This week we caught up with Joel Alter and Quarion to discuss their new collaboration, QNA. The pair released their first EP on True Rotary Recordings earlier this week, the Tabor Sessions EP.
Founded by Joel Alter and Ena Cosovic, True Rotary Recordings is a Copenhagen based imprint home to material from Roberto Clementi and co-founder, Kontra Musik / Uncanny Valley artist Joel Alter so far. Here though we see the welcome addition of Repeat, Quintessentials and Drumpoet Community artist Quarion onto the roster for a new collaborative project alongside Alter.
So this is the fourth release for True Rotary recordings – what made you decide to start the label?
Joel: and Ena Cosovic met three years ago and we realised instantly how much we shared musically. The love of groovy, warm and emotive techno. It was just a matter of when not if, we were about to start a label.
Do you have a creative vision for the label – or is it just a platform to release good music?
It´s a combination of us two, so it's very personal, but it's a techno label, whatever that means. We release dance music. When it comes to choosing the right music, I trust Ena's taste 100% but it's somehow based on a feeling. When we listem to something or play it in the club we would definitely know if it's True Rotary or not.
What have you got scheduled in terms of releases?
Joel: The next release after QNA will be the debut EP of Ena Cosovic. After a couple of remixes she has finally finished her first solo EP. We are really exited about this.
Which other artists will be joining you on True Rotary Records?
Joel: We are planning a split EP and there will be music from me, Ena and Quarion. We also have some specials which have yet to be confirmed...
And what about your own productions on other labels?
Joel: I released an EP earlier this year on Copenhagen-based label Echocord and there is alot of my own music that wont fit on True Rotary. Like I said before it's based on a feeling. But I've been working in my new Copenhagen studio to redefine my sound and question who I am today and the result will be released somewhere else.
How did the QNA collaboration come into existence? Where did you guys meet and decide to start producing together?
Quarion: I met Joel in 2008, I'm not sure if it was at a party for the official launch of SoundCloud or at a club named Cookies, but anyway I'll never forget what Joel told me on our first meeting: "Man, your track Karasu is a classic! But you haven't done anything as good ever since." Joel totally caught me off guard but because he was honest (and quite right concerning my musical output) I liked him straight away. We didn't meet many times after that and it wasn't until last year, when Joel invited me in Copenhagen to play with Elena and him that we decided to spend some time in the studio.
Joel: It was a SoundCloud party at Pickninck Club in Berlin and it's exactly as Yanneck says... A couple of days later he wrote to me and said we should have a coffee and that also impressed me, not being angry at me for kind of dissing him. I am quite honest and direct, but would never try to diss anyone. Yanneck got that.
And the name QNA – is that a reference to both Quarion and Joel Alter?
Joel: It stands for "Quarion N Alter"… very simple.
Will you be performing as a duo as well?
Joel: We will definitely be performing as a DJ team and we're toying a bit with the idea of performing live as well, but we first to need to finish a good amount of tracks before that.
Tell me about the title of the latest release “Tabor Session”?
Quarion: The track "Tabor Session" was made in my old flat on Taborstrasse in Kreuzberg. Joel came to play in Berlin and we spent the afternoon jamming at my old studio. I vividly remember the feeling I had when we were working on that track, I felt it was definitely the best thing we did so far and we both could sense that the track had a great potential.
So as a duo, how do you produce together? Do you send each other bits to work on or do you sit together in the studio?
Quarion: We always try to go through the whole process together, from jamming and recording quick sketches to arranging and adding effects to the tracks. But I would say Joel put in more work on this first EP as he mixed down all the tunes and arranged the final version of "Tabor Session."
We don't have a formula but we usually start a track with an idea: sampling a particular record, taking inspiration from an old rave classic, hooking up an unused piece of gear, etc. I love working with Joel because he's very fast and open for experimentation. We usually need half an hour to get a good groove going, record all the channels then move on to the next track.
Tell me about your individual production processes, do you generally go into the studio with an idea in mind – or do you just start jamming and work from there?
Quarion: I generally don't have any preconceived Ideas when I turn on the machines. I try a few bits here and there until I find a good base to start working with. But once in a while, I do come in the studio with a particular concept or a feeling I'd like to transcribe in music. If I manage to realize the vision I have in my head, it usually turns out to be one of my special tracks like "Karasu", my remix of "Nabi" or "Knocking at The Door Of The Cosmos"… unfortunately those don't materialize that often!
Joel: After many years I've become more focused and these days I usually have an idea before I start working. But when it comes to working with other people I believe it's important to just jam and get into the groove. I know that I have a good ear and I can switch instantly from jamming to becoming a producer and start recording when it's good enough. This is good when you don't have much time and you don't live in the same country.
Tell me more about your production setup?
Quarion: I think I have a good mix of old and new: old analog and early digital synths and drum machines from Roland, Sequential Circuits and an original Rhodes Mk1 plus current samplers and drum machines from Elektron, a Moog Minitaur and a couple of new guitar pedals. I use Ableton live to record and sequence this whole mess.
Joel: I always loved sampling and still do. My favourite is the Akai mpc3000 but Ableton is also very good for sampling and you can basically get any sound from any source using effects and the simple tools you have there. Just remember to have a good sounding source, or a bad one if that's what you want.
Do you have any unusual pieces of equipment?
Quarion: Not really, I have a couple of rare machines but nothing unusual I would say.
Joel: I got the Davolisint. It's the first ever built Italian analog synth. It's not that versatile but it's rare.
Is there any piece of equipment that either of you would desperately like to add to your setup?
Quarion: haha, there are too many as far as I'm concerned! But recently I was quite impressed by the "Analog Keys" from Elektron. It makes such a difference to play these sounds on a proper keyboard instead of a module.
Joel: I would love to try the Roland Chorus Echo.
What are your five favourite tracks from recent memory?
Neil Flynn - Shon - Lossless
Harvey Sutherland & Bermuda - Coast 2 Coast - Clarity
Johannes Albert - Giovanni Frizzante (Prins Thomas Remix) - Frank Music
Border One - Relic - Form And Function
Zopelar - Origini (Ripperton Bubbles Dub Remix) - Endless
Norken - Southern Soul
Roog Unit - Mesh ep
3KZ - Not From Here
Dj Lily - Bror004