Route 8 guides us through his production techniques, personal pandemic experience and the shifting landscape of the electronic music industry

If you’re looking for House music that speaks to your soul, look no further than Route 8. The Hungarian DJ and producer has released a variety of beautiful tracks over the years through Lobster Theremin as well as his own label, This Is Our Time. I sat down with the maestro himself to discuss how he’s managed during the COVID pandemic, the overlooked genres in electronic music, and his thoughts on the direction that the music industry has taken in recent years with regards to streaming services.

“I recorded everything live because that’s how I’ve always made music… I leave those small human errors in my tracks which kind of makes it more pleasurable to listen to in my opinion.”

How have you managed during the COVID pandemic? Have you found it easier to be productive or more challenging?

It’s interesting because basically we had two quarantines. In the first quarantine I was making a lot of music and I had a lot of inspiration for some reason. It’s probably because I had a lot of shows on before that… for me it was good to have a little break from all of that and just sit down in my studio and record some stuff, so I actually recorded my album in the first quarantine.

The second quarantine was a bit tougher for me, probably because we had much stricter rules. The curfew was at 8pm, you had to wear masks everywhere, nothing was open basically. Also I wasn’t sure when I really would be able to come back to the music scene. I didn’t want to just sit around and wait so I actually started studying some IT stuff.

Music was my full-time job for like 5-6 years, but I don’t know if I can do that again because so many things changed. Most of my income was from my gigs outside of Hungary. I’m still not sure when I’ll be able to go and do some gigs in Europe. So in the second quarantine I didn’t record that much stuff. I was mainly just studying.

I’ve just started to come up with some musical ideas but it’s going to be a bit tough because I am also starting a job soon. It’s going to be challenging to balance the music and the real-life job.

Do you work on more than one track simultaneously? Or one by one?

Usually I just work on one track. The way I work is that I just sit down with my synths, I start jamming, and then if something clicks I try to build a song around that idea that I have in my mind. If I can’t finish the track in two days, I just delete the whole thing and start all over again. I don’t like to sit on my tracks for days, weeks or months.

Outside of your home, what’s your favourite place to listen to music?

For me I really like open air parties. The gig I had on Saturday was in a small village relatively close to Budapest next to a river. It was a beautiful place – huge forest right next to the river. It was quite a surreal feeling to listen to loud electronic music in a scene like that. I’m a big nature fan so I really like to listen to music with nice scenery.  

You mentioned on social media that your ‘favourite game of all time’ is ‘Age Of Empires 2’. What other video games do you like? Any favourites?

I had an alias called Q3A… I played a lot with that game. These days I mostly play Civilisation V with my girlfriend.

Oh, you play together?

Yeah we play together! It’s quite cute actually… It’s much more fun if you do it with someone who is close to you.

Which of your tracks do you connect with the most? Are there any that you attach a lot of emotion too?

‘Rewind The Days Of Youth’… when I recorded that track the first quarantine was in full effect and I was just thinking back to the good old days when I was going around the world, meeting new friends, seeing a lot of cool places and just playing music.

I knew that the music scene would change drastically and it’d take years for it to go back to the way it was. I knew that: “okay, when I make this album, my whole life will probably change because I probably won’t be able to do music full time again for at least a year or two or even more because the whole scene will shift…”. So yeah, I think that’s the track that I’m really connected with. That’s why I named the album based on that track.

What’s the history of your label, ‘This Is Our Time’? Why did you set it up?

So I have a really close friend of mine here in Hungary… DJing under the name Soundbank. In Hungary there were a lot of different labels: one for electro, one for experimental stuff… We were really into house and softer club music but there was no label for that. We saw that there were some really talented Hungarian artists and we wanted to put them into the international spotlight… to give them a chance to show what they have. Also I wanted to just have a label where I can release whatever I want, whenever I want.

Now we are mostly working with international artists from all around the globe. But we hope that we can find some new Hungarian faces… like on the compilation there’s this guy called NetSymmetry who was really into big electro tracks but now he’s started to make more housey stuff, so hopefully in the future we can have some tracks from him as well.

Return To Innocence (2021) is such an uplifting compilation. Did you give the contributing artists any sort of brief before they created these tracks? Or did you give them free rein creatively to produce whatever music they liked?

When we started we told them that we wanted to have a compilation that was about a hopeful future. Other than this we said that you can record and send whatever you want and we’ll have a listen to it. But luckily… we didn’t really need to ‘select’ tracks. In the end it was quite a fast process. The only awkward conversation was about the mastering because everybody was quite picky about the mastering. But we had a really good friend here in Hungary and he did a really great job.

Your Timecheck Mix Series is such a cool concept! Do you plan on keeping this going? If so, do you have any idea of which music scenes you’d like to cover in future mixes?

Yeah! Actually I’ve recorded the second one which is about the Euro House scene. It’s another scene where a lot of people are like: “Oh my god… it sounds so cheesy!” But I actually noticed that Euro House is kind of coming back. I guess it’s understandable because Euro House is a weird mix between Pop House and Trance. Because COVID is kind of over and people want to go out again they want to hear something uplifting… and Euro House is perfect for that. I think I will upload it next week.

I also have some other ideas for Timecheck. The next one will be about the Progressive House Scene from the early 2000’s. Progressive House has the same reputation as Tech House  – that it’s dry and it’s boring. But in clubs it can be so powerful. People forget that these types of tracks are specifically for club use. If you dig deep enough you can find some really interesting jams, but a lot of people just don’t have the time for this, or the patience.

There are so many new artists who are carrying the Tech House torch… there a lot of new faces who continue these genres but in a really interesting and pleasurable way.

Do you believe that overlooked music scenes like Tech House can have a resurgence and become popular again? If so, then how do you think that this process works?

I don’t know how it works, but before the pandemic Trance had a really big comeback. Also Tech House was coming back again. I don’t know what triggers this to be honest… I think it’s that people are always just looking for something new and Tech House and Progressive House are so forgotten. A lot of people are just digging up these tracks and being like: “Oh my god, I’ve never heard this type of beat and this type of arrangement.” They’re from the early 2000’s so they’re not that new, but I think it’s like a cycle: every ten years people are going back to a different genre. I guess we’re always looking back because I think we made every genre possible so we can’t really ‘create’ a new genre. We just dig up an old genre and change something to make it fresh again.

There are some innovations. There are always some new synths and synthesis methods… I think it’s much more about the technical improvements. It’s not about the ‘new melodies’ because we’ve basically used all the melodies in the world at this point. I think these days it’s more about mixing genres together, which is still really interesting – it’s just nothing mind-boggling/new. But it’s still something fresh and exciting to listen to.

Your album, Rewind The Days Of Youth (2020), is my favourite release of yours. How did you go about making it?

I had this idea to rent an apartment in a nice area close to nature and record an album in two weeks. But then I was like, “I’ll have to move all my synths and it’s such a pain in the ass…”. In the end I decided that I would just record everything at home. My album is more about home listening. I always wanted to do an album that was for driving and for home listening. 

Did you go about making it in the same way that you go about making all of your music? Were there any differences with how you made this album?

I think the only difference is that I made everything live but I spent much more time on mastering my own tracks with compressors and sound enhancers and whatnot because I’ve always had some problems with my tracks. They were like ‘okay’ but the mastering was a little bit soft because I didn’t spend that much time on mastering. I would just send out the track as it is and let the mastering guy do the rest of it. But this time I wanted to have an album which sounds perfect for me so I spent a lot of time on mastering my tracks.

I recorded everything live because that’s how I’ve always made music… I leave those small human errors in my tracks which kind of makes it more pleasurable to listen to in my opinion. I really don’t like it when tracks are too polished. It’s kind of like they just don’t have a soul. I guess that’s why I mostly play old tracks; they didn’t master those tracks to near perfection because they didn’t have the technology. But they still sound so good and they still have so much soul. A lot of these modern tracks just sound way too ‘perfect’.

Why does driving down Route 8 give creative inspiration to your work?

It’s mostly because my grandmother lives next to that road. I have a really close connection to her and she’s the best. It’s a childhood thing where we’d always go down Route 8 to see my grandma. The road goes through mountains to nice lakes… it kind of goes through everything that Hungary can offer in terms of nature. Because I record everything live my tracks are kind of simple so I guess I wanted to have a simple explanation of what this album was about. At the beginning of the track, ‘Arrival’, is a field recording of me arriving where my grandma lives and getting out the car.

What are your thoughts on the direction the music industry has taken in recent years, particularly with regards to streaming services like Spotify?

The most important thing [about Bandcamp] is that you can see the sales. Most of the time you don’t know where the money’s going on Spotify and Beatport. I still don’t know the percentage of what I get. On Bandcamp you can put up your stuff and just sell it, but on Beatport and Spotify you need to work with a distributor, so also the distributor will take some money. I guess it’s fair but it’s not as good as Bandcamp.

I think that streaming is generally a really good idea. The only problem is that I wish they could do the same thing as Bandcamp. With this whole working with a distributor thing you just don’t have any insights into what’s going on with your music in terms of money. You can see all the plays and see that, “Oh, 10 people are listening to my tracks at the moment”, but it’s like – how are the payments working? Nobody really knows because it depends on how big you are and the bigger you are the more money you get. In order to reach that level it takes so much time…

I really like the whole streaming idea but the way it works at the moment is just so confusing and in the end the artist is the one who gets the least money out of this whole thing. I mean yeah you get exposure and everybody’s like: “Oh but you can get exposure and that’s good for you”, and I’m like, “Yeah, but I can’t pay my bills from exposure”.

I have no idea what to do with this system… it’s a really tough question.

If we could just upload our own stuff and not do it with a distributor I think that would help a lot, or maybe a little bit. But I don’t think Spotify will let us do this because they are working with such big distributors.

If us artists could have a little bit more control over our tracks I think that would help a little bit. I don’t mind working with a distributor to distribute my stuff on Spotify I just wish we could have a little bit more insight into where the payments are going. But I think that even the distributors don’t have a proper idea about how money works at Spotify.

But I love Spotify and I’m not against it and I think that these days if you don’t have your music up on Spotify or iTunes or whatnot I think that’s kind of a drawback because a lot of people are using these platforms. The more people listen to your music, the better. The more options people have to listen to your music, the better.

I don’t want to say bad things about distribution. Most of the time it’s good to work with distribution because you just don’t have the time, the necessary resources or the contacts to put up all of your stuff on these digital platforms. Distribution can do all of this for you and it’s a lot of work so of course you will give some money to the distributors.

But the way these big streaming companies work and the way they pay for their stuff it’s just… nobody knows! It’s bad for everybody but still it’s important to have your music there because in the end the most important thing is for people to be able to listen to your music.

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