ARTIST FEATURE: BASIC SOUL UNIT | 11 Jan 2012

The name on many lips and in as many record stashes by now, Basic Soul Unit aka Stuart Li graces us with Podcast #006 – a very cool, soaring techno mix also featuring his track ‘Late Night Shift’ soon to be out on the Midnight Shift label. We are grateful to have this insightful interview from our affable Torontonian. Scroll down to hit play on the mix.

Journalists don't always get it right. How would you personally describe your music?
Hard to describe myself. I like things to sound slightly raw but generally I try to maintain the groove and have an underlying warmth and soulfulness. Here’s an excerpt from a review of my latest EP on New Kanada “…as though concrete walls were wrapped in cotton batting” (Philip Sherburne). I thought that was a pretty cool description.

NK29 - Deep Diving EP - Basic Soul Unit by New Kanada

Has your sound evolved in any way since you first started out?
I guess I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the design of the sound, trying to create a bit more of an atmosphere. Trying to strip things down a bit, not literally in a ‘minimal’ sense but just using what I feel is essential to convey the music instead of over embellishing it.

What is your philosophy of growing as an artist?
To keep your mind open, to always keep learning and explore. To maintain a sense of naivety and to make mistakes that I can learn from.

When and how did you first get noticed?
I had released music on a couple of local labels (Iwanai and Do Right) around 2003. One day I noticed that one of the tracks appeared on a Versatile Records radio show. So I emailed Gilb’r (label head and one half of Chateau Flight) to say thanks. He then told me if I had any new music to send it his way. I did and these became the Soul Patterns EP on Versatile. That really helped to bring my music to a wider audience. Versatile was and still is one of the labels I respect most because they follow their own path.



What kind of scene did you arise from, or do you find yourself not affiliated to any in particular?
In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was listening to a lot of House and Hip Hop through the college and university stations. Then in the early to mid 90’s I went to a lot of afterhours warehouse parties where DJs were playing mostly house (with a bit of techno before it splintered off). So I guess you could say I came up mostly from the House scene. Later on, I also got into ‘Acid Jazz’, Soul, Funk, Disco, Latin, Brazilian, Broken Beat, bit of Drum n Bass…well the list goes on. So I was very much a part of the Eclectic Jazz/Broken Beat thing (around 2000). In fact I’m still part of an eclectic Jazz/Soul/Funk based night in Toronto called Footprints (which is into our 9th year) as well as a Broken Beat night called 4WRD (no relation to the UK bass night, we didn’t know about it)! Now I am just into good music whatever the genre.

In what ways is Toronto a good place for a musician to be?
It’s very multi-cultural, and we have influences from all sides. While that may be true nowadays anywhere with the Internet, back in the day it was a real revelation to me. When I grew up in Hong Kong as a kid, I was only familiar with HK Pop and some Western pop. Suddenly when I came to Canada, I was listening to Hip Hop, House, Reggae, Soca, and Latin and more. Also we were influenced as much from NYC as Detroit or Chicago and European sounds. The down side was that Toronto never really had its own distinct sound, although I think that is starting to change with all the producers getting attention from Toronto at the moment.



What are your top 5 secret weapons when you play at a gig?
It’s hard to have secret weapons this day and age when everything can be at your finger tips via Discogs or illegal downloads but here’s 5 that often find their way into my sets, not in any particular order:

Liz Torres – Can’t Get Enough (Dub) 
Niko Marks – Hueman Density 
Reggie Dokes – Sanctuary 
Those Guys – Love, Love, Love
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Relics & Artifacts – Sun God
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Could you let us in on your production method or thinking/feeling behind your tracks?
Mostly I’ve been using Reason (it’s true). I’ve never been a gear head or tech geek. The affordability and accessibility to digital production is what allowed me to get into it. That said, I’ve recently bought a bit of gear so learning that and hoping to incorporate them into my workflow. There is no routine process, sometimes I start with a beat, sometimes a sound, at other times a melody in my head. The creative process is never predictable.

CDR Berlin Workshop BASIC SOUL UNIT (Toronto) from CDR on Vimeo.

What is in your opinion is an example of a fine production, past or current?
Hm, hard to narrow it down. Theo Parrish, Moodymann, Pepe Bradock, I:Cube are some of the older names. A few producers I’ve been feeling recently are Vakula, DJ Qu, Portable, Cosmin TRG. I like theyir productions not necessarily because they are expertly produced or sound “proper” but they have their own unique sound and character.

How do you manage to balance your work and other commitments?
Not easily to say the least, but having an understanding and patient wife certainly helps. Also I do graphic design from home, so that allows my schedule to be a bit more flexible. When I need to be away for a couple weeks I can still work from abroad during the weekdays. Still I never feel like I have enough time to make music.

Do you have a music hero?
From a dance music perspective, Larry Heard definitely…for me a perfect balance between soulful and jacking, techno and house. Also he seems to be very humble and does not let his status and success get in the way. That’s also inspiring.

What have you learnt from being in the industry for so long?
Being as I don’t do music for my main source of income, what I’ve learned is to be just make music honestly. Make music you can stand behind and be happy with. But at the same time, also take chances and opportunities as they come. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.



If you could cite your inspirations who or what would they be?
The music community inspires me (DJs, producers, clubbers, music lovers). At home or traveling, meeting people, talking about music, life, getting feedback and encouragement from people. Seeing other people do their thing. Being on the dance floor and seeing what moves people. This is all inspiring.

What keeps you motivated?
It doesn’t take a lot to motivate me. I just love music. Listening to it, making it, selecting it for the dance floor. Even if I never had any success I would still be doing it. I guess it goes back to the previous point, when it’s a passion and not a business, it makes it easier.

Top 10 on the charts right now?
Again in no particular order:
Steven Tang – Bass Synergy (Emphasis) 
Kevin Reynolds – Liaisons (NSYDE) 
Vakula – Untitled (Shevchenko) 
Afrikan Sciences – Spirals (Deep Blak) 
C-Beams – Strollin’ (with Tina Slotta) (Uncanny Valley)
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Peter Van Hoesen – Axis Mundi (Ostgut Ton) 
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Vozmediano – There’s a Light (Rolando remix) 
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Basic Soul Unit – Late Night Shift (Midnight Shift)
Portable – Into Infinity LP (Perlon)
Recloose – UHF (Fingertips)
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Finally, what are you looking forward to in 2012?
I am really hoping to get an album together. The thought was first put into my head by Still Music a few years back. Through distribution problems, it never happened. Which in hindsight was probably a good thing. At that time I looked at it as an opportunity and a challenge. But now through experience and maturation, I think I finally have something coherent to say that might be worth the format.  Still Music is back on track now so it may happen soon.

About ‘Late Night Shift’?
As with most if not all my tracks, I never really start out with a strong idea or theme. I basically just noodled around with beats and sounds until the track started taking shape. However I did have in mind to doing something funky and hope that was the result.

Midnight Shift Podcast #006: Basic Soul Unit

Tracklist:

Basic Soul Unit – Deep Diving (New Kanada) 
Morphosis – Wild In Captivity (Delsin)
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Argy – Ethiopia's Rise (Cadenza)
Basic Soul Unit – For Some (New Kanada)
Empty Set – Altogether Lost feat Cornelius Harris (Ben Klock's Glowing Clap Mix) (CLR)
Basic Soul Unit – Late Night Shift (Midnight Shift)
Cosmin TRG – Fizic (50 Weapons)
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Instra:mental – Pyramid (3024)
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Robert Hood – Track 5 (CLR)
Joey Beltram – The Start It Up (Claude Young Mix) (Trax)
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Basic Soul Unit – Soulspeak (Shed Mix) (Dolly)
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Francois X – Code Red (Marcel Dettman Remix) (Deeply Rooted)
Traversable Wormhole – Exiting The Milkyway (Surgeon Remix) (CLR)
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Peter Van Hoesen – Axis Mundi (Ostgut Ton)
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Vozmediano – There's A Light (Rolando Remix) (Be As One)
Amazon US 256kbps Mp3
Roots Panorama – Threee (Deetron Mix) (Versatile)
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Braille – Riverbed (Hotflush)
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Machinedrum – Now U Know Tha Deal 4 Real (Planet Mu)
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By | Editor
Tags | Label , Techno , Others , Midnight Shift , News , Audio , Downloads , Mixes , Acid , Bass , Minimal , Ambient , Podcast



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