Calzo Houdini has been involved in different projects with Empire of the Sun, Peter, Bjorn and John, The Streets and a few others… He’s clearly a talented producer who opens up about his passion for music in this exclusive interview. Don’t miss a word of this creative artist who has a lot to offer!!!
1 – How long have you been producing and how long does it take to produce a track?
I have been producing music professionally on and off for almost 10 years. Starting around 2007 I had a label which became a sub of Warner Music Group (WMG) and then part of BKKMG Records in Thailand. The time put into a track varies. If I’m making my own tracks I’d say anywhere between 2-4 weeks per track. That will sound like a long time to some producers but I take breaks in-between so I’m not burning myself out, plus I have other work commitments. If I’m producing music for another artist it really depends on the style of music, what they expect of me and their deadline.
2 – What is your state of mind when you produce a track?
There are long periods of time when I’m not in the mood to make music. It’s either a lack of motivation or I’m too busy. I’m easily distracted when I’m sitting in my studio so if a track isn’t working I’ll start a new one and see what comes out after an hour or so. If I like what I hear I’ll focus on that track for a few sessions which will hopefully turn into a finished song. So to answer your question, my mind is always wandering all over the place. I have 5 hard drives full of unfinished tracks.
3 – You are also into DJing and what genres do you play?
I have tried DJ-ing a few times but again I’m easily distracted and lose sight of what I’m doing. I start enjoying the music and atmosphere a little too much and can’t focus. I prefer to listen to the music rather than concentrating on making sure people are having a good time. We record DJ live streams in my studio every now and then but I hand over the DJ reigns to my friend Ron who really knows what he’s doing whilst me and Valerio play around with the cameras and make sure the audio is on point. It’s mostly Deep House and Dance music I guess. A few of our past live streams are on my YouTube channel.
4 – You lived in Thailand, How good is the nightlife and the electronic music scene over there?
Thailand has a massive choice of clubs and bars depending on your taste in music. For electronic music the larger clubs in Bangkok cater to more mainstream dance, EDM and house music. I’d recommend checking out Levels nightclub in Bangkok if you are ever over there. I loved Bedsupper Club in Bangkok but they had to close it down in 2013. They had a lot of top DJ’s and artists playing there every few months. My wife Chelsea and I used to live in Pattaya where they have club 808, MIXX and Lucifers which all have a stream of great DJ’s and live bands playing every night, resident DJ Andy P from Manchester being one of my favourites. I play his mixes on my radio shows, great stuff. Look him up on Facebook.
5 – Tell me about your work with Empire of The Sun? Was it easy or hard work?
It initially started when I produced a remix of the PNAU track ‘With You Forever’ which has Luke Steele on vocals, who at the time was in a band called The Sleepy Jackson. Luke then later created Empire of The Sun with Nick Littlemore who was in PNAU. Randomly out of the blue my remix was played by Swedish House Mafia on BBC Radio 1’s takeover show about a year after I released the remix. Someone in their camp heard it and I got to work on small bits and pieces with them on their second album ‘Ice On The Dune’ about 4 years later!
6 – Where can we listen to your new EP ‘One Man Room’? Are you planning to release a music video?
The new EP is available to buy from all of the usual digital retailers and on Spotify if you want to stream it. I wanted to release a vinyl but that’s something I’ll keep for an album. There won’t be a full-length music video for the EP. I filmed a short promo for the title track which is on my YouTube channel but nothing on the EP really warrants a full-on music video.
7 – Do the lyrics tell a story? Who provides the vocals on this EP?
When I set out to make the EP I planned to have the tracks flow together and tell a story but the deeper I got into it the more I realised that I just wanted to release a collection of songs that I had finished and enjoyed making, which is why it doesn’t fit together like an album would. There are a few artists providing vocals on the EP. The majority of the vocals are from the super talented Stevie Adams and Holly Drummond. You can find Stevie’s EP on Spotify and her videos on YouTube and Holly does a lot of studio session work. Both great artists in their own right. When we were recording vocals in my studio Stevie was bringing melodies to the tracks that I would never have dreamt of. She’s a great singer and songwriter. Keep your eye out for her.
8 – As an artist, do you share every aspect of your life with the Internet?
Ha! No. Musicians, actors, performers and artists all have to share a certain amount of themselves with “the internet”. It’s 2016 and the media industry is driven by the internet whether the big labels and studios like it or not. As loathsome as self-promotion is for both the artist and their followers it’s a large part of getting your music out there. There’s only so much a record label or publisher can do for you. An actor is obliged to promote their movie, why shouldn’t a musician tweet about their music? When it comes to personal stuff, I enjoy posting photo’s of my wife looking at menus in restaurants and videos of my cat but that’s probably as much of my family life as I’ll share with the internet. No one is really interested in the personal stuff, although I have been asked some strange questions over the last few years, mainly from Empire of The Sun fans.
9 – You produced a free a track for the IBIZA Together Week Parties, who is it aimed at?
I was contacted by a promoter for the IBIZA Together Week and asked to create a track and video that would be played in and around the weeks events. It was intended to be played more as background music or as an art piece that would be projected on screens in bars whilst everyone is chilling out and having a few drinks. So I guess it’s just there to keep people motivated and in the mood when they are socialising before they head out to see the big DJ acts in the clubs. I like to think of it as elevator music. The kind of music that you hear in the background but it sticks in your subconscious. Something you would remember if you heard it a few months later but couldn’t quite place where you had heard it. That’s the idea. It’s fun making quick off the cuff house tracks like that. Easy. Plus I’ve never been into the whole Ibiza scene, I’m a recluse. It would be amazing to be there and hear the track being played poolside but I’m in no rush. I made it and it’s over there being heard by someone, somewhere, that’s enough for me.
10 – What days are you live on your online radio show?
The radio shows are on a hiatus at the moment until I get other work out of the way but I would love to bring it back with some real DJ’s, hosts, and guests. I’d like to incorporate our DJ live streams and make it a monthly event. It’s something I’m working towards but it’s difficult to keep a schedule when there are so many other projects on the go. It’s a matter of sitting down with my friends Ron and Valerio and building something where we can feature new artists and local talent. I think there would be a huge interest for something like that, especially if we keep it local to start with. The guys at the Boiler Room do it perfectly.
11 – We know you’ve worked on film scores, In what kind of film does your music fit?
The first original film score I produced was a single track for Gerard Butler’s film production company back in 2011. It was intended for the end credits of the movie Playing the Field. My track was dropped from the movie when the producers decided to change the title of the movie to Playing for Keeps. Somehow my track no longer fits into the end credits and that was the only shot I’ve ever had at a “Hollywood” movie. I still haven’t seen the film but I know Andrea Guerra would have put together a great score for it. For the last year or so I have been sporadically working on a score for a Swedish independent movie called Spare Change. I’m looking forward to releasing the album for that soon. I love pulling together strings and orchestration and then watching real musicians play it. Magical.
12 – What’s your favorite song you’ve ever produced? Why?
That’s a tough one. I think it would probably have to be when I wrote orchestration and produced the remix of ‘The Streets’ (Mike Skinner) track ‘Everyone Has Something to Hide’ from his last release as ’The Streets’ ‘Computers and Blues and Cyberspace and Reds’. Shoutout to Tess, Jamie, Shep, Ozzie, Rod, Emma & Adam Dempsey. Good times.
13 – Do you find that most of the people you meet in the world of music have quite bad taste in music?
I’m not sure I understand what ‘bad taste in music’ is? I think there is an ear for everything out there. There are genuine people in charge of the industry who have no interest in even being associated with the music side of the process. Businessmen who can’t decide what music they enjoy because they don’t understand the concept of music. As one of my hero’s, Gene Wilder, once said, “Show-business… I like show, but I don’t like the business.”. Music is subjective but at least let the creative ones produce, influence and direct the industry. The same goes for the art world, comic books, movies, and radio industries. Everyone needs to back off, let people who know what they are doing get it done. Business men will always reap the benefits regardless but at least talent flourish and grow without being restricted by sociopathic old men with money and fuck all else to do with their time. I dunno, it’s a vicious circle of the industry. Keep on, keeping on.
14 – What’s your label’s plan for making you a more commercial-oriented artist?
I’ve never been interested in becoming a commercial artist. My label primarily focuses on building K-Pop bands and Asian rock bands. I knew that from the beginning and I’m happy to just have an output to get my music out there to the few who want to hear it. It’s fun. My music performs pretty well in Asia but I have no intentions of trying to be anything other than a guy from Edinburgh who makes music in his bedroom.
15 – Which artist would you like to collaborate with?
Paul Buchanan. Single greatest songwriter of all time in my opinion. Please look him up on Spotify and if you meet him in Glasgow, tell him I’m asking for him. He was part of the 80’s band The Blue Nile. Their music is phenomenal.