Johan Vilborg [Photo: Patric Franksson @ bejbi.se]
We continue our interviews of talented Swedish producers and dj’s, this time we sat down at a cafe in central Stockholm with Johan Vilborg to talk about his music producing and thoughts about life.
Before we start can you tell us a little more about yourself, on a non musical front. How is a typical Johan Vilborg day?
A typical day of mine starts with me waking up early, getting ready and then off to work. I work with computers here in Stockholm. After a long day at work, I get home and and start to produce music, or sometimes I just hang out with friends. But it’s all about music when I get home. I spend like 4-5 hours on music every day in some way. Either producing, listening or just scouting.
You latest single ”Altara” has become a huge favorite on Beatport. What does ”Altara” mean?
I think there was a thread on the Anjunabeats-forum where there were many that claimed me to have stolen the name from a Adam Nicky-track also called “Altara”, but when I’m producing music words often spring to my mind, whereas they are often the most obvious names for the tracks. The word Altara comes from a fantasy book by Robert Jordan called “Wheel of Time”. It’s the name of a country in the book.
If you get an idea for a track when you are running about in the city, how do you bring it to life?
I try my best to remember it. I don’t record anything when I get them in my head. All my music really do happen in the studio. I work a lot with chords and my synths. Unfortunately I also have a lot of ideas that didn’t get there… But I guess that’s life.
What would be the perfect recipe to make a hit trance tune ‘today’?
It must be catchy and easy to remember. Something that really gets stuck in your head.
I think it have to sound “new”, not like something from 10 years ago. Something melodic, some vocals…
At the moment I’m actually doing some deeper stuff, where it’s more about getting a lot of passion into the tracks, and to really make it from the heart.
Do you think that your dreams are in any way connected to your music?
Yes, my dreams are often connected to music. I’ve had dreams when I’m at a studio together with some known producers and making music. I think, when you meet someone you tend to get a much more realistic image of that person, and thus they can appear more realistic in the dreams to.
Please tell us something about your forthcoming releases!
I have two releases at Silk Royal Records. One original track that I’ve already played out at dj gigs. Also there is a remix of a track by the owner of Silk, Jacob Henry, that I recently finished. It’s quite different from the original, the name isn’t released yet though, but it’s pretty exciting to have it released.
Who or what do you get your inspiration from?
I get it from my life and how I feel. I’m mostly happy and satisfied with my life, except I don’t work with music full time. But I get a lot of sound influences by Mat Zo and Arty, but mostly life is my inspiration. If I have a really bad day I sit down in my studio and make something. It does not sound good every time, but it’s great to get the emotions out of my system.
Do you have a mentor, or are you the mentor?
I’ve been producing for eight or nine years now, but I’ve never had the same mentor all the time. I’ve always had people around me that’s given me tips, but it’s been various people all the time. When I started out I got a lot of help from a guy in the US called Michel. He helped me out to get things started, but up until now I’ve worked alone except from a few tips from different people around me.
Which is the dream artist or singer you want to work with?
Hard one! Dream artist, would definitely Mat Zo, he is my absolute favorite right now. Can’t wait until his new album comes out!
Dream singer is a bit harder. Usually when I listen to music I don’t pay attention to the vocals that much. I’ll have to think about that one.
Can you take us through what your current studio set up? What does it consist of and what pieces of equipment/software would you say are most essential?
I recently rebuilt my studio at home. It consists of a digital Tascam DM3200 mixer, which is the heart of my system. I use a computer with Fruity Loops-studio. Then I run all the sounds trough the mixer. I want to apply all the compressors and equalizers with my own hands. I also have a Roland JP-8080. It’s one of the first synths that did a supersaw, but I have never used it in my productions so its more of a toy. It sounds too metallic to have in my tracks.
Which is the most essential VST-synth you use?
My favorite is the Z3ta+, then I use the Sylenth1 and the FM8. I also like a lot of FL-studio’s built in synths, but those three are my favorites.
I always create my own sound. I hate the feeling that I didn’t do the track by myself from the beginning. However, if I do use a preset, I try to mix it so the sound is a bit more like my own.
As a producer you’ve produced both vocal and non-vocal tracks. Which do you prefer producing and what are the challenges of producing a vocal track as well as the challenges of producing non-vocal track?
The two vocal tracks I’ve done so far. The first one I did with Aneym, and it’s called Mistaken. I made the track first and then Aneym did the vocals after. For my current track Altara I got a sample pack from my friend Adam Szabo, which I cut and rearranged to get the special vocals in that track.
I’ve never worked with a singer from the beginning of a track’s progress, although I’m actually working on one with a friend of mine right now, where we take an idea and we work out the rest during the creation of the track.
Often a vocal track has a gap between the track and the vocal. I want to have the vocals in early to create a tighter track.
As you’ve grown and matured as a person during your nine years of producing, do you think this has reflected in your music?
When I started, I was a completely different person. I had a hard time in school and started to make music. I’ve always had a huge interest for music. My personality is always about music. I think of it all the time, I listen to it all the time. It’s like an addiction.
I want to work with music full time. I don’t know if would be trance or some other genre, but I want to create music. I’m going to study music at a sound engineering school called SAE pretty soon.
You are a DJ too, how come you started DJing?
Actually it was the first thing I did. My dad was a DJ when he was young, and when I turned nine years old, I got his turntables and mixer. And so it started back then.
So you’ve been a DJ since you were nine!?
Yeah, but I didn’t really know what trance or even dance music was back then. I just scratched with the vinyls. And still today I love vinyls.
In my youth I always had turntables at home. I played at school parties and I think it was when I was in my middle teens I started producing music.
Tell us three classics that you always keep in a CD case while at a gig.
I mostly play new stuff that I like at the moment, but classics.. I like the Oceanlab’s old Satellite and the mash up that Mat Zo made of that track. Mat Zo mashed his track Synapse Dynamics with Satellite and therefore he brought the vocals from Satellite into a whole new track. I play it quite often.
I also like a lot by The Thrillseekers, Oceanlab and an favorite track is the Ehren Stowers mix of Misconceptions.
Otherwise there is a lot of old tracks on Anjunabeats , but the sound I play nowadays don’t fit into a set with older tracks since I don’t want to bring down the tempo too much.
And three must-have current ones!
I’ve been speaking a lot with the Swedish producer Johan Malmgren lately and I really love his sound, and his remix of Thrillseekers “The Last Time” is so good.
And the Mat Zo remix of Tritonal’s “Lifted” is a given newer favorite, and also the Arty mix of Trapeze by Ferry Tale.
What is the best comment you’ve heard after a gig?
Awesome set is the most common I think. I like that word; Awesome!
Do you produce other styles to, under another name than Johan Vilborg?
At first I called myself Feeltz, but when I noticed that DJs where supporting my work and they said in their radio shows “This was a track from Feeltz..” I didn’t feel like it was me. So I decided to use my real name, Johan Vilborg. I want to be remembered by my real name.
I also produce chill out tracks and I’m going to release three of them on Silk Textures later this year. I love the mood in chill out tracks.
Many artists find themselves stuck to one genre throughout their careers, simply because their fan base refuse to accept anything else. This can sometimes push our artists in to a corner that prevents future growth. How important do you feel it is for an artist to stand their ground, evolve and play around with as many genres as they can?
I think it’s very important as an artist to create whatever you feel like. You make music because you want to, and when you are in a corner it just stops. If you get stuck in a corner with something cause you must do it, I don’t think it comes from your heart. I’m quite bad at making remixes since I feel that if I’m stuck in that corner and I can’t get out from it because I cant change what I want in the track. It’s probably because I can’t make it from my heart.
And that is an important thing, because if you don’t create your music from your heart it shines through, and I think you can hear that in some artists’ music.
What do your parents think of what you do?
Both my parents are happy and support me, but my mother doesn’t really understand it as much as my dad does.
Actually my dad didn’t know I was producing music until after four or five years after I got my first record deal. He had just heard some noises coming from my room and didn’t really understand what it was. So he was really surprised when I told him and he was like: “What? Are you making music!?”
If you could listen to just one record for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Trentemøller – Take me into your skin. I have it on vinyl and I love it.
If you were to put your money on a country for its growing trance scene, which one would it be?
Trance is more underground nowdays. Housemusic is taking over now.
However, Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union have really created some great artists the last few years. It’s great to see the countries over there loving trance as much as we do, especially since they almost recently got out of wars. They really do look happy when they party.
The Fast questions
Three things you absolutely can’t live without.
My Speakers, my friends and my happy mood. I always see the bright side of life.
Your favorite possession.
My Tascam mixer. I really love it, it took almost four month to get it to work.
Own Productions or own Remixes?
Other favorite genre after trance?
Progressive, and uplifting.
One thing your fans don’t know about you.
I don’t know what they know really, I just recently made my facebook profile more private. It’s a bad thing when people goes through my old pictures and like them.
Your favorite item of clothing.
I’m not into clothes at all, but I like to wear jeans.
One for all your adoring female fans – blondes or brunettes?
I love when you can see people. Blondes really do stick out from a crowd. If we look out of the window in front of us right now almost everyone is blonde. I like brunettes more though.
Best hangover cure?
Drink water and eat, or drink or eat.. basically keeping yourself awake.
If you weren’t a DJ/producer you’d be a…
I’ve been thinking about that, I work with computers and I think it’s something like that I would do if I didn’t produce music.
What’s the first record you bought?
I think it was Eiffel 65 – Blue
What was your worst gig?
When I was 14-15 or something I had a gig here in Stockholm and no one showed up. That was kinda boring.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve heard about your music?
I got an comment on Altara on YouTube with someone writing: “If he keeps on like this he would be one of the best producer of this year”.
That is quite interesting, I just do what I do and if someone write something like that I’m really glad hearing it.
Which big music style plaguing EDM would you like to cancel right now?
Hardstyle. I really don’t like it at all. I like it when I’m drunk, but otherwise, nah.
I hate the melodies, that brain dead melodies and the beat. I like the older Hardstyle tracks, but the new Hardstyle is too non-serious.
Thank you so much for your time, Johan!
Thanks, it was fun to talk to you Patric!
If you want to hear what Johan can do as a Dj, we got his latest guestmix for Captured Radio here:
Novaline – Exclusive bejbi.se mix
1. Johan Vilborg – Fall (Original Mix) [Silk Royal]
2. Martire pres. X&Y – New Beginnings (Solid Stone Remix) [Alter Ego]
3. Mango – Good Morning Track (Tom Fall Remix) [Silk Royal]
4. Johan Vilborg – Altara (Original Mix) [Silk Royal]
5. Johan Vilborg – ID (Original Mix) [CDR]
6. Johan Vilborg – Leaving Home (Original Mix) [Silk Royal]
And if you want to hear some of his productions, feel free to check his Soundcloud, where he puts a lot of work in progress.