Get to know Soohan [INTERVIEW]
Earlier this year we polled our fans to ask who they’d like to see play EFG 2016. Along with some of our well established favorites, one newer name made it to the number 2 slot with over 400 votes, so we were very excited to secure this up and coming artist known as Soohan!
Stephen “Soohan” is a master of auditory collage known as Mashup, weaving colorful threads of music that you’d never expect to fit together. Glitched out didgeridoos, 808 beats, and movie soundtracks are combined to create music that is Silly, Saucy, Sexy and even Sacred. His tracks are a celebration of all sorts of dance oriented music, combining traditional/tribal songs with modern electronic music.
Hailing from Baltimore, Soohan started making Mashups around 2009. Shifting his focus to event production in 2010 Stephen co-founded the production company MANIFEST who put on many legendary shows with artists such as Tipper, Bluetech, Michal Menert, Zion-I, PhuturePrimitive, Ill-Esha. After some encouragement from his friend Space Jesus, Soohan decided to focus his attention back on producing music and sharing with a larger audience. In 2014 he gained immediate attention from his debut album, Made in Baltimore, featuring “Super Spiritual Heady Gangster” and “Full on Bulgarian”. Since then, he’s been going non-stop, releasing two more full length albums “Volume Twohan” and “Global Gate 808”. This summer he has been billed at some of the most notable festivals in the scene including Lucidity, Symbiosis, Infrasound, Sonic Bloom, and Pirate Party.
You make a lot of mashups. What was it that got you into this style and what is your selection process like when you’re deciding what music you want to include?
I started making mashups during the Girl Talk era around 2009. They were actually pretty successful online on my Pure Volume site. This style stuck with me over the years. Why not combine a bunch of things that seemingly don’t belong together and turn them into something new? My selection process is usually based solely on musical key. I use the program Mixed in Key to determine the key of all of my samples. Then I can see that these Bulgarian Ladies are in the same key as this System of a Down vocal. Then I quantize them, try them on top of each other, and voila!
In addition to mashing up some classic tracks we grew up on, your sample arsenal includes some more unexpected sounds, what are some of your non-musical inspirations?
Hmmm…non musical inspirations. If you listen to my music carefully, you’ll start to pick up on all of the large aquatic bird sounds and samples from various movies of decades past. I would say that movies definitely influence my sound. I use a lot of movie scores in my remixes. I am particularly obsessed with one film composer named Bruno Coulais, who did the score for movies like Les Choristes, Coraline, and the Secret of Kells. I try to infuse some of my tracks with a bit of humor. This is how I use the non musical aspects. You might remember “Savior of China”. This particular phrase comes from the first line of the movie Mulan 2. I have used the soundtrack from E.T, District 9, The Lion King, etc. Most of my inspirations remain “musical” though. More than the pop culture, I am interested in music from other cultures. There is nothing better than an unsuspecting sample of turkish ladies singing a traditional folk song just the right way, begging to be trapped out.
You spend a lot of time digging through the internet in search of music from all over the world, where did this passion to explore other cultures originate?
I guess it just came from wanting to find cool things to sample. A lot of my major samples I have had in my collection for almost ten years. It’s crazy. I have just been waiting for years to use them in the right way. I spend countless hours on youtube and iTunes music store sifting throughout the traditional music of various countries looking for that next big sample. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff is on iTunes. It’s amazing. Granted, I might have to look through about 4-500 songs just to find one that I might want to use. Then I purchase them and they go into a larger folder of samples I could possibly use. I would say that only about 5-10% of the songs I purchase or collect get used for samples ultimately. The idea originated in order to attempt to make something new and unique. In reiterating my point from the previous question, who doesn’t want to hear Native Americans and Didgeridoos with big Ol’ 808s bumping and dumping out of those Funktion Ones? I know I do.
Playfulness, perhaps even humor, is a really notable element of your music. What do you think silliness can offer music listeners? Is it important to be silly sometimes?
Well maybe we just don’t always need to take music super seriously. Let’s make a chorus of large aquatic birds, trap them out, while mixing them with the theme song to Harlem Globetrotters and a television ad from 1957. Why? Why not?! We are starting to see a common theme here. Let’s make songs that sound like they are from other worlds, but also have elements of FUN in them as well. When you have the Bulgarian band Oratnitza shredding the flute, it only seems appropriate to accent this dopeness with an Andre 3000 sample. I am trying to stray away from sampling so much pop music, but I do appreciate what a pop sample does to the human brain. We can’t recreate the feeling of hearing 2 seconds of Limp Bizkit. Or rather, we can’t un-recognize it. It does something to our brain when we hear two notes of the Beatles. Our brain goes into nostalgia mode and we usually think “whoah”. Basically, I want to take music into uncharted territories, and sometimes this takes a combination of Limp Bizkit, traditional Bulgarian music, large aquatic birds, and the soundtrack to various children’s movies. Sampling is just a ton of fun in general. Maybe FUN is the common theme.
How has coming from the Baltimore club scene influenced your style? Who are your favorite artists back home?
Baltimore Club Music was my favorite genre of music as a young DJ. If you have never heard of it, I highly suggest checking it out. Its anywhere between 125-140bpm and has a broken pattern of banging 808s, while using samples to conjure a highly energetic sound. As far as Baltimore Club artists are concerned here are my favorites: Blaqstarr, Rod Lee, James Nasty, Debonair Samir, Tittsworth, DJ Class, DJ Tameil, Jayhood, Rye Rye, Spank Rock.
You’ve sampled several Disney movies and EFG is a fairy tale-esque event, what children’s story best represents your music and if you could rewrite the ending how would you make it a better reflection of you?
Wow. This is a sweet question. Pauses for 2 minutes to think about it. Don’t all fair tales have a common theme. We are living in a seemingly post apocalyptic time. The future is in our hands. We are starting to learn that we can conjure these ancient and very real energies to use for healing. This sounds like we are living in a fairy tale. I like to entertain the impossible. We are ushering in the Golden Age as we speak. Let’s call this life the real fairy tale. Gonna have to admit, the things I have seen far outweigh any movie or fairy tale I have heard. Life is dope.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about sharing with fans?
Just keep up with my work. I will be on a ton of tour this fall, but making music all of the while. Look out for new DJ mixes and new tracks. I just came out with a track with the violinist HAANA. I will be releasing yet another album in the new year. Expect SOOHAN to be a fairly consistent stream of music. Hope to keep everyone interested. Thank you for your time.
You can download all of Soohan’s music for free over at his Bandcamp