Jay Ardrey, also known as Mindset, is one of the veterans on Macarize. He’s been with me from the beginning and has gone from strength to strength. It’s a true pleasure to start off this interivew series with him. As a big thanks to all his and our fans and followers, Mindset wanted to give us an exclusive track to share with you. We hope you’ll enjoy the read as well as his new track “Kissun”.
Now let’s begin!
Yo Jay! First off, tell us a bit about yourself and your musical background. How and when did you start out?
Jay: Hi! Funnily, I have no musical background, it all just kind of happened a few years ago. When I was younger I was always into music but had no ability or knowledge of it at all. As I got to around 10 years old I started to discover dance music and even though I knew nothing about it, I got into it quickly. I used to go to my friends house who had an older brother in his 20′s who was into dance music too and I would borrow some pirated Cream CD’s he had bought at local markets and just listen to them on repeat for a while. I remember being about 13 and was watching TV waiting to go on holiday with my parents and was flicking through the music channels and heard a song called ”Pretty Green Eyes” by a local band called Ultrabeat. I don’t know why but after that I thought to myself how dance music must be made. I had no idea and for the whole 2-week holiday I just kept thinking of ways it must be made. Was it computers or instruments? was it some special kind of computer? Was in expensive? The fact that the guys from Ultrabeat were local made me more confident that I could get into it and find out how it works.
I got back from holiday and within a week or so I had met a guy on the internet called Tony from Glasgow. I have no memory where I got talking to him but he was in the same boat as me sort-of. He was editing music for a couple of years, chopping them up and making cool effects with audio files but wanted to start making his own. He pointed me to FL studio and I spent a year playing on it not knowing what the hell it was. I started off making old school style ”scouse house” in around 2006 but all my tracks were pretty bad for the first two years. No stucture or real elements. In about 2009 I got tired as the scene died completely as all the big producers moved on to other things. I joined college to study music and got into very cheesey electro house for a few weeks until somebody asked if I liked progressive. I went home and checked it out and discovered the deadmau5 album called ”Random Album Title.” With this and with a couple of friends also getting into progressive and putting some sets together every month I started to get more and more into progressive until I decided to try and make a progressive track. The first was a song called ”Generation.” I might still have it somewhere, but I’m not sure. It sucked and didn’t have anything special. A few months after, in a sleepless night of boredom, I wrote the entire track for ”Sleepless In Tokyo” in about 5 hours. It got a lot of support and I’ve just been stuck in with progressive since.
What’s the story behind your name?
Jay: I was originally calling myself ‘Soso’ when I was making progressive house. I still feel that was a better name but when it came time to release my first EP on Macarize, there was a possibilty of their being an issue as there was already a guy on beatport called Soso. He was a french rapper if I remember, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I sat for a while thinking of a name to put on my EP just to get it released. I couldn’t seem to come up with anything that fitted, so I asked my buddy Kevin (Lessov) if he had any suggestions. In the small list he gave me, was ”Mindset.” It had no meaning and was kind of a pointless word, but it was different and just fit with the music some-how. I wish I had a better story than that but sadly, that’s life ha!
Tell us about your top three moments so far in your career
Jay: Signing my first EP to macarize was pretty sweet. The EP wasn’t fantastic but it was were it ”began” even though it was 4 years in the making technically. It wasn’t the first release I had but nothing before that had any kind of connection with me. I was proud of it and it felt really good. It was also the first support from a big-name DJ I ever got when Solarstone played ‘Lovers Shadows’ in his radio show.
After that, when Ronski Speed made a bootleg of my track ‘Olympus’ to open up his TATW guestmix with, that was pretty sublime. I was very proud of the Olympus track, but it didn’t get any support. When Ronski used it and played it, it was more support I could of ever hoped for. It was a great bootleg with one of his up and coming vocal singles with vocalist JES and I was hooked on TATW at the time too so it was even more surreal to hear something I made on it. About a year later when I got a track supported by a&b themselves on ABGT, that was a massive rush for me as listening to TATW radio shows every day was what kept me hooked on that progressive, trancey sound.
Lastly, although not really a moment, is just how many people seem to enjoy what I do. The support is brilliant and love you get is unreal. I love progressive because although it was quite a big following, it still has a some-what small community and everybody seems to know each other. Everything is an open forum to chat and when people find something they love, they make sure others hear it. The community has some fans who are more involved than the producers. Being able to post a track and get actual feedback and support from real people and not a ton of robots spouting ”gr8 trak chek out mine.”
Related to the previous question, do you have any goals you want to achieve with your music?
Jay: Right now, not really. I always hoped to have a remix on anjunadeep but they have stopped signing progressive and turned to deep house, which I can’t aruge with. I just like to go with it and see what happens. If something great comes along, then I’m happy but no actual plans or hopes other than just hoping the album receives a warm reception.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Jay: Experimenting with new genres and ideas and just seeing what I can do musically. Maybe join my cities SAE course for music and learn some music theory, but I have enough trouble thinking of what I’m going to do in the next few days nevermind years. Although I’m not a DJ, if progressive is becoming more club friendly I wouldn’t mind doing a couple of gigs a year in random places for some fun and cool, like-minded people!
What would you say is the biggest mistake young producers make today? I mean, is there something you think these aspiring producers should avoid to do in order to reach their goals? Flipping the question a bit since a lot of people only tell what they should do rather than avoid.
Jay: I still constantly find myself making promises on social networks that fall apart. I plan to do a free remix of a track, but I never get around to it or finish it, but people are now expecting it which sucks. I’ve done it a lot myself, and see a lot of people do it too. I’ve learned very quickly that the best thing to do is not advertise anything until it is set in stone.
Also, if you’re working on a track and you finish it, don’t save and upload it. Leave it for a week and then listen back to it. Something I have, again, learnt the hard way. You notice a lot more imperfections when your ears are listening back to it ”fresh.” Sometimes now, I wait so long I have no memory of what the track sounded like when I last heard it. It sounds crazy but it’s easier to judge other peoples music for small mix issues than it is your own. I’m not sure of the psycology behind that but I think it’s true for everybody. If you wait long enough to forget the track, it’s as if you’re listening to somebody elses and it instantly becomes easier to judge what needs fixing and where. I see people getting very frustrated too when they can’t seem to write a melody or chord progression that they are happy with, but I’m sure most people will agree that great ideas are spawned from luck and a random burst of energy rather than sitting down and thinking ”I’m going to sit down and write an amazing chord progression.” Chances are nothing too significant will happen, but one day you might be bored, and something amazing might just happen without you even noticing. And most importantly. Money doesn’t buy you sucess. I see way too many people splashing out on uncessacery luxieries like macbooks and outboard gear that they never use because they don’t know how to turn it on or what it does. Your DAW is a powerful tool, you don’t always even need any plugins outside of what is built into them. Although I do think you should expeirment with that plug-ins suit you best, eventually you will find yourself only using 1 or 2 of the 200 you may have installed.
What do you think of the current state of Electronic Dance Music and do you think sub-genres like ours can benefit from the huge media attention acts like Avicii and David Getta get?
Jay: I’ve always had mixed feelings about the commercialsm of dance music. I think that it greatly benefits people who are already famous or on fames doorstep, but can have a negative effect on people lower on the ladder and for smaller genres like progressive. Everybody has very different opinions on it but this is mine.
I think that since dance music becoming the new ‘big thing’ in the USA has opened up a lot of great doors for people who were headlining club shows as they are now headlining festivals and getting into the top 10 charts of online stores as festival/club-house becomes a dominating element of all forms of media. But, while doing this, it’s encouraging a lot more people to want to become producers with a naive thought that within a couple of months they will be the headline act the world will be screaming for. Now, getting more budding producers into a scene isn’t a bad thing, but it means every good producer working hard has to fight against the 500 or so people who have bought pre-made tracks or likes/follows from websites promising fame in return for money. Some artists like Steve Aoki and Afrojack will do pretty much anything, even produce tracks and DJ along-side paris hilton because money has become the biggest factor. I can never hate somebody for getting money in a quick way, but it makes the genre, to the outside, a laughing stock and the only people who can defend it and be heard are people on the same level who are seeing the benefits of a lot more gigs and a lot more royalties, so to them as well, the genre is better than ever. A lot of artists who are hugely respected and influentual like Eric Prydz, Arty and even some artists in progressive, do seem to be going with the trend and leaving their well-known styles to produce music that is suited for festivals and not much else. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it seems kind of empty when after so many years it can change all once leaving a lot of fans feeling a little meh. Also with sites like beatport who have shown very little concern for genres like progressive, it has lead to ”progressive” being another name for ”anything else we don’t have a preset genre for,” it has become difficult to find a progressive house mix cd or a progressive house chart that actually contains progressive house. This issue is only so close to heart as I’ve dealt with it before, but I imagine it happens in other genres too at some point. I think this whole ”EDM” craze is just a phase and within a couple of years the mainstream will of moved on to something else and personally I’m excited to see where it goes. But hey, if I was producing club-music I would be giving a different story about how great it is, so it’s all relative and nobody is really right, there are just a lot of opinions.
How has your creative process evolved from when you first started producing music to where you currently are as an artist?
Jay: Yes it’s changed quite dramatically. When I started, everything was remixes. After a few years I started to write my own melodies and came up with little techniques. I usually started by writing pads first, then turning that into some sort of trancey synth lead and then add a bassline underneath. It wasn’t anything complex but it got me to understand the mindset (lol) behind writing my own music better. When I moved to progressive I realised that everything was based around melody and harmony, which I did see as a challange but music with nice harmonies and warm chords have always been what I’ve looked for in a song and this was the perfect place for me to experiment with my own ideas and see what I really could create. At first I started the same way and quickly realised I was making a few mistakes. My arrangments were very long, a ”chorus” of a song was running for nearly 2 minutes. Now I aim for 1 minute at most and start to unwind to another break after 45 seconds. Now I think the best creative way for me to write a track has been to write a melody or a hookline. Something catchy, energetic or warm and emotional. Then I tend to find a nice bass note and evolve it from there until I have a bassline that compliments melody the best I can. Then make a pad on top of that and everything else just seems to appear naturally as the base of the track is done. I try to make my arrangment appeal to Djs and home listeners by making intros not very long, but also very basic rhythmically and have as little elements of the melody out of the track as I can so that it mixes a lot more fluently. I also try and make it easy for a Dj to know when to mix out of the track. As far as mixing down the track, that has not changed very much since I started. I’ve always mixed as I go and then mastered the track inside the project rather than bouncing it out.
What genres (other than Trance/Progressive) do you enjoy and does other genres influence your work as a producer?
Jay: Have you got all day? Like I said anything with a nice melody to it has always inspired me. Funnily though, people are often shocked when they find that I don’t listen to progressive or trance music and very little electronic music in general. I used to listen to TATW podcasts when I was walking and I had the Anjunadeep:02 CD in the car so some of that music heavily influenced me when it came to progressive, but a lot of the time I just listen to a lot of indie rock/pop, RnB, a lot of 70s and 80s bands and even some very over-the-top cheesey pop. My favourite band i’m listening to right now is Biffy Clyro. Their new opposites album is fantastic. My favourite band all round is probably Fleetwood Mac. You can find very interesting elements and inspiration in almost anything you listen to. It can be anything from a nice bassline, to a great top melody. It doesn’t mean you have to copy, but usually if you hum something it slowly evolves in your head and can become something completely different and usually better.
When you first started producing did you ever come across any dificulties that challenged you greatly? And today with a few years experience, what’s the most challenging part in the process now?
Jay: When I started I had no music knowledge at all and to this day don’t have any proper knowledge of music theory. When I started I was mainly just doing very basic remixs or bootlegs as the scene seemed to be full of a lot of people just starting out as well so it wasn’t that common to find an artist who wrote their own melodies and almost every track you heard was made up of nexus presets. Nobody I spoke to had ever heard of sound design or synthasis and it wasn’t until after a couple of years I understood that a world outside of nexus patches existed. So when I started the most complex thing I had to do was work out the bassline by ear, but as I had never done anything in music before that was pretty hard to me and usually took me hours or sometimes days as I was tone deaf. Slowly learning how melodies and chords can work together and the amazing things harmonies can do took me a long while. I’ve also only recently started to get more into the eningeering side of things and mixing down a track is now fun and I’ve gotten to learn how to use more tools to get the sound I want. I can’t recommend enough how I think anyone starting out should invest in experiementing with the effects that come with the DAW. Compression is a great thing to learn, but the threshold, attack and release settings are the key things to learn in my opionion.
Do you have any early, unreleased Mindset work we can take part of? Just for fun to show how much you’ve progressed since you got into the whole melodic prog scene.
Jay: There are a few very early tracks from when I was using the name “Soso” on YouTube. There are “Indigo,” “Stars,” “Sleepless In Tokyo” and “Oslo.” The oldest track though would be a track called “Generation”. I only sent it to a few friends and nothing came of it. It’s nothing special but I have thought about re making it this year as a sort of special thing. (Listen down below)
My first somewhat successful track was my first house track called ”Freq.” It was feautred on a blog around december 2009 and it got over 1,000 downloads. It wasn’t released but it felt great to know people wanted to listen to what I was doing.
Do you have any classical training?
Jay: Absolutely zero. I’ve talked with other people wether it is necciscary but personally I don’t think it’s vital. Sometimes I do wish I had knowledge like how to play a piano so that when I’m stuck with writers block I have a direction to turn to to help me, but I seem to of coped so far. I always think about taking piano or guitar lessons but I don’t get much free time to start learning sadly.
What kind of setup do you have in your studio and what VST’s do you enjoy working with?
Jay: Everything is done on a PC tower. I don’t use any outboard gear although I would like a summing mixer to play with. I have a pair of KRK rp6 that I would like to change soon. I’d prefare to try out a pair of ADAMs or dynaudio but I have grown so used to these over the years that I know how they work and how to work with them. VST wise, sylenth. Everything you hear in my tracks is most likely sylenth other than the pianos which are courtesy of nexus. I’m a fan of the Sonnox limiter on the end of the mastering chain, but other than that, everything else is built into ableton.
Now to the fun and possibly embarrassing stuff. Five questions. Answer honestly!
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
Jay: Cheesey pop music. I hate some of it, but the rest, I’m a sucker for it.
What or who is your biggest pet peeve?
Jay: I shouldn’t really say my main one when it comes to music ha! But other than that, stupid people. I hate stupid people.
If you were in charge of the ”Sexiest Man On Earth”-list, who would be number one?
Jay: David Folkebrant. But my girlfriend thinks it should be Channing Tatum. Sorry David.
What are you most proud of about yourself and why?
Jay: Somewhat on subject, I’m proud that I’ve managed to teach myself to write music and carried on to the point that people want to know what’s going on in my head. Kind of crazy really.
Tell us something about yourself that no one really knows!
Jay: I post everything I think on social networking so there’s not much to tell but hmm… My girlfriend has turned my bedroom into a palace of eeyore teddys, so if anyone looked through my window you might think I was a little girl. Oh, and I can fly.
Thank you very much for your time Jay! Any last words?
Jay: A huge thanks to everyone for buying music and the over all support and love from people around the world. It’s phenomenal and blows my head off every day. I’ve got a lot of new music to release this year and can’t wait to. I hope you like the free track included as a way of saying thanks for reading this and thanks for getting past the 1k mark on facebook. Again, cheers and love!