Artist of the Week: Josh GabrielAugust 6th, 2009
A few written pages wouldn’t do justice to the quarter of a century of incredible music-production Josh Gabriel’s done. For more than 25 years, he’s been part of music. In different forms and ways, but always with an overriding passion for sound. After taking a different route in his musical career in 2008, Josh found himself facing some new challenges. Cause what would life be without a bit of adventure? This week, we look back onto Josh’ career, and find out what this musical genius has all been up to.
Josh: “The first electronic music I ever heard was Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’ in 1978. I was 10 years old and my mom used to take my brother and I to the library to check out books. One day I asked if I could check out a record instead. From that moment on I was hooked on the sound of the synthesizer. I checked out books and read all about these magic devices before buying my first one in 1981. That was the same year Depeche Mode, The Cure, U2 and Duran Duran had all just appeared on the US airwaves. I would sat in my room and twist and turn every knob of my Micromoog synthesizer as I tried to evoke the sounds of the New Wave bands that were inspiring me at the time.” And so, inside Josh, an artist awakened.
Besides learning to control the electronic side of music, he was also brought up with the piano and spend his time taking drum and guitar lessons. Josh:” I took drum, piano, and guitar lessons in elementary school and was in the school orchestra until the end of high school. We had a piano at my house growing up and I would sit and play for hours, making up songs. In 1991, I recorded a collection of these piano songs and released it as a CD called Illusions. These days I like to keep an electric guitar and bass handy during the production process as they are a part of how I write.”
Josh was shaping up to be a true music geek, spending all his spare time making music, reading about it or listening to it. Josh:”By the time I graduated High School I had more gear than I do now! Back then I started recording my synths on a 4-track tape recorder and then in 1986 got my first Mac with music sequencing software. I was always making music, and yes I was the geeky kid that would never leave his room. I always wanted to be surrounded by my synthesizers. I could sit for hours and make music. I still can. Producing was just something that came naturally as an extension of growing up when I did and the way music was made back then.”
1986 – 1987
With a life full of wonderful sounds ahead of him, Josh began studying at the art-school in California. But soon enough, he moved on to attend Stanford University, to eventually discover Holland and its Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Plenty of stuff to learn and to discover. His new home, for example. Josh:” Art school teaches you how to think conceptually about what you are doing. It’s also is a place to learn about how to receive feedback on your work. The most important thing is probably the fact that going to school in Holland is what got me introduced to Amsterdam in the first place which is where I call home now.”
Within the years, Josh has mastered the Dutch language and got used to the Dutch way of living. This all American boy has gone Dutch! Josh:” I was just having this discussion with Francis Preve, who is visiting from Texas. Right when he got here he said ‘wow, this place just feels good’. I couldn’t agree more. Something just feels right here. I love the attitude of the people, the canals, life with no car and bike riding. The whole thing just works for me and makes me feel creative. It’s also one of the only cities where you can get from your front door to the airport in 30 minutes on public transportation, which is handy for a DJ.”
There’s another thing about this country of good cheese, wooden shoes and tulips that make it so important to Josh. While being there in the sparkling eighties, and in his Conservatory years, he invented a light controlled remixing machine and started performing with it all across the country. Josh:”Creating that machine was a great experience. The music in the clubs at the time was Acid House and performing with the machine was so futuristic for 1989 that I don’t think anyone really understood what was happening. The concepts that went into creating the original machine are what later were the basis for Mixman – the software company I co-founded in 1992. We released Mixman Studio in stores and it was also bundled with the Creative Labs Soundcards worldwide. Currently Mixman is exploring the iPhone as a new platform for interactive music.”
Founding Mixman wasn’t only Josh’ highlight, it also meant a great deal to music industry. Mixman was the first company to bring digital audio remixing to the masses. Josh:”We were involved with so many different things. Like projects with MTV, Mattel and many other interesting companies. The last product we released was the DM2, which you can see people use on Youtube after they reverse engineered it and they’re using it to control DJ software like Traktor. That makes me feel good.”
After graduating from the California Institute of the Arts with a BA in Music Composition, Josh started a professional career behind the scenes as an audio engineer. A very exciting time, that even saw Josh winning a platinum award for mastering Disney’s Alladin soundtrack. Josh:” Back then I was very into the high end audio gear. At that time a normal person could not purchase for example, the $200,000 Sonic Sloutions NoNoise system. These systems were purchased by big production companies so working behind the scenes was how you got to put your hands on the best gear. During that time I was able to be in some of the best studios in the world.”
In the years after, Josh would find himself working at several companies and in different roles. He worked at Oddworld Games, composing game music and sound effects. Besides that, he filed and obtained two US patents, and build up his Mixman Technologies. But adventure lured, and a new chapter in the Gabriel book was about to write history in the new millennium.
In 2001, Josh’ first solo record, ‘Wave 3′ was released. A trippy progressive track with a trancy feel to it, successful enough to impact the scene. But only a year later, after discovering their musical chemistry, he would team up with Dave Dresden. Josh:”When Dave and I first got together and made music we were happy making music together. I was not thinking about solo work because I was completely fulfilled with what we were doing. We did not really plan anything. We just made music and it took us on a ride.”
And so, the legendary Gabriel & Dresden team up was born. Within the 6 years, Josh and Dave have done an amazing job. Though their sound certainly didn’t stick to one style, they were particularly popular in the trance scene. Their ‘Arcadia’, ‘Without You Near’, ‘Dangerous Power’, ‘Let Go’, ‘Tracking Treasure Down’ and numerous other beauties are, up until this day, still some of dance’s biggest classics. And we’re not even counting the numerous legendary remixes the guys did.
Josh:”Gabriel & Dresden had a chance to work on some amazing projects. We remixed everyone from The Killers, Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan and Dido to Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold and Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. We also were part of Motorcycle which in 2004 spawned ‘As the Rush Comes’ which made it to #11 on the UK Pop Chart and #1 on the US Dance Radio Airplay Chart. Even with all that, the thing that I am most proud of is our artist album – which took a year to make and had some of our biggest tracks, like ‘Tracking Treasure Down’ and ‘Dangerous Power’.”
The work Josh did under the Andain, Motorcycle and Gabriel & Dresden team-ups wouldn’t only be praised by the DJ’s, fans and critics, it would also end up in numerous charts and receive several awards. With 17 number 1 Billboard hits, three compilation cd’s, an artist album and seven International Dance Music Awards, Gabriel and Dresden turned out to be one of the most successful team ups in EDM history. But despite all the praises, accolades and awards, Josh has always kept both feet firmly on the ground. Josh:”I don’t know how else to be. I just love music. I love listening to it. I love making it. I love playing it for people on big sound systems.”
In 2008, it was time for a new challenge. Josh and Dave decided to take a break from Gabriel & Dresden to focus on their solo career. Within the year, Josh produced and releases his first solo album, ‘Eight’ and founded his own label, Different Pieces. A pretty unexpected move in his career, but Josh’ decision has definitely been worthwhile. Josh:”I have no regrets. Gabriel & Dresden taught me many things and it was just time for me to explore things on my own. Having my own label has been exciting as it a great way to meet likeminded people in the world to connect with and share the music experience. The reactions to the ‘Eight’ album were great and I was very satisfied with the outcome. Like all albums, it represents a moment in time for me and probably will be more valuable to me 10 years from now as a tool to look back in time.”
Josh was never easy to catch working with less than 3 styles in the blender. But with a mainly progressive and trancy background, it does seem that Josh has come across a new path: tech-house. His ‘Tone Program’ and ‘Summit’ were a lot more techy than any previous work. But to Josh, big changes in his sound come as a natural result of time. Josh:”When I make music I am naturally inspired by the things that move me. In general the things I have been making lately tend to be very funky, musical and uplifting.”
Next to working solo, Josh also produces for other big names in EDM. Again, a perfect example of the non-egoist Josh is. Josh:”When I work as a producer and/or co-writer on another project, it’s different. It is about making something special for that artist. It’s not about me. If you know that going in, then there are no expectations. In the end it makes me feel happy when I know that an artist that I was part of the process in making reaches a wide audience. It also gives me a chance to explore parts of myself that I would not naturally. I always learn from the experience.”
In 2009, Josh’ Different Pieces label became part of Armada Music. With releases by Francis Preve, Stel, Nick Bugayev and Josh himself, the label is unique in every way. Josh:”Different Pieces is going great! We are focusing on having only a few artist that we work a lot with and develop. Some of the stuff coming out soon includes a collaboration between myself and Dave Seaman called ‘Heyaah’ as well as my new vocal-based project called Winter Kills. Winter Kills has a debut artist album in the works right now and the first single called ‘Deep Down’ has been supported by all the usual suspects.”
Another one supported, is Josh new track ‘Rubber’, out on his Different Pieces. Josh:”I made ‘Rubber’ when I was in Denver, dj’ing at Beta. I heard Hipp-e play some great house music. I loved the deep kicks and sine wave bass sounds. When I got back to my hotel room I started making something with just those basic elements. The key was stepping out of the way and letting the chaos happen. This track for me gives me that feeling of being in underground dance club. Dark and dirty but with a warm bottom end that surrounds you.” We couldn’t have said it any better way.
Today & Tomorrow
Now that you’ve been introduced with the life of Josh Gabriel, it’s right about time to find out about his future too. What is Josh up to? Josh:” A: It’s going to be a busy summer. I am currently working closely with Sander Kleinenberg on his debut artist album and the first single from the project ‘This Is Our Night’ was just recently #1 on the UK Buzz Chart. At the same time I am finishing the Winter Kills album and Andain’s next single, ‘Promises’, will be on its way as well. I also have two new original tracks – ‘Entropy’ and ‘Entanglement’ – that will be released this summer. On the label side, expect more great music and remixes from Francis Preve, Rob Stern and a new top secret project called Bitches in the Kitchen.” History and future’s looking bright, Josh.
For more info on Josh Gabriel, checkout http://www.myspace.com/joshgabrielmusic.