Written by Keyframe-Entertainment for Evolver EDM
In recent years, there’s been a steady rise in Psytrance festivals, collectives, and top-tier bookings such as Dreamstate, Oregon Eclipse, and Pulse Gathering. In honor of chronicling this progression, Keyframe has interviewed influential festivals, collectives, DJs, and promoters to explore the evolving Psytrance movement within the U.S., while informing and sharing resources focused on the culture. This is not an opinion piece; rather this article tracks the evolving Psytrance scene, and offers interviews with: DJ Khromata, BODHI of Psycircle, Zul of Synchronize, Party Babas, Roe Revolution, Doctor Spook, Paradigm of Pulse Events, Luis Campos of Psycheground, Kri Samadhi of TOUCH Samadhi, Trevor Wyse & Barakuda of PsyTribe, Lars Rudin of Red Marines Festival, DJ Ace Ventura, and Symbiosis Founder Bosque Hrbek. If you want to learn more information about Keyframe, and understand our background and appreciation for Psytrance, please visit this page.
We note that our focus on this research was the West Coast, and we’re hoping to interview more voices in the East Coast and Canada. As we’re planning a PART II post, we hope people reach out constructively and in the spirit of collaboration.
The Psytrance International Reach
While Psytrance has acquired a wide fanbase worldwide since the 70s, its growth within the U.S. has been comparatively slow. Australia’s Rainbow Serpent Festival, Boom festival in Portugal, Hungary’s Ozora, Brazil’s Universo Paralello, and various Psytrance festivals in South Africa and throughout the world are but a few examples of the early global support for the genre. For a European perspective on the history of Psytrance, please check out this article. Also, the Psytrance wikipedia entry.
Challenges of the Psytrance genre in the US
In an interview with MidDay.com, Goa Gil states that in addition to having become commercialized, the current trend of over-formulation can be repetitive, and therefore risks being boring. However, although the genre was misunderstood from its very beginning by the Trance community itself, the scene seems to finally be getting its due attention stateside.
As John 00 Fleming states in an interview with OnlyTheBeat, “The more commercial form of Trance has toured all around the world for the past few years and seems to be in its final destination of the USA.”
Psy Festivals Flourish in North America: Festival Guides
In response to the increase in North American Psytrance events and festivals, Fractal Tribe has created a festival guide, with the goal to stimulate the growth and global awareness of this culture. This list is ideal for internationals or locals to plan their travels or for DJs / producers / visual artists or anybody else to get in touch with an organization.
Mushroom Magazine is an international Psytrance magazine published around 4 times a year, with a print run of up to 40,000 magazines with bilingual (English-German) text, distributed to important scene hot spots. To view their list of international Psytrance events, visit Mushroom Magazine’s Psytrance festivals map.
INTERVIEW: DJ Khromata Discusses her Psytrance experience
Khromata bio: DJ Khromata (Iboga Records, Pulse SF) A world of sound at her fingertips, Khromata stands in the vanguard of storytelling and sensory manipulation in the modern era. She draws the essence of tech-driven music to the surface with DJ sets purveying the sounds of the psychedelic underground following years of experience playing psytrance shows and festivals around the world. Driven by fun, energy and technical purity, she cannot be summarized by any single set or sound, making every Khromata performance an intoxicating, one-of-a-kind experience. As of March 2017, she is the new U.S Iboga Records DJ. In November 2017, she will be playing the year’s biggest trance event at Insomniac’s Dreamstate SoCal.
Keyframe: Tell us about your first experience with Psytrance?
KHROMATA: My first experience with psytrance was rather happenchance. In 8th grade in 1997, I came across a mixtape on the bench at school that I popped in my Sony Walkman. It had a bunch of Euro Trance on it, which I was already familiar with, but there was this ONE track on the cassette that I had never heard anything like before, and it was by Hallucinogen (aka Simon Posford, 1/2 of Shpongle). The track was called “LSD.” I asked my dad what LSD was that night and he pretty much fell out of his chair at the dinner table! So that was my first musical experience, and I became a big Goa/Psychedelic trance fan from there, I even got made fun of for it in high school and got the nickname “Goa Princess.”
My first party experience was a few years later, senior year high school at age 16 in Thailand (where I grew up). My cousin took me to Koh Phangan New Years Eve 2001-2002 at Paradise Falls, legendary party, with acts such as Olli Wisdom, Reefer Decree, S>Range, Banel, SBK, K.i.M and more. Changed my life to say the least, and here I am 15 years later in it pretty deep, from throwing events (Pulse SF events, Khromata Nights) and DJing and learning music production. I only started DJing in 2011, though. Heck, I even wrote my university senior thesis on transnational Psychedelic trance culture and spirituality. It’s been a passion for a very long time.
You’ve performed at various international Psy festivals. What are some of the developments you’ve noticed and experiences you’ve had?
One of my favorite aspects of psychedelic trance culture is that it’s a very global, transnational phenomenon. It’s huge in many place across the world, and festivals are the pinnacle of where you can experience this at its fullest together with people from all over the globe and celebrate music and life collectively. As a DJ, this phenomena has given me some pretty crazy opportunities to travel to places around the world I never thought I’d see!
As far as my experiences go, I find that many folk from around the world still aren’t aware of the Psytrance scene in the U.S, and I get asked a lot about the scene here. It’s been here since the 90s and has always been more disparate and underground, hence why many people just don’t know, but now it’s experiencing a degree of popularity, and people from all walks of life are getting into it. Before, you really had to seek it out on e-mail lists and forums and know the right people; now, it’s much more accessible and widespread. I am playing in places that are just starting up scenes that traditionally weren’t Psy hot spots, such as Tampa, Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, etc. It’s pretty cool to see and be a part of!
My hope and school of thought has always been that incoming folk and youth keep a scene alive, fresh, and thriving. In my eyes, if it’s just a fad to someone, they’ll move on to the next big thing, but I welcome every good genuine curious person with open arms who wants to experience what I’ve been experiencing since I was a teenager, and that is the beauty of psytrance music, community, and culture.
What is your involvement with Pulse?
Pulse SF is my heart and soul! We are an electronic dance music event production company in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Pulse LA in the Los Angeles area. Our events offer world class electronic music acts and visual artists who create immersive, innovative atmospheres. We showcase the quality sounds of the underground, attracting a diverse and dedicated audience. We’ve received global acclaim for our professionalism, leadership, and ingenuity in dance music event production, as we continually raise the bar of creating exceptional experiences. At Pulse SF, we live by the motto, “Our intent is all for your delight!” Check us out at www.facebook.com/pulsemusicsf !
I was invited to join Pulse SF as their first resident DJ outside of the founders in 2012. Over the years I’ve become more involved with organizing and promoting the parties. I wear many hats! From bookings, artist relations and social media management, stage managing and more. I must give a shout out to my Pulse SF and Pulse LA crew mates, Paul Scott aka “Papa Pulse” aka DJ Psynthetic, Chris Hut aka DJ Tobal, Lawrence Chavoya aka DJ Paradigm, Evan Silverman aka DJ DeliFi, Christine Webb aka DJ *Christine*, and Brian Sentient aka DJ Brian Sentient!
Tell us what’s unique about the upcoming Pulse Gathering?
KHROMATA: As I mentioned earlier, psychedelic trance is seeing a degree of popularity right now across the world and in the United States that we really haven’t seen before, shown through the amount of festivals and events with psytrance being represented, as well as by the fact that I’ve had around 3-5 gigs a month in the past year; it’s really thriving, so people are lucky in that there are so many options to choose from. You have the biggest psytrance lineup to ever hit the U.S with Oregon Eclipse, which I am also playing, these are very exciting times! I highly suggest checking out our third festival Pulse Family Gathering 2017 on September 22-24 in Northern California, about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco.
PFG 17 is the culmination of our years of throwing events for the Psytrance community in California, and we couldn’t be happier to provide an intimate gathering for people to dance to great music with an awesome family vibe in a really gorgeous and comfortable location. We offer world class production from top notch sound to awesome decor. For example, we have an amazingly talented psychedelic visual artist from South Africa designing and creating our canopy for the dancefloor, which we will reveal more about soon.
Musically, I really feel our lineup is pretty fresh! It has a proper mix of established acts, international headliners, local hometown heroes, and up-and-coming artists. We have an amazing violinist performing. There will be some awesome psychedelic downtempo and bass. A fabulous Tech House and Techno afternoon pool party (yes!), and in the Psytrance realm, we have Tech, Progressive, Full-On, Full-Power night, and dark Psytrance; there’s truly something for everyone. Oh, and showers! Cabins available to rent! We have been working really hard on this and are so excited about it and welcome you all to join us this September. More information can be found on the website at www.pulsecalifornia.com, and tickets are available at www.pfg17.eventbrite.com .
Khromata will also be playing at one of the biggest trance events to ever hit the U.S, Insomniac’s Dreamstate SoCal on November 24th-25th! Tickets available at: https://dreamstate.frontgatetickets.com/event/lcwh208vwiua6r3y
Why do you think Psytrance is finally catching on in the US?
INTERVIEW: Zul shares his Psytrance experience through San Francisco’s Synchronize
Zul bio: It was love at first kick when Zul found psychedelic trance at San Francisco’s Thump Radio parties back in the late 90’s. A few years later around 2003, what was supposed to be a just-for-fun family project of learning how to DJ turned into real gigs which led him to a 4-year run as a resident dj at Synchronize, the longest running weekly psytrance installment in the USA. The awakenings he experienced at Goa Gil gatherings illuminated Zul with a brief window through which he saw and felt the intent and purpose of everything. From that point on, he knew that his love for psytrance was The Way. Only time will tell what this all means and what will come out of it but one thing is for sure, where there is Zul, there will be psy!
Keyframe: Tell us about your entrance into the PsyTrance genre.
ZUL: I was already entwined with SF’s dance underground from the beginning of the “rave” movement and a faithful participant to gatherings like Wicked, Come-Unity, and The Gathering. So when I saw a flyer for a new party called “THUMP” that featured artists unheard in the circuits of my familiarity, I said why not, looks interesting. Upon entering the space – which was a club called Space 550 – I was immediately immersed into an environment of UV illuminated tapestries but then I felt the rapid, pulsing, massage that was bombarding my entire being. It was love at first feel: that kick bass! I just stood there for a while – motionless even – stunned like I’ve met my long-lost sibling for the first time. In my head I was like “Omg, where have you been?! Praise the Lord for I have found you at last!”
What is, and how did Synchronize come to be?
Synchronize wasn’t something that was conceived from a premeditated plan or found in a vision. It was late summer of ’03. I just started DJing as a family project with my ‘wife then’ and step-daughter. We threw “house parties” that went on for days as a family. Good times. Barratt, who taught me DJing, was a regular and he introduced us to another psy-friendly house – which turned out to be a Berkeley frat house overlooked by Nick. We all became friends instantly. Then a few weeks later, Nick was dining at this dive bar/restaurant called Il Pirata. He noticed the sound systems and asked the owner if there was an available night for him and friends to throw something, to which the owner replied with an availability on Wednesday. Then Nick called me and asked if I wanted to join him and Barratt to do this, and take our parties outside of our houses so we can accommodate the whole community. I said yes of course and the name ‘Synchronize” was coined. Admittedly, in the back of my mind, I didn’t think it would last four weeks. But Synchronize turned into a beast on its own, as it ran for nearly 10 years, every damn Wednesday! And the only time we charged was when we had a big name talent in town – and even then we got them to agree to play at $5 per head! We had everyone from Digital Talk to Wrecked Machine throw down their magic at what is really a dive sports bar. With increasing attendance by the week and after two years into it, we packed the house every Wednesday that didn’t let up. The bar made shit tons of money and expanded their sound system. I had to pass the torch after 4 years straight due to obvious health impairment that came with free drinks and whatnot. Ha–well, that was the legacy of Synchronize.
Do you guys still host events? We’ve some on our radar.
I still throw one-offs every now and then to drive fund-raising or raise awareness. But the one Synchronize that’s been a staple over the years that still goes on is the Wednesday eve of Thanksgiving. It’s a nice thing to do the night before a day of gratitude is observed.
What trends or changes have you noticed recently in the evolution of the North American PsyTrance scene?
I believe psytrance has yet to reach critical mass here in this country. USA is a big ass country. California alone is bigger than Japan. Sometimes things take time to propagate. Take Walkman for instance. It took this country quite some time before people caught on when the rest of the world were sporting them for years already. And because Psytrance is high frequency resonant medicine it’ll take time for the populace to vibe into that. I won’t elaborate because such hippy talk tend to offend atheists. Lol. Notice I said atheists, not scientists. But yes, I do have a vision for a Boom USA or equivalent in scale and epicness in the future. Such goodness also goes for this country. I, for one, believe that the world hasn’t seen her best yet, as difficult as this may be to imagine given our current political state of affairs.
INTERVIEW: Yuliya and Dylan of Party Babas (Goa Gil events in San Francisco)
Keyframe: How long have the Goa Gil events been going on in the US, and what is the Party Baba’s involvement?
YULIYA: I got involved with the Goa Gil events about ten years ago. At that time there was less focus on decor and more focus on just finding a place to have the event and figuring out logistics. Since art and community are both driving forces in my life I tried to bring them into the event space. Of course we didn’t really have a budget for art or deco at that time. The decor mostly consisted of whatever people had on hand, tapestries and various altar items, most of it was from India or inspired by Hindu religion or Indian culture. Friends would come and bring what they had, and we would do our best to decorate and make the party look nice.
Once the parties started to do a little bit better and we finally had a small budget for art projects (read: $50-100), we had to figure out how to use that money. Two factors went into this: 1) it wasn’t enough money to actually hire anyone to come do the deco and 2) the whole crew had a great time doing it together and we didn’t want to lose that aspect of the event.
I decided that the best way of achieving these goals was to figure out deco ideas and art projects that anyone could work on, with or without art experience. I remember the first project we did was making paper mache jellyfish and painting them florescent colors. Honestly it was an amazing experience….we had multiple art parties at my house before the event and everyone that wanted to got to participate, from people that had never touched a paintbrush before to our friends 6 year old kids. Just to give some more context….there were maybe 200 people at that party, and 50 of them worked on art for the event. It’s hard to put into words but….something happens, you know, something really magical, when people come together to build something greater than themselves. And literally, that is what it was. I still remember the look on peoples faces as they were dancing, and then noticing something they helped create. That party totally justified the concept for me and that has been our approach ever since. For the last event, called Cuckoos Nest, we came together to build a giant nest around the DJ booth….about 20 feet across and 10 feet tall, made from natural materials we found on the property.
We didn’t have a crew name at that time, and the more we worked together the more we felt like we wanted one. By the time we adopted the name around 2012, we had already been working together as a cohesive group for many years.
DYLAN: Goa Gil events have been going on in the United States since the early 1990s. I got involved around 2000, and until that point, there had been Goa Gil parties, organized by different crews. After seeing Goa Gil play at my first Burning Man, where he played next to the man, after it burned, at the community dance, I felt inspired to get involved. The Party Babas has been the name of our production crew for about the last five years. A vision of what the next great party would need, gets build by the production team. Literally bringing dreams into fruition. Goa Gil calls his best parties in the world the ones here in Northern California, and this is our ultimate goal…
What changes over the years have you noticed in the Psytrance scene and music? Or what differences are there now vs the past?
YULIYA: It’s hard to reflect on the whole scene because I am not that involved with it. Party Babas doesn’t organize trance parties, we only do the Goa Gil event. We have also been producing what we like to call the Community Stage at How Weird for the last seven years or so, but since it’s a community stage we focus on booking local talent as opposed to taking the pulse of the scene and trying to cater to that.
I can say that Gil plays the music that people send him, so his parties sometimes follow the more general trends of the scene. He also plays in a way that reflects what his personal journey through life has been. The parties he played when he was undergoing treatment for cancer were really intense, very fast and challenging psychedelic music. The parties he played around the time of the death of his mother were also….different, more emotional maybe.
There is sort of this dichotomy to the parties like….on one hand Goa Gil is very consistent from one party to the next. You can expect to see Goa Gil up there in the DJ booth the whole time, rocking out, doing this dance he does. We have been using the same DJ booth fabric for many years. The music will also follow the same flow, we categorize it by the time of the day (early evening, late evening, middle of the night, sunrise, etc.).
On the other hand, the parties always feel very fresh to me. When artists send Gil a track, the lifetime of that track is rarely over 12 months. We are very lucky in California, we have two Gil parties a year, so sometimes you will hear a track in October that you already heard in May, but even that is very rare. We always choose a different theme for the party that everyone can get behind. The last party was Cuckoo’s Nest and we encouraged people to literally be a bird, dress like a bird, do bird things and people did! There were a lot of funny bird shirts, and people made bird masks, etc. The party before that was Klassy; we decided to call it that because we got a chandelier for the event, and it was also Gil’s birthday, so we asked everyone to look nice and wear orange (Gil’s color). A lot of people managed to find orange formal wear so that was pretty amazing.
So I guess the main change I see is the lowering of barriers between people and trance subcultures. I feel like ten years ago a lot of event organizers were wasting their time arguing about light versus dark trance. That discussion was more than about musical taste, for many people it was about self identity. Are they the type of person who goes to Goa Gil events? Are they the type of person that goes to events in clubs indoors?
Now I think most people are past that. I hope that the work I have done with Party Babas building community has helped in that regard.
DYLAN: In the states, trends always move about. In the 90’s, Psy and Goa trance where definately the sound of Burning Man, which by default made it the electronic sound of the Americas. The last 15 years, breaks, bass music, and its subgenres are the big draw. Which is a bit of a more traditional “american” style of sound for electronic music, especially when talking about the west coast. The size of the scene in the states allows for our parties to have an intimate feel, which parties in europe, don’t have. For example, our Goa Gil parties here have around 600 people in attendance, whereas in Berlin, it’s close to 6000 people. The original music festivals started in the 60’s in the Bay Area, and we are a direct descendant from the Monterey Pop music festival, and subsequent festivals, which try to draw people together, in nature, around some really far out Psychedelic music.
Yuliya, please tell us more about your art installations and the type of events you like to attend? Where can we see more of your art?
YULIYA: For the last ten years I have been predominantly focused on community built deco projects for Goa Gil and How Weird. I’ve also worked on art car builds for Burning Man, and a floating pagoda for Symbiosis. I really enjoy working on large scale projects with an amazing team but that isn’t my only focus. I am predominantly a mixed media small works surrealist artist. Themes of my work include time, nature, and mystery. To pursue these interests more I started the High Church of the Googliati, my event planning and surrealist lifestyle propaganda brand. The HCG events are not focused on any one genre of music, but are more about presenting experimental music, art, and ideas. Currently I am working on a collaborative project that is part gallery, part performance art, part chill space for events. Anyone that is interested in hosting such a space should feel free to reach out.
Dylan, can you please share more about Fractal Cowboys and your experience performing Psytrance Internationally vs the US? And also more info on Westpsy?
DYLALIEN: The Fractal Cowboys is a project between myself and Quasar. We are based out of San Francisco, and have played Psy Trance parties and festivals all over the place, big and small sized alike. Our biggest dancefloors include headlining Boom (Portugal), Antaris (Germany), and Lost Theory (Croatia) Festival. Other than that, the biggest dancefloor we have played for was probably at Burning Man, but quite a few years back, when Psy Trance was the norm for the big sound camps on the Playa.
QUASAR: Westpsy adds different kinds of influence into psytrance than what is considered traditional. Hip hop, moombahton, disco, and Oakland music all are influential when considering what bassline to lay out in the next song.
DYLALIEN: In a lot of ways, Westpsy is the result of observing party music in America, and how it differs from music abroad, in Europe and South America. We take all of these visions, and blend them together to create a sound perfect for any daytime party. We compose trance music influenced by the underground music scene of the west coast. In a lot of ways, this is the sound of california Psy Trance, and a new kind of daytime music to listen to.
QUASAR: We are really excited to test it out at the Oregon Eclipse festival put on by Symbiosis later this summer. Come check out our set there!
DYLALIEN: Ultimately, we channeled the idea of Westpsy like this: In an alternative Universe, SunRa is the overlord of the Bay Area (Oakland and San francisco), and this is the music he has us compose, to be played over the city-wide soundsystem every day at noon!!!
INTERVIEW: Roe Revolution discusses some of the challenges of Psytrance growth
Roe bio: Roe Revolution started his DJ career in 1998 in Beer Sheva, Israel. While working as the resident DJ at a psychedelic night club, he successfully produced and promoted over 1500 events. By 2001 Roe was hosting a radio show at Radio Darom 97FM with Ray Harel. In 2003, he moved to the United States and became the resident DJ at Sonar Night Club. He worked alongside his cousin, a fellow DJ, and the two soon began playing under the name cuz2cuz DJs. From 2004 to 2006 Roe Revolution hosted a weekly psychedelic internet radio show at womb.tv. Since 2005, Roe has been promoting and producing events with some of the biggest international artists in the house and psytrance music industry, such as: Infected Mushroom, Skazi, Tiesto, Mobi, Faithless, Carl Cox, Sasha & John Digweed and many more. Roe Revolution has become a part of the biggest electronic music festivals in the US, such as the Orb Festival and Ultra Music Festival.
Keyframe: What are some of the Psy event production challenges you’ve faced within the East Coast scene?
ROE: Educating South Florida crowd with Psytrance genre. When the major genres were Drum N Bass and Breaks.
What was your first Psytrance event production? Tell us about the initial idea, partners, and timing of introducing Psytrance at the Ultra Music Festival?
My first Psytrance event production was ANALOG PUSSY AP Records 2005 @ Sonar Night Club with Babysean.
I joined Ultra Music Festival back in 2005. Stage Managing Eco Village tent we had couple of hours “psychedelic sunset sessions.” Ultra Music Festival was the first EDM festival to support the Psytrance genres thanks to Danny C.
Why has it taken the music so long to rise?
Psytrance was underground/nature music; no one was familiar with the genre. The rise began when EDM festivals started expanding worldwide to countries like Brazil, Mexico where the Psytrance is consensus. Talent buyers were exposed to Psytrance and started booking artists into the US like Astrix, Ace Ventura, Vini Vici, Infected Mushroom. I believe we will see more and more demand for Psytrance artists at EDM events in upcoming years; hopefully a Psytrance stage with full-day lineup.
INTERVIEW: Doctor Spook (Geomagnetic) shares his Psytrance experience
Doctor Spook bio: Geomagnetic was founded in 2001 by Nathan Vogel aka Doctor Spook with the help of many talented artists and engineers. They have since grown to include more than 2000 music producers, with a combined catalog over 10,000 songs released on more than 15 label imprints. On average their music is streamed more than 1 millions times each month.
Keyframe: What trends have you noticed within Psytrance given that you’ve been releasing music for so many years?
DOCTOR SPOOK: Psy was the very core of our genres and remains our primary focus. Over the years styles have come and gone from the limelight, but interestingly enough the past couple of years has a seen a big return of the original “Goa” sound which for me is quite exciting, since it was my original inspiration for being involved in this kind of music.
What’s the main difference that you’ve seen with music consumption compared to 10 and 20 years ago?
Streaming is obviously the driving force in the industry, because it gives people the most access for the least money. What is nice is that it levels the playing field. Someone who has an all you can stream pass doesn’t have to decide where to spend their money. At one time you might have had to buy one thing and then listen to it too much, but now you can explore and really dig deep with out a financial consequence.
What new upcoming artists are you tracking right now?
Ovnimoon releasing under his sub label with the same moniker, is really a steady talent that keeps growing in popularity. He is one of our primary producers we support and promote. Alien Project, Logic Bomb, Hux Flux are 3 producers we have also been very interested in as well. Bringing back major trance names from the old days is great. Astral Projection is also ready to release a new album and we hope to be involved with releasing all of these artists new albums in the very near future on our imprint Spiral Trax that has recently joined our label group.
Tell us more about your affiliations and events that you’re currently hosting in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a magical place that never ceases to amaze me. The party scene and the general (and my personal) interest seems to go in natural wave patterns that one can perceive over the past few decades. These days Geomagnetic/Spiral Trax event teams are working closely with Plur Alliance to create a hybrid party environment that combines the best of various communities talent, inspiration, and music all in one amazing venue (usually the DNA Lounge in San Francisco) in and around the SF Bay Area. These events have been drawing somewhere around 1000 people (+/-)0 and some fantastically diverse yet wonderfully compatible crowds. While the venue and events are all ages, the demographic surprisingly perhaps tends to be 75% 21+. All in all we are blessed to be living in this time of such powerful social change and fervent emotional release tends to be the catharsis our souls need to express this transmutational energy and build a stronger more vibrant co-created community.
INTERVIEW: Paradigm of Pulse LA Events discusses the history of Psytrance Tribes in North America
Paradigm bio: Paradigm is an active part of the Pulse LA Events promotion team who have set the high water mark for professional and cutting edge Psychedelic Trance and Progressive events in the United States. As a long time veteran of the Western U.S. Trance and underground scene, Paradigm brings a sense of artistry and old school flair to the decks. Originally from San Francisco, Paradigm found himself a staple of Northern California’s thriving underground for nearly a decade. After a period in the Midwest he then found himself calling Denver home. In Colorado he was instrumental in reshaping the energy and vitality of that cities psychedelic music landscape with Sculpted Sound. Now with the City of Angels as home base Paradigm was recently invited to become part of the Blacklite Records growing roster and family. Having previously been signed to the United Beats record label he released the chart-topping Arcadia 2 compilation, which was one of the bigger hits of the 2016 global festival season.
Keyframe: When did you first start getting involved in Psytrance?
PARADIGM: I was introduced to Psytrance back in ‘99 and began throwing small parties featuring it in 2000. Some of my first influences in the scene were Dutch and Michael Liu and Thump Radio. Things just grew rapidly from there; I started playing out in 2003 and never looked back.
Please tell us about other crews and promoters in North America that you know of.
The US is a huge country so its overall scene is very regional, with each area seeming to have one dominant “mother crew” and various smaller ones working in support roles. Outside of California, which itself could be divided into North and South, you have Colorado, the Midwest, the Southeast and the Northeast, which would include New York City. On the West Coast, you have Pulse and Psytribe, respectively, as the flagship crews in each part of the state. Symbiosis notwithstanding, which is its own thing.
In the Midwest, you have The Chilluminati which have been at it for 12 years. Their annual summer festival Sacred Earth is a highly loved and respected show that spans the entire Psy spectrum.
In North Carolina, Touch Samadhi have been holding it down even longer. These guys built a thriving Psy scene in the small city of Asheville. Led by Kri, T.S’s principal event is held on the fall Equinox, which may be the best outdoor festival venue in the entire US.
In the North East, Fractal Tribe currently occupy that leadership position. The New England based crew has set itself apart through impressive high production concepts and a guiding ethos that most never replicate. Psycheground in NYC deserves a mention as well, as they have been a long-lasting staple holding things down in the New York scene, which seems to suffer a higher crew burn out rate than other communities.
Colorado bucks the dominant crew trend. Instead, numerous small crews based around Denver and Boulder work within a framework of a larger collective called Rising Phoenix. The individual crews do their own things, but for larger shows tap into the collective in order to gain access to more resources, and those event then take on the RP branding. It’s a bit of a different concept but Colorado’s small scene seems to work on a different dynamic than the rest of the country.
Why do you think Psytrance is gaining popularity in North America?
I guess this is a point in which we give the devil his due. While no single entity is wholly responsible for the recent surge and growth of Psy in the states, the lion’s share of it goes to Dreamstate and Insomniac. With Insomniac’s Dreamstate, they have been pushing Psy as the hot new thing to ravers for the past couple of years. Vini Vici’s “Free Tibet” remix was supposedly played more than any other single track at EDC last year. That exposure can’t be ignored. It’s taken a while, however, for the traditional Psy scene to see some trickle down growth from the commercial rave scene, but we are at last starting to see some of that.
Other California Psytrance groups that have formed include Pulsar, StarSeed and Symbiosis Gathering.
In September, Pulse Family Gathering, the West Coast’s prime family event, will take place.
“Pulse Family Gathering caters to the established domestic and west coast family, but will also be riding the wave of the genres growing in popularity by hosting a lineup that is equal to many a European festival,” says Paradigm of Pulse LA.
In his recent interview in The Untz, Treavor Moontribe gives a great shout out to many San Franciscan crews, stating: “In San Francisco you had The CCC who had a super cool warehouse and put on awesome parties. You also had Hunab-Ku Distribution which was the main artery for getting Psytrance records and CDs into America, the artist Ceiba who then was Peter Ziegelmeier (of Kode 4 fame) and Adam Ohana (now known as An-ten-nae and half of Dimond Saints) who was also a killer Goa DJ back then. There was a lady DJ Anon who was amazing and a guy Dave Vajra. Then there was another side to the Goa scene in San Fran with DJ Dutch and a guy Coz (now known as Cosmic Selector) who did Space Children parties. Then there was Thump Radio but I think they came in a little later, I could be wrong since time gets a little fuzzy. There was also a DJ KJ in San Fran who was definitely an OG in the scene.”
According to Brian McDonald of old school Thump Radio: “Thump Radio’s first broadcast was 4/4/99 and our first party was 8/21/99 with Simon Posford and DJ Tristan, then our second party was a week later at Burning Man 99 where Simon and Tristan were joined by Bansi Gms, X-DREAM, Zeev Zohar Sorokin, Sean Candy and Kode IV then our 3rd party was a week later at 550 Barneveld where X-dream and zoo-b played with Deviant Electronics. after that we did at least one major international act Psytrance party a month from 1999 to 2004ish.”
INTERVIEW: Kri Samadhi, Founder of T.O.U.C.H Samadhi, Discusses his Psytrance experience
Amidst the constantly changing genres, Kri Samadhi has exhibited a continuing passion for the depth and sound that evolved from Goa Trance in the early days of the scene. While playing and composing driving tracks that always demonstrate skilled musicianship, Kri rouses listeners into fluid, euphoric motion and paints the party a vibrant psychedelic shade. DJing since 1992, playing and producing Psychedelic Goa Trance since 1996, Kri demonstrates immense dedication to the art by his ceaseless attention to every detail of the experience. Be it playing, composing, mastering, or promoting, there is no area in which Kri falters, making sure to work respectfully alongside other gifted artists devoted to the scene. He has earned the respect of promoters and members of the Psytrance family around the world, and his professional approach to event production has elevated the TOUCH Samadhi annual fall gathering to one of the premier Trance festivals on the East coast of the United States, blending a rich variety of live and electronic musical performance, sublime psychedelic visual art, and a message of universal peace, which together catapult attendees into intergalactic spiritual bliss.
Kri, you’ve been DJing since 1993; that’s a long legacy. Can you please share with our readers the names of crews and people in your area that helped in the development of Psytrance culture in NC and the surrounding states?
KRI: There was no Psy scene in the North Carolina area, so we would travel to NYC in 1998 – 2000 to catch shows that Tsunami and Synthetic Sadus was putting on, once a month. The shows started out small and by 2000 they peaked at 4000 or more people. The events were absolutely amazing. That is what gave me my drive to create that in Asheville. A little history about me: I started DJing breaks and techno in 1993 after going to large warehouse parties in NC for 2 years. In 1996-97 I went to play a show in Atlanta, GA. Stopped by the local record shop and found a section called Goa, once I heard it I bought around $200 worth of vinyl and immediately played it that night. This would also end my career as a rave DJ and put me in to the world of Psy. I moved to Asheville in 1998. My first event in Asheville I had 500 people and I knew I had found my home for creating and planting the Psy seed and to provide a space for people to have experiences like I did in the rave scene. Next year will be 20 years of Psy in Asheville and I couldn’t ask for a better scene. Nothing across the states has the feel or experience that has or is being created here. It is something to be witnessed.
What experiences, events, or circumstances solidified your love for Psytrance?
Hearing Goa Trance did it. Then playing large parties in NY with all the main Goa leaders and experiencing crowds that were over the top with excitement had answered my calling of what I wanted in this life of music. Nothing beats the feeling of the pulse of thousands of people dancing together to Psytrance. The parties in Asheville in the early days were unlike anything that had happened in this area or in the states. Pumping sound, outside in the mountains with the fog rising at sunrise; nothing beats this and nothing ever will. Those days were gold and those who experienced it have it marked into them forever. It changed lives, healed so many and still does.
What main differences have you witnessed in the music or scene from the old days to present times?
All scenes have have their time of magick. It happened in the early 90’s, it happened in the earlier 2000’s, and it will happen again. There is no difference in the feeling of a scene that has that something special that you just can’t pin point what it is. I do miss warehouse underground events the most and I love the organization and shared union of responsibilities now.
INTERVIEWS: Trevor Wyse and Barakuda of PsyTribe discuss its Los Angeles history
About DJ Barakuda: The original founder and chief of the legendary PsyTribe productions in Los Angeles, started in 1997. In its 20 years of existence, Psytribe has paved the way for many producers, promoters and DJs which have flourished out of the L.A. scene. PsyTribe has, and continues to set the standards and capture the essence of a true psychedelic trance party. With over 20 years of experience, Barakuda has gained the versatility to bring energy to the dance floor and keep it throughout the entire set, no matter what type of music or time of day. Barakuda has earned the respect of the trance community worldwide by pioneering a movement on the west coast.
About PsyTribe: Since its inception in 1997, PsyTribe has organized countless of successful events, both indoor and outdoors. PsyTribe is responsible for introducing the Los Angeles crowd to the best international Psytrance talent such as Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection, Atmos and many more. Throughout the past 20 years, Psytribe has cultivated a unique family atmosphere, held strong by a community of loyal followers that have allowed the Los Angeles Psy scene to become the special entity it is today. PsyTribe will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary at La Jolla Indian Reservation on Halloween weekend of this year.
Keyframe: Tell us about how you got into Psytrance and how your collective was born.
BARAKUDA: I got introduced to Psytrance, while exploring the rave scene in Athens, Greece in the early 90’s, and when I first heard a track by Juno Reactor at a party and I fell in love with the energy and psychedelic vibes. It also seemed very mysterious and outer worldly compared to other genres of electronic music. Eventually in 1997 I moved back to Los Angeles where I was born and carried with me the passion and drive to spread Psytrance to people by Djing at events and also organizing Psytrance Events. In 1997, we started out with some small events with 50-100 people at remote forest or desert locations around Los Angeles. In 1998, we had our first large-scale event called Cybernature 98 which was held in Washington D.C., and had a Psytrance stage which featured international headliners like MFG – DARSHAN – SPACE TRIBE. In January of 1999, we had our first event in Los Angeles with an international artist which was Xerox & Freeman from Hommega Rec., Israel. That same year we brought Astral Projection for their first Los Angeles appearance, and in February 2000 we introduced Infected Mushroom to Los Angeles. Overall, in the last 20 years, we’ve had over a 100 events and have brought countless international artists to the USA.
PsyTribe events are unique, please share with us how you choose your venues and artists? Also a fond memory you have from a past event(s)?
PSYTRIBE (Trevor Wyse & Barakuda): We’ve always found unique outdoor spaces to do our events from forests, to deserts, and even the occasional beach party. We spent many years in the early 2000s at the famous “Ranch” near Los Angeles. These were the golden years of outdoor trance parties in SoCal, during which much of the trance community in Los Angeles created their first bonds. Many of us met and created friendships here while still in our early 20s, and continue to reunite each year at our larger festivals. In 2008 we moved to our new home at La Jolla Indian Reservation where we host Spring Frequency and Halloween Freakshow; our two annual 3-day festivals featuring our favorite artists of the moment along with a couple pioneers of the sound.
What trends have you noticed of the Psytrance scene in the US?
TREVOR WYSE: Psytrance in the US has remained mostly underground since its inception and has only recently started to be showcased at more mainstream events. We foresee more inclusion of this sound in the transformational festival scene on the west coast. Symbiosis Gathering has had a solid showing of Psytrance in their lineups since their first gathering in 2005, and we envision other festivals of this kind will begin including it as well. Hopefully within a few year’s time it will be as well represented in the festival subculture in the states as it is in the rest of the world.
BARAKUDA: Aside from mostly remaining underground since its inception and its recent showcase in mainstream events, most Psytrance events in the states have under 1000 people with a few reaching into the 1500-person range. The only large-scale festival that has had the foresight to include this upcoming Genre in the transformation festival scene is Symbiosis Events, who have included a solid showing of it in their line-ups since their first gathering in 2005. Lightning in a Bottle just added a few acts this year like Perfect Stranger and Hedflux… and of course, now there is a big push from Insomniac’s Dreamstate who are promoting some PsyTrance artists and incorporating them into their line-ups and it’s been a great success. They are doing a great job of spreading the Psytrance gospel to the masses.
Who are some of your favorite PsyTrance artists, or which artists you would like to book in the future that haven’t played PsyTribe yet.
BARAKUDA: Some of my favorite Psytrance artists are Kox Box, Hujaboy, Loud, Perfect Stranger, Grouch, among many others. Artists that we have not brought and would love to someday are MVMB, Eat Static, Empirikal, and Morten Granau.
Do you feel there is a resurgence of Psytrance in the US? Why do you think that is or not?
TREVOR WYSE: Trance has never really reached mass appeal and is just now experiencing its first surge into mainstream recognition. With its recent inclusion by Insomniac Productions and their Dreamstate events, Psytrance has been exposed to a massive new audience almost overnight.
BARAKUDA: Since it never really hit mainstream appeal I’d say that trance is just now experiencing its first surge into mainstream recognition; not just in the USA but in the world in general. I think it’s mostly due to DJs Armin Van Buuren, Simon Patterson, and John 00 Flemming including the Psytrance sound into their sets and getting a good response from the crowd. The resurgence in the USA is mostly due to Insomniac and their Dreamstate events, which have exposed this sound to a massive audience almost overnight. This year’s Eclipse Festival in Oregon is also presenting a world-class line-up of trance that will expose new people within the hippie culture to the unique atmosphere of the trance dance floor.
INTERVIEW WITH LARS RUDIN OF RED MARINES
About Red Marines: Red Marines Festival represents an unique approach to events, showcasing a multi-genre stage setting, appealing to a diverse audience and uniting them under the same sky. Creating an environment where friends and family gather to celebrate and enjoy a weekend getaway. The festival itself has deep roots in the Russian community of the Bay Area, and as such had an international flair right from the start. The festival is treating the participants senses, with intelligent alternative music, performed by artists from all over the world, played on state of the art sound systems, gorgeous decor, and a beautiful location.
Keyframe: Please tell us about the genesis of Red Marines and the type of music you guys throw down?
LARS RUDIN: Red Marines Festival was born out of the need to celebrate the return of two beloved family members from the war, the twins Mark and Valentin Tarasov. So their older brother Eugene created the idea to put together a small stage, a few speakers and to unite friends and family to welcome them back. I joined them a year later as an adviser to help coordinate the event, due to my background of organizing parties and festivals since the early ‘90s. Since then the festival has blossomed into a bigger family and more friends, new and old alike, coming from all corners of the Earth.
Musically the festival showcases a unique approach, combining the love of Russians (the cultural background of the main organizers) to singing and Live Bands, and Psychedelic Trance, the music that kept the twins alive and sane while stationed over in Iraq. So naturally to this day, the festival presents amazing live bands, and the best of Psychedelic Trance music, sharing the same stage.
This year we joined forces with a beloved local party crew called Ratatouille Project, and their special brand of Techno.
What changes have you seen in Psychedelic Trance culture of the years, or what’s different then and now?
My personal history goes back to 1988, witnessing the rise of Electronic Music, Techno, and Acid/House, as a Dj and organizer of events. So to define changes the scene and the genre has gone through would explode that format here, but one thing for sure, there has been a constant evolution of music, decor, video animation/mapping, and sound systems.
Some might say the spirit has been lost, but I think it is still there, just in a different shape. Go to any underground party or festival and see the magic that is inherent to a real Psychedelic Trance experience.
I have traveled the world for many years and no matter where I go, if there is a Psychedelic Trance party I feel at home immediately and that for me is pure bliss.
So yes things change, not always for the better, but it is evolving and not stagnant, and I see that as a good thing. And who knows where it will lead to, one thing I am certain of, is that my love for the culture and the music will never die.
Do you think their is a rise on the genre, are more people willing to explore Psytrance than before… why do you think that is?
To define a genre is detrimental to creativity imho, and the difference between “commercial Psytrance” and “actual Psytrance” is nowhere more obvious than going to Beatport and looking at the “Psytrance” charts. Armin Van Buuren is considered Psytrance! and I am pretty sure he never actually went to one Psytrance party in his whole life….
So yes Psychedelic Trance is rising as a term and genre, and many artists are profiting from it, and I am very happy for them as many are good friends, and they deserve their success. Many years ago I said that the next big genre at EDM parties in the USA will be “Psytrance” because there is so many amazingly talented musicians, and they have the potential to cross over into the commercial scene, and I prophesied that Astrix, Infected Mushroom, and Ace Ventura, would be the frontrunners.
“Real” Psychedelic Trance parties though will always be “underground”, the whole thing about going to a party and getting into a trance for hours on end, just doesn’t include any attempt at commercialization. Big festivals like Boom, Ozora e.g., and also Red Marines are using the non-commercial approach as part of their marketing structure, and are proud of not being connected to any big commercial brands, supporting local products and companies.
How about a little anecdote: around ‘95/’96 there was a short moment Goa Trance was popular, and many famous DJs (Carl Cox e.g.) played some tracks in their sets. During one event where I was DJing in the famous Space Club in IbIza, the owner came backstage telling us not to play so much of that trance music, people dance too much and don’t drink enough!
So the real psychedelic trance genre will never be commercial, not enough breaks
Please let us know about your past events.
LARS RUDIN: Red Marines Festival just occurred on June 16-18th, 2017 in the Sierra Mountains of California, and featured artists like Infinite Sun, Gizma, Xipil, Zul, Fractal Cowboys, to name a few.
A Discussion with Psytrance DJ Ace Ventura
Ace Ventura is one of the leading and busiest DJs & artists on the progressive and psytrance scene. His music has been topping the charts and he has been touring constantly all over the globe playing in every possible venue and headlining all major festivals. He is well known for his highly popular mixes and long massive DJ sets. Ace Ventura’s album “Paradise Engineering” was released on Iboga Records and received wall to wall praise and support, cementing his status as a key figure in the scene. He is also involved in three other highly successful projects: Zentura (with Zen Mechanics), Liquid Ace (with Liquid Soul) & Easy Riders (with Rocky).
Keyframe: Tell us about your catalyst for wanting to produce (or DJ) Psytrance. How did that come about?
ACE VENTURA: I have been a fan of Psytrance for a few years, going to parties, dancing my ass off, collecting the music, and following many artists. I remember holding a Transwave vinyl in my hands, which had a killer overhead shot of Dado and Christoph hovering over their synths in a live show… probably one of the first moments which inspired my quest to be the guy behind the decks, making the tribe dance myself…
How has Psytrance music evolved over the years?
It started with pure melodic Goa Trance at the beginning of the 90`s, then it divided into two styles – Night and Morning. From that point multiple genres have risen, from Full-On to Progressive, from forest to dark Psy and high-tech, and so on.
Production-wise technology has gone a long way since the 90s and now you have enough tools to produce a fine sounding track ,with only a laptop and a pair of good speakers or headphones. Sound-wise, nowadays Electronic music and Psytrance are crisper than ever!
Culture-wise the Psytrance scene has always been a great sanctuary for peace, awareness and acceptance, and the growth of worldwide Transformational festivals over the years, is a blessing to this world.
What challenges did you notice in the Psytrance genre in the US over the past years?
It never really caught on in America, at least comparing to the rest of the world. There have always been small parties and small scenes in cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles for example, but no big-scale parties or events, and even in those small parties it was easy to notice that the majority of the people were from other nationalities. I guess it was just too underground in nature for the Americans, plus there were almost no American artists so it was always expensive to fly people over.
Why do you think Psytrance is now gathering so much attention in the US?
Psytrance is a relatively complex form of Electronic music and it was never fed to the wide public in America…but once it was, a lot of people started eating it up. Insomniac and Dreamstate get most of the credit for this current resurgence. When such a huge organisation is picking up a genre and pushes it forward, results soon follow. They are not alone of course, during the years we saw a few bodies embracing Psy – a great festival like Symbiosis, which always had Psytrance acts throughout the year, or Pulse which has been pushing Psy in the Bay Area for years come to mind – but I believe the current wave started after the first Dreamstate party in San Bernardino two years ago, which started hammering Trance and Psytrance on unsuspecting American ravers. It’s also been hitting huge events like EDC for a few years now.
You recently performed at Insomniac’s Dreamstate in SF. How did that come to be? How was your experience there? We really enjoyed the show and wanted to hear your POV : )
It was my third Dreamstate. I also played in the previous two LA editions, as well as in EDC Vegas last year, and all these were a great experience. And in all three I could feel a rising scale in the reactions on the dancefloor. It’s refreshing to see and hear Psytrance in such huge productions. The visuals, lights and scale is something you don’t see in regular Psytrance events or festivals so from my point of view it’s a great success, and I also enjoy visiting the States much more often than before.
INTERVIEW: Bosque Hrbek of Symbiosis
Keyframe has caught up with Symbiosis Festival founder Bosque Hrbek to discuss the evolution of Psytrance and the upcoming Oregon Eclipse festival, which will feature one of the largest Psytrance lineups in the US.
Symbiosis intends to facilitate peak experiences through a synaesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable living integrated into an unparalleled extravaganza of fun beneath the starry skies. The organization was founded on strong principles of environmental consciousness and ecological sustainability and each event has continued to advance this vision through the implementation of both time-tested and innovative eco-action initiatives. Symbiosis seeks to provide a space for the fusion of aesthetics, sound, and natural living, in an atmosphere of interactive co-creation so we may share in moments that are transformative and inspiring, based in a deep respect for our community and environment.
Keyframe: What was your first introduction to Psytrance?
My first introduction to Psytrance party was at a full moon party in Lago de Atitlán Guatemala. I didn’t love it at first but the community grew on me quickly.
What challenges do you think Psytrance promoters face in helping the US scene grow?
I feel it can be played at clubs and traditional venues and festivals, but really thrives outdoors in nature. This will be the hardest thing to give it its authentic place to where it is meant to be experienced.
Who helped curate the Psytrance stage, or which factors influence your decision in designing the lineup?
There was a group of us; from people from all the collaborating groups as well as community members throughout the US and the world. Really trying to represent the local US scene while also taking into account many of the subgenres of the Psy scene to create a unifying dancefloor.
The 2017 Oregon Eclipse is a phenomenon many are looking forward to. Tell us more about the collaboration between Symbiosis and the 12 other worldwide festivals for this major event. How did that come about?
This was an idea that came from the last collaboration we helped forge in Australia in 2012. This was the next level. As a hometown Eclipse Gathering we really wanted to share with the world our west coast festival scene but also even more so share the global community with the west coast scene. So we are really looking forward to having all the communities meet in Oregon as we dance in the shadow.
Is there any performer in the Sun Stage that you’ve never seen before that you’re looking forward to checking out?
I rarely am excited about one artist that I have or have not seen before. It’s more about the dancefloor experience for me. Dancing and smiling together with so many old friends and new friends. So I mostly look forward to the new friends I will make on the dancefloor this time around.
We’d love to learn more about the new Oregon venue during the eclipse. What can attendees expect?
This is one of the most beautiful venues I have ever been to. It is like a national park. It has big trees, expansive views, epic sunrises, all along with a great water feature and no neighbors within ear shot. I’m not too sure what more we would want in a venue. It’s REALLY FAR from everything but that is also part of its charm.
What do you think has sparked this recent ascension of Psytrance?
I’m not really sure. I think people are looking for more intelligent music and the more mainstream EDM events see that and are branching out to see how people respond, and it has been great!
What do you envision is on the horizon for Psytrance?
As long as the community can gather together and dance in nature together, they will grow and support more and more events and music.
2017 OREGON ECLIPSE’s massive Psytrance lineup
This year, the Californian Symbiosis Festival is collaborating with a host of other worldwide festivals to host the highly-anticipated August Oregon Eclipse event, whose Sun Stage will feature the largest Psytrance lineup ever hosted in the US. Performers include Goa Gil, Paradigm, Hallucinogen, X Dream, Treavor Moontribe, Ace Ventura, and Captain Hook, to name a few.
Psytrance has been around for decades and latest developments show that its appeal to mass audiences will only keep growing. Keyframe intends to keep supporting the growth of this genre in the US and you can find out more about our involvement here: http://keyframe-entertainment.com/psytrance-ascending-in-north-america/
Obviously, we could not include everyone in the ascension of Psychedelic Trance in the US, so we apologize if you feel left out. We did reach out to many who did not respond and we hope to follow up this article in the future. Our focus on this research was the West Coast, and we look forward to implementing voices from the East Coast and Canada. If constructive sharing and the spirit of collaboration resonates with you, let us know if you’d like to contribute to our follow-up PART II post.
In 2004, Keyframe-Entertainment released its first Psytrance compilation ‘SanTRANCEcisco.’ Keyframe-Entertainment has been continuously involved in documenting Intentional Festival culture by producing and supporting content such as Electronic Awakening, The Bloom Series, and ReInhabiting the Village.