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Catching Up With Solid Blake: “I still get excited all the time!”

I’ve seen Solid Blake perform a couple of times now and both times my concentration was broken by a friend’s hand tightly gripping my arm, exclaiming excitedly: “Woah she’s so good!”

Photo Credit: Isabel O’Toole

Embedded within Solid Blake’s track selection is an enthusiasm and affection for all strains of electro, which rubs off onto the listener. Steely, jittery beats and skittish rhythms define her sets, and her productions are just as thrilling and forward-facing, earning her props from heavyweights like Modeselektor and DJ Stingray.

Initially gaining attention as the Glaswegian component of Copenhagen collective Apeiron Crew, Blake has come a long way since her early B2B’s alongside Courtesy, Mama Snake and Smokey. Her sound is fully formed and her life has fast become a blur of motion across continents; landing gigs at institutions like Berghain and Dekmantel and a coveted stint with Red Bull Music Academy. Blake has cemented her place in the scene, maintaining an enduring buzz as one of electro’s most exciting artists.

Over the weekend, Blake took to the booth as part of Pretty Pretty Good’s final London event, alongside Efdemin, Deena Abdelwahed, Delta Funktionen, Mor Elian, XDB, Joe and Yak. Pushing through severe jet lag following a quick dash between gigs in Berlin and New York, she made time to talk to us about her work-life balance, her stylistic evolution and what fuels her excitement to keep DJing.

To start with – how are you and what have you been up to lately? I saw you played the Mechatronica x Cultivated Electronics party recently alongside many great names. How was that?

Hi, I’m good thanks! This week I’ve been catching up with life after my first show in NYC at Club Night Club in Brooklyn. I met some wonderful people and had a great time, both at the party and on Sunday evening at The Lot Radio when we recorded a show together after the fact.

The week before that was indeed the Mechatronica x Cultivated party at Griessmuehle, which was definitely a highlight of the year and felt like a real family affair too. I’ve got so much love for both labels, it feels really special to be invited to take part in a night like that.

I do also need to give special mention to Avoid the Subject in Würzburg, the crew who hosted me the night after Griessmuehle – I finished at 10am and went straight from the club to the train so was pretty shattered upon arrival, but the team behind the event kept me dancing all night after my set, even though I was in a bit of a fragile state.

I read earlier this year that you were balancing a job in industrial design with producing and DJing. How have you been managing that and are you still juggling the two?

It’s true that I work for an industrial design studio (called Kilo Design – they’re the ones behind the AIAIAI TMA-2 headphones), but actually I’m not a designer, I do some comms work for them. It’s a wonderful place to work and the team are super talented, I’ve been really lucky to be given a lot of flexibility and support when it comes to touring and balancing my work there. It’s definitely a bit of a challenge these days to keep on top of touring life and making it to the office, mainly because of the sleep pattern inversion that has to happen every week, so I’m really grateful to have an understanding bunch of people around me when I’m occasionally only half awake halfway through the regular working day.

What’s your current daily routine look like, if you have one, in between the weekend gigs? What’s occupying most of your time?

It varies a lot depending on the day. I’ve just recently started renting a studio space a couple of days a week, which I’m hoping will help me get into a more regular pattern of producing and give me a push to make that side of things a priority in the coming months. When I’m not in the studio, I’m either in the office (just one day a week at the moment) or at home recording radio & mixes, buying and organising new music, dealing with admin and preparing for gigs.

Are you still based in Copenhagen and if so, has your relationship with the city changed now that it’s been a base for so long yet you’re frequently in and out of it?

I’m still living in Copenhagen, and have been here for just over 8 years now. The city still very much feels like home, I love the feel and the pace of it all, I love my apartment and I have my travel routines and favourite supermarkets and streets and parks, but it’s true that I don’t have the same social life here I did when I first arrived.

I try to squeeze in a couple of dinners with friends each month, but I’m not always the best at maintaining friendships face-to-face. That’s maybe because my job is so social, so when I have time off I often feel like being alone, undisturbed and in pyjamas.

I’m interested in hearing about how your taste has evolved this year. What kinds of sounds have been getting you excited? Has your style and the way you approach a set or production changed from this time last year?

Starting my monthly show on Rinse FM this year has given me the opportunity to experiment more with how I DJ (and level up a bit in the process). Having that monthly space to present whatever I’m into and find new ways of putting it together has also helped me develop a more defined idea about what I want to be doing. There are some things that I think I’ve always been subconsciously reaching towards in my style but never really nailed before now.

One example of this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year: there’s a particular manner in which I like to use contrast in a set, moving from something that’s light and airy or bright and melodic into a track that can be almost comically heavy and abrasive, but with the intention of highlighting harmonic or rhythmic elements that work together. This is something that just continues to be interesting to me no matter how many times I try it, way more than smoothly maintaining a mood does. I’m under no illusion that this is an original idea developed by me, I’m just enjoying discovering these things about my preferences.

Off the top of my head, I’d say that my favourite release of the year is Cocktail Party Effect’s Shattered Retina EP on Tectonic which came out a couple of months ago.

You’ve done some really solid remixes this year. Have you had much time to focus on your own productions and if so, what have you been working on or exploring in this realm?

Not enough, sadly! At the start of the year I decided I wanted to commit to some remixes as a personal challenge and as a way for me to develop my producing skills with clearly defined goals and deadlines. But life and work have meant that the remixes have taken up the majority of the time I’ve spent making music (there are another few remixes still to come out). That said, I think it’s been a really worthwhile exercise in helping me establish more of what I want to do next year, so I’m feeling quite ready to get back to work on my own material in the new studio.

I’ve know that the club culture in both Copenhagen and Glasgow have had an influence in shaping you as an artist. I find the music you produce to be quite intricate and I think you’ve established an identifiable sound despite being relatively new to the game. I’m curious to know, has production been something that you’ve felt quite natural undertaking or did you have a music background when you were younger, prior to entering the club world? 

Yes, music has always been a very big part of my life, for as long as I can remember. It’s the thing I enjoyed most in school as a kid and I picked up a couple of instruments pretty early on – I played flute, piano and guitar through school. But I was also pretty typically (for someone who ends up working in music) obsessed with finding new stuff to listen to and memorising albums inside out. I wasn’t really bound by genre particularly, I definitely went through a lot of different phases of interest but that feels more like just a way of exploring rather than eventually disliking anything I listened to.

I suppose having that background in playing music made it easier to pick up producing, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a natural when it comes to the engineering side of things. Special mention goes to Ctrls for passing on a lot of wisdom in that area – I think I needed a kind friend to demystify a few things before I could dive in confidently and get started.

You’ve played some great shows recently that have really given me FOMO, such as the Dimensions party with yourself, Stingray and Afrodeutsche. Playing alongside other exciting artists like that do you still get really giddy? What kinds of conversations are you all having about music?

That boat party at Dimensions was so much fun! And yes, I was super excited about that one – it was the first time I met Afrodeutsche and I am a big fan of what she does, so I made a point of telling her that. I think it’s a really good idea to remember to share these things, and remember that we’re all influencing one another to an extent, so I’ll always try to remember to tell people if I’m into their stuff or am looking forward to their set, acknowledging if I’m aware of how they’ve influenced me.

Now that you’ve been at this for a little while, do you feel comfortable and acquainted with the DJ lifestyle or do you still feel all of the excited, nervous energy that accompanied the earlier days? Has your mindset, or approach to this career changed much with time?

I still get excited all the time! I just love playing music and chatting, learning from people and seeing new places and everything else that goes along with it. New lineup configurations and releases, ideas for tracks and mixes and everything else bring me so much joy. Of course there are days when I’m tired and a bit grumpy and would rather be in bed than at some afterparty far away from home, but in those moments I try to remind myself that if presented with other options, this life is exactly what I’d choose again and again.

What are you currently envisioning for next year? Are you planning to shift your focus or are you enjoying how things are currently shaping up?

Gig-wise, it’s looking as though next year will be the busiest yet, so my main priority is making sure my life balance allows me enough time to make music. I know a lot of people who can get in the zone immediately and bash out something amazing whenever they want, but sadly I’m not like that. I can work pretty quickly once something is moving, but there are a number of mysterious conditions that must be met before inspiration strikes me. I’m interested in spending some time working out what those conditions are so I can reach that state faster and more often. I’m also open to playing live more often, developing different shows and seeing where I can take that side of things.

I heard your name comes from a video game character – Solid Snake. What are your favourite games and do you still play? Have the soundscapes of these games inspired your musical taste at all or do you have any favourite OSTs?

I absolutely adored The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild from last year (everyone loved it) and can’t wait to play the sequel which will hopefully be out at the end of 2020. Although I really enjoy getting sucked into the world of a game I’m generally a slow consumer of these things because I worry about losing too much time, so a lot of my favourites are nostalgic rather than current releases; it feels easier to drop in an out of a game you’ve completed before than something new. As far as inspiration goes, to me it feels more like games and electronic music are just quite compatible interests, it’s not like I’ve deliberately taken sonic inspiration from a certain game and applied it to a certain track. But the title of my last EP was a Crash Bandicoot reference :)