, DJ Assault, DJ Fett Burger, DMX Crew (live), Hunee, Kelela (live), Mozhgan, and many more. Here we caught up with Steven to discuss his impending Amsterdam trip, as well as his new mini-LP ‘Bloodline’.
“The drum programming I produce ain’t coming from just me, it comes from a long line of ancestors…”
It’s been some 2 years since your album “Fallen.” Now, with a mini LP out soon, can you describe the last two years for you, creatively? When did you start working on this project? What was its original seed? How many manifestations did it have until it was ready for release?
Touring took too much of my time to create so I had to cut it back to make music because my main passion as a producer was getting swallowed up by DJing. I was hungry to make beats so making ‘Bloodline’ came pretty easy as I was starving to make music. I think the first 2 tracks are dark so that might give people an impression that the whole EP is dark, it defo gets lighter and more musical as it goes along till the end. “Fallen” was the opposite, it started light and then got darker plus its twice as long. Yes, maybe it can bang in the club more than “Fallen” but for me I still love listening to it cozy at home – plus! It defo feels more in your face sonically and also three dimensionally, maybe because this is my first project using all my new outboard gear that helped me mixed / engineered it to a higher level, I think personally…
As much as you can (or are willing) can you describe a little about the track names? For example, the story behind “Queen of Ungilsan”.
Ungilsan is a district/area in South Korea where I visited the monks at the temple on top of the mountains. It was so inspiring to complete the skeleton of this song I had to name it this title – we listened to it in the car while driving down the mountain, so I get memories every time I listen to this song…
The mini-LP is described as an ode to family, as well as Roland’s founder Ikutaro Kakehashi. This leads me to understand that your relationship with Roland and its gear is also of a highly personal nature. How would you describe your introduction and initial reaction to the sound and capabilities of Roland?
This LP is not a “tribute” but I mostly use Roland original pieces, yes. I can’t get enough of it, especially the TR 808, that thing just makes hits (hits you in the right places). I love driving it hot into mic pre’s – sounds beautiful through a Toft ATB mic pre and a Neve 517 mic pre – this is how I recorded track 3 – ‘Bloodline’. I ran the whole TR808 into one channel then turned the Toft mic pre knob all the way up! Then a sprinkle of the Roland Juno for the pads.. beautiful combo.. so yeah’ big up Ikutaro Kakehashi for making this possible. I obviously heard that he passed away last year in April. The music industry today, period, is ran by his sound creation whether its software or drum machines of the 808, pop or underground..
Rest in Power IK.
Describe how Roland and your own family shaped your interest in music, and also how they worked together in developing your creative approach to it?
Yeah, I grew up around music 24-7 with some of my uncles being in the system culture and others being MCs and dancers. This influenced me to try all of it: MC-ing, Dancing and now obviously DJ-ing. But, on a deeper one, I’m also talking about rhythm’ from tribes in Africa and natives from the Caribbean which streams through the family Bloodline rhythm. The drum programming I produce ain’t coming from just me, it comes from a long line of ancestors…
I wasn’t encouraged to play instruments as such but was encouraged to do what I wanted and nurture my craft, freedom to fulfil my dreams…..
By the way, the artwork pics are from my brothers christening after party, which had a big sound system in the living room. I remember the after party never ending and I was aloud to stay up to party till the early hours of the morning…
Over the years, how many pieces of Roland gear do you think you have owned? Which have been your personal favorites? Was there ever a piece of rare gear you had acquired?
8-9 pieces – my favourite piece of course is the TR-808 after that maybe the Juno. I wanna venture into some older Roland pieces and a few of the new boutique range.
…And what about your relationship with Amsterdam? You will be in town this spring for the acclaimed Lente Kabinet Festival. What have been some of your fondest Amsterdam experiences? How was your first experience at Lente Kabinet two years ago?
They were one of the best gigs at a festival that year! I was so bummed that I had to leave straight away after my set as I had to go for another gig, otherwise I would have stayed all day – loved the location!