Atmospheric bliss with a jungle twist!
It’s with real joy that we’re able to press play on another epic journey from our favourite Aarhus collective, with Milán Zaks aka DJ Sports from the Regelbau crew stepping up this time for two-hours of mind massaging atmospheres, mixing sci-fi ambience with his signature floaty house, deep jungle and bass heavy UKG.
An incredible producer with an ever growing swarm of aliases, labels (No Hands, Help Recs, Regelbau) and collaborative projects to his name – often featuring alongside his brother Natal aka Central – Sports is a music lover to his absolute core and a keen student of electronic music history with a brilliant ear for everything from ambient, dub, downtempo, pop and kraut to house, techno and the faster bass heavy sounds of dubstep, UKG, jungle and DnB.
We’re lucky enough to get tastes across the entire spectrum in this mix, and checked in with Milán for an extended chin wag about everything from discovering jungle and UK bass music to the beauty of DIY recordings, the underground scene in Aarhus and the Regelbau approach to programming a night from beginning to end.
Hey Milán, how has this strange old year been for you guys in Aarhus? Are you currently facing heavy restrictions over there? What have you been doing to pass the time?
Hey hey Myles. Thanks for inviting me to contribute to your mixtape series!
Thankfully I’ve been doing quite well in this strange and unfortunate time for everyone. I’m in a quite privileged position to be studying here in Århus, and with the system we have here in Denmark I get financial support from the government every month to get by. And as most classes have been online I have been a lot at home with my roommates, making music mostly, taking long walks in the city, forest or at the beach while listening to music. And perhaps the isolation and extended online time have led to getting in touch with musicians from out of town that I’m a big fan of and asking if they are keen on collaborating. It has turned out to be stuff i’d never thought i’d make, and i’m really happy about that.
Fans of your music and DJ sets would know that you’ve got a special knack for finding and producing incredible atmospheric jungle music, tell us how you first got into liquid DnB and jungle… was there a strong scene for it in Denmark when you were growing up, or were you more influenced by the classic sounds out of the UK?
Thanks, I’m glad to hear that you think so! I remember the first time I had an encounter with jungle music at a venue in Aarhus. I was around 16 at the time, and as most club nights are either 18 or 21+ I hadn’t gone out much like that as I was so young. But I had an idea of some kind of ‘scene’ or more a knowledge about different crews doing parties that my older brother, Natal, always went to. This wasn’t just jungle/dnb nights but would range from dubstep oriented parties to more techno leaning nights. Sometimes crews like Vektor would book big acts that have developed to be huge names such as Ben Klock and Scuba, to more under the radar bookings such as Philip Boston and Oskar Offerman.
The tendency in Århus is that when people grow out of their teens and into their early twenties, at some point they’ll move to Copenhagen as it’s a bigger city and more jobs + studies, parties and whatnot. This also eventually happened to the Vektor crew for example. By the time I turned 17/18 and had started going clubbing I was already amongst older friends, some of them more settled in Århus than others, and we decided to start doing parties (the first Regelbau parties). These wouldn’t really represent any dnb or jungle. I was really into all sorts of music as well as club music, and in our crew some would love different trance or footwork, UKG, dubstep, dnb, jungle, disco, funk, pop, rock, synth and ambient stuff but I would say we all met around the quite different sounds of house and techno.
In the club I was more drawn to play disco and boogie and the early house stuff where you could still hear the influences from disco. Either as more song-structured, soulful house tracks, or as the more sample based house, such as the Henry Street sound, or the more ‘live’ sound with recorded drums and such. I remember Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel as two of the newer names breaking through in the scene (online at least) and I was really into what they where doing. This was very much the sound I started clubbing to/ playing out or heard my friends play. The reason I find it interesting to point out what I started clubbing to is because essentially I got into club music through the internet, before dancing, before depicting the fact that there is a room full of moving bodies. This means I developed a taste within different genres and sounds, before relating it to a crowd, or a dancer/raver.
For some reason, at first, I didn’t feel comfortable playing ‘harder and darker’ stuff in the club. Back then I wanted to spread what I understood as the more ‘immediate-good-vibe”. Creating an atmosphere with love in the air and the night would start out with ambient, downtempo, street soul, funk, and develop into slow house tempos and go back and forth from house tunes such as Chanel – One Man, to discogroovers from Montana Orchestra for example. Once in a while we would pop in an unreleased tune from one of us, (often in a favorable part of the night, hehe), and the crowd would usually respond well. I think this gave us more confidence in curating some of the different club-leaning releases for the labels.
Anyways, Back to jungle… our Regelbau collective had a bunker where we used to spin tunes for just us and close friends, as the space only fit around 12 people. One day I left the bunker with My mate Chris, C.K and Nicolas Hansen aka one half of the duo Lattice (S/O Forte, the other half), I had overheard the two of them talking about dnb and I asked them where to start, as I really hadn’t encountered it other than the night back when I was 16. Chris told me to check out early Good Looking Records, and I think Nicholas tipped either Omni Trio or Photek. I went home and put on Tayla’s Remnants on youtube and my jaw just dropped. I fell for it immediately, the pads, atmosphere, tidy break and big subs. The feeling of listening to something you love for the first time is my preferred musical high, as you go through all the stuff that doesn’t hit, and then when something does it’s just divine.
This was more or less also my introduction to a British electronic music sound that I really adored.
Unlike my brother I never really got to experience the dubstep/dnb/bass heavy club nights in our home town. And I think that, because of the exponential development of dubstep and the way it hit the mainstream through the internet – in a similar but much faster way than for example drum and bass seems to have been picked up by the mainstream – I never really fell for that sound back in 2010/11 when I started making music. I think anyone’s ear/taste can develop to like or appreciate most kinds of music. It’s just a matter of finding an element from a track that you overall don’t dig. But there is that element, which reminds you of another tune that you absolutely love. And accept that the overall track might not be your taste. But now you’ve encountered it, experienced it in one way or another, and it will have an influence on how you contextualize the next piece of music you’ll stumble upon.
All the tracks you experience or talk about will create your own taste – what goes and what doesn’t go for you. An example from my own experience could be how I rationally outlined what jungle made me feel, and what it reminded me of was when I first encountered LTJ Bukem’s work, it was through the atmospheric elements that went along with my love for beatless ambient music while having the bass and tonality of dub music. It was also from digging through UK Electronic music history, mainly from parts of early house and ambient acts to jungle, then UKG, then tech-house and grime, dubstep, and “bass-music”. (Not so much hardcore and such, but once in a while something hits the spot and who knows, maybe ill learn to love that at some point)
You’re one of the minds behind the ever growing family of labels under the Safe Distribution umbrella, running Help Recs, No Hands and Regelbau label alongside C.K, Manmade Deejay & Central, and really helping to put Aarhus’ underground music scene on the map. What have you enjoyed the most about having so many different respected outlets for your own music and collabs?
I’m not sure what I would say I enjoy the most. I’m extremely lucky to be able to work doing what I love. On top of that I’m able to do so, not just alongside my brother [Natal aka Central], Chris [aka C.K], Mathias [aka Manmade Deejay] and Morten [the Safe Agency booker] but in a huge part because of them too. They are so passionate about music and each perform their vision on how they want to be as human beings and artists in a really humble and casual way, which I’m truly happy to be a part of.
What role do you think the labels have played in shaping Aarhus’ underground scene in recent years?
It’s hard to say exactly what impact our work makes on Århus as a city. Of course we have done and are still doing parties physically in Århus (not during COVID-19), and we both live and work here. But for many years the records were only supported by a couple of close followers here in the city. I don’t remember us internally talking about what it means to “put Århus on the Electronic music map” – a phrase I sense is used often about our work. We don’t have a big scene here. It consists of a couple of promoters and you’ll find a club night with electronic music every 3 or 4 weeks on average I guess. I can think of a lot of good people who are doing a way better job for the music scene here than us.
As far as our work goes I hope we can inspire people to do their own spin on music as we try to do ours. Show people there can be another unit for measuring success than the one social media and most of the music industry have. In many ways this can be boiled down to what some call D.I.Y culture. Finding people to support you and to share with, experimenting with a medium and figuring out what it means. Most of the time something will happen even though you’re not sure what it means. Eventually this can be analyzed retrospectively and new meanings can be extracted from one’s actions. Maybe there was an outcome, as a piece of music or a party, a drawing or an idea. Not to turn this into a Nike slogan ‘catch-the-day’ rant, but if you’re in a position to and feel like creating, my hope is that one will learn to deal with the inevitable doubts, worries and the emotional rollercoaster related to this.
Exposing one’s inner is terrifying, and I think most musicians and artists can struggle with their inner voice, but it won’t go away, and you’ll have to learn to accept that even though it is quite difficult.
I know you also recently produced and mixed the incredible debut album from the leftfield Danish group Nehoki, and have lent a production hand on a number of other Aarhus based projects and collaborations. What do you enjoy about working alongside other like-minded musicians from all over the genre spectrum, and how has it inspired your own solo projects and general approach to writing music?
I can’t fully understand how much I’ve learned by collaborating with friends. The way I mainly work is centred around the computer and Ableton, and I like to work with all sorts of sounds recorded with anything and try to mainly broaden my knowledge around music production. That being said, growing up in the age of information, I’ve come to realize that the amount of music I’m able to access as a music collector now versus a collector 30 years ago is enormously different. The combination of YouTube and Discogs might be the best way to exemplify this. It’s extraordinary to be able to dig through a user based database for labels, artists, releases, countries, cities, different decades or specific years, genres, styles and medium and being able to listen to most of it… I mean, what the fuck? Even in a hundred lifetimes you wouldn’t delve a quarter deep into an archive like that haha.
I guess a point to make is that I’ve discovered how my routine and process around making music has similarities to not only “club music” but also to the long standing tradition of home recording artists such as the likes of R. Stevie Moore and Daniel Johnston. I can’t accentuate enough the importance of the producer/studio centred process of dub music out of Jamaica (and soundsystem culture in general) and its impact on electronic music. Even though this might seem obvious, it’s something I have come to realize over the last few years, as I wasn’t present in Jamaica or in the UK when styles fused into what people call the UK sound with its infinite subterms.
All of this has helped shape how I see myself as a recording artist, if that makes sense. To elaborate on what I said about artists like R. Stevie Moore, Ariel Pink and some of Arthur Russel’s output; they simply had early relatively affordable recording technologies, some instruments and their voice. Sitting in their bedroom and recording their take on how music can sound and be performed and captured.
Another early big influence is also the ideas behind and the enormously different sounds of the krautrock movement, Can, Neu, Kraftwerk, etc. I always enjoy listening back on the first Help release, with Lester, a trio of Natal, our friend Tobias Sachse and myself. I’m quite happy how it has aged so far, for me, compared to some of the other Help material we put out, which I feel was a bit more leaning towards what was trending at the time.
The Lester release really isn’t like anything else we’ve put out since, but I think the aesthetic references on there are quite easy to recognize if you’re into your krautrock. Chronologically we are reaching the mid eighties now, after kraut, the lo-fi home recording artists were approaching the early Fingers Inc. work and a bit later into the 80s we hit the house movement in Chicago and the Ken Collier sound of Detroit to Juan Atkins Techno and then the rest of Electronic music history through the nineties which of course is a big influence also.
In many ways when I look back at the development of my taste, I feel it has developed in some ways quite chronologically starting from around 1978 (which is oddly enough the year of the maxi singles first release, no? (Or maybe that’s 76 , can’t remember)).
Of course with access to the internet we had a sped up and fragmented timeline with glimpses into styles of all sorts. It’s not until I discovered jungle through the dub roots for example that I learned to love speed garage, UKG, dubstep, grime and now the later and also contemporary bass sound. And thank god for that!
I’m discovering so much music from post 2005 recently, that I for many years thought was maybe cool, but if I had stumbled upon this music sooner, I would probably have thought that it really wasn’t my thing production wise. Where as now, probably also in relation with myself playing at anything from small almost private parties to big raves, I have really felt on my own body alongside a packed party or inside an empty club, how music can feel when played at a certain moment, often very loud and with a space to dance and dimmed lights where it feels comfortable to be. And I guess this will also shine through on some of the forthcoming work I have in the pipeline.
What can you tell us about this mix you’ve put together for us? What kind of story were you trying to tell, and are there any special tracks in there you would like to mention?
The way I earlier tried to describe how a night would usually evolve at our early parties hasn’t really changed. We still play quite a lot of different stuff. From ambient, dub, downtempo, pop, kraut in the early stages of the night into house, tech house, techno from anywhere really, to UKG, dubstep, jungle, dnb and unreleased stuff once in a while and an occasional hit towards the end perhaps, hehe.
I feel this is an approach to DJing that suits everyday life really well too. I love to put on mixes that kind of state “now we do a collective meditation for what we’re about to embark on”, okay, maybe big words, but you get the point I hope. This way one can give in to the now and simultaneously slowly drift in and out of consciousness, back and forth between focusing on the music, listening to your thoughts and more of the states in-between.
Maybe you’ll lose patience, maybe its too pacey, maybe something else, but at least there was an effort from the listener to trust another person with deciding what they listen to. I might be romanticizing, but to me that’s more worthwhile than letting an algorithm decide for you. I almost see it as first being a broadening of one’s horizon versus narrowing or streamlining it with frictionless music.
What else do you guys have coming up to close out the year?
I’ve had the time to finish up a couple of releases over the summer. And will hopefully be sending some new work to the pressing plant within the next month.
First there is the new EP under the DJ Sports tag on Natal’s Trick imprint. Two jungle leaning dnb cuts and one halftime-ish cut.
Another EP is coming out on Brisbane based Esoteric Exports. This work is more ukg/bass heavy. Shout to Matt and Tait!
I’ve done a track contribution to the Needs label’s various artist series. It’s a double twelve with lots of cool music from contemporary producers.
Also, our local venue Tape have done a compilation with music from friends to support them. It includes loads of good acts. It comes alongside three Riso prints Natal has made. Really cool too. Shout to Rud, Jeppe and Thomas!
Other than that there is a lot in the pipeline, but it is still too soon to share info on these. But! If you fancy the music, feel free to sign up to the newsletter from our distribution Safe.
Other than that I’d like to finish off with another thanks for reading/listening and here is a couple of necessary shout outs to people around me who inspired me to do what I do day In and day out:
Mathias (Manmade Deejay)
Erika (de Casier)
Simon (ph 1)
Niller (K. Dallas)
August (aka DJ Popup)
Frej (B from E)
Tait and Matt (Esoteric Exports)
James (aka Greville)
Fergus (aka Perko)
Julius (aka. Doc Jay)
Adam (Main Phase)