A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of interviewing the Harmony Rec crew in order to get to know them as artists and event coordinators. As true fans and creators of the music we love and cherish, they have made a name for themselves by consistently pushing the musical envelope with their dubby styles of Techno. It was an absolute pleasure getting to know the Harmony Rec crew: Raleigh, Yan, Tomas, Alfred.
1. Harmony Rec is a name that is internationally respected at a very high level. Being an important imprint in the world of technical & deeper styles of music, please explain in detail: What does the term “Hypnotic music” mean to you from a creative standpoint?
I don’t think I would describe our style as hypnotic. There were various events of ours and some performances of our members, which might have slipped into the deeper and darker side of the thing, however, usually we identify ourselves with dubby basslines, addictive grooviness and unconventional sounds. Similar ideology characterizes the label. There is no primary intention to hypnotize anyone, we are reflecting the atmosphere of our events and the community that mingled around them over time. I think that each and every human being has diverse sources of what kind of music may ‘hypnotize’ them. In general, we enjoy calling our music dub-techno, because that is where we started. For some releases, it might make sense, for the others not. There is great enthusiasm towards this genre in our collective, so we kinda stick to that term.
Although our label is often deemed as a part of the scene orientating itself on hypnotic music, I see it more as a tag that has been forged to us and somehow makes it easier for listeners when it comes to distinguish us from other labels. Harmony Rec. does not concentrate its activities on this sub-genre only. We are open to every sub-genre of techno and beyond. The forthcoming releases such as HARMONY007 and HARMONY008 will prove this to our audience and certainly push the boundaries of the label.
In general, I understand why people have labelled our activities with this term and there certainly was a time when “hypnotic” somehow summed up the path we were taking. If you saw our event lineups a few years back, the impression of a deep techno gathering must have emerged. Despite this fact, I think we always preserved some sort of flexibility in terms of techno sub-genres released on Harmony as well as played at our events. Some people would be probably surprised by the fact that being at a Harmony party around 7 AM means dancing to old progressive tech house. For us, the term hypnotic music means a scene full of very genuine people, friends and memories, which we have gained by tapping to this music sub-genre.
2. From an atmospheric point of view: What is the vibe you’re trying to set forth when planning live events, in other words – What does Harmony Records do to create a proper Audio/Visual experience?
We are not going directly towards the traditional techno concept ‘as dark as possible’. The intimacy of a dancer plays a huge role of course, but as it was previously mentioned, we usually don’t play as dark, so we would pick the ‘two hazer machines, four red neon tubes and a strobe’ starter pack. Many of our attendees are looking forward to Harmony parties because they perceive them as an option to reunite with their old friends. The parties are suited not only for the techno die-hard fans who are ready to hop into the crowd and dance their asses off until the dawn, but also for those who came to have a drink and chat or perhaps make a new connection. That is perhaps why we cherish open-air parties. You can see people’s smiles better, you are easier to be found if someone needs something (or the police is at the gate haha) or just wants to say hello (that may also be the police).
Stage design itself is one of the main pillars of Harmony parties. It is something that receives a lot of attention from our side. Thanks to the group of people we tend to call “Harmony art team,” we have been able to create stunning audio-visual installations, making our events memorable and eventually helping us to establish the position we have in the scene today.
Our former atmosphere magicians, a crew called, GOJO, turned every venue into a techno sanctuary using natural and organic elements. For them, it really did not matter if the party was held at an old warehouse or outdoors. Since the group took a break from contributing to techno events, we have become more oriented on light itself and light installations. This shift introduces our crowd to a bit of a different experience. A huge thanks belongs to Honza Slanina, Petr Cuker and Marek Slipoch. Looking back at our events, it is awesome to see the development and different phases we have gone through.
3. How would you describe the music scene in Prague, where do you see in going in the next 5-10 years.
There is a constant pressure of finding new interesting venues for our parties but luckily, every time something pops up. We still have loads of energy that we are willing to invest in organizing parties. Hard to say what the situation will be like in 10 years, maybe we will reduce those 4-5 events we host annually and focus on something different, less frequent.
I think there shouldn’t be any concern about the younger generation. In Prague, there are many people who are younger than us, and they are already involved in some projects or started their own. Not sure how many will follow ‘our path’ i.e. dub/deep techno, since they are more into post-club, rave and wave genres (in the fields of electronics), which are taking over these days. I can’t be disappointed about that; the important fact is that the city keeps its underground scenes!
The scene has been growing rapidly ever since we joined it in 2014. Thanks to places like the Ankali club, people in the city now have the opportunity to experience techno music regularly. Moreover, the venue helps the local scene by introducing artists from all over the world. Around the time we started with Harmony parties, the scene was quite dependent on warehouse events and, even though there were a couple of clubs offering techno nights, it was quite far from the space that Ankali strives to provide the locals with.
Thinking about warehouse events in general, it is possible to notice that it is becoming more and more difficult to organize these events in Prague. Back in time, throwing a warehouse party at something like an old hall located in a district neighbouring with Prague’s city centre was normal. However, to deal with the lack of housing, Prague has started pushing developers to turn the so-called “brownfields” into housing projects. Also, the areas that were further from the city centre, but still acknowledged for raves, like Kolbenova, are not party friendly anymore as new housing blocks accommodating families were built there too. Therefore, I can see a decline in warehouse parties, resulting in club events taking a more prominent role. Surely, there will be more techno clubs in Prague in 5-10 years.
As others have just mentioned, the entire Harmony thing began in 2014. A year after the first events that formed today’s scene had emerged. Might sound ridiculous for people from Western Europe, but around that time, there was like one big warehouse party in a month. People knew about it from Facebook four weeks ahead, and everyone was hyped to go. The whole experience of you being there meant enjoying the night 110%. Our friends and promoters of these events in particular crews like Polygon and nite vibes deserve huge respect for the organization. These guys basically set unspoken rules that people later perceived as standards for every techno party in Prague. And, therefore, their contribution to the scene should be appreciated.
If we look back at the times right before the pandemic struck, there had been a lot of parties to choose from. Fridays and Saturdays were usually packed with nightlife. Please, keep in mind that I am describing the scene in Prague only as that’s the main area where we are involved. The scene had grown. More and more promoters started contributing to the scene by hosting their event series. From small bar parties to warehouse events for hundreds of people. What I liked in particular was the increase in open air parties, weekenders and two-day events. In general, more parties led to having more people interested in the scene. Also, we could see the rise of foreigners coming from neighbouring countries and cities to experience the nightlife in Prague.
I believe that, for a while, Prague will preserve a status of the Central European oasis of techno. However, in 10 years, things would most likely be more settled. As Tomas pointed out, warehouses and unique locations will run out or get demolished. This will most likely result in us organizing Harmony parties less regularly. So, something like Raleigh has described. I can see us shifting the scope of our activities towards the label and eventually throwing our dream weekender with a bunch of close friends and fans, taking place once a year.
4. What is the best way to experience the music released by your record label. Indoors? Outdoors? And please explain why.
Each release attempts to explore a different style and evoke different moods. Hence, it is quite subjective to conclude what area grants the most powerful listening experience. I guess that some Harmony tracks I consider as club-oriented can be open air music for others and vice versa. If we look back at our releases, the first three EPs can be deemed as more “clubby.” And honestly, these tracks sound better when played at clubs.
A certain shift happened after releasing Alan Backdrop – Natives (HARMONY004). The EP contains tunes that are great to listen to while chilling or partying outside. For instance, dr_C_ or even Feral’s remix of the same track introduce the listener to an acid jungle, where the sounds of apes are audible in the background. Feral’s remix feels like depicting a journey through swamps of a rain forest. The release that came out afterwards, Laogan by Shoal (HARMONY005), is extremely dreamy music that works perfectly at clubs as well as outdoors. I would recommend checking out the track, Taniwha, which demonstrates how versatile this EP is.
A milestone in crossing boundaries and reaching new possibilities was for me the latest record release, Forest on Stasys – Mantrum, containing remixes from Alfred and Shoal. The EP excellently blends hypnotic/deep atmosphere with tribal elements. I remember myself playing the almost venomous acid remix from Shoal for the first time. It was at the Ankali Club. I mixed it in during the first half of my set. It came out as a turning point, changing the energy and the mood of my set. In my opinion, this is one of the best tracks, perfect for clubs or open airs followed by the sunrise at 6 AM. Oh, I miss playing at events so much to be honest.
I am super stoked about our upcoming release HARMONY007 by Alan Backdrop. The record will mean reaching another milestone for the label as it combines deeptechno and trance. I am sure that the tracks will become essential dancefloor weapons for outdoor events. And I am excited to see how the people of the hypnotic scene will accept the EP.
I agree with what Yan has said. Harmony as a collective pretty much emerged from and is connected by clubbing. However, I believe that there is a consensus among the team that we love to experience music outdoors as well. There has been a tendency to balance each release in order to provide music that somehow covers both of these areas. But please, do not imagine us interfering in the work of artists. Everything has always come about quite naturally in the label. As said already, the last EP, Mantrum, is an excellent example. While the A-side offers tracks like Ofrenda, granting a deeper experience that can be mixed at open air events, the B-side is stocked with dancefloor killers that would leave no one unmoved.
5. How has Covid-19 affected the life of Harmony Records. What did you learn from this experience?
Similarly to how it affected other record labels, for instance, delays in pressing records and so on. On the other hand, we hope that at the end of the outbreak, there will be a lot of promoters and venue owners ready to negotiate. There is a good chance that we will be able to rent some marvellous spaces that we will use for our future productions.
Well, we have had a lot of time for activities that normally do not make it to our agenda. You know, stuff like cleaning our messy Google Drive, sorting photos from our events to order them in a proper manner or enhancing our financial sheets. Each of us has taken this extra time as an opportunity to discover something new and learn new skills. For instance, Alfred and I really dived into graphics last half a year, Raleigh turned into an administration god and Yan is about to announce a series of his mixes, discovering various sub-genres of techno music. Moreover, Alfred finally found time to finish his long-awaited LP haha.
Ultimately, we have been able to come up with new ideas and plans that we would like to realize shortly after the pandemic is over. One of these things is to host a small music festival in the Czech Republic.
I believe that COVID-19 has granted us with space to slow down and think about our next steps. Certainly, I miss the party-life in general, seeing the reactions of people in the crowd. Nevertheless, even an event that has a negative impact on your life can be deemed as an opportunity. Let’s say that in the last six months, we all invested a significant amount of time into the label. So, there is much to look forward to.
Speaking of myself, I have been able to overcome the current situation and utilize it to work on my personal project, despite the fact that the first lockdown was incredibly difficult for me. At some point, I closed myself in the studio and began realizing my latest ideas concerning music. Thanks to the pandemic, I got extra time to go through the field recordings and samples I have gathered throughout the years.
The label was mixed by Raleigh on 2x Technic 1210, 2x CDJ 2000s and Xone 92
Label mix tracklist:
Alfred Czital *unreleased*
Vizar – Harmony Of Life [HARMONY000]
Jamida – Oase [HARMONY003]
Forest On Stasys – Ofrenda [HARMONY006]
Shoal – Laogan [HARMONY005]
Alan Backdrop – dr_c_ (Feral Acid Jungle Mix) [HARMONY004]
Forest On Stasys – Ofrenda (Alfred Czital Midnight edit) [HARMONY006]
Alfred Czital *unreleased*
Alan Backdrop (Ness Remix) *unreleased*
Alan Backdrop – dr_c (Original Mix) [HARMONY004]
Alan Backdrop *unreleased*
Alan Backdrop *unreleased*
Alfred Czital *unreleased*