"I am influenced by so many different styles and I feel like my projects should reflect that. That’s why I prefer centering my releases around a mood rather than a specific genre, I find this gives me more flexibility in telling a story"
After releasing his debut album ‘Fear of the Unknown’ in March 2020, Agency666 decided to invite talented producers who inspired him to re-interpret one track each from the original project. The result is an eclectic set of beautifully crafted tracks combining a wide-range of influences. Featuring VTSS, PTU, Toh Imago, Camilla Sparksss, Can Bora Tanzer, Psychocharmant, and Electricity Is Humming, Fear of the Unknown Remixes will be out on Psychocharmant.
We have the great pleasure of interviewing Agency666, in full creative effervescence, about an album that will give a lot to talk about. And if not, come in, read and dance...
When and how did you become interested in electronic music? I actually grew up listening to a lot of Hip Hop. I was a huge Eminem fan and I loved his rebellious attitude. He was the first artist that made me feel passionate about music. When I moved to Chicago to attend college, I explored clubs like Spy Bar and Smart Bar that introduced me to a whole new world of raves and electronic music, and I started to develop a taste for it. Over time, I found out about all the sub-genres like EBM, IDM, Breakbeat, Drum & Bass, and Ambient… I was fascinated by the variety of sub-cultures and became particularly interested in the aesthetic created by producers like Luke Slater (Planetary Assault Systems), Robert Hood, Dopplereffekt, Thomas P. Heckmann, and Aphex Twin. I felt like these artists had created a world of their own with their art while somehow remaining mysterious and I was really drawn to that. How did you decide to go into production?
Two close friends from college introduced me to DJing first, and we mixed at some Underground parties in Chicago for a while. But I never felt like I was truly creating something when I was mixing other people’s records. DJing is really fun when you have the right crowd, and it is definitely an art in itself to make people dance with a solid selection and smooth mixing. But it never felt fulfilling enough to me. I wanted to create an aesthetic that was purely my own, which led me to get into production. Give us a little information about the remixes and the story behind that title?
After releasing my debut album, I felt like I haven’t had the chance to do as many collaborations as I would like to. I had done a remix for the French producer Toh Imago and had received a few remixes for Lover’s Revenge but that was about it. It’s a beautiful feeling to have your work re-interpreted by artists that inspire you, and I felt that I needed to dedicate a full project to that. I was fascinated by the results and I definitely plan on continuing to collaborate with creatives across the arts on my upcoming projects. As for the title, I find “Fear of the Unknown” a very interesting concept. I think David Lynch touches on this theme extremely well in his movies. He creates things that are deliberately ambiguous in terms of how we should feel; portraying the beauty in the disturbing, the satisfying in the creepy, and the pleasure in pain. I find it very psychologically charged, and I guess I tried to inject this same quality into the project. How has the sound of the project evolved from the original to the remixes? I think the range of influences is equally wide in both EPs, but the Remixes EP is definitely more energetic and club-friendly. VTSS turned Deep Sleep from a moody afterparty piece to a full-on peak-time dance floor banger. PTU injected a massive amount of energy into Understand Me with a completely unexpected yet beautiful psy touch. Toh Imago re-dressed Story of Dr. Gilbert. with his signature flavor of rhythmically varied breaks. Electricity is Humming created a full-length dance floor driver from a short and trippy Interlude. Camilla Sparksss and Can Bora Tanzer both incredibly enriched the ambient soundscapes of the original tracks with impressive attention to detail. Overall, I loved that none of the artists were afraid to inject their unique styles into the tracks, creating beautiful re-interpretations of the originals. What has led you to emphasize the remixes in multiple genres?
I would say it came pretty naturally. I don’t think it makes sense to confine myself to one genre; I am influenced by so many different styles and I feel like my projects should reflect that. That’s why I prefer centering my releases around a mood rather than a specific genre, I find this gives me more flexibility in telling a story. As for the remixes project, I invited producers whose music I was inspired by. They happen to produce in different genres, but I think the resulting project ended up being coherent in its mood despite the wide range of influences and bpms. Since Covid has cancelled almost every live show, do you believe there will be a real increase in the number of new music and labels coming out soon?
For sure, but there are already more releases coming out every week than is possible to keep up. So I don’t think even more music coming out means any more exploration necessarily. It’s great that more people have the chance to express themselves creatively though, and diversity is always good. More music and labels coming out with Covid, surely that has to be positive?
It has its ups and downs, of course. I do think it has allowed a lot of artists — especially ones that had an intensive touring schedule — to take a moment to focus on creation; that can definitely be a good thing. But it’s also impossible to ignore the negative side; many artists have unexpectedly lost a major source of their income due to the abrupt cancellation of all dance events, and the scene is suffering from that. We don't want to dwell on mistakes, but sometimes you can learn great things by doing things wrong. Are there any instances of that in your career you can tell us about?
I think allowing yourself to make mistakes is the key to success in any discipline. When I started out, I used to pass on a lot of gigs because I was afraid of making mistakes. Now I realize that was silly; I only started overcoming fear and building confidence when I threw myself in uncomfortable situations. Being too much of a perfectionist makes you miss out on experiences that will make you a better artist; mistakes are very much a natural part of the process. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be healthy, travel often, be surrounded by supportive friends, make a lot of music&art, and empower others that want to create. It’s not very specific, but as long as these boxes are checked I think I would be happy. :) What can you tell us about the scene in your city? What would you do to improve it?
The underground scene is small, but people are well-connected and support each other’s art, which is the aspect I like the most. I already had a habit of sharing releases I liked from local artists, but now I try to make an extra effort by writing-up short reviews to help them reach more people. We also recently started a community, @basement_hh6, where we organize secret underground events and invite local DJs to perform. A lot of fantastic artists are already involved, and we hope that it will evolve into something that fosters plenty of artistic exchanges and collaborations. Finally, what can you tell us about your future projects?
You can expect a wide range of works from EBM to 90s Techno, Electro to House and Ambient planned to release under Agency666. More experimental and usually aggressive stuff under Psychocharmant. Possibly live shows with a lot of improvisation under both pseudonyms. On the label front, I am working hard to turn Psychocharmant Records into a resourceful platform to support forward-thinking creatives. Next up on the label will be Oberwall, followed by Penny Darko. Both are amazing artists that I’m really excited to work with.