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Monday 06th, September 2010
Leon Bolier - The 'Phantasma' Interview

: With his new album now among us we settled down to have a head-to-head with Leon Bolier about the not a little phantastic 'Phantasma'. Here's what he had to say...

Trance.nu: So Leon, first off, give us your introduction to ‘Phantasma’…

Leon: ‘Phantasma’ is my second artist album after 'Pictures', which was released in 2008. I planned releasing it in August/September 2010 over a year ago and have been working on it ever since. The track 'Shimamoto' was the first track being produced for the album, and since then I already released a couple of album tracks such as '2099' (with Marcus Schössow), 'Dark Star' (with Sied van Riel), That Morning and By Your Side with Fisher on the vocals, which just has been released.

Trance.nu: We had a quick Google of the title and came up with lots of otherworldly definitions of it. Give us yours…

Leon: Well, I did the same actually – and the definition I got was ‘something that exists only in perception’ - that covers the whole package the clearest for me. Most track titles refer to something that you have to imagine while listening to the track, hence the connection to perception whilst listening to the music. Moreover, in the whole artwork package, the track titles are woven in, sometimes in a more impressionistic way, sometimes more in a straightforward or obvious way. I guess you have to check for yourself!

Trance.nu: How difficult do you feel it was to record the new album, both as a standalone experience and also in relation to your last album, ‘Pictures’?

Leon: As a standalone thing it’s just big fun to produce an album, when you don’t take deadline stuff etc. into account. It’s great to just focus on the music, not having to think of dancefloors all the time; experiment a bit with deeper or more weird stuff that’s not suitable for single releases for me at the moment. In those tracks you can hear my love for artists like Sasha, Cattaneo, Trentemöller, Voorn and the old-school techno heroes like (Kevin) Saunderson, (Derrick) May and others. However, the big bunch of the tracks are tracks that people know me for, melodic and driving dance tracks. In relation to ‘Pictures’: you always keep the reactions to the first album in the back of your head, and those reactions were great. So you know it’s hard to please those people that really liked the first album.

Trance.nu: The old cliche goes that the second artist album is always difficult; did you find this to be the case?

Leon: Well, producing the album itself wasn’t more difficult than producing 'Pictures'... The hardest part is telling yourself that the album is finished – no more tweaking and adjusting, this is it. From then on it’s just fingers crossed, wondering about what the reactions will be, how it will be received.

Trance.nu: Obviously an artist album is no mean feat, what is the differential between pleasure and pain when recording it?!

Leon: The pleasure is, like I said, being busy with music on a daily basis, having the freedom to do what you think is best while being backed up by my record company (Spinnin’ Records), who believe in what I do. The pain in recording an album is: deadlines. Especially with collabs and vocal tracks in as much as you're having to wait for others to move on with a track, while at the same time you are producing and recording solo tracks as well. In the end it turned out to be alright, so no complaints about this anyway! It was just the feeling ‘I need to have this finished by then, and I need to receive those vocals by then, etc. ‘ that’s a bit of a pain, because it’s not something you have total control over yourself. But like I said, everything turned out to be fine, so big props to everyone I worked with on the album!

Trance.nu: One thing, we think, that is becoming clearer with your artist albums is that is that you have less of a bias towards vocals and more of one towards collaborations. Why do you feel this might be?

Leon: I don’t have a bias towards vocals, I just want a vocal track to be great. A vocal needs to be an additional instrument to the whole track, an integral part of the track. That’s why I’m not easy to please with vocals, but if they strike the right nerve, I totally go for it. As for collaborations: it’s easier for me to really connect to a (dance) producer and colleague who in many cases became a friend as well. It’s easy to communicate about what I want in the track, and what the other wants as well – I can easily understand what the other means and vice versa.

Having said that, the communication between me and my vocal partners for the album was great, and it was great to see those people really knew what I had in mind for the tracks from scratch.

Trance.nu: The artwork that has gone along with a number of your recent singles (‘Shimamoto’ and ‘That Morning’ also continues on to the ‘Phantasma’ album artwork. It’s a very unusual style – we find it intriguing – tell us about it?

Leon: It was an idea that emerged when I just finished ‘Shimamoto’, I was talking to my sister about the idea to give the different tracks unique artwork to go along with it – and working towards the album, the album needed artwork that related to the artwork of the tracks as well. So in the end the album artwork refers to the track titles as well. When I had the idea of giving the album the title ‘Phantasma’, I wanted the artwork to be like this. Fortunately my sister is amazing at drawing and painting, and I explained the whole idea to her. First thing she did was send me an MMS with the Shimamoto artwork, and I was amazed to see how exactly she had converted what I had in mind into the design. The same goes for the whole 'Phantasma' artwork, when I found the raw material on my desk I was a little bit nervous to open it up, because I wanted it to be perfect, so I wouldn’t have to make her work on it again. When I did finally ope it up I was so relieved it really turned out the way I wanted it to be!

Trance.nu: When you do collaborations, they often appeared to be with people that you're already readily acquainted with. ‘Eden’, your one with Roger Shah, was quite unexpected - how did that come about?

Leon: Roger and me had met before, but we never got to really talk to each other, usually when playing at the same party you have different flights and set times, so it’s just like ‘Hi and goodbye’ basically. Last year when I was on Ibiza I came to check him, Marcel Woods and Judge Jules out at Judgement Sundays in Eden, and after his set we had a long chat. Then he asked if I’d be up for a collab, and I was. It’s great to get to know each other in a more relaxed way, so I was looking forward to doing the collab as much as Roger was. Hence the track title ‘Eden’.

Trance.nu: Let's talk collaborations for the future: who would you like to in the grounds of both reality and fantasy like to collaborate with in the future?

Leon: I don’t know is fantasy can become reality and vice versa, but producers I really admire are (for instance) Sasha, Trentemöller, Joris Voorn, Stephan Bodzin, Wolfgang Gartner, Robert Babicz to name a few. I’m actually planning to do a collab with an old man that plays the harp really well, let’s see if that can work out and if that’s manageable.

Trance.nu: ‘Dark Star’, ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘2099’, ‘Saturn’: all very futuristic album track titles these; possibly science fiction referencing even. Coincidence, or a secret Bolier pleasure perhaps?

Leon: Coincidence. Even tho I really am interested in the whole outer space and technology thing, those track titles referring to futuristic things are coincidence. 2099 was a title Marcus came up with, and I agreed on that one, because we felt the track itself reflected what the title said. Same kinda goes for Dark Star and Saturn. War of the Worlds is kind of a different story: I wanted to create a track that reminded me a bit of the old-school progressive house that became very popular in 2002/2003, with those vocal snippets and long delays and deep basses. Before starting the track I searched for cool vocals and I found those recordings of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio play. The old-school feeling of those recordings added to the whole story behind this made me use those vocals for this War of the Worlds track.

Trance.nu: As with ‘Pictures’, ‘Phantasma’ is quite pronounced in its range of styles. Do you still feel that “trance with a twist” is still a good definition of your sound? Or do you feel that something else at this point would become more appropriate?

Leon: I don’t know to be honest... I produce what I like, and of course, for the single releases we keep into account that it needs to be for the dancefloors as well, I don’t really care what definition is given to my music, as long as there’s people out there that enjoy listening to it!

Trance.nu: ‘By Your Side’ features the vocals of Fisher and is a particular favourite of ours from the album… How did that vocal collaboration come about??

Leon: I already finished the dub version of that track when I was thinking of a great vocal line on this track to give it an extra boost – and at that time I happened to be talking to the Vast Vision guys, and remembered their hit ‘Everything’, with Fisher on the vocals. So I asked for the contact details and went from there. I must say, it really worked out well. As you might know, Fisher is a band, and Ron, the text writer, got back to me soon with a great idea. After sending ideas back an forth for a while Kathy Fisher sent me the final takes, and I was amazed by them – soon after the whole track was finished.

Trance.nu: Whilst listening to ‘By You Side’ recently we were hit by just how hard it was to categorize. Which trance sub-genre would you place it in?

Leon: Haha, like said above, I don’t really care about boxing tracks! It definitely is trance, but I don’t care for sub-genres. For instance, people sometimes are surprised I play some uplifting trance tracks, but actually I don’t care about what kind of a sub-genre the track belongs to, as long as I like the track and as long as I think it fits the set, I’ll play it out.
As for 'By Your Side' I think it’s a soothing track with some classical influences, yet catchy with the main vocal hook. Just call it vocal trance!

Trance.nu: Both ‘Pictures’ and ‘Phantasma’ appear to be quite long in terms of the general rule of thumb for such releases. Why is it that you feel compelled to produce artist albums that are considerably longer than the norm?

Leon: Because, apart from the fun producing the albums, I want to offer the people buying those CDs some value for their money.

Trance.nu: Is there a track on ‘Phantasma’ that you would say is your favourite, or perhaps that you are most proud of?

Leon: Toughest question, and I saw this one coming. I honestly don’t know. I have answered some more interviews where they asked for a couple of tracks, but naming just one is too hard.

Trance.nu: ‘Pictures’ came out in 2008, ‘Phantasma’ has coming out in 2010; do you feel that we should be expecting a new artist album from you every two years? Are you on a one year on, one year off strategy?!

Leon: I don’t know – since 'Phantasma' just had been released, I am not planning on a new artist album just yet, the next thing I want to do is a follow up to the 'Streamlined - Buenos Aires' compilation. Afterwards I will see what happens, in terms of time available to produce a new album and inspiration.

Trance.nu: Finally, ‘Phantasma’ is released on your sub-label Streamlined (through Spinnin’ Records). The label is a relatively new development for you, how is it all going so far?

Leon: It’s going great so far, the first couple of releases have been out and they’re doing well. While answering the interview questions, two Streamlined tracks are in the Beatport trance top 10 (Daniel Kandi’s Symphonica and my own By your Side) which is great to see! Releasing a full artist album on my own label after just a couple of months is something I wouldn’t have expected a couple of years back as well, so yep, I’m a happy man!

Trance.nu: Excellent - well continued success with that, and thanks for joining us for a chat.

Leon: Not at all - thanks for having me!

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