Distorted Dreams Interview
It's been a phenomenal few years for the Taunton duo, main stage invites from Ben Nicky, a Beatport No 1 record and millions of hits on their music! Hard Trance Europe chats to a name on everyone's lips right now, 'Distorted Dreams', ahead of their appearance at the 2022 edition Hard Trance Europe Weekender in Torquay on the 10th and 11th June..
Hey guys, how’s it all going? Lots to talk about, what are you up to this week particularly?
Hey mate! It’s been crazy lately, but things are going great so we can’t complain. This week we’ve been working on two big new collabs which we’re really excited about, all will be revealed soon!
You’re both from Taunton in Somerset, which has always had a very strong fan base for the Hard Trance right?
Absolutely. The south west has been a central hub for hard trance ever since we were growing up really, with Taunton very much integral to that. Particularly during the scene’s peak in the noughties when there were events practically every week. Some of our first gigs were at the likes of Club Ether, Reaction, Rebeat etc. Melodies on Wednesday nights! haha. It was an amazing vibe back then and a special time for music, we feel privileged to have been a part of it and it pretty much shaped who we are today (as people as well as artists). Either that or it totally corrupted our youth, probably a bit of both :D.
As Yoshimitsu and Rennz previously, what made you decide to work together and start Distorted Dreams?
Just checked our Soundcloud and we made our first track 8 years ago! So you could say it’s been a gradual process haha. It was called ‘Odyssey’ and actually got released in the end so it’s still knocking about. For that reason we had to come up with the artist name right at the beginning, but it didn’t become our main focus until much later. Back then we didn’t know each other very well and Aaron was already in a duo with Curtis Raybold, so we just hooked up a few times through a mutual taste in music and made a couple of tracks for fun really. One of them, ‘Out There’ (which we’ve always regarded as probably our weakest track), actually went viral on Tik Tok recently and racked up several million views - funny how these things pan out as it was crucial in building our fan base on there. Later we realised we both wanted to pursue music more seriously and ended up on the same degree course in Electronic Music at DBS Bristol, which is how we became friends.
During that time we did a lot of experimenting - the hard trance scene as we knew it had all but died off and we realised we needed to evolve if we wanted any kind of career in music. We wrote our first hardstyle track (shout to David Rust who loves dropping that one!), some DnB, film score stuff, all sorts. But to be honest we graduated feeling more disillusioned than ever as our heart just wasn’t in it. In the end we decided to stop looking for a path, make music we enjoy and just do our own thing (we also wrote some stuff with Ben Eye under the alias ‘Inc3ption’ which not many people know - his and Iain’s (Cross) ‘CrossEye’ sound was one of our main influences at the start of it all).
Things grew quickly from that point onwards really. Our first few ‘proper’ DD tracks did well in the free party scene and we built a solid following over there, but it was the ‘We Come 1’ bootleg where we really ‘found our sound man’ haha. It sounds cliche, but it’s only since then that you can listen to our music and know straight away that it’s us (in our opinion anyway). Of course Ben Nicky then started playing our stuff, we did the We Come 1 rework with him and things really started flying. That was the point where we decided to focus on 'Distorted Dreams' as it was clearly where the opportunity lied and had a wider appeal than our solo stuff.
Being Taunton lads, how good are you each at drinking Cider?
Josh: Pretty slack nowadays to be honest! Cans of Scrumpy Jack were my go-to session drink back in the day so I’ve well and truly put myself off it, but at least I put in a shift haha. The odd Rekorderlig in a beer garden is still a touch sometimes though.
Aaron: It takes me about a week to recover after a heavy night out so I tend not to drink that much nowadays. Gone are the days of drinking Frosty Jacks at the park :D.
Your cheeky Faithless bootleg of ‘We Come 1’, went into absolute orbit at the end of last year? Want to tell us the whole story?
Sure! We wrote the original underground version several years ago and debuted it at Hard Times in Bristol, followed by this mental free party we got dragged to in a warehouse complex in the city centre afterwards on the same night. There were an estimated 5000 people there or something silly, it was ridiculous! The decks were hidden under a load of scaffolding in a dark corner behind the stage and you couldn’t even see the crowd, with no monitors and just a single working headphone as reference. Fun times :D. Anyway, the subsequent social media reaction from that generated a load of interest and we decided to apply for a remix licence to try and get it released (with a little help from you Nick if we remember rightly :D). It was all sounding positive and we got quite a way through the process before eventually being rejected though sadly, we were gutted! That was back in early 2020 just as the pandemic was hitting.
Fast forward a year and we ended up sending a copy to Ben (Nicky) who obviously started playing it a lot and suddenly there were all these viral videos of it being dropped at huge international events like ASOT, Belsonic and Creamfields etc. Ben had done his own edit of it, but then he approached us and asked if we’d be interested in collabing with him on an official rework if he could get the licence. Of course we jumped at the chance! The concept of the new version was to give it a bit more mainstream appeal as obviously it was to be aimed at a different market. He rightly felt the breakdown sections on the original were too dark for that audience, so he worked on that and we brought our vibe to the drop sections essentially. Him and the guys at Xploded Music also had the vocal resung by an external company which I bet a lot of people couldn’t tell! It went straight into Beatport number 1 where it stayed for a month, 6 million Spotify streams so far and over a billion hits across social media apparently, which is a staggering number really.
We’re obviously over the moon, but aside from the music itself it would never have reached those heights without Ben’s relentless promotional work across his platform. The guy really does work tirelessly and we have a lot to thank him for. Not just on ‘We Come 1’ but other opportunities we’re working on, so if you’re reading this mate, legend!
Any plans for more collabs with Ben Nicky?
See question one ;). Can’t say too much at the moment but the sequel is well under way.
You were recently invited to support him at Motion in Bristol, that must’ve been pretty special?
Biggest one yet?
Definitely. Probably the most challenging too as playing to the more commercial crowd was completely unknown territory. Also it was a stacked lineup and we were closing, so there were some tough acts to follow and try to hold the crowd till the end. We decided the most important thing was to stay true to ourselves and play all our own stuff which is what we’re known for. The only adjustment we made was to play a few more of our remixes and bootlegs than usual so there was some familiarity throughout. Luckily it all panned out well and it was rammed and rocking till the very end at 5am when the lights came on and they still wanted one more. The misfit crowd was awesome and we couldn’t have asked for a better reception on our debut.
Having established firm roots and a loyal Free Party following, have you experienced any negativity at all from working at a higher, and more commercial level?
Not as of yet no, actually. We were expecting a lot more since we’ve started being a bit more experimental with our music and broken out of the confines of the traditional hard trance sound - remixes of rock / pop songs for example haha. But if anything it’s been quite the opposite and the support has only kept growing. We get the odd comment on social media giving us a bit of shit for ‘ruining so and so’s tune’ or whatever, but that’s to be expected and haters just mean you’re doing something right. It’s actually really liberating when you stop giving a fuck what people think and just do your own thing without worrying if something’s too cheesy or whether you’ll get stick from the purists etc. If it’s banging, we like it and it works, that’s all that matters.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been a learning curve though. We’ve had to make a lot of changes to song structure and the format of how we write (we learned a lot from Ben here during the We Come 1 development process). You can’t produce 8 minute tunes anymore and expect them to work in the context of Spotify or commercial dance-floors. Everything is 3-5 minutes, 6 at a push; attention spans are shorter and it’s harder to keep the momentum going and maintain interest. It’s actually easier from a production point of view though and has increased our output overall, so swings and roundabouts.
What are your current thoughts on the current Hard Trance scene overall?
It’s more thriving than it’s been in years which is great. It was building before lockdown, but that gave it another jumpstart and now there’s events cropping up all over the place where people have gained a new sense of appreciation for going out. The numbers still aren’t what they were in terms of crowd, but that’s probably because it still seems to draw a slightly older demographic and is heavily reliant on people coming out ‘for old times sake’ to listen to the music they grew up to and catch up with old friends. It’s a scene built on nostalgia and as such a lot of events still cater to that, with lots of classics sets and headliners from 20 years ago etc. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, we fall into that bracket ourselves haha and the best hard trance music ever came from that period. But if it’s to reach new peaks it needs to appeal to the younger audience who still want to party every weekend in our opinion. It also makes it harder for newer artists to break through and develop into headline acts themselves as they’re always competing with established legends, and as such will always be seen as support acts.
Some promoters are embracing this with more diverse lineups and supporting emerging artists - particularly HTE, Hard Times and Rebirth to name a few, so hopefully it’s the start of a trend. The market is absolutely still there for banging 140 trance music (as the 2000 ravers at Motion the other week clearly shows). If they were born 20 years earlier they’d have been flooding to Atmosphere and Hindsight on the weekends too (god we feel old :D).
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Militant, minimal, unique, versatile. Couldn’t cut it down to 3 sorry haha. We don’t feel we fall into a particular genre anymore because it’s not really hard trance nowadays in the traditional sense. Its not techno, free party or mainstream trance either, but it’s gained support across all those scenes. It’s always minimal and marching though, that part is key haha.
What studio gear and plugs are you rocking right now?
We produce on different DAWs (Ableton / Cubase) which is a massive pain in the ass haha. A lot of stem bouncing goes on. We used to be on different OS as well but we are both mac-based now, so that’s progress at least haha. Aaron loves his old outboard synths and has a load from the 90’s/00’s. But to be honest it’s more about finding the right sounds for the track which can come from anywhere, so we don’t have many go-to’s when we’re working together. Just mess around with random stuff until we find something that works.
Can each of you give us your Top 3 Hard Trance tracks of all time?
Josh: Ah man, hardest question ever.. 3 that spring to mind though in no particular order:
Random Project - Mind Pleasure
Das Licht - Traumwelten
Liquid Sun - The Beginning
Aaron: Hard to pick a top 3 but these come to mind:
S.H.O.K.K. - Folie A Deux
Paraphonatic - The Past, The Present, The Future (Mellow D Remix)
Pulsedriver - Kiss That Sound - (DJ Tibby Remix)
You will both be appearing at our Hard Trance Europe Weekender in a few weeks, got anything special lined up? Excited?
Buzzing for it! Last year was such a class weekend so we can’t wait for round 2. We’ve deliberately not released much so far this year or put any sets online to get one step ahead for the live gigs. So expect mostly unheard material and the usual crazy mashups / edits etc. Might play ‘We Come 1’ for a change…. :D
Catch Distorted Dreams at the Hard Trance Europe Weekender 2022 in Torquay this June.
Weekend tickets available now from Skiddle - Selling fast!
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Finally, what is the craziest thing you have each witnessed in your adventures on the underground party scene?
Aaron: The bristol free party we mentioned earlier is up there. Roadblocks of cars everywhere gridlocking this industrial estate in the heart of the city. A whole warehouse complex taken over by thousands of ravers spread across several rooms, with huge stages a commercial festival would be proud of. It really was nuts.
Josh: Agree with Aaron, that was a real eye opener! For me personally, DJing at the Great British Teknival free party in the heart of the Welsh valleys a few years back comes to mind (a lot of people will remember that one as it got a lot of press coverage after). It was in the middle of nowhere and took bloody hours to find but when we got there it was massive, it felt like you were at a festival with a labyrinth of arenas / rigs, food kiosks the lot haha. I ended up playing as the sun was rising with police helicopters circling overhead and news vans turning up, it was surreal.
Another funny story I remember from when we were much younger is DJing at Club Ice in Westbury, and while we were away our flat was burgled. We found out the next morning, but we were in full swing at the after party so we thought screw it, not much we can do about it now, carried on for the rest of the day and went back later haha. They took everything, all my DJ equipment, laptops etc. Got most of it back in the end though :D.