Copenhagen’s electronic output has been making it’s way across Europe with artists such as Kasper Marrott, Mama Snake, Schacke, Rune Bagge and more being booked at some of the biggest festivals and venues. Alongside them is Glasgow-born Solid Blake who moved to the city to study her masters and co-founded the now-defunct DJ collective Apeiron Crew
The scene in Copenhagen is intimate with a community feel. It’s probably one of the only places in Europe where you will see artists like Hunee and Lena Willikens play in a 100 capacity club. It’s also renowned for vinyl heads and artists playing records that will never dip below 135bpm and Solid Blake is no exception to that rule. Making her debut on with ‘Mario’ on Glasgow’s Out Zone imprint, Solid Blake uses heavier sounds as a way of expressing herself, citing that she is not one for being subtle. Her stand-out productions have lead to support from DJ Stingray who soon became a mentor figure and remixed one of her records. Solid Blake has also landed on Modeselektor’s acclaimed compilation series Modeselektion Volume 4 and has now been signed to their SSPB imprint with her ‘Warp Room’ EP. The end of the year sees Solid Blake tackle an intense touring schedule with dates in London, Munich, Amsterdam, Bristol, Glasgow and Arnhem, we caught up with her to discuss the impact Copenhagen has had on her sound, the concept behind her new EP, the best memories from 2018 and some of her favourite tracks for afters.
Originally from Glasgow, what inspired your move to Copenhagen?
I knew that I wanted to get out of Glasgow, but beyond that, I think my ambitions were pretty vague. I had visited Copenhagen once before, but that was during a weird summer where I didn’t really feel like myself and didn’t actually do that much exploring. I liked the vibe though, and it felt like somewhere I should return to. Then when it came to finishing up my undergraduate degree, I started looking into masters programmes and Copenhagen was the first place I checked out. I applied, and it all just fell into place after that.
You play an important part in the city’s scene, how does it compare to the rest of Europe?
It’s hard for me to imagine that I play such an important part in the scene. I’d stay I’m still as much of an outsider as ever, but comfortably so. I’m surrounded by some extremely talented and interesting people, but it’s important for me not to base what I’m doing too much on what’s happening around me. The scene in Copenhagen is thriving at the moment, and I’m really happy to see that – I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit. The place has changed a lot since I moved here; there’s a lot more music, more venues and more events, but I think these waves of activity go hand in hand with the gradual diluting of strangeness, and things can become a little formulaic. It’s a totally natural way for things to go, but I’m looking forward to the next generation coming through and shaking it up a bit again.
How has the landscape of Copenhagen influenced your sound?
I have a pretty concrete answer for this one: My first solo live set was written to accompany a specific journey on Copenhagen’s metro, from Vanløse to Vestamager. I tried to incorporate the textures and landmarks of the journey into the set, then I performed it in real time on the train. Lots of the music from that first set went on to be incorporated into my first EP, so it ended up becoming pretty directly influenced by the physical landscape of the city.
You just released a new EP called Warp Room on SSPB, what is the inspiration behind the record?
For this record, the driving creative force actually came directly from my method of writing the the music. The title track is a good example of this: I had made this sound that I felt was really expressive, and I wanted to map it and play it intuitively like a vocal, just shifting envelopes to give it these extra abrasive, almost screaming qualities and then pull it back so it was more delicate, but still gloomy and sullen. I recorded that in one take over some simplified drums, and then let the intuitive expression of that one sound in one take dictate how the track should play out as I filled in the gaps.
How did your relationship with SSPB begin and what makes it the perfect home for this release?
Well, there are two answers to this. The first is that I opened my emails one day and there was an email from Marit from Monkeytown asking me to work with Modeselektor and we took it from there. The other answer is that Modeselektor basically got me into dance music via their track Kill Bill Vol. 4, and then everything I did between then and now has been subconsciously leading up to this release. Depends which way you look at it.
The EP follows on from ‘Mario’, released last year, is there a connection between the two?
There is in the sense that they’re both records made by me. That might sound facetious, but I really mean it. Each record is a snapshot of a time, of my ideas, abilities and expression when it was made, so it’s hard for me to see what my work is beyond that. The chronology feels like a big part of the story.
With a Stingray remix on ‘Mario’ who would you love to remix a track from ‘Warp Room’?
I’d a huge fan of Skee Mask, and his Comproalbum was one of my favourite releases from this year. I’d love to see what he’d do with one of my tracks.
How important to you is it to have someone like Stingray as a mentor? Do you think that’s been integral to your career so far?
Sherard has been massively kind and helpful to me over the years, long before I even started making music. I think he saw my genuine love for music, and my respect for those who do it well. But I think I also have to mention Ctrls and his hands-on mentorship here too: we’ve been making music together for the past couple of years as Historical Repeater, and he’s taught me so much through this time, while taking me and me ideas seriously and helping to build a really comfortable platform for our collaboration.
What draws you to the heavier side of electronic music?
It’s about expression for me – I’ve never been one for subtlety. That darkness or heaviness can help vent frustration for sure, but it can also just be a reflection of pure excitement! Having fun to massive, heavy music can be a great release for all sorts of emotion.
Having done a masters in neuroscience, do you feel that this sometimes influences your productions? If so, in what way?
The course was called cognition and communication, so there was some of that stuff in there, but I don’t want to make claim to having a full degree in neuroscience – we were coming at it from a more humanities-based tradition. I would say that rather than the degree influencing my music, it’s the same part of my personality and interests that made me do both. I’m interested in that cerebral side of electronic music. I had this feeling when I was a teenager and I started listening to it that I was getting into something that could be really stimulating on new levels, and could move me while being less overtly emotional than what I had enjoyed before.
What labels and artists are currently influencing your music?
Brokntoys, the first label I ever released on, still inspires me all the time. I love the way it’s run and think the output is consistently excellent. I’ve only become more proud of being part of that V/A as time goes on.
You’ve had an amazing year from being part of Modeselektor’s fourth compilation album to performances at Dekmantel, Berlin Atonal, ADE, fabric and Berghain. What has been your favourite memory from this year?
It has felt wonderful to be invited to do all of these amazing things this year. But one thing I have experienced, that I think is actually quite common, is looking forward to these things and thinking they’re massive, and then suddenly they’re in the past and they seem less significant, less scary, less like the big game changer they promised to be. Which is why it’s important for me not to put too much weight on these big landmarks, and focus on finishing work that means something; focus on learning and playing better and more creatively rewarding shows, rather than placing my personal worth on some signifier of status. So for that reason the best part has been staying up all night to finish some music, then waking up after 2 hours of sleep and finding that I still like it. I haven’t been doing that so much recently now that I’m getting older and I need my rest, but when I get in that zone, I know for sure that this is what I’m supposed to be doing and it all makes sense again.
With the 3am licensing in Scotland, you’ve done your fair share of afters. What are some of your favourite records to listen to during this time?
When I moved to Copenhagen my friend gave me an iPod nano full of all the mixes and tunes we listened to at these infamous Glasgow afters. There were a couple from DJ Bone’s Attack series, some early Numbers mixes we originally listened to on CD in my dad’s house, and probably Heatwaveby Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – we even had a dance routine to that one.
What do you hope to achieve in 2019 and is there anything you’d like to see happen in the industry?
So much! On a personal level, I just got back from an awful (non-music) work trip where I was pouring my soul into something I had no love for – I hope that next year I can finally stop subjecting myself to that kind of thing. In 2019 I want to be braver, and to pursue projects that I love, even if I don’t feel ready. On an industry level, I still see an upsetting amount of cynical exploitation of people, ideas and concepts. I want us all to be better at seeing when something’s too good to be true. Stop overlooking the parts of things we disagree with, and examine more what it is we believe in and why we’re doing this.