We’re delighted to present our second podcast of the summer season! This week, we’re honoured to feature a man we’ve been following with great interest for some time; Stee Downes. The Amsterdam-based Dubliner has emerged in recent times as one of the finest Irish exports to the dance music world.
The vocalist and songwriter, many will know from an outstanding collaboration with Lovebirds, has established himself through Berlin’s Sonar Kollektiv and gone on to release on some of the biggest labels out there (Crosstown Rebels, Get Physical, 2020 Vision) as well as collaborating with some of the biggest names in the game (Mario Basanov, DJ T, Audiojack). He’s also lining up a new album for later this year that we’re eagerly awaiting.
Not only has he gifted us with an exquisite hour of top jams but he’s also given us an insight into all things Stee Downes. So, hit the play button and start reading, it won’t disappoint.
WWD: Stee, What have you been up to this week?
Stee: Just getting ready to go to Colombia for the weekend for 2 gigs and preparing some new live sets for some upcoming shows .Also just finishing off on lots of album details this week. It’s almost there but we still need to mix it in Berlin in mid – June. At the moment I’m just finalizing artwork for the first 12” , “Caught up” which is due out in August on Sonar Kollektiv. Besides that just been catching up with a few friends I haven’t seen in a while and trying to get a bit of sun in the park next to my house.
WWD: Do get back to Dublin much?
Stee: I try to get home 3 or 4 time year to see friends and family. …. but in the last 12 months its been difficult due to recording in Berlin and travelling on weekends. Was home in March for a week for my sisters wedding in Kenmare which was great, nothing like an Irish wedding to get back in touch with your roots. I forgot how beautiful it is down that part of the world……that trip was good for the soul!!! Need to get back more….
WWD: Tell us, as a young fella what were you listening to that first got you hooked on dance music?
Stee: When i was young i think i went through lots musical phases. I was into every style of music from soul, disco, hip hop, rock, techno, house music. When I was about 16, a good friend of mines brother was mates with Mark Dixon & the Phuture Groove record store guys, that was when we were exposed to the music properly. They had stacks of vinyl in the attic of my friends house and we would spend the weekends up there mixing on a battered pair of ariston decks. We used to go to their residency at Temple of sound and the following day buy the records from the shop in Temple bar, they were amazing times. I also had a few mates who were just into collecting disco 12’s and rare soul, funk and jazz records, i learned lots from them about dance music in general. The first vinyl record I bought when I got turntables in 1995 was Black science Orchestra New Jersey Deep 12” on Junior Boys, that was the record that did it for me… still does! I was fortunate to meet 2 people that really influenced my musical development…on the Dj side it was an amazing dj from Dublin called Dan o’keefe, who was always way ahead of the what was going on locally, he really broadened my mind with his perspective on music and life and the way he dj-ed, he definetly was one of my mentors. Also Sam Mahoney aka Ishfaq is an amazing producer I met in Dublin who thought me all the basics about production and the love of analogue sound and playing instruments to create a feel….he’s a genius! He played most of the instruments on my first album and produced it with me in his living room in croatia, check his stuff!
WWD: I’m sure a lot of young Irish producers and dance music lovers are intrigued by your rise. Can you tell about how you went about establishing yourself as a vocalist?
Stee: In the beginning I was just producing and writing tracks for other singers because I didnt think of myself as a vocalist. It happened by accident , as I wrote more songs I started recording myself and listening backi i thought it wasnt so bad. So I learnt alot in that time about recording techniques and how to use my voice with house music. After doing my first album on Sonar Kollektiv I was contacted by Basti of Lovebirds and we worked on a few tracks together. During that time I was very focused on writing vocals for house music. After “Want you in my soul” came out I began to get lots of offers to do features from respected producers like Mario Basanov, DJ T, Kruse & Nuernberg and Motor city drum ensemble, so things moved very fast from there. I think the most important thing as a producer or vocalist, if you find your own uniques vibe, dont get distracted by what others are doing, stick with it and in the long run it will work out best….
WWD: You took up residency in Amsterdam a good while ago – why did you make the change? would you recommend moving base for young Irish artists?
Stee: Yes , i have been living on and off in Amsterdam almost 10 years now. I came here first in 2004 and straight away loved the city, the people and the vibe here…was lucky to meet good people in the beginning that made to move easy. I think sometimes when you move away it can help you focus on your work more because you dont have as many distractions as you might do in the place you grew up. Works for some:) I love living here, I just need my studio and a bike and I’m good..
WWD: You released your Album ‘All In A Day on Sonar Kollektiv in 2008 and have been associated ever since with the label. How did the relationship develop?
Stee: It started when I sent Alex Barck from Jazzanova a few demo tracks one night, not expecting any reply , He really liked the music and straight away asked me to do an album. Sonar Kollektiv have always been really good to me and have supported me with everything for my second album which will be out at the end of 2014. They connected me with some amazing musicians and introduced me to Axel Reinemer from Jazzanova recording studios whom I’ve worked with on the entire album over the last 12 months. They have such a rich history of music over the last 15 years and has been a major influence on me.
WWD: As always the EDM vs the underground debate rolls on, did you catch the infamous American Idol video causing such a stir? Have you an opinion on the matter?
I completely missed this ….sorry:(
WWD: The whole concept of the underground, is this something you think about?
Stee: I used to…when i started out i only wanted to do underground music but I realise now that was just an excuse or I was up my own arse, it was one or the other. I think its important just to make the music you wanna make, whatever sounds good to you….the music that you truly feel! All the genre and underground/EDM discussions sometimes are just a distraction and a barrier to creativity. If your honest with your music….. you can’t go wrong. My album is not house music, but has dance music influences and everything else from disco, pop, 80s, funk, soul, punk. With the second album, which is called “The Bigger Picture” i wanted to get away from the whole underground/overground genre specfic distraction and just make a record of 12 good tracks influenced by everything I love in music! Whatever happens with it… it felt like a breathe of fresh air!
WWD: Is there any changes you’d like to see in Irish music scene or at an international level?
Stee: I can’t really say from a irish music scene point of view because I havent lived there in a good while….The only thing I would say that would be good for the whole music scene would be people moving back to buying, listening and playing vinyl more. It does sound better….and maybe it might stop the major download sites dictating whats gets played on the worlds dancefloors.
WWD: You’ve worked on some amazing tracks and some top labels. Are there any projects that stand out for you from among the rest?
Stee: The project that exceeded anything we expected was Lovebirds “Want you in my soul” . Things went a bit crazy after that, have had some great memories performing that track around the world. Amazing to know it reached some many people. We worked on a few tracks in that time and the follow up should be due soon on Lovebirds own label “Teardrop” recording.
Also the process for this upcoming album has been a really mindblowing experience working in Berlin with the Jazzanova musicians and the team at Sonar Kollektiv, its my best work to date I feel, we’ll see:))
WWD: Any goals for Summer 2014?
Stee: Get as much sun as possible, see the family, travel alot and enjoy the world cup!
WWD: Give us one track that embodies the Summer for you.
WWD: What are the plans for the coming months? Where can we catch you?
Stee: Next up is my first solo release in 3 years which will be out in August. There is also one or two features still to come this summer with Marlow & Marquis Hawkes on Fabric’s label. I’m performing all over the place this summer doing a Vocal/Dj set for now and coming soon will be the full live band for an album tour. There will be a launch party in Dublin hopefully later this year which will also feature various other Sonar Kollektiv acts, will keep u informed on that:)
Follow Stee Downes: