Interviews, Music

Classified Chit Chat with Symbiz

Symbiz represents Berlin’s global Bass scene, notorious for their live performances with their custom controller. Definitely rooted in Reggae while taking a cue from Africa and South America, their version is a dance floor killer, rocking festivals and stages all over the world. In November 2016, their latest E.P Broken Chinese was released in full Cantonese, putting an asian stamp on this yellow bass unit! From Berlin, with love. 

Can you describe the Symbiz sound and what each of you bring to it? 
We are an electronic band and producer team from Berlin, playing Bass Music (or whatever you want to call it), building our own controllers and trying to be on stage as much and in as many different places as we can.
How do your live sets work with the interesting set up? Tell us more about Fusion festival the video looks epic!  
For our live sets we play with our DIY Custom Midi Controllers (CTRLRONE & CTRLRTWO). We have designed, planned, built and programmed them ourselves. Of course with the help and support of incredibly talented friends of ours, who have the knowledge and machines needed to do that. The idea originally came from the fact that when we started SYMBIZ in 2009/2010 there were no specific controllers for Ableton Live, which we use for our shows. So we had to go and make our own, that would fit our needs. By now it became a fixed part of what we do, next to producing and playing live.

We only use our own musical material and therefore it made sense to not play like a DJ, with all the limitation it brings to always play full tracks. We load all our tracks into Ableton Live (altered with Max For Live) so that we can loop them, mix them, tear them apart with effects etc. It just gives us the flexibility that we think is interesting to have in a live situation. Together with the live vocals it is actually what makes it alive and as close to live as you can get with playing computer-based pre-produced music.

Fusion Festival… This is probably our favourite festival of all the festivals we’ve seen around the world. We’ve already played there five or six times. It’s huge (sold out with about 65k tickets every year without ever announcing any line-up), beautifully decorated, extremely versatile in styles featuring countless stages with famous and unknown small bands/DJs, with a great sense of community, on the runway of an abandoned airport, without security checks and (once you are there) without any police, since it is on private property, no separation between stages and camping and so on. Need I say more?

What were you thinking? A Cantonese EP is not very usual? What’s the reaction on the dance floor? 
That’s exactly what we were thinking. It is far from usual, but we have the possibility to do it, since Zhi MC speaks Cantonese. So how could we not give it a try? And we have to say it was a very successful experiment. The sound of the language combined with our style of BassMusic is really something new and interesting.
 
We think that people felt the same. Whenever you hear something you haven’t heard like this before, it’s exciting. Especially in times where the internet provides us with all and everything we could think of. So the reactions have been very positive. People here in Germany are probably not yet singing the lyrics on their way to work. But we’re working on it. Hehe. During live shows we had people singing the hooks without understanding a word of Chinese. That’s pretty nice, actually.
 
How did you all meet ? 
Buddy started the project with his older brother (who has now resigned from playing live, since he became a very successful Hip Hop producer in Germany and beyond and prefers to be productive in the studio, rather than being on the road all the time). Zhi MC joined many years ago, introduced by a common friend. And ever since the night he spontaneously came to a show at an illegal basement club in Berlin-Kreuzberg and free-styled the whole show, we played every single concert together.
What’s your favourite Reggae tune ? 
Zhi MC: “Max Romeo & the Upsetters – The One Step Forward”.
Buddy: Hard to say. There is so much good stuff and what’s my favourite changes all the time. Hehe. There are some songs that were really striking me when I heard them first. I first got in touch with Reggae as a teenager though a tape that had Bob Marley’s albums “Uprising” and “Exodus” on them. Of course, Bob Marley. But it still makes me excited to hear those songs. Then I remember when “Que dit-on” by french Rap group “Saïan Supa Crew” came out. A fantastic groovy tune with minimalistic drums and very interesting vocal parts. And of course there are bunch of Dancehall Anthems that you never get rid of.
 
What’s your favorite Chinese dishes?
Zhi: Clay Pot Rice.
Buddy: I don’t know. I guess I’m not the guy for favourite things. I don’t think there is much food I don’t like. So I will try as much as I can and will tell you after this tour.
How will your debut of 7 Shows with Heavy HK in China and Hong Kong be like?
Just the fact we are doing this is pretty damn brilliant. Shout outs to HeavyHongKong and our German partners Alex Tourstress / Rootdown Artists for making it happen. It is literally a dream come true. Something we talked about years ago: “Wouldn’t it be great to go and play in China one day?” — The tour will be great, for sure, because being on tour is always great. Those are the moment your hard work pays off. And to do it in China and Hong Kong? Yeeruh!
What’s next?
Once we are back home, we will continue to play a bunch of shows and festivals in Europe. Then we are working on the next “Broken Chinese EP” because we think that the BassMusic x Cantonese connection has not been fully explored, yet. Also there are some new music videos in the making , some of which we shot in Uganda in November 2016. And of course we will collect a lot of sound and video on this tour as well. On top of that we produce some music with and four other artists that will probably be released this year as well. Later in fall, we are planning to go back to Africa. We have invitations from festivals in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Uganda. So we’ll see soon if this will work out. — Oh, and sometimes we eat and sleep.
Written by: Cynthia Liu
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