EDMTunes Interview: Beltek

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Beltek, after his killer set which set the tone for Morgan Page’s 3D experience directly after. We sat down in the green room of the Roseland Theatre in Portland, Oregon. This sold out show was the sixth stop on the third phase of the Morgan Page tour, which hosts stunning 3D visuals which Morgan Page acquired after buying its rights for the show after they were originally intended for Michael Jackson’s 3D tour, which was abruptly terminated after Michael Jackson’s death.

Along with Topher Jones, Beltek was hand selected by Morgan Page to tour alongside him, and Beltek couldn’t be more thankful. Upon sitting down with him, he sarcastically poked fun at myself and my photographer for not sporting any variety of kandi or beads. I told him those accessories aren’t really my style, and he laughed saying something along the lines of which they aren’t his style either, and that he thinks they are a bit goofy as well. Once the interview got underway though, you could tell how truly passionate Beltek is about his craft, and how truly difficult it can be to obtain a truly unique sound.

How did you enjoy playing in Portland, and how does it compare with the other shows on your tour?

It was amazing, really. This show was sold out. I’m still really excited cause the crowd was nuts, and I’m not even the main act you know? They were getting really revved up, and I tried to end with a more soft sound, since this is not my show.

Yeah, that makes sense. You do not want to get them over hyped up, and leave no room for the next act.

Yeah exactly, cause Morgan has the 3D, and we openers do not have the 3D. Morgan has the effects; we don’t, cause that’s really cool when you have a main act, it must be something huge. And I’m already fortunate enough that Morgan contacted me to be a part of this amazing tour that I do not want to take the spotlight. I am so grateful to him; I hope I will repay him someday.

So he contacted you? Was it because you worked together previously, or what made that connection?

He did not say much, basically just asked me, “Hey, do you want to do this?”, he told me how many shows it will be and where and other business stuff. I actually met him online four years ago when he contacted me to do a remix for him, his famous song ‘Fight for You.’ So I did the remix, and actually my remix did the best out of the three or four other remixes by quite known names. Even Morgan played just my remix, I must mention that (laughing). That is how we met, and then later on this year, we made our first collaboration track called ‘Capture,’ which we released off of Spinnin’ Records.

That was a great track. Now onto the fun questions. How did you get into music in the first place?

I started when I was about six years old, my mother told me that she was going to sign me up for guitar classes. I didn’t want to, but they bought me a mini synthesizer; it was real cheap. Casio I think it was.I played it and it had some cool sounds for making actual music, not just childhood sounds you know? You could make songs with it. It only had a couple push button knobs, but I was very interested. I told my mom to sign me up for the piano course. This is when I started playing piano, and I played for nine years. So I guess I am classically trained, but not really professional. I don’t even play piano much now, mostly just my MIDI keyboard. It helps me a lot you know? The knowledge, how to write the melody, if it’s sounding right, all that stuff.

So do you use a lot of classical chord constructions when you’re writing your songs?

I’m not thinking “Classical Chords,” I just do what sounds good. I just remember. I play a lot of Cmajor, and sometimes C minor, it’s my favorite scale. I am home there. Then I will transpose some of those notes, or actually chords, into different scales.

So when did this knowledge of music transfer into the electronic world?

This kind of happened six or seven years ago when my older brother brought home mix tapes from various DJs. I started listening to those, and said ‘what the hell is this? It’s all the same; same beat for like ten minutes.’ Back in those days, tracks were really long compared to now. But after some time I started to realize it, how it works, how it builds sounds on sound on sound. And after two years, I started to wonder how these tracks where actually made. I was very interested, and I started to buy software, and started to record my own beats. Those were very unprofessional though.

So you got into these relatively old sequencers and beat makers, but at what point in your early career did you realize you could do this on a professional level? Did you have a moment of clarity that told you this?

Actually, when I won a contest through Pete Tong, that was kind of my first breakthrough I would say. Before, in the year 2008 I believe, I was not sending any of my finished tracks to any label since I thought they weren’t that good; they weren’t good enough. Then my friend told me Pete Tong has a contest, and so I sent one of my tracks called ‘Copacabana,’ to his show. I got picked as the winner, and that opened a lot of doors for me. I released it on Chris Lake’s label, ‘Rising Music,’ and so I got a lot of contacts form different labels offering me some deals or remix jobs, and sometimes collabs. That was kind of the beginning I would say.

So your style is very melodic, but you have very aggressive bass lines, which is really intriguing. How did that style start to develop for you personally?

Well, I was always a bigger fan of the melody. I always enjoyed more melodic, soulful tracks. But that can differ from person to person with big melodies, nice vocals, which is actually what I am working on now. But I also really like those sharp beats, those underground sounds. So I produced tech, tech house, and electro house. Even also trance, some people would call it. I even want to produce drum n’ bass, I love every genre of electronic music. I am a complete lover, and that is kind of a problem in the music industry cause usually the guys who want to get known need to just be doing the same stuff over and over. So you make a track, it becomes big, and you have to copy and paste it all over again. This is what I don’t like. I cannot live in that world. So, that’s why I am all over the place, different labels or whatever. That’s just me I guess.

So on that note, what’s your two cents to give young producers trying to find their own sound. What advice would you give them?

Yeah, I mean, that’s really hard. For example, I personally haven’t even found my own sound. Some people call it my sound, they can hear it and I can hear it, but I’m still not satisfied to say that it is really unique. It’s not, so let’s be particular. I like to be honest with my music. I won’t go out saying ‘Wow, this is a special bass. It’s really unique.” No, it’s not like that. Younger guys than me are making tons and tons of music, they are more productive. But they are more productive in quantity, not quality. Now the tools allow you to make tracks in an hour if you want. Grab some loops, glue them together, grab a kick and bass, and you’re done. You know? Whatever. Those tracks, for me, are club tools. That’s not a big track for me. Back in the day, Djs had a few tools, like loops that you could mix on a third deck or fourth if you want, and make it a bigger story.

So you say you love all genres of music, but at the same time you feel restricted by the industry expecting you to make a certain style.

Let me say my favorite genre, like I said, is the melodic stuff. So I would say my sound consists from progressive and electro kind of sounds, mixed together. Generally, you could call it house since house music has so many branches, and I don’t like to label  myself you know? Cause music is music.

So what’s your next step as a musician musically? Not career wise, but just for your music. How do you want to elevate yourself to that next level.

I definitely want to improve my sound. That is my goal for my whole life. I know that I will be learning this my whole life, and it will never be as perfect as I want. I want to develop my sound more and more, because you have so many grey tools at your hand now. New plugins which are better now than even a few years ago. You can do all sorts of stuff. You can try and train your ear, and actually your brain, cause that’s how it works. That’s really the hard part. I’ve been learning sound for the past couple years, mixing, mastering, and general sound wizardry. But you have to have a really cool environment with good speakers or, even better, good headphones so you can really listen to quiet parts. It’s not important to just slam up the volume, and say ‘Woah, that rocks!’ If you want to make great sound, you need to listen very carefully, numerous times. By the time my track is out, I don’t even know if I should play it you know? I don’t care anymore, but people go like ‘Yeah! Play it, play it!’ and I play it for them, you know?

But for you, you can still hear mess ups in the mix and things like that?

Yes, exactly.

Is that why you say you do not want to play it sometimes?

No, not really. As of now, I would say my sound is as professional as any other artist in the world right now. I’m just searching for more. Sound engineering is just like, geek stuff. You don’t want to get me their.

You keep saying this isn’t perfect, that isn’t perfect. Are there any artists in the industry right now that you do consider to be perfect? Are there even any perfect artists? Or is everyone kind of in the same boat?

Oh of course, my all time favorite idol would be Hanns Zimmer. He’s the film score writer. That guy, for me, has the best compositions, the best sound, in all the world by far. But the thing is, this guy doesn’t do everything himself. He’s not making this all alone. Those are themes, you know? He writes the scores, and he has his own mini symphonic orchestra playing him live music, but still you have to be a huge professional and expert to compose all those different instruments in a really cool story. Especially in movies, especially for me to do that now.

I agree, that style of music evolves so much more that standard electronic music. Electronic music is more like, idea one followed by idea two, which leads into idea three. And the resolution is just all three ideas on top of each other. Where classical and film scores go any which way, and evolve so much more.

Exactly. And that is why it is my favorite by far.

Alright, switching gears a little bit. How has life been like on tour?

It’s been amazing. I didn’t expect it to be so cool. Especially because you are living with complete strangers, except Morgan, on a bus everyday. You wake up, you see the same people. But its been great, the team has been really great. What surprised me was the beds. You know? Sometimes you drive for ten hours, and we cannot all be up because there’s not enough room for ten people to all be up and sitting freely relaxing. We cannot do that. But it has been good. The most I love are the artists. We’ve been getting along really well, Morgan and Topher Jones and myself.

So how has it been making music on the road? Can you even do it?

I try to, but it kind of tough you know? I still need to learn to get my ears right, especially cause you have a lot of noise from the bus. There are a lot of bounces when the bus is driving, and that can make it hard. That is not very cool. But it has been cool hanging out with the other artists. We share a lot of ideas. We share a lot of new plugins, you know, the geeky stuff. Boring for most people, but that’s the stuff I love so it’s cool. That’s the beauty of it.

SO tell me about your average day on tour?

Well, for example, tonight I am going to go back to the hotel. I will get a shower, and then back to the bus. Then we are going to drive to Vancouver for about eight hours. So I am going to get some sleep, then we are going to wake up and grab something to eat. Then I will check out the emails, all the press stuff that I do every day unfortunately, but that’s the business. The I will check out new music, look through the promos, look whats new on the plugin sites, and thats pretty much it. Then in the afternoon, we will get based in the hotel again and get a shower. There are a lot of showers, I would hate it if there were ten guys not showering in a bus. I mean, come on? I try to stay clean, who doesn’t. Then I will go to the gig in Vancouver, another sold out night. It’s around two or three thousand people. But the biggest shows will be the west coast shows when we return to the states, down in California. Those are usually the bigger shows.

Make sure to check out Beltek’s most recent release ‘Inhale‘ off of Flashover Records, and check to see when the Morgan Page tour will be coming to your area here.